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Danger Zone! Elite: Dangerous takes this week in gaming to the stars

Frontier Developments’ massively multiplayer, open galaxy space sim Elite: Dangerous looms large in a week that otherwise mostly features some previously-released games coming to new platforms. Will you be catching up on the venerable stealth and bonkers stories of Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid games in anticipation of 2015’s Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, or will you boldly seek new adventures among the distant stars of Elite? Check out what’s new this week.

Elite: Dangerous

Mac/Windows (December 16)
Explore, trade, fight–really do whatever you want in this open galaxy space sim. It puts the “massive” in massively multiplayer with a 1:1 scale galaxy based on the Milky Way. Future updates promise the ability to land on the to-scale planets to explore and hunt local fauna–developer David Braben has even mentioned hunting dinosaurs.

In 1984, the first Elite was a seminal open world game, setting a genre template that is thriving more now than ever. Dangerous is the fourth installment in the series, following 1995’s Frontier: First Encounters. It has been in some form of development since 1998, but the current iteration began in earnest with Frontier Developments’ 2012 Kickstarter success.

Loadout

PS4 (December 16)
Jets of blood, flying limbs, and a fireworks display of over-the-top, build-your-own explosive weaponry separate this free-to-play competitive shooter from its more serious peers. Its cartoon style and irreverent humor positions Loadout as a cruder cousin to Team Fortress 2, and its elaborate weapon crafting complements the style with tons of depth.

Microtransactions let you customize your avatar’s appearance, but the upgradable weapons cannot be bought, preventing pay-to-win abuse. Loadout launched for Windows on Steam earlier in 2014, and it comes now to PlayStation 4 for the first time.

Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

PS3/PS4 (December 16)
This latest in the series of Japanese 2D fighting games from Arc System Works and artist Daisuke Ishiwatari came to arcades in February 2014, and now arrives on home consoles. Set in 2187, one year after the events of Guilty Gear 2: Overture, the game features mostly returning characters from the franchise along with a few new additions, some exclusive to this console port.

Like prior entries, Xrd centers around frantic, 2D fights between anime-style characters. This time, cel-shaded graphics with intentionally limited animation replicate the graphic feel of traditional sprites while also allowing for more dynamic camera movement.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Windows (December 18)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain isn’t coming until 2015, but until then you have this prequel, set in the mid 1970s after the events of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Protagonist Snake seeks to extract a valuable target, Paz Ortega Andrade, from a U.S. black ops site in Cuba, in order to acquire information about the person or organization known as Cipher. Expect writer/designer/director Hideo Kojima’s usual style of convoluted plotting full of twists, intrigue, and melodrama.

Mechanically, Ground Zeroes begins to explore some of the ideas that are more fully fleshed-out in The Phantom Pain, such as the new, slow motion Reflex Mode for disabling the guards (which aren’t as predictable as they’ve been) before they are able to sound the alarm. It’s like situational bullet time. Kojima has spoken about striving to replace the relatively linear nature of previous games in the franchise with a more open, flexible model, presenting a wider range of tactical options and approaches for solving any given mission, and Ground Zeroes endeavors to capture that.

What else is coming:

  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3/Dec. 16) — First released in 2008, this game wraps up the saga of Solid Snake and the Patriots from the first Metal Gear Solid games. It’s available for the first time as a digital download on PlayStation Network this week.
  • Tropico 5: Waterborne (Linux, Mac, Windows/Dec. 17) — This first major expansion to the popular tropical dictator sim/city-builder adds a host of coastal and water-based mechanics for the first time in the series, including a brand new six-scenario campaign.
  • Plenty of Fishies (Wii U/Dec. 18) — This independent game from Nitrolic Games is a family-friendly playground of 2D gameplay with cartoon fish. Numerous single- and multiplayer modes, both collaborative and competitive, give the game quite a bit of variety, with some modes taking advantage of the Wii U gamepad for asymmetric play.