Welcome to 2018. The new year looks filled with huge single player games, and these certainly count among the biggest!
From the developers of the Ratchet and Clank series and the top-tier Xbox One exclusive, Sunset Overdrive comes everyone’s friendly neighbourhood web-slinger.
Spider-Man already has a positive history with gamers, thanks to the legendary Spider-Man 2. Since then, despite apparently tight budgets from Activision, Beenox was able to keep the series going with some above-average entries while the Amazing movies stumbled, so the brand has remained relatively untarnished. Now, though, the character has made his way to the main Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the game license has passed to Sony. Hopefully, these changes spell a bright future for the franchise and can improve on the mixed success Insomniac has had when branching out from Ratchet and Clank in the past.
Insomniac Games’s previous open world adventure was hamstrung by an at-the-time small Xbox One install base, as well as admittedly abrasive ‘90s-try-hard humour. Despite its acquired taste, Sunset Overdrive was also one of the most exciting and creative spins on the ‘wreck a city’ genre since Saints Row 2, deserving a lot more than ‘cult’ status. That the team is now tackling Spider-Man should be of tremendous excitement to fans of the property, even though cynics might argue they have simply traded one type of juvenile humour for another.
In any case, 2017’s one-two-three upset of Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Assassin’s Creed Origins has the game-playing public calling for brave and less formulaic open-world games—exactly the kind of game sure to come from the people who delivered Sunset Overdrive. If the final product lives up to the promise of its trailers and gameplay demos, Spider-Man will be a game for fans of the character and great open-world action games alike. Also, one must not kid oneself—this game will sell ridiculously high numbers whether it is good or not.
From the most anticipated to perhaps the least, Days Gone is also a mystery, as of writing, that the other games here are not. Bend Studio’s solid track record notwithstanding, the fact that yet another studio is developing a sombre, American, post-zombie road trip (after Naughty Dog with The Last of Us franchise) makes holding on to much excitement difficult.
On the other hand, open world games like these are often difficult to pin down prior to release. The bad news is that, without the franchise power of a Ubisoft juggernaut or even the above Spider-Man tie-in, Days Gone lacks a bold, confidence-boosting PR angle. The good news is that the game itself has few negatives and a whole bucket of opportunities between now and release to entice potential players.
Firstly, Bend has a track record of delivering technically-accomplished action games stretching back to the original PlayStation; the team are not new at this. Secondly, Bend’s last full game was Uncharted: Golden Abyss in 2011, meaning Sony Interactive Entertainment—well known for closing studios that are not working to its quality standards—has enough confidence in Bend’s ability to deliver a worthwhile product that the team can go without releasing a game for seven years.
After the smash success of Guerrilla Games’s Horizon, the prospect of another wilderness-set open-world adventure a little over a year later should be plenty promising for PlayStation fans. Still, Sony will have to work twice as hard to prove to the wider gaming public that yet-again-it’s-zombies can be as fun as robot monsters.
Fans of Bethesda’s recent Wolfenstein games probably already know of the Metro games—similarly deep and story-driven shooters with some high-concept sci-fi mixed in for good measure. Based on a popular series of Russian novels and developed by the formerly-Kiev-based 4A Games, Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light combine FPS with survival mechanics in a more linear enterprise than their sister series, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
As in the first two games, players will progress from level to level in a post-apocalyptic Russia, only, this time, many of the levels in question are wide-open sandboxes. Indeed, 4A Games’s description ( http://www.metrothegame.com/en-gb/ ) of this new structure sounds to be akin to the open world sections of Rise of the Tomb Raider, mixing the action-adventure storyline with plenty of side content.
Progression through the story will affect these sandboxes, changing the seasons and altering previously visited locations via different weather. Although other details on the game mechanics are slim, 4A has confirmed that crafting will play a big part, making scavenging for materials a high priority in these sandbox zones.
Metro Exodus is unlikely to completely satisfy those wishing for a new Fallout or S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but the game’s sandboxes are set to further improve how action games approach telling linear narratives in wide-open levels, in the same way Uncharted: The Lost Legacy‘s Western Ghats did last year.
MICROSOFT’S 2018—SEA OF THIEVES, STATE OF DECAY 2, CRACKDOWN 3
Above any other publishers save Activision, Microsoft is uniquely obsessed with delivering the online, connected, multiplayer experience. Unfortunately, this makes its internally-produced games of the last generation poorly suited to OnlySP’s ongoing coverage—but its latest slew of open-world games looks set to change this trend.
Although all three big Microsoft titles (that have been revealed) are primarily online-focused, each offers a single-player option in one way or another. Sea of Thieves is a chiefly cooperative pirate-themed game that can be played solo if desired. This set-up includes plenty of inspiration from the Dark Souls series, both in that solo play is significantly more difficult than multiplayer, and that solo players might still affect each other’s games in passing. Of all Microsoft’s upcoming games, this one is arguably the least single-player-friendly—Sea of Thieves requires a constant connection to its persistent online world in the manner of Destiny.
Microsoft’s next game comes with an offline mode that is more traditionally single player. Improving on the first entry in graphics, technology, and mechanical depth, State of Decay 2 is a sandbox-survival-sim starring—yes—zombies. Unlike Days Gone, though, users already have a much better grasp of how this game actually plays.
From managing the health of survivors to raiding abandoned houses for food—as well as always keeping ahead of the zombie hordes—the core structure is familiar to fans of other modern survival games, from Terraria to The Flame in the Flood and Day Z. What sets State of Decay apart are its developed RPG elements: an array of distinct NPCs who have desires and needs, hundreds of different items (including unique weapons), and a propulsive main quest.
Most importantly of all, State of Decay 2 boasts a meaningfully-designed world, whereas other games randomly select this and procedurally generate that. Days Gone may have the promise of slicker production values, but State of Decay 2 is better primed to serve the demands of open-world fans spoiled by the best of 2017.
Finally, Crackdown 3 is the most single-player-friendly of all three of Microsoft’s major 2018 games. A team of experienced British developers—with credits on some of the most excellent titles of the last five years—Sumo Digital, is developing the single-player campaign, which will be playable offline.
With orb collecting, car jumping, and everything else from the original Crackdown present and accounted for, Crackdown 3 looks to be a familiar but fun experience propped up by ambitious destroy-everything technology. Before re-revealed as 3, this Crackdown was first touted as taking advantage of “the power of the cloud” for destruction in the online-only modes, but, since then, Microsoft has walked some of that back, instead focusing on the increased power of the Xbox One X.
Will the destroy-everything angle remain a priority in single player? That remains to be seen. Either way, however, the Crackdown formula is more than just razing a city to the ground. Fans of the aforementioned Sunset Overdrive, as well as Saint’s Row, are going to have a ball leaping around and taking back their city from the crime lords.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
What more can be said?
Well, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the latest from the studio whose last game, GTA V, continues to occasionally crack the top 10 charts despite being five years old. RDR 2 is the sequel to the absolute best open-world Western, a game whose contributions to the genre are still being felt in franchises as diverse as Assassin’s Creed and Zelda.
Most of all, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the next big thing in terms of single-player stories in the mainstream game industry because all the other developers and publishers will pay close attention to Rockstar’s metrics of success with this title—on how a single-player mode is still necessary to sell games and how Rockstar uses its skill at crafting single player experiences to prop up its lucrative online business.
Red Dead Redemption 2 could become a canary in the coalmine that, like GTA V before it, proves life still exists in single player modes for mainstream games. Even if not, RDR 2‘s single player is guaranteed to be amazing regardless.
Well, there they are: some of the biggest open-world games coming in 2018. Of course, beyond the open-world, sandbox style are plenty of other exciting titles, from God of War to Kirby, Monster Hunter and Detroit: Become Human; without even starting on the games that will surprise us in the months to come.
For more on single-player games to look forward to over the next twelve months, be sure to keep it locked to OnlySP.
The Winners of E3, According to OnlySP
The OnlySP team has been rather negative about E3 2019 as a whole, sharing undisguised disappointment about Ninja Theory, Microsoft, and Ubisoft in particular. However, we are gamers first, and the show had plenty to excite, so we wanted to share at least a small ray of positivity by rounding up some of our winners from the past week.
Best AAA Trailer
Two of the most anticipated games of 2020 topped the list, with Cyberpunk 2077 just pipping Final Fantasy VII Remake. The trailer was exactly what you want from a major production with the insane amount of hype that Cyberpunk 2077 is enjoying: mystery, emotional story moments, and heart-pounding action.
As if all that is not enough, one of the hottest stars of the moment, Keanu Reeves, was revealed as a cast member.
Doubters were all but silenced, and everyone else was gratified. Even better, we got a release date: April 16, 2020. Could anyone possibly lust for more?
Best Indie Trailer
Tie: Spiritfarer and Way to the Woods
As usual, Microsoft brought the ID@Xbox goods to its E3 stage, and we just could not pick between these two.
On the one hand, the team at Thunder Lotus Games finally unveiled its new project, Spiritfarer. The game brings back the glorious hand-drawn art style that had us falling in love with Jotun and Sundered, marrying to a unique take on the Charon myth. Furthermore, Spiritfarer’s low-key charm and gorgeous watercolour was a perfect counterpoint to Cyberpunk 2077, which preceded it.
On the other hand, Way to the Woods got a sparkling new trailer. The two deer are simply gorgeous, and the bright colours and mellifluous music make the game seems a journey befitting the glory days of thatgamecompany. Simple puzzles, a moving story, an entrancing atmosphere… We just want Way to the Woods on its way to our homes.
Favourite New Game Announcement
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Sequel
E3 2019 had no shortage of enticing new announcements, but nothing was quite so enticing as Nintendo’s “one more thing.” After Breath of the Wild set the world on fire in 2017, a sequel was basically a foregone conclusion. Even so, that brief tease set our hopes alight.
In truth, we know next to nothing about this new project—other than that it is set in the same version of Hyrule as its predecessor and Zelda is rocking a slick new hairstyle—but its mere existence is enough.
Keanu Reeves is in Cyberpunk 2077
I may have already mentioned this, but Keanu Reeves is going to be in Cyberpunk 2077.
If we need to explain more, the world of gaming is familiar with seeing TV and film stars cross over—Kit Harington in Call of Duty, Emma Stone in Sleeping Dogs—but Reeves is a particularly hot property right now.
Moreover, the word is that this is more than just a brief cameo. Reeve’s character, Johnny Silverhand, has been a big part of Cyberpunk lore, and CD Projekt RED reportedly spent 15 days capturing his performance.
Even Watch Dogs: Legion looking as though it is finally going to deliver on the promises of the first game is not enough to beat Keanu.
Favourite Stage Personality
Full disclosure: the team picked Keanu, but Keanu can’t win everything, damn it!
Therefore, this award goes to Ikumi Nakamura, protégé of Shinji Mikami, who took the stage during Bethesda’s press conference to reveal Ghostwire: Tokyo. Where most presenters—even developers—are reserved, sharing the soundbites that make the games sound appealing, Nakamura radiated enthusiasm for her project.
Put simply, Nakamura was a ray of sunshine to remind us all that game development is not always about cynicism and monetisation; sometimes, it is about genuine love and passion.
With “gamers” one of the options on the list, I thought this category would be a foregone conclusion. However, the outcome proved that adage about what happens when we assume things…
The team voted for Nintendo, and the why is easy enough to understand. A new Legend of Zelda game will always be an event. The addition of Banjo-Kazooie to Super Smash Bros. is a long-overdue coup. Luigi’s Mansion 3 looks better than it has any right to. Meanwhile, Daemon X Machina, Astral Chain, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order all got great new showings, and we officially learned of the arrival of The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (among other, slightly less exciting titles) on the Switch.
These winners were all decided by those of us who stayed at home. However, you may have noticed that we had Mike Cripe and Dimitric Edwards on the show floor, so they went hands-on with a bunch of games the rest of us could only gawp at.
Over the coming days and weeks, Mike and Dimitric will be delivering previews of Final Fantasy VII Remake, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, and Biomutant, as well as a few interesting interviews, so we’ll have plenty of fresh details for you all to pore over.
First, though, coming tomorrow will be Mike’s hands-off preview of one of the show’s most contentious games: Marvel’s Avengers.
For all those previews and much more from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.
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