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The Biggest Gaming Gambles On The Way In 2015

by Matt Miller on Jul 30, 2015 at 12:08 PM

We’ve got an exciting end of the year to anticipate. Some of the biggest game releases in years are on the way before the end of 2015, and we couldn’t be more excited. However, a close look at some of these titles reveals developers (and publishers) taking some big chances. Here are some of the big design and business gambles in games coming our way later this summer, fall, and winter.

Metal Gear Solid V Goes Open World

Snake has explored a host of innovations in his adventures over the years, but few have the potential for dramatic reinvention offered by a move into open-world exploration in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Typically, the stealth action franchise has excelled at tightly constructed levels with an element of choice, but always within confined zones of a smaller size. The ability to more freely move through the world could provide a sense of freedom and experimentation far beyond any previous entry in the series, and offer just the injection of excitement needed to keep players engaged. Alternately, the formula could lead to diluted action, game exploits that take advantage of the large play areas, or boring paths between major content areas. We’re crossing our fingers that the big change is for the better.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Doubles Its Hero Count

Previous games in Ubisoft’s flagship franchise have focused on a singular personality at the center of the action. Syndicate seems to be taking a cue from the success of Grand Theft Auto V, and offering multiple perspectives on its large urban playground. Jacob and Evie Frye are siblings working together, but with drastically different approaches to the tenets of the Assassin Brotherhood. In the best case, Jacob’s rough-and-tumble ways and Evie’s slick stealth can add up to a varied and thrilling adventure. Implement things poorly, and Ubisoft could have two lackluster characters on its hands, with neither one of them fully fleshed out as personalities or gameplay styles.

Guitar Hero Embraces Full Motion Video, Streaming Play, And A New Guitar

After a long absence, Activision and Freestyle Games are bringing back the beloved music game franchise with Guitar Hero Live. However, it won’t be quite like you remember. A totally redesigned guitar offers two rows of three buttons, allowing for gameplay that more closely emulates finger placement and chords on a real guitar. It’s an exciting new challenge, but it remains to be seen whether the music game faithful are willing to make the jump. In addition, the new live-action videos are a far cry from the old animated stage performances. Finally, a new streaming channel system of music presentation changes the way many players will interact with the game. Taken together, there are some fundamental redesigns for the game, but after burning players out several years ago on too much of the same thing, maybe that’s exactly what the genre needs. 

[Next Page: Lara Croft's exclusivity deal, and big changes to Fallout's skill system]

Rise of the Tomb Raider Goes For A Timed Exclusive

It’s not a new story, but it’s still one that has PS4 players crying foul. The next big Tomb Raider will be out exclusively on Microsoft’s console, with a PC version due out in early 2016, and Sony players unable to get its hands on the game for a full year. Undoubtedly, the deal between Square Enix and Microsoft has some big value for both companies. However, players who first encountered the series on PlayStation are likely to feel alienated by the move. Will the gamble pay off through big sales of both Rise of the Tomb Raider and Xbox One during the holiday season? It remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s a practice we don’t expect to see changing anytime soon, and Microsoft certainly isn’t the only guilty party; Destiny’s Sony exclusives, anyone?

No Man’s Sky And An Infinite Galaxy

The galaxy is a big place, and that’s a point that Hello Games is keen on communicating in its ambitious No Man’s Sky. The free-roaming exploration game lets players go through a largely procedurally generated galaxy filled with more stars and planets that anyone can count. The idea sets the imagination ablaze, but is the idea viable over the long term, leading to a fun and engaging play experience? Our early experiences with the game make us very hopeful – the planets and locales we’ve seen so far are fascinating. If that continues to be true when exploring the full game, then Hello Games will have a big hit on its hands. But if all those planets, suns, animals, and plants start to look and feel the same, it’s easy to see how enthusiastic fans could be disappointed.

Fallout 4’s Perks And Skills

Recent details coming out of QuakeCon imply that the Fallout skill system is seeing a robust overhaul for the new game. Skills have been combined with the existing perk system, offering a unified system for character improvement that coordinates with your character’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats. We’re optimistic about the change, which promises a more streamlined approach to character progression that still leaves meaningful choices to players. However, there’s always a danger that simplification becomes over-simplification, and that players might feel less invested in their character’s development. 

Divinity Heads To Consoles

Divinity: Original Sin wowed PC players in 2014 with cool world building, innovative leveling, and a return to the isometric glory days of games like the original PC Baldur’s Gate. That’s why it came as a big surprise when we learned that Divinity is on its way to consoles. From the handling of text to the structure of movement and combat, the base game seems ill-suited to controllers and TVs. Nonetheless, early reports are declaring several successful changes to make the game more friendly for the altered interaction model. We’ll find out for sure when the game hits later this year. 

[Next Page:Halo 5 goes big on multiplayer, and Hitman tries an untested release model]

Halo 5 Adds PvE to PvP

The Halo series has always prided itself on taut and balanced multiplayer experiences in which the direct skill interactions between players determine the winner of a match. The new Warzones multiplayer mode in Halo 5: Guardians has the potential to offer a higher level of excitement in multiplayer matches, introducing PvE enemy combatants into the mix of broader competitive play. The mode is a lot of fun to play, but it remains to be seen how the balance plays out after extended time in the game – a question we won’t know the answer to until the game is out in the wild. Fortunately, the mode is one optional play style among many other more traditional PvP play options. However, as we’ve seen in the past, poorly balanced or frustrating game modes can turn off the whole player base, and alienate players who might otherwise have enjoyed the experience.  If all goes well, the chance to take out enemy bosses while simultaneously confronting other players could reinvigorate the Halo multiplayer scene and draw back in long-absent players.

Hitman’s Segmented Release Model

Square Enix is experimenting with an unusual business model for the upcoming Hitman release.  The game releases digitally in December, but the physical retail copy won’t be on sale until 2016. The initial digital release will buy you access to content that rolls out over time, rather than having it all available at once. Square Enix and IO Interactive want to present a “live experience,” with events and gameplay that release over time. We love the idea of a game that actively engages with its community, and offers ongoing engagement and storytelling, but Hitman’s new model also has the potential to frustrate players who prefer to have their entire game experience delivered at the same time they pay their $60. 

Transformers Brawls Its Way Back To Its Classic Roots

Big Transformers fans can’t help but be excited about the upcoming Transformers: Devastation. The cartoony aesthetic and focus on robotic melee is nailing the nostalgia hard for players who recall the original 1980s cartoon. But take a step back, and it’s easy to see that Activision and Platinum are taking a chance by moving away from the style for Transformers characters on display in more recent live action movies and cartoons, if only because younger players may not have the same affection for the older characters and style. Embracing the old school vibe is certainly a win in our books, but we’ll have to wait until the game releases to know whether the wider world shares our enthusiasm. 

What other chances are game makers taking in upcoming games? Share your thoughts in the comments below.