DOOM Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons are out this week, both being anticipated sequels years in the making. Only time will tell if they live up to expectations, but hopefully they can channel these iconic sequels that shook franchises up for the better.
And the iconic duo have both cameoed in Injustice. Who's next?
Sam | Grand Theft Auto III
Grand Theft Auto III best represents the colossal jump from 2D to 3D gaming, in my opinion. A lot of people point toward Super Mario 64 as the standard bearer, but Rockstar’s effort was way more impressive.
The PS2 classic inspired numerous game design philosophies that are still prevalent today, proving just how influential it was. While the graphics and gunplay no longer impress, its narrative, writing and voice overs still hold up better than most of today’s homogenised videogame storytelling.
Back in 2001 a vast majority of games were level-based and linear, so the liberating sandbox design of GTA III was a genuine revolution. Deviating from the main path wasn’t only possible, but it was actively encouraged. Misbehaving didn’t result in instant failure, but would rather invite police intervention. You could enter and exit vehicles at will, instead of scripted sections dictating how you’d travel.
It did a lot of things I’d dreamt about but assumed weren’t possible in games when they never materialised over time. They probably hadn’t been possible before the introduction of the PlayStation 2, when my older brother’s copy of Grand Theft Auto III rocked my seven-year-old world.
Rockstar set the bar for open world games.
Liam | The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
While The Wind Waker’s core gameplay didn’t stray too far from the series tried and tested formula - namely, beating a series of themed dungeons and their bosses, solving puzzles, unlocking new weapons and abilities etc. - visually, the game was a huge departure from its predecessors.
I remember Toon Link and the accompanying cartoony visuals getting quite a bit of stick when they were first revealed, and while it was admittedly a bit weird seeing the Hero of Time portrayed in such a way after the cool, adult Link seen in Ocarina of Time, I quickly got used to, then fell in love with, the art style.
Gone were the blurry browns and dark greens of old Hyrule, and in their place a crisp, wonderful, literal sea of colour that uplifted the whole experience. Yes, there was the usual peril for players to deal with, but somehow it all felt new and vibrant when seen through a cel-shaded lens.
Other Zelda games have dabbled in similar visual styles since, but none have made quite the same dramatic impact (at least for me) as The Wind Waker did back in 2003.
Hyrule looks great at this time of year.
James | Max Payne 3
While the genre-defining bullet time – a gameplay effect which made time go all Matrix-y – was present in the very first outing for Max, it’s hard to argue that the series didn’t reach the height of its potential with Max Payne 3.
Rockstar Games took over production from creators Remedy (who went on to make the similarly time-bending Quantum Break and Control), and brought a more compelling narrative and grizzled characterisation for Max.
On top of that the controls were familiar enough for those who had dabbled in the earlier iterations but far more familiar to those who had played other Rockstar outings like Grand Theft Auto.
The icing on the cake though was the multiplayer component, which brought the game to life like never before and consistently provided memorable and stunning experiences – though it might have had less players than Rockstar would have liked.
Its use of bullet time in multiplayer in particular is something which few games had done before, and was pulled off with both technical precision and in a way which enhanced the gameplay without it feeling like a cheap gimmick.
Plus Payne Killer is such a great name for a mode.
No-one does bullet time quite like Max.
Let us know which sequels you think changed everything.
We're pitting the week's biggest hitters against each other as Ori and the Will of the Wisps released on Xbox One yesterday and Nioh 2 is coming to PlayStation on Friday. Both sequels have been eagerly awaited but which one are we most excited for?
This alone looks like a tough fight.
Sam | Nioh 2
With 2020 having been pretty quiet in terms of new releases so far, I’ve spent a good chunk of time catching up on my (now ever-so-slightly-smaller) backlog. Two of the games I scratched off the list are Ori and the Blind Forest and Nioh, which means I’m coming into this particular skirmish of sequels funky fresh on their forebears.
Honestly, I found the original Ori to be slightly disappointing. It was fundamentally solid, don’t get me wrong, but for years it’d been built up to be something truly standout. It isn’t, to be blunt, but I still had a good time nonetheless.
Nioh had been built up in a similar fashion over the years I elected not to play it in favour of, well, erm, just about every other Souls-like out there. Team Ninja’s effort didn’t disappoint, however. It’s probably the best example of the emerging sub-genre not to be developed by the founding FromSoftware.
Having already played a little Nioh 2, I’m also equipped to say that it’s even better than the original. The uniquely level-based structure is back, which means the second instalment will continue to be more readily accessible than most other Souls-likes. That’s not to say Nioh 2 is basic by any means, though; the toolset available to players this time around is expanded through the introduction of several all-new weapon types and abilities.
A more readily accessible Souls-like is just what the doctor ordered.
James | Ori and the Will of the Wisps
The likes of Ori in particular may have a good reputation, but who has the time? With so many games to get through, even this most recent drought of releases (DOOM (2016) sits on the digital shelf, mocking me) didn't give me the opportunity to get to the acclaimed Metroidvania.
Now that there's a new one around the corner though, the easy availability of the game (as well as the original) on Game Pass will probably be the deciding factor if I do get time to explore one of these two titles.
Seeing as I don't have a PlayStation, this probably won't come as a surprise, but the platforming nature of Ori does bring it closer to my wheelhouse in the form of Rayman Legends and historically a number of 2D platformers, all the way back to Sonic 2.
More than likely the game will go the way of Unravel and Unravel 2 – decent games which perform reasonably well but fail to work their way onto my radar.
Oh, and if you're wondering what I'll be choosing between DOOM Eternal and Animal Crossing next week, here's a clue: I'm terrible at shooters, but also a masochist when it comes to gaming, so I'm at an impasse. If you fancy it, you can help me decide on Twitter.
Will James' admission of being terrible at shooters influence the votes?
Liam | Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Like Chris and James, my abode is still decidedly lacking in the PS4 department, so while Nioh 2 may be going down very well with both the public and gaming media, I’ll not be playing it anytime soon.
That being said, even if I did happen to own the corresponding tech to play it on, there’s not much about Nioh 2 that really appeals to me. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly looks pretty impressive, and I’m sure if you’re into the whole Souls-like thing then it’ll seem marvellous, but those type of games are just not my bag.
To be honest, this whole head-to-head is decidedly underwhelming for me, as I found the original Ori to be nothing special when it made its way to Game Pass. Twice I tried to get past the opening thirty-or-so minutes of the game, but both times it failed to click.
As I’ve still got an active subscription to Game Pass Ultimate, I’ll no doubt give Ori and the Will of Wisps an obligatory try in the future, but I’ll not be going in with elevated expectations like last time. Hopefully it sticks this time, as I would like a reason to give the first game another try.
Here's hoping Liam's third attempt at getting into Ori will be successful.
Let us know which of the week's releases you're most looking forward to.
The Division 2's Warlords of New York expansion is sure to please fans of the series, as it takes players back to the place it all started – The Big Apple. DLC can fundamentally change the game or simply add more of the good stuff, and these downloadable content drops are essential.
Joker's suggested moniker, Prothy the Prothean, did not go down well.
Sam | Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
After being somewhat enamoured by the concept of DLC following its mass adoption - more from your favourite games is, after all, an exciting prospect - it didn’t take too long for me to fall out of love. It’s been largely bastardised and devalued to the point that I now just ignore 99% of DLC.
I had to look back to the Xbox 360 days to compose a shortlist that largely consisted of the usual suspects. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, BioShock 2: Minerva’s Den, The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles; all are well-recognised for their contributions, but Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening narrowly takes the crown for me.
I’ve sung the praises of Dragon Age: Origins before, and for all the same reasons I love Awakening. What sets it apart, though, is that it’s essentially a sort of quasi-sequel made in the same engine.
Awakening features an all-new cast and narrative underpinned by the same excellent gameplay found in the main game. It can be hard at first to leave your old companions behind, though the (former) masters at BioWare excelled at making you grow attached to the fresh band of virtual vagabonds in no time.
The perfect mix of old and new.
Liam | Call of Duty: World at War - Der Riese
The most fun I’ve probably had with a DLC would have to be Call of Duty: World at War’s Map Pack 3, specifically it's Zombies map, Der Riese. Me and my older brother would regularly link up for a game of “zombs,” so much so that I still remember our preferred strategy more than a decade later.
We’d save ammo and currency during the early rounds by taking out the weaker zombies with a few melee hits, then once they started to speed up, we’d move to the right of the main room where we’d each pick up an MP40 and wait out the next few waves in a long corridor.
We’d stay there until we hit the dogs that appeared every few rounds, replenishing our supplies with the Max Ammo power-up they always dropped. When things became too crowded, we’d make our way towards the back of the factory in the hopes of nabbing a Browning 0.50 cal or MG42 from the mystery box before holing up on a raised platform in the adjacent room.
It was a perfect spot to defend; enemies could only attack us from the front, and we could snipe at them from afar with a pack-a-punched “Wunderwaffe DG-2” if we were lucky enough to have one.
Running and hiding are not options.
James | XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
There isn't a lot of DLC that will draw me back to a game that I've moved on from (though when we get more Control you know it will be beckoning me back in), but XCOM 2's War of the Chosen had me replaying the whole game from start to finish.
Some DLC updates, even substantial ones, can feel tacked-on or disconnected from the rest of the experience. Perhaps your character wakes up one morning and an island is suddenly accessible where it wasn't before, or a new character suddenly appears to give you an intricate series of missions which take you to an area you've been before, but now...it's at night.
War of the Chosen brings us back to the turn-based alien invasion of Earth and adds features like bonds between your squad-mates and negative traits which happen following trauma for your units.
Most importantly, there are charismatic villains in the eponymous Chosen, who bring a sense of dread and panic when they turn up uninvited in the middle of a battle, and ultimately make the climax far more satisfying.
For the record, if you haven't tried the game by now, you can probably pick it up cheaply these days, and the console controls are excellent.
Share your favourite piece of downloadable content with us below.