What's in Store For the Rest of 2011?
With LA Noire hitting the shops last week, it feels like the annual slew of big game releases is finally underway. Big blockbusters have been few and far between thus far in 2011, whereas this time last year we had already been treated to Mass Effect 2, Heavy Rain, Final Fantasy XIII, God of War 3 and Red Dead Redemption. There have been some highlights, including Dead Space 2, Dragon Age 2 and Yakuza 4, but I wasn't exactly counting down the days in anticipation of their arrival.
LA Noire marks the beginning of the rest of the year, as there are plenty of big releases to look forward to and start saving for. Two of the highest profile - Mass Effect 3 and The Last Guardian - have already slipped into 2012 but there is plenty more on offer to keep us amused.
This is what the rest of the year looks like from where I’m standing. I hope this collection helps you organize your thoughts and line-up some possible purchases, as it has me. By the looks of this lot, for the rest of the year I shall only be leaving my sofa to pre-order new games, post the occasional blog and apply for a bank loan.
Hardware Looking for Software
There are a couple of pieces of kit which I have been holding-off buying until games are released which will justify my purchase. I am far from convinced of the long-term merits of motion controlled gaming, and thus have not invested in Kinnect or PS Move. There is a (large) part of me that is dying to play Dance Central - the part which is convinced that I’m blessed with the gift of dance - but it’s not enough to warrant paying £90 for an enhancement to a console I rarely use. However, with Child of Eden (June) on the horizon I may yet be swayed. The spiritual successor to Rez, the 360 version will take full advantage of Kinnect's features and looks set to deliver a stunning interactive soundscape. Moving to the PS3, but sticking with motion controls, No More Heroes: Heroes' Paradise (May) may nudge me towards buying one of those ugly plastic wands.
I have found it very easy to resist the allure of the 3DS since its release in March, as there are fuck-all games available and, when it comes to 3D, I’m completely nonplussed. As far as I'm concerned 3D has increasingly become a by-word for "not very good", especially in the cinema. When I finally buy a 3DS, it won’t be because I have a hankering for the tech, but simply because it offers games that I want to play and versions that I can’t get elsewhere. The next six months look set to break me with Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D (Nov), The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (June) and Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (June). If these three are as good as I think they’ll be, then I will be happy to shell-out for another piece of portable plastic.
|Child of Eden|
There are two games which look set to dominate the tail end of 2011; Uncharted 3 (Nov) and Modern Warfare 3 (Nov). Pencilled-in for release only a week apart, I imagine video game stores will be doing brisk business this November. Modern Warfare 3 will provide an updated version of the FPS thrills we have come to expect from Activision each and every November, but it is Uncharted 3 which stands as my most anticipated game of 2011. Uncharted 2 is one of my favourite games of all time, and if Naughty Dog are able to make any improvements to the existing formula, no matter how subtle, then I am likely to soil myself.
More of the Same
“When in doubt, make a sequel” - sage advice that many a developer/publisher has followed of late. From console exclusives like InFamous 2 (June), Resistance 3 (Sept) and Gears of War 3 (Sept) to multiplatform stunners like Batman: Arkham City (October) and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Nov) there will be no shortage of quality on offer for the rest of the year. Fingers crossed Yakuza Of the End (TBA) will make it to western shores and Dead Rising 2: Off The Record (Autumn) promises yet more zombie action, this time featuring original protagonist Frank West. Worth mentioning, but far from a lock for 2011 - Burnout Crash (TBA) offers vehicular carnage and Max Payne 3 (TBA) rounds out a collection of must-have sequels that is likely to bleed my wallet dry.
Give Me Something New
2011 has already seen an overwhelming number of sequels, and there has been a glaring lack of quality new IPs. This doesn’t look set to change in the second half, as the vast majority of AAA titles due this year are second, third, fourth or even fifth instalments in well-established franchises. However, there are a handful of intriguing new IPs which can hopefully steal some thunder form the sequel brigade.
Dead Island (August) turned heads earlier this year with an emotive teaser trailer, but until we see more gameplay it will be (unfairly) battling a reputation of style over substance. A similar criticism may be levelled at Journey (TBA), though if Thatgamecompany's pervious PSN title, Flower, is anything to go by then this one will play as well as it looks. A PSN exclusive, you must guide a robed figure across a vast desert, where you will encounter other gamers heading towards the same goal. Details are scarce, but I’m convinced we will be getting a minimalist version of the Mummy Returns. Catherine (July) is another game which looks set to defy norms, being an erotic horror - puzzle platformer - adventure game, obviously. From the makers Persona, it looks like utter madness and should provide a refreshing change from the usual shooters and brawlers.
Perhaps the most promising of the bunch is Suda 51 and Shinji Mikami's collaboration - Shadows of the Damned (June). Garcia Hotspur travels to hell to rescue his true love, whilst presumably partaking in lots of killing and making wise cracks. A third-person shooter, it has the makings of a cult-favourite and, despite a low-key build-up, I’m looking forward to this game as much as any other this summer.
Of all these new titles, Rage (Sept) is the most likely to do some damage. An FPS from genre stalwart id Software, it looks like a glorious mix between Doom, Fallout and Borderlands. It also breaks-up the gunplay with driving sections and features lots of post-apocalyptic freaks to blast, at your leisure.
|Shadows of the Damned|
Sony has just announced the PSP Remaster series which will be available from this summer. Some of PSP's biggest hits will be ported to the PS3 with graphical and gameplay enhancements, including online functionality where applicable, presented in HD and in some cases, 3D. Game saves will be interchangeable between the PSP and PS3, but these titles won’t have trophy support. As of yet, only one title has been confirmed - Monster Hunter Portable 3rd - and thus far only for Japan, though the series is expected to be made available in the West also.
My dream of playing Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker on the PS3, where it should've been all along, seems closer than ever. Due to the overwhelming popularity of portable gaming in Japan, many big Japanese games have been developed for the PSP, whereas in the past they would have automatically been console releases. While this makes perfect sense in Japan, it has left many Western gamers disappointed that they can’t continue to enjoy their favourite series on a big screen. MGS Peace Walker, Valkyria Chronicles 2 and 3rd Birthday (Parasite Eve) would all fall into this category, and I for one would jump at the chance to play these games on my PS3. I enjoy PSP gaming, but if given the choice I will choose my PS3 every time.
It’s not just PSP games that are getting the HD treatment this year. To commemorate the 15th anniversary of Resident Evil, Capcom are releasing an updated Resi double bill Resident Evil Revival Selection (TBA) with Resident Evil 4 and Code Veronica X receiving a new lick of paint, presented in HD and given the standard trophy/achievement support. Code Veronica is an interesting spin-off, but it is RE 4 which marks the highpoint of the series. The Wii already offers a definitive version, so it will be interesting to see how Capcom will convince us to buy-into Leon's adventure yet again.
The second high profile HD set is the ICO Collection (TBA) which will finally provide me the opportunity and impetus to get stuck into ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. Originally scheduled for a spring released, it was postponed along with The Last Guardian, and with no concrete release date it may yet slip into 2012.
|Batman: Arkham City|
I Have A Bad Feeling About These
It is entirely unfair to jump to conclusions about games which you know little about, yet sometimes my instincts tell me that a game isn't going to be very good, well before I have gotten my hands on it. Sometimes my gaming intuition is off, other times its bang-on. My gaming radar has already picked up on a couple of possible disappointments.
Red Faction: Armageddon (June) has me worried. I have been a big fan of the series since the original PS2 game, and I feel that Red Faction: Guerrilla is one of the most underrated games of the last two years, but i'm struggling to get excited for this fourth instalment. I genuinely hope I'm wrong, but I think this trip to Mars is going to be the least interesting of the bunch.
Speaking of underrated games, I still have a soft spot for the Western FPS Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood which worked wonders with its 19th century, Wild West setting. I was horrified to learn that the third entry in the series, Call of Juarez: The Cartel (June) is to be set in modern times, removing the unique selling point of the last game, as a foul-mouthed ancestor of our original protagonists guns down drug dealers. Does that sound like an interesting premise for a game? Oh well, at least it doesn't feature space marines.
Finally, some sacrilege. The repeated disappointments of recent years has earned Sonic Generations (TBA) a spot down here. I don't want to jinx it, so I am lowering my expectations as far as possible, so that when it is finally released I can only be pleasantly surprised. How far the mighty have fallen.