With the long-awaited return of Hideo Kojima and Snake, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was one of the most highly anticipated games of the year, and transformed the series’ stealth and action gameplay when it was released. Where previous entries in the series had helped to define and evolve the genre, this latest instalment did just the same, taking the core essence of Metal Gear and weaving it into the fabric of an open world game.
Even with its shaky narrative, bizarre pacing, and the resulting impact it had on Kojima Productions, The Phantom Pain will prove a hard act to follow, but there are those developers who thrive in the shadows. Grouping games together for Ones To Watch is always tricky, so we’ve broadened the parameters to include not just the stealthier side of gaming, but also those who would have you eschew combat entirely, while still retaining that core of action.
You’ll see what we mean soon enough.
Despite its somewhat niche appeal, Dishonored pulled through for Bethesda and Arkane Studios, so much so that a sequel is now in the works. Sporting a refreshed look for new hardware, Dishonored 2 picks up fifteen years after the events of the original. Empress Emily Kaldwin has been usurped and is now an outcast on the run.
To combat this new threat, series posterboy Corvo makes a return, fully decked out with all sorts of gadgets and mystic powers. However, this time around, the game will let you opt between the two protagonists, each having their own perspective and approach to the same scenarios that compose the singleplayer campaign. With no set release date, expect Dishonored 2 to launch next Summer.
Although a solid game all round, IO Interactive felt that it could have done better with 2012’s Hitman: Absolution. This slight sense of dissatisfaction, among other factors, no doubt paved the way for next year’s Hitman – a new vision for the stealth action series.
Originally planned for a December release this year, the reboot has been shunted back to March, allowing IO to further develop the base game and host a beta test. We say ‘base’ because Hitman won’t be following the usual conventions of a product launch. Instead, early adopters will be treated to a small set of core missions and locations that will expand as time goes on. According to publisher Square Enix, there will be no shady practices in play, with Hitman shunning microtransactions and paid-for DLC completely.
First out of the blocks we have Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3. In true stealth game fashion, City Interactive’s threequel stepped out from the shadows for a brief announcement at the back-end of last year. Since then, we’ve seen little more than speculation and some gameplay released during the Summer.
Fans of the sharpshooting franchise shouldn’t worry, however. Sniper 3 is definitely going ahead, CI Games locking a AAA budget in their crosshairs, having drafted in military vet Paul B. Robinson as creative director. Unlike previous games in the popular series, it will do away with linear mission structures for something that feels much more open. Here, players can complete side missions and scout huge swathes of Georgian hinterland using the all-new parkour navigation.
Styx: Master Of Shadows was an ambitious attempt by Cyanide to enter the stealth genre. Not only was it put up against more established names like Metal Gear and Thief, the game also opted for a fantasy setting, acting as a follow-up to 2012’s Of Orcs And men. In the end, it had some neat ideas though lacked the finesse, polish, and casual appeal modern stealth games demand.
Although Cyanide has yet to give away too much about the sequel, Styx: Shards of Darkness will look to be an all-round improvement. Aside from working in a bevy of new features, the French studio will attempt to make the game flow more intuitive, giving the whole thing a lick of fresh paint with Unreal 4.
Stripping out linearity seems to be a common trend among today’s category, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst being another example. After years of keeping fans in the dark, EA eventually gave us a glimmer of the sequel, following it up with more solid details. Catalyst will follow the trials of a much younger Faith as she rebels against the totalitarian regime of Glass.
Focusing on what worked best in the original, DICE has worked solely on improving the series’ much-loved parkour. With an entire city to explore, players can allocate waypoints and watch as Faith’s runner vision charts a red path, signposting convenient traversal points. Combat has also gone under the knife with players able to use a broader suite of melee attacks, guns having been removed completely. One final addition you should be privy to is multiplayer. Don’t worry, it’s purely asynchronous, allowing runners to compare scores and set challenges on-the-fly.
Adrift (or ADR1FT) is certainly the outlier floating around in today’s selection, in more ways than one. Set for release early next year, it follows the story of an astronaut who awakens in the wreckage of a space station to find its crew dead.
From here players will be given license to explore the doomed vessel, piecing together snippets of information as to how the station and its inhabitants met their end. Survival elements will also be at play here as you drift from section to section, gathering parts for repair as well as topping up your oxygen reserves. It looks to be an interesting take on the first person genre with no gunfights or violence to hand.