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