It’s been a few days since the Opening Night at Gamescom 2021, and it’s taken me a while to fully wrap my head around the quality of the releases set for the next six months. I sat for two or so hours ceaselessly astounded, enthusiastically impatient to try these games myself. What a night! A few unexpected arrivals: I didn’t expect to see Deadmau5 and his Oberhasli virtual world to make an appearance at Gamescom, but the evening was all the better for it. A lot took place at the Opening Night – too much to remember, hence why I am here to compile a list for you of the most salient announcements made at Gamescom 2021 Opening Night!
Call of Duty Vanguard
The most monumental news for many surrounded Call of Duty Vanguard, a product of the collaboration between Treyarch, Activision, Raven and Sledgehammer games – it looks awesome. Vanguard finds its feet in the various fronts of the Second World War, allowing us to take command of a different allied character and their concomitant story on each battlefield. The trailer we were treated to at Gamescom introduced us to Polina, a female Red Army sniper who, at least in that section of the game, was trying desperately to repel and escape the Nazi invasion of Stalingrad. The ambience, graphical fidelity and overall milieu of the game looked unequivocally superb; a unity of the old-school Call of Duty feel with the generation of Gen-Nine tech capabilities – we cannot wait for November the 5th!
Saints Row 5
You can’t speak about open-world crime simulations without talking about GTA, nor can you elude the mention of the nutty series that is Saints Row, of which there is now set to be a fifth entry. Built by Volition and Deep Silver, Saints Row 5 lands in the city of Santo Ileso, a vibrant city in the US Southwest that harbours three main gangs, the Los Panteros musclemen, The Idols and some aggressive Marshall Defence Mercenaries. SR5 takes on a rather different look to its forerunners, donning the same absurd vehicles, the same scrap to reach the top of the food chain, but an animated art-style completely speciated from previous entries. Boasting the largest map the series has ever seen, Kevin, Eli and Neenah, and of course your own character of ‘The Boss’, we can rove about as a crew the effusive streets of Santo Ileso, causing havoc and discovering trouble in each nook and cranny the city has to offer. More, it looks as though running parallel to a standard campaign story is a 32-man online multiplayer mode similar to GTA Online, it is going to be carnage let me tell you. The footage we saw was merely a biopsy of a pre-alpha version of the game, so the finished model is going to be quite something to behold.
As my colleague and I wrapped up the Xbox Night Livestream on Tuesday, the show felt as if it was left somewhat incomplete: there was not yet news of Halo Infinite. Well, it turns out all we had to do was wait 24-hours for the Opening Night – Halo Infinite is coming on December 8th, celebrating the series 20th birthday. Unveiled with an Altered-Carbon style cityscape, Brutes running the street with a mischievous young dude evading their detection, Halo has returned, and man has it returned. With that hair-raising Halo soundtrack again running omnisciently in the background, we watched as the young dude eventually graduated into a Spartan, what part I wonder does he play in the game? Halo Infinite is said to closely follow the story of the Mjolnir-clad Master Chief following the events of the 2015-released Halo 5: Guardians; I have no idea what to expect from this narrative, but I know Master Chief will reign supreme again. Infinite will commence upon launch with both campaign and multiplayer modes, the latter being free-t0-play, but will look to introduce in subsequent seasons both Co-op campaign functionalities, the esteemed Forge Mode as well as needed raytracing updates, looking to become a complete title not at launch but as the game matures. The time is nigh, people! December 8th!
Far Cry 6
The Far Cry series has been a constant feature in my gaming life, starting with the original game back in the early 2000’s, going head-to-head with the definition of insanity, Vas, in Far Cry 3 and toppling that conceited bloke with questionable hair in Kyrat during Far Cry 4 – I have never fell out love with this series. Ubisoft rocked up to Opening Night with some gossip it wanted off its chest: Far Cry 6 is coming, and soon: October 7th 2021. Again, looking to usurp a tyrannical, murderous dictator (played by Giancarlo Esposito) through the use of guerrilla warfare, Far Cry 6 befriends us with a sausage dog named Chorizo, and the more influential (sorry Chorizo) Dani Rojas and their gang of dissidents named the Libertad. Our mission: to emancipate the land of Yara, to dump the despot, to liberate the Yaran people and have a blast while doing so. Sure, we know roughly what to expect from a Far Cry game, but with the most expansive map to date and an entirely new Caribbean setting, Far Cry 6 looks to be among the finest games released this year.
Horizon Forbidden West
Arriving on 18th February 2022 comes Guerilla Games’ publication Horizon Forbidden West, a sequel to the beloved Zero Dawn game. Running at an anticipated 60 frames per second, Horizon Forbidden West takes us to the lost land of the (forbidden, see?) US West Coast, now overgrown and teeming with huge metallic monsters, ranging in location from barren deserts to paradisiacal Avatar-like rainforests to lonely arctic mountains and fallen cities. We are Aloy, a young but talented huntress looking to right what has gone wrong. On the way, we encounter some supermassive fire-breathing turtles and irritated titanium Elephants the size of football stadiums, both of whom would give prime King-Kong a run for his money. Fortunately, fighting as Aloy and her trusty bow, these behemoth monsters are destined to meet their fate through some intense battle sequences. If you haven’t played Zero Dawn, the Forbidden series is a concept like no other, a sophisticated game that you really can become lost in. Keep a look out for the game’s publication on the 18th of February 2022!
Tales of Arise
After a successful release in the form of Scarlet Nexus, Bandai Namco have yet another trick up their sleeve: Tales of Arise, another JRPG looking to blow the lid open. The announcement of the game began with an extremely flexible (and talented) violinist whom I can only imagine is a cosplay of one of the games protagonists, a mix between Rapunzel and Zelda, named Shionne. The 17th iteration and marking the 25th anniversary of the Tales series, Arise is an optimistic game featuring a slew of diverse (and playable) characters, a convincing narrative and an elegant, watercolour-inspired anime-style universe. Shionne and her friend-in-travel, Alphen, embark on a journey between two lands in conflict, one antiquated and one advanced, named Dahna and Rena. Alphen hails from Dahna whilst Shionne was born-and-bred in Rena, yet the two put their differences aside to complete a shared mission. In typical Bandai Namco style, Tales of Arise has a combat system pleased by coinciding team attacks with offensive impetus, rewarding such moves with Boost Strikes, though the game also decorates players who counter and dodge too. With the classic fleeting damage points upon a strike, the traditional abundance of in-battle and cut-scene dialogue and a world typical of Bandai Namco’s JRPG approach, Tales of Arise is available from September 10th - don’t miss it!
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Everything was awesome during Opening Night Live, particularly the announcement of Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, the most extensive Lego game to date aiming to release to the public in Spring 2022. I was just gobsmacked by the game’s graphics; I mean the Lego dudes look like they are Raytraced! What on Earth! You could have a mid-level open world game, like Just Cause or Uncharted, set in some locations within the Lego world and you would have few complaints - the surroundings are that impressive. The Skywalker Saga looks to host a myriad of different locations looking to reflect the events of the nine Star Wars films; 20 explorable planets, like Coruscant, and 300 new characters to boot. With a gigantic universe with shockingly impressive visuals, Lego Stars Wars is supplemented with an effective combat system, encouraging back-flips and graceful Lightsaber deflections, if taking a trip on a chubby Dewback and bombing around in the Millenium Falcon sounds up your street, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga might be the game for you.
The Coronavirus pandemic has kept many busy-bodies and adrenaline junkies confined to their living rooms just itching to return to the euphoria of speed. Perhaps a few of the people down at Ubisoft feel this way, too; Riders Republic, a game already attracting prestigious awards, allows users to try their hand at various extreme sports like skiing, downhill biking, snowboarding and wingsuit racing. Riders Republic is basically an expanded, updated and modified version of Steep, an exhilarating, stomach-turning title that will keep you captivated for hours. The X-Games, an event the game revolves around, offers users the chance to compete against dozens of other players in competitive online matches. If you fancy some stimulating solitude, make your way cross-country in whatever way you think is most enjoyable, perform some dangerous stunts and speed down canyons and pistes in the most perilous way possible. In Forza and Need for Speed we drift around corners and perform crazy jumps off hill-ramps and the like, in GTA V we ride a BMX down Mt. Chiliad, in Riders Republic we ski, bmx, wingsuit and snowboard everywhere – it is the best of numerous different worlds. Riders Republic looks to come out on October 28th with rumours of a demo in September circulating.
The Outlast Trials
When you think of Red Barrels you think of shooting them so as to cause a handy explosion, not the Canadian indie video game developer, but I prefer the latter example which, if you have ever been subject to an Outlast game, you can see why. Outlast is a series of horror games simply not talked about enough; the original Outlast title was one of the most terrifying ordeals of my life, which is exactly why I am extremely buzzed for The Outlast Trials. A game that looks not dissimilar from Observer and Resident Evil titles in as much as it is a survival horror game with comparable graphics, only The Outlast Trials is designed to rope in friends too in co-op modes, though it can be played in Solo mode too if you have the guts for it. The game is played in the first-person perspective of an imprisoned test subject who is experimented on by the shady Murkoff Corporation during the height of the Cold War; The Outlast Trials is a collection of nightmares that threaten to crawl into bed with you at night. It is early days for Trials, but if you are looking for a baptism by fire into horror games, this title might be a good place to start.
Let me introduce you to the delinquent cousin of the Yakuza series: Lost Judgement. Sure, spin-off series can often be a bit hit-and-miss, at least compared to its mother game (or show), but Lost Judgement never misses, seemingly only to violently whack some homeruns. A sequel to the 2018 title, Judgement, the Sega RPG action-adventure series returns to follow another tale of Takayuki Yagami, the Saiyan-haired, leather jacket donning police detective. We take the reins of Yagami as we investigate two primary locations infested with criminal activity, Kamuracho and Isezaki Ijincho. Held up by a twist-and-turn narrative primarily surrounding an individual murder, Lost Judgement employs several modes of attack to use against those interfering with forensic analysis, yet users will have to perform stealth and monitoring sequences to gain the upper hand, too. You might guess the game’s depiction of the legal system by its telling title; Lost Judgement is as thrilling as it is gloomy, the wince-worthy six-minute trailer confirming such opinions, capturing our own judgements and ensuring that the verdict is an overwhelmingly positive one. Coming September 24th, if you are waiting for a game that promises to lose you in a gulf stream of politics, violence, death and intrigue, Lost Judgement may be all you are looking for.
Marvel: Midnight Suns
Many of us have been summoned and attracted by the gravity of recent Marvel-oriented releases, Endgame and Infinity War being two such examples, but the Marvel community often doesn’t realise that there are games too, or they simply forget. A Firaxis produced title, the guys behind the acclaimed XCOM series, Marvel: Midnight Suns, a tactical, turn-based combat RPG, aims to arrive in March 2022. Admittedly a vastly different title to the XCOM games, Firaxis look to utilise their abundant talent alongside the Marvel team to bring another superhero-teeming title to the gaming table. The most significant aspect of this game is the creation of an all-new Marvel character – the hero being you. Playing as The Hunter, a customisable character interning with the heroes, we are tasked with battling Lilith, the archetypal Mother of all Evil, to prevent her from annihilating the planet. That is a pretty monumental task, granted, but we don’t do it alone: a roster not limited to Captain Marvel, Captain America, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Ghost Rider join us on the job, as do an assortment of eight other heroes and antiheroes. Beginning at the Abbey, a fully explorable HQ similar to the House of Hades in the game Hades, users we can develop relationships and explore the backstories of our various teammates in some narrative-building dialogue scenes. Midnight Suns is the crème de la crème for those into turn-based games with some comic art-styles and typical superhero narratives, the Electric Games team cannot wait for this one!
Midnight Fight Express
The last game to feature on this least, but not the least by any means, is a joint entry – joint because I couldn’t choose between two remarkably similar games, so they both occupy the place of the 12th man. We’ll start with one of the most out-there and confident games I have ever seen: Midnight Fight Express. Featuring some absolutely mental close-combat systems, a hybrid between the pencil master John Wick, the execution styles of Batman and the brutal finishers of a mob boss, shoving fellas off bridges into a train and whatnot, Midnight Fight Express seems innocuous at first glance, but this game is absolutely savage. How savage you ask? Well, slapping about a group of bodyguards in an elevator whilst sporting a katana and wearing a horse mask kind of savage. I did tell you this game was absurd! You’ll fight in a variety of environments, most of them being urban in the form of underground stations and nightclubs, and I guarantee you will have a laugh while doing so. The humour will have to wait until the Summer of 2022, but I can already envisage the fun I am going to have playing this game.
The other half of our last entry is a less comical, but still as entertaining, title named SIFU. Set again in a near third-person perspective, SIFU is a Japanese-themed game that allows you to engage in vicious hand-t0-hand combat in places ranging from Dojos, kitchens, nightclubs and your bog-standard hallway. I hear you, SIFU sounds like a compelling title that achieves what it sets out to do, but what sets it apart from other games of the same genre? Well, the answer lies in the process of Ageing: every time you are on the losing end of a fistfight you gain a few years – you literally get older as you play, and with age comes an alteration in playing style. SIFU is a unique title in that gameplay in some ways degenerates as we go, giving value to the replaying of the game as well as a real reason to try and avoid getting knocked-out at all costs – don’t TIFU in SIFU! Look out for this melee-fist-fest as it arrives on the 22nd of February 2022.
Gamescom’s 2021 Opening Night really was a show to remember, providing the low-down on many of the year’s upcoming masterpieces that will dominate the hearts and minds of gamers around the globe. From Activision to Guerrilla, Bandai Namco to Ubisoft and back to 343 Industries, it has been great to see the works of recent months and years finally coming to fruition, available for us to dive into and have a whale of a time while doing so! What game from this list are you most looking forward to?