2016 is looking to be an odd one for game releases, at least from this side of the year. Big AAA releases are few and far between, with no hugely anticipated games like last year's Fallout 4. Even Assassin's Creed is rumoured to be giving it a miss. In fact, one of the year's most anticipated games is No Man's Sky, being developed by a small team over in the UK. 2016 could easily turn out to be a great year for both indies and new IPs.
Oxenfree has been on my radar since I first stumbled on their gorgeous announcement trailer. Partly inspired by Poltergeist and playing with the idea that radios are a great tool for horror (think numbers stations, or mysterious transmissions like UVB-76. Even Silent Hill uses the radio to great effect) Oxenfree has a pretty creepy atmosphere. Yet it was the gorgeous graphics and top-notch writing and voice acting that pulled me in from the first trailer. You play as a teenage girl called Alex who brings her step-brother to an overnight island party with a bunch of her friends. While exploring the island, the teens manage to open a 'ghostly rift' by playing with their radio, and things go quickly downhill from there. After enjoying Until Dawn last year it was quite apparent that there were very few games done in a similar style, and Oxenfree promises to fill that gap quite nicely -- even having the potential to pull it off even better than Until Dawn did.
Release Date: January 15
Just like Oxenfree, Firewatch's trailer immediately promised interesting characters and gorgeous visuals. You play as a regular Joe called Henry, who's run away from his life to work as a fire lookout in Wyoming (hence the title). Most of your interactions happen through a handheld radio, where a woman called Delilah, your supervisor, is on hand to direct you. The game builds your relationship with Delilah -- although it could go either way, depending on the choices you make throughout. As Henry explores the Wyoming wilderness -- which is straight-up graphically stunning -- you can talk to Delilah whenever you want, whether it's asking about an interesting geological feature or simply probing for more information about her. Both the characters and the environment of Firewatch look incredibly compelling, and I'm excited to explore them further.
Release Date: February 9
Far Cry Primal
I've never played a Far Cry game. Let's just put that out there. I don't actually know what makes a Far Cry game a Far Cry game. But Far Cry Primal looks like it's going to be a little bit like ARK, but with better graphics and AAA production values and I'm okay with that. I want to ride a saber-tooth tiger, dammit.
Release Date: February 23
No Man's Sky
No Man's Sky has been hyped to the moon and back (and probably even further) and some are starting to wonder whether it can actually live up to the hype. I'm a huge space nerd, so as long as I can fly around space and discover some pretty planets. I love the idea of being a scientist explorer and scanning and discovering new life forms -- remember when that was a big part of the Metroid Prime games? No Man's Sky is one of those games I'll either play for two days and never pick up again, or get totally hooked for at least a month. Either way, I'm keen to give it a try.
Release Date: June 2016
Gears Of War 4
Gears of War is one of my biggest guilty pleasure games. Its ridiculous hyper-masculinity and abundance of gun high fives are all too easy to make fun of, but at its heart Gears is a shooter with personality. The original Gears trilogy took three games to give us a playable female character (who had all the personality of a sexy sponge), which is why it's so exciting that the very first reveal trailer for the new instalment has a lady Gear in it. I can't wait to see where Gears of War 4 takes the world of Sera next.
Release Date: TBA 2016
Friday The 13th: The Game
This title started out as an asymmetrical multiplayer horror game called Summer camp -- until Sean Cunningham personally reached out and offered the devs a chance to create an official Friday The 13th branded game. A lot of developers have been playing with the idea of asymmetrical horror games, and no one's really gotten it right yet. Here's hoping that Friday the 13th figures out the magic formula. But really, who doesn't want to don the iconic hockey mask to play as Jason and terrorise your friends?
Release Date: Spring 2016
Horizon: Zero Dawn
I honestly don't know much about Horizon: Zero Dawn aside from what was shown at E3, although that was more than enough to pique my interest. Female main character? Red-headed female main character? With a bow? Sign me up. The Viking-esque aesthetics and robo-dinosaurs are just icing on the cake.
Release Date: TBA 2016
P.A.M.E.L.A is like a mix of Bioshock and Mass Effect, with a bit of Dead Space thrown in for good measure. I only found out about this shiny, utopian horror game recently, but it's quickly found a spot on my most anticipated games list. Setting a horror game in such a gorgeous setting (you even get to see sunlight!) is an idea that hasn't been explored in too much depth before, and I'm excited to see how successfully P.A.M.E.L.A manages to do it.
Release Date: TBA 2016
Allison Road has grown in a huge way since its developer posted his first Unity-based level tests on a Facebook fanpage for the PT-inspired game. Its inception happened to perfectly coincide with the cancellation of Silent Hills and take-down of PT from the Play Station store, however, and grieving fans latched onto this tiny indie effort as its replacement. Since then, Allison Road has managed to find a publisher and is on its way to deliver pants-shitting terror not seen since the release of PT. I can't wait.
Release Date: TBA 2016
Mass Effect Andromeda
Although a long-time Bioware fan, I only played through the Mass Effect trilogy for the first time last year. Since then, I've already gone through all three games twice. The Mass Effect games are a unique experience that aren't really like any other game series in existence, so it's hard not to get excited for a new entry set to take the universe in a different direction. Unlike a lot of fans of the game, I'm glad that Bioware is going in a completely new direction (and a completely new galaxy) with Andromeda -- if only to get away from the general mess that was Mass Effect 3's ending.
Release Date: December 2016
Honorable Mention: VR Gaming
Although the Oculus Rift's consumer release is too expensive for most Australians to justify buying (thanks, exchange rates), 2016 is no doubt the year of VR. We can only hope that the HTC Vive and Sony's Playstation VR see the light this year as well, although there's no guarantees that they'll be any more affordable than Oculus's entry. Oh well, I guess it's time to start saving up.