Five Titles to Watch in 2012
It'll be very hard to top 2012. Ken Levine, creative director at Irrational Games hailed 2011 as a "year to be proud of" and he's right. Given that 2011 began with the PS3 release of Mass Effect 2 and followed through a succession of amazing titles like Dead Space 2, LA Noire, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Gears of War 3, Dark Souls and concluding with the incomparable Skyrim it is hard to see how anything in 2012 can beat that but fear not. We're here to give you a good idea of the games to look forward to in 2012 and, believe it or not, there are plenty of games to be excited about this year.
This one is a no-brainer to be honest. Irrational Games have been working fanatically on their follow-up to the first BioShock game with a completely new take on the series. This time it is set in Columbia, a spectacular city in the sky and promises to have the kind of effect on video games as BioShock did when it introduced the world to the fallen submarine utopia of Rapture in 2007.
Become former Pinkerton agent, Booker DeWitt as he attempts to rescue Elizabeth, a young woman imprisoned in Columbia and wield a whole array of unique weapons and special abilities co-operatively as the two try and escape the city.
Irrational has taken advantage of the game's 1912 setting to create some sumptuous locations based on late Victorian architecture and styling building a world around Columbia that is truly unique. The sky setting helps to add extra dimensions to the gameplay and move away from the intense claustrophobia of Rapture.
Throw in Move support, which creator Ken Levine will open up BioShock Infinite to a whole new audience that normally wouldn't play this type of hardcore title and Irrational are very much on to a winner again. When this is finished it will truly be a contender for game of the year and a very exciting one at that.
Of all the early releases in 2012 this is probably the most intriguing. Starbreeze Studios have been working on Syndicate in secret for some time now trying to transfer the brutality of the corporate totalitarian future Bullfrog created back in 1993 into a modern sci-fi FPS. From what has been on show they seem to have managed it in spades capturing the very visceral spirit of the original with some truly inventive weaponry and a cyberpunk storyline that'll keep players well on their toes.
This is title that could very well give the Deus Ex series a run for its money with it cautionary tale of capitalism and technology gone awry in a new-future environment. Corporations running the world and warring between themselves with armies of cybernetically and genetically enhanced agents for complete market dominance seems to blend Eidos's philosophical musings on the future with that of Metal Gear Solid and will prove to be an interesting draw.
Another thing that helps Syndicate is Starbreeze's very sound knowledge of how to make a good FPS that doesn't necessarily follow the standard path with both Chronicles of Riddick releases and their take on The Darkness very much defying conventions to deliver up FPSs that please and offer something just a little different.
Syndicate draws a very interesting line under a busy February and could provide an excellent beginning to the year for FPS fans.
Max Payne 3
With everyone already buzzing about GTA V after its announcement in November it seems to have overshadowed Rockstar's broody NYC cop somewhat. Nevertheless, Max Payne 3 is shaping up to be something of a gem and most likely the game to keep games from burning their pale skin over the summer.
This time Max is swapping the blizzard-besieged New York City for the favellas of Sao Paolo as he tries to escape his harrowing past. He has become a security adviser to a rich Brazilian businessman Rodrigo Branco and his family but it all goes wrong when the Branco's wife and daughter are kidnapped by a merciless street gang. Max cuts a bloody swathe through Sao Paolo's underbelly an a way only he can as he searches for his charges and wrestles with his inner demons.
Max Payne 3 is the first game in the series not to be developed by Remedy and Rockstar has taken advantage of this to spend time refining the bullet time and gunplay mechanics to perfection. Advanced physics has allowed them to really take the third-person shooter to a new level with Max now able to hold a two-handed weapon in one hand while shooting with a pistol, explore 360 degree firing while doing anything from lying on the floor to running and even take cover now.
They've improved the AI considerably with enemies advancing and flanking Max when he's in cover to keep even veteran shooter fans on toes. This is a mouth-watering proposition and it will be well worth the long wait.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
We all began to wonder if this was ever going to be release and while it has been pushed back to the autumn of this year everyone is hopeful that 2012 will be the year we see Aliens: Colonial Marines. It was pushed to the wayside by Rebellion's sub-par Aliens vs Predator and it survived the cull at SEGA that deprived us of Obsidian's Alien RPG which was, by all accounts, almost finished and rather good. Thankfully, now that Gearbox has managed give the world Duke Nukem Forever, the have come back to finish the Aliens FPS that everyone has been waiting for.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is a straight FPS following a team of marines sent in to find out what happened to the USS Sulaco after Ripley and the team went to investigate the Hadley's Hope colony on LV-426. The drip-feed of screenshots and videos coming from SEGA have shown that Gearbox are really putting together a very visceral and claustrophobic shooter that may finally do justice to the series.
It's exciting just thinking about exploring the story of the series in between Aliens and Alien 3 and the fact that Gearbox have enlisted the help of Ridley Scott to help bring the game to life. It's been a long wait for Aliens: Colonial Marines and should it actually arrive this will be a game that will require keeping a change of underwear very close at hand.
X-COM: Enemy Unknown
This is a year of revivals. Syndicate is out in February and now 2K Games has promised a proper strategy revival of the X-COM series due out in the autumn. And the really good news? X-COM: Enemy Unknown is being handled by one of the very best strategy developers in the world, Sid Meier's Firaxis Studios.
There has always been something special about the X-COM series. It managed to impose an intensely creepy and fear-inducing atmosphere on a turn-based strategy game. Taking the series under water in Terror from the Deep only served to intensify the feeling of dread as the team swept the area of a downed craft for creatures and technology unknown.
On the flipside of the terrifying combat missions was a very solid base-building, recruitment and research management simulation that really contrasted nicely with the battle side of things. The really wonderful thing about the original games was that players needed to get both sides of the game right in order to do well and protect humanity from the alien threat.
If anyone can recapture the spirit of the original series it's Firaxis and we're looking forward to the return of what was one of the most uniquely atmospheric gaming experiences of the nineties. With X-COM: Enemy Unknown we might just see 2012 as the year that strategy games finally broke their way onto home consoles.
This year is actually shaping up to be a very impressive year for games. Other honourable mentions include the epic conclusion of the Reaper saga in Mass Effect 3, the return of Blizzard's unrivalled dungeon crawler series in Diablo III, more Zerg with StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and the surprise announcement of Resident Evil 6 due in November. If all this pans out 2012 will definitely be another year gaming can be proud of.