Virtual or reality ? Or both ? Please take a look at our selection for the top games to play in 2015.
Virtual reality becomes a reality
Oculus Rift has reignited excitement around the possibilities of virtual reality. Last year, games such as Eve Valkyrie, Elite: Dangerous and Alien: Isolation were demoed to critics and consumers using the Oculus headset, which resulted in enthusiastic discussion over the technological leaps that have been made in this area. Oculus Rift will be released this year and now has the support of Facebook, which acquired the VR technology and the company behind it for billion. Meanwhile, Sony has joined the VR battle with its Project Morpheus headset for PlayStation platforms, unveiled to the public in March last year. There are still some problems to overcome, including concerns about headaches, games design and price. But virtual reality is closer than it has ever been to transforming not just video games, but education, social networking, TV, retail and a whole host of other industries, too.
The return of Nintendo’s magician
Shigeru Miyamoto is the video games legend who created Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda and countless other totemic characters for Nintendo. He has spent much of the last decade overseeing their development efforts, but with Wii U struggling for popularity – and big developers such as EA refusing to make games for it – he has returned to the design board to create three titles that demonstrate what the Wii U can offer. He gave the world a taste of these games at US expo E3 last year. The first was Project Guard, where players must defend against an invasion of robots. Then there was Project Giant Robot, which sees gamers build their own machines and battle each other. And the final title is a new game in the hit Star Fox series. We’ve only seen a glimpse of these projects, but the involvement of Miyamoto alone means they’re worthy of attention.
Assassin’s Creed meets Dickens
They’ve not all been masterpieces, but Assassin’s Creed remains one of the most exciting annual video game franchises, and 2015’s title will take on an extra special focus for UK gamers because it is set in Victorian London. Little is known about Assassin’s Creed Victory aside from some early concept visuals, but we should expect Oscar Wilde, Jack the Ripper and a whole host of Victorian celebrities to show up. And who knows, maybe some fictional stars could appear too, such as Dr Jekyll and Sherlock Holmes. England’s industrial age certainly offers a lot in terms of narrative potential, with dirty back alleys, cobbled streets and rattling stagecoaches to fight over. This will also be the first Assassin’s Creed helmed by Ubisoft’s Quebec studio, which suggests we might see a different take on the hit series this year.
The Halo universe expands
2014 was a good year for Halo enthusiasts, with the release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection for Xbox One and the Ridley Scott-produced live-action web-series Halo: Nightfall. Yet 2015 will be the real ‘year of Halo,’ with a mobile game (Halo: Spartan Strike) and a TV series produced by Steven Spielberg, which is due towards Christmas. And these are all building up to one game: Halo 5: Guardians. Gamers have already been given a taste of what to expect from Halo 5 with an online multiplayer beta version, and it’s showing a lot of promise. There have been a number of welcome additions made to the series, such as the ability to float in the air, dash along the ground and crash down on enemies. We still know little about the story, but this is already set to be the biggest Xbox One game of 2015.
The 3DS evolves
Nintendo is no stranger to creating updated models of its recent hardware. The 3DS has already received two redesigns, including the super-sized 3DS XL, and the cheaper, 3D-less version, the 2DS. However, the next update for Nintendo’s portable console is the most extreme we’ve seen yet. The New 3DS and New 3DS XL feature additional buttons, an extra analogue ‘nub’, an NFC reader for those Amiibo toys and improved CPU to increase the speed of the console’s menus. That’s on top of the usual tweaks such as improved battery life and 3D screen. It’s almost like an entirely new console, and one game in particular – Xenoblade Chronicles – will only work on the New 3DS models. Interestingly, the New 3DS now has the exact same number of screens, buttons and sticks as the Wii U; could Nintendo be about to create games that will work across both consoles?
Clash of the treasure-hunters
Two of the biggest names in action platforming go head-to-head for the first time in 2015. Sony’s developer Naughty Dog will follow-up its critically lauded The Last of Us with the fourth game in its Uncharted series – A Thief’s End. The PlayStation 4 exclusive will have a darker tone to the story than in previous iterations, and a 15-minute live demo (shown last month) highlights just how incredible the game is shaping up to be. Meanwhile, following the successful Tomb Raider reboot in 2013, Lara Croft will return in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Little has been shown of that title besides a teaser trailer featuring Lara speaking with her psychiatrist, but what we do know is that the game is temporarily exclusive to Xbox One this Christmas, which will add extra spice to the rivalry between these two massive games.
In with the new
It’s not all about the major sequels. Last year we saw ambitious new games such as Destiny and Watch Dogs, and that trend continues into 2015. Over the next 12 months we’ll see a new shooter from the creators of Left 4 Dead called Evolve, where one of the several players controls a giant monster. PS4 has several exclusive original titles, including Victorian action game The Order: 1886 and space exploration adventure No Man’s Sky. Microsoft has its time-bending third-person shooter Quantum Break, while Nintendo has Splatoon, a co-op shooter for Wii U where players must command a team of squid with paint guns. And one of the more intriguing titles is called The Division, an open world game for multiple platforms where a team of agents must prevent the collapse of society in the wake of a pandemic. There’s certainly no shortage of new ideas in 2015.
Golden age of Steam
Steam is the world’s biggest digital PC games retailer and now it hopes to take on PlayStation and Xbox with its line of Steam Machines. These are pre-built PCs created by a number of different manufacturers (including Alienware, Gigabyte and more) all with a special operating system created by Steam. Each machine differs in specifications and price (ranging from the £350 to £4,000) but they have one aim: to make PC gaming simpler and more suited for the living room TV. Central to this is the Steam Controller, which is designed not just for games that use pads, but also for software that traditionally uses the keyboard and mouse – including strategy games. Steam Machines are unlikely to threaten Xbox or PlayStation, but if they work well, they should make the complex world of PC gaming significantly easier to access.
The stuff that streams are made of
Streaming music via Spotify and watching TV and movies over Netflix has transformed how we consume entertainment. But the streaming phenomenon has yet to really work in video games. OnLive – the PC game streaming service – has had a difficult first few years, its pricing is high and the service is not without its faults (although it has significantly improved over the last 12 months). But in 2015 Sony will launch PlayStation Now – a new service that will stream PlayStation content (initially PS3 games, but PS4, PS2 and PS1 could follow) to a range of devices, including PlayStation consoles, Sony TVs and tablets. The idea of playing Uncharted without the need for a console is enticing, but the challenge will be getting the pricing right for everyone, and ensuring the technology is fast enough. PlayStation Now enters beta stage in the UK this year.
Legend of Zelda saddles up
Nintendo’s fan favourite Legend of Zelda series is back with two games. Majora’s Mask 3D is a 3DS remake of the N64 classic that is due in the Spring. The game weaves a dark tale where Link must save the world of Termina from being crushed by the moon in just three days. The game was criminally overlooked when it first launched in 2001, but it has since gained a cult status and fans campaigned for this remake. Also on the slate is an all-new Zelda adventure for Wii U. It is currently without a name, but we do know that gamers will have complete freedom in a world that is far larger than in any previous installment. Zelda games have a habit of slipping from their release windows, but Nintendo insists this ambitious and visually beautiful adventure will launch this year.
More capers for the Caped Crusader
The Batman: Arkham series is proof that not all licensed video games have to be mediocre. The London-based studio Rocksteady, who created the first two games in the acclaimed franchise, is returning for the final time with Batman: Arkham Knight. The story sees Batman confront Scarecrow, who has returned to unite his enemies in a bid to kill the Dark Knight. The Gotham City in Arkham Knight is five times the size of its predecessor (Arkham City) and introduces Batman’s gadget-infested vehicle, the Batmobile, for the first time. The game has already picked up numerous awards at the various events where it’s been demonstrated, and thousands of fans flocked to MCM Expo in London last October to get a glimpse of the game and speak to its creators. Batman: Arkham Knight is being developed solely for Xbox One, PS4 and PC and is set to arrive on June 2nd worldwide.
The Year of Star Wars
For all the excitement around video games in 2015, the real geek moment of the year will take place on December 18th, when Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens arrives in cinemas. Nevertheless, the world of gaming will be getting in on the Star Wars mania with Star Wars: Battlefront. The original Battlefront and its sequel were third person action games released in 2004 and 2005, and were cult favourites. Several attempts at a third game were cancelled, but now Electronic Arts is planning to resurrect the series with this reboot. Very little information can be gleaned from its meagre teaser trailer and behind-the-scenes footage, but we do know it is being crafted by award-winning Battlefield developer DICE. If the studio can work its magic, and Battlefront lives up to its predecessors, then this could be the biggest game of the year.
Many happy returns…
In truth, any number of projects could have made this list. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is expected this year. Resident Evil returns in an episodic adventure called Revelations 2. Battlefield Hardline gets its belated launch in March. Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six franchise will finally make its comeback. Beat ‘em ups Mortal Kombat, Tekken and Street Fighter will receive new titles this year, and RPG fans have plenty to look forward to with The Witcher 3, Bloodborne and Fable Legends. Plus there are rumours of a slimline Xbox One and a new Wii U. 2015 is shaping up to be one of video games’ most exciting years.
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