Here is what to expect this month, which is headlined by high-profile releases, in the form of a video game preview.
“Call of Duty WWII” – November 3 (Win, PS4, XBO)
Here’s a question to consider throwing into your trivia night: “What was the last year that a ‘Call of Duty’ title did not release?” The correct answer is 2004, the year after the original title released. The series has fallen off over the years– don’t get me wrong, it’s still a finely tuned title giving you exactly what you’d expect, but that’s also part of the problem: it never exceeds expectations. This year, Sledgehammer games, who developed 2014’s “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” are taking the series (and the first-person-shooter genre) to its roots: World War II. It’s been almost a decade since FPS games turned from the tired “WWII shooter” to more modern of even futuristic settings, so “WWII” will try to test the waters and see if the market is ready to go back again. The main issue, here, being that the move into futuristic settings brought the series fresh new mechanics that livened up the same old series gameplay, so will ditching all that make the new title too generic? It’s hard to say, but I suppose we could always use another reason to shoot Nazis.
“Need for Speed Payback” – November 10 (Win, PS4, XBO)
After 2015’s “Need for Speed” released, it was becoming obvious to any outside observer that perhaps the quality of this street racing franchise was becoming a little too untenable on a yearly release schedule. Perhaps noticing this too, EA decided to let Ghost Games take a year off to give them time to fine tune the game, implement new ideas and extra features, and put together the kind of experience fans looked to this series for. In a stage demo at E3 this year, what we ended up seeing was something that turned heads. Between the slow-motion crashes reminiscent of the “Burnout” series, to the heist-crew-based storyline, it looks like they’ve turned their game into a playable “Fast & Furious” movie. Now, that, sounds interesting.
“Pokémon Ultra Sun” & “Pokémon Ultra Moon” – November 17 (3DS)
Disclosure: I’ve bought a Pokémon game every year one has released since I first got a GameBoy Advance back in 2003. I say this not to warn you to take my opinion with a grain of salt, but to emphasize how unusual it is that I may not get either of these this year. For those unaware, Pokémon often releases in pairs. “Red” and “Blue.” “Gold” and “Silver.” “Ruby and Sapphire.” “Black and White.” The list goes on. In addition to this, they’ve also released a third version that was often the same game as the first two, but with added features. You may recall “Pokémon Yellow,” “Crystal,” or “Emerald.” In a time before downloadable content, this was how the series added on to their games. The last time they did this was 2012’s “Pokémon Black 2” and “Pokémon White 2,” which were less third versions and more direct sequels to the previous year’s titles “Pokémon Black” and “Pokémon White.” So you’d think “Ultra Sun and Moon” would follow in the same lineage, but, so far, these appear to be merely retreads of “Sun and Moon” but with an altered storyline. With how many games that are releasing this year, I’m not sure if that’s enough to warrant a purchase in 2017– unless, of course, you haven’t played a Pokémon game in the while. Stop resisting. You know you want to.
“Star Wars Battlefront II” – November 17 (Win, PS4, XBO)
When Electronic Arts first bought the exclusive rights to all “Star Wars” games from Disney in 2013, the first title they announced was “Star Wars Battlefront,” a reboot of the critically and commercially successful shooter series that saw its first release in 2004. That title released in 2015 to catch the wave of excitement caused by the film, “The Force Awakens,” and it was a passable product. It was hard to find fault with the base shooting mechanics and the visuals are jaw-dropping, but it lacked a single-player campaign and the main progression system wasn’t very satisfying. For the sequel, DICE is looking to improve on everything they first lacked. A revamped progression system, heroes and battles outside the original trilogy, and a full campaign mode featuring an imperial officer played by Janina Gavankar (“Sleepy Hollow”).
“Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp” – Late November (Droid, iOS)
Nintendo continues their creep into mobile platforms– pushing their brands in support of the red-hot Nintendo Switch. Their latest title is a quaint little game based on their humanoid animal life-sim, “Animal Crossing.” It’s all about collecting furniture and building relationships with your own selection of townsfolk. If that doesn’t sound like fun and you don’t understand how this is one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, I will let this twitter user properly explain:
Additional Note: Compared to other years, November is a surprisingly dry month, with many big titles either having released in October or been pushed back to next year. The one platform that will see more releases than others is, surprisingly, the Nintendo Switch. Alongside multiplatform releases, such as “Sonic Forces,” “L.A. Noire Remastered,” and “LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2,” the console-mobile hybrid is also getting a few older games, refreshed, now that you can play them on the go, including 2016’s “Doom,” “Batman: The Telltale Series,” “Rime,” “Resident Evil Revelations 1 & 2,” and “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” among others.