It’s the calm before the storm in the games industry at the moment. The popular February-April launch window has long passed, E3 brought a lot of news and excitement in June, but now we wait and play the Destiny beta ahead of Gamescom and the flood of new releases that are set to come at the end of the year.
So, what better time than now to take a look back on our Ones To Watch In 2014 feature from the end of last year, and check in on all of the games that we highlighted? Which games have released to great acclaim and which have tanked on the store shelves? Who’s still on target to release in 2014 and who’s slipped back into 2015?
We’ll be going through and answering these questions over the next couple of weeks, starting with the yearly franchises, as well as bringing the spotlight onto some of the freshly announced games that will still manage to make it to your consoles by year’s end.
FIFA 14 was no slouch when it arrived on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but the experience that comes from working with finalised hardware will play dividends for the next evolution of the game series.
A raft of improvements will feature, from more realistic lighting and fixing certain oddities in player animation, to a greater number of physics objects and tracking and marking the pitch with each footfall and slide tackle. However, it’s a seemingly simple change to the ball physics, of preserving the ball’s momentum and spin through contact with players that promises to have the greatest affect on the gameplay.
What we don’t yet know are what changes will be made to the increasingly popular Ultimate Team mode, and what we’ll see transferring back to the PS3 and 360 versions of the game, which won’t be branded as Legacy Editions just yet.
After the recent successes and popularity of the Need for Speed games under Criterion Games and Ghost Games, it’s somewhat surprising that there won’t be a new game in the venerable series this year, with the announcement coming in early May that the next game will not be until 2015.
However, the writing has maybe been on the wall for this to happen. With Criterion slashed in size, as many of the staff shifted over to work as part of Ghost Games on NfS: Rivals, and the somewhat iffy track record that the series has had when it hops between studios, Ghost are acting as responsible custodians of the franchise’s reputation by keeping it to themselves.
We’ve yet to see an announcement for F1 2014 come out of Codemasters, but news of this game has been ever-so-subtly teased quite recently. In fact, just 10 days ago, in their weekly blog update, Community Manager Lee Williams responded to a tweet by telling people to “pop back soon”.
F1 2013 was announced on July 16th last year, and with the usual release date at the end of September or early October, I’d certainly expect to hear and see something rather soon.
Expect to see a new graphics engine pushing the game on PS4 and XBO, as they try to bring the latest rules changes to the virtual world, dodgy looking noses and all. However, there’s also a chance that they will push on with last year’s Classics DLC efforts, and integrate more cars from the ages and more classic tracks into the game, which would surely delight fans.
Another yearly game series that we know almost nothing about is NBA 2K15. It was a graphical tour de force on the PS4 and XBO at launch, with a presentation which was able to get about as close to real life as sports games ever have. However, it did have issues such as requiring an online connection to play a single player career mode and perhaps skewing too heavily towards the use Virtual Currency and the micro-transactions that back this.
However, while we can expect the second year on the new consoles to deliver even more graphical refinements, all we actually know is that MVP Kevin Durant is to be the cover star and that the music in the game is being curated by Pharrell Williams.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare certainly announced itself to the world with a bang, unveiling Kevin Spacey as the major Hollywood actor who’s lending not just his voice to the role of Jonathan Irons, but his visage as well.
The other surprise comes from the shift from a two year development cycle to a three year one, with Sledgehammer Games stepping out of the shadows to launch their own future setting and sub-series, rather than Treyarch as many would have expected.
Details on the plot of the game are a little sketchy, but this is a world in which private military corporations are the dominant forces in the world, as national powers wilt and wane. You play as Jack Mitchell – voiced by the ubiquitous Troy Baker – a US soldier whose first engagement does not exactly go to plan and eventually decides to join the Atlas Corporation.
However, future warfare is backed up by more advanced technology, with soldiers all wearing exoskeletons that allow them to double jump, rip doors off cars and even make themselves near invisible to the naked eye. This alongside the plethora of drone-based technologies and things like the multi-function grenades.
It all adds up to what could be the biggest gameplay shift for the franchise since Modern Warfare, and fans will be eager to see what this means for the multiplayer, ahead of its release on 4th November.
While I personally expected Ubisoft to stick with the piratical themes of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, having found an off shoot of their traditional gameplay formula which seemed to strike a chord with many, they’re heading down a very different path.
Assassin’s Creed Unity takes us to Paris and the heights of the French Revolution, as new protagonist Arno Dorian endeavours to uncover another Templar plot. Paris will be brought to life by a more refined and optimised version of the AnvilNext engine, that will better make use of the PS4 and XBO’s power to render larger and more realistic crowds, thanks in part to Ubisoft splitting the console generations apart – though we’re yet to see what the AC game for PS3 and 360 will be like.
However, while return to city-based gameplay sounds like a step back for the series, the addition of co-operative play will help to push it to greater heights. Some missions will only be playable on your own, large swathes of the game will be open to playing as a group of four, with the trailer revealing this feature one of the major highlights of Ubisoft’s E3 show, though this has been sullied when they admitted that you would not be able to play as a woman, despite the character customisation options.
That’s it for the yearly franchises, which are by and large games that we still know relatively little about, as they gear up for more revelations at Gamescom, before releasing later this year.
Tomorrow we’ll be taking another look at the first batch of cross-platform games, some of which you will have already been playing.