For non-gamers the holiday period is straight forward. You spend most of your cash on presents for a jolly old fat man with nine enslaved reindeers to deliver to your friends and family. With Christmas dealt with, New Years rolls around for to you to spend what’s left of your cash on getting unbelievably drunk and having an awkward fumble with someone or something that will haunt you until your dying day (or when your friends stop humiliatingly bringing it up a month later). With the holiday experience now complete you can let your bank balance recover and move on into the brave new world, sadly for us gamers, things aren’t so straight forward.
While we must juggle all the holiday obligations a non-gamer does, we also must face the inevitable end of year releases. So far this winter we’ve had Call of Duty: Black Ops, Gran Turismo 5, World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm, Fallout: New Vegas, Kinect and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood to name just a few titles piling extra strain on our wallets and purses. Yet we will struggle through and survive with barely a penny to our name only to find that 2011 stands waiting, not with open arms and a loving bosom, but with a baseball bat of new releases aiming right where it hurts. Your coin purse.
I submit to you dear gamer a warning of what early 2011 has in store for both your wallet and your gaming pleasure:
DC Universe Online
PC and PS3 – January – 11th
DC Universe Online recently went into beta on both PS3 and PC so there’s a chance you may have already got your super powered mitts on it already, so far the MMORPG seems to be living up to DC fans expectations although it is early days. When you first begin your adventure into the comic world you’ll naturally need to create your character. This will require you to choose one of the main DC heroes or villains to be the inspiration of your creation, (Superman being the favourite choice in beta) from the Green Lantern to Deathstrike the choice is yours. The DC world is also very nicely realised especially Gotham and Metropolis, Gotham is the dark and grim experience you’d expect where as Metropolis is a bright and more vibrant affair.
Console MMO’s haven’t had the best of times so far on the new generation of consoles but hopefully SOE have found a way to bring the PC experience to the PS3. I’ve only dabbled with MMO’s myself and while Star Wars: The Old Republic has had me chasing up every bit of information since its announcement, I am looking forward to giving the full release some decent hours. My hope is that I’ll get hooked in the comic world and find my MMO fix that has eluded me since the good old days of early Star Wars Galaxies. While MMO’s aren’t everyone’s cup of tea the beta is free to PS+ subscribers so you may want to give it a go, if only to see how Sony’s attempt at a PS3 MMO fairs.
PS3 – January 18th
The sequel to the original imaginarium that spawned over 2.5 million user submitted levels to the PlayStation Network since its release. The follow up to the critically acclaimed hit from Media Molecule is offering even more fantastically inventive challenges for gamers to tackle. If creating in LittleBigPlanet was more your thing they are also adding a bevy of new tools to the creation interface, which the developers claim to have used to build the very game itself. The LittleBigPlanet community have given birth to some unbelievable stuff with the original so if this claim is true we could see something very special appear from them with the sequel. Plus LBP2 will see Stephen Fry return, what more could a Sackboy want.
Mass Effect 2
PS3 – January 18th
Commander Shepard brings the Normandy and her crew to PS3 owners for the first time. Having wowed the gaming world for what will have been a year come release, Playstation owners will finally get to grips with BioWare’s epic at long last. A new enemy has arisen, silently abducting human colonies on the fringes of the galaxy, this forces Shepard to team up with human extremists Cerberus. Shepard must assemble an elite team of allies, old and new, to take part in a suicide mission to save mankind. With the first of the trilogy remaining an XBOX 360 exclusive, PS3 owners who missed out on the battles with Saren will be treated to a “Story so far” video narrated by Martin Sheen to bring them up to date with the Commander’s bad assery.
BioWare’s Mass Effect series is one of the best in gaming and the second was my own personal game of the year. I can’t urge PS3 owners who haven’t taken on the role of Shepard to pick it up enough, you won’t be disappointed.
Dead Space 2
XBOX 360, PS3 and PC – January 25th (Demo Out Now)
The sequel to the 2008 hit tears engineer Isaac Clarke from one space nightmare into another. Waking from a coma aboard a large space station known as “The Sprawl” Isaac must battle not only the Necromophs but his own mind as he tries to survive a new horror. The key to the first game was the nerve shredding experience and oppressive feel Visceral Games created but with the follow up you really do get the feeling that the developers are determined to one-up themselves in all departments. Boasting a new arsenal of tools at his disposal to maim and dismember as well as an intriguing new multiplayer mode, Visceral Games might just do it.
Marvel vs Capcom 3
Xbox 360 PS3 and PC – February 15th
Marvel vs Capcom 2 will forever hold a place in my heart, from its “I want to take you for a ride” character select screen song to its “Don’t you want a rematch?” continue voice over. Behind all of the delightfully cheesy exterior was one of the most hyper and enjoyable fighting experiences I have ever had in a beat em’ up. The series large and wide ranging character list has always offered some fantastic and unlikely team ups in the past the third instalment will be no different. MvC3 will boast around 40 fighters ranging from series favourites like Wolverine, Ryu and Magneto to new offerings such as Wesker, Super-Skrull, Arthur (of Ghouls N’ Ghosts fame) and Lady Deathstrike. The game looks glorious running on the SSF4 engine and is ready to recapture the same brilliantly frantic gameplay we love about the series.
The Conduit 2
Wii – February 15th
Through the seemingly endless stream of god awful party games that force unimaginative waggle controls on you, the Wii does still get some quality titles. Games like The Conduit, games that try to live up to the potential that we all saw in the console before the drudge took over. Of course the first Conduit wasn’t without its flaws but it was a very likeable game with a well done and customizable control system. While the story of the sequel may be a little uninspiring (travelling the far reaches of the world as you try to fend off an Alien invasion) the gameplay should make up for it. The developers have looked to improve the multiplayer for the shooter with the introduction of its own version of Gears horde mode allowing up to four players to fight against waves of aliens. Sega have claimed that The Conduit 2 has the best online multiplayer experience on the Wii with a more traditional 12 player competitive online mode also being offered. The Conduit 2 is one of the few games that try to live up to the reason you bought a Wii in the first place, so think about dusting off your Wii remote and give this a try.
XBOX 360, PS3 and PC – February 22nd
While I enjoy a gritty, serious shooter as much as the next person, they can become a bit same-y or take themselves a bit too seriously. Sometimes we need a game that reminds us exactly why we love video games and more specifically, shooters in the first place. That’s where People Can Fly’s Bulletstorm comes in. In a gaming world where most first person shooters are trying to be or look like Call of Duty, this bucks the trend. Bullestorm is an unapologetic, balls to the wall, action-packed FPS that wants you to not only kill anything that gets in your way but do it with a bit of panache. Yet while it may seem like the games story is just an afterthought, People Can Fly also brought in Rick Remender, the comic writer who penned “Franken-Castle”, “Fear Agent” and soon the new “Venom” series, to bring the games story to life. Every time I see this game in action I can’t help but smile, it’s big, it’s bright, it’s bold and it might just be one of the most genuinely fun games to appear in 2011.
PS3 – February 22nd
Guerrilla set themselves a pretty big task when they first began the Killzone series, with it being touted as the Halo killer there were some pretty big shoes needing to be filled and so far it has struggled to do it. Before fans tear me apart, Killzone 1 and 2 are by no means bad games, far from it, they just have had the unenviable problem of the hype machine going into overdrive as soon as there announced (though that has been as much self inflicted as it has been media induced).
With the third installment now fast approaching, some are seeing it as the ultimate test for Guerrilla, a chance for them to finally deliver on the high expectations that have been heaped on the series and avoid falling slightly short again. Is the third time a charm?
Dragon Age 2
XBOX 360, PS3 and PC – March 3rd
As I mentioned in previous news stories I’ve covered on BioWare, I’m a big fan of the games they put out but I must admit this is one of the few games that I did struggle get into. That’s purely personal preference on my part though as I’ve always had a slight issue with games that are more Tolkien-esque as opposed to the more futuristic worlds of FF8, KoTOR or Mass Effect.
Dragon Age 1 was a brilliant game by all accounts and even through my tinted space visor even I can see it, but BioWare are ready to go one better. The story will follow your rise from a lowly refugee on to greater and more powerful things, set in a world where your actions and decisions will shape it around you over an entire decade. BioWare never fail to put together an enthralling story but Dragon Age 2 has set out to be one of its most ambitiously dynamic stores yet.
Shogun 2 – Total War
PC – March 15th
The Creative Assembly revisit the title and era that debuted their Total War series in 2000 with an all new instalment. The highly addictive RTS series has always spawned top quality games; each one has brought increasingly stunning battle fields and more geographical regions to conquer. This time however the multiple regions have been sacrificed for a huge, beautifully detailed map of feudal Japan and more intricate gameplay within the country. Set in a highly volatile time in Japan’s history where no central authority holds rule, ten leaders will battle for control of the nation.
There are literally tons of new features and improvements being added to this new Total War game and too many to cover fully in a small synopsis like this. However a few of the game changes will see politics taking a more important role as you battle for territory, new customisation options for units and commanders, a new take on naval battles and an overhaul of castle sieges. This really could be the most in-depth and complete Total War experience to date.
PC, PS3 and XBOX 360 – March 22nd
Speaking of stunning looking games, that brings us nicely to Crysis 2, where warzones never looked so pretty. Running on the new CryEngine 3, Crysis 2 sees the aliens returning to earth this time with a full invasion force in tow and headed straight for one of the world’s most iconic cities, New York. With the US army unable to defend the city from the invaders, the aliens now walk the streets picking off any foolish enough to have stuck around. If aliens weren’t enough to make you run for the hills a plague is also engulfing the occupied city. One man won’t be moved however – you.
Armed with the Nanosuit 2, it’s time to stand up for your fellow man and drive this alien scum out of the Big Apple. Aside from a gripping single player campaign Crysis 2 also brings an improved and intense multiplayer. Rather than a straight forward online FPS shooting experience the Nanosuit module upgrades mix things up as you progress up the 80 levels and unlock 21 different abilities. (The developers claim it should take up to 80 hours to achieve the full 80 ranks.) Crysis 1 set a high bench mark for new PC shooters in 2007; can it do the same in 2011 and this time on your console?
With the Nintendo 3DS launching in Japan in February, a March release has been pencilled in for the rest of the world, which hopefully Nintendo will be able to make as the 3DS has great potential. While the 3D without glasses is an obvious huge draw to the handheld that’s not what has got me excited about its release, for me it’s the new hardware powering the system (though handheld 3D movies would be pretty sweet.) The reason the DS was able to fend off Sony’s PSP was not only the quality of its games but also the fresh, wide ranging gaming experiences it had to offer. The chance of having a further impressive catalogue of games all running on sexier looking and more powerful hardware has me ready to pick one up.
(As with the release date of the handheld itself the launch titles outside of Japan are still waiting for confirmation, below though is the best of what the Japanese can find on their shelves on day one and the most likely to make the launch over here. )
Expected 3DS Launch Titles:
Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
The N64 classic is reborn in 3D form this march to make those planes, trains and automobile rides a lot more enjoyable. Those worried they’ll be scaring fellow travellers with expletive rage quits needn’t worry as Nintendo have made the water temple a little easier.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D
If Super Street Fighter 4 being playable on your toilet or during a break at work wasn’t appealing enough Capcom has added two new features that will allow you to take part in some literal street fighting. Granted one of which is the automated figurine collection battle but the other offers up the chance of having versus action on the way to work with a fellow traveller. I’m sold on it already.
Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle
The Professor Layton games have been consistently great on the DS so expect the same high quality mind bending puzzles and who-done-it story in the 3DS debut. With improved animation and a graphics overhaul, the Professor’s newest adventure should be even better.
Nintendo returns to another beloved N64 game nearly 15 years since its last outing. While early details and screenshots have contained a bit more Mii’s than some would like, (with the Wii Resort island Wuhu being included in the game) the overall gameplay doesn’t seem to have changed too much from what fans of the series have been begging for.
Also For Your Consideration:
Fight Night Champions
XBOX 360 and PS3 – March 1st
PS3 – March 15th
XBOX 360 and PS3 – March 22nd
Phew! I’m starting to feel a little better about Deus Ex slipping from its Q1 release now. Granted those who don’t have the luxury of owning a 360 and PS3 have an easier time of it early next year that’s still an impressive amount of games coming up. Despite the havoc it plays on our purse strings having so many promising titles released so close together, it is a nice way to kick off a fresh gaming year of hope and excitement. So let’s look forward to 2011 and all the gaming offerings it will bring us. You’ll laugh, you’ll scream, you’ll swear and some of you may even cry but a year from now you’ll be ready to do it all over again.
Happy New Year!