Fall 2014 Preview

 

With the recent release of what is arguably the biggest console game of the year in Destiny, there is no better time to turn our attention to what’s going to be hitting our plates in the coming months. The Fall season is always gaming’s biggest, filled with numerous AAA releases all vying for the coveted Black Friday/ Holiday dollars. This is the industry’s tent-pole season, and for someone like myself who usually wants to play them all, ’tis the season for sad wallets. But this year has been a bit quirky compared to years past. Delays has been the talk of the town, and numerous major releases that were slated for some time this fall now find themselves trying to carve out a spot in the spring. But nevertheless, the Fall is still as packed as ever with big games from even bigger publishers, guaranteed to fill up your free time for the rest of the year. So lets get started shall we?

 

September:

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Even though September’s biggest game, Destiny, has already landed, and landed with quite a bang if the sales rumors prove true, there are still games that deserve your attention hitting the shelves this month as the season starts its engines.

 

 

September 26th:

 

Hyrule Warriors – Wii Uhyrule_warriors_banner

Nintendo expands The Legend of Zelda to a brand new genre on the 26th with Hyrule Warriors. The Dynasty Warriors-style game is an interesting new iteration for the mega franchise and is an extremely important game for Nintendo’s still struggling Wii U console. Mario Kart 8 set the Wii U on the right track, can Hyrule Warriors keep up the momentum until Bayonetta 2 and the still looming Super Smash Bros. release?

 

September 30th:

 

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – XBO, PS4, PC

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Warner Bros. Interactive’s big fall release might just be the most interesting game coming out in the next few months, if for nothing more than the potential story lines, both good and bad. Developed by Monolith Productions, best known for creating the acclaimed F.E.A.R franchise, Shadow of Mordor takes more than a few queues from the current king of third person sneaky-stabby games, Assassin’s Creed, which, when you’re building a third person sneaky-stabby game is just about the best thing you can do. So far the game has seemingly demoed well, and done just about everything right to create a good game, including creating a brand new game mechanic called the Nemesis System wherein unique enemies will remember your character and adapt to fight you more effectively the next time you meet, or so they say. Regardless, this game is shaping up into something I’m really interested in, but there’s just one thing, will anyone else be? The Lord Of the Rings license, much like another game on this list, might be more of a liability than a strength when you look at the history of those games. I’m positive that’s why it doesn’t say LOTR on the box; they’re trying to avoid being a generic glance-over. Additionally, it’s seemingly (relatively) small marketing budget will keep it somewhat unknown outside of hardcore circles. But the biggest problem the game seems to be facing, at least in my mind, is getting people to care. Who’s going to buy this over Assassin’s Creed? Unfortunately, there are winners and losers every fall, and right now I have to put this game firmly in my potential losers category. Please prove me wrong.

 

 

Forza Horizon 2 – XBO

 

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2012’s surprising hit Forza Horizon may have spawned a new popular sub-franchise out of Microsoft’s already popular Gran Turismo fighter. The first Horizon received quite a bit of critical acclaim for its more arcade oriented take on the sim-centric racer that is the Forza series, and seemingly sold well. The success of Horizon 2 will signal whether or not this sub-series carries on past 2014. But the game is in a good place, being Xbox One gearhead’s only racer option until The Crew hits in November. However, Horizon 2 marks the third Forza game in as many years, seeing as Forza 5 was a XBO launch game last year. Microsoft should be on watch for any series fatigue.

 

 

 

October:

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October usually signals the start of the manic race through the rest of the Fall season for the industry, and in 2014, that is no different. The month sees the release of another major licensed game, a major new IP and exclusive for Microsoft, and perhaps the last good reason to still have a previous gen console taking up one of your precious HDMI ports. October is chalk full of big games from big players.

 

October 3rd:

 

Super Smash Bros. – 3DS

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Super Smash Bros., the apparent savior for the struggling Wii U console, will actually release first on Nintendo’s popular handheld device. On paper it seems like a strange decision, especially considering the Wii U version of the game doesn’t even have a release date yet, and there is a very real chance the 3DS version could poach potential sales of the Wii U version and the console. However for 3DS owners there seems to be a lot to look forward to. The 3DS copy of the game is a feature parity version of its big brother, and seemingly controls surprisingly well. This is a major game for Nintendo, and a major game for the 3DS, but the most important game for the Wii U. Will this help or hurt the console in the long run?

 

 

 

October 7th:

 

Alien: Isolation – XBO, PS4, PC

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The Alien franchise has had a rocky history of licensed games. None more so than 2013’s Aliens: Colonial Marines, which for many wore the collar of Worst Game of the Year. Sega has a lot to prove with Isolation, and there is a due amount of hesitation for the release of a new game in the series. However, with a new developer in Creative Assembly, and a whole new genre of game, it seems Sega has potentially learned from it’s past mistakes. Moving away from the bomb-astic shooter that was Colonial Marines, Isolation is more in line with what an Alien game should be, survival horror. Instead of having to chew your way through hundreds of aliens Bill Paxton “Ultimate Badass” style, the crux of this game focuses on just one alien, as it relentlessly hunts you through a seemingly abandoned sister ship to the first movie’s ‘haunted house’ the Nostromo. The game looks great, and it seems like CA have spent much of their time and budget on absolutely nailing the atmosphere of the first movie. With no weapons of your own your only defenses will be hiding, running, and the ever trusty, and blood pressure raising, motion tracker. I am firmly excited for this game, and more than ready to play a good, and true to it’s source material,  Alien game.

 

 

Driveclub – PS4

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Despite having recently hit 10 million sales and being the fastest selling console of all time, Sony’s Playstation 4 has just one exclusive this Fall after The Order: 1886 was delayed until February, Driveclub. A game that is already a year overdue thanks to it’s unprecedented year long delay. Driveclub looks to have been pushed out of importance for Sony, who doesn’t seem all that keen on talking about the game for extended periods of time, even though back in February of 2013 they had enough confidence to present the game when the announced the console. That’s usually a bad sign, but it’s perplexing seeing as this is the only exclusive the company has for it’s console during the most important season of the year. With still no announcement of a Gran Turismo for PS4 yet, Driveclub has to fill the racing gap for Playstation owners for the foreseeable future. But if Sony is showing no signs of confidence, should we?

 

 

 

October 14th:

 

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! – X360, PS3, PC

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Borderlands is a big franchise, with two huge selling, and critically acclaimed games for Gearbox Software under it’s belt. Maybe that’s why 2k Games and Gearbox felt safe releasing this game on the previous generation of consoles. Sure the Xbox 360 and PS3 massively outnumber their new siblings, but there is no focus on those consoles anymore. They should be worried. They are pushing the life span of those consoles to a dangerous limit, especially when you consider major cross gen releases this year like Titanfall and Watch_Dogs sold better on XBO and PS4 than on their respective previous gen counterparts, despite being so heavily outnumbered. It looks like the most hardcore of the gaming crowd have moved on to the new gen, i.e. the same crowd that loves Borderlands. I think with the recent announcement of Persona 5 coming to PS4, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! might just be the last time someone who owns a PS4 or XBO will turn on their previous gen consoles to put in a new game, that is if 2K and Gearbox can give gamers a good reason to keep their old consoles hooked up, if. As much as I love Borderlands, this game is firmly on my potential losers list.

 

 

 

The Evil Within – XBO, PS4, PC

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Bethesda Softworks big new horror game from Tango Gameworks, Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s new studio is coming out on October 14th. Yep, that’s about as much as I have to say about this game. It seems like everyone who’s demoed the game has come away disappointed, or at least with an unyielding “meh”. It’s a shame too, the game has about as good a pedigree as a horror game can have.  Resident Evil 4 is as beloved as games come, and while the marketing materials say the game plays and feels quite similar to that game-changer, the first impressions have been mixed. While things might have been polished up since E3, the game is now only a month away from release. It’s too late to do any major overhauls. Unless Bethesda and Co. are keeping everything great about this game under wraps, I don’t have a lot of hope. I expect this game to go as quietly as it came.

 

 

 

 

October 24th:

 

Bayonetta 2 – Wii U

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Nintendo’s second big Wii U game of the Fall is an extremely rare third party exclusive for the company. The failure of the Wii U (at least through the first two years of it’s life) has scared almost every major 3rd party publisher away from the console, leaving a major hole in need of being filled. That’s why Bayonetta is such a big, and strange, get for the system. The original Bayonetta was a very strong game, with crazy visuals, crazier action, and over-the-top-sexy lead character, that released on both Xbox 360 and PS3 to high critical praise but less than stellar sales. While the game did not release on Nintendo’s console at the time, the Wii, it seems that Nintendo recognized the series’ potential enough to bankroll the whole development of the second game. I was fan of the first game’s extreme action, and I hope the second finds success on Nintendo’s platform.

 

 

Civilization: Beyond Earth – PC, Mac, Linux

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I don’t think there is a single PC gamer out there who underestimates the importance of the Civilization franchise for their gaming apparatus of choice. Undoubtedly one of the greatest turn-based strategy series of all time returns to a fan favorite locale in the form of a spiritual successor. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centuari released in 1999 to take the already popular Civilization series to a new, as yet untouched realm, space. Now, fifteen years later, the series returns to the cold void, with a brand new game, a brand new publisher in 2K Games, and a whole lot of “of course this isn’t a sequel to Alpha Centuari, we do not own the rights to that name, but we made that game back then, and now we are making this game, which is very similar, but it isn’t because it’s not called Alpha Centuari“.  Regardless of the legal maneuvering necessary to make the newest entry in the Civ series, I am excited. As big fan, I am ready to experience all the greatness and addiction Civilization has to offer once again, only this time on an alien planet.

 

 

 

October 28th:

 

Sunset Overdrive – XBO

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It’s not every day that we see a brand new exclusive IP from Microsoft, and it’s seemingly a cold day in hell when we see that exclusive IP from a studio that made it’s name and reputation by making exclusive games for Sony’s Playstation platform. But that’s exactly what happened with Sunset Overdrive, the brand new 3rd person shooter coming from Insomniac Games. Insomniac has quite a history with Sony, being the creators of not only Activision’s current kid’s market darling, Spyro (Skylanders), but also of both Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance, two of Sony’s most storied IPs. Insomniac has a history of doing great work, now they’re just doing it for the other side. Sunset Overdrive has a fantastic pedigree behind it, as well as a unique and exciting art style, and speed focused game play mechanics. This is a major Fall game for Microsoft, so much so they’re putting out an oh-so-pretty console-game bundle featuring the first consumer market available white Xbox One. This game has the right backing, and the right pedigree, and could be a big winner for Microsoft and Xbox come October 28th.

 

 

 

 

November:

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Every year one month stands above all others in terms of major game releases, and this year is no different. November is once again chalked full of huge games from huge publishers, so much so that numerous smaller games have changed their release dates just so they don’t have to compete during this month. Yearly releases from megaton franchises continue, and one date in particular is jam packed with four (!) major releases. A lot of games are coming out in a very, very short period of time, but here are the ones you should be aware of:

 

 

 

November 4th:

 

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – XBO, PS4, PC

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Perhaps it’s fitting that the biggest game of the year is also first major game coming out in November. Anyone who knows anything about the video game industry, and even those who don’t, know what Call of Duty is. As the biggest, loudest, most mainstream, and highest selling franchise nearly every year, CoD has been on a winning streak like few others have ever been in the industry’s history. And yes, I even include last year’s disappointing Call of Duty: Ghosts in that winning streak, it was still the second highest selling game of 2013 behind the cultural behemoth that is Grand Theft Auto V. But it seems like Activision wants to once again dominate the mountain top, and I think they are starting to realize that they need to up the quality of the games they are putting out in the franchise. Thus we have Advanced Warfare, the first game in the series with a three year development cycle since CoD went yearly. Sledgehammer Games joins the likes of series creators Infinity Ward, and the current high water marks for quality in the series with Treyarch Games. Sledgehammer understands the need to fundamentally change Call of Duty to keep it relevant, and in doing so have completely reworked the game’s movement mechanics. Utilizing the game’s setting to introduce exoskeleton suits, players can boost jump, boost dodge, and do a whole host of other increased mobility tactics. It is a complete change for the game, and even more so for it’s lauded multiplayer mode. Combine that with what is looking to be a solid single player story campaign, anchored by the incredible and oh-so-hot-right-now actor Kevin Spacey, and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare looks to be a game that has the potential to bring discouraged fans under it’s re-tooled banner. However, the success of this game in comparison to the success of past CoD games may signal a turning point for the series. There has been a new CoD every year since 2005, and last year’s Ghosts was the first to sell less than the year prior. If Advanced Warfare sells less than Ghosts did last year, it could spell the slow and drawn out end for the nearly untouched dominance of the series. But something seemingly has to go very wrong with Sledgehammer’s big debut for that to happen. Look for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare to once again bring the series to complete industry preeminence.

 

 

 

November 11th:

The 11th seems to be the industry’s biggest day of the year, with four (!!) major releases, three of which come from one major publisher (!!!), Ubisoft, and one dream come true.

 

Halo: The Master Chief Collection – XBO

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Coming into E3 this year as a happy owner of a launch day PS4, I was skeptical of Microsoft’s ability to get me to buy into what they were selling, that is until they revealed this, the Halo: The Master Chief Collection. And just like that I had to commend Phil Spencer and Co. on making another sale of their new home console. As a 360 owner and fan I had been looking for a reason to want to buy the Xbox One, but I didn’t get one until Microsoft decided to bundle together Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4 into one complete package, with a side of the Halo 5: Guardians Beta. This is the ultimate Halo fan’s wet dream, not only does it include every multiplayer map ever made for the series, all playable on one disc, but it uses the original multiplayer of each game. For those desperately aching to go back to the untouched simplistic fun of Halo 2‘s stellar multiplayer this is the only chance you’ve got. This is the biggest game of the year for Microsoft and undoubtedly their new console’s most important game. If a complete (and I do mean complete) collection of the platform’s, and one of gaming’s greatest series cannot sell the Xbox One and catch it up with the Playstation 4 while it’s still early, nothing, not even next year’s new Halo game, will. Microsoft understands the gravity of the situation, and it hopes you do too. I’m a believer (and a new customer), it will be interesting to see how many more will be.

 

Assassin’s Creed: Unity – XBO, PS4, PC  and Assassin’s Creed: Rogue – 360, PS3

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Assassin’s Creed was the surprise breakout hit of the last generation of consoles, so much so that it is now the most important series French publisher Ubisoft has under its belt. Assassin’s Creed: Unity marks the first game in the series that is totally and officially transitioning to the new generation of hardware. Unity is only available on XBO, PS4, and PC. Set in revolutionary France, Unity finally is able to bring the full force of the “next generation” of consoles to the series with major crowds, a bigger world, and better graphics. As a huge fan of last year’s fantastic Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag I am ready to play a new entry in the series after having burned out with Assassin’s Creed III the year before. Despite this being Ubisoft’s year-in and year-out top seller, it is still a major risk to forgo the 160+ million last gen consoles on the market. That’s why they decided to make a second Assassin’s Creed game, just for those consoles, and release it on the same day with Assassin’s Creed: Rogue. This is an unprecedented event in the industry’s history, and it is unclear how the two games will effect each other sales wise. However, it seems that Ubisoft is not expecting many cross purchases of the two games or they would not have made the questionable decision to release them on the same day. It is my opinion that a month early release of either of the games would encourage sales of both, as consumers would have time to buy and complete both games. But if Ubisoft doesn’t think that matters (and I’m sure they’ve run the numbers) then I won’t complain until we see some numbers. Regardless, I’m excited for Unity and if I can find time between all the other games this month it will be on my plate.

 

 

The Crew – XBO, PS4, PC 

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The biggest multi-platform driving game this year comes from publisher Ubisoft with, The Crew. Billed on it’s huge open world (drive from New York to L.A. without loading screens!) and it’s social systems this is seemingly a pretty big game for Ubisoft, and I game I definitely want to try. However, Ubisoft also has three other major hardcore AAA game release this month. Two of which also come out on the 11th! I don’t want to say that Ubisoft is burying the game, but a month delay until December, or even later, until January, would not only make more sense for a game like this, but almost certainly make more money for Ubisoft as well. The only explanation is that they are trying to kill two birds flying in opposite directions with one stone. Hoping to both bury the game, and to release before Black Friday to gather as many rabid shopper dollars as physically possible. Which as you made realize is quite difficult when your game is both unknown and bad. But I still have high hopes. The Crew has reportedly demoed well, and has a number of unique features, like it’s map. But if both Driveclub and The Crew fall short, I will be a very disappointed Playstation owning, racing fan. Even if doesn’t fall short critically, it has a lot of potential fall short sales wise due to the decisions of the publish, and that’s a shame.

 

November 13th:

 

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor – PC

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Full disclosure, I’ve never played WoW for more than a few days at a time, and I don’t see myself ever playing it again, but even I know it’s a big friggin’ deal when a new expansion for the biggest MMO of all time drops, like Warlords of Draenor does on the 13th. As the fifth expansion to a game celebrating its tenth (!) anniversary in November, it is amazing to see the incredible longevity that this game has had, despite the recent drop in subscriber numbers. I have no worries about Warlords of Draenor when it releases, it will sell millions and keep WoW alive that much longer. There is, however, some hope of mine that this will be the final expansion to the game. I want to know about Blizzard’s new project, Titan, the off-rumored, still nebulous, new mega-MMO coming from the company, and I want them to focus on that. WoW has had an incredible run, but I want to see something new.

 

 

November 18th:

 

Dragon Age: Inquisition – XBO, PS4, PC

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There are very few things in this world that get me more excited than a new BioWare game, even if said game is suspiciously lacking either a ‘Mass’ or ‘Effect’ in the title. Since the series’ introduction back in 2009 with the stellar Dragon Age: Origins the franchise has undoubtedly taken a back seat to its space-opera pop culture darling sibling, Mass Effect. However after the unheard of outcry surrounding Mass Effect 3 and it’s ending, the time is right for Dragon Age to become ‘the’ franchise for BioWare. That is however, if they can correct all that was wrong with the last entry in the series, Dragon Age II. Back in March of 2011, there were few studios on Earth with the kind of Midas’ touch BioWare had. Everything that came out their door went on to both critical and financial success. Mass Effect in 2007 was lauded as a watershed moment for videogame storytelling, 2009’s Dragon Age: Origins was considered the best fantasy RPG in years, and 2010’s Mass Effect 2 was thought of by many as one of, if not the, greatest game ever made. BioWare was on a seemingly untouchable roll. That is until 2011’s Dragon Age 2 came out with all the hallmarks of a severely rushed game. Anyone who played that game could understand that it was most certainly not ready for primetime, and perhaps that started the ball rolling with the company’s next games. Mass Effect 3 was for many, the best game in series until the last hour, and then it was worse than genocide (at least according to what seems like most of the Internet) and BioWare’s WoW-beater MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic failed to live up to expectations. So where does that put their new game; Inquisition? Well for many it’s the company’s chance to get back on track and alleviate the public’s fear that the storied studio has already reached their peak and crossed over.  It seems like BioWare and publisher EA realizes this, and have given the time the game needs to be best addition to franchise yet, as well as top tier fresh start for the studio in a new console generation. So far I’m cautiously optimistic. The game looks gorgeous and huge, and could be the next-gen RPG to beat for the foreseeable future. Either way, I can’t wait to get lost one more time in a beautifully crafted BioWare universe.

 

 

Far Cry 4 – XBO, PS4, PC

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Sometimes it’s amazing what one game can do. 2012’s Far Cry 3 was a risk, pure and simple. Despite Far Cry 2’s generally good critical reception, it didn’t quite repeat the success in terms of sales. As such we didn’t see a sequel until 2012. But it was a risk I’m sure publisher Ubisoft was more than happy to take looking back. By the end of this past fiscal year (March 31st) the third entry in the series had sold over nine million copies, easily making the game one of the highest selling of all time for Ubisoft. Now Ubisoft seemingly has another go-to franchise alongside its ever successful Assassin’s Creed series. In fact, Far Cry 4 and Assassin’s Creed: Unity are undoubtedly Ubisoft’s biggest games this year since Watch_Dogs’ release. But what is strange to me is that they are releasing within a week of each other. Over the course of a week the publisher has four major new releases, which will all undoubtedly compete with each other for sales. But Ubisoft seems confident in the potential success of the game despite the fierce competition this month, and I can’t put much force into disagreeing with them based on what I’ve seen of the game. The brand new Himalayan locale looks gorgeous on next-gen, and the expansive openness that made Far Cry 3 so good can only get better on better hardware.

 

 

Grand Theft Auto V – XBO, PS4

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I guess it should come as no surprise that the current record holder of “the fastest selling game of all time” is coming to the new consoles. GTA is a juggernaut like few others, and the fifth entry in the series is thought of by many as perhaps best entry in the series. A game that is top quality in everything it does now infuses the capacity of better hardware to expand on the experience. For those unable to play GTA V on last-gen consoles, or for those fans who just want to take in all in again, this remastered edition of the game is a must have.

 

 

November 21st:

 

Pokemon Omega Ruby and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire – 3DS

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Eleven years ago my favorite Pokemon game ever was released for the Game Boy Advance. When Pokemon Sapphire came out in March of 2003, it turned my world on its head. Although I had been a huge fan of the series since Pokemon Gold and Silver made their release in 2000, Sapphire changed what I thought of videogames forever. Pokemon Sapphire was the first game I spent more than a hundred hours playing, also it was the first game where I quite literally knew everything there was to know about the game. I caught every Pokemon, leveled dozens of characters all the way up to Lv. 100, and even set up a friendly battle and trading network with friends from school. I had never been into anything as intensely in my entire life like I was into Pokemon that summer. Every movie, every episode of the T.V. show that I could get my hands on, and just about every card was collected. Later in that year after finally doing just about everything one can do in the game, I went and picked up it’s opposite. I was just as obsessive about Ruby and over the course of dozens more hours of gameplay I thoroughly got my fill that generation of pocket monsters. Pokemon Sapphire will always hold a special place in my heart, as one of my favorite games of all time. That’s why I’m all at once filled with an unfathomable level of excitement and unyielding dread for the release of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire this fall, the remastered, re-tooled, and re-made versions of those all-important, life-defining game from so long ago. I have the highest of hopes, but if anything tarnishes the memories I have as a nine year old discovering my favorite hobby I don’t think I could ever forgive it. Regardless of how I think, the game will sell tens of millions of copies, and might well give another nine year old the same joy I experienced with the game more than a decade ago.

 

 

Those are arguably the biggest and most important games coming out over the next three months, and as always the Fall season is full top to bottom with great games demanding your time and money. But this Fall was a season of delays as well. Despite the huge amount of games releasing, there were a lot more. Massive AAA games like Batman: Arkham Knight, Evolve, and The Order: 1886 were all slated for release sometime during the Fall, now they have moved into the spring, making Spring 2015 one of the best in recent memory. It is once again a great time to be a gamer, and I cannot wait to get lost in the games this Fall.