It’s starting to look like it might be a dry summer in terms of big game releases, with not a lot of solid releases pinned down. There’s always the chance that a bunch of groundbreaking titles will start lining up their release dates in the coming weeks, but this late in the year it’s doubtful. There’s a precedent for quiet game industry summers. Even if nothing really big happens, plenty of lower key gems are on their way to help us all pass our time in the sun (or out of it).
A spin-off of Machine Game’s excellent “Wolfenstein” reboot series, “Youngblood” is the rare first-person shooter based around a local co-op. Set twenty years after the events of “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus,” the story will follow Jess and Soph Blazkowicz, the twin daughters of longtime series icon and protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz. It’s the usual Nazi-killing fare, but with an 80s pop fusion aesthetic as the twins set out to liberate Paris and find their missing father.
Early looks have shown that pulp sensibilities of the previous games seemed to have been updated to suit the new setting, with less swashbuckling and more synths and colored lighting. Perhaps more interesting is that this will be the first game in the “Wolfenstein” reboot series not to be fully developed by Machine Games. Arkane Studios, the folks behind titles like “Dishonored,” are co-developing this one. From a certain perspective, it kind of seems like a match made in heaven. Machine Games are often praised for their stories, but produce occasionally shaky level design. Arkane is known for their intricately-designed levels with dry plots. If we’re lucky, they’ll bring out the best in each other.
Release Date: July 26
Team Sonic Racing and Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled
This summer we’re getting not one, but two reminders that Mario and his friends aren’t the only Go-Karters on the block, staring off with the revival of the “Sonic Racing” series. As the old school rival to Mario, Sonic hasn’t had a proper racing game since “Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed” in 2012. Unlike in previous Sonic Karting games, the emphasis is really being put on the “Team” in this title. The main mode in this game focuses on co-operative racing, with players empowering each other to go faster and being evaluated as a unit, rather than competing to be the best.
The roster is a little sparse this time round. Previous Sonic Karting games had characters from multiple Sega franchises, like Alex Kid and, in certain versions, Ryo from “Shenmue.” But this time around it’s only the Sonic gang. This is the first of these games to have a story mode and thus actually be sort of set in the Sonic universe, so perhaps that has something to do with it. Perhaps Sega just didn’t want to go through the licensing hassle again.
In that respect “Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled” has something of an advantage. As a remake of games which came out around the turn of the millennium, it got all its characters lined up in a row. That’s not to say “Nitro Fueled” promises to be any less interesting. Coming from Beenox Studios, developers of some of the Skylanders titles, it’s promising to be sort of a medley remaster of the two big “Crash Bandicoot” kart racing games, “Crash Team Racing” and “Crash Nitro Kart.” Hopefully they can blend the best of each. Other efforts at the same kind of concept (See “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD”) have not been received particularly well in the past.
Release Dates: Team Sonic Racing - May 21 and Crash Team Racing - June 21
After eighteen long years, fans of “Shenmue,” the popular open-world RPG originally designed for the Sega Dreamcast, will be seeing another installment from the original creator. Hopefully. It’s not too late for there to be another delay. Yu Suzuki, the creator of Shenmue, has a reputation for overambition. The original “Shenmue,” when it was created, had the most expensive development on record. And “Shenmue III” was partially funded through Kickstarter, a platform almost notorious at this point for overambitious creators who go over budget and underdeliver. Originally scheduled to release in late 2017, the game has already been pushed back twice. But with a single date finally nailed down, and multiple online storefronts ready to host the game, it seems likely that a release is coming.
For old fans, or for anyone who picked up “Shenmue I & II” when they were re-released for modern machines last year, the coming release must be a relief. “Shenmue III” doesn’t promise to be an end to the series, but it does promise to answer some questions. “Shenmue II” left most of the series’ mysteries unanswered.
Release Date: August 27
Marty Forbeck is a videogame columnist for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.