The Ten Most Exciting 2012 Releases (And The Five Least Exciting)

 

Dear Reader,

If 2012 really is the year the world ends, we’re goin’ out with a bang from a gaming standpoint. As we join hands and prepare to embrace the apocalypse, let’s take a look at the ten most promising games set to release this year, as well as the five least promising…relatively speaking. I don’t mean the five absolute worst games that are coming in 2012, just the noteworthy ones that are not shaping up well.

Hit the jump and let’s begin.

Defense of the Ancients 2 (Valve, PC/Mac, TBD) 

There’s something kind of odd about Valve producing a standalone sequel to a mod for a Blizzard game, but it’s exciting all the same. This is both a brand new genre and a new IP for Gabe Newell and company, and it’s hard not to be curious about how it’ll turn out. Not too curious, of course; the day Valve makes a bad game is the day I eat my shoe.

 

Mass Effect 3 (Bioware, Xbox 360/PS3/Windows, March) 

Everyone on the planet except Mecha knows that “Mass Effect 2″ was one of the best games of the past few years. Rich story, deep combat, gorgeous graphics. ME3 is looking to deliver the knockout punch with smartly implemented multiplayer and some reworked combat. The most exciting thing about this threequel, however, will be the ability to finish the journey of a character I created five years ago.

 

Bioshock: Infinite (Irrational, Xbox 360/PS3/Windows, June) 

I’m gonna come out and say it: “Bioshock 2″ sucked. Everything felt half-hearted, from the worthless multiplayer to the redundant, uninspired campaign. But one glance at “Bioshock: Infinite,” and you can already feel the magic coming back, no doubt due to the involvement of Ken Levine and Irrational. A new location, new gameplay mechanics, and a harrowing story should add up to a worthy successor to the “Bioshock” throne.

 

Borderlands 2 (Gearbox, Xbox 360/PS3/Windows, July) 

The original “Borderlands” was slightly flawed, but its core mechanics mined such a rich vein of fun that it didn’t matter. A sequel that was even marginally more polished might become a flat-out classic, so it’s easy to get excited for Gearbox’s next go-round in Pandora. Nothing Gearbox has released suggests any revolutionary changes, but improved vehicles, extensive weapons customization, and sharper A.I. are all steps in the right direction.

 

Metro: Last Light (4A Games, Xbox 360/PS3/Wii U/Windows, TBD)

“Metro: 2033″ was a gem of a game; a literary adaptation with atmosphere, smarts and style to spare. And although it wasn’t a huge seller, THQ bravely backed a sequel anyway, sensing untapped potential in the franchise. They may be onto something. “2033″ had some issues with slippery aiming and A.I, but if 4A can address those and keep what worked the first time, they could have a real winner on their hands.

 

Halo 4 (343 Industries, Xbox 360, Q3/Q4)

With Bungie stepping away to work on a new cross-platform IP, the world waits with baited breath to see if 343 can pick up the slack. Few details are known right now, but the trailer left many indifferent and some pessimistic. Is Master Chief about to have his first true crash landing, or will Microsoft be able to deliver on the astronomical expectations that come with their flagship brand?

 

Diablo III (Blizzard, PC/Mac, TBD)

Like you even need to be told about this one. Aside from being the newest member of one of the great gaming dynasties, “Diablo III” sports a revolutionary in-game commerce system that could change how games make profit forever. Of course, not everyone is happy with what they’re seeing: some complain that screenshots and video footage look too bright, others that it seems too familiar. Time will tell if Blizzard overcomes the skeptics.

 

Hitman: Absolution (IO Interactive, Xbox 360/PS3/Windows, TBD) 

The “Hitman” franchise got off to a bumpy start, but it remains one of the premiere stealth titles thanks to its iconic protagonist and often thrilling gameplay. “Absolution” is running on the brand new Glacier 2 engine (which looked gorgeous at E3), and features new gameplay mechanics such as environmental weapons; there’s even been rumors of multiplayer. On the other hand, the “Hitman” franchise went backwards a little with “Contracts” before “Blood Money” got back on target, so you never know. Whatever happens, this is one that stealth fans will have their eyes on.

 

The Last of Us (Naughty Dog, PS3, Q4) 

A new IP from Naughty Dog gets on this list pretty much automatically, but it helps that “The Last of Us” is an apocalyptic survival/action adventure aiming to raise the bar on storytelling in games. From anyone else, all this talk of a deeper emotional experience would fall on deaf ears, but have you seen the “Uncharted” games? Naughty Dog produces sharply written, wonderfully acted cut-scenes with interesting characters. And if they’re challenging themselves to set the new gold standard for game storytelling, I’m excited to see what they pull off.

 

Prey 2 (Human Head Studios, Xbox 360/PS3/Windows, Summer)

Don’t let “Prey 2″ slip off your radar. “Prey” as a franchise has a history of being delayed, forgotten and undervalued, but the original was truly unique and one of my favorite Xbox 360 games. At E3 2011, Human Head blew me away with their demo, showcasing a breathtaking “Blade Runner” inspired world, amazing combat, exhilaratingly fast player movement, and an open-world feel. It just looked good, Dear Reader, I can’t put it any other way. Consider this one near the top of my list.

 

The Five LEAST Interesting 2012 Releases

 

The Darkness II (Digital Extremes, Xbox 360/PS3/Windows, February)

The original “Darkness” had great personality and voice acting, but the gameplay never clicked and the campaign got boring real quick. From the demo I saw at E3 2011, there’s no reason to think “The Darkness II” will be any different. Some minor tweaks, but basically the same gameplay. If you were into the original, maybe you’ll be up for another go around, but color me apathetic.

 

Fable: The Journey (Lionhead, Xbox 360 Kinect, TBD) 

Thank God they got around to making that on-rails shooter “Fable” title that everyone has been crying out for. Now we just need “Metal Gear Kart Racing” and “Forza Fishing Simulator” to complete our collection of games that have no reason to exist.

 

DMC: Devil May Cry (Ninja Theory, Xbox 360/PS3, TBD)

Maybe I’m just being petty. I love Ninja Theory’s work, the gameplay footage looks interesting, and “Devil May Cry” is one of my favorite 3rd person action franchises. But I really do hate the Dante redesign so *#$ing much that those things don’t matter. It looks like Hilary Swank circa “Boys Don’t Cry.” And when Dante doesn’t look right, it’s hard to get excited.

 

Ninja Gaiden 3 (Team Ninja, Xbox 360/PS3/Wii U, March)

This franchise has lost its way. The E3 demo was ugly and unenjoyable, the decision to remove hacking off limbs is ludicrous, and the revamped Ultimate Technique feels like a cheap, game-breaking crutch. NG3 looks and plays like a watered down retread. You can just feel a Tomonobu Itagaki-shaped hole in this damned thing.

 

Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal/Massive/Reflections/Shanghai, Xbox 360, PS3, Windows, TBD) 

“Far Cry 2″ wasn’t the worst game ever made, but between its massive glitches, endlessly respawning baddies, and no apparent connection to the first title, I don’t think it made too many “Best of 08″ lists. Many “Far Cry” fans posited that these faults were due to a new studio taking over the franchise from Crytek, and that same studio is back for FC3. If you do buy it, at least wait until they’ve patched it a few times.

_AA

we all now that now, it’s easy to say that now 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/dustin.hall1 Dustin Hall

    Man, I wish people would get off the DMC redesign. Dante looks different, but he looks fine. Gameplay > white hair. 
    Still can’t guarantee that it’d be a winner, but, hey, not gonna fault it cuz the guy’s look went from 90′s anime to 10′s rocker.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

      I see where you’re coming from, but I really do just hate this design so much I’d almost not play the game because of it. The style of DMC has always been central to its appeal, and you cannot screw that more horribly than messing up Dante. 

      • Anonymous

        So its ok for you to hate dmc because of a silly redesign, but its not ok for me to hate ME2 for its horribly written story? Makes sense.

        • http://www.facebook.com/MendicantMichael Mike Wolf

          Yeah, I gotta agree.  Dante already looked like a fruit, making him look like a different fruit doesn’t matter to me much.

          Mass Effect 2, on the other hand was the start of BioWare’s descent into deep culling of RPG elements in favor of flashbang movie story-telling and a lack of depth in the main plot.  Jade Empire and the first Mass Effect were mere preludes to the neutering of BioWare’s RPG pedigree that ME2 started.  Was it a bad game?  No, not really.  It still held the greatest strength BioWare has and had fairly high; it had great characters.  But the story felt like a poorly done filler to bridge the gap between the first and third game and its preference in designing situations where you just plain shot everything in sight got old quick.  I would be fine with the poor main story with the boon of the cast of squadmates with very interesting stories if Dragon Age II hadn’t further promulgated BioWare’s downfall into the bastardizing of their RPG formula. 

          So yeah, I guess I need to be put in an asylum because I thought Mass Effect 2 was mostly tripe.  It had a lot of good stuff in there, but it’s a far cry from BioWare’s classic stuff, and doesn’t even hope to approach the first Dragon Age, even.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

            This is hard for me to admit, but I see your point. ME2 went really light on the hardcore RPG elements, and if that’s a game-breaker for you, then that’s a game-breaker for you. 

            Don’t agree about the story, though. LOVED the story. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/MendicantMichael Mike Wolf

          I liked the moment-to-moment stuff in the main story, the little interactions that made things feel a bit more alive, but the main plot itself failed to resonate with me.  I was not really concerned with the arrival and threat of the Collectors.  They felt sudden and tacked-on and their mysteries were rather lacking in wonder.  One of the more interesting themes in Mass Effect is the relationship between organic life, virtual intelligences, and artificial intelligences.  Throughout Mass Effect you fight the Geth who have a number of moments that are rather touching in their exposure of the fact that they aren’t just dumb robots, like their worship of what appeared to be an idol and their study of human music.

          Then there’s the rogue VI on Luna, which provides one of the more haunting moments in the original game.  You conclude the quest by shutting down the VI, and it spits out a seemingly random collection of binary at you.  You go and type that binary into a translator on Google, and what do you get? “HELP.”

          Simply put, the Collectors weren’t interesting.  That was kind of the intent of their design: they’re *SPOILERS* the genetic descendents of the Protheans, albeit raped by the ill-intent of the Reapers.  Once that is out of the way, there’s no real emotion put into their tragic plight, no moments where you feel for them.  They’re bugs for you to put down, GI Joe style.  Considering that they’re your main foe in ME2, it doesn’t really mesh.  They felt rushed out the door, a stop-gap.  The Geth have their fascinating dynamic throughout ME1 and ME2, and the Reapers are Lovecraftian and monolithic.  The Collectors are pretty much just bugs who have a fetish for altering bodies.  And it’s not just a bad enemy that you fight once or twice.  No, they feed you this insipid foe for the main plot of the game, and make no illusion to hide the fact that they’re just half-baked, boring, bit players in a bigger plan.  Just like the main plot of ME2, in my opinion, was a half-baked, boring, bit player in the trilogy, offering neither the colorful machinations of the Geth or the daunting Herculean foe of the Reapers in any meaningful capacity.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

        Again, valid points, and well argued. The Collectors may be a slight step down from the Geth in some ways, although I still found their Hive Mind psychology and gruesome experiments on human beings to be really harrowing and effective. When you’re trapped on the Collector ship about three quarters through the game, it’s one of the most heart-racing moments in the ME series so far. 

        And let’s not forget there’s a lot more to the story than just Collectors. I think the player’s uneasy allegiance with Cerberus and the Illusive Man, and the moral gray area surrounding that organization’s methods and goals, is twice as compelling as the static politics of ME1. I was rather bored by the endless “Humanity is dangerous!” hearings in the original ME, but Illusive Man provided a real, complex topic that different people could feel different ways about. I think it even has parallels in modern politics. 

        And of course, killing Shepard in the opening scene then bringing him back with the Lazarus Project was just awesome. It changed Shepard, made people who used to know him/her more wary, and added an element of freedom to let the player decide how to mold a post-resurrection Shepard. 

        All in all, I think ME1 had a world class story, and ME2 continued that tradition in fine form. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/MendicantMichael Mike Wolf

      I will concede the notion that the concept of Cerberus and its machinations were fairly lofty, BioWare as a developer simply didn’t and hasn’t nailed the writing for shades of grey.  You see a very interesting concept in how Cerberus acts, but at the end of the day, the game paints you as the bad guy for following through with them, and now ME3 is copping out and just makes them full-bore bad guys for you to blast.  In the end, the shades of grey prove to be little more than permutations on the good/evil dynamic BioWare has struggled to shed over the years.  Comparing the moral depth of Mass Effect 2 compared to what you could accomplish in say…Fallout: New Vegas is like comparing the moral breadth of Star Wars to Old Boy.

      There’s nothing inherently wrong with being shallow, but BioWare has constantly presented itself to be on the cutting edge of such things, when they in fact, have yet to match the moral gradient (as opposed to the binary BioWare) of Planescape: Torment or Deus Ex.  Just because the plot pretends to pander the options of grey morality doesn’t mean it actually lets you engage in it, and that alone infuriates me.  The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim pulled the same stunt off with the Civil War questline and it marred my enjoyment with much of the rest of the game.

      The resurrection plot-point was interesting, but it never came to the point of where it fundamentally altered my perception on who my Shepard was.  He just woke up and started shooting things again.  There’s no real way to voice appreciation for the character’s moral and physical “reset”, the character never reacts to having been awoken from the dead in a meaningful way (at most, he/she has a Terminator moment when leaning towards the renegade and drops one-liners pertaining to his resurrection; “You’re dead!” “I got better.”)

      The scene with the Collectors was admittedly classy and well-done, but it didn’t break new ground or excite me like it could have.  It felt more like an action game’s level grafted into something that was trying to be more.  Considering that that was pretty much the height of the game’s delving into Collector “culture” and methodology, it felt truncated and weak.

      And then there was Joker’s scene, which I enjoyed…but. All it did for me was to serve an example of how action games have lagged behind horror games in setting up tense situations.  I didn’t really feel threatened because it boiled down to largely being an interactive cut-scene.  The only time I ever failed it (coming from someone who has played the game to completion on the hardest difficulty several times) was when I did it on purpose just to see what happened.  With no threat of real failure, the scene loses its edge real fast.

      Sadly, most of what they have shown for Mass Effect 3 look to be taking that set-piece and turning it to dial eleven.  Yes, a Reaper fighting a Thresher Maw is cool…but it’s just that.  A set-piece meant to appeal to the eyes, not the mind or heart.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

    I think you’re missing the point of the Shepard resurrection. You say that it never manifests significantly for the character, but I disagree. It’s not Mass Effect’s job to determine who or what your Shepard is, it’s your job as the player. 

    When I play ME, I think of myself as consciously crafting a narrative, and it felt right to me that the Lazarus project would result in a slightly unhinged, more Renegade Shepard. So that’s what I did. If the game had forced Shepard to be overly affected by the Lazarus project in any way, I would have felt denied my right to create my story. 

    Not to mention, Shepard working for Cerberus at all is a pretty big ideological and methodological shift. I think it provided exactly the kind of ramifications you were talking about being lacking. 

    I don’t think Bioware is shallow, to be honest. “Renegade” is not evil, and “Paragon” is not good. Binary? Yes. But that doesn’t mean shallow. 

    And hey, let’s not go praising Fallout 3 as some kind of paragon of moral gray area. Remember that vigorous tongue-lashing Liam Neeson gives you if you don’t play like a nice boy the whole game? If anything, Fallout 3 just doesn’t monitor your actions in the same way Bioware tends to, so of course it feels more “free.” But what it really is is just indifferent. 

    It’s different methodologies. Fallout sets you loose and lets you run around, but that doesn’t mean they’re somehow more complex. Mass Effect is more involved in tracking your behavior, and it does so on a binary paradigm, but I think they do an excellent job avoiding oversimplifications.

    Not to mention, each ME game has offered fantastic moral quandaries where the answer wasn’t particularly easy to see. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/MendicantMichael Mike Wolf

    I don’t support Fallout 3, first of all.  It was insipid and far more shallow than Mass Effect.  I said New Vegas, and there’s an ocean of a difference between what the two games will allow you to accomplish, morally speaking.

    Secondly, with no options to really do self-exposition, it detaches your view of Shepard from the game’s view of you.  It’s all introspection.  None of the party members wonder if your resurrection affected your sudden change in morals, no one seems to care.  It’s a charade of depth.  I could pretend that Luigi in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time was secretly plotting to kill Mario due to the fact that it’s revealed that he is not a pure soul in slightest during the game, but that doesn’t make it true to the game, does it?  It’s ultimately extremely lazy on the part of the developers to set up the situation where you can set the role of YOUR character in your head, but you can’t act it out in game more fully.  In New Vegas, I woke from the dead as a complete retard once, with only one point invested in intelligence.  And you know what?  The game presented an entirely different atmosphere, giving me all the dialogue options to be a complete idiot.  I was able to run into a power plant and encounter some NCR troops who weren’t privy to my arrival.  They asked me what I was doing there.  You know what I said? 

    “I IS SCIENTISTICAL.”

    Then I proceeded to butcher all of them with a blunt object.  That’s role-playing.  That’s a developer with the gumption and care to help a player actually live out his bizarre fantasy scenarios, rather than building what is little more than an interactive set-piece that KIND OF gives you a glimpse into the character you want to play, but not really.  There’s never a point where I feel that the game gives me the option to play my Shepard to how I perceive him in more depth.  No game is going to be able to give you everything you want, but Mass Effect is filled with gaps where you have to leave it to your own imagination.  There’s nothing wrong with that to a degree, but considering role-playing games have gone further with how they allowed you to bring life to your character, it ultimately comes off as contrived and overly limited.

    If BioWare at least added a segment where your opinion, your view on your own RESURRECTION (a pretty big deal, yeah) weighed in on your character’s morality, I would have been happy.  But it comes down to you have to write that in yourself, with no way to express it as a character.  Comparing that to how I was able to play a revenge obsessed NCR dog in New Vegas, gearing all my quests and dialogue towards burning Benny’s ass down, it’s not even a matter of night and day in terms of what you can do.  It’s a mountain to a molehill.

    That said, none of the moral questions in Mass Effect are hard to solve.  You just keep pressing up on the dialogue wheel, and you’re a good guy.  Press down, and you’re a bad guy.  Paragon and Renegade are about as subtle as Light Side and Dark Side, the only real distinction being that the former gives you a bit more wiggle room.  There are really only three quandaries that require a more intensive look in Mass Effect, and they all deal with the races.  The Genophage, the Geth, and the Rachni, and all of them are fairly obvious to solves because none of them take their core concept of shaded morality far enough.  We know that that helping the Rachni wasn’t a mistake, because their ravaging of the galaxy was a mistake brought on by Reaper manipulation, so it’s cool you played to the tenants of good-guyism.  They’re more than likely going to help you in ME3 for it.  Same situation with the Geth.  They were being manipulated and one part is good, the other bad.  In an admittedly cool quest, you get to set that bit off, too. 

    The writing on the wall for Mass Effect is obvious.  It comes down to being a modern Star Wars: obvious, obtuse, and predictable, but classy and well-executed despite its lack of depth.  Pretending that ME is deep is foolish.  It’s shallow and could very easily be bettered on the writing side of things.  But you know what?  It’s still fun.  I’m not really knocking it for that, but people who pretend it’s god’s gift to role-players might need to reevaluate the genre they’ve been playing into.   It is simple, to a point where it’s almost too simple, but that’s ultimately why Mass Effect 3 is going to sell very handsomely.  It’s an RPG for those who don’t really want the extra, tangible, depth of an RPG. 

    An RPG for the “masses”, if you will.  I’ll argue against it, and I will hold my opinions, but I’ll still be picking up the last chapter in this story arc just to see how it ends, because it will probably still do what BioWare is good at pretty well; cool characters and kick-ass climaxes.

    .

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

    Ah crap, you did say New Vegas. My b. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/dustin.hall1 Dustin Hall

    Its funny when the comments get all narrow like this and the wordsget all effed up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dave-Molecular/100001625201846 Dave Molecular

    Mecha, anyone who hates ME2 needs to be removed from society and given their own comfy padded cell.  End of story.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

      Exactly. Thank you, Dave. 

  • http://twitter.com/tropetweeter Mac Elmore

    You took the words right out of my mouth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002367454310 Jonathan Stoffregen

    i hate it its stupid and the combat is bland but thats my opinion dont know why everyone loves it :/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jack-Vazquez/100000529309569 Jack Vazquez

    Where is DUST 514.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2C4S35BG46H54V5ZANTY23NWRM Justin

    Darkness 2, Farcry 3 and Fable 4 in the least interesting? You dont have to approve this post, but you just needed to know that you are a tool.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IXE2F24WRRNL2CPLXLCE5RRQ64 jvl

    contracts is probably the 2nd best hitman game right after blood money in NO way a step backwards obviously you never even played it ergo f u

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

      Hahaha, “ergo f u.” I like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

    But actually I did play it, just liked I’ve played every Hitman except the original. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Curtis-Isabell/1036013363 Curtis Isabell

    mass effect 2 wasn’t bad, it was just a terrible value.
    half the games on the most promising i wouldn’t say are promising at all.
    mass effect 3 will be ME2 with some new features. playtime about 25 hours.

    bioshock, Borderlands 2, and metro last light will be just a filler game that last a few days. however borderlands 2 has potential if they REALLY expand the title…

    the problem with people and game reviewing is the standards have completely died off.
    mass effect is great!… for 2 days… then you sell it..  this isn’t what i would call a good game, or even a decent buy… its what i would call a rental..

    gameplay>value>story>graphics>sound

    mass effect  i would say its 8/2/10/6/10
    bioware i don’t see changing… so once again great story but like a good movie its over in a few hours and you won’t see it again until next year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Curtis-Isabell/1036013363 Curtis Isabell

    also i read somewhere fable the journey will NOT be on rails… but it will still suck since fable 1 was the only good one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Zachery-Burchell/100000034639692 Zachery Burchell

    I own a PS3 and prefer those types of games but Im excite to see the new Halo. Because I thoguht Halo 3 failed and Reach only did better on the mp. Halo 2 was a masterpiece of campaign and mp, I want that back….and a free online service, give me that & Ill go buy a 360 

  • Anonymous

    Awe yeah, the new Hitman and Metro are what I’m looking forward to.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Allen/7605503 Andrew Allen

      You have good taste, Crimson. I knew there was a reason you read this site. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/convolutionx ‘Mike Xie

    Where the FUCK is guildwars 2?!