Come, brethren, let us pray. Let us pray these titles don't suck.
With so many games coming out every year, each and every title needs to jostle and push to get our attention. Once a game turns up on your Radar of Awareness, it is generally accompanied by a kernel of hope that the game will deliver on what your imagination promises. Last year I had my eye on Force Unleashed and Legendary, and they... well, didn't quite deliver. But the tiniest blip on my radar - a pretty little strategy RPG called Valkyria Chronicles - turned out to be one of the best games of the year.
These are titles that have potential - that could be awesome. But we'll just have to wait and see.
Max Payne 3
Bullet-time third-person shooter. I hope.
Rockstar Vancouver have a dash of credit with me - I thought Bully was an absolutely remarkable game - but the more I hear about Max Payne 3 (the first title in the series not developed by the original team over at Remedy) the less I want to know. Classic, gritty-handsome American Tough Guy Max is now an overweight, bald, bearded badass in a wifebeater. The atmospheric, noiry New York setting has been replaced by Brazil. They tossed Max's voice actor, and added a cover system. I think I just threw up in my mouth.
Action-adventure RPG. Plus a brooding, violent protagonist. Plus Zelda?
Darksiders is practically the poster child for The Radar Blip Game That May or May Not Suck. Last year it looked empty, lifeless and uninteresting - but recent gameplay trailers have shown it to be an ambitious title with great art direction and big action. That, plus hearing it's "sort of like Zelda" is enough to warrant some attention.
Action adventure. It's EA's take on the God of War formula.
Of all the titles in this section, Dante's Inferno wins the Least Likely To Suck award, despite EA's morally questionable promotions. It's a blatant rip of God of War, from the vaguely historical setting to the combat system (if you're going to copy, copy the best), but it's worth keeping an eye on simply because it was made by EA Redwood Shores. The thing is, prior to last fall Redwood Shores was... nothing. They made licensed Simpsons games and expansion packs for The Sims. But - when they were finally loosed from their chains and set forth do make the project they wanted to make - we ended up with Dead Space. So, based on that one brilliant success, I'm willing to give the company that idiotically changed their name to Visceral Games the benefit of the doubt, and keep a close eye on Dante's Inferno.
Red Dead Redemption
Third-person shooter, sandbox. GTA + RDR = potential.
Rockstar Games is considered to be the undisputed king of open-world games, but Rockstar San Diego...? Not so much. This is the crew that puts out the Midnight Club racing games with such alarming regularity (yes, I know they're open-world), but perhaps their most notable title is the original Red Dead Revolver. It had good-enough shooting, a good-enough story, and bloody amazing art direction and music, perfectly capturing the feel of a spaghetti western. It... also went a little far, what with the psycho clown crew, and so whenever I feel like spending some time in the old west I tend to reach for Neversoft's GUN. GUN didn't do very well, and so my hopes of spending more time in a grand, beautiful open-world wild-west setting seemed dashed...
Until Rockstar announced Red Dead Redemption, and revealed it would be running on the RAGE engine - just like GTA IV. So far I'm prepared to say the game looks great, and if some of the talent from Rockstar North head over to the states to lend San Diego a hand in story and third-person action, Red Dead Redemption could be one of the best games of the year.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Stealth brawler. A super hero game that looks really good. But then... most of them do.
This one looks so good, it almost deserves to be in the next section. The graphics look great, the gameplay actually seems to hold true to Batman's style, they've got the voice talent from the Warner Brothers animated series, and Paul Dini is helping to write it. Arkham Asylum has so much going for it, I'm probably going to give it a rental regardless of its reception come August. You've hurt me before, Superhero Games... I daren't trust you again. But I want to believe.
Adorable action. Featuring adorable ninjas, adorable forest animals and likely some adorable enemies to kill (adorably).
I was as angry as the next fellow when I heard IO Interactive was following up the less-than-stellar Kane & Lynch with a kiddie ninja game instead of what they should have made in the first place: a new Hitman title. But over the months, the media has won me over, and I'm now eagerly looking forward to tossing Mini Ninjas a rental. I'm not saying it's a GotY contender, I'm just saying it has the potential to be a helluva lot of fun.
Post-apocalyptic FPS RPG. But not Fallout.
To be honest, I barely care about Borderlands. But it has that spark of potential that makes it worth a mention. Unfortunately, the only reason it has a prominent place on my radar is it's much touted new art direction, which doesn't make me a very hopeful fellow - but it has lit the fires of my imagination. Gearbox Software's employees have some impressive pedigrees - even if the company's own track record is less than stellar.
Action RPG. A promising crack at the spy genre.
I know, it's being published by Sega - but don't let that turn you off! This is being made by Obsidian (previously Black Isle), the folks behind Knights of the Old Republic II and Neverwinter Nights 2. They're also the crew Bethesda has trusted Fallout: Vegas with, but pedigree aside I am really turned on by what they've actually shown of Alpha Protocol so far. An under-represented genre, huge amounts of character customization and (what appears to be) very open-ended mission design make this a definite one to watch.
PART I: awesome games i don't give a crap about
PART III: must-plays