The bar was set incredibly high in 2011 – dozens of fantastic titles peppered eager gamers in rapid fire succession and emptied wallets in the process. An already impressive year, 2011 culminated in it’s last quarter, dropping A-list names like a C-list celebrity to round out what some have toted as the biggest year in gaming yet. Fortunately, 2012 is shaping up to continue the tradition – breathing life back into fallow franchises and providing bold new properties that look too good to be true. While there are too many awesome titles to list, these are a few that we can definitely get excited over.
10. Soul Calibur V
Ever since the original Dreamcast port of Soul Calibur II, the Soul series has been one of the most exciting and down right fun fighters on the market. It’s fast paced and meticulous combat mixes a historical fantasy setting with supernatural elements and a touch of absurdity to create an experience that any fan of fighters can enjoy. The latest installment in the Soul series, Soul Calibur V, brings back everything we love and thankfully some things we don’t (I’m looking at you, Yoda.) While the last true incarnation of the title was plagued with balancing issues; I’m optimistic that we’ll see a cleaner and more refined iteration this year along with a few additions. While there is no shortage of great fighting games available, for my money there’s no substitute for wielding an eight-foot axe or a sword-whip-thingy (Swip?) to visit utter devastation on friends and coworkers. In addition to the aforementioned doom you can dole out; Soul Calibur V will continue the tradition of guest stars, adding Ezio Auditore da Firenze of Assassin’s Creed fame to the ranks.
Release Date: January 31 | Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
9. Hitman: Absolution
It’s been nearly six years since we’ve seen Agent 47 swagger onto a console… and kill everything. The developer behind Hitman, IO Interactive, took a break after the series’ last iteration to focus on new ideas – giving 47 a little time off for a job well done. Unfortunately those new ideas turned out to be Kane & Lynch and that time off turn into the better part of a decade. While he may no longer be the most popular assassin on the block (see above), he’s an old favorite and deserves a triumphant return that Absolution is poised to provide. The story will reportedly revolve around Agent 47 picking up the pieces of his broken existence in order to survive and I’m sure it will be gripping – but come on, this is Hitman. I’m dying for the chance to methodically scout and plan out every minute detail of a contract before stalking the halls of some fortified penthouse fortress and silently ending every possible threat so I can dump their bodies down the laundry chute and walk out the front door giving a wry wink and a nod to the doorman. More realistically, the housekeeper will see me coming as I land on her during my daring midnight window rappel and I’ll be forced into a firefight that I’ll probably lose. Either way, Hell Yeah! Hitman’s back!
Release Date: TBA 2012 | Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
8. Max Payne 3
If you enjoyed the first two games in the series, you should be excited for Rockstar’s first entry into the franchise, Max Panye 3. If the Max Payne series proved anything, it was that there is a place for mature, dark cinematic experiences in the videogame medium. It was a series that took itself seriously, told one of the most saddening and deranged stories of it’s time and implemented innovative gameplay mechanics that have been imitated countless times. The latest story sets our disgraced NYPD homicide detective working security in the private sector for a wealthy family in Brazil. Eight years after the events of the last title – Max has grown older and more cynical, finding himself in a downward spiral while battling his old demons. I’m hopefully optimistic that Rockstar has a story to tell and sticks to the gritty cinematic experience of the previous games without trying to turn it into Grand Theft Auto: Brazil. New features being added include a multiplayer mode, a first for the series, and a new seamless interaction between animation and physics for more realism than ever before.
Release Date: March 2012 | Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
7. Tomb Raider
If there is a theme running through the games line up of 2012, it’s got to be – you’re never too old to start over. If that’s true then there are few franchises in existence that embody this mantra quite like Tomb Raider. It’s been four years since we’ve seen Lara Croft in a traditional Tomb Raider title; Underworld payed considerable fan service by getting back to it’s roots while improving on it’s formula. Though now it appears Crystal Dynamics and it’s parent, Square Enix are set to tackle a whole new generation of gamers by starting over. The newly envisioned Tomb Raider finds Lara Croft fresh out of the academy and eager to make her mark on the world; introducing the origins of one of the most beloved video game heroines of all time. Following the current trend of big budget game development, Tomb Raider will expand on the platforming puzzler and present an unfiltered, abrasive cinematic account of a young woman’s fight for survival and validation.
Release Date: Fall 2012 | Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
6. Bioshock Infinite
The Bioshock series has always done two things well; tell a sincere story and do it in a visually unique style. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the latest arrival to the Bioshock party is set to do both extremely well. Returning with their signature antiquated futuristic motif, Bioshock Infinite introduces the floating city of Columbia, which seems to symbolize the unabashed American optimism at the turn of the 20th century. Behind the veneer, Irrational Games has stated their commitment to telling the very real story of Elizabeth, a troubled woman caught in the midst of a civil war aboard a collapsing city. The player will be tasked with finding and protecting Elizabeth and in the process developing a bond that will help each other discover more about themselves and one another. Similar plot techniques have been used in the past, encouraging the player to develop and nurture a relationship with an NPC – unfortunately more often than not those characters are then ripped away from you to instill a feeling of loss and remorse. After watching the fifteen minute demo released at E3 in 2011, it became clear to me that I’ll eventually be voluntarily charging headlong into volleys of projectiles in the hopes that my sacrifice as a meat shield provides her with precious seconds to escape. For the time being, I’m hesitant to place too much commitment into this relationship, having been burned by a little game called Fable 2 -I’m hoping that I won’t again find myself sitting idly by while my dog gets shot in the face.
Release Date: Fall 2012 | Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
5. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
One of only two titles that can’t be considered a sequel, prequel or reboot to grace this list, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning continues to fly under the radar in glorious fashion. While there have been no shortage of amazing role playing games on the market lately, Reckoning has got a lot going for it. With the lead designer of both The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind and Oblivion at the helm, the title is serving up an offering that’s been described as a mash up between a God of War style slasher and the role playing experience of Oblivion. In addition it boasts one of the worlds most renowned fantasy authors, R. A. Salvatore (The Forgotten Realms) penning the universe and lore with Todd McFarlane (Spawn) adding his visual expertise to the mix. Take all of that serious street cred and add a publishing giant like Electronic Arts and you’ve got all the makings of a sleeper hit. I’m actually surprised that with all those heavy hitters in it’s corner, we haven’t seen more publicity coming Reckoning’s way. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait long to delve into this new world as it’s poised to be the first major RPG on the market in 2012.
Release Date: February 7 | Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
4.Mass Effect 3
The only title on our list to be featured for a second year in a row, Mass Effect 3 has finally been confirmed to launch this year. The epic story of Commander Sheppard will finally come to a close, finishing off one of the most celebrated science-fiction trilogies to date. With over a year of hype under it’s belt alone and being viewed as the closing comments of five years worth of story telling, Mass Effect 3 has got some big shoes to fill. I’m optimistic that it’s up to the task, but as we’ve seen in the past the final game of a series tends to set the tone with which the entirety will be remembered. Though the series has never fallen short when it comes to massive scale in the epic confrontation between existence and annihilation – I’m just hoping it’s saved the best for last and goes out with a bang, pun intended. If you’re a fan of science-fiction, role playing sagas or crazy blue-skinned love scenes that would do Billy Shatner proud, there’s no reason not to experience the last entry Commander Sheppard has to offer.
Release Date: March 6 | Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
3. The Last of Us
Survival Horror has always been a genre with so much potential that it’s damn near offensive when it’s not done right. Maybe it’s because fear is a concept to which anyone can relate and while the human spectrum of emotion is subjective, fear seems to be one of the easier feelings to trigger in a wide audience. There are certain things that are just scary – the unknown, the unexplained and the uncompromising. So it would stand to reason that hearing the breath of a mysterious creature in a dark room that’s hell bent on turning you into an appetizer and an entree would hit home for just about everyone, right? Well looks can be deceiving and since the earliest days of the genre titles have consistently promised an experience so shocking you’ll be sleeping with the closet door closed for weeks to come. Rarely do they deliver more than a few cheap surprises, yet we continue to give them a chance, but why? It’s because of The Last of Us, or rather games like it. With almost no information available on the title other than the world has succumbed to a fungal infection and in addition to cannibalism, anarchy seems to be the national past time. Yet it looks so compelling that once again I find myself inexplicably drawn to the possibility that this is the one we’ve been waiting for – this is the one that will make good on the promise. The Last of Us tells the story of Joel and Ellie who are travelling across the remnants of the United States fighting for their survival in a world decimated by a modern day plague. It’s a survival horror, action-adventure, character driven story about a modern day plague that turns people in flesh eating “fungoids”, set against the backdrop of a ruined America and all done with incredibly high production value – what more could you possibly ask for?
Release Date: Q4 2012 (Tentative) | Platform: PS3
2. Diablo 3
The Diablo series helped to to define the modern dungeon crawler with it’s first entry over fifteen years ago and to this day is still considered by many to be the quintessential crawlin’ franchise. The dark fantasy setting, the larger than life personas, the feeling of a world hanging on by a thread all set the stage for one of the greatest RPG stories ever crafted. Whether you’re a hardcore fan of the series, a casual admirer or… something else, there is no denying that it’s one of the most widespread and best-selling fantasy franchises of all time. Maybe it’s the fire-and-brimstone, maybe it’s the landmark case of Good v. Evil or maybe it’s just the opportunity of going twelve rounds with the Dark Lord himself; whatever the reason, people like Diablo. So it only stands to reason that a series so entirely popular and profitable would continue to churn out games until the public at large unanimously rises up and refuses the next spoonful of force fed sequel – but that’s not how this story goes. Blizzard Entertainment has made no qualms about their “it’s ready when it’s ready” stance on the latest entry, but now it seems that it’s finally ready… to be..ready. While they haven’t officially announced a release date for the project, after a ten year development cycle all signs point to this being the year Diablo 3 is released upon the world.
Release Date: TBA 2012 | Platform: PC
1. Halo 4
What can you say about the Halo franchise that hasn’t already been said? It’s one of the deepest video game universes ever created spawning over half a dozen video games, several animated shorts, a slew of novels, a gaggle of comics and almost a movie. Halo has set records, it’s broken them too; Halo continues to endure and perform remarkably well as the premier science-fiction gaming saga since the last system generation. At one time Halo was a singular entity, but as many profitable brands experience, it has since spun into a nebula of independent entries each tackling a small portion of the countless stories contained within it. However, not all Halo properties are created equal and the franchise has come under scrutiny in the past for lack luster content and unrealized vision. Even so, there are few video game icons as big as Master Chief and if you finished the campaign of Halo 3 on the highest difficulty setting you were treated to some of the most hopeful frames of in-game cinematic ever pre-rendered; the continuation of the The Chief. Though floating through space in a scrap of metal is no way to treat a bona fide badass, so when 343 Industries not only announced another Halo but the return of Master Chief – needless to say I was excited and a little worried. It hasn’t always been hugs and kisses in the Halo house; over the course of three games there were times the story seemed derivative of itself and didn’t always finish what it started. Years later there are those who won’t forget the mistakes of the original trilogy and even more that don’t feel there’s enough of a reason to start another. I’m cautiously optimistic that the minds behind the Halo-verse know what they’re doing and if we’re lucky, know what they haven’t done.
Release Date: Holiday 2012 | Platform: Xbox 360
It’s going to be a great year. What games are you looking forward to in 2012? Chime in and let us know your thoughts.