Biggest next-gen games for the 2014 holidays

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There's a lot to look forward to on next-gen consoles this holiday season

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It’s been almost a full year since the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 hit the shelves, but it's only now that the game selection is really starting to catch up with their gargantuan sales figures. From survival horror to online, open world racer, there’s a lot to look forward to in the build up to the coming holiday season.

With the exception of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, every title here is set to hit both Microsoft and Sony’s latest consoles in the fourth quarter of this year. The following is far from an exhaustive list of what’s on offer for next-gen systems, but represents a cherry-picked cross section of releases. Several titles, such as Shadow of Mordor and Alien: Isolation are also available on other platforms.

Shadow of Mordor

Set in the Lord of the Rings universe, Shadow of Mordor takes core movement and combat mechanics from the Assassin’s Creed and Batman: Arkham franchises and mixes in a gripping enemy hierarchy. Known as the Nemesis system, the feature pits players against an array of quarreling enemy captains, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

You’ll find yourself forming rivalries with specific, procedurally-generated characters while traversing the moody open world. The latter half of the game even lets you exert your influence over captains, making them fight for you and helping them to rise up to the rank of Warchief. This adds an extra dollop of strategy on top of what’s already a winning formula.

Not only does the game look great on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but the mix of new and old mechanics makes for an experience that’s both fresh and familiar at once. Mordor is also a far more interesting place to spend a few dozen hours than we could have expected.

Shadow of Mordor is out now for Xbox One and PS4.

Alien: Isolation

Creative Assembly is a studio known for its excellent, large-scale Total War strategy franchise, but Alien: Isolation proves that it's capable of producing a great, IP-driven horror game as well. From the moody atmosphere of the game’s Sevastopol station setting, to the excellent sound design and tiny details dotted around its rooms and corridors, the title is a love letter to Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece.

The game has players focusing on stealth, spending most of their time tracking, hiding and avoiding a single, invincible foe. The creature itself isn’t scripted, but features a complex AI, meaning that no two play-throughs will ever be quite the same.

The title is both visually stunning and nerve-shreddingly intense. Not for the faint hearted.

Alien: Isolation is out now for Xbox One and PS4.

Destiny

Destiny may have been out for over a month, but it's still one of the biggest titles to hit shelves in the latter part of 2014. While it may not quite live up to the next-gen hype that preceded its arrival, it’s still a great online, team-based shooter with an open world mentality.

The first-person-shooter mechanics are as precise and satisfying as you would expect from Bungie, the studio that spawned the Halo franchise. We recently took a detailed look at the game, finding that while the players can safely ignore the game's thread-bare storyline, its gameplay, loot drive and drop-in playability make it well worth a look.

One of the most compelling aspects of Destiny is how it’s set to evolve over the coming months and years. Bungie has already announced two content packs for the game, with the promise of more to come. It’s worth noting that major content additions won’t be free, meaning you’ll have to shell out some extra cash if you want to experience new missions into 2015 and beyond.

Destiny is out now for Xbox One and PS4.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity

Ubisoft’s pseudo-historical free running franchise went from strength to strength during the last console cycle, and the series’ first next-gen-only entry looks to evolve it in a number of key ways.

Not only is the title a significant visual upgrade over previous versions, but it also marks a return to the game’s stealth roots and throws co-operative play into the mix. Up to four players can work together to accomplish objectives, and the developer has made it clear that in Unity, direct combat is a last resort, only to be relied upon when more subtle approaches fail.

Conceptually speaking at least, the game’s 18th century Paris setting is also one of the strongest we’ve seen in an Assassin’s Creed game. The urban expanse is overflowing with iconic buildings and crowds of discontented citizens, making for a moody and engaging backdrop to the protagonists story.

Assassins Creed: Unity launches November 11 for Xbox One and PS4.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Though we’ll have to wait until 2015 for the next entry in the series, Halo: The Master Chief Collection should make that wait significantly more bearable. Developer 343 Industries has packed four full games (Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4) onto a single disk, complete with each title’s separate multiplayer modes, accounting for more than 90 maps.

The second entry in the series is the only title to receive a full anniversary treatment, with the entire game (including six multiplayer maps), being completely re-made for the new release. All of the titles run at 1080p 60 fps resolution.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection launches November 11 for Xbox One.

GTA V

It speaks volumes of Rockstar’s latest title that its re-launch on the PS4 and Xbox One is one of the most anticipated releases of the 2014 holiday season – a full year after its debut on the PS3 and Xbox 360.

We gave the title a glowing review when it arrived in November 2013, and the next-gen release is set to improve on the original in a number of small but significant ways. The vast majority of the changes are aesthetic, with the remastered game featuring a new foliage system, additional wildlife and denser traffic on roads.

The next-gen port will also bring with it enhanced vehicle damage and better weather effects, and players will be able to transfer their GTA Online characters from the old version to the new, providing both systems are on the same manufacturer’s consoles (i.e. PS3 to PS4 and Xbox 360 to Xbox One).

GTA V launches November 18 for Xbox One and PS4.

The Crew

The Crew is a massively multiplayer racer that puts the entire United States on a disk. Well, we say entire, but in reality we’re looking at a shrunken down version of the country, with major cities positioned correctly, relative to each other, and the areas in-between being populated with roughly accurate scenery. Just because The Crew isn’t to scale certainly doesn’t mean it’s small, with it reportedly taking a full 90 minutes to cross the map.

The open world includes 15 famous cities, including Chicago, New York, Miami and Los Angeles, and tasks players with working together to accomplish goals. While playing the game, users will earn cash and gain experience, picking up equipment that has stats similar to what you’d find in an RPG. The developer hopes this will add a deeper and more nuanced sense of progression to the genre.

The Crew launches December 2 on Xbox One and PS4.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

While recent entries in the Call of Duty franchise may have stayed true to the tried and tested formula, Advanced Warfare promises to make significant changes.

Like previous entries in the series, the new title heads into the future, but unlike 2012’s Black Ops 2, Advanced Warfare looks to add some new ideas. Similar to the Crysis franchise, the title gives players control of an exoskeleton-equipped soldier, giving them the ability to cloak, sprint faster, jump higher and more. When it comes to multiplayer, this allows for a greater degree of verticality in maps and more significant variation in player classes.

There has also been a significant graphical upgrade, with the title being the first next-gen-only release in the series as of yet. Its appeal is no doubt helped by the casting of the excellent Kevin Spacey as the shadowy leader of Atlas Corporation – the fictional world’s largest private military corporation.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is released November 3 on Xbox One and PS4.

Far Cry 4

Far Cry 4 sees the franchise move to Kyrat – a violent Himalayan setting. It gives players a brand new open world to explore, with varied terrain, a charismatic villain, and a host of new wildlife including rhinos and rideable elephants.

Big additions this time around are the ability to play the game with a friend, as well as a new gyrocopter vehicle that lets players scout out the map from the skies. Once you’re done flying around, there’s even a wing suit that allows you return to solid ground in style.

Overall, Far Cry 4 doesn’t look to be a re-invention of the franchise, but rather an evolution that offers new features and provides a whole new world to explore.

Far Cry 4 will hit shelves November 18 for Xbox One and PS4.

The Evil Within

Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s new game may not have the same widespread appeal as some of the other titles in this list, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most compelling.

Alien: Isolation might provide some tense, unscripted frights, but The Evil Within is a pure, bloody survival horror that looks to keep players on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Like every great title in the genre, the game provides you with very limited ammo and pits you up against a variety of grotesque, nightmarish foes.

The Evil Within is out now for both Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen console

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