Console exclusives can be the bane of the choice you had to make or the cherry on top of a terrific purchase, but will always be an inevitable part of a competitive hardware market. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all laid their exclusive cards carefully again in 2014 with some terrific results: Microsoft’s Xbox One has enjoyed Titanfall, Sunset Overdrive and the nostalgia-beast that is Halo: The Masterchief Collection. And Microsoft is just getting warmed up.
The Xbox One had a bit of a false start but it’s up and running and working extra-hard to make up lost ground. Around the corner in 2015 some stellar and enviable new exclusives await to tickle the chins of Xbox One owners, many of whom are still just glad that the controller stayed smaller. Narrowing these exclusives down to just 3 is something only a truly omniscient Xbox oracle can undertake, but I’m trying it anyway.
Quantum Break could be the first game to really throw you into the Uncanny Valley. Blending spectacularly rendered new-gen gameplay with live-action sequences and a TV program (with a stellar cast), this Xbox One exclusive could blur the lines between game and reality more effectively than anything before it. What's more, its compelling time-travel gameplay just keeps sounding better and better. Games are no strangers to time travel, but the creative ways that it's set to influence and impact your progression through Quantum Break - both helping and hindering, is demonstrating just how rich of an area it still is for innovative game production. At first glance it's a cover shooter, at second it's a platformer with a cover shooting mechanic, at third glance you're no longer sure what you're looking at and there's no promise of a fourth. Needless to say, we're on tenterhooks. And we're glad to see that we might well be way into playing it next year, maybe even afterwards too. Bring it on, Quantum Break.
The next Tomb Raider will not be like Quantum Break. With or without rebooting, it's a legacy franchise, but one that's always been available for pretty much anything you want to play it on, until now. Microsoft is publishing the sequel to 2013's critically acclaimed reboot and has secured exclusivity "with a duration" in the process, which is turning heads - but can it turn the tables? Will the game sway Lara's legion of fans into choosing Microsoft's shiny box over Sony's? Or will we find out it's coming to other consoles later on? Either way, there's a fairly solid chance of it hitting PC somewhere down the line. Rise of the Tomb Raider will pick up where 2013’s entry left off, taking Lara to an exciting range of exotic locations as she continues the unintended study-abroad portion of Tomb-Raiding 101.
This one was a tough decision, because my reasons for picking it are not as strong as they ought to be. Still, I considered several other upcoming AAA titles and found a range of intriguing prospects, many new takes on old IPs, but nothing with impressive enough novel elements to stand out more than Cuphead. I also considered other indie exclusives on the way, like Below - a palpably-atmospheric looking little number with thematic ties to Journey, but no. Nothing grabs my attention in the same way. Now, to confess properly - it’s Cuphead’s spectacularly realised 1930s cartoon aesthetic, borrowing very consciously from Silly Symphonies, Merrie Melodies and Fleischer Studios cartoons (very worth a Youtube trawl, especially around Hallowe’en) that draws me in. It’s possible I’m biased. I studied a Fleischer mini-epic very briefly on a Gothic module at Uni, but I’m genuinely amazed to see how well the style seems to lend itself to a game, and excited about the new cultural conflations between the medium of gaming and that zeitgeist that could develop hereafter. So yep, I’m going with Cuphead on an aesthetic alone, and I’m okay with it.
I know, I know - we should have gone for Scalebound - but I just feel like I’ve just seen so much fantasy lately - maybe I just need them to finish making Tolkien films. To disagree is your right and prerogative - begin!