It’s good to see the major games splurged generously across the release schedule this year, with plenty of gems lurking in the early months of 2010. For whatever reason, perhaps fleeing from the monstrous shadow of Modern Warfare 2, perhaps out of common sense, games are being released fairly evenly over the coming months. For this year at least I won’t be wondering which lucky 2 or 3 titles will win my cash, I’ll be able to spread expense and time evenly, meaning I’ll even be able to play some of what would normally be considered underdogs.
Lurking in that category we have Obsidian’s Alpha Protocol. It’s not big on the visual bangs and whistles, but promises a sturdy RPG experience, and you get to be a spy. It’s a great set up with a lot of promise. If the voice acting and character interaction are up to scratch then I’ll probably forgive lacklustre combat, but so far the warmongering is looking pretty good. Hopefully it’ll scratch my exp-earning itch until Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 come out.
For me, Bioware are absolutely dominating the horizon with three massive titles. It’s a long way off, but The Old Republic is shaping up to potentially be something really rather spectacular. I’m still waiting for an MMO to come along and completely sweep me up. This could be it.
Dragon Age is going to be deep and massive. It’s another fantasy RPG, but it’s from the creators of the definitive Fantasy RPG series: Baldur’s Gate. Ignoring the bizarre marketing spiel and average E3 showing, Dragon Age is a deep, gooey bucket of warm RPG promise. Yes.
Mass Effect 2 is the big one, though. Mass Effect was almost my game of 2008 (with the PC release coming about 6 or 7 months after the Xbox 360 – not so this time it seems). Immense voice acting and character interaction, genuinely inspired alien design and a smoking space opera plot all married to create a magnificent sci fi experience. Hopefully the sequel will add some depth to the shallow levelling system and clean up the clunky interface of the first game, it’s already showing more impactful combat and, somehow, even more impressive conversation sequences.
With these behemoths satisfying my eternal, deep-seated urge to make things level up I’ll be looking to Modern Warfare 2 to provide the real action wallop of the Xmas period. But, 55 quid? I don’t think so. I’ll pick it up next summer from a second hand bin when it’s come down a bit. It’s almost gauranteed to be good, though, and I’m still revisiting levels from CoD4. Infinity Ward know their stuff, even if Activision are being a bit too greedy with this one. Actually, what am I saying? It’ll sell millions even at the new price, if it pays off it’s a great business move. A word of warning, though: If you buy Modern Warfare 2 at this increased price expect AAA prices to rocket across the board.
I’m more excited about Bioshock 2. I might even say MOST excited about Bioshock 2. The first game was a landmark in aesthetics and world-creation. I often lament the copy and paste worlds games insist on cloning, another ruined grey future apocalypse, another mushroom forest. Bioshock locked itself in a bunker and built Rapture, a compelling world of high minded ideals implemented through science and taken to hideous extremes. Broken down, slowly flooding, full of maniacs. My game of the year 2007. I guess the real question is, will the hacking minigame still be Pipemania, or will we see some sort of Frogger derivative? These are the questions which keep me awake at night.
What actually keeps me awake at night is the prospect of a zombie apocalypse. Where would I hole up? Who could I trust? Would my guitar make a good Zombie-killing weapon? These questions won’t even slightly be answered by Left 4 Dead 2, but the catharsis of gunning down tens of thousands of undead (literally, I got the Zombie Genocidest achievement in L4D last week) should at least let me sleep at night. The original has been my multiplayer experience of the year, narrowly beating TF2. Weekend-long LAN events with friends have made for some excellent times and I can’t wait for the sequel. Valve’s pedigree here is second to none. A free mini campaign for the original Left 4 Dead is also good news. Can’t argue with more Left 4 Dead. Can’t argue with free.
Actually, would my guitar be a good zombie killer? I think the only way to know is to purchase Tim Schafer’s third person heavy metal brawler Brutal Legend. Tim Schafer makes immense games. Jack Black is also involved. After the flop that was PSychonauts (it didn’t deserve to flop, it was excellent) Schafer deserves every success with this effort.
Gaming is doing well, I haven’t even mentioned Mafia II, or Assassin’s Creed 2, or Star Trek online or even RTS giganaut Starcraft 2, or Diablo 3, or other interesting looking lurkers like Ruse, or the amazing Scribblenauts. Yep, it’s that time of year again. This industry is insane. You’ve gotta love it.