Sunday, June 28, 2009

FEATURE - Future Fine Times of 2009 - Part I


This fall and winter will contain entirely too much awesome to keep track of. But let's try anyway.

I'm not about to list every noteworthy title that will make an appearance between now and New Year's, but every time I try to have a conversation about what looks good in the latter half of 2009, I'm sure I forget more than I remember. It seemed to me I should make a list, and given that applying ink to paper is like, so totally 1985, why not do it up digitally?

Let's break it into three parts: Must-plays, radar hotspots, and awesome games I don't give a crap about. That should cover all the bases, and with 29 games to go through there's no time like the present to get started, is there? Let's begin with...


Because we all love games, but we don't have to love the same ones.

Only the most blessed of gamers have the time and disposable income to play every great title that comes out in a given year, and I am only passably blessed. Perhaps it's that I own a Playstation 3, perhaps it's that tales of the 360's reliability have scared me off a purchase, but I'm more likely to buy a handheld system this year than I am Microsoft's console. So my console of choice leaves me with only a cursory interest in Microsoft's exclusives, and my personal tastes leave me with only a modicum of curiosity in the other guaranteed hits I'll list here.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2

Action-RPG. The sequel to a good super hero game. No, really.

What have I got against Marvel: UA2? Well, nothing really. I've heard very little ill about the original, but I just never picked it up. Too many games on my plate, too little time - and I don't mind that, with all the great titles this year, this is one blockbuster I don't feel the need to shell out for on day one.

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony

Action/sandbox. The standard by which all other DLC is measured.

I have no trouble admitting it: this one, I'm jealous of. If I had a 360 and a free copy of GTA IV to play on it, I would buy it - but I don't know why, really. Despite only playing GTA IV when my buddy Mario hits me up for some online action, not being able to play Lost and Damned and Gay Tony does indeed strike me as a loss. I'm not really big on including downloadable content when we should be talking about actual games, but Rockstar's phenomenal episodic DLC for GTA IV definitely deserves a mention - this studio doesn't do anything half-assed.


Multiplayer FPS, supporting 256 players. Might suck.

A Playstation 3 exclusive? Didn't see that coming, did'ja? At least it's one we can likely agree on. There's a lot that sounds pretty damn appealing about Massive Action Game (not the title, of course) - the idea of an FPS with a persistent world is an interesting idea. 256 player support is very technically impressive - and if the whole thing works, well that's pretty impressive in terms of design. But there are so many 'if's that MAG is one to watch indifferently from afar.

August 4th

Horror FPS. The current-gen return of the first FPS ever made.

To me, Raven Software will always be the crew that made HeXen. They have a measure of credit with me, and I'm always in id's corner - but I haven't read a preview, watched a video or seen a screenshot that convinced me Wolfenstein was a game I wanted to play. Dark, oppressive atmosphere, occult jive clearly going on, killing Nazis... God, I'm bored already. This will have to get some obscenely good reviews to get a rent from me.

The Beatles: Rock Band
September 9th

Social music game. The combination of Beatles and Rock Band will create a powerful convergence of cash cows that will udder in the apocalypse.

Like the folks who purchase a new version of Madden every year, I'm afraid I just can't identify with the fellow who picks up a plastic guitar or beats on plastic drums in the hopes of not fucking up the hit song he's listening to. The classic, dismissive reaction is one I must admit to sharing: why not play a real fucking guitar? Alright, fine - it takes time and patience and dedication - but in the defense of my classic, dismissive reaction I have to note that my brother recently put down the controller and picked up an old acoustic, and he's having a blast with it. As for me? I'll stick with the harmonica. Given my merely passable blessings and romantic history, I've got the blues, baby.

Halo 3: ODST
September 22nd

It's more Halo. Also, it's Halo.

Halo doesn't really inspire middle-ground emotions in most gamers - it's either the second coming of Christ or a merely acceptable FPS with solid gameplay, mediocre art direction and good-enough graphics. Personally, I always thought Halo was pretty darn good - solid gameplay goes a long way in my book - and the idea of a new protagonist with a new take on Halo's principal contribution to the FPS genre - automatically refilling health - makes ODST look attractive, even to me.

Splinter Cell: Conviction

Stealth. The current-gen return of Ubisoft's uber-successful modern espionage series.

I live for stealth games, but this is another one I don't mind missing. Despite a strong showing at E3 this year, the Splinter Cell name carries no weight with me. After years with Agent 47, Solid Snake and Rikimaru, I just never clicked with Sam Fisher's style of stealth. No doubt these games offer something really remarkable that others are able to plug into, but like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, I'm almost glad I never saw the appeal - I just saved myself sixty bucks by not caring.

Modern Warfare 2
November 10th

Classic FPS. Sequel to the best-selling game of the HD consoles, it will be huge.

Yes, fine. Disliking Modern Warfare? Gamer blasphemy! He floats because he's made of wood! (Turned me into a newt!)

It's not that I have any great problem with Call of Duty 4 - it's just that it never really managed to thrill me. It's gorgeous, the gameplay is solid, the online is robust, and I'd rather spend my time playing BioShock or The Darkness. The first-person perspective, to me, really lends itself to experiencing a unique setting or adventure - and CoD4: Modern Warfare just never blew my skirt up. Another sixty bucks I'm happy to keep - maybe I'll give this one a rental.

Left 4 Dead 2
November 17th

Co-op multiplayer horror FPS. The original is generally considered one of the best co-op games ever made.

Total honesty: I've never played Left 4 Dead, and so my opinion is wholly invalid. But it's my bloody blog, so I'm free to say that although I love everything I've played by Valve, I feel no great loss that L4D does not appear on my console of choice. Would I love to blast some zombies with my buddies? Absolutely. Can I see the experience getting old real fast? Totally.

Before you roll up your Angry Sleeves and flame the hell out of me, allow me to reiterate: I fully expect the games listed above will do rather well, will be recieved rather well by critics, and be considered must-own titles by many gamers. Just not by me.

Moving on...

Part II : radar hotspots
Part III : must-plays

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