Saturday, 17 September 2011

Christmas 2011 Sequel Thoughts.

So we're getting close to the concluding months of 2011 which means we're about to get a slew of blockbuster releases in time for Christmas, and college deadlines. I find that every year this gaming orgy gets a little bigger and this year is most certainly sticking to tradition. This of course being my final, and busiest year of college, it's only natural that most of the games are must-haves for me, and coincidentally, sequels. There are plenty of giant games coming out this Christmas but I've decided to focus on a small few that I'll most likely have no choice but to pick up on release day.

Quick Note: I'm aware that these are all incredibly western and mainstream and all feature male protagonists with big muscles and American accents. Sadly "Flower 2" or "Return to Limbo" doesn't scream "preorder!" so forgive me for being a conformist, I just like playing games. 

Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Yet another installment from what I believe to be the most franchised game series in history (seriously, look it up on Wikipedia, comics, films, hoodies, everything!) and once again noticeably missing a "3" at the end of it. This is a game that I don't believe needed to happen, and I said that about Brotherhood as well. I get it though, Ubisoft wants to release the final chapter in 2012 as that's an important time in the Assassin's Creed mythology (therefore marketing gold), but selling us a "major installment" every year in between is a bit much. Brotherhood didn't really feature enough new bells or whistles to really justify itself and this looks like it's bringing even less new stuff to the table. If Brotherhood was Assassin's Creed 2.5 (and it was) then that would really make this AC2.75, and nobody likes that many decimal points in their game titles. I mean, do we really need to play again as Ezio? Or Altair?! Is a new zipline really a back-of-the-box feature? Do I care that Ezio is getting old? I admit I did when Solid Snake was on the home stretch but I'd known him a lot more than two years. I'm going to pick up this game because I really dig the story and want to see where it's going, and I guess I know what I'm getting in terms of gameplay as well. But man, AC3 better deliver after all this foreplay or else I'm going to be seriously peeved.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Ah Uncharted. You've never done me wrong, have you? This is the sort of game that's going to have me texting everyone in my phonebook on release day and excitedly saying "Happy Uncharted 3 day!". This  game has so much to live up to. For those who don't know, Uncharted 2 was massive. It changed the way AAA developers approach sequels. Just look at games like inFamous 2 or Dead Space 2, more emphasis on story, character development, set pieces, quality. I'm very interested to see if Uncharted 3 affects how developers look at the famously challenging third installment. So far it's looking great, loads of emphasis has been placed on online gameplay this time around, possibly with an eye to challenging games like Call of Duty or Halo. Somehow they're still managing to improve on graphics and  lighting on the PS3 and pushing themselves in regard to animation and production. There's also water gameplay (something I was hoping for) and seemingly a bunch of new locales to host Drake's new adventure. Concerns? Few and far between. With such a successful game in Uncharted 2, topping their own success if going to be very difficult for Naughty Dog. The story and gameplay improvements need to be pretty big to justify another installment, rather than just making Uncharted 3 to cash in on the brand. I know for the fact this will be a great game, I just hope it manages to surpass even my expectations.

Batman: Arkham City
Man, did anybody see Arkham Asylum being the instant classic that it was? I sure didn't. I took one look at the screenshots and the developer and said "that looks cool, shame it's going to be crap" and boy was I wrong. Loaded with atmosphere, great gameplay and a noticeable amount of care, it was very clear that Rocksteady took the job seriously and delivered what was arguably the best comic book game in the history of video games. So how do you follow it up? Rocksteady's answer appears to be "build on it". They've kept everything we've loved about Arkham Asylum and added a bunch of new features and characters. Having already proved themselves at adapting characters we've known and loved since we were kids, it's exciting to see them dipping again into the archives to bring some fresh blood into the world of Arkham City. So far we've seen Two Face, Mr. Freeze, Talia al Ghul among many others and I've no doubt we'll see a few more in the final game. I'm also really pleased to see the inclusion of Robin and Catwoman as playable characters, it should add a little spice to the campaign.  The change of setting is also a brave move in my opinion. It'd have been easy to stick to what they know and do another round on Arkham Island but instead the developers jumped out of their comfort zone once again and moved to the more urban setting of Gotham City (although, thankfully, they've seemingly left out the ability to drive the Batmobile). One thing that pleases me to no end is that they have completely left out online multiplayer. As someone who buys games for their single player features, I appreciate that the developers have decided to focus entirely on that rather than trying to stick on a superfluous multiplayer component (I'm looking at you, Assassin's Creed). I can't wait for this one.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
No game splits a room like Call of Duty. Many gamers love it, many think it's everything that's wrong with the game industry. Many people were shooting this down long before there was any information released about it simply because MW2 wasn't the cancer curing, girlfriend producing, body toning happy pill that we all built it up to be. MW2 was far from perfect but it was still a thoroughly entertaining ride that did everything I expected from it. I see this as being no different. It's a bit prettier and the story has predictably gotten huge and ridiculous but that's what I play Call of Duty for. If I want to play something that's actually going to make me think or feel something then I'll dig out Metal Gear Solid or Heavy Rain. From what I've seen it looks like a tonne of new bits have been added to the multiplayer, this is sure to please many but I think the whole thing is starting to get a little busy. I'm hoping for a nice conclusion to Soap and Price's story with some epic twists and turns along the way. Jaw dropping set pieces are sure to be included in this, but I'd be a very happy player if they managed to fit in some less Micheal Bay-esque sections too, just a tiny bit of contrast to all the explosions. That would be sweet. I'm pretty sure that I'll get my money's worth with this, but I'm not expecting this to change my life like many others did with MW2. Will this be a contender for Game of the Year? I doubt it. But believe me, this is going to outsell everything else by quite a huge amount. Including . . .

Battlefield 3
This, for many, is The Big One. The knight in shining armour that's going to dethrone Call of Duty (the evil emperor of gaming legend). I don't believe any other game this Christmas has expectations as high as this one. EA and Dice have made it very clear that their out for blood with this. They want to destroy Call of Duty and salt the ground it grew from. I think they could make a game that made you more attractive the more you played and it still wouldn't outsell CoD but it's great to see some competition at the top. And believe me, competition is what breeds good games. I remember the days when Medal of Honour was the big seller and Call of Duty was hacking at it's ankles, it's funny how circular the game industry is at times. The game itself is shaping up to be stellar, Dice are really putting their best foot forward and it shows. The graphics are incredible (on the PC anyway) and I'm really digging how cinematic the campaign is looking. With this I want something a little grittier and more realistic than CoD. I have zero doubt the multiplayer is going to be amazing. It's great so see jets back in the game and I'm looking forward to seeing all the new weapons and equipment that's in store. I think it's probably going to be a better game overall than CoD but I strongly believe that they both can coexist as long as they both maintain quality. CoD has it's popcorn market and Battlefield can aim for the Generation Kill fans out there. I'll be picking up a copy of both this year and if you enjoy your first person shooters, I suggest you do the same.

So those are the games I'm certain to pick up. I want to say I'll keep an eye out for more, but as I say this is my last year and I've a film to make. You're more than welcome to comment and perhaps share the games you can't wait for.