The Biggest Games of 2012
Although most people will be spending 2012 either breaking New Year's resolutions or prepping for the end of life itself, I'll be pent up at home playing some video games. 2011 was a fantastic year for gaming and next year doesn't look to slow that momentum. Here's my list of some of the biggest games to hit what could be final year of planet Earth.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 - Release Date: January 31
I have a love/hate relationship with Final Fantasy XIII. I loved the battle system and gorgeous graphics but loathed the linear gameplay and scatterbrained plot. XIII-2 looks to change all that. The already stellar battle system is receiving some new and exciting tweaks. The world has finally opened up with the branching paths and side missions the series is known for. The most intriguing addition is the ability to travel through time, allowing to visit any period and alter events Chrono Trigger style. Sure, it may not be Versus XIII, but XIII-2 is a sequel that's looking to demolish it's predecessor in every way.
Soul Calibur V
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 - Release Date: January 31
Soul Calibur is one of the most respected fighters out there but has been in need of an overhaul in order to keep things fresh. Namco's answer is to set the game 17 years into the future, allowing the introduction of a new generation of fighters. This new batch of fighters look fantastic and returning favorites looks as good (or as old) as ever. Last but not least, Assassin's Creed's own Ezio Auditore will join the fray as the guest character this time around and is a vast improvement to the out-of-place Darth Vader and infuriatingly cheap Yoda.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Release Date: February 7
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has a dream team behind it that most games can only dream about. The game is headed by Ken Rolston, who previously headed development for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Fantasy author R.A. Salvatore (of The DemonWars Saga and Forgotten Realms fame) created the game's universe and lore. Finally, acclaimed comic artist and Spawn creator Todd Macfarlene is lending his talents in the art department. If that's not a recipe for success, I don't know what is. Featuring a more action-centric RPG experience, this is one title that you should not overlook.
Resident Evil: Revelations
Platform: 3DS - Release Date: February 7
After a few action-heavy installments, Revelations marks a return to the series' survival horror roots. Ammo will be scarce, puzzles will be elaborate and confusing, and you'll be searching the enviornment for items (made easier by a handy new supply scanner). The awful tank controls of yesteryear have been ditched for the far more intuitive over-the-shoulder view of the recent console games. Revelations is a fine example of what the 3DS is capable of graphically with gorgeous cinematics and moody lighting that sets the atmosphere perfectly.
The Darkness II
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Release Date: February 7
After a bit of a delay, the sequel to the criminally underrated The Darkness is finally on the horizon. Jackie Estacado is back as the head of the Franchetti crime family after supressing The Darkness for two years. However, an attempt on his life triggers the dormant force inside to reawaken and now Jackie must discover the ones responsible for the attack as well as solve the mysteries of The Darkness itself. The new cel-shaded visuals pay homage to the series' comic roots and the new quad-wielding (two guns, two Darklings) is the definition of bad ass.
Platform: PS3 - Release Date: February 14
I LOVE Twisted Metal. I've owned every game (even the crappy 3rd and 4th games) and have been wishing for a new game on current consoles since this generation started. While most people will spend Valentine's Day buying smelly flowers and getting dumped by no-longer significant others, I'll be shooting down helicopters with transforming ice cream trucks driven by homicidal clowns. With four factions, new vehicles such as the aforementioned helicopter and a chaotic multiplayer, Twisted Metal looks to become the new St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 - Release Date: February 21
Asura's Wrath didn't have to do much to sell me. It only featured a Dragon Ball Z-esque battle between two gods (one of which grew four extra arms) on the moon that had one of them impale the other through the Earth with a 300,000 mile-long sword that would make Sephiroth green with envy. And to think that fight began with those two characters chilling out in a hot spring together. That scene made games like Devil May Cry and even Bayonetta look tame by comparison. Seriously, check out the trailer and tell me this game isn't on your radar.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Platform: PS Vita - Release Date: February 22
I can't think of a better way to kick off launch of the Vita than a new entry from Sony's most outstanding franchise. Golden Abyss takes place before Drake's Fortune and has Nate searching for some sort of lost treasure. If that bit of insight didn't totally blow your mind, the visuals will. Golden Abyss is a prime example of the Vita's technical chops, with graphics that are as beautiful and detailed as it's console brethren. The twin-sticks allow the game to play just like the console versions and is complemented by new touch screen mechanics, allowing for quick platforming at the touch of a finger. Golden Abyss is shaping up to be the most cinematic experience to ever grace a handheld and I can't wait to break in my Vita with this baby.
Mass Effect 3
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Release Date: March 6
Bioware's epic space opera comes to a close in Commander Shepard's final bid to unite the galaxy and stop the Reapers once and for all. While the role-playing elements are still present, the shooting mechanics have been greatly improved, providing a much more polished combat experience than the first two games. Kinect can also be utilized to issue voice commands to squad mates (which should last all of 5 minutes before most switch back to traditional controls) With so many possibilities on how the story will conclude, role-playing games don't get much better than this.
Street Fighter X Tekken
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PS Vita, PC - Release Date: March 6
The question of who would win in a fight between Ken Masters and Paul Phoenix has baffled man since the dawn of time but come March, we'll finally have an answer. One of two games of this crossover (the other being the Namco-developed Tekken X Street Fighter). Despite losing a dimension, the Tekken crew look right at home and look great in Street Figher IV's engine. Capcom also promises a plot that attempts to sensibly explain why these two universes are colliding--good luck with that. The PS3 and Vita versions will also feature Infamous protagonist Cole MacGrath as an exclusive playable character.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Release Date: March 6
The PC classic lives on in this new FPS re-imagining. The distant future setting has been replaced for 50's era suburbia. While the new perspective may turn off long-time fans, classic elements such as squad and base management,alien research, and non-linear progression remain intact. This game has been bouncing around release dates so hopefully March 6 will be the one that sticks.
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Release Date: March 7 (console)/ Q1 2012 (PC)
I've been battling the Umbrella Corporation and the frightening results of their genetic tinkering for years, but now I have a chance to step into the shoes of one of their own operatives. Operation Raccoon City takes place during the events Resident Evil 2 and 3, playing as Umbrella agents trying to cover up and contain the T-Virus outbreak. Playing as Umbrella agents also allows for several "what-if" scenarios, such as killing long-time savior Leon S. Kennedy. Gameplay is There are 6 different character classes to choose from as well as a Left 4 Dead style four-player co-op mode. Players can also become infected by zombies, driving them insane and even causing them to attack fellow teammates.The gameplay may be a bit derivative, but the prospect of reshaping Resident Evil lore has me ready for yet another romp through Raccoon City.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 - Release Date: March 27
Capcom's attempt at the open world fantasy game is shaping up to be one of the more unique offerings of the genre. One of the biggest things going for Dragon's Dogma is it's party system, with intelligent party AI that is completely capable in combat allowing you to focus more on the action than on babysitting. In addition, your party members are all part of an online infrastructure and can be "borrowed" but other players for their game and their characters are available to you as well. So even when you're not playing, your party will be taking part in numerous adventures.
What's cool is that your party members retain information from all of their encounters, so if you battle an enemy that they've already faced in another player's game, they'll offer useful tips on how to defeat it. Other mechanics such as the ability to grab onto and even climb enemies in order to attack weak points create layers of strategy not seen in other RPG's.
Ninja Gaiden 3
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 - Release Date: March
Ryu Hayabusa returns and seems to be channeling his inner Nero with a new and mysterious demonic arm. Besides the tainted limb, another significant addition is a new easy mode, allowing newcomers to get around the notorious difficulty. Before Hardcore fans/masochists worry that their mad skills will no longer be tested, the traditionally controller-throwing difficulty is still an option. Team Ninja's decision to remove dismemberment from the game entirely is still baffling, but hopefully the core gameplay is polished and entertaining enough to make me forget it's absence.
Max Payne 3
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Release Date: March
First, he lost his family. Now, he's lost his hair. Hell, the poor guy can't even get a decent film. It really does suck to be Max Payne. But his loss will be our collective gain come March when the world's unluckiest cop turned widowed vigilante makes his grand return to gaming. A new and improved bullet-time allows you to see every bullet fired tear through your enemies and the ability to shoot in a full 360 degrees allows for a full view to fill goons with lead no matter where you are. The game's heavy noir influences remain as well, so look for expect Max to spout overwrought dialogue such as "My shiny smooth head reflected like a cold glass bourbon on a hot day in hell...where my dead family is"
Platform: Wii - Release Date: April 3
Those who thought Skyward Sword would be the Wii's last hurrah now have a new reason to hold on to their little white boxes a while longer. Initially only exclusive to Japan and Europe, impassioned North American fans protested fervently with online campaigns and petitions for Nintendo to stop being meanies and localize the damn game. That persistence has paid off, as we now have a North American release date for the critically acclaimed RPG as well as a reason for my Wii to be more than just another object to dust.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Release Date: TBA Q2 2012
After a solid trilogy of platformers (and one fantastic downloadable entry), Developer Crystal Dynamics has resurrected the Tomb Raider franchise. It's next project is a complete re-imagining of the long running series, introducing a younger, inexperienced Lara Croft who is stranded on a mysterious island after a devastating shipwreck. The gritty and ominous tone is unlike any Tomb Raider game with Crystal Dynamics promising we will see Lara pushed to her physical and emotional limits as she tries to unravel the island's mysteries.
Devil May Cry
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 - Release Date: TBA 2012
I'm a huge fan of the Devil May Cry series and when the initial trailer was shown, I, like many fans, cried foul over this reimagining of one of my favorite franchises. Several trailers later, and my skepticism has all but faded. Yes, Dante has a weird new look, but developer Ninja Theory seem to have nailed his signature brand of stylish combat.
The most interesting element of this game is Limbo City itself. While completely ordinary, at times the city transforms iinto a twisted, malevolent version of itself, with contorting buildings that actually attack Dante. Ideas such as that look to add some exciting wrinkles to the DMC formula; even the most jaded fans can get over a little change in hair color with gameplay that promising.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Release Date: Q2 2012
This exciting new IP comes courtesy of Arkane Studios (Bioshock 2) and Bethesda. An amalgam of time periods, this open world game follows Corvo, an elite guard for the Empress of the world, who has been framed in her assassination. An expert warrior, you'll have swords, knives, guns and more at your disposal as well as some supernatural powers such as the ability to stop time and body possession. The heavy emphasis on stealth and using gadgets and your surroundings in combat are a breath of fresh air for first-person games. If all goes well, Dishonored should hit shelves sometime next winter.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC - Release Date: June
How fitting is it that a game starring a horseman of the apocalypse should hit in 2012? In Darksiders II players will assume the role of the horseman Death, on a journey to prove his brother War's innonence in starting the apocalypse. Like the first game, the game plays like a fusion of God of War and The Legend of Zelda. However, unlike the first game, Darksiders II will feature city hubs and NPC's that issue side quests as well as a whole lotta loot to collect. Death is much quicker and more nimble than his brother War and his armor can be customized with multiple pieces, allowing you to have Death the way you like it. Details of the previously announced WiI U version should likely come once the other versions release.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Platform: 3DS - Release Date: Q2/Q3 2012
At last, the story is moving forward! After numerous detours, this newest entry in the beloved franchise actually takes place after Kingdom Hearts II. While you'll be visiting some familiar Disney locales, there'll be some new ones such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It's also nice to see some Square characters outside of Final Fantasy (such as Neku from The World Ends With You, pictured above). This time around, Sora and Riku take the Mark of Mastery Exam, in order to become true keyblade masters to battle a returning Master Xehanort, as well as doubts of the arrival of Kingdom Hearts 3.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Release Date: September 1 (tentative)
The sequel to one of my favorite games of this generation is shaping up to be even better than it's predecessor. New comer Salvatore represents the new "Gunzerker" class, who's power resembles Brick from the first game can also dual-wield any combination of guns leading to a plethora of ridiculous gameplay possibilities. In addition, Pandora is now populated with NPC's who roam the land making the world feel much more alive. Enemy AI has been tweaked to emphasize teamwork as well as covering when hurt and pursuing players, to the point of climbing difficult terrain, to attack them. The wildly entertaining four-player co-op is still intact and Borderlands 2 will even feature some semblance of a engaging story. Though I'll likely be too busy blowing the heads of Psychos to notice any of it.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 - Release Date: Fall
War for Cybertron was the game Transformers fans always dreamed of, but High Moon studios is setting that bar even higher. While all the elements fans loved about the previous game have been improved (as well as complaints addressed), the most exciting element by far is the return of Grimlock and the Dinobots, legendary Autobots with dinosaur-based transformations. High Moon has proven it understands the license like no other developer and Fall of Cybertron could be the best Transformers game yet.
Platform: PC - Release Date: Q1 2012
Oh yes. The long-awaited third entry in the series of dungeon crawling loot fest is almost here. A new auction house will allow players to use spend real money to purchase items and equipment (though that option will not be available in hardcore mode). New skill runes allow for more flexibility in shaping a character's abilities and strength. Even after your journey as ended, a random level and encounter generator ensures replays that are unique experiences each time you replay the game. No one provides a PC experience like Blizzard and I'm sure many have already arranged their fake death certificates for next year.
Silent Hill: Downpour
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 - Release Date: Q1 2012
Survival horror fans have one more reason to get excited for 2012. Silent Hill as a long and winding mythos, but this entry will be unrelated to the previous games making it a perfect entry point for new comers. Players control Murphy, a prison inmate who becomes stranded in the southeastern area of Silent Hill, an area unexplored in past entries. The game's notoriously difficult puzzles are made easier with the option to select puzzle difficulty. Side-quests that change based on your play style will also be present. Expect your senses to be toyed with and your nerves shaken to their core when this one hits.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengence
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 - Release Date: 2012
Just when you thought "transfarring" owned the franchise on silly names, here comes "revengence". Besides having possibly the dumbest subtitle ever, it's nice to know that this game still exist, though things are a bit different now. Development has been handed off to Platinum Games which, while an odd choice at first glance, makes perfect sense given their pedigree with over-the-top action games like Bayonetta and Vanquish. The feats Raiden pulls off in the trailer makes armlessly taking on a team of guards with a sword in his teeth look like nothing and I hope to seek revengence sometime next year.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Release Date: 2012
And the winner for my most anticipated game goes to Ken Levine's latest masterpiece. Everything about this game has floored me from the awe-inspiring floating dystopia of Columbia, to the heart-stopping rail rides, to Elizabeth's mysterious "tears", fabrics of time that she can manipulate that open a wellspring of exciting gameplay possibilities. Expectations for Bioshock Infinite are as high as the city it's set it in, but I have a feeling they'll be met and more once it finally releases.
What games are you looking forward to playing next year?