Team Deathmatch: EW argues the pros and cons of fall's biggest video games
We, as a nation, have apparently decided that we want most of our video games to come out at the same time every year. We, as a nation, should probably rethink that, because the time it takes to finish an average video game is something crazy like 40 hours. Even with the time off that comes around the holidays, taking on a few extra full-time-job’s worth of games is kind of bananas. Did we mention that this fall’s release calendar is what a “light” year looks like?
Fortunately, our own Natalie Abrams, Jonathon Dornbush, Darren Franich, Aaron Morales, and Joshua Rivera have opinions on how to best allocate those extracurricular hours. Game accordingly.
Disclaimer: This list isn’t comprehensive. It very obviously omits sports games (because we know jack shit about them) and indie games (because they’re made by commitmentphobes who don’t set release dates very far in advance). We’re very much looking forward to some of these games (hello, Ori and the Blind Forest), but this list is geared towards games with set release dates.
Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Superheroes EditionRelease Date: Sept. 23Playstation 4Xbox OnePlaystation 3Xbox 360PC & Vita in 2015
Combining beloved Disney franchises with some of Marvel’s most recognizable faces, Disney Infinity 2 adds heroes like Iron Man, Rocket Raccoon, and Spider-Man to the menagerie of actual figurines you can zap into its game worlds. (No, really—the game comes with action figures that determine which characters players control.) Beyond that, it allows players to create whatever they would like in the game’s imagination-driven Toy Box, from tower defense games, to a Disney-themed house, to a raceway that’s part Guardians of the Galaxy and part Toy Story.
PRO: I’ve already said plenty about why Infinity is so special. Yes, the single player campaign’s mission design is a bit generic, but the marquee feature, the Toy Box, is a delight. By allowing players to create game levels, cities, raceways, houses—almost anything they want—and express themselves by employing memorable Disney and Marvel franchises, the game sucks users in for hours at a time. Infinity encourages imagination, and the sheer number of possibilities should send any child—and more than a few Disney-obsessed adults—into a creative frenzy. —JD
CON: This adult enjoyed playing with the toys that come with game more than the repetitive, simplistic campaign itself. Seriously, the toys are awesome. —AMThe Vanishing of Ethan CarterRelease Date: Sept. 26PCPS4 TBA
In the tradition of many quality cable dramas, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter takes place in an idyllic town in the middle of nowhere that’s full of terrible occurrences. As a detective with supernatural abilities, you’ll communicate with the dead in order to uncover whatever disturbing, hidden secrets lie in Red Creek Valley.
WHY IT’S INTERESTING: Some of the best games don’t give you much to go on. Myst is the classic example here, a game that dropped you on an island with no explanation and left you to stumble across an intriguing mystery. There’s a bit more context to The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, but development studio The Astronauts seem committed to mostly staying out of the way, letting players rely on their own observations to discover the game’s secrets. “Show, don’t tell,” is just as important in video games as it is in other media—and one of the greatest tricks in video game horror is giving you the freedom to creep yourself out. —JRMiddle-earth: Shadow of MordorRelease Date: Sept. 30PlayStation 4Xbox OnePlayStation 3/Xbox 360 11.18.14
You know how the first trailer for The Hobbit got you all excited? Because The Lord of the Rings films were great, so surely Hobbit would be, too? And then the movie was divided into like, 18 parts, each a year apart and all of them middling. That’s kind of what it’s been like for LOTR video games, except the bit about there being 18 parts isn’t all that hyperbolic. The pitch for Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is simple: what if a LOTR game wasn’t just good, but great?
PRO: There have been some good The Lord of the Rings games, but fans have been waiting for a great one, and Shadow of Mordor looks to be it. Combining the best of two major franchises—Assassin’s Creed and the Batman: Arkham games—Mordor adds in the promising Nemesis System. With it, your enemies are no longer simple sword fodder—they actually matter to main character Talion. Players can alter the balance of power by taking out ruling Uruks or bending them to his will, and the game’s randomized Uruk creator means you’ll never see the same Uruk twice. With the third-person action space dominated by sequels this year and next, it’s nice to see a new franchise try to stake its own claim in the genre. —JD
CON: The last boss battle is an anticlimactic string of quick-time events. Everything else? Pretty awesome. —AM
Super Smash Bros for nintendo 3DSRelease Date: Oct. 33DS
Back in 1999, on a lark, Nintendo threw some of its favorite series together into a fighting game. Smash Bros. has since turned into one of the most beloved Nintendo franchises, and the “throw in everything and the Animal Crossing sink” mentality is coming to handhelds for the first time. With over 40 fighters and special modes, Nintendo is attempting to adapt one of its most popular multiplayer games for the small screen.
PRO: Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS isn’t going to convince anyone who’s not a fan of the series to suddenly jump in, but for those who have lost dozens and dozens of hours to the series, there’s plenty to love. Nintendo has wisely adapted the gameplay so that the game can be played in sessions of varying lengths. Only have time for a match or two? There’s a mode for that. Want to take a crack at lengthier modes that challenge you to complete several matches or minigames? Smash Bros. has that too. It may be more difficult to gather four friends with four 3DSes than it is to bring four people together on a couch, but there’s so much content to delve into and smart enough AI to fight that even single players should find more than enough to keep them busy until Smash Bros. for Wii U releases. —JD
CON: While there are plenty of people who do plow through the single player options and dig all the content Nintendo hides away in Smash Bros. games, solo sessions aren’t what made the series a phenomenon. Smash Bros. is sitting on the same couch with your buddies. Smash Bros. is trash talk. Smash Bros. is swearing at the person who won’t let you double jump your way back on to the stage. Going handheld with Super Smash Bros. plays against its own identity as one of the best hangout games ever made, and the frustration of such a frantic game will probably be the death of many a 3DS. —JRSkylanders: Trap TeamRelease Date: Oct. 5Playstation 3Playstation 4Xbox 360Xbox OneWiiWii U3DSiOSAndroid
The series that pioneered the capitalism-friendly “Toys to Life” genre of games—where collectible toys double as playable game characters just waiting to jump into your TV—is back. This time, it’s all about trapping bad guys and making them fight for you.
WHY IT’S INTERESTING: While a new Skylanders game every year may feel like a bit much, Trap Team‘s big new feature—trapping the bad guys in Pokéball-like crystals that come with the accompanying toy playsets so you can play as them whenever you like—is a clever inversion of the game’s formula, and a way to expand your roster without having to go on a wild hunt for the figurines you don’t already have. —JRAlien: IsolationRelease Date: Oct. 7PlayStation 4Playstation 3Xbox 360Xbox OnePC
Taking cues from the classic original Alien film, Alien: Isolation is all about surviving the constantly impending threat of a xenomorph. Players control Ellen Ripley’s daughter, Amanda, 15 years after the events of the film. She’s beset by the beast while investigating a space station, and players must do their best to stay alive.
WHY IT’S INTERESTING: The Alien franchise hasn’t found great success in gaming recently, but Isolation looks like it could change that. Players can’t kill the xenomorph, only escape it. The game is all about survival, running away from the beast as it relentlessly stalks the player, mere prey to an intelligent (and absolutely terrifying) predator (no, not that Predator). By evoking the original film’s horror roots, Isolation could be the first Alien game to truly scare the hell out of you. How the game will play out over multiple hours has yet to be seen, but from short demo experience the game could be one of the most nerve-racking experiences of the year. In space, no one can hear you scream. In your living room is a different story. —JDCostume Quest 2Release Date: Oct. 7WindowsPCLinuxAlso due out on all major home consoles, date unknown
Remember that Halloween episode of Buffy when everyone transformed into whatever it was they were dressed as? The Costume Quest games are kind of like that, but adorable. In the first game, twin protagonists Reynold and Wren fought monsters invading their neighborhood using powers given to them by their costumes. In the sequel, the superpowered trick-or-treaters have to defend their neighborhood once more, while also figuring out time travel.
WHY IT’S INTERESTING: Double Fine knows how to make a charming game. Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, and Costume Quest all have a distinct and irreverent personality that has become a signature of games from Tim Schafer’s studio. Double Fine seems to have taken criticism of the first game to heart, and has hopefully improved the RPG’s combat and exploration to erode some of the first game’s repetitive nature. And don’t forget a few more ridiculous costumes that will probably give kids an inferiority complex this Halloween. Hopefully the game will leave us feeling the same way the first did—eagerly awaiting another edition. —JDBorderlands: The Pre-SequelRelease Date: Oct. 14PlayStation 3Xbox 360
A prequel to Borderlands 2 and sequel to Borderlands, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (get it?) takes place between its predecessors. While its four playable characters are new, its crazy—and at times dark (crazy-dark)—sense of humor stays the same. Set on Pandora’s moon, Alice, the premise is invariably simple: You shoot. You loot. You maybe gain some insight into the human condition?
PRO: More of the same isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and when “the same” involves the ridiculously addictive shooting, looting, and joking of the Borderlands franchise, “more” is exactly what you want. But there is new stuff, and it all looks fun: the new classes are varied and interesting, the floaty gravity is the sort of touch this series has been aching for, and more customization options for your character and gear is always good. If the jokes manage to stay funny without veering into obnoxious, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel will probably be just what you and your fellow vault hunters are after. —JR
CON: The last two Borderlands games have a great blend of RPG and first-person shooter gameplay, but there’s so much game in those two titles that Borderlands fatigue has set in. By the end of Borderlands 2 and the content released after launch, I found myself unable to muster the same enthusiasm for the series I once had. There doesn’t seem to be enough fresh ideas or changes to the gameplay to justify spending another 30 to 40 hours on Pandora and its moon—despite how fun the anti-gravity is—when the fall season is so jampacked. I love the Borderlands franchise. I just think we need a bit longer of a break. —JDThe Evil WithinRelease Date: Oct. 14PlayStation 4PlayStation 3Xbox OneXbox 360PC
One of two major horror titles this year, The Evil Within comes from video game terror maven Shinji Mikami, the man responsible for Resident Evil. Looking to leave his mark on the genre again, Within promises an even more twisted take on horror in games. Think less zombies, more Saw-on-psychotropic-drugs.
PRO: Let’s get this out of the way: The Evil Within looks like it will play almost identically to Resident Evil 4. There’s the same camera angles, a similar control scheme, and decaying, grunting bad guys with chainsaws coming after you. But it also seems to embrace another trend in horror games: the one that makes you play as someone who’s relatively helpless, forced to run and hide from monsters that are unkillable. As long as it isn’t frustrating, that sort of mashup could prove to be exciting, compelling, and almost certainly terrifying. —JR
CON: As you said, The Evil Within looks like it will play almost identically to Resident Evil 4, a game that came out almost a decade ago. And though no one was very happy with where the Resident Evil franchise went after 4, the survival horror genre has evolved considerably in the past 10 years. It’s unclear whether The Evil Within will feel like a last-last-gen relic. —AMDisney Fantasia: Music EvolvedRelease Date: Oct. 21Xbox OneXbox 360
From the team behind Rock Band and Dance Central, Fantasia: Music Evolved is all about capturing the spirit of the classic Disney film, but in an interactive, Kinect-driven form. Moving along to different contemporary and classical tunes, players have to match beats with their motions. The gameplay’s easier shown than told, but suffice to say, it will have you waving your arms and moving your body in time to the beats of each song. For example.
Even so, where else can you hear Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” transform from a furious death metal tune to an acoustic track before seguing into a player-controlled guitar solo that’s performed on wind instruments? That sounds fun, right?
PRO: Yes, Microsoft has all but killed the Kinect’s prospects by unbundling it from the console (and not even selling it separately yet). But you have to give it to Harmonix for creating the only good Kinect games on Xbox 360, the Dance Central series. So it’s a shame that Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved will have a smaller potential audience, as the game looks to be a creative, arm-swaying take on the rhythm music genre with a great mix of songs, featuring everything from Mozart to Missy Elliot. —AM
CON: Dear Kinect: You’re dead, son. Get yourself buried. Love, everyone. —DFThe Legend of KorraRelease Date: Oct. 21Xbox OneXbox 360
One of the best action game studios takes on one of the best action animated series in a game that caught us all off guard. There’s not a whole lot of Korra game footage flying around, but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for.
WHY IT’S INTERESTING: I have no idea who Korra is or what her legend is all about, but this is a third-person action game developed by Platinum Games, so count me in. —AM
EVEN IF YOU DON’T PLAY: Korra and her legend are certifiably rad and worth checking out so you should go stream it now.—JRBayonetta 2Release Date: Oct. 24Wii U
Bayonetta 2 almost didn’t exist, but Nintendo promised to co-fund the project if developer Platinum Games brought it exclusively to the Wii U, and so they did. The game features the return of the first game’s heroine Bayonetta with a new costume and hairstyle—her hair is used to create weapons, you see—along with a new two-player mode. Like its predecessor, Bayonetta 2 promises to be as ludicrous as it is fun to play.
WHY IT’S INTERESTING: Platinum Games makes the best action games in the business, but they’ve never made a sequel until now. If any of their games deserves it, it’s Bayonetta, the utterly bonkers “climax-action” game about a Sarah Palin-looking witch who uses her magical hair (which is also her outfit) and stiletto gun boots to battle evil angels. (Just go with it.) The Wii U exclusive sequel adds online co-op, which should make the already ridiculously over-the-top action even more ridiculously over the top. It also includes a digital download of the original game, with Nintendo-themed outfits for weirdos who want to see the titular witch cosplay as Princess Peach. —AM
WHY IT’S WEIRD: Bayonetta is kind of ridiculously sexist. It’s about a hot librarian who’s also a witch who appears in various states of undress when she uses her special attacks. Sure, Bayonetta is super powerful and kicks ass, but she’s very much there to titillate as well—”Climax action” is very much a double entendre. To be fair, the ridiculousness extends to absolutely every aspect of this game, but just a heads up—you might not want to play in polite company. —JRSunset OverdriveRelease Date: Oct. 28Xbox One
You know how energy drinks are bad for you? What if they were like, really bad for you? Like turn-you-into-an-orange-rage-monster bad for you? That would be horrible, right? Sunset Overdrive begs to differ, because when everyone is an orange rage monster, that gives you, the player (who has wisely not consumed the toxic drink) an excuse to use your exploding teddy bear gun while riding on power lines and bouncing off cars like trampolines. Physics are for losers.
PRO: Insomniac Games knows how to make a host of crazy weapons, as their Ratchet & Clank franchise has demonstrated time and again, but in Sunset Overdrive, how you get around is as important as the firepower you’re packing. With traversal that looks like a mix of Prince of Persia and Tony Hawk Pro Skater, Overdrive offers a neon-drenched playground in Sunset City. The game looks like it wants to be all-out bonkers fun, and while it’s in-your-face attitude might be a bit much for some—certainly not for me—the game looks to be self-aware enough to not let too much satire get in the way of delivering a crazy thrill ride. —JD
CON: Might be a bit much? MIGHT BE A BIT MUCH? Too-muchness is the whole purpose of Sunset Overdrive, which is why it lit up E3 this year: The whole color-blasted sci-fi-punk aesthetic stood out wildly on the show floor from the flood of space-shooter sequels and LOTR ripoffs. I like the look—but I’m worried that Overdrive will fall victim to Saint’s Row Syndrome. A game constructed as complete gun-crazy wish fulfillment is fun for like an hour and then boring forever after. Also, am I the only one who looks at the lead ‘tude-dude of Overdrive and thinks of Poochie? —DF
Call of Duty: Advanced WarfareRelease Date: Nov. 4PlayStation 4PlayStation 3Xbox OneXbox 360PC
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the first in the series from Sledgehammer Games, goes beyond modern combat and into the near-flung future. Soldiers are outfitted in suits of advanced armor so that players can run, jump, and shoot from more creative vantage points. But that’s not all—there are also some major changes to the ever-popular multiplayer, as well as the inclusion of Kevin Spacey as the game’s main antagonist. Activision hopes to keep fans invested in the series with these changes … at least until the next Call of Duty.
PRO: Ghosts was arguably the worst game in the franchise—seriously, who thought it was a good idea to include an option to play as a dog?—but I have high hopes for Advanced Warfare, which drops players into a futuristic world that includes hoverbikes and specialized drones as private militaries reign supreme. Wearing a new exoskeleton almost feels like cheating, but it takes gameplay to the next level, enabling cloaking, boosted jumping and stronger hand-to-hand combat. There’s even a new four player co-op survival mode that’ll put the zombie mode of old to shame. —NA
CON: At this point, it’s useless to complain about how there’s a new Call of Duty every year—you have to think of the franchise like a sports title, and hope that the changes tweak the formula in fun ways without breaking the game’s twitchy balance. And while all the additions that have Natalie excited do have the potential to make the game fresher than it has ever felt, it makes me leery. There’s just so much stuff, and plenty of room for things to go wrong. I’ll be keeping an eye on Advanced Warfare, but I may wait to see how well it holds up before strapping on my exoskeleton. —JRHalo: The Master Chief CollectionRelease Date: Nov. 4Xbox One
Halo made first-person shooters on consoles a major genre, and while other franchises have supplanted it in popularity, the Halo series has delivered some of the most satisfying shooting gameplay to date. While players eagerly await Halo 5, coming in 2015, developer 343 Industries bundled Halos 1-4 and upgraded the look and feel to match most modern shooters. Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of Halo 2, the collection will deliver every campaign and multiplayer map from each game, giving longtime fans a perfect excuse to rack up a few more Killimanjaros.
PRO: I spent more hours of my middle school days playing Halo 2 multiplayer than I’d care to admit, so Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a welcome flood of nostalgia. But it’s more than that—it’s also a chronology of one of the most influential shooters with a much-needed facelift. Whether you’ve played every Halo since the first or only more recently jumped into the series, the Collection is a phenomenal way to revisit some of the most fun you can have with a shooter. —JD
CON: Halo 2 fans need to just move on already. —JR
CON-TO-THE-CON: You speak nothing but lies, Joshua. We’ll settle this on Ascension. —JDAssassin’s Creed UnityRelease Date: Nov. 11PlayStation 4Xbox OnePC
Promised as a return to basics for the long-running franchises (more than 15(!!!) different main and spinoff titles since 2007), Assassin’s Creed Unity wants to put the stealth back in Assassin’s Creed (the l, h, and two t’s are silent). Set in the French Revolution, players control an assassin named Arno who will play a big role in some of the movement’s famous moments.
PRO: While impressive, Black Flag‘s open world was a little too open, sometimes hamstringing the story and moving at a glacial pace. Unity brings the action back to one city: 18th century Paris during the French Revolution. Gamers will take on the identity of Arno as they continue the tradition of stealth kills with a new arsenal of weapons and updated parkour skills. It’s all made easier in a world that’s both visually stunning and more plausible now that Creed has mastered larger crowds (up to 5,000, which is clearly preferable to the same artificially generated trios or quartets that populated the previous games). In addition, there’s a new four player co-op mode that includes narrative stories. —NA
CON: I hate, hate, hate, hated Assassin’s Creed 3—except for the naval warfare minigame, which let you guide a ship out onto the water and battle the British by sea. Last year’s Black Flag was basically just an expansion of that minigame into open-world form. (After AC2, Black Flag is the second-best Assassin’s Creed ever: The least freighted with kookball plotting, the most focused on sandbox gameplay.) Now comes Unity, which ditches the naval stuff entirely. I have zero interest in a multiplayer Assassin’s Creed, and the fact that the series is returning to another European metropolis feels weirdly repetitious, given the potential to explore any time period ever. —DFAssassin’s Creed RogueRelease Date: Nov. 11PlayStation 3Xbox 360
Only releasing for the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3, Assassin’s Creed Rogue is a follow-up of sorts to Assassin’s Creed IV: Assassins Are Cool But Pirates Are Better. Set around the Seven Years’ War, players control assassin Shay Cormac, who will venture through the frigid waters of the North Atlantic and visit cities like New York and Quebec.
PRO: Two Assassin’s Creed games in one year is a lot to handle, but Black Flag revitalized the franchise last year with its mixture of on-foot exploration and ship battle on the high seas. Rogue doesn’t look to be revolutionizing the franchise or pushing it like Unity may hope to, but for fans who don’t have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One and couldn’t get enough of ship-on-ship destruction, then Rogue is a more than suitable option in an already crowded fall. —JD
CON: It’s very possible that Rogue will outsell the new-gen-only Unity because so many millions of people own Xbox 360s and PS3s, but honestly, who wants to play last-gen Assassin’s Creed? Darren isn’t even sure he wants to play new-gen Assassin’s Creed. —AMThe CrewRelease Date: Nov. 11PlayStation 4Xbox OneXbox 360PC
The Crew aims to make driving games more social while keeping things ludicrous in the game’s open world map of the United States (it only takes 90 minutes to drive from coast to coast). Players can join crews with friends to race together or speed through America as a lone wolf. The experience of playing alone or with friends will all be blended together, allowing players to transition from a solo race to a cross-country roadtrip with friends in a matter of seconds.
PRO: The Crew‘s putting one of the few recent, unique spins on the familiar racing genre. While that hasn’t worked out for every attempt (Split/Second, anyone?), the promise of an open world that lets you jump from one American city to the next seamlessly sounds like a joy, even if the geography makes zero sense. Ubisoft hopes to capture the feel of each city rather than recreate them exactly, and perhaps the creative liberties taken will make for cities that are a thrill to drive around in alone or with a few friends, not slavish replicas. —JD
CON: Early builds of the game felt oddly devoid of character compared to EA’s Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed Rivals. Is anyone really going to want to drive cross country if the journey is so uninspired? —AMLittle Big Planet 3Release Date: Nov. 18PlayStation 4PlayStation 3
The Little Big Planet series didn’t just give PlayStation 3 owners a platform for creating their own levels (and Super Mario Bros. ripoffs); it also provided Sony with one of its most adorable mascots to date, Sackboy. How will Little Big Planet 3 up the ante? Sure, there will be improvements made to the platforming and level creation, but it also introduces three new characters. One of them is named Oddsock. This is Oddsock. And that’s all you really need to know about LBP 3.
PRO: The Little Big Planet games have always been more about what you can do with them than what’s there to play out of the box. That’s intentional—from the very beginning, the folks at Media Molecule have stated that the levels they make are ideas that you can play through in order to obtain all the parts and see how they fit together when building levels (and in LBP 2, games) of your own creation. While the “Play, Create, Share” ethos that LBP started in 2008 has really taken off with games like Minecraft and Disney Infinity, LBP has its own unique charm and handmade aesthetic that is still a delight, six years later. With new power-ups and playable characters, LBP3 could spice up the only thing that was starting to feel a bit stale: the ways you could play your way through all its creations. —JR
CON: I find the peculiar charms of Little Big Planet elusive at best, aggressively annoying at worst. I recognize that there’s something fundamentally next-level about the core-concept idea that LBP is less a game than a mechanism for creating gameplay—a palette, not a painting. But the whole artisanal-muppet style wears pretty thin. And I’m not totally convinced that LBP3‘s “More stuff!” strategy is the right direction for the franchise—it feels a bit like later Sims, which added more elaborate gameplay mechanisms that ran counter to the series’ purpose. I recognize that hating Little Big Planet can only sound helplessly grouchy, but consider me in the anti-Sackboy brigade. —DFFar Cry 4Release Date: Nov. 18PlayStation 4Xbox One
Set in the fictional Himalayan region of Kyrat, Far Cry 4 casts players in the role of Ajay Ghale. He’s there to spread his mother’s ashes in her native home, but becomes embroiled in a civil war against regime of the mad king Pagan Min. Players will have to run, drive, ride elephants, and fly (everyone brings a wingsuit while traveling in the Himalayas, right?) their way through the conflict to end the war. In crazy, destructive fashion.
PRO: Far Cry 3 was the sleeper-hit sensation of 2012—the threequel in a nothing franchise, released sort of under the radar post-Thanksgiving, it created a lush open-world playhouse of pure gameplay. In hindsight, it might have been the best stealth game and the best all-out action game of its year–and it’s the best indication yet that Ubisoft’s whole systems-over-story aesthetic can create rich, utterly unique game experiences. So my hopes are running high for Far Cry 4, which adds in snowcapped peaks, co-op play, and the option to drive an elephant into enemy bases. Also, the main bad guy is a dude in a pink suit, which is a serious step up from Far Cry 3‘s villainous mohawk-Christ. —DF
CON: Actually, the villainous mohawk-Christ is exactly the reason I was initially attracted to play Far Cry 3, in addition to the lush landscape of a tropical island full of secrets. But the beginning was so glitchy—if you were spotted, you went all the way back to the beginning—that I never made it past the first 30 minutes and didn’t get to enjoy the open world gameplay. I’ll return for Far Cry 4 only if the opening exposition and ensuing early gameplay don’t drag the story down—though I’m not hopeful based on the official trailer, which left me confused as to what Mr. Pink wants with the leading character. —NADragon Age: InquisitionRelease Date: Nov. 18PlayStation 4Xbox One
While Inquisition is the third game in the Dragon Age series, its premise is quite simple: a supernatural event kills thousands, leaving only you behind. Who are you? That’s up to you. Create a character that suits you, and get ready—there’s a war coming.
WHY IT’S INTERESTING: The third Dragon Age game has a lot to prove. In the eyes of many fans, the last main installment, 2011’s Dragon Age 2, made an effort to broaden the series’ appeal that came at the expense of what made the original popular: old-school, hardcore RPG stuff like strategic combat and deep dialogue trees. Inquisition, then, is both a course correction and a leap forward into the new generation of consoles. There’s the more-ness that comes with a video game sequel, but also the sense of ‘hey, we’re listening to you’ from developer Bioware. So far, hopes are high—tactical combat has been revamped, the role-playing looks deep and complex, and man, does it look pretty. —JR
Lara Croft and the Temple of OsirisRelease Date: Dec. 9PlayStation 4Xbox OnePC
Tackling the supernatural side of Lara Croft’s globetrotting, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris plays more like classic arcade games than its open-world sister series, Tomb Raider. A sequel to the underrated gem Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Osiris pairs Croft with a rival archaeologist, both of whom are marked with a curse of death on an expedition. Pairing up with two demigods, the two battle their way through a series of levels to save both themselves and the ancient pairing of Isis and Horus.
WHY IT’S INTERESTING: The big-budget Tomb Raider reboot has received the bulk of Lara Croft-related attention in the last few years, but 2010’s Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was one of the most welcome surprises from the long-running franchises. Guardian of Light focused on fun puzzle-solving and cooperative gameplay (before EVERY game this year thought co-op was cool). Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris ups the ante with four playable characters as opposed to the game’s first two, and this branch of the current Tomb Raider franchise isn’t afraid to get weird. The crazy supernatural elements and sense of absurdity absent from the main Tomb Raider games makes for a welcome tonal change, and as long as the puzzles remain clever, there should be more than enough to tide fans over until Rise of the Tomb Raider next year. —JD