From Lara to Snake: the most-wanted games of the year
The remainder of 2015 boasts a tantalising line-up of outstanding games. Here we pick the cream of the crop.
(PS4/XOne/PC, November 10)
The melancholy trailer opens with the Ink Spots crooning It's All Over But The Crying, lest you be in any doubt all hope has been extinguished in the post-apocalyptic world.
But then the radiation and mutant-plagued lands of Fallout have always revelled in nihilism and how the odds stack against survival. Fallout 4 looks to be a continuation of events in Fallout 3, but shifts the focus to Boston in the wake of a nuclear holocaust.
More of the same may seem like a cop-out but developer Bethesda crafts such rich worlds, such complex systems, that this sequel assures many months of rewarding exploration.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
(PS3/PS4/X360/XOne/PC, September 1)
Pretentious and long-winded (check out that title) as Hideo Kojima's series may be in its storytelling ambition, his talent as a game designer is undeniable.
The teaser instalment of Phantom Pain last year underscored the expansive potential of the full game. Crafting a stealth playground from a relatively compact military base, Kojima deftly wove multiple objectives and routes that repaid repeated playthroughs with veteran mercenary Big Boss, AKA Venom Snake.
Phantom Pain drops you into an open-world version of Afghanistan, hands you a boatload of gadgets and lets you run riot. How this emergent gameplay sits with Kojima's tendency for overbearing narrative is a risk worth taking for the pleasure of Snake's company.
Rock Band 4
(PS4/XOne, October 6)
Dust off those plastic instruments - they're putting the band back together. That's your band, my band, everyone's band. The craze that swept gaming in the mid-2000s spawned from the original Guitar Hero, but to my mind Rock Band always had the edge.
Now both GH and RB have lined up sequels, coincidentally launching within weeks of each. While Guitar Hero Live seems the more audacious reboot, my heart and head suggests Rock Band 4 is more attuned to players' needs.
Backwardly compatible with 2,000 songs and the old instruments, RB4 remixes the 2005 zeitgeist with a forward-looking design.
Super Mario Maker
(Wii U, September 11)
Almost exactly 30 years after Super Mario Bros rewrote the book on platform games, Nintendo hands over the pen and invites players to construct their own Super Mario levels. It's hardly a Minecraft-style revolution, but SMM tips the hat to the tremendous creativity among the players.
Including 200 fresh levels to get you started, SMM puts the same tools used by the professionals at your disposal.
Tinker with an existing landscape or painstakingly build a challenging scene brick by brick. Once you've tested it yourself, upload it for all the world to experience. Expect magnificent moments as amateur designers get the hang of SMM's slick interface.
Star Wars Battlefront
(PS4/XOne/PC, November 17)
A marriage made in the proverbial celestial paradise, DICE, the creators of the beloved shooter Battlefield, take a crack at the George Lucas touchstone. Given we've waited a decade since Battlefront II and endured the cancellation of Battlefront III, this one carries a weight of expectation.
But the gloriously high-octane multiplayer trailer showcased at E3 in June confirms DICE's mastery of chaotic battles, supporting up to 40 players.
The prospect of sweeping encounters featuring AT-AT walkers, TIE fighters and Snowspeeders across Hoth, Tatooine and Endor will be just too much to resist.
No Man's Sky
(PS4/PC, late 2015)
The mind boggles - no, explodes. Developed by a tiny UK studio headed by Irishman Sean Murray, No Man's Sky explores a vast, unknown universe comprising billions of planets. Yes, billions. And each world can be visited in your starship.
Nasa would have a conniption if faced with cataloguing every one but Murray and his little gang hope the beauty of NMS will lie in players simply discovering the unmapped star systems. Procedurally generated yet conforming to a few basic rules, the brightly coloured planets host a startling menagerie of wildlife.
The jury's still out on whether the gameplay holds up to the soaring ambition of the premise but we'll give Murray the benefit of the doubt on sheer technical achievement alone.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
(XOne/X360, November 10)
Posh grave robber (er, treasure hunter) Lara Croft escaped her boobtastic past with a gritty and brilliant 2013 reboot. This follow-up emphasises her athletic physicality, now that she's learned her craft as an adventurer and survived many near-death experiences.
We're promised a deeper push into the caves and tombs that test our traversal and puzzle-solving abilities. But the harsh, snowy backdrop of Siberia sets its own challenges. Survival becomes about scavenging resources and overcoming gigantic aggressive bears and wolves.
Lara is not just Nathan Drake from Uncharted with a gender swap. She's the original explorer and she's back to reclaim her crown.