With next-gen consoles on the horizon, it’s time to kick those hype cycles into overdrive. Neither manufacturer has revealed pricing, release dates, or even a look at their hardware’s home screens. While there’s still much to discover, the games aren’t as much of a mystery. Here are five of the Xbox Series X’s most exciting titles.
Observer System Redux
As much as vocal minorities attack remasters and remakes, there’s something exciting about revisiting games with better visuals. Some claim graphics don’t matter at all, but they do. Almost every game benefits from enhanced visuals. Observer System Redux’s improvements to textures, particle effects, models, lighting, and animations will add to its already-convincing atmosphere. It’s Bloober Team’s most competent project to date, making it the perfect candidate for a graphical overhaul.
Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil 7 was one of gaming’s biggest power moves. Capcom fooled the industry with its Kitchen VR demo, which later turned out to be an early Resident Evil 7 build. Nobody saw the franchise going in such a dingy direction after the continual escalation from Resident Evil 4 to 6 toward bombastic action.
Resident Evil 5 and 6 sit among Capcom’s top five best-selling games of all time. Despite the naysayers, they were raking in cash. To make such a drastic course correction after over seven million units each, Capcom deserves commendation. Few triple-A studios would make such a risky investment. It paid off, though, breaking the seven million barrier.
Resident Evil 7’s biggest gains came from embracing the horror genre’s more supernatural elements and intimate settings. The post-processing, emulating a found-footage experience, along with the family’s deranged nature and closed-in environments, coalesced into a memorable game. Resident Evil Village appears to go further in this direction. Bringing next-gen hardware into the mix only brings Capcom closer to realizing that vision.
Bloober Team is a hit or miss studio. Layers of Fear and Observer are solid horror titles; however, Blair Witch fails to make effective use of its property. The Medium, on the other hand, gets the seal of approval due to its hook.
The developers tout the game’s ability to render two game worlds simultaneously, which are often shown on-screen through a split-screen view. This sort of game design is only possible due to the new console using a fast enough SSD to make this work. The Medium’s environments and music evoke Silent Hill vibes. This isn’t a coincidence, because Akira Yamaoka is composing tracks for the game. The Resident Evil franchise has returned to its horror roots in recent years, but there are few noteworthy modern horror games attempting to tap into something more cerebral. The Medium looks to take this approach to horror.
Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice tackled mental health in an interesting way. It’s not Ninja Theory’s most polished game, featuring basic combat and repetitive puzzles, however, it leaves a stronger impression than Enslaved, DmC, or Heavenly Sword. This comes down to its horrifying sound design. Voices fill the soundscape, leaving no room to breathe. It’s an unsettling experience.
With next-gen consoles making a bigger deal out of 3D audio thanks to dedicated audio chips, Ninja Theory is able to run with that concept even further. By taking this and addressing the original’s obtuse level design and improving combat, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is in good hands.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
It’s a good time to be a Yakuza fan. The past three years have seen an influx in localizations with the entire mainline franchise arriving on PS4 in the west from Yakuza 0 to 5 along with ports of 0, Kiwami, and Kiwami 2 to Xbox One and PC. As great as they are, their formula can only sustain so much.
Cue Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which has upended its past 3D brawling to become a turn-based RPG. It still has the drama, sense of humor, and zaniness fans have come to expect, but it’s the genre shift that makes Like a Dragon so exciting. If it was just another Yakuza with the same square, square, square, triangle combos and recycled heat actions, it would just be wasted development time. A new protagonist ushering in a new genre is what Yakuza needed to break out of stagnation. If Western developers are criticized for pumping out similar games year after year, one can’t excuse Japanese developers for the same thing.
Also, considering how demanding the Dragon engine is on current hardware, capping at 1080p on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, it’ll be interesting to see how far Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio can push the resolution and framerate on Xbox Series X.