Extinction Averted - Potential Highlights of 2013
No apocalypse, no magma, no meteors and no John Cusack hanging out on a massive boat. Fortunately, no one told the video game industry that the world was supposed to end last month, so while the rest of us were building bomb shelters and stocking up on hand wipes, developers continued to work tirelessly on the games that we'll be playing, celebrating and moaning about in a year that wasn't meant to exist.
Thanks to a influx of titles that were originally scheduled for last year - a number of the games below were featured in my Potential Highlights of 2012 - and a final rush of quality before the next generation starts proper, 2013 has the makings of a memorable year. The first half is brimming with potential blockbusters, the kind that are usually reserved for autumn and winter, and the hype for what should be an eventful E3 2013 is already through the roof.
Grand Theft Auto V will generate headlines and huge profit when it’s released this spring. Rockstar, the master of build-up and tease, have ensured that their latest sandbox will be the most anticipated and talked about game of 2013, thanks to a gradual reveal of trailers and pictures of water and sky. I expect a lot from my sandboxes, but I'm confident that Rockstar will pull it off. Similarly, I have no doubt that Naughty Dog will deliver with The Last of Us. It looks to be a day-one purchase and should help remind punters of the quality of PlayStation exclusives, a timely reminder as we approach the inevitable announcement of the PS4.
The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V look splendid, but there are two other games that I am looking forward to just as much, if not more. I reject almost everything about the continuing saga of Final Fantasy XIII, but I can't help but get excited about the prospect of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn on my PS3. Square Enix are saying and doing all the right things, but if they fail to make a success of this rebirth following almost two and a half years of polish and rework, then we will know that the sun has finally set on this former giant. The second of my most wanted is also Japanese, but unlike FFXIV, a Western release is not yet guaranteed. Yakuza 5 is already out in Japan, but I am holding off importing a copy in the hopes that, like the majority of the series before it, it’ll eventually be localised. Yakuza is unlikely to ever appeal to anything more than a niche audience outside of Japan, and having had little success with recent, risky exports, I can appreciate SEGA's reluctance to move forward with anything other than their biggest franchises. However, it would be a crying shame if we were denied what looks to be the most complete and best Yakuza yet.
Barring any last minute delays, Metal Gear Rising will be my first must-play of the year. Although I have enjoyed some of their output, I'm not a massive fan of Platinum Games, yet the more I see of Rising the more I am sold on their vision for Metal Gear. Aliens: Colonial Marines, a game that I was really looking forward to last year, has me worried. Every preview I've read has gone out of its way to commend the attention to detail and adherence to the fiction, but have been far more reserved in their praise for the actual gameplay. Bioshock Infinite looks very promising, even if I’ve never quite understood all the fuss about the series thus far.
Spark Unlimited may not have the best of reputations, but their game, Lost Planet 3, is already gathering steam, and has the makings of another Binary Domain: flawed but entertaining and likely to generate more end of year award chatter than it probably deserves. Or it could just be shit, who knows. At the very least, David Cage's Beyond: Two Souls will be interesting, and the home console version of Ni No Kuni will finally arrive this month, over a year since its Japanese debut. Speaking of delays, Sony Japan announced something substantial back in 2009, but it’s been so long without updates that I've forgotten the name of this particular game. Something about a pigeon dog and a boy dressed in a sheet? No matter, it's unlikely to surface in 2013.
DmC: Devil May Cry and Tomb Raider will attempt to reboot their respective franchises whilst trying to keep at least a small section of the internet on side. My interest may have waned, but EA and Sony will be expecting big things from Dead Space 3 and God of War: Ascension. Assassin’s Creed 3.1 is inevitable, as is a new Modern Warfare, and it will be interesting to see if either series makes an appearance on the new consoles that may or may not be with us by years end. Speaking of games which might be next gen titles, Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes, The Phantom Pain (MGS5?), Watch Dogs and Dragon Age 3 are all more than welcome to make a surprise appearance this year.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Fire Emblem: Awakening should do well on the 3DS, and I’m still hoping that Square Enix will release Bravely Default: Flying Fairy outside of Japan, preferably with a new name. Each time I see a screenshot, I am reminded of the world of Final Fantasy IX; apparently, the job system is very similar to that of FFV, which is definitely a good thing. Bravely Default could be the old/middle school Final Fantasy that we have been hoping for, even if it doesn't carry the world famous moniker. Persona 4 Golden arrives in Europe in February, and Soul Sacrifice, Earth Defence Force 2017, Tearaway and Killzone Mercenary complete an interesting line up for the Vita, but one that is unlikely to reverse the fortunes of Sony's struggling handheld.
As for hardware, Nintendo will be hoping for a strong showing in the Wii U's first full, calendar year, after a solid but not spectacular launch. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Pikmin 3, Rayman Legends, The Wonderful 101 and perhaps even Bayonetta 2 will lead the charge, but with new Microsoft and Sony consoles just around the corner, consumers may be taking a wait-and-see approach to costly hardware. So long as Sony don’t do anything too ridiculous, I’d imagine I'll be buying a PlayStation 4 at or near launch, which means that I'll be very reluctant to invest in Nintendo's stop-gap any time soon. All signs point towards Microsoft unveiling their next console at E3, with an eye to releasing before the end of the year. That would appear to be a very short turn around between announcement and release - there was an 18 month gap between the Wii U’s public unveiling and launch - but waiting almost another two years for a winter 2014 debut seems unlikely. While Sony might prefer to sit back and enjoy the PS3's late-in-the-console-cycle-success, they are unlikely to repeat the mistake of allowing the competition to get a year's head start, so expect them to follow suit.
The expectation that there will be a new hardware later in the year has contributed to a front heavy, 2013 release schedule. We will have our hands full with all manner of new releases in the first half of the year, and hopefully the second will keep us occupied with the promise of new consoles and as yet unannounced launch titles.
What games are you looking forward to this year?