It’s a dangerous business, researching the upcoming titles you’re most eager to play. Before I began I was under the impression that there were “just a few” games I was anticipating that were scheduled for release 2011. I was wrong, and now I anticipate having much less money than I’d hoped. D’oh!
Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way first. I’m looking forward to Mass Effect 3, Crysis 2 (I may even buy a new graphics card for that one), Brink, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Portal 2, The Witcher 2 and Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.
Another list I can rattle through pretty quickly are the games I didn’t even know were in development until this month: Max Payne 3 (please to carry on the gorgeous noir romance / gunplay approach of The Fall of Max Payne, guys, that is exactly the kind of melodrama I love), Cargo (from Icepick Lodge, the makers of Pathologic and The Void) and MechWarrior (a reboot of the franchise, at long bloody last). And then there are a few browser games I’m interested in – Blight of the Immortals is still under development and constantly changing, and Sid Meier’s Facebook version of Civilization, Civ World.
One mainstream title I’m particularly eager about is X-COM. Before anyone else says it, I know it’s not a tactical/strategy game like the best of its predecessors. I do think that’s a bit of a shame, though I’m not ruling out a successful relaunch of the franchise opening doors for, dare I say it, spin-offs. But I’m most looking forward to this game because from what little has been leaked to the press and the wider world, X-COM sounds like it captures the spirit of what made the original games feel special. It’s a perpetual trade-off: risk versus return. Do you stay in a mission to the bitter end, or do you grab what you can and flee so you can fight again another day? If anything it sounds as thoughÂ X-COM may go beyond even this. In UFO: Enemy Unknown, Terror From the Deep and Apocalypse it was usually possible to struggle through to the end of just about any mission, whereas X-COM promises a much more convincing take on asymetrical warfare – think of those trailers where a couple of guys with pistols are confronted with a death-ray toting floating monolith. The only thing you can do is flee.
In the past I’ve defended the upcoming X-COM reboot by arguing that games akin to its predecessors will always emerge from elsewhere – take, for example, the UFO trilogy from Altair. Well, another title along these lines is Xenonauts, which promises to be a thoroughly up-to-date but faithful adaptation of UFO: Enemy Unknown. Hopefully they’ll change the lore and mechanics up enough that there’s still a sense of mystery about it, because I’ve already shot enough Sectoids for three lifetimes.
Also coming from a smaller developer are Jagged Alliance 2: Reloaded – a remake – and Jagged Alliance 3. The latter has been in development for years and had begun to feel like vaporware, but last year’s announcement of the JA2 reboot may mean there’s life in the IP yet thanks to new developer bitComposer. And since I’ve spent much of my time so far talking about old series into which new life has been breathed, how can I not mention Beyond Good & Evil 2, the promised sequel to one of the best 3D platform-action-adventure games I’ve ever played? (Note to self: locate original Xbox, finish final level.)
There are a few other eagerly-awaited titles that don’t fit into any particularly category I’ve already covered. The first is Rock of Ages, which promises a wonderful blend of bizarre gameplay and uniquely inspired art direction. I really, really hope that the game we eventually get has the sort of longevity its art-history visuals enjoy. There’s Tropico 4, the next in a series I was only recently introduced to but which is a city-building game with lots of unique character and flexibility in approach. Next up is Might & Magic Heroes VI; why after 5 titles, twice that number of expansions and the general expiration of the parent series I’m unsure why it was considered necessary to rebrand the Heroes games, but hey. Hopefully they’ll spice things up a bit for this release. HOMMV was a great game but I don’t just want more of the same. And, finally, I’m eager to get my grubby mitts on Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2: Retribution, because the Dawn of War games have been a highlight of my RTS calendar for some years now and Relic are doing a fantastic job pushing themselves and the series to new levels. Plus I reeeally want to call down an Exterminatus, and the only setting in which planetary genocide is an everyday fact of life as well as an officially-sanctioned strategy is Warhammer 40,000. I am a bad man, but there are worse things in the Warp.
There are far too many games I’m looking forward to in 2011; the list would be three pages long. To avoid this, here instead are some events or trends I’m hopeful about this year…
Indie games continuing to grow
The ‘Winter of Indie’ promotion on XBLA was an encouraging step from Microsoft in this direction. Playstation Minis, the iOS platform and increasing amounts of media coverage and distribution options for small PC titles are all contributing to what now feels like a more substantial indie presence than was felt this time last year, and I’m optimistic things will continue in this vein. The industry needs a shot in the arm every now and then, and ensuring there’s space for creative young bloods to do what they do outside of the big budget corporate realm is the best way to achieve this.
Particular games of note: Spelunky, Game Dev Story 2. Now please. Please.
FPS genre growing tired of CoD clones
I pray this year will be the one in which the bubble finally bursts. It has to at some point, surely? There are plenty of games slated for 2011 that stand out as having a reasonable chance of capturing a decent audience among FPS fans. Just different enough that they’ll have the players of 2011 feeling bored next time they boot up their identiCoD of choice.
Particular games of note: Dead Island, Hybrid, Rage, I Am Alive, Bulletstorm, Duke Nukem Forever, F.E.A.R 3, X-COM
Mainstream culture acknowledging the role of gaming
Dear Points of View,
Why oh why oh why has the BBC not identified that gamers make up a vast, dedicated and long-term untapped audience? Why are there three different shows on every day about buying houses abroad and no shows per year about one of the most successful areas of cultural production over the last decade? I assume it’s because so many people buy houses abroad. This must be at least twice the number of people who buy computer games otherwise your commissioning policy would be absurd.
If you have to, hire Iain Lee to present a show about games. Itâ€™s not ideal, but you, me and Iain all know itâ€™s inevitable so you might as well. At least try it out on radio or something. I donâ€™t really care how you do it; Games 2011 with Claudia Winkleman, Top Gear-esque challenges and machismo, comedy panel show, whatever, just please do something. Frankly, itâ€™s disrespectful not to.
After spending the last 18 months getting excited about long-awaited sequels that broke my heart by being awful, disappointing, or awful AND disappointing (Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, Crackdown 2, Fable 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, I’m looking at you), I’m determined not to fall into the same trap again. Except in the case of Batman: Arkham City, which I’m sure will be amazing, but which has already been mentioned by someone else. Last year, the games I enjoyed most were developer-led, artistic and offbeat – the likes of Sleep is Death, One Chance, Game Dev Story, Limbo and VVVVVV – so that’s what I’ve decided I’m going to look forward to in 2011, despite how difficult it is to find such word-of-mouth gems before they’re actually released.
As you can probably guess from my list of 2010 faves, I’m a complete sucker for any game that tries to do something fun with aesthetics and mechanics. Coming (we hope) in late 2011 from Jonathon “Braid” Blow, The Witness is an exploration-based puzzle game in full 3D set on an uninhabited island, and even though the abrupt cancellation of Frontier Developments’ The Outsider makes me try hard not to get excited about any release that sounds too ambitious, lest it be dangled in front of my expectant face for years then cast into a nearby furnace by a cackling maniac, just knowing that someone like Blow is working on a game this original-sounding geniuinely excites me about gaming as a medium in ways that yet another Call of Medals or Left for Red Space Redemption can’t in the slightest.
The second full-length offering from Distractionware/Terry Cavanagh, Nexus City is… well, it’s hard to say. It’s an RPG with retro-esque graphics, but coming from the guy who made VVVVVV, Don’t Look Back, Judith and Pathways, it’s sure to have something more to it than that. Like all of my favourite developers, Cavanagh combines storytelling, minimalism and simple mechanics in an almost alchemic combination.
At this point, it’s not clear what “Nexus City” means, but when we’ve had so many great games from Cavanagh already, it almost doesn’t matter. I’m not very big on RPGs, so there’s a very real chance I won’t even like it. In many ways, I’m just happy that I’ll be able to support his game development career financially, because the medium as a whole will be stronger for his presence. Regardless of what Nexus City is like, I can’t wait to see what he does with it.
And as if to prove that I’m not a complete gaming snob, here’s a real game! One that comes in a box and everything! Though, by including it, I’ve also proven that I’ve learnt absolutely nothing about not getting my hopes up for commercial sequels.
Anyway, I came to Portal late in its life cycle with the Xbox 360 re-release Portal: Still Alive – but like everyone else, I was utterly won over by its mix of narrative, metagaming and first-person puzzling. Will Portal 2 end up being the New Coke to Portal‘s Coca Cola? Or will it actually be the Coca Cola Classic to Portal’s New Coke? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m sort of thirsty. Thirsty for more Portal.
12 responses to “Year of the Rabbit: Games of 2011 that have us hot & bothered (pt.1)”
I'm surprised no one mentionned La-Mulana yet. Ok, it's Wii but still. I didn't even know they where working on Game Dev Story 2. Good news. First one is a great commuting time killer.
Looking forward Spelunky too, but I hope they add some new stuff and make it less ridiculously brutal to get to the gold city :/
I didn't know of nexus city, will check it out. Needs more well done retro out there.
Rock of Ages has me pretty giddy, keen art design with a coy sense of humor, I only hope that the gameplay holds it all together. Not because of the obvious similarities of large orbs as your main tool, but I hope it doesn't fall prey to the same problems I have with The Ball, an interesting concept that is well implemented, but a gameplay mechanic that becomes somewhat tedious and repetitive over time.
As for the death of the CoD FPS convention I wholeheartedly agree. My whorish nature for FPS' makes it quite hard for me to avoid playing most, but 2010 saw me turn down my first CoD game since CoD3 and Medal of Honor which was particularly difficult because of my enjoyment of the originals and my love of sound design.
My hopes for Crysis 2 have been slightly tainted (eye's no one in particular…) though if the firefights are as good as they were in the original against the Koreans I'll be happy enough. And Brink certainly looks grand. But I don't quite know what to make of Rage or Homefront. I know I feel excited for them, but I also have this slight hollow feeling of imminent disappointment in the back of my head. I hope to be proven wrong, especially with Rage. And FEAR, I don't know, I haven't even really given it the time of day. I loved the original, but since…we'll see what F3AR has to offer.
I want to be excited for Red Faction: Armageddon as well, but reconstruction doesn't seem anywhere as entertaining as obliterating.
Regardless of all of this, my plate will be full for 2011 and I need to ready my wallet to be empty.
Dylan & I have the same concerns as you about Rock of Ages, Gordo! We wondered if the different art styles might also affect the game mechanics, e.g. 2-dimensional medieval art (lack of perspective) is easier to knock down than e.g. cubist art. But it's too early to say…
I also had the same concerns as you about FEAR after playing the demo for the 2nd game on Xbox, but having now played the full game and expansion on PC I can confidently say that it's bloody excellent. I have my doubts about the 3rd game but having been wrong once I'm happy to give them the benefit of the doubt.
I got jaded to FEAR at the expansion pack for the first game, though I'm being thoroughly unfair having not completed it, it's something I should do. My question of FEAR 2 and the upcoming FEAR 3 is, does, and will the AI hold up to the likes of the first one? I was impressed numerous times throughout the first game at some of the unexpected things the AI attempted while I tried to staple them to walls in ludicrous and inappropriate ways.
Aye, I remember the first time the AI in FEAR took a lengthy detour around the map just to get behind me – inspired. I'm not sure that FEAR 2's AI is any better or worse, just that it isn't as impressive and I suspect the levels allow less scope for AI flanking.
My main concern with FEAR 3 is the co-op detracting from the horror element, but TBH I hardly ever play co-op games anyway…
As someone who fell deeply in love with Max Payne and Max Payne II: Even Paynier, I'm not very excited about Max Payne 3. It's not being developed by Remedy, but Rockstar. Then again, after hearing about Alan Wake, maybe I don't want Remedy trying it either.
Alan Wake is a good little game; it has its flaws but it's a AAA title setting out to do something different, so it deserves respect for that at the very least.
I suspect that Dylan will bend your ear when he discovers this comment as he is quite a fan of the game and its DLC…
Oh I was really looking forward to Alan Wake. Right up until the point Microsoft said it was a game of "couch intimacy" which apparently was a good enough reason not to produce a product for sale on PC. And thus my Alan Wake dreams were crushed.
Oh, I see! I had forgotten it was an exclusive title. Yes, that is rather shit. Although the "couch intimacy" marketing spin is at least amusingly nonsensical.
@ShaunCG: One particular moment that stuck with me was when an enemy decided to block a small route by knocking a set of shelves across the path to force me to go around or jump over a short barrier. I was impressed, but not as impressed as I was when said enemy began crawling underneath the slanted set of shelves to get to me. Now this was a very silly move of course because all I had to do was run up to him and wait for his head to appear on the other side so I could point blank shotgun to the face and turn him to strawberry jam. None the less, still impressed at his gusto.
@Harbour Master: Bald Max Payne just does not have the same feel. I hope for the best, but expect the worst.
That's some impressive behaviour – I don't recall seeing anything like that, though I was probably busy trying to scissor-kick people in the face at the time. ;)