fall preview 2018

11 New Video Games to Play This Fall

Photo: Vulture

The end of 2018 is shaping up to be an aggressively safe period for video games, one full of comfort food and iterative takes on recently reinvented franchises. You won’t be introduced to much that’s extremely new, but you’re bound to find something crunchy and filling — dense, intricate entertainment that trades novelty for calorie count. Here’s what’s in store.

Spider-Man (Playstation 4)

The season started early and strong with Spider-Man, the new take on the classic character Insomniac Games (of Ratchet and Clank and Resistance fame). A thrilling, bighearted remix of the character’s classic and contemporary stories paired with pitch-perfect controls that make it utter bliss to swing through a greatest-hits version of Manhattan, Spider-Man is such a joy to play that you won’t particularly mind its strict adherence to video-game convention. Spider-Man plays the hits, and it plays them well. September 7

Valkyria Chronicles 4 (Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC)

The first Valkyria Chronicles was a game too unique to truly thrive. A hybrid strategy-action game, you played a commander in a thinly veiled fantasy version of World War II, issuing orders on a tactical map, and then, in a break with strategy-game convention, controlling your soldiers directly on the ground. Presented in a beautiful, storybook-art style and telling a story about war’s devastating impact on regular, everyday people, the game was remarkable for its humane, all-ages approach to a war story. After two sequels released in obscurity on Sony’s Playstation Portable (one of which never saw release in the West), the series is returning ten years later with a fourth installment, in an attempt to recapture the unusually warm heart of the first game. Here’s hoping it succeeds. September 25

Life Is Strange 2 (Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC)

Life Is Strange was arguably the best game to come out of the small boom in episodic story games of the last ten years — an earnest, heartfelt story about friendship and adolescence with a supernatural twist. For its sequel, developer Dontnod is telling an entirely new story about brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz, on the run from authorities in an attempt to cross the border into Mexico. It’s a premise that’s an order of magnitude more ambitious than the original, with endless potential for missteps — but also ample opportunity to succeed beyond the original. September 27

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC)

Odyssey is best understood as the second phase in a two-part metamorphosis transitioning Assassin’s Creed from stealthy action game to something more akin to role-playing. There’ll still be plenty of sneaky action against the backdrop of heavily researched historical fiction, but Odyssey sees the series incorporating player choice into its design — players’ decisions and actions will have an effect on the world around them, and determine the outcome of the story. Set in Ancient Greece at the start of the Peloponnesian War, you play as either Alexios or Kassandra, twins who work as mercenaries and slowly find themselves thrust into a central role in the forthcoming war. More layered and intricate than its immediate predecessor— the excellent but excessively huge reboot Assassin’s Creed Origins — Odyssey marks the return of the elaborate naval combat showcased in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and adds an extensive war system that intends to let you, as Alexios or Kassandra, have an impact on the push and pull of the Peloponnesian War as it erupts across Greece. After all these years, there still really isn’t any game doing quite what Assassin’s Creed does, and it looks like the second stage of its overhaul will be every bit as compelling (and comically big) as the first. October 5

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC)

The world has changed around Call of Duty, and Call of Duty hasn’t seemed to care all that much — at least, not until Black Ops 4. The first Call of Duty game to ditch the series’ tradition of bombastic single-player campaign, Black Ops 4 has set its eyes on proving that Call of Duty has still got it, even in 2018. You like hero shooters like Overwatch? Black Ops 4 has been reworked to focus on unique character types with set powers and an emphasis on teamwork. You like Fortnite? Black Ops 4 is introducing Blackout, Call of Duty’s answer to the Battle Royale craze. Will the game succeed and become a hit with eSports players and streamers? Perhaps, and perhaps not. At the very least, it’ll still have plenty of ridiculous zombie maps. October 12

Soulcalibur VI (Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC)

Fighting games are excessive. They are cartoonish and over-the-top nonsense, naked in their attempts to grab your attention by any means necessary to draw you into their thrall. But in a field of excess, Soulcalibur games have still managed to achieve a level of theatrics that is, at its best, transcendent (and at its worst, incomprehensible, even by fighting-game standards). Traditionally a series focused on narrative and depth of customization when its peers did not, Soulcalibur VI arrives at a time when fighting games have adapted both of these things. But that’s okay, because the series still holds a unique place in the fighting-game place for its focus on weapon-based 3-D combat, and it’s ludicrously operatic story centering on two sentient swords, Soulcalibur and Soul Edge, physical manifestations of good and evil, respectively. Despite the Roman numeral in its title, Soulcalibur VI is both prequel and sequel to the series at large, revisiting key events in a fashion that will likely make it easy to follow for newcomers to come and witness the wildest fighting game franchise out there for themselves. October 19

Red Dead Redemption 2 (Playstation 4, Xbox One)

If there’s one game that looms heavy over all others, it’s this one. Rockstar Games’ sequel to their 2010 open-world Western is an event, much like any other game put out by the studio. Set before the events of the original game, Red Dead Redemption 2 casts the player as Arthur Morgan, a member of the Dutch Van der Linde gang. Following a heist gone wrong, Morgan and his gang are forced to go on the run as they’re hunted by lawmen and bounty hunters alike. Of course, the attraction in a Rockstar game is always the open world it takes you through, and no one builds an open world like them— for better or worse. The original Red Dead proved an ideal showcase for the studio’s talents, channeling the relative sparseness of the Wild West into what would be the Grand Theft Auto maker’s most restrained and fondly remembered game. Red Dead Redemption 2 could continue that legacy — and it’ll doubtless be one of the most-discussed games of the year. October 26

Hitman 2 (Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC)

The 2016 revival of Hitman was one of the biggest surprises of the year when it came out. Released across six episodes, each took place in a new locale, challenging players to assume the role of Agent 47 and, with little else than their wits, assassinate a target undetected. The simplicity of the premise, however, betrays the game’s genius. Each locale was an intricate display of clockwork design, and a regular schedule of live events in which “elusive targets” would appear in a level for a limited time before they disappeared forever, or players were challenged to assassinate targets in uniquely difficult or byzantine ways. Hitman 2 dispenses with the episodic format in favor of a more traditional complete package, but its predecessors approach remains: Each level aims to be a sprawling map of causes and effects, and gaming them to your own lethal Rube Goldberg–esque ends is a tremendously satisfying achievement. November 13

Fallout 76 (Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC)

The most interesting thing about Fallout 76 is that there’s no telling if it’ll work: a massive multiplayer online survival game that also seeks to preserve the famously solitary Fallout experience in an environment full of other players. Fallout 76 casts every player as a member of Vault 76, a fallout shelter designed to hold the country’s best and brightest in the hopes that they would emerge and reclaim the irradiated wasteland. Of course, if you’ve ever played a game online with another person, you know how helpful they tend to be (not very.) To that end, Fallout 76 is full of ideas and systems meant to provoke and protect players when necessary. It’s impossible to know how effective it is until its vision of post-apocalyptic West Virginia is live and populated with players, but as things stand now, Fallout 76 seems to be interested in attempting something novel, messy, and, hopefully, rewarding. November 14

Battlefield V (Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC)

If there’s a theme to mainstream, big-budget video games of fall 2018, it’s reinvention by way of return. Battlefield V is perhaps the best example of this, taking radical changes made in its predecessor, Battlefield 1 (named for World War I) and incorporating them in a game that returns the series to its World War II roots for the first time in nearly a decade. The result is a game that’s sprawling in scope and ambition: A WWII solo campaign that attempts to highlight little-known conflicts and the people who fought in them via short-form “War Stories”; the sprawling “Tides of War” meta-game which encourages players to play online matches on a curated campaign-style schedule; and, much like Call of Duty, Battlefield V will enter the Battle Royale fray with Firestorm, a mode that locks 64 players in a sprawling map that is increasingly engulfed in flames as 16 squads fight to be the last one standing. November 20

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Nintendo Switch)

This one is simple math. The Nintendo Switch is Nintendo’s most popular console since the Wii, and Super Smash Bros. is one of the company’s most beloved franchises. A Smash on Switch was always going to be a matter of when, not if — and whenever it dropped, it would make waves. It helps that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate looks like a love letter to Nintendo’s extremely strange and very fun party brawler, featuring nearly every character that’s been in a previous Smash game, along with a few more surprises. If you have a Switch, you’re gonna want Smash on it — and probably a few extra controllers. December 7

11 New Video Games to Play This Fall