Why hello there, 2015. It’s nice to meet you. I think we’re going to be great friends.
It’s almost strange to see the number 15 on all the calendars of the world, but not for the usual reason. Sure, it’s hard to believe and a little sobering to think the only Year 2014 the world will ever see has already come and gone, but at least for me 2015 is a little different. Lots of interesting things will be happening around here that directly tie in to my personal life, but besides that, my favorite hobby—gaming—is shaping up to be pretty awesome. This is the year next-gen really becomes current-gen, when we finally get to see what our new consoles are capable of doing and get to experience the awe that comes only once a decade or so when we’re truly blown away by what we see happening on our screens (before the magic fades, the current ceiling of realism becomes the floor, and everyone starts pining for the next wave of consoles while the ‘PC Master Race’ moans about how they’re being held back). But times have also changed—graphical parity on a platform is now a thing of the past with independent and small-budget productions coming into popularity, many of which are every bit as fun to play as their AAA counterparts. And 2015 will have plenty of gems in both categories to offer. Here’s five of them to look forward to.
The Order: 1886
I’ll be honest: my interest in The Order: 1886 has been a rollercoaster ever since it was announced. I was initially very excited by the setting and visuals, then extremely disappointed when at last year’s E3 the game was made out to be essentially just another zombie shooter. But then more recently we’ve seen more clips from the game with its totally-not-zombie werewolves nowhere to be found, thus restoring my faith. The Order looks set to skirt the boundary between game and interactive movie—a bad thing in many gamers’ eyes, but I for one am excited to see what this new IP does for itself. It’s a Playstation 4 exclusive that seems to capture the Playstation ethos very well. Consider me on the fence until I have the chance to sit down with the game myself, but it has at least enticed me enough to give it a try, and that’s a try I look forward to taking. I’ll get my chance when the game releases on February 20.
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
Say what you will about the state of Final Fantasy over the last several years, this is still the series that pushes me over the edge when it comes to buying a new console. While it was never released in the US, I’ve still spent some time with the original Japanese PSP release of Type-0 (it’s available on the Playstation Network on PSP and PS Vita if you have a Japanese account set up) and pretty much instantly fell in love with the style of gameplay and gorgeous soundtrack. Preorders of the HD localization for Playstation 4 and Xbox One also receive a limited edition demo of Final Fantasy XV which is the main motivation for many buyers, but make no mistake: Type-0 HD is worth the purchase without the added incentive. Although it may have its roots firmly planted in the PSP it’s no second-rate title for it. It’s the best use of Square Enix’s Fabula Nova Crystallis mythos to date, and should not go missed by any fans of the long-running JRPG series, especially those who were less than satisfied with Final Fantasy XIII and need something to restore their enthusiasm for the franchise. This could well be it. Look for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD on PS4 and Xbox One March 17.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
That subtitle? Yeah, kind of doubting that. Uncharted has been a massive success for Sony and developer Naughty Dog, spanning three entries on the PS3 and even one on the PS Vita. Nathan Drake is as much a Playstation icon today as Crash Bandicoot was in the 90s, and unless Naughty Dog has another such icon up their sleeve, it seems hard to believe they’d abandon the franchise right after bringing it to a new generation. Uncharted 4 is coming out sometime in 2015, and while we don’t know exactly when yet, it will be sure to eclipse the competition whenever that day comes. Truly next-gen visuals, cinematic action, treasure hunting—it’s the ideal image of all-around entertainment, and Naughty Dog hasn’t failed to deliver with the series yet. Expect Nathan Drake’s (possibly) final adventure to be one of the highlights not just of the year, but of the entire Playstation 4 library, present and future.
Not much is known about Persona 5 at this point aside from the appearance of its protagonist and that it’s slated for an international release this year. But that’s already more than enough—just having the name ‘Persona’ already guarantees this JRPG to be an unforgettable experience. Being built with the Playstation 3 in mind it’s not likely to be a graphics powerhouse, but it doesn’t need to be. Persona has always been about great stories and some of the best character development you’ll ever see. Case in point: the last numbered entry in the series released all the way back in 2008 on the PS2, and fans are still excited every time a new spinoff or anime shows up returning us to the fictional town of Inaba, Japan. If Atlus can manage to strike that sort of gold yet again…well, let’s just say I get geeky tingles of joy down my spine just thinking about all the dungeon crawling and persona collecting and social linking I’ll be doing this year when the game finally releases on the PS3 and PS4.
You may have noticed so far that most of the games in this list have been Playstation exclusives. While it’s certainly true that Microsoft is playing the role of underdog this generation, 2015 still holds a handful of good reasons to own an Xbox One. While for this reason you might expect me to include Halo 5 in this list, at the end of the day Halo is…well, still Halo. It’s not a bad reason to own an Xbox—far from it—but at this point it’s hardly fair to call Halo 5: Guardians a stand-out title. Not when there’s Quantum Break, at least. I’m a huge fan of well-done time travel plots, and Quantum Break looks like it will be one of the more interesting to hit gaming in a very long while, not only for its real-world setting and truly next-gen visuals, but also for its unique blending of live action sequences with gameplay and even somehow tying in to a full-on TV series in a way where each affects the storyline of the other (think choose-your-own-adventure novels). Not much is known for certain about Quantum Break, but I think it’s safe to say that even if it is Halo that draws in the Xbox crowd, it’s exclusives like this that will really make them stick around.