Games of 2016: Mayhem

W

henever video games are portrayed in television fiction they are often presented as noisy, violent and brutish entertainments mainly played by avid boys. Mayhem and ferocity are the stamps that people who don't play games give to games.

Still, this caricature is not without some truth. The games listed on this page certainly subscribe to the idea that fighting, hurting and killing in virtual worlds can be fun. And there are plenty of games on other pages in this feature that rely heavily on combat to deliver their thrills.

Let's begin with a series that makes an art of fighting, that brings subtlety as well as physical and intellectual rigor to the party.

Dark Souls 3

… is a third-person fighting game in a quasi-medieval fantasy world. Players face down a variety of challenging enemies and bosses, using their wits to avoid and exploit attack patterns. The game arrives in March.

Developer From Software is making some changes to this, the fourth game in its Souls series. Enemies are less predictable and are liable to change up their patterns mid-fight. A new system has been introduced to the game, called Battle Art, which opens up a set of powerful moves for each weapon depending on stance and situation.

“The magic of the Souls series lies within each game’s ability to deliver a euphoric feeling of accomplishment through overcoming extreme difficulty," says Global Producer Atsuo Yoshimura. "Dark Souls 3 will celebrate and expand by delivering new gameplay features, large maps and environments where verticality comes into play, and gruesome enemies that fans of the series have come to expect. I hope players are prepared for the looming challenge.”

Swordplay has always been a defining feature of the Souls games. It also takes center stage in ...

Dad by the Sword

... from Rocketcat Games. It draws its name from Treyarch's 1998 punishingly hard action adventure game Die by the Sword in which players were given the option of taking direct control of the character's sword arm with mouse or joystick movements. While the direct control allowed for subtle moves, it also made successfully attacking and defending much harder.

Dad by the Sword features the same first-person perspective and one-to-one mouse controls. You can't just hold down the mouse button and swipe with the mouse to attack. You have to factor in the backswing and time the move to make sure you get a powerful attack.

Clangs of steel on steel are occasionally punctuated by a flesh strike, lopping head, arm or leg from body.

"We're trying something different with first person sword combat," says Rocketcat head Kepa Auwae. "When we've demoed it to people, we've gotten comments about how you get fine control over your dad's sword arm. Also there's tons of dad jokes in the game, and dads are really in right now. Octodad, The Last of Us, Heavy Rain, Fallout 4 ... all about dads."

The game’s release date is currently slotted for Father's Day, which is June 16. Talking of fathers, depending on how old you are, here's a game your dad might recognize.

Street Fighter 5

... marks a return for a franchise that has been with us since 1987. Due to arrive on PlayStation 4 and Windows PC on Feb. 16, it's bringing back the EX gauge last seen in Street Fighter 3 and introducing a V-Gauge which builds as the player sustains attacks, and then can be used to deliver special moves. New characters include Necalli, Rashid, Laura and FANG.

Whatever violence these characters manage to inflict on one another, however, will surely pale next to the brutality of ...

Attack on Titan

... from developer Omega Force, the team behind the Dynasty Warriors franchise. This slash-and-movement game is based on the popular dystopian fantasy manga and anime series. The voice actors from the TV adaptation will go behind the microphone for the game, as well.

A Tokyo Game Show trailer displayed characters using tethers and swords to attach themselves to giants, while slicing chunks out of them.

"Having evolved from a manga/anime series to an internationally recognized brand, we were enchanted by the opportunity to create our own take on humanity's last stand against these overwhelmingly powerful beings, the Titans," said Hisashi Koinuma, president of Koei Tecmo, last year. "Our studios are pouring all of their passion and excitement into it."

Attack on Titan will be released in Japan on Feb. 18, 2016 for PlayStation platforms with a U.S. release to follow later in the year. Another high-action PlayStation exclusive winging its way over from Japan this year is ...

Nier: Automata

... the sequel to Square Enix's 2010 action role-playing game Nier. Developed by PlatinumGames, best known for stylish slashers like Bayonetta, it follows a series of playable characters who use various weapons and abilities to carve their way through crowds of invading alien robots.

Alien invasions of a different nature are the backdrop for ...

Gears of War 4

... which arrives as a multiplayer beta in the spring, with a full release likely to follow in the fall. This is the first game in the shoot-and-stomp aliens series to be developed away from Epic. It's being handled by Microsoft's own Vancouver-based studio The Coalition, headed up by former Epic Director of Production Rod Fergusson.

"There was a bunch of stuff I brought with me from the thinking we’d done about what Gears 4 would be at Epic," said Fergusson last year. "I took that as a seed and began developing a whole new idea of what Gears 4 is, what the universe would be beyond what we were doing."

Microsoft debuted Gears of War 4 at E3, showing several minutes of gameplay footage on stage at its press conference. Since then, very little new information has emerged.

From aliens to our very dear friends, zombies, who make up the fodder as well as a strategic element in shooter ...

Moving Hazard

... from developer Psyop Games. It's true that we've seen a lot of zombie games this past few years, but at least this game, which will be available in Early Access in February, has a twist.

"One of my favorite Walking Dead episodes was the showdown between Rick's group and the Governor's," said Managing Director Rocco Scandizzo last year. "It was humans vs. humans and the zombies were making a mess of it.

"That moment is at the core of what we wanted for our game, for the real enemy to be other players and for zombies to do what they do best in movies: be there to make the situation even more of a mess and grant even more 'whoa’ moments.

"There is quite a bit of satisfaction when you get your enemy just where you want him, in a spot crawling with zombies, just to stun him with a chaos grenade and see him devoured. Or you could win a shooting duel, just to turn a corner with your health depleted and have your face bitten off by a silent shambler."

Destruction and chaos comes from above in ...

Megaton Rainfall

... in which the player takes on the role of a Superman-style hero with almost unlimited abilities, including flight.

Created by Spanish studio Pentadimensional Games for PlayStation 4 and PC, the game posits an entire planet as the battlefield. Players fly at supersonic speeds between procedurally-generated cities to fend off an extraterrestrial menace.

Though the avatar is indestructible, the cities aren't, so the player has to limit damage and loss of life from alien attacks and from their own devastating powers. Megaton Rainfall is scheduled to arrive in the summer.

For a closer-to-home agent of violence, there's always ...

Mafia 3

... for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One in 2016. Developed by 2K Games' new studio Hangar 13, it's set in 1968 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The game stars an African American Vietnam War veteran who returns home to avenge his murdered pals and to build his own organized crime empire.

"We’re taking some creative risks," says Hangar 13 studio head Haden Blackman. "I can’t think of any other games that put you into the role of a black mobster in the South in the late '60s. We’re not so naïve that we think this game will cure racism, but I do hope it gets players to think about race, even for a moment, and how our own experiences might differ from someone else’s."

Ni-Oh

... is a head-lopping samurai action game from Team Ninja, the team behind Ninja Gaiden. Originally in development for PlayStation 3, the game is now making its way to the West via Koei Tecmo as a PlayStation 4 exclusive.

Based on an unfinished script from acclaimed Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa, Ni-Oh follows a blond-haired samurai who battles demons and uses magic.