The best of what's to come
Feel that chill breeze in the air? Okay, maybe not—it’s still August, after all. But fall will be here soon enough, and with it the vaunted “Holiday Season,” aka the four-month span wherein every publisher releases its most promising video games at the same time in some sort of ridiculous consumer gladiator match.
Despite some high-profile games slipping into 2017 already (damn it, Mass Effect Andromeda), there’s still quite a bit to be excited about in 2016. We’ve gone ahead and picked the 15 titles we’re looking forward to most—from Deus Ex (August 23) to South Park (December 6) and everything in between.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – August 23
It’s hard not to be excited about a new Deus Ex, despite Square’s marketing missteps. I’ve sat through each cringeworthy promo—from the overly bombastic initial trailer to the use of loaded phrases like “mechanical apartheid” and “Augs lives matter”—with increasing worry, but my fingers are still crossed.
I mean, it’s Deus Ex. It’s one of the PC’s most beloved franchises, famed for its choice-filled, system-driven gameplay. Hopefully the writing in-game is a bit more sophisticated than its pre-release flailing. We’ll know soon enough—Deus Ex: Mankind Divided ($60 preorder on Amazon or Steam) is what I’d mark as the official start of the fall season, and it releases next week.
Obduction – August 24
What was once a “Spring 2016” release is now a “Fall 2016” release thanks to multiple delays in the past months, but I’m nevertheless looking forward to Obduction (Steam placeholder page), Cyan’s spiritual successor to its classic point-and-click Myst and the studio’s first game in a decade. I played about two hours of the game and came away impressed, and that was before any of the props and story objects were put in place.
Barring any last-minute delays, this one should launch by the end of August. It’s been a long wait—nearly three years since the Kickstarter—but hopefully it was worth it.
The Turing Test – August 30
Every year there seems to be one game that waves its Portal influences around for all to see. In 2016, that game’s The Turing Test ($18 preorder on Steam), a first-person puzzler that involves moving balls of electricity to power machines, open doors, et cetera.
I’m not sure how it’ll stack up against this year’s fellow philosophical puzzler The Witness, let alone the heady puzzles and story of The Talos Principle, but I’m loving the aesthetic and the little bit (probably 10 minutes) I’ve played. It’s one to keep an eye on amidst the bombast of bigger-budget releases.
Forza Horizon 3 – September 27
Those who’ve read this site for a while have undoubtedly heard me rave about Forza Horizon—the best arcade racing series we’ve got, these days. The problem: Previous entries have been Xbox-only. And yes, I bought an Xbox One solely to play Forza Horizon 2.
Time for me to throw that Xbox One in the trash though, because Forza Horizon 3 ($60 preorder on Windows Store) is coming to Windows 10 as part of Microsoft’s new “Xbox Play Anywhere” program, along with games like Recore, Gears of War 4, and Dead Rising 4. I’m not too fond of the Windows Store, but I’ll deal with it to play Forza at 60-plus frames per second.
Mafia III – October 7
Calling a game Mafia III ($60 preorder on Amazon or Steam) and having it deal with something other than the 1940s/50s Italian mob? It’s an unconventional move, to say the least. But that hasn’t halted my interest in the upcoming open-world game, which takes place in “New Bordeaux”—actually New Orleans—in 1968, amidst Southern racial tensions and conflict over the Vietnam War.
And there’s still organized crime to be done here. This time you’re working from the outside, setting up a crime syndicate of your own to move in on the Italians. Expect lots of shooting and high-speed chases. And hopefully quite a bit more, too—Mafia II was criticized for not having much to do aside from the main missions. Given how popular open-world games are nowadays, I’d expect New Bordeaux to feel livelier.
Battlefield 1 – October 21
When the first rumors of a Battlefield game set during World War I leaked, I was dubious. I’d hoped for a return to World War II maybe, but World War I? It seemed like an odd fit.
The reality is that Battlefield 1 ($60 preorder on Origin) has little to do with actual history. This is not the horror of Verdun, nor even the cartoon-horror of Valiant Hearts. It’s Battlefield with a World War I skin on top, and that’s A-okay with me—it looks great, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play. We’ll see whether series veterans embrace it or view it as a spinoff (a la Battlefield: Hardline), but I’m personally looking forward to biplanes, zeppelins, and bolt-action rifles.
Civilization VI – October 21
For those who want a dash of history without all the shooting, Civilization VI ($60 preorder on Amazon or Steam) launches the same day as Battlefield 1. And while I was a little skeptical about the game at first—“Didn’t we just finish with Civilization VI?”—I’ve since played the early eras of a few campaigns and been won over.
Cities are split into districts now, so they take up more than one hex. Research has been split in half, with a traditional tech tree and a new civics tree, advanced through accumulated culture. But by far the most interesting new feature unveiled so far is “Active Research.” Complete certain actions—found a city on the coast, for instance, or create three adjacent farms—and you’ll gain bonuses to researching certain technologies.
All this to say: Civilization VI has already shaken things up more than Beyond Earth.
Titanfall 2 – October 28
Launching Titanfall 2 ($60 preorder on Origin) a week after Battlefield 1 and a week before Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare seems like a mistake, but...okay. The sequel to 2014’s mechs-and-soldiers shooter hits in late October and hopefully it can compete.
Multiplayer is still the draw here, with new tools (grappling hooks) and more advanced mechs to flesh out the original’s rather bare-bones experience. But the biggest change this time around? A true single-player campaign. Hopefully that should put to rest the value arguments that plagued the original.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare – November 4
Okay, I know it’s not “cool” to look forward to a Call of Duty game in 2016. And granted, the Infinite Warfare subtitle is dumb.
But you know what? When they started playing the demo at E3 I was like, “Damn, what game is this?” The space combat looks reminiscent of EVE Valkyrie, as directed by Michael Bay, and there seem to be some really interesting ideas at play here. At the very least, it’s hard to say this is “the same old Call of Duty.”
All this to say I’m giving it a chance. Maybe it won’t live up to the E3 trailer. Maybe it really is another boring Call of Duty. But I’ve gone from “buying it because of the Call of Duty 4 remaster” to legitimately interested in Infinite Warfare ($60 preorder on Amazon or Steam). That’s more than Activision’s managed with me the past few years.
Dishonored 2 – November 11
Fire up the whale oil and get Sam Rockwell on the line—it’s time for a sequel to Dishonored. 2012’s excellent stealth action game is back for another, this time boasting dual protagonists (the previous game’s assassin Corvo and a grown-up Emily Kaldwin) and a bunch of new powers (like the ability to turn into a shadow).
There are a lot of great stealth games—hell, we already talked about Deus Ex in this piece—but Dishonored’s smooth action, bevy of abilities, and unique setting helped it vie for top honors. Hopefully Dishonored 2’s ($60 preorder on Amazon or Steam) sophomore effort recaptures the same feelings.
Watch Dogs 2 – November 15
Watch Dogs 2? Anticipated? After the let-down of the first game?
Okay, I know Watch Dogs (or WATCH_DOGS, if you prefer) followed the Ubisoft formula to a T—which is to say it was a tedious and generic open-world game, with a paint-by-numbers story bolstered by meaningless side content. That’s all true.
But maybe it’s the dear-to-my-heart San Francisco setting, or maybe it’s the less serious tone of the marketing. I don’t know. Something has me interested in Watch Dogs 2 ($60 preorder on Steam), even if the end result turns out to be mindless open-world junk food, a la Ubisoft’s other mainstay franchise, Assassin’s Creed.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole – December 6
South Park: The Fractured But Whole ($60 preorder on Steam) ditches the sword-and-board of 2014’s The Stick of Truth, opting instead for a send-up of superhero tropes. Other than that? It’s pretty much identical.
And that’s not a bad thing. The Stick of Truth may have pinned a bit too much of its humor on references to South Park, the TV show, but it was a surprisingly good licensed game and really demonstrated a love for the source material—both the TV show and RPG tropes. With new combat and more character classes, The Fractured But Whole is the “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” sequel.
Shadow Warrior 2 – 2016
There’s still no official release date appended to Shadow Warrior 2 (Steam placeholder page), which does admittedly have me a bit worried the game will slip to 2017—though Devolver still claims it’s on track for this fall. That’s a relief, because I could use another fast-paced shooter in this post-Doom world and Shadow Warrior 2 looks like it’s bringing back everything I loved about Flying Wild Hog’s 2013 reboot.
In other words: massive guns, massive-er swords, massive-est demons, and more Wang jokes than you can shake a wang-shaped stick at.
Tyranny - 2016
When Obsidian told me it had another, non-Pillars of Eternity isometric CRPG in the works, I was excited. That excitement doubled when I was told it’d be out by the end of 2016.
Tyranny (Steam placeholder page) takes place, we’re told, in a world where the battle between good and evil already took place…and evil won. You take on the role of a Fatebinder, a Judge Dredd-like character who enforces the laws of this unjust land as he or she sees fit. Unlike traditional RPGs, this means you’ll wield power from the beginning of the game, spending most of your time navigating political alliances and making a mark on the land instead of working your way up from the bottom.
It’s a novel concept set in a world that’s responsive to your actions, with a deeply branching story. And in a year with few RPGs, this might wind up being the best of 2016. We’ll see.
Okay, this isn’t one game. It’s a collection. See, consoles are still doing that whole “Remaster” thing, and while I think it’s by-and-large stupid—especially for anything that just released on the previous console generation—there are some great games getting the treatment this year.
BioShock, Darksiders, Skyrim, and Dead Rising are all getting a facelift and a re-release before 2016 is out, and in the case of at least two of those games (BioShock and Skyrim) the remaster will be free to anyone who already owns the original version on PC. At that price, I can’t complain.