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Our most anticipated action games of 2021

Horaszdóttir hefts her hammer

Many times we have prayed that Horaszdóttir's flock of turkeys will run out, but, like her, it is eternal and infinite. Each one disgorges a vision of a game yet to come, as Horaszdóttir the Tall stands and laughs, the sound rolling like thunder through the dark pine forest that is her home. We are so cold.

Today Horaszdóttir augers yet more games, speaking through us. Hear the crack of distant gunfire, the roar of an enraged enemy, and the thump of heavy bass and synth. Today we are called to action! (Please note that Horaszdóttir is not accepting criticism over how we have divided up games between RPG and action.)

Resident Evil Village

What is it? Survival horror with guns and giant women who will step on you.
Who's it by? Capcom
When is it out? May 7th

Alice Bee: Listen, you've all seen the memes and read the articles; I dunno what to tell you. I enjoyed the earlier sections of Resi 7, where you were creeping around a house chased by a very angry man in a very horrible shirt, but I didn't like the bits where you had a gun and were shooting gunk monsters anywhere near as much. So my hope for Resident Evil Village is that it's a bit more of the former vibe, and a bit less of the latter. I don't ever want to feel too powerful, basically.

Katharine: Contrary to Alice Bee, I actually love feeling powerful in Resident Evil games, as it's the only way I can actually stomach playing them. The early bits of Resi 7 stressed me out to no end when evil man face was chasing after me, and I actually prefered the more action-y bits toward the end. I think Village will probably be more of the former if the recent PS5 demo is anything to go by, but here's hoping we get a nice blend of action and horror this time, if only so I can looking Lady D in the eyes without cowering like snivelling child.

The Binding Of Isaac: Repentance

What is it? The roguelikelike’s final, final expansion.
Who's it by? Edmund McMillen, Nicalis
When is it out? March 31st

Alice0: I've not stopped playing with the crying baby in all this time, and I'm well up for newness. Especially the promise of more item combos - love it when my tears go wacky. But I am wary because past Isaac expansions have been two steps forward and one step back. Retribution is based largely on the mega-impressive mod Antibirth, and that had its own problems with frustrating difficulty spikes and obtuse interactions. But hell, it's more Isaac, coming at a time when I'm juuust about ready for more.

Narita Boy

What is it? A neo-retro side scrolling Metroidvania that's just too damn cool for school.
Who's it by? Studio Koba, Team 17
When is it out? March 30th

Katharine: This was one of the stand-out demos from Steam's recent Game Festival for me, and cor, talk about committing to a concept. Think Swords and Sworcery, but as an 80s-infused Metroidvania that's also got big Tron vibes, and you're half-way there. Most of all, Narita Boy is also a love letter to all things PC. In it, you play as the eponymous hero who's been tasked with saving the dwindling Digital Kingdom from the corrupted Stallions (a brilliant riff on Trojan viruses) and their mysterious Creator (who also has big Disco Elysium cop dad vibes, I might add).

As you work to restore the code of this fading digital realm, you'll also need to power up the legendary Techno Sword along the way, which is a sword, shotgun and laser beam all in one. It's a very satisfying bit of video game weaponry, and I can't wait to unleash its supremely cool powers on the rest of its screen-hogging bosses. It also has the most incredible synthwave soundtrack in the history of games, and everything about it is just one chefkiss after another. More please.

Deathloop

deathloop.jpg

What is it? Timeloop FPS about assassins reliving the same day over and over.
Who's it by? Arkane Studios
When is it out? May 21st

Imogen: I'm hot off the heels of realising Dishonored is one of my favourite games of all time, and I yearn for more Arkane magic. But what could be better than a stealthy murder game set in a steampunk world of corrupt monarchies and occult assassins? Why, a stealthy murder game with a brilliant 60s aesthetic about assassins caught in a time loop trying to kill each other, of course! I haven't stopped thinking about it since it was announced at E3 2019, and I can't decide if it's more of Arkane's phenomenal game design I'm drawn to, or the fact that this one has roguelite elements. A bit of both, I suspect.

What's better than a stealthy murder game in a world of corrupt monarchies and occult assassins? Why, a stealthy murder game with a brilliant 60s aesthetic, of course!"

Deathloop will plonk you in the shoes of Colt, an assassin who needs to deal with eight targets on a big island before the day is out. If he fails, he starts over - which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It seems like a similar formula to Prey's Mooncrash DLC (which was amazing) where you learn from each failure. You're not just racing against time, though - you're also racing against the rival assassin trying to take you out, Juliana. If you want, Juliana can be AI, or she can be another player in your world hunting you down. I can't wait to see how Arkane handle this sort of multiplayer. May 21st truly can't come soon enough.

Ed: I feel the same way as Imogen here. Like, exactly the same. As the years go by, I also hunger for more Arkane. And I think Deathloop has the makings of a classic. Why? Because it promises all sorts of time-bending goodness, something which Dishonored 2's A Crack in The Slab mission gave us a sumptuous taste of. Your ability to mess with the past to influence the present in that level never fails to blow my mind, so I can't wait to see how they've built upon it in Deathloop.

I also like the idea that Juliana will be there to put me under pressure. I'm guilty of save-scumming in Dishonored, or just taking my sweet time. Having to buckle in and race to assassinate my targets should add a serious thrill to proceedings, with a dash of chaos too. I am very ready to be yanked out of my stealthy comfort zone.

Back 4 Blood

What is it? A new Left 4 Dead from former Left 4 Dead devs, just not named Left 4 Dead.
Who's it by? Turtle Rock Studio, Warner Bros.
When is it out? June 22nd

Alice0: While I didn't play in the recent beta myself, what I saw on Twitch sure looked a lot like Left 4 Dead with some new bells and whistles (and giant bosses). I'm game. Several years of my cybersocial life ran through L4D, hell I think I even had meetings in L4D. And I will do it all over again.

Alice Bee: Here is a secret, reader: I have a L4D tattoo because when I was 19 I would stay up until 3am shooting zombles and whispering, "Flashlights off," and all that good stuff. I haven't played the ol' deados for years, but I might be tempted back in for once last job before retirement (here, look at this picture of my wife and adorable children).

Far Cry 6

What is it? It’s a Far Cry game.
Who's it by? Ubisoft Toronto, Ubisoft
When is it out? Q2/Q3 2021

Colm: If you’re bored of the format by now, I don’t entirely blame you. Including spin-offs, this will be the 12th Far Cry game or something ludicrous like that. There are plenty of people out there who have grown tired of skinning 18 honey badgers for a nice new wallet. I’m mostly game for more Far Cry, though. Drop me onto Gus Fring’s fictional Caribbean island and watch as my newly-tamed bear and I take out outposts full of misguided young men and women. But, with that said, I’d welcome a few changes here and there.

The pink explosions of Far Cry New Dawn

To be fair, very little is known about Far Cry 6 right now, so I suppose I’m clinging to the hope that Ubisoft aren’t just trying to make Far Cry 3... again. They’ve been chasing the Vaas buzz ever since they released that one back in 2012 (almost a full decade ago now), with charismatic villains of varying quality. I'd prefer this one to take some inspiration from the oft-forgotten Far Cry New Dawn. A weird sequel to Far Cry 5, it took the supernatural elements that the series had flirted with in the previous couple of entries and put them front and centre. It was still grounded in a sort of reality, but you could also become a bandit-killing superhero that was able to double-jump and punch people into the air. It was terrific.

But, if that’s deemed a little Too Hot For TV’s Giancarlo Esposito, I’ll take a Far Cry that tells an engaging story wherein I get to shoot a load of horrible fascists in the face. It’s all about the simple things in life.

No Place For Bravery

What is it? Extremely bloody, 2D pixel action as a warrior with very thin legs.
Who's it by? Glitch Factory, Ysbryd Games
When is it out? 2021

Alice Bee: I had a bit of trouble with the demo for No Place For Bravery, in that I was not very good at the fighting bit of it. I found the controls a little sticky for how unforigiving the combat is. If I have to soulslite my way through the same section every time I die, that weirdy-beardy little fucker better jump and dodge exactly when I say I want him to jump and dodge, godammit.

But the thing is, everything else about it seems well cool. The grim guts spilling everywhere, the enemy design, the towns built around the skeleton of a huge giant. Lovely, horrible stuff. So I'm willing to put it down on paper that I'm still well up for this.

Gotham Knights

What is it? A new co-op Batman game with the classic Arkham combat.
Who's it by? WB Montreal
When is it out? 2021

Jake: It's been a long old while since we last got a WB Batman game. The last one was Arkham Knight, released in 2015, and while Gotham Knights looks to be a slightly different type of game, it's still nice to have some pointy-eared heroes back in our lives. In this setting, though, Batman is dead and it's up to Robin, Batgirl, Red Hood and Nightwing to keep the city from descending into chaos.

From what little we've seen so far, Gotham Knights is clearly doubling down on co-op combat. WB Montreal absolutely nailed the Arkham-style combat in Arkham Origins, so adding a few more players on screen could be a real treat. Each of the four heroes looks like they play differently to the others, too, so if the missions are solid Gotham Knights could really work with a group of friends. The release date is tentatively pencilled in as 2021, though, so I'm at the very least cautious about it coming out any time soon. When it does arrive, though, I'm looking forward to jumping back into the Arkham world, and to beating thugs using batarangs, bins and whatever else I can get my leather-clad mitts on.

The Gunk

What is it? A third-person sucker.
Who's it by? Image & Form Games, Thunderful Games
When is it out? Q3 2021

Colm: I’m glad the people who made SteamWorld Dig and SteamWorld Heist didn’t call this SteamWorld Gunk. It would’ve really dulled the impact of what is one of the greatest game names in recent memory.

So, The Gunk sees you travelling around this alien planet that has been infected by the titular black ooze, and your job is to get rid of the bad gloopiness by sucking it up via your Poltergust-esque hoover glove. While the developer is keeping schtum on a lot of the more granular details at the minute, they have mentioned that there will be elements of crafting and Metroidvanianess, as the environment will change and open up depending on your sucking skills.

"The central Luigi’s Mansion-like mechanic was enough to make me take notice."

The central Luigi’s Mansion-like mechanic was enough to make me take notice, but stomping back and forth through the contrast of grim browns and neon lights that were shown off in the reveal trailer sounds like the cherry on top of this very mucky cake. Also, again, the name is brilliant.

Katharine: I will eagerly consume anything made by the folks at Image & Form, even if it is covered in its titular gunk. This studio has a rare talent for absolutely nailing any genre they turn their hand to, and I can't wait to see what their first non-SteamWorld game has in store.

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