Destiny! Watch Dogs! Titanfall! That new Alien game! There’s a whole bunch of next-gen wonderment heading our way this year and we’re all very excited. And why shouldn’t we be? Gaming blockbusters, whether you like it or not, are currently the backbone of the industry and are enjoyed by millions of people worldwide for a good reason. But what of those underdogs? The ones without the million dollar marketing budgets with which to shovel their adverts into your eye sockets. Or those fantastic hidden gems that you discovered completely by accident whilst idly cruising around Steam.
It’s the very surprise of these games that often makes them the most fun. It’s the curious new approaches that developers take to solve problems that the money they don’t have could. There’s always exceptions to the rules of course, and sometimes a game with no marketing run-up might simply mean it’s the shambolic denim-wearing simulator Ride To Hell: Retribution, but we’ll pray that isn’t the case for these titles.
Here, then, are a bunch of games you may or may not want to get excited about, but at least when you’re finished reading this you’ll know that they exist.Next
10) Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture
With all the hallmarks of a crowd-funded PC game, it may come as a surprise that The Chinese Room’s quiet successor to indie intrigue Dear Esther is in fact a PS4 exclusive. Regardless of your opinion on their recent take on the Amnesia series, there can be absolutely no denying that TCR knows how to craft an uncommonly atmospheric experience. And it’s this game, above the million dollar explosion-fest of Killzone, that makes me crave the new PlayStation.
Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture puts you in the trembling shoes of six ordinary people who face the prospect of the world’s demise in the sleepy English county of Shropshire. Or probably that, anyway, but it’s gone through several iterations during production (including the now thankfully defunct idea of a one hour’s play time-limit), and is more than likely to change again. Either way, it’s definitely shaping up to be something beautiful, intelligent and most importantly, genuinely fascinating. Take a look at the announcement trailer below and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
9) Mario Kart 8
Hmm, yes. Did you know there’s a new Mario Kart game coming? I didn’t. Will it be the same as the last seven? Probably. Will the two-dozen Wii U owners around the world buy it anyway? Probably. Am I being completely unfair about Nintendo on several counts? Probably.
Or rather “definitely,” as I can almost hear some of you scream, so let’s qualify a few things. Firstly, it’s no secret that the Wii U isn’t selling comparatively well. In fact, in the UK, the PlayStation 4 overtook the Wii U’s lifetime sales after just two days of being available, with the Xbox One only a couple of weeks behind that – so maybe this game isn’t on your radar because the Wii U in general isn’t.
Nintendo’s only option, it seems, is to roll out its flagship titles and hope that the quality speaks for itself, which it did indeed do with the recently acclaimed Super Mario Bros. 3D World. I’m certain Mario Kart 8 will be a fun little game too, but while the horse certainly isn’t dead, I’m not sure just how much more flogging it can take.Previous Next
8) The Witness
The Witness is a game by Jonathan Blow. He previously made a game called Braid. And you know what? I didn’t really like it. Now, I realise that for a gaming journo to say such things aloud is bordering on professional suicide, but playing a game where I’m some weird middle-aged man dressed in a Victorian school uniform and trying to kidnap a visibly distressed woman didn’t really connect with me. In a strange way, I suppose that’s a good thing.
Still, what little we know about this follow up does seems tantalising. According to Blow, it’s essentially “an exploration-puzzle game on an uninhabited island,” and who didn’t love Myst? He also stated that he skipped on current-gen consoles because he didn’t think they’d be able to meet the game’s needs, but with nothing to render but a deserted peninsular, you can be sure that all that remaining processing power is going on some insanely complex puzzles. Also, Braid‘s tagline, “What if you could learn from your mistakes, but undo the consequences?” may be some indication as to why Blow switched developing for Microsoft to Sony, and goes on the list as yet another reason to throw your hat in with PlayStation.Previous Next
Indie to the extreme, it’s immediately apparent that Verdun is not a looker when it’s in motion. But so what if it can’t compare with a max-settings graphics monster when you have a game so deeply playable that you lose track of time whenever you boot it up? And not to mention one from a time in history that’s so rarely represented it feels like you’ve never even played a military shooter before.
Verdun aims to put players into the toxic mists of one of the First World War’s most ferocious battles, allowing you to experience the savage futility of trench warfare. Considering its limited budget it’s actually fairly authentic, if not a little mechanical at present. You see, technically it’s available to play right now via Steam Early Access, though as we all know, that just means you’re paying to be a beta tester. When it finally comes out polished and proper, it’s certain to be worth a look.Previous Next
That (frankly superb) Alien: Isolation reveal may have the Johnny Jumpscares high-fiving each other till their hands are bloody stumps, but Routine has everything seen there, and more – and it had it over a year ago. In fact, when viewing the (also frankly superb) Routine alpha trailer (seen below), there seems to be more than a little in common between the two.
There’s the perfect sense of retro-future styling, the sprawling, lived-in space station and the terrifying lone stalker. It’s almost uncanny. If you’re a betting man, here are two dead certainties that I’d have no trouble putting a year’s salary on: 1) this game will be brutally terrifying, and 2) PewDiePie will do some tedious, shrieking playthough of it on YouTube.
But, unbelievably, that last point isn’t Routine‘s biggest problem. No, the biggest problem here is fear. Not the unquestionable in-game fear, but rather the all too real development fears. The most recent footage may be heart racing, but the lack of any other information in the seven months since means you might not be playing it quite as soon as you’d like.
5) Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty
Abe’s Oddysee was one of my favourite games ever when it first came out. It was so utterly different, so visually striking, that it quickly burrowed its way into my heart – and it was all this three PlayStations ago. So, now, 17 years later (seriously) it’s finally getting the super-HD remake it deserves.
Though perhaps “remake” is an unfair term. Word on the street is that the developers are polishing it up so much, and refining so many little parts for the PS4′s cutting edge technology, that it’s pretty much going to be a brand new game – and I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Abe’s grim, personal tale of toiling under industrial capitalists is as relevant today as ever, and telling it through intelligent puzzles and a clever control scheme means I’m all set to drown once more in this murky sea of nostalgia. Oh, and it had a fart button. If they can somehow incorporate that into the new DualShock 4 controller, then I think we can pretty much call Game of the Year early on this.Previous Next
4) Enemy Front
A powerful, flashy, fast-paced WWII shooter from the team that brought you… Beauty Factory. OK, maybe that’s a bad example. They also made Chicken Riot for the Wii. I bet now you’re really excited. No? Oh, well they also made something called Jewels Of The Tropical Lost Island, and doesn’t that sound great?
In fairness, we all have to start somewhere (and pay the bills), and more recently they’ve cut their teeth on some slightly more pertinent military shooters – most notably the Sniper: Ghost Warrior series. Of course, running a game on the CryEngine means it should at least look pretty decent, especially as it’s confirmed to be a last-gen only offering. It’s an interesting decision, but early indications seem to show there’s life in the old machines yet, though we can’t help noticing that, from what little we’ve seen at least, it appears to be a fairly ‘by the numbers’ shooter. FPS semi-legend Stuart Black’s departure from the project should probably ring some alarm bells, too. Might be nice to go back to the 40s though, after this deluge of modern warfare.Previous Next
3) Project 2
Remember that, “Can video games be art?” question, where people suddenly decided to ask themselves and each other whenever a game got perfect scores on Metacritic? Remember in the summer of 2010 when an indie game called Limbo came out and crushed that question into the dust by being an unparalleled work of imaginative genius? Remember when, because of that, the, “Can video games be art?” debate started up again anyway?
It’s been announced that the hugely anticipated follow-up to Limbo should indeed arrive in 2014, but not much else is known. It’s said it will retain the 2D gameplay, but this time around have 3D graphics. And it will be in colour… And… erm… be amazing? Speculation, but entirely possible.
Developer Playdead certainly encourages freedom and creativity, and lead designer Jeppe Carlsen’s superb (and also little-known) synesthesia simulator side-project 140 was testament to that just last year. It certainly leaves you in no doubt that these talented Danes, whatever they’re building, will deliver something pretty special.Previous Next
2) The Golf Club
I’m aware golf had a bit of a reputation for one of the more stuffy, pompous and boring sports around, but thanks to the saucy antics of its biggest star, Tiger Woods, it’s been somewhat brought to the fore. Ironic then that EA are dropping his name from their dominant PGA Tour games after 14 years. But dominant for how long, now that there’s a new swinger in town?
The Golf Club may have a pretty naff pun for a title, but going by the recently released footage, it has plenty of other things working in its favour – most notably some ridiculously photo-realistic graphics. EA’s Tiger Woods games were never really lookers, and evolved pretty slowly over their annual life cycle. The Golf Club promises to be something genuinely new (or as new as a golf simulator can be), and laughs in the face of EA’s pricey course DLC system by including a random course generator, so you can play some new grounds whenever you feel like it. Perhaps best off all, and something golf fans have been craving in a game for a while, developers HB Studios are also touting a course creator tool. And with that, my dreams of a 30,000 ft cliff-face par 3 come ever closer.Previous Next
1) Elegy For A Dead World
Even if this game turns out to be a pretentious abomination (and there’s every chance it might), I will love it for what it attempted. I have absolutely no idea what genre this game occupies, and there’s very little out there to help me find out – if anything, viewing the trailer (seen below) only leaves you with more questions.
But here’s the idea, in an extraordinarily abridged synopsis: three ancient worlds are in danger of being forgotten since all the inhabitants died, but instead of sending in historians or scientists to catalogue their existence, they send in you – a poet. And so, as you explore the various 2D worlds, you are free to write whatever you like based on your experiences. In turn, these can then be uploaded to compare and contrast (and rate) other players’ experiences of them. So umm… yeah. Certainly a radical concept, but however it ends up playing, I’m sure that gorgeous hand-painted art style will be worth the trek.
Now I know you’re screaming at your laptop about all the unknown hipster games I missed out, so why not point out my omissions in the comments section below!Previous