Now that we’ve left the money on the nightstand and shown 2011 the door, it’s time to prepare for 2012. January has always just been the month that you prepare for the rest of the year, a toe that you gently slide into the pool to prepare yourself for the shock of cold water. January is the appetizer of 2012, and the perfect launchpad to look ahead at what is to come.
Last year was a tumultuous one for the video game industry, filled with highs and lows. The end of the year saw a glutton’s feast of gaming, with players gorging themselves on some of the best games that have been released in years. A few even set records. Activision execs are likely considering filling their new swimming pools with water flown in fresh from the top of the Himalayas. And why not? After Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 made enough money to cure death (at least slight cases of death), the industry seemed to be righting the ship.
Microsoft claimed that 2011 was the best year ever for the Xbox (in terms of beating the PS3 and Wii, not in total sales) and that there are now 66 million Xbox 360 consoles around the world. And despite sagging Wii sales, Nintendo did well with the 3DS this year — not counting that whole $80 price cut that brought shame unto the ancestors of Nintendo execs. Yet still, the NPD came out and rained on the industry’s parade, claiming that sales in December 2011 were down 21 percent compared to December sales in 2010. For the year, sales were down 8 percent overall.
There were mitigating circumstances, though. The NPD doesn’t take into account mobile and casual gaming, nor does it take into account online purchases — which exploded in 2011. It also ignores PC games. In a comparison of total game spending, the industry dropped just 2 percent, which isn’t all that surprising considering all three of the major consoles are now well over five years old and a hardware sales decline was inevitable.
So turn those frowns upside down. Now that the economy is picking up again (politicians on TV said it was, so it must be true), entertainment spending in general should increase and the video game industry will be fine.
With that in mind, here is a glimpse at where a decent chunk of your money may be headed in the coming year, as we lay out our top 25 most anticipated games of 2012.
Confirmed Release Dates
The Darkness II(February 7, 2012; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Digital Extremes, 2K Games)
One of the first major releases of the year is just a few scant weeks away. Although the sequel is now in the hands of a new developer, the game will once again put you in the custom-made Italian loafers of now-mob boss Jackie Estacado, as he is forced to rely on the Darkness once again to fight off a group that wants the power for itself. The sequel will feature a new quad-wielding mechanic, a revamped progression system, and an original story from a longtime writer of The Darkness comic series that the games are based on, Paul Jenkins.
Twisted Metal(February 14, 2012; PS3; Eat Sleep Play, SCEA)
One of the defining multiplayer games of a generation returns with a new look, but the same feel. Can nostalgia alone make a hit? Absolutely not, but it can bring attention to a game that deserves respec’, yo. This game will be a hit or a miss based on how people react to the multiplayer aspect. Whether or not it can compete against the likes of Call of Battlefied and the like remains to be seen, but at the very least it should bring back some good memories of crushing your friends beneath the heel of your glory.
Syndicate(February 21; PC, PS3, 360; Starbreeze, EA)
Huzzah, an original game! Wait, what? It’s based on a game from 1993? D’oh. Following in the footsteps of Hollywood, Starbreeze and EA have rebooted a franchise that has lain dormant for years (since 1996), but they bring it back with good reason. The tactical shooter gameplay of the first title is gone, replaced by the comforting (and increasingly overused) first-person shooter format. But the cool cyberpunk world where corporations have replaced the government is engrossing (and timely), so it returns. You play an operative for a major corporation, running missions ranging from infiltration to assassination. If this is handled right, Syndicate could be a new mega-franchise in the making.
Street Fighter X Tekken/Tekken X Street Fighter(SFXT March 6, 2012/TXSF TBA; PC, PS3, 360; SFXT–Capcom, Capcom /TXSF–Namco Bandai, Namco Bandai )
This is actually two games, sort of. Capcom and Namco Bandai came up with an interesting idea on how to compete head-to-head in a friendly way that will benefit both companies. And make them both a bunch of money. In the first game, the characters from Tekken will head into the Street Fighter world and receive Street Fighter-like looks, animations, and moves. Capcom’s take on the fighting matchup, Street Fighter X Tekken will be released on March 6. Then later this year, Namco Bandai will how off its take on the matchup when it releases Tekken X Street Fighter. As you might expect by the name, the content will then switch to Tekken-style, and Ryu will lose his cell shading in favor of a more 3D look. Then get beat to a bloody pulp by Bryan Fury. Not that I’m taking sides.
Mass Effect 3(March 6, 2012; PC, PS3, 360; BioWare, EA)
Gamers won’t have to wait long for one of the biggest titles of the year when Mass Effect 3 hits this March. The game will be the end bookmark to a trilogy that culminates with a race of ancient mechanized aliens coming to wipe all organic life from the galaxy, especially Earth. The gameplay mechanics have been overhauled, and while the RPG elements are still present, there is more of a traditional third-person shooter feel than in the previous games. And, of course, you will still be able to hook up with alien and human hotties to your heart’s content.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City(March 20, 2012; PC, PS3, 360; Slant Six Games and Capcom, Capcom)
One of the original survival-horror franchises returns this March with a new take on the events that went down in Raccoon City during the classic Resident Evil 2. And while this may not be the full sequel that fans are hoping for (Resident Evil 6 is due in November), it should offer a bunch of zombie-bashing fan. There is also a major push on the multiplayer side of things, but the real fun will be in going back to Raccoon City and reliving the events from one of the best survival horror games on the PS One. Oh, and you can shoot Leon Kennedy too. Shoot him dead.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier(May 22, 2012; PC, PS3, 360; Ubisoft Paris & Ubisoft Red Storm, Ubisoft)
For the last two years, this game has been on the best-of lists of most people who saw it at E3. Even two years ago the game looked amazing, and that was just an early build that needed a lot of polish. Well, the wait is finally (almost) over, and this summer we’ll be able to get our hands on the next entry in the Tom Clancy franchise. No doubt, Clancy himself spent grueling hours, painstakingly encoding each line to make sure that it honored his name! Yeah, probably not, but Ubisoft has done a good job with Tom Clancy games, and Ghost Recon looks like it may be one of the best yet. The game will honor the previous Ghost Recon titles, but it will also feel like a totally new game. This is not just Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 3, but rather a slightly new take on a squad-based shooter.
Borderlands 2(September 1—subject to change, 2012; PC, PS3, 360; Gearbox Software, 2K Games)
The original Borderlands was one of those games that had a slow burn to it. It produced decent launch-day sales, but it really began to pick up steam later on and became a breakout hit of 2009. A lot of that was due to word of mouth, not to mention a deep multiplayer experience that kept people playing it for a long time (odds are you can still find people online going at it). So the sequel has a bit of a spotlight on it, and will likely far outstrip the launch-day sales of the original. The unique multiplayer aspects just help the RPG-flavored FPS, and you should see even more online integration this time around. 2K and Gearbox have tentatively put the release as September 1, but that could change. In fact it could change itself all the way to 2013, but hopefully we will get our chance to play it this fall.
Resident Evil 6(November 20, 2012; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Capcom, Capcom)
Capcom has remained fairly tight-lipped when it comes to Resident Evil 6, but the publisher and developer has confirmed that it is on the way. After the world discovers that there have been some nasty things happening due to bioterrorists attacks, Leon Kennedy and Chris Redfield team up to help stop a potentially worldwide epidemic. Beyond that, there isn’t much know about the game. It is probably a fair assumption that you will run into some form of evil creatures, people that have been transformed into things that need to be shot in the face, and possibly at least one annoying girl that you have to escort to safety while she helplessly gets hit in the head with an axe (looking at you Resident Evil 4). More details will likely flood out soon.
Confirmed Release Windows
Diablo 3(Q1 2012: PC, Mac OS X; Blizzard Entertainment, Activision Blizzard)
Update: Argh! Even as this article was being finalized Blizzard announced that Diablo 3 has been delayed and is facing some major re-working. Q1 is almost certainly out of the question, and even 2012 may be off the table.
Dishonored(Q2 2012; PC, PS3, 360; Arkane Studios, Bethesda)
Like an endangered wild water buffalo, the number of original IPs continues to dwindle. In fact, there are only a handful of original IPs on this list. There are a few reasons for that: Publishers are less likely to back an incredibly expensive, unproven property, especially with the industry sales slumping; many developers are already thinking ahead to the next generation of consoles; maybe the new games just haven’t gotten nearly as much attention as others. There very well could be a surge of dark-horse games this year, but we’ll have to wait and see for that. For now though, one of the more interesting original properties on the way is Dishonored, an open-world steampunk revenge tale, where you can use supernatural powers to supplement hand-to-hand combat abilities. There is still a lot to learn about this game, but with Bethesda publishing, there is a lot of potential here.
Metro: Last Light (Summer 2012; PC, PS3, 360, Wii U; 4A Games, THQ)
The predecessor to this game, Metro: 2033, was not exactly a hit, which makes this heavily refined sequel something of a surprise. Set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by nuclear fallout and the mutants it caused, the original was a cult hit thanks to its oppressive and moody Russian underground setting. In post-apocalyptic Russia, the mutants shoot you! Well, not really, but it is a different kind of shooter where ammo is as scarce as the light you will need to see your way around. It was bleak and depressing at times, and the sequel looks much the same, but with fancy new graphics and a bigger advertising campaign. It should also smooth out some of the glitches that plagued Metro: 2033, and could help make one of the most original FPS games of the year into one of the best.
Prey 2(Summer 2012; PC, PS3, 360; Human Head Studios, Bethesda Softworks)
Another Bethesda game makes the list, and this one is a sequel. Shocking. But unlike most sequels, this game is a very loose successor that is set in the same general world, but features an entirely new character with his own motivations and reasons for being a bad ass. Rather than re-upping with Tommy Tawodi from Prey, you play a new character that was indirectly part of the original 2006 game, U.S. Marshal Killian Samuels. Samuels was captured by aliens during the events of the original game, and now serves as a bounty hunter on the alien-inhabited sphere. With no memory of who he is or how he got there, Samuels roams the open-world environment putting foot to ass in the name of justice, or whatever the aliens call it — at least until he begins to remember. The game was heavily displayed at E3 of last year, and it could be one of the dark-horse hits of the year.
South Park: The Game(Second half of 2012; PC, PS3, 360; Obsidian Entertainment, THQ)
At first glance this title may just look like another TV-licensed product, which would mean that it was almost certainly doomed. When it comes to TV and movie games, in the immortal words of the brilliant George W. Bush, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me…can’t get fooled again.” Those are words to live by, but in this case they may not be applicable. The new South Park game is being created by the developers behind Fallout: New Vegas (so you can expect a great game filled with glitches), and it will be an RPG steeped in all the gooey awesomeness that is South Park. Obviously humor will be a major theme as you work your way up the food chain in order to wait at the bus stop with Cartman and company, which could make for an incredible experience. Or at the very least, an interesting one.
Tomb Raider(Q3 2012; PC, PS3, 360; Crystal Dynamics, Square Enix)
One of the most iconic characters from the early days of the first disc-based games, Lara Croft, returns. But much younger and hotter. Yay? The upcoming Tomb Raider is not so much a reboot of the franchise, as a prequel that explains how a rich, beautiful, inexplicably athletic noble woman grew up to become Angelina Jolie by way of Indiana Jones. Trapped on an island, surrounded by enemies, in order to survive the younger Lara will have to learn new skills on the fly, as the cosplay-friendly heroine begins her career. Odds are that one of those skills will involve a lot of jumping from one platform to another, an ability that will serve her well in later years.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron(Fall; 360, PS3-High Moon Studios, Activision Blizzard)
The sequel to the 2010 sleeper hit, Transformer: War for Cybertron, will feature the fall of Cybertron. Not really a spoiler since it is right there in the title. If you haven’t played the series, then you should know that these games are not related to the movies — that fact can’t be stressed enough. You’ll realize that just minutes in when you discover that there is a real honest-to-God plot. And not just a “we have a plan that involves blowing up Egypt, MUWAHAHAHA!” but an actual plot, complete with some close-to-emotional scenes as the Autobots watch their home destroyed. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, there will be Dinobots in this game! If you grew up watching the original cartoon, your inner child should be screaming for joy right now.
Call of Duty 9(November 2012; TBA; TBA Treyarch, Activision Blizzard)
Technically, Activision has not announced that there will be a Call of Duty game this year. Technically. Ever since Call of Duty 2 came out in 2005, there has been an annual Call of Duty release. And they tend to do ok, commercially. As a side note, someone really needs to invent a sarcasm key. The most recent release, Modern Warfare 3 broke not just gaming records, but entertainment records in general. The game hit $1 billion faster than any entertainment property in history. Not even the firing of the guys in charge of Infinity Ward (the original developers of Call of Duty) and subsequent exodus of at least a third the staff could delay a release. So it is a fairly good chance that there will be one this year. Again, a sarcasm key would be golden there. Maybe “berlin sans” font? The only real question is which company will develop it and when will it be set. Infinity Ward is out until at least 2013 after having done its duty (Get it? “Duty?” sorry, couldn’t resist), which traditionally means that Treyarch would be up to bat following its 2010 Black Ops. There have even been reports that Activision snagged a bunch of website names associated with “Black Ops 2,” suggesting that’s what we’ll get later this year. But then there is Raven Software and Sledgehammer Games, both of which were brought in to help with MW3, and both of which are said to be continuing work on the franchise for their own releases. But whoever develops this year’s game, they will have their work cut out for them. MW3 made a boat load of cash, but it also took a lot of criticism for its lack of innovation. What the next game (which will probably be Black Ops 2) does to make sure the franchise isn’t growing stale will be vital to the health of the series.
Assassin’s Creed III(November 2012; TBA; Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft)
The November release date here is a guess, but it fits, as every other game in the series has been released in November. Ubisoft hasn’t let anything slip about Assassin’s Creed 3, and technically it is not even confirmed yet. But it kind of is. Ubisoft developers have confirmed that the series will have something of a conclusion this year — or at least the current present-day story with Desmond looking to thwart a Templar plot will be resolved. It kind of has to, since the event is supposed to take place in 2012. Ubisoft could always delay, but that doesn’t seem likely, nor is it in keeping with what we’ve already heard. The game will introduce a new historical assassin, feature an all new time period, and put Desmond in a more active role. The real question isn’t when Assassin’s Creed III will be out, but when it will be set.
Halo 4(Holidays 2012; 360; 343 Industries, Microsoft Studios)
Although Bungie, the creators of Halo, have moved on to greener cross-platform pastures, Master Chief is too damn tough to let a little thing like a change of developers stop him. Halo 4 marks the first chapter of a new trilogy named the “Reclaimer Trilogy,” which will be helmed by former Bungie employees so the series is in good hands. Rather than enjoying his time off after kinda saving the galaxy, Master Chief is immediately thrust back into action as he and his now unstable AI BFF, Cortana, find themselves in an artificial habitable shield world built around a sun (also known to sci-fi geeks everywhere as a Dyson’s Sphere). There will be a shift in the tone of the gameplay too, and there will be more of an open feel to the levels as there was in the original Halo, rather than the more directed feel of the later Halo games that pushed you into the action.
The Last of Us(Q4 2012/Q1 2013; PS3; Naughty Dog, SCEA)
Another original game, but this one comes with a pedigree that immediately demands respect. The makers of the Uncharted series turn their collective eye towards the survival horror world with The Last of Us, as the story follows a man and a 14-year old girl who have survived an apocalyptic outbreak of fungus. But it’s, ya know, scary mutant fungus. Nature has begun to reclaim the cities, and the man and girl have a father-daughter type relationship that is constantly tested as they struggle to survive day-to-day. It doesn’t exactly sound uplifting, but Naughty Dog has proven that it can do character development, which could make this one of the top games of the year.
Confirmed for 2012
BioShock Infinite(2012; PC, PS3, 360; Irrational Games, 2K Games)
If we were going to rank the most anticipated games of the year, there is a very good chance that this would be number one. But we love all our games equally, so we won’t do that (but secretly we kinda would). Originally slated for spring of 2012, the release date has gone vague on us. It is due out in 2012 though, and hopefully it will be early 2012 rather than later. Set in the floating city of Columbia in 1912 America, the game is a spiritual successor, and possibly a direct prequel to the 2007 original. The story has also changed in tone, and rather than a voiceless protagonist, you play a former Pinkerton man named Booker DeWitt tasked with rescuing Elizabeth, a young woman with extraordinary powers who has been imprisoned most of her life. Her guard, a monstrous bird-like creature, is none too pleased when you break her out, and has decided to kill and possibly eat you to teach you a lesson. BioShock Infinite stole the show at E3 last year, so the hype is already heavy.
Far Cry 3(2012; PC, PS3, 360; Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft)
One of the surprise hits from E3 was Ubisoft Montreal’s upcoming Far Cry 3. The property took a serious blow at the hands of Uwe Boll and his painfully bad adaptation of the franchise. The film was so bad that those that watched it probably liked the games less because of it. Sometimes when a movie is really bad it is good. This was not one of those times. The only saving grace of the film is that most people haven’t seen it. But with Boll’s dreams of a movie franchise mercifully dashed, the game is set to rise again. FC3 will be set on a remote tropical island and feature a somewhat open-world experience. You will be able to approach areas in multiple ways — just as in previous Far Cry titles, but this game promises to be much bigger. You play a new protagonist stranded on the island, searching for his girlfriend. The tone looks intense, and the plot will feature several memorable characters, both good and bad. If Ubisoft has a sense of humor, perhaps Uwe Boll will be one of the bosses to defeat. By kicking him to death.
Hitman: Absolution(2012; PC, PS3, 360; IO Interactive, Square Enix)
A new mission awaits Agent 47, whose last missions took him to the big screen in the façade of Timothy Olyphant. Although more successful than the god-awful Far Cry film, the Hitman movie was not terrible, but was quickly forgotten. But that’s ok, 47 belongs in a game, it is his natural habitat. In this outing of the follicley challenged assassin, he is forced to eliminate his handler, which soon turns out to be part of a much bigger plot. And since no one puts 47 in a corner, the assassin is soon in the middle of a hunt for a mysterious girl named Victoria. New gameplay elements will be introduced, but the core mechanics of choosing your own method to progress — and then inevitably assassinate your target — remain.
The Last Guardian(2012; PS3; Team Ico, SCEA)
There is as much anticipation as there is uncertainty surrounding this game. The makers of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have been working on a follow up for a few years now, but there have been a lot of delays. The game was originally scheduled for late 2011, but now even a 2012 release date isn’t completely certain. To further terrify fans, the game’s designer and executive producer both announced that they would be leaving Sony. They will supposedly both be involved with The Last Guardian until it is released, but it is still alarming news. When a director of a film quits just as filming has completed, it typically means that the movie will be a mess. That probably isn’t the case, and there are plenty of talented people involved that can ensure this game will be at the same insanely high level of quality as Team Ico’s other titles though. We’ll have to wait until it is released to be sure though.
Starhawk(2012; PS3; LightBox Interactive & SCE Santa Monica Studio, SCEA)
The 1995 game Warhawk was such an incredible success that fans have been clamoring for a sequel, even after they have totally forgotten about it. Although the original game is a distant memory, LightBox and SCE Santa Monica are bringing it back to life with an entirely new look. And story. And setting. And in a new genre. But even if this game is more of a spiritual successor than a literal one, Starhawk has a lot going for it, and the inclusion of the original game will no doubt rings some nostalgic bells in the hearts’ of many. Gone is the vehicular combat of the original, instead to be replaced with a third-person shooter mechanic. There is a huge story involving the colonization of other planets by humans — and the consequences of that — as well as a multiplayer that is already gaining a lot of buzz. Of all the reboots and tenuously connected sequels, this one may stretch the connection the most, but it may also be one of the best games of the year in its own right.
This article was originally posted on Digital Trends
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