Ahead: 2015

OK, Oscars are done, our stupid movie release schedule overlap with the USA should be catching up, and the dry months of videogame releases are coming to a close. Let’s get hyped.

Well, here we are at the real beginning of a new commercial year of entertainment media, and it is astonishingly clear in terms of confirmed release dates or windows, particularly in light of the murky waters of the last two uncertain years. If I see one theme running through the suite of upcoming movies and videogames, it’s “Anything 2014 can do, 2015 can do bigger”. Yes, there are some real giants waiting to be awoken in 2015, most of which have not reached saturation point with audiences just yet. And they look positively mouth-watering. The question remains, however – will bigger equate to better in 2015? Here are my top ten most anticipated movies and games for this year.

NOTE: Because I’ve already devoted an entire post to Nintendo’s 2015 lineup, I’m going to disqualify them from my games list. Because, well, that wouldn’t be fair.

MOVIES

10. Chappie


Might as well start with a movie that’s actually really close to coming out in cinemas – next week, in fact. I certainly wasn’t alone in enjoying Neill Blomkamp’s Best Picture-nominated science fiction racism metaphor District 9, and I was more positive on his wealth gap themed follow-up Elysium than most people. But I do have to admit that the movies had a very similar feel, and from the looks of things Chappie is very much cut from the same cloth. It will need to do something pretty cool to stand out, and I look forward to finding out if it does.

9. Ant-Man


As the only superhero movie of 2015 that isn’t a sequel or reboot, Marvel’s Ant-Man could go one of two ways – it could expand Marvel’s ever-expanding Cinematic Universe with yet another breakout character, or it could flop and finally give the anti-superhero subsection of film critics some real ammunition. Losing a director as unique as Edgar Wright must not have been easy for the production, and it has everything to prove. Yet Marvel Studios has yet to really let fans down, and so Ant-Man well and truly has my attention.

8. The Good Dinosaur


After three consecutive years of huge (and really good) Boxing Day releases, Disney Animation Studios is taking a well deserved year off in 2015 to let Pixar take the 3D animation spotlight, with a pair of films to boot. The Good Dinosaur is half of said pair, and it seems to be taking an unorthodox approach to the well-worn prehistoric setting of animated family movies, asking the question of how things might have gone had dinosaurs lived alongside early humans with sufficiently less intelligence than themselves. It’s the less interesting of the two 2015 Pixar outings for me, but I’m ready to be optimistic about Pixar again, so bring it on.

7. Tomorrowland


Speaking of Disney, George Clooney’s Tomorrowland is also coming this year. Intentionally shrouded in an advertising campaign that seems to be giving nothing away, Tomorrowland is refreshingly mysterious for a Disney movie at the time of writing – scratch that – it’s refreshingly mysterious for any big movie in today’s day and age at the time of writing, and it seems poised to deliver a wondrous fantasy experience. I just hope that was the last of the trailers.

6. Jurassic World


Though I wouldn’t call myself the world’s biggest Jurassic Park fanatic, I definitely enjoyed the movies as a kid, and fourth film in the series Jurassic World is generating so much hype at the moment that it is taking on “event movie” status, and therefore attracting me like a moth to a flame. It hits right around the middle of the year and seems to be filled with set piece moments ripe for discussion. Oh, and Chris Pratt. count me in.

5. Inside Out


Pixar’s other 2015 film looks to be a return to the crazy concepts for which the studio was once so well known. Marketed as a “major emotion picture”, Inside Out follows the anthropomorphic forms of a handful of colour-coded human feelings inside a teenage girl’s head. And that is all we know at this stage. There’s something both incredibly fresh and wonderfully familiar about such a setup, and it’s all potential at the moment. Colour me keen.

4. Avengers: Age of Ultron


I was already excited for Avengers: Age of Ultron by default, but the above trailer, which dropped yesterday, just elevates everything. It’s clear that the sequel to the cinema-transforming team up movie from 2012 is looking to lift the stakes by bringing in a major robotic villain from the Marvel comics universe, but I’m most intrigued to see how the movie handles the pair of mutants-that-they-aren’t-allowed-to-call-mutants Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, not to mention just what on earth is going to happen to set up the MCU’s Black Panther and Civil War movies. However it turns out, Age of Ultron will definitely provide a ton of talking points for fans, which is just fine with me.

3. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II


There aren’t any trailers yet for this movie, so here’s a moving mockingjay pin.

Though I know there are others who disagree, I believe Mockingjay is the best Hunger Games book, and that’s mostly because of what happens in its second half. That makes me more than a little amped for the final chapter in the trilogy’s surprisingly well-made cinematic adaptation, especially in light of how director Francis Lawrence and his high profile cast managed to make a pretty decent movie out of a minuscule amount of action late last year. A lot of weird things go down in the final act of the anti-war saga, and seeing how the production team tackles them on the big screen will be well worth the wait. I hope.

2. Spectre


I really likes the last James Bond movie, Skyfall. In fact it was my favourite movie of 2012, and it surprised a lot of people with the direction it decided to take the revered British spy franchise. The film also astonished critics who believed that celebrated director Sam Mendes was incapable of shooting good action sequences, and gave the world one of the most memorable screen villains of the last decade in Javier Bardem’s Silva. And so, needless to say, the prospect of Mendes returning to Bond with a story that looks to resurrect a classic 007 foe, the eponymous organisation SPECTRE, is rather worth getting hyped about, no?

1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens


Come on, this was never not going to be number one. Who doesn’t love Star Wars? I still have to pinch myself when I think about the fact that there is another one coming this year. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.
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HONORABLE MENTIONS
Mission: Impossible 5
The Fantastic Four
Manny Lewis
SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Sponge out of Water
The Man From U.N.C.L.E

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GAMES (Non-Nintendo)

10. No Man’s Sky (PS4/PC)


If you watched any of Sony’s 2014 press events you are probably aware of No Man’s Sky, quite possibly the least believable videogame pitch since the original Scribblenauts. Tiny English development studio Hello Games has found itself very much in the PS4 spotlight with a game that promises the ability to explore a universe that is constantly expanding as players “discover” visually striking new planets. If the half-dozen-strong team can show us what makes the game a game, rather than just an exploratory experience, No Man’s Sky could quite possibly be the runaway success story of 2015.

9. Halo 5: Guardians (XBO)


For more reasons than I care to list right now, I missed out on playing the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta a couple of months ago, but I haven’t heard too many bad things about it and by most accounts it’s heading in a very positive new direction for the series. Story-wise, the various teases Microsoft has shown off are piquing fan interest and there can be little doubt, based on the history of 343 Industries’ recent work, that the game will look and sound positively stunning. The jury is out on whether I will realistically be able to play Halo 5 during this insanely packed upcoming holiday season, especially if it doesn’t bring back the Firefight mode, but I will nonetheless be keeping a very keen eye on the Chief and his pals.

8. Rainbow Six: Siege (PS4/XBO/PC


If the last six months have taught me anything about videogames, it’s that I am still capable of enjoying multiplayer-focused competitive first person shooters, even though I thought I had long ago thrown away all hope of doing so. The key, as it turns out, is a gameplay structure that actually, genuinely encourages teamwork and communication. Destiny‘s Crucible and the very fabric of Evolve have provided some of my most enjoyable gaming moments in recent memory precisely because they promote those very things, so the breach-and-defend concept behind Rainbow Six: Siege has me very intrigued indeed. A framework built around strategic thought, potential for multiple approaches and a strong demand for situational awareness all look to be adding up to something special.

7. Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (PSV)


OK first things first: I am a little confused as to why such a Japanese-sounding (and slightly creepy by association) subtitle was added to Danganronpa Another Episode for its western release. Nevertheless, I am thrilled that the third game in the critically acclaimed Danganronpa series is making its way west, thanks to the continued localisation efforts of NIS America. The first two games, translated, re-dubbed and released in quick succession last year, both made my Top 10 Games list of 2014 for their wildly unpredictable plots, memorable characters and enjoyable mystery-solving gameplay. Now it remains to be seen whether swapping out a Phoenix Wright-esque flow for third person shooting mechanics will hinder the series or help it stay fresh.

6. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4)


I may have very minimal experience with the critically acclaimed Uncharted series, but I sure as hell played The Last of Us, and I’m not about to make the mistake of missing a Naughty Dog game again. A Thief’s End looks positively gorgeous, touts a highly polished presentation style featuring great voice acting talents and, most exciting of all, appears to pack a dynamic game engine with the potential for emergent gameplay within enemy encounters. I have little doubt that Uncharted 4 will launch amidst a sea of other impossibly exciting games, but it has shown enough to ensure that I’ll be clearing time to play it.

5. Rise of the Tomb Raider (XBO)


I enjoyed the rebooted 2013 Tomb Raider enough to finish it twice – once on Xbox 360 and once on PS4 – so suffice to say I’m looking forward to what Crystal Dynamics does with its sequel. The only trailer we’ve seen thus far provides a rather adult glimpse into the mental burden of being Lara Croft, and I hope the talented developers do some cool things with the idea that this new Lara is very much a human being dealing with some pretty stressful stuff. The primarily Siberia-based gameplay looks to be introducing several new game mechanics to flesh out the experience, and a higher quantity of tombs has been promised, which is a very good thing considering how much of a highlight the self-contained puzzles were in the first game.

4. Just Cause 3 (PS4/XBO/PC)


One of my absolute favourite games of the last console generation was Just Cause 2, an open world game that presented gorgeous visuals, a positively gigantic world packed with collectibles/destroyables and a careless disregard for realism in favour of pure fun. The game is nearly impossible to complete 100%, such is the sheer volume of things to do in its world, and the game’s cheesy, so-bad-it’s-good voice acting is always entertaining. And now we are all getting another one, only prettier and with more depth. And a wingsuit. Yes.

3. Star Wars: Battlefront (PS4/XBO/PC)


The number one reason we got a PS2 when I was a kid was so my brother and I could play the original Star Wars: Battlefront, a console Star Wars fan’s dream come true. The film references, spectacular locales, command point design and vehicular/on-foot combat balance all added up to a spectacular experience that has been gone for far too long from the home console gaming space. If that kind of gameplay sounds straight out of a modern Battlefield game to you, that’s probably because it essentially is, making it all the more fitting that Battlefield developers DICE are all over this one. I simply cannot wait to see what they do with the game, and there are millions upon millions more just like me.

2. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS3/PS4/360/XBO/PC)


Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is not a game I was expecting to get into much, as the entry point into the series if you want to understand everything is ludicrously high. Yet after dabbling in MGS 3: Snake Eater on both 3DS and PS Vita it became immediately apparent that the series’ gameplay mix is unlike anything else out there, a realisation that only grew once I played last year’s Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (which you should definitely play as well if you’ve ever been curious, now that its once-exorbitant price has dropped significantly). Last year’s Tokyo Game Show gameplay demo, complete with soothing narrator voice and adorable puppy (from 3:13 in the video here) just blew my mind with its attention to detail, and it truly looks like industry legend Hideo Kojima is primed to deliver one of the very best games of a year that looks to be overflowing with quality. September 1st can’t come fast enough.

1. Persona 5 (PS3/PS4)


Oh yes.

Persona 4 Golden is one of my all-time favourite videogames, and easily the best JRPG I’ve played in the last decade. So I’m sure you can imagine what the thought of a sequel might do to me. Exploding with style out of every pore of its painstaking design, this new, metropolitan take on what I’m sure will be the staple themes and systems of the critically acclaimed series has me more excited to play it than any other game this year. Between promising new Final Fantasy, Tales, Xenoblade and Bravely Default games, 2015 is looking like a banner year for the JRPG genre as a whole, but if it is to live up to its potential it will probably be because Persona 5 has led the charge. If there is even a smidgen of a delay between the American and Australian releases this time around (as is usually the case with Atlus games), I will be on the import bandwagon faster than you can say cat burglar.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD (PS4/XBO)
A Hat in Time (PC/?)
Severed (PSV)
Tearaway Unfolded (PS4)
Magicka 2 (PS4/PC)
Overwatch (PC)
Battleborn (PS4/XBO/PC)

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Hold onto your wallets, folks.

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