‘Horizon Zero Dawn,’ February 28
This third-person shooter takes place in a tech-infused Stone Age future, where the main character uses the likes of a bow and arrow to take down robot dinosaurs. The fact that “Horizon” features robot dinosaurs does not mean it will be a good game. However, it does mean that this game has robot dinosaurs.
“Horizon” looks to be similar to most open-world RPGs, with plenty of exploration, loot, crafting, and side quests. The gameplay and atmosphere have been widely praised so far, an encouraging sign for a very ambitious game starring robot dinosaurs.
‘South Park: The Fractured But Whole,’ Q1
South Park struck gold in 2014 with “The Stick of Truth.” The fantasy RPG was a tribute to longtime fans of the show while serving as a season unto itself. It was arguably funnier (and grosser) than many of the recent seasons of the show. Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker seemed rejuvenated by the format change a game offered.
“The Fractured But Whole” (say it out loud) is the follow-up to “The Stick of Truth.” In “Fractured,” the South Park children switch from the fantasy world to comics. Cartman reprises his role as The Coon, Kenny as Mysterion, and so forth. A “civil war” breaks out when some children don’t like Cartman’s plan for a cinematic universe. Or maybe the plot revolves around a missing cat?
Players will again take control of the character “The New Kid,” who now can stop time with farts (there’s even a fart simulator for the game called Nosulus Rift). Expect plenty of laughter and cringing for what will likely be the funniest game of this console generation.
‘Mass Effect: Andromeda,’ March 21
Taking place long after the original Shepard-led series, players will be tasked with finding “a new home for humanity.” “Andromeda” will be a more open game and more exploration-focused than its predecessors.
Bioware’s long-awaited extension of the Mass Effect universe will arrive with excitement tempered with a significant amount of skepticism. “Mass Effect 3’s” ending rubbed plenty of fans the wrong way despite the excellence of the series overall. While that shouldn’t affect the game itself, that shadow still lingers over the Mass Effect name. In addition, the exploratory nature of “Andromeda” raises fears of a game that leans heavily on fetch quests. Having played Bioware’s “Dragon Age: Inquisition,” I shudder at the thought of more fetch quests.
Bioware claims to have learned from its mistakes in the original series and “Inquisition.” Frankly, the videos Bioware has shown of “Andromeda” haven’t impressed me much. But I’m still looking forward to it, because it’s Bioware and Mass Effect.
‘Red Dead Redemption 2,’ Hopefully Q3 or 4
Rockstar dropped info on the sequel to 2010’s “Red Dead Redemption” in October 2016, first with a cryptic tweet and eventually a trailer. This will be Rockstar’s first full-fledged game for this console generation. I have unrealistically high hopes for this, especially considering how the re-released “Grand Theft Auto V” turned out and how well executed the original “Red Dead Redemption” was for the previous generation.
The only genuine concern I have is the online element. GTA Online has made an astonishing amount of money, more than $500 million. Distributor Take-Two Interactive and publisher Rockstar Games could (understandably) sacrifice some single-player investment for a more robust online component. The makers of GTA and RDR build worlds better than just about anyone else, so hopefully this remains true for RDR 2.
‘Star Wars Battlefront 2,’ Pre-Episode VIII
DICE has revealed little about the new game so far. It apparently won’t have a Conquest mode, which is a terrible idea and not surprising in the least. It may have a much-requested single-player campaign. They will likely focus on the new trilogy, disappointing fans and gamers who pine for prequel-era content.
Yes, I have plenty of issues with the 2015 version of Battlefront, but that’s not because it’s a bad game. It’s a good game that could easily be a great game. That’s why I’m cautiously optimistic about this one.