It’s 2012, and if the Mayan calendar has its way, then we are all dust come Dec. 21. Grab your loved ones, hold them close, and make peace with your maker before that time. 2012 marks the beginning of the end of days (potentially) and you need to live like you’ve got nothing to lose. Don’t go steal a car or anything (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) but it might be time to turn over a new leaf and live a different life to make up for that time in Cancun in ’03. Seems some video game developers are heeding this advice, reinventing storied franchises and IP’s to see if a new look might be just the ticket to salvation...of a franchise. Here is our list of the five games this year that aren’t putting on the Nikes and drinking the Kool-Aid with the end upon us.
Halo: Reach was great, but not the blockbuster end to anything if Microsoft’s investors had anything to say about it. It’s a bankable series. So, take the IP and hand it to 343i. Enter: Master Chief. What happened after Halo 3? Well, we are about to find out in the beginning of a brand new trilogy that is Halo 4. Picking up where 3 left off, you literally find yourself getting rocked out of hyper sleep and thrown in to a new adventure as the key-leading badass we’ve all kind of missed. Yes, Halo: Reach was pretty awesome, but Halo 4 puts us back in to the boots of our favorite soldier, and with a few little tweaks that we are excited (not Tebow excited, but excited) to see.
Spartan IV armor will have upgradeable features. Gone are the days of just the same old armor, or new un-lockable customization of armor pieces to show how obsessed with multiplayer you are, yet does nothing. As we’ve heard from developers, this armor might actually do something. Also, way behind the curve, but better late than never, is the arrival of customizable loadouts. Finally, after 900 Call of Duty games, Halo finally got the message.
Besides the single player campaign, which will be good to excellent if history serves as any kind of indicator, there’ll be the ever popular multiplayer which is said to finally have some significance. I hold out hope that gone are the days of just leveling up, killing and fighting for the fun of it. Gone are just round after round of matches for no reason other than to get out some pent up nerd rage. Hopefully, we will see some kind of reaction to multiplayer success in the single player campaign, or even something on a Halo Network setup similar to Call of Duty ELITE. It’s pure speculation, but some tangible reason for tolerating d-bags in multiplayer for hours might keep me from abandoning the mode completely after a month.
Max Payne 3
May 15, 2012
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Max, and apparently times have not been good to him. A series long since dead has been revitalized by the good folks at Rockstar Games, and with Rockstar at the helm, we think we can safely say this is going to be gritty. Classic Max.
Max is out of the NYPD, outside of New York, and finds himself in a world of shit, and I’m not just talking being six months late for his latest prostate check-up. If there was ever a game where you were going to get to play as a modern day Bruce Willis vis a vis Die Hard With a Vengeance, this is it. Take an old cop and throw him in to a situation with some serious baddies from a foreign country and you’ve got yourself one raucous game.
Some things I’m nervous about: Multiplayer. This is the feature that feels as tacked on as anything in games today. Often it stands as a chance to make a few extra bucks with DLC Map Packs post release, but is spot welded on for the opportunity. This might be one of those instances. Multiplayer aside, I am also just nervous on whether Max is going to break a hip tucking and rolling in bullet time. Centrum Silver, anyone?
Despite my apprehension, it is about time this game changing...well, game, made a comeback. With Rockstar Studios on the case, and their reputation on the line post-artsy LA Noire and pre-GTA 5, this one needs to go off without a hitch. Never mind, it’s Rockstar, they will be here after the apocalypse selling indie games to the roaches. This will be good.
December 31, 2012
If there is no end of days scenario, or as long as there is still electricity in Apocalyptia (the Fallout inspires city I envision in my mind), then this shall be your reward as one of the biggest 180’s of any game franchise. Remember Prey? Yeah, it’s hazy for me as well. It doesn’t matter, because the “sequel” is nothing like it.
Prey 2 places you as a bounty hunting Marshall in a sci-fi world populated by many alien species (still hazy on the details, but they’ll get fleshed out at E3, I’m sure). You hunt down criminals...simple enough, probably while you unravel an overarching storyline filled with potential deceit and betrayal. I don’t know, but the bounty hunting is cool.
This game is probably the greatest departure from its predecessor than any others on this list, and probably for the best. Imagine playing Bladerunner: The Game. This is the overall setting, and from preview videos we’ve seen, kind of the tone, too. We’ve also heard a bit about your ability to choose how to play. You can be stealthier and more law-abiding, or you can go all out guns blazing, but you’re probably going to get a prickly reaction from your surroundings. It will all end in the same story, they have that nailed to the ground, but you can change the resistance of your path getting there.
The good news, and what keeps me excited for this release, besides pretending I’m Harrison Ford while I play it, are the names attached and the tech involved. We’ve got Bethesda publishing, which brings some financial cannons to bear and a fairly blemish free resume. It’s Human Head developing, which are the same people that brought you the first Prey, so look out for some Easter eggs hidden around the game. Finally, and most to my excitement, is the Id Tech software they are using. If you liked the look and feel of a game like Rage, then this should be pretty damned stellar, pushing the consoles and PCs to their limits for gameplay, but probably adding a disc or two for the XBOX360 (sad XBOX360 owner face). Extra bonus...so far, no multiplayer tack welded on.
Assassin’s Creed 3
October 30, 2012
I know, Assassin’s Creed games have been coming out like hot cakes...if hot cakes were pretty cool games, but haven’t you always wished you could jump and scale a building not located in Europe? Well, how about kicking ass and shivving redcoats during the freaking revolutionary war!? Yeah, I’m kinda hard, too.
Assassin’s Creed 3 takes us to the eighteenth century and the shores of America with a new character (half Native American, half English). We’ve all seen the cover art and are crazed at the idea of going toe to toe with George Washington, maybe.
I am sure we will have our blades, our sword, but the sight of a tomahawk and the potential for firing muskets along with a bow and arrow is just too good to pass up.
Imagine running across the rooftops of Philadelphia searching for Templar founding fathers and historical figures. There has got to be nothing more patriotic than securing the history of this country one redcoat at a time. Ubisoft Montreal is at the helm, and considering some of their past work on the series, I think it is in good hands.
I am nervous about two things, though. Will they insist on multiplayer, and what kind of take on American history is a Canadian developer owned by a French publishing house going to have? This might be a poetic take on history, but I’m just stoked on that tomahawk!
October 16, 2012
Sooooo...THIS IS GOING TO BE AMAZING! Wooh, I’ve collected myself. Forget everything you know about the Ayn Rand inspired Rapture. Forget the neon lights, the neo-noire feel of the joint and the disfigured look of the fifties New Year’s celebration gone completely awry. You’re not in Rapture anymore.
Talk about a reinvention of a quickly emerging franchise. It is now 1912 and steam punk rules the day. You’re not under the sea, nor are you on land. You find yourself in the floating city of Columbia. Rocketed in to the sky, you are surrounded by cleverly complicated yet simple steam machines, and a sky filled with rails and turn of the century architecture. As we’ve seen so far, the enemies are something out of a twisted dream, and there is an acceptable level of cartoonish and exaggerated feel to everything, and everyone.
The look of this game is like nothing else on the slate this year. There is so much good news on this game I hardly have enough time to list it all here. First off, we have Irrational Games at the developing helm. This means, for those of you that don’t know, Ken Levine (angels trumpeting) is the motor that makes this street racer roll. Levine is basically the personification of a seal of approval. He even stepped in to legitimize motion controlling, saying that he was excited for the technology...good enough for Levine, then, it’s good enough for me.
What we’ve gotten to see in heavy hitter videos has shown us the immaculately imagined enemies. We’ve seen the use of rails as a mode of travel between areas of the level, and the premise of the sky city and the patriotic propaganda will makes for a world worth exploring and saving. We can rest easy in the combat and weapon design with Irrational not missing a single detail. This is by far the most anticipated game of the year for myself, followed very closely by number two on this list.
So, there you have it, our top five anticipated games of the year that are jumping outside the box they built for themselves. Four of them release before the reckoning on the 21st, one after. Keep in mind, if you’re worried about the cost of buying all of these games, currency will have no value in the wastelands after Xenu and the ghost of Mister Rogers usher in the apocalypse on the back of Falcore the luck dragon. What? That’s the square we got in the office apocalypse pool.
About the Author
Project: Poppycock, a digital experiment in collaborative writing and open dialogue. He is the author of two books, Doggy Paddling in the Deep End andWhat!? I Said, "With All Due Respect!" Both books are available through his blog, projectpoppycock.com (click on "The Bookstore"). All profits from the sales benefit charities atdonorschoose.org. Follow Wesley on Twitter @myownfalseidol