Sunday, November 13, 2011

Looking ahead - early 2012.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations drops in two days and Skyward Sword is next Sunday, but beyond those two? All of 2012's major releases are present and accounted for.

Usually, by this time of year, I have a better sense of what to look forward to in the new year - but this year I've been so swept away in the releases of the last three months that I haven't had time to sit down and think about what's over the horizon.

Well, now's the time, I reckon. Oh also - I'll use tiny screenshots for games without box shots, and it's worth noting that when you're looking this far ahead, release dates are subject to change.

January 8th
Buyability - very doubtful.

NeverDead is a concept game that I suspect will come and go with little fanfare. It plays a new riff on the been-there-done-that third person shooter formula with the ability to rip yourself apart and throw bits of you around to solve puzzles (throw your head into a room to hit a button, roll it out the open door).

For the simple fact that it's a bit different, it deserves attention - but I'll offer no assurances of quality.

Final Fantasy XIII-2
January 31st
Buyability - not for me, thanks.

I'm not sure how many people really want a sequel to Final Fantasy XIII - but perhaps XIII-2 will address all the issues folks took with XIII and re-convert a legion of disillusioned Final Fantasy fanboys.

I didn't mind my time with XIII, but admittedly, that lasted only thirty hours or so - riiight up until I picked up the 360 and started playing Alan Wake. That said, if you've been feeling burnt by the lack of HD JRPGs, here's the next big thing (until Ni No Kuni comes out).

Soul Calibur V
January 31st
Buyability - not my style.

Talk to me when Virtua Fighter V: Final Showdown is coming - Soul Calibur was never my thing. I've been trying to like these games since I played the original in the arcade, and never really got what everyone was freaking out over.

There haven't been many announced fighters for 2012 - this and VFV:FS are pretty much it - and there's no denying Soul Calibur has the larger fan base.

Devil May Cry HD Collection
February 7th
Buyability - unless reviews tell me it's a shoddy port, I'm gonna' have to.

It's rather distressing that the first game of 2012 that interests me is a port of one crappy and two fantastic PS2 games. For folks who only really got into gaming on the current gen and don't appreciate what the original Devil May Cry did for modern action games (you have no idea how much God of War owes this series), this collection is likely some required reading for enthusiasts looking to glean a greater understanding of how the modern brawler came to be.

Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition
February 7th
Buyability - pretty darn good.

I've been too busy to ever return to the Mojave wasteland - never touched any of the DLC - and that's rather stuck in my craw, given how much affection I have for New Vegas. If this release comes out at a reasonable ($30-$50) price, I'll likely be unable to stop myself from snapping it up, given that New Vegas was almost entirely awesome.

February 7th
Buyability - this one bears watching.

Like NeverDead, Inversion is a third person shooter with a twist. From what I can tell, aliens are attacking and mucking about with Earth's gravity - and this makes for a shooter that plays by very different rules. You can be running down the side of a skycraper one moment and clinging to it for dear life the next, as gravity fields realign themselves - and apparently it makes throwing grenades a whole new game, as they loop in and out of opposing fields.

Inversion has potential. Given that it's a new IP, it's unlikely to live up to the presentation standard of our beloved franchises - but hey, so was Dead Space, Darksiders and Mirror's Edge.

The Darkness II
February 7th
Buyability - possibly...

A new developer, a very stylized (cartoon-ish) art style and an emphasis on very gross executions don't have me really jazzed about The Darkness II, which is a shame, given that Starbreeze Studios' The Darkness was one of the early cult hits of the current gen.

The first game was way smarter than one had any right to expect it to be, from the incredible To Kill A Mockingbird scene to the brilliant riff on the classic 'Hell level' - and while I'm actually very fond of The Darkness IP (it's one of the few comic books I actually read, as a lad) - I don't have very high hopes for this sequel.

Ninja Gaiden III
February 14th
Buyability - not for me.

Given that Ninja Gaiden's reboot was temporarily exclusive to the Xbox 360, back when I didn't have an Xbox 360, I have developed no affection for the brand. I tried demos for Sigma and Sigma 2, but it never clicked with me in the same way Kamiya-esque brawlers do.

Ryu Hayabusa has more than his share of fans - unless Team Ninja find a way to muck this up, it's sure to be another hot ticket item.

February 14th
Buyability - day one.

Finally. I have to wait until a month and a half into 2012 for a game I'm well and truly excited for, but SSX more than fills the bill.

I have been dying for a current-gen SSX title. This is the only racing franchise I've really enjoyed since the original Mario Kart, and I cannot wait to rip my way down a mountain, doing ridiculous tricks off three-hundred foot drops, jamming to an awesome soundtrack while an avalanche plays catch-up just behind me.

Asura's Wrath
February 21st
Buyability - very likely.

Naturally, one week after a game I'm going to have to play and review, comes another game I'll likely have to play and review.

Asura's Wrath has a great deal going for it. It's visually striking, it features some groovy new takes on the standard brawler formula and it's made by the folks behind those gorgeous Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games. Given that I was rather fond of UNS2 - particularly the presentation - I'll be keeping a very, very close eye on Asura's Wrath.

February 21st
Buyability - not likely.

Syndicate is the current-gen reboot of a classic strategy game. They turned it from an isometric shooter/RPG into a first-person shooter because shooters are big, nowadays - and that tells me all I need to know, really.

If this is anything more than the tired cash-in of a franchise name, I'll be pleasantly surprised - and speaking of brand-name cash-ins...

March 6th
Buyability - dependent on reviews.

Like Syndicate, X-COM was an old rock-hard strategy RPG. Like Syndicate it has been re-imagined as an FPS and unlike Syndicate I actually find myself rather interested in it.

It's just the art direction and world building, I think. I love the idea of tooling around as a 1950s G-man, hunting aliens with just-post-steampunk technology and a twelve-gauge shotgun. I'll be keeping a close eye on this one.

Mass Effect 3
March 6th
Buyability - pretty good...

Full disclosure - I never finished Mass Effect, and while I put a lot more time into its sequel, I never finished that, either. Too many awesome games kept coming out, and I ended up forgetting to return to it.

Given the major lull in demanding releases throughout January, I hope I'm able to return to the Mass Effect universe and get myself prepped for 3 - either way, this is the first truly major release of 2012, and I'm probably going to have to day-one it.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
March 20th
Buyability - low.

Operation Raccon City seems, to me, like nothing more than an attempt by Capcom to win the multiplayer shooter crowd. It's third-person Left 4 Dead by the makers of the original zombie game - and while, thanks to Shinji Mikami's work in RE4, the shooting mechanics of recent RE games are perfectly solid - I don't expect big things from this bald-faced attempt to capitalize on the co-op shooter craze.

In recent years, Capcom has earned a reputation as a publisher who puts as little actual content as possible into their games. I don't have high hopes for Raccoon City.

Dragon's Dogma
March 27th
- pretty good!

Similar to Raccoon City, I get the sense Dragon's Dogma is Capcom's attempt to capitalize on he success of Demon's Souls and western-developed open-world RPGS. That said, I think this one looks pretty cool.

It's open-world, if you're not playing online you can utilize a team of AI-controlled helpers, and you run around the game killing gigantic hydras and dragons and chimeras.

That sounds pretty awesome.

Max Payne 3
March (no date yet)
Buyability - day one.

Max Payne 3 appears, with recent dev journals, to be precisely what one wants from the storied franchise. No, I'm still not a fan of Max's eventual makeover - but in terms of function, this seems to be the game I've been waiting for since the credits rolled at the close of the criminally underrated Max Payne 2.

* * *

Early 2012 is certainly not as jam-packed with excellence as the first few months of 2011 or even 2010. We'll have to wait until February to get anything of substance, but to be honest - after the August-Sept-Octo-November rush, I could do with a bit of a break.

That's not to say I'll take one - but I like the idea. And where the heck is Darksiders 2?

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