E3 is still more than two months away, and there are no doubt tons of games to be announced there, but already it looks like 2016 is going to be Microsoft’s best line-up of Xbox games ever. And that’s including all three Xbox consoles its put out since 2001. If you thought last year was great between Halo 5, Forza Motorsport 6, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, just wait until you get a look at what’s in store for 2016…
Indie games are pretty played out by now. For every Braid or Super Meat Boy, there are dozens of boring wannabes that either try to hard to copy the real innovators in the field, or games that are just plain bad. But Cuphead looks to be something special. Designed by two Canadian brothers who have formed developer Studio MDHR, Cuphead is inspired by surrealist cartoons of the 1930s. As the main character, who’s (surprisingly) a guy with a cup for head, you must battle through multiple boss fights. That’s right, there are no actual levels slowing down the game. Each “level” is just one giant boss fight that you fight through in order to get out of a deal Cuphead made with the devil. Fomr videos, that game looks like an absolutely gorgeous version of Contra, which is certainly a solid foundation. If the gameplay can hold up through the entire campaign, this might be one of the most underrated titles of 2016.
4. Quantum Break
Quantum Break certainly sounds like one of the most ambitious games to come down the pike in a long time. Developer Remedy Entertainment has promised a title that allows you to control time in much more complex ways than the typical rewind ability popularized by titles like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and the more obscure Blinx the Time Sweeper. In Quantum Break, you can slow down time, use it as an offensive weapon, and even speed it up to teleport around the field to take down bad guys. As cool as all that sounds, it’s topped off by an episodic format that allows you to make decisions as the game’s antagonist that will affect the storyline as you move forward. And that storyline is acted out by the likes of Shawn Ashmore from the X-Men movies and Aiden Gillen from Game of Thrones. Quantum Break almost sounds too awesome to actually come together cohesively, but if there’s any developer that can pull it off, it’s Remedy, which proved itself repeatedly with its work on the Max Payne and Alan Wake series. Quantum Break comes out in just a couple weeks, so we’ll now how it turns out sooner than any other game on this list.
3. Halo Wars 2
In 2009, Microsoft proved that Halo was more than just a great first-person shooter when it released a real-time strategy game based on the series for Xbox 360. Halo Wars never quite achieved the same popularity as the shooters in the main series, but it was a solid RTS game that let you play as either the UNSC or Covenant. The controls actually worked quite well for an RTS on console, and the multiplayer mode achieved a small but loyal fanbase. We don’t know much about Halo Wars 2 at this point, but if Microsoft can just change enough things to hook in more casual fans who only know Halo from the first-person shooters, and maybe add units for the Flood and Prometheans, it could have a game on its hands that rivals Starcraft II.
2. Crackdown 3
The original Crackdown is still a lot of fun, but it feels like a game that has never been properly capitalized on. In Crackdown, you play as a nameless superhero cop who must take down gangs around the slightly futuristic Pacific City. How you do this is largely up to you. You can beat up thugs, shoot them, blow them up, or drive over them. You can even kill their bosses in any order you wish, but tackling bosses higher up the food chain without first eliminating their employees is much more difficult. And all the while, you’re jumping around the city collecting beautiful glowing orbs to make your cop more powerful. The game lacked much of a coherent story, but the near-complete freedom that it offered still hasn’t really been matched in anything else. Then Crackdown 2 kinda screwed everything up by only adding some screwy toxic zombies and slightly changing Pacific City’s layout. It was quite the disappointment. But Crackdown 3 is promising to finally give us the Crackdown sequel we deserve. The gameplay is based on what always made Crackdown fun, and the massive new version of Pacific City is going to be completely destructible as long as you’re connected to the internet. Like Quantum Break, the game sounds extremely ambitious, but if everything comes together, it could be one for the ages.
1. Gears of War 4
The Locust threat was defeated at the end of Gears of War 3, but apparently the war for Sera isn’t over yet. The E3 reveal of Gears of War 4 last year showed off a new character, who it’s now been revealed is the son of previous Gears of War protagonist Marcus Fenix, as well as some interesting new enemies. The lighting and environmental effects look far beyond anything that was in the previous Gears games on Xbox 360, although the gameplay still looks pretty similar. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. While the multiplayer has often been unbalanced, Gears of War has always had very solid campaigns, plus the always popular Horde mode should be returning. Microsoft is giving Gears of War the same treatment that it gave to Halo, turning it over to a new internal developer named The Coalition that will be responsible for future Gears of Wars titles and for creating a shared universe for the series going forward. Microsoft’s similar efforts with 343 Industries and the Halo series have received a somewhat mixed reaction from fans, so here’s hoping that they’ve learned their lessons to bring us some great new Gears of Wars games for years to come.
Article by Chris Freiberg