By Derrik J. Lang
AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES — If the video games set to be unleashed this year are any indication, this will be a year of interactive exploration.
The line-up includes titles that will send players into the woods (“Firewatch”), under the sea (“Abzu”), over rooftops (“Mirror’s Edge Catalyst”), through outer space (“No Man’s Sky”) and across time (“Quantum Break”). There will also be excursions to several thrilling islands (“The Witness,” ”Dishonored 2,” ”Tom Clancy’s The Division”).
Some of the year’s most anticipated games:
“The Witness” (for PlayStation 4, PC; Jan. 26): Jonathan Blow, the indie game pioneer who created the time-hopping platformer “Braid,” is back with his first creation in nearly eight years. Inspired by “Myst,” this puzzler strands players on a perplexing landmass where they’re tasked with solving a series of brainteasers to progress deeper into the isle.
“Firewatch” (for PlayStation 4, PC; Feb. 9): Set in 1989 within the Wyoming wilderness, this first-person mystery casts players as a fire lookout at the Shoshone National Forest whose only form of communication with the outside world is a walkie-talkie. The game’s visual style — vividly punctuated by shadows cast from sky — was designed by artist Olly Moss.
“Unravel” (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC; Feb. 9): Move over, Mario. Beat it, Banjo-Kazooie. Step aside, Sackboy. There’s a new adorable platforming protagonist on the scene and his name is Yarny. In this whimsical physics-based puzzler, players must help the cotton creature overcome obstacles as he traverses a lushly detailed photorealistic landscape.
“Far Cry Primal” (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC; Feb. 23): The open-world series is traveling to the Stone Age for an untamed edition that swaps machine guns and off-road vehicles for spears and woolly mammoths. “Primal” will add a new “beastmaster” mode that invites players to tame and call on such critters as wild dogs, saber-tooth tigers and bears. Oh my.
“Tom Clancy’s The Division” (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC; March 8): A terrorist pandemic released on Black Friday has turned Manhattan into a free-for-all where rioters, fugitives and other maniacs have taken over the streets. It’s up to undercover agents in this online role-playing shooter to fight for control — or just shoot other players in the face for loot.
“Hitman” (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One; March 11): It worked for Lara Croft. Why not Agent 47? “Hitman” publisher Square Enix is pulling the reset trigger on its popular sniper series that rewards players for creatively and stealthily taking out bad guys. The digitally focused installment will be updated throughout the year with new locales and assassination targets.
“Quantum Break” (for Xbox One; April 5): This time-bending shooter from the creators of “Max Payne” and “Alan Wake” combines live-action elements with a third-person game where a gun-toting hero named Jack Joyce (played by Shawn Ashmore) can control the flow time, which means making like “The Matrix” messing around with bullets in midair.
“Mirror’s Edge Catalyst” (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC; May 24): After jumping onto consoles nearly eight years ago, futuristic free-runner Faith is once again vaulting across rooftops of a dystopian metropolis. For her sophomore outing, the developers at DICE are letting the parkour heroine loose on an open world where leaping is more vital than shooting.
“Deus Ex: Mankind Divided” (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC; Aug. 26): Set two years after the 2011 installment of the long-running cyberpunk series, “Mankind Divided” is transporting players back into the cybernetically enhanced head of Adam Jensen as he uncovers a global conspiracy in a world where mechanically augmented humans have become outcasts.
“Dishonored 2” (for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC; 2016): The follow-up to the 2012 stealthy steampunk smash is introducing new supernatural abilities and a new playable protagonist: Empress Emily Kaldwin, the young heir from the first game. She’s all grown up and fighting corruption alongside her father, masked bodyguard Corvo Attano.
Other anticipated titles include: first-person astronaut mystery “Adr1ft”; survival saga “Horizon Zero Dawn”; old-school cartoony platformer “Cuphead”; ethereal underwater escapade “Abzu”; space exploration game “No Man’s Sky”; treasure-hunting sequel “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End”; and new editions of “The Legend of Zelda” and “Star Fox” for Wii U.