Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Top 11 Upcoming Games For 2011

Although we are already two months into 2011, I present to you here my list of my most anticipated video game titles for this year. These are games that are currently set to come out in 2011. Video games often get delayed, and chances are at least one of these (if not more) will wind up coming out in 2012, but as of right now they are all slated to be released this year. Along with each game, I'll list which platforms it will be coming out for, and the current release date/window. Enjoy.

11. Brink - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - May 17

Brink is still somewhat of a mystery. It's a new IP (intellectual property) which also means it's the start of a whole new game franchise (assuming it doesn't bomb). This game has been delayed a couple of years now, but everything I've seen about it so far looks awesome and really ambitious. What's most interesting about Brink is that whether you're playing offline single-player, co-op with your friends, or online competitive multiplayer, you're always still playing the "story" mode. Assuming you have an online connection, missions in the story mode can actually be played against other people who are playing their own story mode at the same time. Like I said, the game is still very much a mystery, but if all the cool new things they're trying to implement come together and work well, this could be the start of a whole new genre in games.

10. Duke Nukem Forever - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - May 3

The Duke is finally back. I've played some of Duke Nukem 3D over the years, and while the gameplay and graphics are obviously dated (it came out 12 years ago), Duke himself still cracks me up. Duke was created as an over-the-top parody of a lot of 80's and 90's action heroes, so it will be interesting to see if he is still relevant and funny (my guess is yes, at least to the latter). The game, while in development for 12 years, was finally picked up last year by Gearbox (the makers of Borderlands) who will be finishing it. This game's legend has grown to epic proportions, and many people's expectations will probably be too high for what the game can actually deliver, but as long as this game makes me laugh and gives me a good time, I'll be satisfied. Hail to the King, baby.

9. Battlefield 3 - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - Holiday

This game was only recently revealed, but everything I've read and the small bits of gameplay footage they've already shown are amazing. I really enjoyed Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (especially the multiplayer), and while this game will build on that, it looks like it's going to take it to a whole new level. The new game engine (Frostbite 2) looks amazing, and is really improving everything, like graphics, destructible environments, lighting, and even ridiculous stuff like individual bullet trajectories when you fire your gun (seriously). I have no doubt the multiplayer is going to be awesome; if DICE (the game's developers) can craft a great single-player campaign too, and add some fun co-op content, then Call of Duty might finally be dethroned as the king of military shooters.

8. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception - PS3 - November 1

Uncharted 2 blew everyone away with its gameplay and story, and I'm sure Uncharted 3 will carry on in that tradition. The trailers for the game so far look very interesting, and there are very few things as exciting as a good Indian Jones-like story, which is what the Uncharted series mainly is. Not much about this game has been revealed yet, but don't be surprised if it gives Uncharted 2 a run for its money on how many "game of the year" awards a game can win (note: Uncharted 2 won like ALL of them in 2009).

7. Batman: Arkham City - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - Late Summer/Fall

Arkham Asylum was a huge surprise just because of how good it was. Past Batman video games have all been pretty bad, and while I didn't think Arkham Asylum would suck, I didn't expect it to be as amazing as it was. It turned out to be easily one of the best games of 2009. I have full faith that Arkham City, like its predecessor, will not disappoint. And who doesn't want to be the Bat?

6. Crysis 2 - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - March 22

I've been looking forward to this one for a while. I never really played the original Crysis (I just recently got a computer that could even run it), but most of what I heard about it was that the graphics were amazing, the gameplay was really good, but that the story (while not bad) left something to be desired. While they've improved the game's engine (which will improve things like gameplay and graphics), a big focus for this game has been on the story and the single-player campaign, and everything I've seen looks really good so far. Crytek (the game's developers) have also gone on record saying that this game will have the most advanced enemy AI in any game ever. It still remains to be seen if that is true, but if it is, you can expect a really challenging game where the computer can actually tactically coordinate its attacks (hopefully not too well though, or else we might all wind up feeling as over-matched as Ken Jennings).

5. Portal 2 - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - April 19

I actually just played through the original Portal again, and that has made me even more excited for this game. The single-player is a complete game all by itself this time around (the original came as part of The Orange Box), which means even more ridiculous puzzles, and more interaction with one of the greatest villains/misunderstood-self-aware-hilariously-murderous super-computers ever: GLaDOS. This game also features a seperate co-op campaign, which looks to be very interesting (it features the robots pictured above as the playable characters). Here's hoping this game will be a HUGE SUCCESS (hint: it will).

4. Dragon Age II - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - March 8

I loved the first Dragon Age, and this one looks like it's going to be even better. They've decided to take the series in a new direction with this game, with a darker art style and gameplay that is similar to Bioware's other big franchise: Mass Effect. I'm a big Mass Effect fan too, and now that I've played the Dragon Age II demo, I think this is really going to make the game that much better than the first one. They have limited your customization options (mostly in the fact that you have to play as a human now), but I think it will make for a much better story with a much more compelling main character (who can actually talk now).

3. Rage - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - September 13

A post-apocalyptic, open-world, first person shooter from the makers of games like Doom and Quake. It will also have a lot of driving/racing and vehicular combat. Like Crysis 2, this game promises to have great graphics, gameplay, and enemy AI. From what I've seen of the gameplay so far, if the story/world is half as good as those other things, this will be a great game that will consume a lot of my time. It also will include competitive online multiplayer, and possibly some sort of co-op mode.

2. Star Wars: The Old Republic - PC - Sometime in 2011

I'm not really a fan of MMOs, but I cannot wait for this game. It's like the perfect storm of gaming: Star Wars, George Lucas not being involved, Bioware, leveling up, and playing online with your friends - all wrapped into one. Like all the other games on this list, everything I've seen and heard so far has been really exciting, and even though this is Bioware's first attempt at an MMO, as far as I'm concerned they have a near-flawless record when it comes to video games, and that wont change here. Part of the reason I dont normally like MMOs is because of how much time you have to invest in them, but that's a sacrifice I'm more than willing to make once this game comes out. Goodbye, marriage. It's been real.

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - November 11

The semi-sequel to Oblivion, the next game in the Elder Scrolls series takes place around 200 years after Oblivion, when a great, ancient evil (dragons) has returned to the world and threatens to kill everyone, or something along those lines. While Oblivion was a great game, it did have some shortcomings (which are much more obvious if you go back and play it now, 5 years after it came out), and it looks like Bethesda has really made it their mission to correct all of those, while adding a lot of new stuff (and borrowing some ideas from their very successful game Fallout 3) too. They just released a trailer with some in-game footage, and the world is breathtaking. If the gameplay and story are as improved as they want them to be, then Skyrim will be one of the greatest games ever (at least in my eyes).

There's my top 11. Two games that just barely missed the cut are L.A. Noire and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Both those games also look like they're going to be awesome. Had I made this list in the beginning of the year Dead Space 2 definitely would have been on it, but because Dead Space 2 has already been released (and is amazing, by the way) I don't consider it an "upcoming" game anymore.

On an interesting side note, no games for the Wii made the list, or even came close. Seriously, what's coming out for the Wii this year? The only thing that comes to mind is the new Legend of Zelda game, Skyward Sword, but I'm not a Zelda fan so that doesn't really do anything for me personally. There are plenty of games that are going to come out in 2011 that haven't been announced yet; like obviously there will be a Call of Duty game in the fall (probably Modern Warfare 3), and there's also been a lot of rumors about a new Halo game being done by a new studio (possibly a full remake of Halo 1). If I don't know about a game, obviously it's not going to make the list. But besides Skyward Sword, there's nothing I can even think of for the Wii. Yeah, Nintendo is going to make a crap-load of money off the 3DS, so they'll still be okay financially, but I don't really do handheld games, so (like Zelda) I don't really care as much about that. What this leads me to believe is that Nintendo is going to announce a new home console at some point this year, probably at E3. That's right, you heard it here first. That's my prediction. Whether it's the Wii 2 or some completely brand new name, I think they'll announce it at E3, which means it wont actually be out until around the holiday or sometime in 2012.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and as always feel free to post here (or on Facebook) what you think. Comments, questions, discussion, and corrections are always welcome!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Top 10 For 2010

Even though 2010 is well behind us now, I've finally gotten around to doing my list for my favorite games of the year. I'll list the games here, from #10 to #1, with #1 being my favorite (thus also my "Game of the Year"). Along with each game, I'll list the applicable platforms and the date it was released (obviously all games were released in 2010). So here are "My Top 10 For 2010". So clever.

10. Rock Band 3 - PS3, Xbox 360, Wii - October 26

The game that perfects the music genre. This game has all of the good stuff of the previous ones without any of the bad. It also adds new features like keyboard and three-part vocal harmonies. It has a good track list and the ability to import most of the songs from Rock Band 1 and 2, along with all DLC. This is really a well made game, but it's ashame it didn't sell well. I think that's more the fault of people getting tired of music games and already owning earlier Rock Band/Guitar Hero games, because it's certainly not the fault of the quality of this game.

9. Madden NFL 11 - PS3, Xbox 360 - August 10

Easily the best Madden since '06 (when they switched to the next-gen consoles). The addition of GameFlow was genius, and the gameplay and physics keep improving every year. Throw in some great online features like Online Franchise and Co-op mode, and the single player "Madden Moments" and regular franchise, and you've got yourself one of the most solid Madden titles ever.

8. Call of Duty: Black Ops - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - November 9

While not a huge departure from the series, this is another game that takes what's great about the previous games, gets rid of the bad stuff, and adds a few new things to keep it fresh. The multiplayer is the best of any CoD game, with a bunch of new modes, a cool new money system, and a ton of customization options. The single player campaign, while expectedly short, was one of the best of the series, second only to maybe CoD 4. And dont forget my favorite part: Nazi Zombies. Or, I guess just "Zombies" now since we're not in WWII anymore. Whatever.

7. Fallout: New Vegas - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - October 19

It took me a while to warm-up to this game, but once I got into it I really enjoyed it. This is essentially Fallout 3.5; the same game engine with a few new things and a whole new setting and characters. I still prefer the actual game world of Fallout 3 to this, but New Vegas definitely has better characters (Felicia Day!) and a better main quest (side quests are arguable). Also all the new things they added, like iron sights and hardcore mode, were a nice touch. I'm definitely looking forward to DLC for this game in the coming months.

6. Dong Kong Country Returns - Wii - November 21

I loved the original Donkey Kong Country for Super Nintendo back in the day, so I'm sure nostalgia has something to do with this pick, but there's no arguing that this is a very good game (check Metacritic if you don't believe me). The art and level design are awesome, along with the music, and the game is just a lot of fun to play. There's even co-op and a few new features added.

5. Limbo - XBLA - July 21

This game is only available on Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA), but it is definitely worth playing if you have an Xbox as this is easily one of the best downloadable games I've ever played. It's a 2D platformer with some cool mechanics, and every aspect of the game's design in great. You really have to play this game for yourself to understand why it's so great, it's one of those that's hard to describe to someone who's never seen it. It's a pretty short game (about 4-5 hours long), but it only costs $15. I would definitely recommend this if you have an Xbox.

4. God of War III - PS3 - March 16

"Gimme yo' head!"

The incredible end to the God of War Trilogy that does not disappoint. The graphics are amazing and the action and combat are intense. This game probably has the most epic boss battles of any game ever. Every level is a brand new adventure in dominating everything around you, and I mean that in the best possible way.

3. Red Dead Redemption - PS3, Xbox 360 - May 18

Basically Grand Theft Auto (GTA) meets the old west, but that doesn't truly do it justice. Try as I might, I've never really liked any of the GTA games (they're just not my thing), but I loved Red Dead Redemption. The single player is more than just an open world were you blow stuff up, run people over, and occasionally do a mission. It's a beautifully realized recreation of Southern Texas and Northern Mexico in the early 1900's, and the characters and story are all great to complement the awesome game world. There's a lot of variety in the single player so that even though the campaign is long, very rarely do you get bored. There's also a multiplayer component, which lets you play competitively or cooperatively with your friends. I never really got into the old west and cowboys and stuff like that, but this game actually made me start to appreciate the genre a lot more (although I still need to see The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). Also, the "Undead Nightmare" DLC that came out for this, though not technically part of the original game, was very well received by both critics and fans.

2. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty - PC - July 27

The best RTS (real time strategy) game I've ever played. Everyone knows the Starcraft series has great online multiplayer, and this game doesn't disappoint on that front. But it also has a great story and single player campaign, and every mission (I think there were around 25) was interesting and contributed to the plot in its own way. It never felt repetitive. That's really what makes this game stand out above the rest for me. SC2 is also probably the most addictive game on this list: I can play online for hours and hours, always having that mentality "just one more match!".

1. Mass Effect 2 - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - January 26 (PC & Xbox)

As soon as I beat this game (which was almost exactly a year ago from now), I knew it was going to be my favorite game of the year. And it's not because I had already made up my mind, or because I'm some kind of Mass Effect fanboy. I just realized that I loved this game so much that the chances of me liking any other game that came out last year as much as this one were incredibly slim. Mass Effect 2 just has it all. Obviously it's still considered mainly an RPG, so its strengths lie in its story, characters, and the relationships between those characters. It delivers on all those fronts. What really put ME2 over the edge for me was how much they improved the gameplay from the first one. You could really also say that this is a third person shooter - the combat and shooting mechanics are tight, and the biotic powers and special abilities work very well. Bioware added in a lot of other improvements too, like the new inventory system. So the gameplay was fantastic, but it still was the story that was the strength of this game. I mean, depending on your choices during your playthrough, you and any/all of your crew can die by the end of the game. That's pretty insane. All of this, and even some other stuff I haven't mentioned, is why Mass Effect 2 gets my Game of the Year Award for 2010.

Because I wanted to keep the list at ten, there were two games that got cut and left off, so I figured I'd give them a quick honorable mention here. They were Halo: Reach (#11) and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (#12). Both were very good games that I enjoyed both the single and multiplayer of, but unfortunately they just missed the cut.

So there's my top 10 list for 2010, and my 2010 Game of the Year. Thanks for reading through, and as always comments are welcome!