For a long time, faster processors have inspired game developers to pursue more realistic graphics and photoreal environments. But the games themselves have often stayed the same. Think sports franchises and first person shooters, driving sims and space adventures, all wrapped up in familiar levels, match-ups or missions.
Open world games let you create your own stories in a larger fiction
You could see this devotion to visual augmentation in many of the games showcased at E3 2015 — FIFA 16, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Doom, Star Wars: Battlefront and Gears of War 4. All of these games will deliver a familiar gaming experience, prettied up and polished by today’s powerful multi-core CPUs and GPUs.
That said, the availability of faster processors and more usable machine memory is freeing up developers to create larger, more immersive and more ambitious games. Open world games. Sandboxes.
These are still titles that have recognisable game mechanics, such as levels and missions. But they also offer you the freedom to explore a virtual world; to veer away from scripted narratives; and to create your own stories within a larger fiction.
Gaming is changing. It is becoming less linear and less choreographed. These are some of the games that are leading the way.
Fallout 4 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Seven years in the making, Fallout 4 shifts its open world setting from Fallout 3’s post-apocalyptic Washington D.C to the nuke-blasted wastelands around Boston. Cast as a survivor emerging from an underground vault, you’ll explore a ruined landscape, crafting weapons and equipment to help you survive its many mutant threats.
Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4)
Killzone developer Guerrilla Games has created a more beautiful far-future world for players to explore, ruled by robotic (and heavily-armed) dinosaurs. You play Aloy, a bow-wielding huntress and a member of one of the few remaining human tribes. Can she survive in this harsh world and discover its secrets? That will be up to you.
No Man’s Sky (PC, PS4)
As space operas go, they don’t get much bigger than this. Using procedural generation techniques, Hello Games hasn’t just built an open world, it’s engineered over 18 quintillion of them. Starting at the edge of the galaxy with only a vague mission to get to the centre, you’ll encounter space stations and warring factions, alien creatures and mysterious ruins on your epic journey.
Just Cause 3 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
With over 400 square miles of fictional Mediterranean island to play around in, Just Cause 3 invites you to topple a dictator by blowing up the infrastructure — buildings, bridges, tanks, planes, helicopters, boats and bases. Equipped with a grappling hook, a wingsuit and a flagrant disregard for the laws of physics, developer Avalanche Games wants you to obliterate everything that they’ve built. Anything goes.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Gravel-voiced, one-eyed Snake takes repeated trips to an open world, Middle Eastern battlefield chock full of missions, side-missions and resource gathering mini-objectives. Like the other games here, you can choose how you complete your tasks, going in with all guns-blazing or taking a more stealthy approach. Looks beautiful too. Watch 40 minutes of Metal Gear Solid V gameplay here.
The Division (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Described as an open world RPG, Tom Clancy’s The Division is a first-person shooter set in a snowy, future New York City after a killer virus has devastated it. Playing against computer AI characters and with/against other players, this gritty, extraordinarily detailed game challenges you to bring order to the chaotic boroughs of the Big Apple.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
After Assassin’s Creed: Unity gave players the whole of 18th century Paris to explore, Syndicate moves the wall-climbing, roof-jumping, Templar-stabbing action to London in 1868. Love them or hate them, the Assassin’s Creed games have created a series of superbly detailed open game worlds and this instalment is no different. A visual tour de force.
What are the games that you’re most looking forward to? Are you a fan of open world games or do you prefer more structure to your gaming? Let us know in the comments below. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)