ASM’s winter 2015 video games preview

gamespreviewfeatureMAKE SURE your specs are up to date, attempt to download the latest patches on eduroam’s 12 gigs-a-day data cap (good luck), and prepare a carefully-worded note to your lecturer explaining why you need the next two weeks off; the winter games onslaught is almost upon us. That yearly march to Christmas that leaves gamer’s wallets drier than the Capitol Wasteland. Batman Arkham Knight and Assassin’s Creed Unity are recent examples of the triple A games machine attempting to deliver an unfinished product before it’s properly ready, so approaching the below list with some skepticism is understandable. However, at ASM we suspect that even the most hardened of readers, still bitter that, somehow, a new Garry’s Mod looks like it’ll come out before Half Life 3, will relax when they read the name of one of these games for the thousandth time in a video game publication.

Yes, that one.

Fallout 4 – XB1, PS4, PC

While Grand Theft Auto may never be unseated from the top of the all-time charts, Bethesda’s latest post-apocalyptic epic might come close. Mere weeks after Fallout 4 was announced at Bethesda’s first ever E3 presentation, which promised everything fans of the series had wanted since New Vegas and more, and the morbidly addictive mobile game Fallout Shelter on the same day, project lead Todd Howard revealed in an interview that it was literally impossible for the factory producing the limited-edition Pip Boys for the game to make any more. Bethesda has spent the years since Fallout 3 creating one of their biggest open worlds yet, and recording dialogue lines for its player-character (your robot butler, Codsworth, can also address you by name – even if you call yourself “Mr F**kface”). The massively updated crafting system and base-building mechanics turn an already expansive game into a hundred-hour timesink; and with the promise of future DLC, Fallout 4 looks set to outlast even late 2016 releases. Watch out, Call of Duty [insert subtitle here].

Halo 5 Guardians – XB1

The latest generation of consoles are barely two years old and, purely in terms of sales, Sony’s PS4 is the clear winner already. Even Bungie, previous captains of Microsoft’s flagship IP, have sailed into Sony-controlled waters with exclusive content for Destiny, having recently reorganised their single player campaigns and completely removed the critically lambasted Peter Dinklage in their latest expansion, The Taken King. After the slow and relatively uninspired Halo 4 and the catastrophically buggy Master Chief Collection, 343 Industries is kicking off its tallest and most cybernetically-enhanced tentpole on the Xbox One, promising a 4-player co-operative campaign twice as big as its predecessor, and multiplayer updates to its big-team Warzone and competitive arena gametypes that will be free, forever. Lofty promises, but for the first time in the series’ history, Halo has something it needs to prove. Again, hopefully for the sake of Aber students, 343’s day one patch doesn’t have much to fix.

 

Life is Strange Episode 5: Polarized – XB1, 360, PS4, PS3, PC

Dontnod are one of the few studios braving the episodic gaming market against the current leader and intellectual property magnet, Telltale. Punctuating the first-person action titles on this list, the Square Enix-published Life is Strange is a wonderfully realised, emotional series with a central, Lynchian mystery (the Twin Peaks comparisons are writ large, from “FIRE WALK WITH ME” bathroom graffiti to the missing girl with four syllables in her name) that stays true to the personal high school experience of its protagonists – right down to cliques, awkward school dances, and the at-times cringe-worthy dialogue from its students. Episode 5 looks set to wrap up the time-travel narrative and agonising cliffhanger that concluded Episode 4: Dark Room, and will offer new players the chance to start from the beginning.

Telltale Games: Tales from the Borderlands, Game of Thrones, and Minecraft: Story Mode – iOS, XB1, 360, PS4, PS3, PC

The fact Telltale can introduce stakes involving the lives of its characters in Tales from the Borderlands – the spinoff of a series in which characters can respawn instantly for a fee – speaks volumes about their ability to craft engaging stories, where choices carry weight and every episode has consequences that carry on into the next. Tales shares the comedy and characters from the ever-expanding Borderlands universe (Lionsgate announced this month that they had acquired the rights for a live-action film)  and introduces solid performances of its own from series newcomers Troy Baker and Laura Bailey as the two protagonists.

Game of Thrones takes the familiar, anyone-can-die atmosphere of the TV show and puts the power in your hands. Trying to outwit Queen Cersei or navigating a feud in the North involving the despotic Ramsey Bolton takes up much of the first five episodes, with the sixth coming soon and dealing with the massive ramifications of the penultimate episode. Well, massive ingame; the focus on characters means no actual plot points of the show are disrupted by it, allowing for cameos from the show’s biggest stars, Peter Dinklage again picking up the cheque in a more convincing way this time.

Star Wars Battlefront

Enjoy these next few months while you can; whether you like it or not, by the time Star Wars Battlefront launches on November 20th, hype for Episode VII: The Force Awakens will be everywhere. The first console addition to the Battlefront series in ten years, DICE have been quick to distance the game from its modern warfare Battlefield stable. There’s no iron-sight aiming, for one, and the dreary, played-out narrative of Battlefield 4 certainly would have been improved by the appearance of Darth Vader. It will be interesting to see how the last ten years of change in online multiplayer will affect this title, and replicate the fun of Battlefront II, whose servers were only shut down last year after nine years of gamer support.