With last year’s push to promote new consoles out of the way, this year’s E3 was (for the most part) all about the games. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all have a solid lineup of exclusive titles in development, bolstered by the usual suspects of third-party blockbusters. Unfortunately, many of the new and tantalizing intellectual properties and savory sequels won’t be in our outstretched hands until well into 2015. But there’s still a healthy list of games, and even a few new surprises, that will be released before the new year… we hope. So which of these top titles are must-launch games in 2014, and which will get the big ol’ delay stamp? Check ahead for my predictions on each one’s release date security.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity
Assassin’s Creed Unity was the highlight of Ubisoft’s booth this E3. The long running franchise is taking a dip in the French Revolution this time around, with its bloody uprising filling the streets of Paris and guillotines around every corner; the perfect venue for the Brotherhood to ply their trade. The always important movement and wall scaling system has been overhauled for the new game, allowing for fluid parkour skills both when climbing up and down structures. The most enticing new feature, though, is undoubtedly the cooperative multiplayer campaign. Players can visit taverns, which act as social hubs, witness “ghosts” of other players while in mission, and seamlessly join with up to three other players to complete the objective.
Launch or Delay: Though only just announced, Assassin’s Creed Unity is well into its development. Ubisoft has managed their behind-the-scenes progress of the series flawlessly, and as such we have been treated to a polished new entry every year since Assassin’s Creed II in 2009. Though only freshly heralded to the masses, I have a strong feeling Ubisoft will make true on the October 28th release date.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
The Lord of Rings series has been milked quite often in the video game world, which makes Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordo r’s ability to turn heads at this year’s E3 all the more interesting. It takes a lot of gameplay liberties from other titles in the exploration and combat departments, but from highly praised sources like Assassin’s Creed and Batman’s Arkham series. The Nemesis System is an original twist, however, allowing you to manipulate the minds of your enemies, amassing a legion of your own and pitting your foes against each other.
Launch or Delay: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor hasn’t been in production as long as you’d a expect for a game of this magnitude, though Warner Bros. and Monolith Productions are confident enough to plaster the October 7th launch date everywhere you look, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Either the game will launch and silence my skepticism with a high-quality experience, or I’ll be disappointed by a brief campaign and lacking features due to a relatively short development period. We’ll see.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
The fine storytellers at BioWare showed us some exceptional gameplay content this E3, including a stunning group battle against a towering dragon. Snippets of the campaign were also teased during their demo, all cutting short at gripping moments that have us pulling our hair out to discover what happens next. The explorable areas are much more expansive, allowing players to stray off the main path in search of side adventures, all while taking in the breathtaking vistas. After heavy criticism of the combat system in Dragon Age II , BioWare has taken some positive strides in providing us with options to play out combat as tactically or action-oriented as we like. And we finally get to create our own Qunari, hoorah!
Launch or Delay: We have been watching Dragon Age: Inquisition ‘s development for some time now, and the gameplay demonstration looks like a near complete product. And yet, it was still hands-off at E3, which always throws doubt into the stability of the release date. Also, BioWare is one of those rare developers that doesn’t deliver a product until they are completely satisfied with it, surprising since their boss is Electronic Arts. I believe the October 7th date was made to be broken. If final touches still need to be done, the game will get pushed closer to the end of the year. If at that time they’re still not convinced it’s ready, it may join The Witcher III: Wild Hunt in early 2015, which I’m sure neither the developer nor publisher wants to see happen.
There are a lot of surprisingly patient gamers waiting for Destiny , Bungie’s first-person shooter/action adventure/role-playing/don’t-want-to-call-it-an-MMO “shared-world” experience. The developer’s history with the Halo series has allowed them plenty of latitude and respect from the gaming community to fashion their unique take on a science fiction shooter. The premise of humanity’s struggle against extinction and the promise of a dynamic developing world has pulled together support from both Microsoft’s and Sony’s fan base.
Launch or Delay: Destiny is a tough one to call. September 9th is awfully close, and there’s still so much of the world and features in Destiny to reveal. The beta will launch exclusively for PS4 owners (the game’s lead development platform) in mid July, which is a good sign, but also reveals that things could be a little behind for other consoles. And yet this is still somewhat of an MMO, a genre known to launch with tons of technical bugs that are fixed via weekly patches. I will tentatively give the September release a nod (mostly because I want the game ASAP), but will not be surprised if it’s pushed back a few months, maybe even to early next year.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Halo fans were given a treat to tide them over at this year’s E3. It was wasn’t Halo 5: Guardians , but a complete compilation of our favorite Spartan’s exploits. An Xbox One exclusive, Halo: The Master Chief Collection compiles the four main entries in one seamless campaign, with everything graphically upgraded. The second title has also received the Anniversary edition treatment, which I personally will dive into being a big fan of the Arbiter. It will also be interesting to see what touch-ups the PS4 version of Halo 4 receives.
Launch or Delay: Though just revealed, I don’t think the November 11th launch date is a stretch for 343 Studios. They likely want to get it packaged and out of the way so the entire team can focus on finishing Halo 5 . Also, with Halo 4 ‘s rapid decline of online multiplayer sessions, the entire library of maps and modes from the previous four games will allow the developer to monitor what works best, and how they can make Guardian ‘s online features addictive enough to keep the community hanging around after the launch honeymoon ends.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
The Call of Duty series has made the jump from World War II to modern day combat and special operations, and now is leaping into the not-too-distant future with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare . The futuristic arsenal of weapons, drones, and tactical machinery is enticing in that it is believable within the next few decades, as is the global campaign where corporations have more power than countries. With a brand new engine built from scratch, a stronger emphasis on sound production for the game, and stunning photorealistic character designs, we may finally see a big step forward for the series.
Launch or Delay: Ha! The day Activision announces that they will not have a Call of Duty game released in a given year is the day we should all start worrying about the collapse of the video game industry. No, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare will be here on November 4th, you can bet the bank on that one.
Though Call of Duty fanboys will quickly dispute, most cool-headed critics will agree that Battlefield: Hardline edged out its archenemy in the popular vote at this year’s E3. The break from military exploits and a focus on the classic cops versus robbers setup has proven to be enough of a twist to turn the heads of jaded FPS aficionados. The plot will likely take a backseat to the new multiplayer modes, which includes criminals looting armored trucks and making it to extraction points before being caught, high speed chases, and hostage rescues.
Launch or Delay: After the E3 unveiling, Battlefield: Hardline opened its public beta, which is usually a sign that things are moving into the final stages. October 21st is the official launch date, though with a clear gameplay distinction between itself and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare , EA may let its opposition out of the gate first, and stick back to get the game modes as tight and clean as possible. But it will still launch this year, that’s for sure.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
The hands-on Smash Bros. booth was the main attraction in the Nintendo section this year (though Splatoon had a pretty solid crowd the whole week). Easily the Big N’s heaviest hitter for gamers of every type, Nintendo did what they needed to do–promote the hell out of this game to reel in the hardcore crowd. The Smash tournament heightened the excitement, and we saw a lot of mascots get “rekt” during the Nintendo Treehouse Live @ E3 segments. New characters were announced, and the integration of the figurine line called Amiibo added even more intrigue. The hands-on display also provided the developers with some much needed outside feedback on the gameplay, all to get ready for its late year release.
Launch or Delay: The next few months will undoubtedly be used for tightening controls and balancing the power of all the characters, as Nintendo has masterfully done with past Smash games. That said, there was very little revealed at this E3 about new game modes and online features, which I have a hunch will be underwhelming come review time, much like Mario Kart 8 was. These will be unfortunate features dubbed as tacked on, which I feel would benefit from more development time. But as Nintendo’s only big console pusher for the upcoming holiday season, they cannot and will not let Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U slide into next year. It will launch, whether it’s ready or not.
After publisher SEGA’s abysmal Aliens: Colonial Marines , I’m surprised the gaming community hasn’t completely given up on the series. And yet somehow Alien: Isolation stole a spot in the Best in Show category for many at this year’s E3. A true survival horror experience, the cat and mouse game between the player and the Alien puts you in the role of the prey, nervously watching every step you make and every breath you take, for fear of being spotted and subsequently slaughtered by the xenomorph. With random changes in the locations of useful objects, as well as the predator adapting to your strategy, there’s no room for getting comfortable, as every attempt to stay alive is different from the last.
Launch or Delay: Alien: Isolation ‘s story has actually been finished since the start of the year, with developer The Creative Assembly now in full polish mode, testing and improving the experience to be as gripping and unpredictable as possible. This game will make its October 7th release date, where we will probably see a spike in underwear sales as well.
Developer Turtle Rock Studios has had a rough road trying to get their sci-fi, co-operative FPS into the spotlight, having lost their publisher THQ to bankruptcy last year. 2K Games has now taken over the publishing reigns, with Evolve picking up steam and impressing at E3. The 4 vs. 1 matchups, with a team of four hunters battling against a player control “evolving” monster is a fresh take in the shooter genre. The game looks disgustingly gorgeous, working only on next-gen platforms with its CryEngine 3 game engine, and with a growing list of maps, monsters and hunters, there’s plenty to get excited about.
Launch or Delay: Despite its publishing woes, Evolve has been in the works for a few years now, and looks near complete as of E3. There will only be three monsters at launch, but plenty of maps and modes to keep the experience fresh, and DLC content will come in steady streams according to 2K. Yes, I will give the thumbs up for the October 21st launch. Now where’s my hunting cap?