2012 Games Preview

PrintE-mail Written by Andy Hall

It’s a safe bet that one, more or all of these following titles bled your wallet dry during 2011: Portal 2, Dead Space 2, LA Noire, Batman Arkham City, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, inFAMOUS 2, Dark Souls, Skyrim, Uncharted 3 Drake’s Deception.

If your finances are still feeling the pinch from those and other quality releases last year then look away now. 2012 is shaping up to be what Ned Ryerson may refer to as “a doozy” and fans of almost any long-running franchises will have their annual fix. Although recent shock announcements such as Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us may also find their way into the release schedule it would be advised not to hold your breath.

But amongst your Halos, Assassin’s Creeds and, for better or worse, Call of Dutys there are numerous smaller, under-the-radar games or brand new IPs vying for your attention. The following games represent just a small portion of some of the more interesting titles that should find themselves nestled in your collection over the next twelve months...


Max Payne 3

PS3, 360, PC

What’s the skinny?

With Rockstar Games now in complete control of Remedy Entertainment’s John Woo inspired detective noir, and with over four years development time on current generation technology, Max Payne 3 looks set to be the shot in the arm shooters have needed since the underappreciated Vanquish was released back in 2010. Although criticism has been levelled at the decision to take Max out of his perpetual night-time New York setting and drop him in to the dazzling daylight of São Paulo, Brazil, Rockstar have been adamant that this third outing for the cynical, near suicidal detective “will maintain its dark and gritty origins”. Bullet-time and shoot-dodge mechanics make a return, with the Euphoria physics engine working its magic to create Rockstar’s most realistic game to date (hopefully eradicating all memory of John Marston’s uncomfortable looking gait). Remedy themselves were invited to see the game during development and give Rockstar some feedback and have said publicly that the game “looks absolutely phenomenal”. It’s looking like multiplayer won’t be an afterthought either with Rockstar promising some modes will have a narrative that will change dynamically during a match. There’s a certain degree of maturity and intelligence to be expected with a Rockstar production and their stubborn refusal to release anything less than quality means this is one of the first must-play titles of 2012.

Give me one reason to be excited.

Every bullet is modelled individually. That’s a crazy attention to detail that we can’t help but applaud.


Asura’s Wrath

PS3, 360

What’s the skinny?

Little is known about this “interactive cinematic action” title from Japanese developers CyberConnect2. The demo, released in early January, only served to divide players between those who considered it one of the most eye-wateringly epic, ridiculously over-the-top visual spectacles they’d ever played to those who were damn near insulted by it’s near 100% reliance on quick-time-events. What we do know is that it’s an anime styled action game concerning the titular Asura, a demigod, accused of the murder of his Emperor. With his wife dead and his daughter kidnapped Asura vows vengeance and, in a plot that spans several millennia, sets about battling the Gods and bringing the real murderer to justice. Taking it’s aesthetic cues from Dragonball Z and seemingly having no limits when it comes to absurdity (one sequence in the demo featured Asura being skewered to the ground by a sword the length of the Earth’s diameter) Asura’s Wrath has certainly given us cause to raise an eyebrow in its direction. But the QTE-heavy gameplay we’ve been privy to (take the end-sequence of any God of War boss fight and stretch it out over an entire level) makes us more than a little wary. Publishers Capcom are keeping their cards close to their chest on this one but, rest assured, that demo has it planted firmly on our radar.

Give me one reason to be excited.

A fight with a character that is twice the size of the planet is simply a mid-game boss fight. Think about that for a second.


Lollipop Chainsaw

PS3, 360

What’s the skinny?

Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda51 are at it again. After wowing us with the criminally underrated Shadows of the Damned last year, the wonderfully off-kilter mind behind killer7 and No More Heroes has another guilty pleasure in store for us. Lollipop Chainsaw tells the Buffy-esque story of Juliet Starling, cheerleader for San Romero High School by day and zombie hunter by night. When the school is overrun by the undead it’s up to Starling and her boyfriend (a disembodied head) to save the day. But with Suda and Troma graduate James Gunn on development and writing duties you can be sure this won’t be a straightforward hack and slash. The trailer, released last year, caught everyone by surprise with its over-the-top, rainbow coloured style offset by graphic mutilations and a fair amount of innuendo and naughty words. Check out the trailer yourself and tell us you’re not even slightly intrigued. With more up skirt shots and jiggling bosoms than Starburst’s browser history we can only hope that Warner Bros. don’t pull an EA and completely mishandle the marketing.

Give me one reason to be excited.

Suda has stated that some gameplay “might involve sound”. Okay…


Far Cry 3

PS3, 360, PC

What’s the skinny?

A total of four Ubisoft studios have had a hand in the development of this third proper installment of the ongoing man-against-insurmountable-odds-in-a-rather-pretty-exotic-locale series. Although Far Cry 2 had its fair share of detractors, citing constantly respawning enemies, inconsistent AI and the fact it took its quest for realism too far, we thought it was one of the better open-world titles of recent times. Ubisoft have promised to build upon everything that did work in the previous title and, from what we’ve seen so far, we have no reason to doubt them. This time you’ll be trapped on an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Assuming the role of tourist Jason Brody, your mission will be to track down your missing girlfriend and escape from the island. Trouble is, the inhabitants are in the middle of a violent, bloody conflict and, much like the previous title, will want to either use you or kill you. One of the more commendable attributes of Far Cry 2 was the natural feeling of movement and interaction from a first-person viewpoint. That’s all present and correct here, with the added features of a cover-and-shoot mechanic and the ability to perform close-quarter takedowns. Will Ubisoft take its realism angle even further? We bloody well hope so.

Give me one reason to be excited.

Ubisoft have stated that the map will be ten times the size of previous games. Best pack your thermos.


Journey

PSN

What’s the skinny?

Quite ironically, for a studio called thatgamecompany, they don’t really make ‘games’. At least not in the traditional sense. Their two previous titles, fl0w (in which the player controls and interacts with aquatic amoeba-like creatures) and flower (player assumes control of the wind to guide a flower petal across beautifully realized environments) were more of an experience than a game and Journey continues this tradition. Playing an almost ethereal robed figure, your ‘playground’ is a desert and your only goal will be to reach a mountain that can be seen at all times far out on the horizon. Whilst the developers have touched briefly upon environmental puzzles and other obstacles that will be encountered along the way they are generally keeping tight-lipped about what players can expect. The most intriguing aspect so far is the inclusion of online play. If you are signed in to the PSN it is possible to meet up with one other player, although you will never know who they are and communication will be limited to a ‘wordless shout’. You can either work together along your journey or go your separate ways and it’s this minimalist approach to ‘multiplayer’ that we’re most excited about. In a gaming world obsessed with shooting each other in the face, the opportunity to just help each other out in a non-violent scenario is a refreshing change of pace.

Give me one reason to be excited.

If none of the above sounds enticing then we really can’t help you. Return to your Team Deathmatch lobby, nothing to see here…


Binary Domain

PS3, 360

Demon’s Souls, Vanquish, Shadows Of The Damned, MGS 4. Japanese games embracing western design sensibilities continues apace with this third-person, squad based, tactical shooter from the developers of the very eastern Yakuza series. The year is 2080 and a gung-ho and very American group of soldiers are fighting a robotic revolution in Tokyo. The reason for the uprising is the discovery that the Japanese government has been secretly manufacturing advanced androids. The problem is that these androids believe they are human. The pre-rendered trailers shown so far are pushing the storyline to the forefront, with creator and director Toshihiro Nagoshi wanting us to think about the concepts of man and machine, of the boundaries between the two becoming blurred the more technology advances. Whilst tactical shooters aren’t groundbreaking these days what separates this above the rest is the Trust and Consequence system. Issue smart commands to your teammates during conflict and this will build up a level of faith with them in you as a commander. Conversely, making bad decisions and ignoring your squad will lead to distrust, making for a difficult time in the battlefield. These decisions will also affect how certain story elements play out. Up to this point there has been no mention of multiplayer or online co-op but that shouldn’t be ruled out as a possibility. It’s all looking very promising, although awareness of the title is still quite low. Let’s hope publishers SEGA give it a bit more of a push than they did with the similarly themed Vanquish.

Give me one reason to be excited.

Issuing commands can be done via a headset. Well, it can in the Japanese version. Let’s hope the feature is available in all languages.


I Am Alive

PSN, XBLA

What’s the skinny?

It’s one year after ‘The Event’, an apocalypse of sorts that wiped out most of civilization. Set in a fictional American city, you play a man struggling to survive the hazardous conditions of the fallout as he attempts to reunite with his wife and daughter. Since its inception in 2008 the IP has seen numerous changes to its original design and also a handover of development duties from Darkworks to Ubisoft Shanghai. But the core idea has remained the same, that of survival. Exploration, scavenging for supplies and awareness of your character’s physical state are some of the main gameplay features. Whilst encounters with hostile NPCs are possible, the best course of action will be, more often than not, to back away or simply avoid them altogether. Engagement will usually be a last resort. It all sounds like a different type of game than most people are used to and trigger happy players need not apply, but the idea of simply surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with your wits as your primary weapon, has us itching to get our hands on it.

Give me one reason to be excited.

Rumours are circulating that the entire story can be completed without firing a single shot. We can only hope.


Tomb Raider

PS3, 360

What’s the skinny?

It’s been 14 years since Tomb Raider III, arguably the last great release for the cultural icon that is Lara Croft. Despite Crystal Dynamics best efforts they have never managed to reclaim the magic of those first three releases from originators Core Design, so it was decided to completely wipe the slate clean and build up the franchise from a new origin. This time around, Lara Croft will be portrayed as a regular 21 year old student of archaeology. In search of a lost relic Lara travels, by boat, to Japan. En route the ship is sunk by a freak storm and Lara is washed ashore a (seemingly) deserted island. Much like the forthcoming I Am Alive this Tomb Raider will focus on survival, as opposed to the previous entries emphasis on treasure hunting and combat. It’s a genuinely exciting take on the world famous franchise; a gritty, visceral vision that should wash away memories of a decade’s worth of bad games and fixation on breast size.

Give me one reason to be excited.

There’s no heads-up-display, further enhancing the cinematic feel and sense of helplessness.


Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning

PS3, 360, PC

What’s the skinny?

With Dark Souls and Skyrim now out of the way, and many a player hooked within the fantastical elements they provide, the coast is clear for 2012’s RPG of the year. Leading the pack, particularly in terms of the talent behind it, is Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning. Why is this at the top of the list? RPG fan-favourite Ken Rolston, of Morrowwind and Oblivion fame, is behind it. Working from a universe created by respected fantasy author Robert Anthony Salvatore and with Spawn creator Todd McFarlane on artistic duties, Kingdoms looks set to soak up a lot of gamers spare time. The usual tropes are present and correct; select a character type, advance through the story, complete side quests, level up your skill set… you know the drill. But what will really draw players in is the incredibly rich universe, steeped in lore, that is evident from the outset. While the third-person view and general aesthetics will have it compared to From Software’s Souls series, developers 38 Studios and Big Huge Games have likened it to God Of War meets Oblivion. Best start tidying up those loose ends in Skyrim, we think.

Give me one reason to be excited.

You begin the game waking up in a pile of corpses. Now that’s how you start an RPG.


Star Trek

PS3, 360, PC

What’s the skinny?

Name one good movie tie-in video game without using the words ‘Spider’, ‘Man’ or ‘2’. Anyone? No? Well it looks like Digital Extremes and Paramount Entertainment are about to buck the trend. Bridging the gap between the recent reboot and the forthcoming sequel, the game will be played co-operatively as players assume the roles of either Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock. If you think about it that’s really the only way a Star Trek game should be played, Kirk and Spock being the beating heart of the Star Trek universe. It would be almost an insult to have one or the other as a passive NPC or AI controlled back up. The gameplay we’ve seen points towards an action packed romp through starships and far-flung planets and the trade-mark banter between the two icons is present and correct. The co-op angle is milked for all it’s worth, with one particular sequence involving Spock helping an injured Kirk through the Enterprise to the ship’s medical bay. With the Spock player tied up with controlling the movement of both it’s up to the player behind Kirk to take care of weapon duties. This is genuinely looking like a game to keep an eye on leading up to its release later this year. A movie-license game that looks awesome? Set phasers to stunned!

Give me one reason to be excited.

What? You’re not excited?


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