Coming off of a year that delivered two console launches, I would expect 2021’s release slate to be loaded with games for current- and last-gen machines, but with the world in the middle of a pandemic, we need to temper our expectations as to what is achievable. The schedule is currently light on all fronts, but we’re going to see plenty more games release in 2021 than are currently known. For the time being, publishers and developers are being careful with their announcements, and as such, most of this year’s proposed games are floating with an ambiguous “2021” as a repeated date.
That doesn’t mean the beginning of the year is barren. I’ve highlighted six titles that I can’t wait to get my hands on that are hopefully locked in for release. The fun begins with a reunion with an old friend…
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
I always enjoy spending quality time with Agent 47. He’s resourceful in ways we don’t often see in games. He can change skins to better blend into his surroundings, whether that’s as a cook, mailman, or even a rock band drummer. He can also topple empires with ordinary household items, and show us just how big of an impact perfect timing can have on a dire situation. Agent 47’s methodology is obviously the reason to play Hitman 3, but it isn’t the only one this time around. The locations he infiltrates look grand in scale, sending him high atop skyscrapers and into densely packed city streets. The story also carries intrigue with the hook of it being an ending. Exactly what concludes remains unknown, but it’s a nice tease that has me counting the days until Hitman 3 releases.
Following the success of twitch-based shooters Resogun and Nex Machina, developer Housemarque is trying something different for its maiden voyage on PlayStation 5. Returnal is a third-person shooter set on an alien world in which the player is thrown into time loops. Upon death, your character Selene is resurrected and must continue moving deeper into this strange land using a variety of science-fiction weapons and alien-generated abilities. The threats Selene faces look wild in design, consisting of too many tentacles to count and attacks that appear unnatural. It’ll be interesting to see what Housemarque can do with the PlayStation 5 hardware and DualSense controller to make this a truly next-gen experience.
Monster Hunter Rise
Rise is billed as the next big Monster Hunter game following World, and that alone is reason to get excited. The Monster Hunter series has had a long and healthy run on Nintendo handhelds, but players shouldn’t expect that same blueprint here. Rise is designed more like World, and regions are sprawling open spaces that aren’t broken up into zones. Players can also tap into a new item called the wirebug – that is similar to World’s clutch claw – to traverse areas quickly. Rise allows for four-player co-op, and is designed as a Switch exclusive. As much as I can’t wait to see what beasts are on the hunting trailers, the thing I’m excited about most is a creature called a palamute, which is basically a dog companion that you can pet, play with, have help you in battle, and even use as a mount.
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia
Outriders is a cooperative shooter with characters that each wield X-Men-like powers. For instance, the trickster can alter time, whereas the pyromancer wields fire. It may look a little like Destiny from afar, but the cover-based-shooting, reliance on those powers, and exotic alien enemy designs give it a much different feel. Outriders will shower players in loot and is billed as an RPG with deep progression systems, but also has a lengthy story to tell about humanity searching for a future on an alien world. People Can Fly did some great stuff with Bulletstorm, and showed it has cover-based chops with Gears of War: Judgment. I hope Outriders gives us a taste of both while standing tall on its own as a unique co-op experience.
New Pokémon Snap
Become a wildlife photographer and observe Pokémon in their natural habitats. The general idea of Pokémon Snap is awesome, but I felt the initial offering on Nintendo 64 didn’t go far enough. It was light on Pokémon and felt like a proof-of-concept experience. I hope this new installment goes further and lasts longer. Trailers show us we can snap photos of several generations of Pokémon, and will be exploring unknown islands, which could mean we meet some critters we’ve never seen before. The game is set in the Lental region, where we’ll be investigating something called the Illumina Phenomenon. Fans have been asking for another Pokémon Snap since 1999, and I’m glad it’s finally coming.
PlayStation 5, PC
We’re already joking that 2020 feels a lot like 2021, and it appears a popular theme in games this year is the time loop. Returnal makes use of the concept, and so does Arkane Studios’ Deathloop. Eight targets need to be killed before midnight. If one escapes (or if you’re killed), the day begins again and all previous work needs to be completed again. Arkane calls this wild setup a “murder puzzle” and players need to piece it together to succeed. You scour the island of Blackreef for clues and to learn how the different characters and events fit together. Combine Arkane’s artistry with this fascinating concept and Deathloop sounds like one of the craziest games in quite some time. We just need to see how this idea comes together and how the run-and-gun combat feels.