Thursday, January 20, 2011

The first four months of 2011: Lookin' good.

Hokay, so the retrospective of 2010 is all wrapped up - two awesome games have already been released this year, so it's high time we started looking ahead! Release dates start to get hazy around the April/May mark, so we'll plant our flag there - but I'll try to be as comprehensive as possible, when it comes to the important games on the near horizon.

Let's get to it.

January 25th (next Tuesday!)
Visceral Games (PS3, 360, PC)
Hype-O-Meter - day one.

EA Redwood Shores may have dropped the ball with last year's uninspired Dante's Inferno, and while they weren't able to successfully iterate on God of War's formula, faith remains that they'll hit one out of the park with their own original property.

While it was well-received, most people only tended to appreciate the first game in hindsight - so let us be clear: Dead Space is an incredible game, a successful riff on the modern action-horror genre which allows you to explore a fantastically well-realized world. If Dead Space 2 even manages to be more of the same, it'll be an exceptional title.

February 25th
Capcom (PS3, 360)
Hype-O-Meter - for me? Zilch. For folks who love fighters? Day one.

Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, uniquely, managed to break free of Street Fighter's shadow back in 2000 and carve its own place in the world of fighting games. It is unquestionably the most-anticipated fighter of the year, easily out-hyping the back-to-its-roots Mortal Kombat reboot.

With its beloved property, a roster of over 40 characters and the series' trademark lightning-fast combat intact, MvC3 is a shoe-in for fighting game of the year for 2011.

February 22nd
Guerrilla Games (PS3)
Hype-O-Meter - high.

Oddly, I don't talk much about Killzone 3. I expect it to be a great game, but perhaps that's part of why I don't bring it up much - it's such a known quantity. I expect it to be a bit better than Killzone 2 - and Killzone 2 was a tour-de-force of stunning graphical prowess, incredible atmosphere and first-person shooting gameplay that actually managed to feel unique, thanks to the weighty weapons.

Killzone 3 will be more of the same, but better - and it's very likely a day-one pickup for me. I'm just not as excited for it as I am for Bulletstorm.

February 22nd
People Can Fly (PS3, 360, PC)
Hype-O-Meter - day one.

People Can Fly is best known for zany FPS Painkiller and the PC port of Gears of War. This year, furiously successful developer Epic Games purchased the studio, and let them do their own thing.

Turns out, their own thing is another zany, over-the-top FPS that harkens back to the golden age of the genre, with a few original mechanics thrown in for good measure. The game appears - from this distance - to be more concerned with fun and playability than anything else.

I usually only pin my hopes on one or two unproven properties a year - and this is my #1 dark horse for 2011.

March 8th
BioWare (PS3, 360, PC)
Hype-O-Meter - day one.

RPG video games got their start on the foundation laid in Dungeons & Dragons, and the modern desire to constantly push at the limits of the genre has given us far-removed properties like Mass Effect, Fallout, Deus Ex and Resonance of Fate. It is, in fact, rare to play an RPG that recalls the sweeping, romantic swords and sorcery setting we once directly associated with the genre - and BioWare's Dragon Age is the answer to that unsated appetite.

It doesn't hurt that they are the premier western studio, when it comes to RPGs, and have perhaps a better handle on writing than 98% of developers. If their last three games are anything to go on, Dragon Age II is likely to be one of the best RPGs of the year.

March 15th
Capcom (DS)
Hype-O-Meter - 50/50.

Is Okamiden (a) a soulless attempt to cash in on the fanatical affection some folks have for the critically acclaimed original, (b) a labor of love for a small internal Capcom studio or (c) the only way we were ever going to see a sequel to Clover Studio's inspired Zelda riff? If you answered (d) all of the above, you're very likely correct.

Aside from a few Shin Megami Tensei offerings, this is the only DS game I have ever spoken about on the blog. Regular readers will know, I don't actually have a DS. I have every system except for the DS - but I will be watching this title very closely to discern if I need to change that.

I don't have much faith that it will live up to the original - which I've no difficulty proclaiming a masterpiece - but if it manages to be the game I and others hope, it could be worth buying a system for.

March 15th
CS1 Team (PS3)
Hype-O-Meter - hmm...

I keep on wanting to dive into the Yakuza series - ever since I saw the original on the rack at Blockbuster - but I can never bring myself to invest any time (or money) into the possibility that I could love the series. It certainly seems like a property I should love - it's a localized version of a game with intensely Japanese modern flavor, and I heart those - but I remain standoffish.

Still, I'm very happy to see that, unlike with the excruciating wait for news of a Yakuza 3 localization, Yakuza 4 was almost immediately announced as coming to our shores.

Honestly, it makes me want to buy it just to support more publishers doing precisely that.

March 22nd
Crytek Frankfurt, Crytek UK (PS3, 360, PC)
Hype-O-Meter - medium-high.

This is one of those games that could be awesome - if it proves to be more than just a pretty face.

Having not been a PC gamer since I broke free of a debilitating WoW addiction years ago, Crytek and the Crysis have no credit with me. I've seen those stunning Crysis screenshots and seen (admittedly gorgeous) trailers for the upcoming sequel - and it certainly has piqued my interest - but I'm not really prepared to give Crysis 2 the benefit of the doubt, yet.

At the very least, I can guarantee I'll be giving this a rental - a proclamation of low confidence I only throw at one or two games a year.

April 19th
Valve (PC, PS3, 360)
Hype-O-Meter - day one.

I won't insult you by explaining it to you. It's the sequel to Portal, and the PS3 version is set to have all kinds of awesome extras (like, for example, the PC version of Portal 2.)

April 27th
Splash Damage (PS3, 360, PC)
Hype-O-Meter - medium.

Like Bulletstorm, Brink is poised to be one of the surprise hits of the year. Lesser-known developer Splash Damage (Enemy Territory: Quake Wars) has promised a first-person shooter with a very exciting take on movement.

That said, the post linked above is the only other post I've ever made about Brink. To me it's just another multiplayer FPS - and the FPS that can actually get me to invest a great deal of time in its multiplayer component is an FPS I haven't met yet.

At the same time... if they do manage to pull off their ambition for movement? Well, damn. We've got one of the next steps in modern gaming, don't we?

* * *

At this point, we run out of release dates and start moving into release windows - which I won't bother you with. Other notable titles on the near horizon include the Team ICO Collection, inFamous 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, L.A. Noire and the actual, factual release of Duke Nukem Forever.

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