Atomic Heart

Going into it, this year’s E3 seemed bloated to the gills — five days of show after show, possible game reveal after possible game reveal. And although it turned out to be great at times, it mostly vacillated between good and “Wake me up when it’s over,” as is E3 tradition.

I’m sure there were a few games I missed this year, as is also E3 tradition, but I am ready to announce my most anticipated games coming out of E3 2021. Note that these are my personal highlights. If it jives with you, it might not jive with me, and vice versa.

Oh, and believe it or not, I do own a PS5, though this list might suggest otherwise.

So with that out of the way, and without further ado, let’s do this!

1. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl

Hands down, without a doubt, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl is my top pick of E3 2021. Anyone that knows me knows I’m fascinated by Chernobyl, a tragic account of mass-scale destruction with possible untold ramifications that are still only presenting themselves. It also underscores the frustrating stubbornness and disastrous hubris of personkind.

And I love meticulous, plodding gameplay that incorporates frantic gunfights and metaphysical anomalies, monsters, and people speaking in Russian. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 has all of these things. It looks incredible, both visually and conceptually, and although I only played a small chunk of the original, the Metro vibes I’m getting from this trailer rocketed this one to the top of my list.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 (thank the Lord this is the last time I have to type this) is due out on Xbox Series S/X and PC on April 28, 2022. It’s set to be on Game Pass on Day One.

2. Atomic Heart

I admit this is similar in some ways to S.T.A.L… err, my number one pick. Atomic Heart is like, well, Atomic Blonde to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.’s John Wick — Just as visceral and methodical but with a lot more garish panache. Bombastically over the top at times, while at others just plain weird, Atomic Heart looks like the perfect blend of mind-bending sci-fi rooted in a vaguely Half-LIfe aesthetic, with combat that looks to really emphasize extracting as much gore and viscera as possible.

There’s no confirmed release date yet, but Atomic Heart should be coming to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and PC. It’s also slated to be on Game Pass on Day One.

3. Replaced

We’ve seen a number of stylish pixelated 2D-ish side-scrolling action games recently, such as Katana Zero and Narita Boy. And although those games were visually stunning and fun to play, I feel like very few of them emphasize more deliberate combat as opposed to hack-and-slash whirling dervishes.

So it’s the combat in Replaced that initially caught my eye — I mean, aside from the cool cyberpunk dystopian setting, of course. Combat here looks so deliberate and purposeful, with a slower pace. It features counters and parries, which combine to make what can almost be described as a well-choreographed dance scene.

On top of that, you’ve got the main character sauntering through the streets, allowing you to take in the goings on around them. It’s a game world that’s painted by the everyday activities of its denizens, one that feels rich and absorbing. I cannot wait to get my hands on this game.

Replaced is due out sometime in 2022. It’s coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and PC. And again, this one will be available on Game Pass on Day One.

4. Industria

Industria caught my attention at the Guerrilla Collective 2021 livestream. In the words of David Jungnickel, CEO of Bleakmill and 3D artist on Industria, this is a “mystery first-person shooter… inspired by Half-Life 2, BioShock, and the works of David Lynch.”

I am all in for this, from the East Berlin Cold War setting to the sci-fi automatons. Narrative-driven science-fiction FPS games have always been my jam (I mean, just look at this list if you have any doubts), and in recent years there seemed to be a drought — outside from obscure titles on Steam, which could be very hit or miss (with more misses than hits, in my opinion.) So it’s nice to see such a strong offering in this genre.

Industria is shooting for a Q3 2021 launch date on Steam.

5. Shredders

I used to play an insane amount of Cool Boarders 2 with my old high-school chums, and I’ve had a sweet spot for snowboarding games ever since. I own that one from Ubisoft, but the name escapes me, and I will probably eventually– Steep! That’s what it was called… the Ubisoft game. Steep.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Shredders.

Apparently made by actual shredders, or whatever the tagline was (it’s the end of E3 and everything’s fuzzy, cut me some slack), Shredders looks solid. This is a no-frills, no-nonsense snowboarding simulator with some arcade-like features. This seems like it will be nice to have around for whenever I want to play a chill sports game. I don’t get that urge often, mind you, but when I do, this one’s going to be waiting for me.

Shredders is due out in December of 2021 on Xbox Series S/X and PC. And once again, this one will be on Game Pass at launch.

Honorable mention: Firegirl

Firegirl gets an honorable mention if for no other reason than it was quite charming and rather adorable, raging infernos aside. I doubt it will be a day-one must-play title for me, unless it strikes my partner’s fancy, but I envision the day will come when I will get around to playing Firegirl. I will probably buy it just to support the developers, and at that point I will own it, so I might as well… fire it up? Oh wait, that’s more of a Crow reference than a Fire Girl pun…

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