Gears of War, Halo 5, Final Fantasy XV - these are the swaggering popular kids in the upcoming video game playground. They've got the best clothes, the most money, all the attention's on them. But what of those quieter kids, the ones scuffing rocks along the ground in far-flung corners of the asphalt release schedule landscape? Don't they deserve some attention?
You couldn't accuse any of the following games of being small-scale projects, and yet you might well have forgotten about them amid the bluster of the biggest games going. Let's shine some light on the AAA games that slipped your mind.
Mirror's Edge 2
What is it? The sequel to DICE's quietly revolutionary first-person dasher, an imperfect experiment that inspired an industry. You can feel the first game's presence across next-gen (Titanfall, Dying Light, Assassin's Creed), so it only seems right that it get a chance to prove itself on its own terms. Keep the parkour, fix the combat and make its cracked Utopian cityscape even more beautiful - then we'll have ourselves something truly special.
Where is it? Tucked somewhere behind the looming Imperial figure of Star Wars: Battlefront. DICE has its strong, Swedish hands full with impressing a whole other fanbase kept waiting for years. ME2 got a reveal at the last E3 - I'd expect to see some progress, if not any real substantial info, come this year's conference.
More on Mirror's Edge 2.
Dead Island 2
What is it? Sunshine zombie hacking, now made by the guys who brought us Spec Ops: The Line. It's like of a mood-based school exchange trip - after Yager nabbed the rights to make a sequel, Techland got all sombre and made Dying Light. Yager, on the other hand, has ditched its dour combat contemplation, transplanted the series to California, put a bowling ball on a stick and encouraged everyone to go nuts. Bonus: it might even work properly, unlike the last two DI games.
Where is it? *Shrug* The last major trailer for the game announced a Spring 2015 release date, but there's been little to no radio chatter about it since late last year. Here's hoping it pops up unexpectedly soon, if only because I'd suspect a delay announcement otherwise.
More on Dead Island 2.
What is it? Like a Brazilian footballer, Doom has shed its clunky surname, "4", befitting of a game that wants to hearken back to the earliest days of the FPS. Double-jumping, an infinite weapon inventory and health packs all point to something old - but new-gen will allow for Revengeance-style limb slicing with a chainsaw, so we're certainly not looking at a retro presentation to go with the design.
Where is it? Waiting, somewhere, to drop a beta on anyone who bought Wolfenstein: The New Order. The only showing of the game has been behind closed doors, so don't be surprised if Bethesda try to surprise us and make its public test the first time the rest of us get to see it - nor if that public test coincides with the publisher's first ever E3 conference this year.
More on Doom.
What is it? An exclusive project from PlatinumGames, directed by Hideki Kamiya - which is more or less the most exciting sentence possible in my mind. The game itself exists only as a single teaser trailer for now, but it points to some tantalising details: online co-op, a future-fantasy world and seamless action that passes between melee combat and DRAGON RIDING. Like most of Kamiya's projects, you'll likely never have seen anything like it before or, indeed, see anything like it afterwards. Because he's an insane person.
Where is it? Again, it's likely being queued up for an E3 reveal. Given how long Platinum's best projects have taken in the past, I wouldn't be surprised (although I would be a little devastated) if this became a 2016 prospect.
More on Scalebound.
What is it? CD Projekt Red likes to draw on interesting sources for its games, so a classic pen-and-paper role-playing romp seems about right. So far, it's sounding pretty Deus Ex-y, right down to the machina. Branching player customisation, a dystopian society to get to know and hate and a mixture of first- and third-person play all add to the familiar feeling. My favourite detail is how NPCs will speak in different languages you can't understand until buying a translator implant. Neat.
Where is it? Far, far away. There's a little thing called The Witcher 3 to get out of the way first, after which large-scale development can begin in earnest. Basically, that "2077" might not seem so futuristic once we all get our hands on it.
More on Cyberpunk 2077.
Whore of the Orient
What is it? The spiritual successor to the very definition of a gaming mixed bag, L.A. Noire. Created by much of that game's original team, WotO aims to offer the same kind of historical realism in 1930s Shanghai, alongside the same investigative trust, and with added martial arts to boot.
Where is it? Don't get too excited - there's every chance this one's already sleeping with the fishes. First, Team Bondi was closed - then it was absorbed, weirdly, by Kennedy Miller Mitchell, the film studio responsible for the Mad Max films. Reportedly, it then lost its publisher, but received funding from the Australian government. But then we heard of layoffs at KMM's interactive division. Basically, the game itself is a bigger mystery than anything in L.A. Noire - and one that might never be solved.
More on Whore of the Orient.
Homefront: The Revolution
What is it? One of the stranger high-profile sequel announcements of recent years. It's the belated follow-up to the post-modern Cold War fantasy blaster, shifting events to a North Korea-occupied Philadelphia. Moving to an open-world style, we're expecting something like an urban Far Cry, but with fewer badgers and more opportunities for dumb references to the "I'm So Lonely" song from Team America.
Where is it? Well now, this is an interesting one. After a fanfare for its announcement, all went quiet on the western Homefront after Crytek's money problems caused the game's development to be shifted to a new Deep Silver studio in the UK. It's since been delayed to 2016 - we wouldn't expect to hear much more for a little while yet.
More on Homefront: The Revolution.
What is it? Like Doom, another game trying to head back to its roots by way of booting a sequel number off a digi-cliff. The original open-world superhero sim was a masterpiece in satisfying silliness, and the new one aims to replicate that feeling using new technology as a baseline. Xbox One's cloud computing will help the game revel in physics-based world destruction - think Screamride's demolition mode, but with a point.
Where is it? Hiding behind a big building that it'll blow down at E3. Microsoft will be keen to show off the progress made since its slew of announcements last year - not least because of the next game...
More on Crackdown.
What is it? A very strange idea, that's what. The long-forgotten original Xbox game this is based on was niche enough that it wasn't even released in Europe. A magic-slinging action game that used deck-building as a key mechanic, it actually slots in quite well with current trends (take a look at Hand of Fate, for instance), but it was always an odd choice for a gaudy E3 announcement.
Where is it? Which probably goes some way towards explaining why the project is in limbo after Microsoft sacked the developer, Darkside Games, leading to its closure. I'm sad on all counts - it's terrible news for the studio, and a potentially weird and wonderful title may well never see the light of day. Here's hoping it gets shifted elsewhere before too long.
More on Phantom Dust.