After a long summer lull where Zumba Fitness has enjoyed a jaw-dropping eight weeks at the top of the game charts, the games industry explodes this fall in what must be said is the most promising, and certainly one of the most competitive, winter seasons for gaming in many years. There are some absolutely top quality titles coming out, and quite simply in this article I am counting down my Top 20 most eagerly anticipated games for the next few months.
20 – Need For Speed: The Run – 15th November
Once upon a time, Need For Speed was the undisputed king of the Christmas sales list; the two Underground games and the fantastic Most Wanted dominated their respective years, but then the series took a turn for the worse with Carbon, before ProStreet (which I had completely forgotten existed) and Underground performed poorly. Criterion’s reboot last year, Hot Pursuit, was a welcome return to form, and now we have The Run, the first game in the series to include on foot segments. Hopefully it will continue Criterion’s good work.
19 – Assassins Creed: Revelations – 15th November
I’ve never been into Assassin’s Creed myself, but I won’t deny that the adventures of Altair and Ezio have really struck a chord with many gamers. This game will be the last one set in the Renaissance era, and the last to feature both of the Italian assassin extraordinaires. Let’s hope Ubisoft give the story a fitting end.
18 – Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – 8th November
I’m guessing this will in the top three for most of you reading it; let’s face it, it WILL be the top seller over Winter, and will probably become the best selling game of all time just like its two predecessors beforehand, and on that basis alone it deserves a spot on the list. It will also wrap up the Modern Warfare story arc that was started way back in 2007, and so if you didn’t read the spoilers leaked earlier this year (unlike me) you have that to look forward to. But for me, this game does very little to impress; the E3 footage looked like a simple copy and paste job from Modern Warfare 2, and I prefer Treyarch’s side of the COD franchise, with its interpretations of the past and JFK teaming up with Nixon to take out zombies. By all means go out and get it, but if you get a sense of déjà vu from it just don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
17 – Dead Rising 2: Off The Record – 14th October
Imagine Dead Rising 2….only take the main character out of the equation and throw in the protagonist from the first game, Frank West, into Fortune City instead. This can be seen as the zombie equivalent of Half Life: Opposing Force, where the game simply takes place from a different perspective. Lazy rehash or inspired genius from Capcom? Hard to tell. However, you can get in a ring with Frank and suplex zombies. Stupid and yet wonderful fun abound then.
16 – Super Mario 3D Land – 30th November
For me, this (along with Mario Kart 7) is the game that will make or break the Nintendo 3DS; now that the price of the hardware has dropped it is screaming out for some decent titles that aren’t remakes of old games, and if Mario can’t do the job, then nothing else will. Expect a clever use of the 3D gimmick, an expansion of physics from the Super Mario Galaxy games on the Wii, and of course the return of the famous racoon suit.
15 – Dead Island– 9th September
Take Left 4 Dead, set it on a tropical island with a sprinkling of the XP and weapon upgrades from Dead Rising 2, and you have the basic idea for Dead Island, which has been a popular game of discussion following the spectacularly produced debut trailer earlier this year. With a focus on melee combat, bucket loads of gore and some truly excellent graphics, Dead Island is sure to be a worthy addition to the zombie craze in gaming.
14 – Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – 1st November
Uncharted 2 was seen by many to be the Game Of The Year upon its release in 2009, giving players a cocktail of high octane action and chase sequences, along with a very well received multiplayer. The third game in the series is the PS3’s great white hope for this Christmas, and Naughty Dog will hope more of the same will do the trick for a third time. Given the footage on display at E3 earlier this year, I think they’ll be fine to be honest.
13 – WWE 12 – 25th November
New name, a fresh start for the game? That’s what long time fans of the Smackdown vs Raw series will hope for with the latest instalment. Featuring an expanded and refined WWE Universe mode and a new gameplay engine, it has promise to bring back a bit more of the fun that has been lacking in the past few years. Still missing the Create-A-Championship option though; sort it out Yuke’s.
12 – Resident Evil 4 HD – 20th September
The game that reinvented the Resident Evil franchise gets a graphical upgrade and hits Xbox Live and the PSN store soon. Whether it needed the upgrade it debatable, as it wasn’t exactly ugly when it was released, but having the game digitally available with all the bonus extras such as the ‘Separate Ways’ campaign is a good thing. Means I will probably finally get round to playing it and see what all the acclaim and commotion is about it.
11 – Forza Motorsport 4 – 14th October
Microsoft can always rely on Forza to make steady sales, with its simulation racing that has arguably overtaken Gran Turismo now and sublime graphics. For the fourth game, you can expect Kinect integration to look around scarily lifelike cars in a showroom feature, plenty more cars and tracks to race with, and the introduction of Top Gear into the franchise, complete with test track and Jeremy Clarkson’s snide comments about cars. A petrolhead’s dream.
10 – Sonic Generations – 22nd November
Breaking into the Top 10 now with a game that if done correctly, will see one of gaming’s Hall Of Famer’s return to his former glory. Featuring both classic 2D platforming and more modern 3D stages based on levels from the series’ 20 year history, Generations really should be the best of both worlds. And if this game doesn’t get the acclaim that it should, then I’m afraid we will have to declare the death of the spiky blue hedgehog as a worthwhile gaming character. Yep, the stakes are that high for Sega.
9 – F1 2011 – 23rd September
Codemaster’s have an outstanding record with racing games – they are the geniuses behind Micro Machines, TOCA Touring Cars and Colin McRae Rally, and so people were overjoyed to see them get the Formula One license from Sony in 2009. Their first shot at the sport, F1 2010, was a very good game, but it had its flaws. By adding a quick time trial mode, co-op season multiplayer, dynamic day to night effects in certain races and implementing all the new technology, such as DRS and KERS from the real sport, I think they may well be onto a winner. I should also point out that the game is achingly beautiful in motion, especially in the rain. Top racer of the winter period for me.
8 – Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary – 15th November
At £35, it is too much for what is a 10 year old game. Halo Reach has a far superior multiplayer mode. And yet despite all of this, I still want this game. Seeing the original and best campaign of the series in HD, with the ability to switch between original and HD graphics on the fly, can’t help but send me into a fit of excitement. 343 Industries have also said it won’t be a direct conversion of the original game, as they will fit in links to Halo 4 along the way. For die-hard Halo fans, this is a must buy.
7 – Battlefield 3 – 25th October
The build-up for this winter has been dominated by the ongoing battle between Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 and between Activision and EA. As previously mentioned, I have no doubt in my mind that MW3 will sell more than Battlefield 3; its fan base is simply too big. On the flipside though, I have no doubt in my mind that Battlefield 3 will be the better game, and may take some of Activision’s followers in its footsteps. It looks jaw dropping on the Frostbite Engine, with buildings collapsing and vehicles exploding into many tiny pieces…and the gunplay isn’t looking bad either. I’m also looking forward to the much anticipated use of vehicles in missions; if it’s anything like the tank demonstration from E3, it will be a major achievement. Add to this a massive multiplayer system and a very finely tuned stats database (along with a free open Beta), and you have a Game Of The Year contender on your hands.
6 – Saints Row: The Third – 15th November
I get the feeling that this game will somewhat be ignored in and amongst all the big hitters, but as far as big, brash and OTT games go, you cant do much better than what this game is shaping up to be. The gameplay trailers thus far have been insane, as you merrily trounce around Stillwater leaving nothing but chaos in your path, and the story promises to be a good laugh. Most of all, I want this game to do well because it reminds me so much of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the brilliance that was simply messing around in a big open world, without having to do anything for the sake of moving the plot along. Games are meant to be fun, and I can’t think of many potential better examples than this.
5 – FIFA 12 – 30th September
And now we move into the section I like to call the ‘I am nailed on to buy these games’ part of the list. First up is FIFA 12, which promises to keep evolving the successful franchise on this generation of consoles with its new dribbling and tackling systems, as well as a refined collision system, new AI intelligence and a improved Career mode. The introduction of the Football Club system should provide extra incentive to play, and because it’s FIFA you will never be short of people online to play against. You can be cynical and say it’s just a squad update; I have continued faith that EA Sports will deliver on their promises.
4 – Metal Gear Solid HD Collection – 30th November
It’s a massive coup for Microsoft to get the Metal Gear Solid franchise onto its consoles for the first time. The HD Collection includes fully re-mastered versions of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker: games that were already superb in their own right anyway and have a shedload of content on them. Adding achievements and updating the controls for the new generation just sweetens the deal further. If they include the multiplayer from Subsistence, I will be over the moon; although I will settle for HD Snake vs. Monkey. Now, just give us 360 owners Metal Gear Solid 4 please Kojima…
3 – Gears Of War 3 – 20th September
While Activision and EA have been ripping at each others throats, Epic Games have been able to sit back and carefully prepare the third instalment of the very popular Gears Of War franchise. Following a recent online beta, the multiplayer has been completely overhauled to respond to criticisms of the last two games, Horde has been turned into a more tactical defensive game, and we still have Beast mode to look forward to. The main game also looks as bombastic as ever, as Marcus and the gang aim to drive off the Locust once and for all. The real clincher for Gears 3 however is the launch date – a whole month before Battlefield should mean it will hit plenty of disc drives in force come September
2 – Batman: Arkham City– 21st October
Out of all the games on this list, it has been Arkham City which has worked the hardest to constantly one-up itself. Arkham Asylum was a huge hit, really capturing the feeling that you were the Dark Knight. Arkham City looks to be bigger, badder, and much more involving than Asylum, as the rival villains fight for control while Batman swoops out of the sky and lays the smackdown on unsuspecting goons. It looks great, the fighting looks brutal, the investigation is all there, the cast is pitch perfect, and on any other year it would have easily been my number one pick. However, Rocksteady had the rotten luck to be going up against….
1 – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – 11th November
Yep. I have not been so in anticipation of a game for such a long time, probably since San Andreas seven years ago. It seems like Bethesda have got everything completely spot on – keep everything that was good about Oblivion, and change everything that was bad into something stunning. The levelling system has much promise with its perks and skill trees, comat has been completely overhauled to allow for dual wielding and charged up spelld, the world is awash with detail on everything, there are more things to do away from the main quests, and at the heart of it all is this thing to do with bloody huge dragons. Quite simply, I think it can do no wrong.
It’s a shame that I limited this list to a nice round 20; the result of it being that several games like Star Fox 3DS, Rage, Rayman Origins & Resistance 3 don’t make my cut, despite being just as eagerly awaited as the other titles. There is yet more room for debate as well, as we still don’t have a concrete release date for The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Star Wars: The Old Republic or Guild Wars 2. Basically, this winter is going to be a fantastic time for gamers everywhere, and I hope you are looking forward to it as much as I am.