With two new next-gen consoles just released, 2014 promises to be a vintage year for video games: we expect the first crop of truly essential titles for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to appear very soon.
But don’t worry if you haven’t invested in either (or both) of those consoles yet: read on and you’ll see there are plenty of brilliant incoming titles for older machines too.
Ladies and gents, here are the games you should be preparing your thumbs for this year...
Titanfall (Xbox One/Xbox 360/Windows)
A sci-fi shooter in which players fight either on foot or from within giant mech suits, Titanfall might just be the first truly great AAA game of the new console generation. Developed by Respawn, a studio founded by the minds behind the Call of Duty series, the game is online multiplayer only, but with a twist: there are single-player campaign elements like a plot and non-player characters woven in.
The range of Titan mechs on offer (plus the ability to fight as a jetpack-wearing footsoldier) means the player can approach combat in a variety of ways – something which led to Titanfall bagging an armful of awards at last year’s E3. It’s on sale 13th March.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Xbox One/PS4/Windows)
Gravel-voiced horn-dog and sometime monster-slayer Geralt of Rivia returns in the third (and apparently final) game in CD Projekt RED’s action RPG series. The developers claim The Witcher 3 will have the largest open world in RPG history (20 percent bigger than Skyrim’s) and 100 hours of gameplay if you count both the main story and open world side quests.
A true next-gen title that won’t be available on the older generation of consoles, The Witcher 3 will be out in the second quarter of 2014.
The Witness (PS4/iOS/Windows)
The much-anticipated second title from indie game martinet Jonathan Blow (his first was the excellent Braid), The Witness is a first-person puzzle/exploration game set on an uninhabited island. As you explore, you’ll unlock new areas of the island by solving 3D mazes.
Sounds straightforward, but given that it’s Jonathan Blow we’re talking about here, there’s something far deeper at work. The man himself says, “the point is the magic that happens in the player’s mind when he understands the subtle things that the mazes are saying – because the mazes aren’t just puzzles, they are lines of communication that aggregate, become more complex and eventually say surprising things.”
The game, due in “early 2014”, will be a timed exclusive on the PlayStation 4 before appearing later on PC and iOS.
Watch Dogs (PS3/PS4/Xbox 360/Xbox One/Wii U/Windows)
Originally supposed to arrive at the tail end of 2013, Watch Dogs will now be released in the spring of this year. Ubisoft’s third-person action adventure game takes certain cues from the company’s Assassin’s Creed series (namely the open world setting and parkour movement) but deals with the worlds of hacking, information warfare and networked technology.
Roaming a futuristic Chicago, the player can hack into phones to steal the user’s bank details, or cause electronic equipment such as traffic lights to malfunction, causing a distraction in order to escape the police’s clutches. We can’t wait to get involved.
Game of Thrones (consoles/PC/Mac/mobile)
We know virtually nothing about this other than that it’s being made by Telltale Games (latterly responsible for the utterly riveting Walking Dead games) and is based on the HBO TV show rather than George R.R. Martin’s novels. Expect a point-and-click adventure full of difficult moral choices and the show’s heady blend of betrayal, blood and (naked) bodies.
More after the break...
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS3/PS4/Xbox 360/Xbox One)
The tenth game in the Metal Gear Solid series and the first half of Metal Gear Solid V (the second being The Phantom Pain), Ground Zeroes looks set to take the stealth-action gameplay of previous instalments to new heights. Set in 1975, it’s yet another open world game (it’s the first free-roaming MGS title) that offers the player far more options when it comes to ways to complete a mission.
Ground Zeroes will be out on 20th March, 2014.
Destiny (PS3/PS4/Xbox 360/Xbox One)
A game combining MMO, FPS and RPG (that’s a lot of capital letters isn’t it?), Destiny is the first post-Halo game from Bungie. Players will be able to choose one of three different races, and three different classes, and fight together through huge open levels with their friends – with other people joining during Public Events. Characters and looted items can be improved over time.
With gorgeous visuals and a radical approach, Destiny looks set to rock everyone’s worlds when it touches down on 9th September. You may be able to play it earlier, though, should you gain access to a beta test that starts in the summer.
Super Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
The first ever Mario Kart in HD, the eighth version of Nintendo’s beloved cartoon racer (due out in the spring) features 12-player online multiplayer and a new anti-gravity feature that allows for mind-bending circuits that defy the laws of physics. And, well, it’s Mario Kart – we can’t help but look forward to it.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS Vita/Windows/Mac/Linux)
The first Hotline Miami was an indie essential – a game that blended old-school top-down 2D action with a disquieting atmosphere, nightmarish visuals and perfectly-chosen music. And so we’re decidedly pumped for its sequel, which promises to conclude the story of the animal mask-wearing Jacket. So far little is known about the game (which has no release date beyond “2014” at the time of writing) but it seems likely to follow in the footsteps of the first, challenging players to clear increasingly tricky levels of bad guys without taking a single hit.
The Crew (PS4/Xbox One/Windows)
This open-world racer screams ambition. Set in a scaled-down version of the US (it takes 90 minutes to drive from coast to coast, and there are no loading screens), it features a persistent world with single- and multiplayer not distinct from each other: players can complete missions alone or with friends.
The game has a 20-hour single-player campaign centred around infiltrating criminal gangs and is full of RPG-like elements – but rather than build up the skills of your character, you’re able to build up and customise your cars to a dizzying degree. Expect the game to be released in the summer.