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The Week in Gaming: Looking ahead to 2021’s biggest cross-platform games; plus E3 & Ratchet & Clank
Gaming news hasn't exactly been slow this week — especially if you add crossovers for TV and film into the mix. In addition to the huge double casting news of The Mandalorian's Pedro Pascal and Game of Thrones' Bella Ramsey, who'll respectively play Joel and Ellie for HBO's TV adaptation of The Last of Us, there's also been big casting grabs for the upcoming Borderlands movie, as well as the rebooted Resident Evil film franchise.
On top of that, some of gaming's biggest names have come with a few surprises of their own. Final Fantasy XIV is heading to the PS5 along with the huge new Endwalker expansion, E3 is making plans for a long-awaited return, and Insomniac Games' next-gen PS5 scorcher Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart now has a definite release date. Built from the ground up for the PS5, the PlayStation exclusive is warping our way on June 11, with pre-orders going live as of this week.
The new releases you can play right now aren't too shabby, either: Critics already are digging the pint-sized horror of Little Nightmares II, as well as the Switch-enhanced debut of Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury — a relatively underplayed Wii U classic that hits the Switch with some new hard-shelled tricks.
But before the year kicks over into high gear, there's still enough of a lull this week to pause and take a far-flung look ahead at something we teased earlier: a trailer-loaded preview of all the big cross-platform, third-party games that're expected to land on multiple consoles sometime before the calendar flips over to 2022. We took a good gander last month at all the biggest console exclusives headed our way in 2021, and with February closing in on the Valentine's Day midway mark, now's the perfect time to peep this year's cross-platform roadmap…before the release schedule heats up and the games start coming in fast and furious.
Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo: Some of these games will arrive on all three companies' hardware in some form or fashion, while others may just show up on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S (or even the PS4 and Xbox One). But the one thing they all have in common is that there'll be more than one way to play. So without further fanfare, here's a handy cheat sheet — starting with what's coming the soonest — of the biggest cross-platform and 3rd party games we can't wait to play in 2021:
Outriders — April 1
Square Enix and developer People Can Fly are betting big on Outriders, an all-new sci-fi IP that puts you and your gang of accidentally-enhanced sidekicks in a hostile alien world. Tasked with colonizing the planet of Enoch, things go sideways from the start, after a freakish energy storm called “The Anomaly” ravages the planet and grants you (and the hostiles you'll face) special powers.
Having new abilities also give Outriders the chance to branch out as a class-based shooter with RPG elements: You'll be able to chose your character class as a time-bending Trickster, a fire-wielding Pyromancer, a ground-shaking Devastator, or the Technomancer — a gear-savvy healer and saboteur. Each class comes with its own skill tree, and it's all framed within a colorful and diverse world that sets up endless opportunities to keep the adventure alive for months on end — one of the developers' key goals in roping players in. The Ultrawide Showcase trailer above gives us a great look at Enoch's different areas and art style, while the release date reveal trailer sets up the story.
Ride out with Outriders on April 1, when the game arrives for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC, and — sometime later this year — Google Stadia.
Resident Evil Village — May 7
Okay, we're starting to think that Resident Evil Village is shaping up to become one of 2021's biggest (and definitely tallest) games — cross-platform or otherwise. Last month's blowout Resident Evil digital showcase showed off new looks at gameplay and characters from the upcoming 8th proper installment in Capcom's haunted, hallowed franchise, and inadvertently caused a viral stir as fans fell hard for Lady Dimitrescu — the deliciously creepy, 9-foot matron of the family castle that'll trap Ethan Winters in full survival mode.
Evidently, zombies aren't the only horrific trick up Capcom's sleeve this time. The sequel to 2017's Resident Evil: Biohazard, Village is leaning strongly into a new strain of vampiric, forsaken-estate folklore, dialing up the supernatural elements while refining the series' core combat, scarcity, and crafting mechanics. Maiden, the game's Jan. 21 demo, kept the fighting to a minimum in order to give us a dungeon-escaping walkthrough introduction to the castle itself...but the real battle begins on May 7, when Resident Evil Village stalks onto PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition — May 14
The hype is real. The original Mass Effect trilogy is coming back in a new HD-upgraded form, and it won't be limited only to the Xbox ecosystem when it arrives this time. More than a simple remaster, yet still curating the gameplay, dialogue, and cutscenes you remember, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition has upscaled the visuals all around while switching things up with some key artistic touches that EA and developer BioWare say are meant to evoke the feel of the original games.
A remastered Mass Effect has been one of gaming's least-kept secrets for a long time, and we've spilled tons of digital ink rhapsodizing (and even fretting) about how BioWare might pull it off. These things tend to happen when one of the most original and universally-loved sci-fi RPGs in gaming history gets a chance at an HD do-over. With both RE: Village and the Mass Effect remaster coming only a week apart, it could be tough to get us out of the house when May rolls around. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition takes off on May 14 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and will be backwards-compatible playable for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S owners the same day.
Back 4 Blood — June 22
Left 4 Dead publisher Valve and developer Turtle Rock Studios may have parted ways, but one casual look at the announcement trailer for Back 4 Blood should assuage any Left 4 Dead fan's fears that zombies have rolled off the murderous menu. A spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead's 4-player co-op fight against the brains-starved hordes, Back 4 Blood strands your new crew (aptly called the “Cleaners”) in a post-outbreak hellscape to do some good old-fashioned street clearing — this time with a little more courage and conviction than Left 4 Dead's hapless survivors ever managed to muster.
Published by Warner Bros. Games, Back 4 Blood is set to get its hands dirty on June 22, coming to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC.
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga — 2021 (undated)
LEGO has wielded the Force through five standalone Star Wars games, but the upcoming Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga aims to achieve the incredible feat of folding in all 9 mainline Star Wars movies into one giant game (and we can already envision Luke just shaking his head in disbelief.) Fortunately, players will be able to drop in at any point along the Skywalker saga's journey, rather than starting at the beginning and building out their Star Wars story brick-by-brick.
Featuring a galaxy-spanning roster of more than 300 playable characters, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga hits hyperdrive sometime this year from developer Traveller's Tales and Warner Bros. Games. Platform-wise, the sky's the limit: The Skywalker Saga is smuggling its way onto PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Far Cry 6 — 2021 (undated)
What is it about Giancarlo Esposito that makes him such a great villain? From Breaking Bad to The Boys to The Mandalorian, no one brings the sinister quite like Moff Gideon himself. Ubisoft must be thinking the same thing, because Esposito is lending his voice acting chops to Far Cry 6 as the game's big baddie, "El Presidente" island dictator Antón Castillo. Set on the fictional Caribbean isle of Yara, your goal as protagonist and guerilla fighter Dani Rojas (playable as either a male or female character) is to improvise and assemble all the Far Cry-style sandbox weaponry you can and take down Esposito's bad guy — hopefully to the relief of Yara's oppressed NPCs.
Ubisoft hasn't revealed a specific release date yet, but Far Cry 6 is set to load out sometime this year for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and PC.
Ruined King: A League of Legends Story — 2021 (undated)
Riot Games is branching out from League of Legends' PvP roots for the first-ever single player, turn-based story set in the LoL universe. Players will suit up as one of 6 familiar League of Legends champions (Miss Fortune, Illaoi, Braum, Yasuo, Ahri, or Pyke), setting out across Bilgewater and the Shadow Isles “to uncover the secrets of the deadly Black Mist,” as Riot teases. The studio's been mostly quiet since first revealing the game at last year's Game Awards, but Ruined King: A League of Legends Story is still on track to release this year for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Psychonauts 2 — 2021 (undated)
Crowdfunded games don't always hit their release targets, but we're still holding out hope that Double Fine's Psychonauts 2 will finally turn Raz loose this year. The sequel to directing mastemind Tim Schaefer's original 2005 platformer, Psychonauts 2 finds our old-school hero Razputin finally entering the hallowed spy halls of Psychonauts HQ — which, he quickly finds out, may not be the unshakable institution he thought it was. Double Fine hasn't locked down a firm release date yet, though we're holding out to see Raz unlock more psy-scanning adventures sometime this year for a mix of consoles including PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, macOS, and PC.
Gotham Knights — 2021 (undated)
One of the biggest reveals from last year's already-loaded DC Fandome was Gotham Knights, Warner Bros. Games' all-new take on the Batman gaming-verse that lets all the superheroes not named Bruce Wayne step into the choose-your-fighter spotlight. Since then, there's been little noise from developer WB Games Montréal, though the reveal trailer played like an action-RPG sizzle reel of combat and tag-team exploration. While there's no indication that Batman himself is among the playable characters ("Batman is dead," the YouTube clip's media explainer ominously intones), the trailer showcased a ton of unique abilities from among the four mains — Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin, and Red Hood. Framed as an all-new story set outside the Arkham series, Warner Bros. Games is still teasing Gotham Knights as a 2021 release for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC.