published Monday, August 19th, 2013

Next-gen consoles, the year's most anticipated video games set to arrive in the coming months

"Batman: Arkham Origins"
"Batman: Arkham Origins"
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

THE NEXT GENERATION

Official release dates for Microsoft and Sony's next-generation consoles -- the Xbox One and Playstation 4 -- have not been announced, but both companies have said their newest systems will launch during the holidays. Most tech outlets online place the release windows for both systems some time in November.

When it launches, the Xbox One will cost $500 and will include the Kinect 2.0, an upgraded, much higher-resolution version of the Kinect motion-sensing camera. The Playstation 4 will cost $400.

Announced titles available on release date:

• "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag" (PS4/Xbox One)

• "Battlefield 4" (PS4/Xbox One)

• "Call of Duty: Ghosts" (PS4/Xbox One)

• "DC Universe ONline" (PS4)

• "Dead Rising 3" (Xbox One)

• "DriveClub" (PS4)

• "FIFA 14" (PS4/Xbox One)

• "Forza Motorsport 5" (Xbox One)

• "Just Dance 2014" (PS4/Xbox One)

• "Killer Instinct" (Xbox One)

• "Killzone Shadow Fall" (PS4)

• "Knack" (PS4)

• "LEGO Marvel Super Heroes" (PS4/Xbox One)

• "LocoCycle" (Xbox One)

• "Madden NFL 25" (PS4/Xbox One)

• "NBA 2K14" (PS4/Xbox One)

• "NBA Live 14" (PS4/Xbox One)

• Ryse: Son of Rome" (Xbox One)

• "Skylanders: Swap Force" (PS4/Xbox One)

• "Warframe" (PS4)

• Watch Dogs" (PS4/Xbox One)

Source: IGN.com

With the release of next-generation gaming consoles — the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 — just around the corner, video gamers have plenty to be excited about these days.

But even stubborn holdouts determined to eke the most out of their current systems will have plenty to celebrate in the coming weeks, when publishers will release some of the year's most-anticipated titles, including a handful of new games and third, fourth, fifth and even sixth entries in long-running franchises.

"THE BUREAU: XCOM DECLASSIFIED"

Release date: Tuesday.

Summary: In the 1960s, America is gripped by fear of the Cold War, but behind the scenes, a special agent in a secret government organization leads a squad charged with combating an extraterrestrial force that poses an even greater threat.

Why it's hot: "The Bureau" explores the origins of one of PC gaming's landmark properties and follows hot on the heels of a critically acclaimed reboot of the "XCOM" franchise last year. In a first for the series, players will react to the action and issue orders to their squad in real-time instead of planning out their strategy turn-by-turn.

Age rating: Mature

Price: $50

Consoles: PC; $60 PS3, Xbox 360.

"TOM CLANCY'S SPLINTER CELL BLACKLIST"

Release date: Tuesday.

Summary: Elite operative Sam Fisher leads Fourth Echelon, a new American counterterrorism agency formed from the ashes of its corrupt predecessor. One of its first missions is to stop an organization called The Engineers from following through on its threat to commit increasingly aggressive acts unless America withdraws its troops from foreign soil.

Why it's hot: The sixth entry in the "Splinter Cell" series introduces the "killing in motion" system in which Fisher can eliminate targets fluidly in rapid succession while moving. Players also will be able to employ a range of new gadgets, including remote-control drones and an arm-mounted satellite uplink. The game no longer emphasizes remaining hidden but rewards players for all approaches, from ghost-like stealth to run-and-gun action.

Age rating: Mature

Price: $60.

Consoles: PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360.

"SAINTS ROW IV"

Release date: Tuesday.

Summary: You are the head of criminal-masterminds-turned-media-moguls calling themselves the Third Street Saints. You have been elected president, aliens have invaded -- like they do -- and you suddenly have super powers because ... why not?

Why it's hot: "Saints Row" long has served as the ridiculous alternative to "Grand Theft Auto" in the genre of open-world action games and, with each entry, it has become more over-the-top. In "Saints IV," developer Deep Silver has added in even more options for character and weapon customization along with game-changing powers such as superhuman speed and strength to ratchet the chaos and hilarity up to all new levels.

Age rating: Mature

Price: $60.

Consoles: PC, PS3, Xbox 360.

"LOST PLANET 3"

Release date: Aug. 27.

Summary: Pilot Jim Peyton leaves Earth to take on a contract as a pioneer on E.D.N. III, an alien world believed to be rich in a valuable new energy source. Standing between him and his hazard pay are E.D.N.'s dangerously unpredictable weather and a horde of insect-like aliens known as the Akrid.

Why it's hot: The first "Lost Planet" arrived early in the life cycle of the current crop of consoles, and it stood out for its impressive graphics and the amount of enemies it threw at players. The third entry pays homage to the frozen environs of the first game but offers a more story-driven, cinematic narrative than previous entries. The action once again takes place equally on foot and in a mechanized rig in which the player fights enormous Akrid and seeks shelter from the planet's sub-zero temperatures.

Age rating: Teen

Price: $60.

Consoles: PC, PS3, Xbox 360.

"KILLER IS DEAD"

Release date: Aug. 27.

Summary: In the near future, executioner-for-hire Mondo Zappa travels the world, dispatching criminals and assassins using a biomechanical left arm and a Japanese katana. Along the way, he comes to grips with his tragic past.

Why it's hot: "Killer Is Dead" is a spiritual successor to designer SUDA51's cult classics "No More Heroes" and "Killer 7," with which it shares a distinct, cell-shaded art style emphasizing stark, exaggerated shadows. The combat system is fast and fluid with over-the-top violence courtesy of a more diverse arsenal than was available to players in SUDA51's previous titles.

Age rating: Pending.

Price: $60.

Consoles: PS3, Xbox 360.

"GRAND THEFT AUTO V"

Release date: Sept. 17.

Summary: In the Southern California-esque metropolis of Los Santos, three criminals form an unlikely team to take on a series of increasingly difficult and dangerous heists in search of purpose, money and pleasure.

Why it's hot: "Grand Theft Auto" is one of gaming's heavyweight franchises. The fifth numbered entry in the series boasts the franchise's largest, most-dynamic game world, featuring a range of environments from snowy mountains to the ocean floor. Players can swap between three controllable protagonists and tackle missions using a variety of approaches. The driving mechanics have been improved over previous entries, and the game features a new multiplayer mode allowing players to join "crews" and earn experience by completing tasks together.

Age rating: Mature.

Price: $60.

Consoles: PS3, Xbox 360.

"BEYOND: TWO SOULS"

Release date: Oct. 8.

Summary: Follow 15 years in the life of Jodie Holmes, a young woman with supernatural powers as she travels the world searching for the source of her mysterious abilities and her link to a spirit entity named Aiden.

Why it's hot: "Beyond" is made by Quantic Dream and David Cage, the acclaimed developer and director of interactive psychological thrillers such as "Heavy Rain" and "Indigo Prophecy." Like "Heavy Rain," "Beyond" features a highly cinematic narrative that changes in response to players' decisions. "Beyond" allows gamers to switch between control of Jodie and Aiden and features voiceover and motion capture work by actors Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe.

Age rating: Pending.

Price: $60.

Consoles: PS3.

"BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS"

Release date: Oct. 25.

Summary: Five years before the events of "Batman: Arkham Asylum," a younger, less-experienced Batman becomes the target of a massive attack by eight of Gotham City's villains seeking to claim a bounty placed on his head by a vicious crime lord.

Why it's hot: "Batman: Arkham City" and "Batman: Arkham Asylum" were celebrated for letting players explore open environments and tackle problems just like the "real" Caped Crusader, using a combination of a fisticuffs, predator-like stealth and careful investigation. "Arkham Origins" offers an even larger world, first-time encounters with new villains and the series' first multiplayer mode, which lets players control Batman/Robin or a group of criminals.

Age rating: Teen

Price: $60.

Consoles: PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360.

"ASSASSIN'S CREED IV: BLACK FLAG"

Release date: Oct. 29.

Summary: In a chronological prequel to "Assassin's Creed III," the Caribbean of the 18th century is dominated by pirates and privateers of European nations seeking to colonize the New World. Up-and-coming Capt. Edward Kenway attempts to carve out his own empire amid this maritime battle royale.

Why it's hot: "Black Flag" features the largest world in "Assassin's Creed" history with 50 locations to visit. The naval combat introduced in "Assassin's Creed III" has been massively updated, and the players' ship, Jackdaw, will be upgradeable throughout the game with new equipment and staffed by a crew, some of whom are recruited after successful raids on other ships.

Age rating: Pending.

Price: $60.

Consoles: PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One.

"BATTLEFIELD 4"

Release date: Oct. 29.

Summary: Six years after the events of "Battlefield 3," the U.S. is implicated in the assassination of a Chinese politician, an act that could precipitate World War III. Meanwhile, a U.S. special forces squad code named Tombstone attempts to evade Russian forces to bring back intelligence gleaned from a defecting general.

Why it's hot: "Battlefield" is one of the main contenders as most popular first-person shooter franchise. The fourth entry features an upgraded version of the Frostbite graphics engine, which has improved visuals and more destructible environments. Multiplayer matches now will support up to 64 players and will see the return of Commander Mode, in which one player supports their team via an overhead view. On next-generation consoles, the game will run at a constant 60 frames per second.

Age rating: Mature.

Price: $60.

Consoles: PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One.

"CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS"

Release date: Nov. 5.

Summary: After a global shift in power, the U.S. has lost its position as a super power, but when a new superior force threatens the nation, the last vestiges of America's special forces band together to combat them as a group called the "ghosts."

Why it's hot: Although it will release on current consoles, "Ghosts" marks the first entry for "Call of Duty" on next-generation systems. It will feature an upgraded game engine that offers increased texture quality, more detailed character models and improved animation. On the multiplayer side, "Ghosts" offers more movement options for players to navigate maps and new dynamic events during matches that can change the landscape via events such as floods, collapsing buildings or earthquakes.

Age rating: Mature.

Price: $60.

Consoles: PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One.

"WATCH DOGS"

Release date: Nov. 22.

Summary: In a near future Chicago, brilliant hacker and former criminal Aiden Pearce uses his technological expertise to command the city's computer network as he seeks revenge on those who hurt his family.

Why it's hot: "Watch Dogs" lets players take a dynamic approach to missions, using traditional firearms, close combat or hacking into the citywide computer network to monitor, track down and eliminate enemies. The game's depiction of Chicago is massive and highly detailed, featuring dozens of vehicle types to control and many buildings that can be entered and explored.

Age rating: Pending.

Price: $60.

Consoles: PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One.

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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