The Division 2
Massive Entertainment/Ubisoft (Windows, Xbox One, PS4) March 15
We don’t know too much about this game beyond its cinematic trailers, but it looks good. And Ubisoft has a great track record with The Division, which debuted to massive disappointment in March 2016. But the company stuck with it, upgrading the game and continuously making it better. That drove the game to an ever-increasing number of people returning, resulting in a total of 20 million players. Sure, some of them signed up for free. But they came back. The initial game did a great job of depicting New York City during the outbreak of a global pandemic. Now we’ll see what’s happening in the nation’s capital.
Gears of War 5
The Coalition/Microsoft (Windows, Xbox One). TBD.
The Gears of War series is a great franchise that dates back to 2006. It introduced us to the fearsome Locust, another apocalypse, and chainsaw bayonets. When it gets it right, the Gears games are among the finest single-player campaigns in the third-person shooter domain. But the tone of this series has been a bit crazy over the years, switching back and forth between comical and tragic. I thought Gears of War 4 had a ridiculous ending. The plight of the Gears soldiers is always desperate, but we usually see some comic relief in the buddy banter. For the sake of Microsoft and its rabid fans, I hope they get this right. From the look of the latest trailer, it looks like the pendulum is swinging toward a serious story with both familiar and new characters.
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Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Niantic/Portkey Games (iOS, Android). TBD
Pokémon Go has had an amazing run since it debuted in June 2016, with more than 800 million players and $2 billion in revenues. That has given Niantic a war chest to make its next game, based on the Harry Potter franchise, into something much more ambitious. In the past 2.5 years, Niantic has steadily improved Pokémon Go, culminating this week with the launch of player-versus-player fighting with Pokémon Go Trainer Battles. That has given me the confidence to believe that Niantic has the patience and development skill to do this game the right way. It should combine location-based mobile gaming, Harry Potter, and augmented reality in a way that I hope will set a new bar, and finally get Niantic to live up to the promise of its original Pokémon Go preview video.
Resident Evil 2
Capcom (Windows, Xbox One, PS4). TBD
The Resident Evil movies turned out to be much better than expected. And that kind of paved the way for the Resident Evil games to show continuous improvement. And by that, I take that to mean the return to good old-fashioned horror. Last year’s Resident Evil 7 was quite scary with its very annoying family of creepies. And Resident Evil 2‘s remake looks like its going to scare the bejesus out of us again.
Sumo Digital/Microsoft (Windows, Xbox One). February 2019.
OK, we should have played this game a few years ago. It has been delayed so much, it’s not even funny. How hard can it be to build a sci-fi open world where you can jump from the ground to the top of a skyscraper? I have faith in this game, but for a different reason than you might think. I think those people at Microsoft are reasonable people. If this game were really bad, they would have canceled it long ago. They didn’t, and it’s taking a really long time to make. So it must be ambitious and good. Right? I mean, it doesn’t look bad. The gameplay looks quite good. But we’ll see how it plays when it ships.
SIE Bend Studio/Son (PS4) April 26
I’ve liked this game since I saw the first demo in 2016, where the zombies, or Freakers, chased the hero around a lumberyard until 500 of them were trying to catch him. He sprung traps, set them on fire, crushed them with logs, and fired into the crowd. But they kept on coming. The Freaker Horde is one of this game’s unique features, and it’s quite fun to try to outrun them. But I sure hope the story justifies Sony’s big investment in a single-player campaign game based on a new intellectual property. Fingers crossed. But I have a lot more faith in this one than my colleagues doe.
The rest of them
A bunch of games coming are very highly anticipated, yet we have no idea when they are coming out. They’re likely to be beyond 2019. These include Mortal Kombat 11, Ghost of Tsushima, Halo Infinite, Dying Light 2, Elder Scrolls VI, and The Last of Us Part II. As for runner-ups, my list includes Far Cry: New Dawn, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order (we don’t know anything about this Respawn game), Devil May Cry 5, Kingdom Hearts III, Beyond Good and Evil 2, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
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