Format PS4 Status Confirmed ETA 2014 Pub Ubisoft Dev Ubisoft Massive
Great, more CGI,” we groaned in our heads when The Division’s E3 trailer started. “Chuck it on the pile,” we continued, still in our heads. Except this wasn’t CGI. A deserted city has never looked more alive: thick smoke rising from a busted truck, bin bags collecting snow on icy pavements, and puddles reflecting the red taillights of abandoned cars.
But Ubisoft‘s The Division’s draws are more than just visual. Buried beneath its unwieldy genre label (a tactical third-person-shooter action role-playing MMO) sits a hot-button premise with its roots in real-life social fears. A disease spread via dollar bills cripples the US in the space of five days, and as part of a group established to stop the threat, you must save what remains of New York City three weeks later. How? By exploring the city and helping or fighting AI survivors, watching out for teams of other human players along the way.
It’s yet to become clear, however, just how the game’s MMO elements will work. Are players able to kill every NPC in the city? Will quest-givers simply hand out stock missions to passers-by like vending machines? What about trolls? Just as you’re dependent on people, so is the game itself, based on the unpredictable human element. Still, we’re impossibly hyped for Ubisoft’s bold next step.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Blag Flag
Format PS4/PS3 Status Confirmed ETA 1 Nov (PS3) Pub Ubisoft Dev Ubisoft Montreal
As that font of sage wisdom George W Bush once said: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again.” Words to live by, we’re sure you’ll agree. And so it is with Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. Because, truth be told, we were all fooled a bit by Ubisoft‘s Assassin’s Creed 3: promised the moon on a stick, and actually given a piece of cheese on a toothpick. Served by a surly Native American waiter who had all the personality of a moist towelette. But, without wanting to sound like a historical stealth addict jonesing for their next hit, we really do believe that it’ll be different this time.
In part that’s because the aforementioned moist towelette has been discarded, replaced by his far more interesting grandfather. As game director Ashraf Ismail tells us in an exclusive chat: “We wanted to tell the story of someone who was very immature who becomes a man. At the beginning of the story you meet him as this very selfish, very immature character.” He already sounds a thousand times more interesting than Connor. And, as is series tradition, his process of becoming a man also means he gets a whole lot more stabby.
“Our hero starts off as a pirate: Edward Kenway is not an Assassin right away,” says Ash. “He eventually becomes an Assassin as the story progresses, but really he’s a pirate at the beginning: all his motivations are pirate-driven. So the Black Flag title really comes from the fact that we wanted to give enough respect to the pirate fantasy that we’re creating.”
Which explains why the game, breaking franchise canon, has both a number and a subtitle – and if any game is worthy of canon-smashing, it’s one centred on pirate fantasy. And what’s selling Black Flag is what that involves: beautiful tropical locations, looting on the high seas, plundering, pillaging – and all with a character who’s interesting and engaging. The treasure here is definitely looking like more than fool’s gold.
Format PS3 Status Confirmed ETA 17 Sep Pub Rockstar Dev Rockstar North
Most anticipated videogame release ever? Rockstar’s latest sandboxer must be up there, and should shatter first-week sales records when it drops. Whether it can live up to CJ-after-12-Burger-Shots-sized expectations is another matter entirely. Crafting a story seamlessly interweaving the lives of three lead characters, all of different backgrounds, is a bigger challenge than even Rockstar North has set itself before, and we’re yet to discover whether the ability to level-up each character across nine different attributes, like stealth and speed, will have a tangible gameplay effect.
But the positives far outweigh the doubts, and our solitary peek (development is so secretive no UK journalist has seen it twice) suggests a return to the total freedom (and hilarity) of GTA San Andreas’ near-perfect PS2 swansong. Where GTA 5 kept you to a compact, beautifully detailed Liberty City, the return to Los Santos unfurls a vast setting and gameplay options. Quality always trumps quantity, but this looks set to deliver both.
And of course, the sandwiching of Red Dead Redemption – the best open-world game – by PS3’s GTAs can only benefit this return to pretend (yet oh-so-real) Los Angeles. Rockstars North and San Diego probably haven’t been working hand-in-glove, but elements of the latter’s cowboy classic that transformed the genre (fast travel, impeccable voice acting, the feeling that every corner of the map is alive) appear to have carried over to GTA 5. It may have done for CJ’s cholesterol levels, but prepare for another whopper of a celebration sandwich on your next visit to Burger Shot.
Metal Fear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
Format PS4/PS3 Status Confirmed ETA 2014 Pub Konami Dev Kojima Productions
Señor Snake, meet Mr Marston. Soil all of the bed linen. When Hideo Kojima talked about The Phantom Pain incorporating open-world elements, he genuinely wasn’t kidding. Take a peek at the desert intro of Metal Gear Solid 5’s E3 demo and you’ll swear you’re watching a super pretty version of Red Dead Redemption.
“The system has been changed to embrace an open-world game design. It’s different from previous stealth games and results in a more tension-packed experience,” asserts Kojima. “It’ll add more depth than ever before to the storytelling and atmosphere.”
“The system has been changed to embrace an open-world game design,” asserts Kojima
‘Depth’ is one word you could use when describing those vast swathes of desert Captain Eye Patch cuts across. This is a world so sprawling, Big Boss has to use horses (witness Snake leaning over one side of a filly to conceal himself), jeeps and tanks merely to traverse the sandy expanse. And this was only one ‘level’. Sporting the ‘Tactical Espionage Operations’ tagline coined by predecessor Peace Walker, MGS V whisks you around the globe.
Kojima has also seen fit to reveal The Phantom Pain’s cast. In true MGS style, its ensemble incorporates a bunch of soap opera weirdos who wouldn’t look out of place at The Queen Vic… just replace the non-specific pint-ordering with paranormal powers. While old favourites Revolver Ocelot and Master Miller return, some bizarre new faces – including a female sniper called Quiet and a mystical codger named Code Talker – scream eccentric boss battles.
Glimpses of the sandy setting also suggest MGS V is the elusive Project Ogre Kojima has been tweeting about for the past 18 months. Study the footage closely and you’ll see Snake hunched next to a distinctive looking tank – an image that’s a dead ringer for a tech demo shot released for Ogre more than a year ago. The Phantom Pain was always going to be a bit of a winner, we just weren’t quite prepared for this particular desert delight. Kojima truly is rewriting the rules of stealth, something PS4’s raw horsepower will happily assist with. We can’t wait to hide-and-seek this stunner out.
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