by Hilary Tardiff (with triple zro)
Gentlemen, gird your loins.
We are close now, teetering on the brink of the season of seasons.
Video game season.
We stare, wide-eyed with excitement as the list grows and grows. Sequels are announced, reboots are hyped, brand new titles are unveiled. Our fingers dance over previews and screenshots and leaked weapon lists. We’re excited. I’m excited. The rest of the year, we’re lucky to get a few gems, a title that draws us to the midnight release, or at least that semi-regretted expenditure, and of course the indie releases. But now, now, as early as the end of October the flood gates open and we are deluged with promise and potential that no single human could possibly keep up with. And excitement becomes flustered irritation. At least for some.
Lucky for you, there’s me. I have narrowed the list to the titles I’m the most excited about. The long-awaited sequels, the controversial reboots, new names I hope will blow my mind.
These are my picks. Therefore the only ones you need to concern yourself with. Get a pen, take notes. This will be on the test.
13. Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 – January 15, 2013
For a simple low budget, low concept game, the first Sniper: Ghost Warrior was surprisingly fun, almost entirely due to one thing: Bullet Cam. In the case of games with weak voice acting, a meek campaign and uncomplicated mission structure, it is rare to see it stand on the legs of a gimmick. And yet. The sequel seems to be poised for some serious highbrow FPS recognition. It doesn’t hurt that it has been constructed with CryEngine 3. And for you shooter fans out there who gleefully rub your hands together at the opening of every sniper mission and then snarl in disgust when you’re forced to cast aside that beloved sniper rifle and horded ammo to proceed nerfed through the rest of the game, this is your junk food. I look forward to hours of careful shots, rewarded with slow-motion feasts of carnage, body-shattering center mass shots, spine-snapping head shots. There may even be a decent story in here. But if nothing else, Ghost Warrior 2 will be fun. You can count on it.
12. Planetside 2 – TBA
In the world of MMO, I am not a fast fan. In fact, I usually flee, screaming unintelligible profanities. But M.A.G. impressed me, if only in concept, though I was irritated with the PS3 platform. The idea of such a massive battlefield, carefully organized by developers into something worth my time, worth your time, always seemed a bit unicorn-ish. But Planetside 2 may actually deliver. For the sake of full disclosure, I have not played Planetside, nor do I plan to. But I eagerly await the sequel and look forward to being swept off my feet by expert execution of a lion of a concept. Something like this, well done, could steal fire from other established multiplayer giants. Something like this could change things still more in the gaming world. Additionally, the idea of free-to-play is fundamentally heartwarming. I’m rooting for this one. A lot.
11. Beyond: Two Souls – 2013
“From the makers of Heavy Rain.” For a lot of you, that’s all you needed to hear. And it’s true. Something in the vein of an artful masterwork as unique and delicately crafted as Heavy Rain has a lot going for it. I am looking forward to the engrossing story that Two Souls promises, I am looking forward to playing a game starring Ellen Page. I am looking forward to the beauty of the graphics and the dark, eerie design. Fans of the high-concept super stories, like Alan Wake and (obviously) Heavy Rain should put this one on their lists. Fans of unsettling traditional titles like Silent Hill should consider getting interested. It’s games like this that are revolutionizing the very idea of video games. In my estimation, the only thing that could kill this game is a bad story, but the nature of the game is such that without a good one, it will be almost pointless to play. I’m skeptical, but I’m excited.
10. Dishonored – October 9, 2012
With familiar names from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Half-Life 2, Dishonored has the potential to deliver an engrossing, unique and deeply provocative experience. Set in a fictional Victorian steampunk city where magic and the supernatural exist in the shadows, the gameplay focuses specifically on a player-controlled story pacing. Cut scenes are minimal and exploration is encouraged, however the world is not open. A good thing, in my opinion, as this will aid in focusing the game into a story not otherwise artificially controlled. For the story-driven gamer, this could be gold. Look forward to an experience comparable in vibe and gameplay to Deus Ex:HR but unique enough in its own right to stand apart.
9. Dead Space 3 – February 5, 2013
For the horror survivalists out there, if you haven’t partaken in the delicious gore-fest that is the Dead Space franchise, get your fucking act together. For the moody sci-fi fans, if blood and carnage aren’t major turn-offs, then hop on board. Dead Space always delivers a creepy, unsettling, genuinely frightening experience. The story itself is thick and rich, with carefully, deeply rooted mythology to give it some added spine. The character Isaac is fast becoming legend, but you should already know that. I welcome a third installment. You should, too. Turn off the lights, fire it up on the big screen and strap in.
8. DMC, Devil May Cry – January 15, 2013
I know, I know. DMC and the audacity of a Devil May Cry reboot may be polarizing the fanbase, but I fall somewhere around, if Dante is still that sarcastic BAMF with a dirty streak, if he still fights demon scum with the same – how shall we say? – panache, then I’m on board. Reboots seem to be the word of the decade and frankly, I welcome it. I am interested in a story line in which Dante is younger. In which the world is, obviously, somewhat different. In response to those who say that Dante has been ruined to his core, made too emo or dark, I disagree. What limited footage I’ve seen seems to confirm the opposite. I have my share of reservations about this one when it comes to the story, but really, who doesn’t love executing flawless combos on a horde of goo-born demon ladies?
7. Tomb Raider – March 5, 2013
This has a serious amount of potential. To see such a legend re-imagined for a new generation of gamers is going to be truly amazing. And I say that while raising my glass to the originals. I like the idea of taking the story back to the beginning, rather than callously retconning the entire franchise. I look forward to dragging Lara, shivering and horrified, to that place where she became the hard, cold badass we all love. Not only are the developers respecting the original games, they are inviting us behind the curtain, so to speak, letting us help them make Lara the legend, while also giving us glorious new material. Well done, gentlemen. The feel of this one is considerably darker than previous Tomb Raiders. And the gameplay looks comparable to, say, Uncharted. I think fans of both will dig into this with violent abandon. I think both will be satisfied.
Stay tuned for Part 2…