May’s New Video Game Titles Effective at Giving Life to 2021
Honestly, the past few months of covering new video game releases have been a struggle. From the impacts of development due to the pandemic to the relative “dead time” a few months after the release of new consoles, the early portion of 2021 saw a noticeably low number of heavy-hitting games and ended up being better suited for catching up on older titles. For the most part, leading into the hot months of summer, that changes with the release calendar put forth in May. From a long-awaited – and recently quite heavily memed – new installment in a beloved horror franchise to a delayed, yet anticipated science-fiction action game and a premium remastering of one of the most celebrated trilogies ever created, there’s a lot of firepower in this month’s lineup. Let’s get into it.
Resident Evil: Village – May 7 (PS4/5; Xbox O/S/X; Stadia; PC)
Excitement levels for the Resident Evil franchise took a hit after the release of RE6, which steers the franchise away from being focused on terror and more into the vigor of the action-horror subgenre. Then, the combo of RE7 and the remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3 showed that their design philosophy had returned closer to the spectrum of horror, striking a satisfying balance between shooter intensity, genuine scares, and reverence for the franchise. The success in those titles make it easier to get fired up about future installments … which is good, because this one’s a doozy.
Resident Evil 8, code-named Village, takes some cues from the enduringly popular setup of the fourth game by dropping returning character Ethan Winters near a township within the boundaries of Transylvania. There, on an emotional rescue mission, he encounters the various monstrous denizens of the village, notably the tall and imposing vampire-ish ruler Lady Dimitrescu who has taken the internet by storm. While RE8 does stay locked the first-person perspective and removed from the familiar zombie ambience, the isolation and inventory aspects look to Resident Evil 4 for heavy inspiration.
Hood: Outlaws and Legends – May 10 (PS4/5; XBOX O/S/X; PC)
Frequently depicted in a hood and sporting an iconic bow and arrow, the character of Robin Hood possesses traits that have already become recognizable on popular video-game characters. While the hood can be seen as a signature element of Assassin’s Creed and the archery aspects found in the likes of Tomb Raider and The Last of Us, the combo befits another semi-popular video game character: Garrett of the Thief series, a close shadow of the legendary character. Between all that, it’s relatively understandable why we haven’t really seen a dedicated Robin Hood video game in the current era.
Striking while there’s a lull in all those franchises, Hood: Outlaws and Legends hopes to fill the void both of the stealth genre and of the absence of a game centered on the mythology of the character. This is a budget, online-only multiplayer title with a narrower focus, though, pitting foursomes of characters from that storyline against each other in a battle and race to pilfer goods from a fortified point before the other. Gameplay appears to be a tight hybrid of others from the stealth genre, and there’s something to be said for the game’s dependence on team-based coordination for the “merry men” to succeed.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – May 14 (PS4; Xbox One; PC)
It’s been almost a decade since the Mass Effect trilogy came to a thrilling, polarizing conclusion. Despite the passage of time – and despite the release of the “flawed, yet exhilarating journey” that is Andromeda — it doesn’t seem like the enthusiasm of its fans has faded much at all, which can be seen each time even a mild hint surfaced about a remastered edition of the original Mass Effect games. When it was finally confirmed that a new edition would be making the jump to newer consoles, the response was predictably charged up, even when it was unclear what exactly the Legendary Edition would be.
To be fair, we still don’t fully know exactly what the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will be, except on the surface. Comparison footage reveals it to be a handsome upcycling of the original atmospheric visuals, improved just enough to be impressive yet not too much to make any of the games feel like different experiences, as they aren’t remakes. In terms of gameplay …? Well, that remains to be seen, as the original game has at the very least been low-level overhauled in terms of the shooting/cover controls and driving around in the iconic vehicle, the Mako. BioWare’s never short for surprises, so it’s anyone’s guess what’ll be at the other end, except they’ve insisted that fans will still feel at home in this Mass Effect.
Subnautica: Below Zero – May 14 (PS4,5; Xbox O,S,X; Switch; PC)
While there will always be a desire to explore space and beyond, there’s something to be said for the fact that we’ve only explored about 1/5 of the oceans on Earth, concealing plenty of mysteries. Subnautica took the enigmatic appeal of exploring other planets and oceanic depths and merged them to the fullest extent, dropping the player into the depths of water planet 4546B and forcing them to survive with advanced navigation and scuba equipment. While the discovery and immersion are easy targets for compliments in Subnautica, players often talk about being surprised by how scary it can be.
Subnautica: Below Zero hopes to capture the same sense of wonder and anxiety, but in some new and versatile ways. Taking place a year after the events of the first game, this one finds the player crashed in an even less hospitable portion of 4546B, introducing temperature gauges and extensive land aspects. Players still have the freedom to customize their Subnautica experience, though, as they can again choose from survival, freedom, and hardcore modes to fit the engulfing experience they’re hoping to have.
Biomutant – May 25 (PS4; Xbox One; PC)
Early rumblings about Biomutant had it pegged as possibly being one of the more unique, trailblazing games to come out in the early years of last-gen consoles. Mostly, that boiled down to the customizations that the open-world adventure game would bequeath to the player, allowing them to create wild mammalian characters that must be mutated and manually modified in specific ways to reach unique locations and achieve goals. From a daylight/weather system to transport vehicles and deviations in the story path based on choices, the game has been propped up as having tons of potential with its freedom and responsiveness.
Then, Biomutant just drops off the grid, offering little in terms of updates and no concrete release dates for quite a while. And now, we’re in the early stages of the next generation of consoles, and Experiment 101 will finally be releasing their once hotly-anticipated debut at the end of May. To their luck, there hasn’t been much advancement in the nature of open-world games since the peak of its hype – save the masterpiece that is the shark-RPG Maneater, of course – and if they’re able to deliver on their premise and potential, Biomutant could still leave a fresh impression on the sandbox subgenre.
At the tail end of the month, on May 25, folks worldwide will also finally be able to get their hands on the delightful HD remastering of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne released in Japan earlier this year. On the same day, Capcom will be delivering their own retro collection with Capcom Arcade Stadium, which packages together several noteworthy games from their history, including a trio of the most popular installments in the Street Fighter franchise (original SFII, SFII Turbo: Hyper Fighting, SSFII Turbo). Also on May 25, Switch users will finally be able to see what the fuss is all about with Maneater, while the Switch, the other consoles and PC will be able to hit the high seas in another way with King of Seas, an attempt at more evenly balancing the action and management aspects of a pirate simulator.