As this year’s game releases are all wrapped up, both figuratively and literally, it’s not just time to look at what we’ve been playing over the last 12 months, but also to look ahead to next year and the games that are yet to come.
Over the last few years we’ve had a Top 100 series, which picked out 100 games from the æther and tried to put them into some sort of order. This time around we’re doing things differently, and are instead highlighting a smaller selection of titles that you might like to keep an eye on. Oh, and we’ll give a few reasons too.
By and large, we’ll be sticking with those titles already confirmed for next year, staying away from those which could be a little touch and go or have had little revealed about them. However, this first entry is all about that kind of speculation as we look at the regular yearly releases, many of which won’t be announced until well into next spring.
What could be a safer bet than another FIFA game?
As with many games released in the final months of this year, FIFA 14 was very much a transitionary game, without that big shift in gameplay that some people would have liked to see. The fact of the matter is that the development team will have been stretched to the limits, trying to wrangle their ever-evolving gameplay onto the new Ignite engine and new console hardware as well as maintaining the PS3 and 360 versions.
With the initial foundations now in place, EA Canada could quite feasibly get to work on more noticeable changes and improvements to that core gameplay. Even with strong PS4 and XBO sales, this should also affect the PS3 and 360 releases, giving those platforms one final hurrah before being consigned to the fate of other “legacy editions” in a few years.
Elsewhere at EA, Need for Speed: Rivals has quietly turned into something of a must-have game for the new generation of consoles. As Ghost Games took the helm of the franchise, adding a large percentage of Criterion to their ranks in the process, they took what was so popular about Criterion’s two NfS entries, and crafted Rivals from this wealth of experience and data.
Where the game series heads next is up in the air, though rumours suggest that the next title is also being handled by Ghost Games directly. Certainly, Ghost are in charge of who and what gets developed, as EA try to ensure that we don’t see the variable quality that the series’ last few years of studio hopping have resulted in.
Given the popularity of the current formula, it’s quite likely to feature another open world and have a slight evolution of the AllDrive system, but might step away from Cops vs. Racers gameplay, so as not to overuse that format.
From one driving game to another, and this one has yet to make the jump to the new gaming hardware. Assuming that F1 2014 does come to PS4 and XBO, it promises to be a very different and more expansive entry, compared to Codemasters’ last few F1 games.
It won’t just be a spangly new engine or improved graphics on the cards, though it will surely be a gorgeous 1080p60 rendition of the sport, but with F1 itself shifting to new V6 engines, twinned with turbo boosts and ERS, you can expect a game with cars that handle very differently to the past. It’s something that real drivers are talking about too, and F1 2014 will have to try and mimick that.
However F1 2013 also dipped a toe into the history of F1, with a handful of classic cars and tracks featuring via the Classics DLC, optional sepia filter and all. You can almost assuredly expect to see this return in some form, but it will really depend on the development timescale as to how big a part of the game it will be.
With such a narrow focal point, NBA 2K14 was easily one of the most graphically impressive games on the Xbox One and PS4 at launch, able to fling so much of the new hardware’s power at making the players look as realistic and detailed as possible.
Facial animations and voice capture tied in with half-time interviews to lend every match more realistic style of presentation, while there are improvements to the career structure and a continuation of the solid gameplay.
However, as Aran pointed out in his review, two major issues come when an internet connection is required to use your career save, and this ties in with the loss of skill games as a means of earning additional Virtual Currency. Instead everything felt skewed towards buying VC through micro-transactions.
If NBA 2K15 steps back from those disappointing decisions and offers a further polished and refined game, it will be a sure-fire slam dunk.
Infinity Ward delivered their latest new universe for the Call of Duty franchise with Ghosts, and for next year it’s Treyarch’s turn to deliver a game in the series. It will be interesting to see whether they too create a new setting, or if they persist with the Black Ops universe and characters.
Personally, I’d like to see them head back in time once more, and tackle another psychological Cold War thriller as they did in the first Black Ops. You can also expect another solid multiplayer offering, more zombies, and for everyone to complain about how boring and tired the Call of Duty franchise is.
With more time to work on the new hardware, it will be very interesting to see if the disparity between PS4 and XBO can be neutralised, while also working to bring graphical oomph and go head to head with their main FPS rivals.
I was tempted to slap a V in that header but decided not to because I’m not sure Ubisoft will give the next Assassin’s Creed game a number. Given the popularity of the latest setting, gameplay and characters, I can easily see them sticking with Kenway and his piratical adventures, and with Ezio’s second and third games, they decided not to number them.
However, it’s not just that Kenway is a more popular and likeable character than Connor, but that AC4’s gameplay is one of the most marked evolutions over the last few years. The addition of ship-based combat was initially handed over to Ubisoft Singapore, as a quite distinct entity, but with AC4 it was brought into the fold and evolved into a core pillar to the gameplay.
To throw so much of this overboard after just a single entry would be foolish, to say the least, and I expect we’ll see the next step in Kenway’s story and his family’s lineage this time next year.
Don’t worry, it’s not all wild speculation and theories, as we’ll prove tomorrow when we take a look at our first selection of major cross-platform releases to keep an eye on.