I'm growing older all the time. It's getting to the point where it's embarrassing.
I think Dark Souls is a work of art that belongs in a museum. The Royal Ontario Museum disagrees, but I think I'm starting to wear them down.
When I was in grade 5 I went to school as Robin for Halloween. The costume was basically a pair of green lady tights and a tunic that had to be Velcroed at the crotch like a baby's onesie. My self esteem never fully recovered.
I believe Alan Wake was criminally under-appreciated. It's unclear if this notion stems from a legitimate love of the game, or my loyalty to any piece of media that is going to include tracks from Nick Cave, Poe, and Depeche Mode.
Some of my stuff has been front-paged. I'm super proud!
Do I really have to say I'm looking forward to the big "Three of 3"?
2012 is slated to see the third instalments of three different big name franchises, and its almost impossible to have a conversation about what gamers are looking forward to in the new year without talking about them.
For all us space opera RPG/Action hybrid fans out there, Mass Effect 3 is just around the corner with all its apocalyptic doom and gloom. The Reapers are on earth, everything you have worked so hard to prevent for the first two games has come to pass, and not even your super sexy alien pals can save you. I want Mass Effect 3 to see my beloved renegade Femshep through to end of her journey. To have the metaphorical chickens of my choices from the previous two game come home to roost and find out if my two-fisted pulp action approach to saving the galaxy was the right one.
Then we have Bioshock Infinite. Regardless of what you might have thought about Bioshock 2, the first title was an instant classic and there is no way to avoid being caught up in the hype for Infinite. The sheer display of imagination seen in the hype material, and the creative pedigree of Ken Levine brings to Infinite makes this a day one purchase.
Which brings us to Diablo 3. I want Diablo 3 because it is DIABLO 3.
But hey, everyone and their dog are looking forward to those three! Its not exactly a big shock that I'm on the bandwagon for them. But what about some of the games I'm looking forward to on a more personal level? These are the games on my personal Most Wanted list this year.
Max Payne 3
I still use the mouse pad that came free with Max Payne 1. Is that good enough? Have I established my fanboy credentials?
Suffice to say, I've been a big believer in Max since the beginning. I buy into it. I like the heavy-handed noir delivery, the over wrought narration, the stylistic combat and super slow-mo diving and shooting that define the games. I approach the series like the same way I approach something like a Suda 51 title, you have to be willing to go along with what the game is about and just surrender to the style and presentation.
So it worries me to see how big a departure Max Payne 3 is the series. It looks like the majority of the game will take place in South America, far removed from the familiar alleyways and roof tops of the “Rotten Big Apple” interpretation of New York City in the previous titles. Although the grit is still there. Perpetual down and outer that he is, Max has finally lost his place on the NYPD and has taken to a life of drinking and taking pills. No longer a man of the law, a friend of Max's hooks him up with a job working as private security for a family in the South. Which of course immediately goes to hell as the daughter of the family is kidnapped.
As you might expect from a series that hasn't seen a sequel in 9 years, there have been quite a few changes to the game-play as well as the setting. A cover system, a limited carrying capacity, destructible environments, and Borderlands style near-death saving shots. Its got a lot of the old fans up in arms and I don't know what to expect.
But to be honest, my excitement for Max Payne 3 isn't even about the game-play to me. I want to see what Rockstar does with Max. If the spirit of the first two games can survive in the modern expectations of the the 3rd person cover based shooter world.
How do they plan to balance the diving bullet-ballet that defined Max with the expectation for "deeper" play in the vein of other top shooters? Do they plan to cleave to the Panye series trademark noir trappings, or will the spectre of low-sales and poor focus group testing from MP2 scare them away? Is there a chance for Max to grow as a character and deal with the loss of his family and the death of Mona Sax, to possibly develop through the game, or will we be treated to 6-8 hours of barely contextualized glowering male angst?
And whats all this about multiplayer? Is this something that a Max Payne game can do without feeling entirely tacked on and obligatory? Is there a possibility for co-op scenarios? While I am entirely skeptical of some kind of slow-mo deathmatch cluster-fuck, the idea of a two player "Max and Mona take on the world" mode gives me chills. There are still so many unanswered questions.
Max Payne has always been a difficult property. Lots of gamers were turned off by the heavy tone. Even more were scared away from the “Film Noir Love Story” tag-line of the second game. The mix of power fantasy violence and melodrama has always been a little hard to balance. But then again, Rockstar has managed to work similar magic with the GTAIV and its DLC chapters, and even more recently with Red Dead Redemption. I want to see how they handle Max and if they can bring the franchise back from the dead without sacrificing everything that made it unique in the first place.
Max Payne 3 is one of my most wanted games in 2012 just by curiosity alone.
Metro: Last Light
Metro 2033 was a surprise favourite of mine when I caught up with it last year. The game's suffocating atmosphere, strident commitment to its own design, and unique conventions inspired me to write a series of blogs about it.
Metro 2033 was a Euro-developed title that enjoyed middling sales and mixed critical response. Some reviewers loved it, some like Dtoid editor Anthony Burch, thought it was an unplayable mess. Given that, I never thought a sequel would see the light of day (har). Imagine my surprise when a trailer advertising the game, in a shockingly sophisticated state no less, dropped out of nowhere. Imagine my further joy when said trailer was set to a Portishead song, one of my favourite bands of all time. Is the world really this good to me?
Yes. Yes it is.
Interestingly, Metro Last Light seems to be directly continuing the story of Artyom and his struggles in the decrepit Moscow Metro tunnels he calls home. Given how the last game ended, this came as a surprise to me and its definitely a ballsy move. I'm excited to see how the events from the last came unfold in the boarder sense and how the tensions and dangers in the Metro develop.
Info is a little scarce, but we have heard the usual reassurances that some of the rough edges of the first game are being polished – there is going to be an increase in graphical fidelity, and more combat options such as viable stealth take-downs and multiple paths through areas. As is almost expected these days, there is also going to be some kind of multiplayer component. While hitching on a multiplayer mode to a sequel of a single player game is usually a red flag in my book, I think it might work for Metro. If they can capture the dread, claustrophobia, and general hard knocks of the single player game, it might actually make for an interesting setting to shoot your friends in.
Frankly, I don't care too much about what they are expanding, fixing, or changing from the original. I just want more Metro. It was such a weird and singular game to experience. This odd-duck Euro-shooter that with unabashedly artsy trappings and a level of immersion that is seldom seen. I think it was an important game (your mileage may very) and was a little sad that so many people passed it off like a second banana. I'm hoping the sequel lives up to the legacy of the first and that more players take the chance on it this time around.
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend
I'm not good at fighting games, but I love the genre. Even though I know I'm just setting myself up for another ROFLstomp, I can't help but look forward to BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend.
I've always admired BlazBlue's design. While other franchises are rushing to see how many characters they can shove into their roster as possible, BB opts for a much more limited cast. BB:CSEX the biggest BB game yet boosts a series record of 19 characters compared to UMvC3's 36, or Mortal Kombat 9's 31. You might think the game suffers for having fewer match-ups, but BB makes up for this by making each character A TOTAL FUCKING FREAK.
A Harry Potter look-alike who fights with a mannequin possessed by the soul of his dead sister. One of the most vile villains in gaming history who borrows his moves from Michael Jackson's dance routines. A grappler who breaks all the rules, magnetizing his opponent and dragging them into his 82-inch steel pythons. You won't find any shoto-clones or middle of the road types here. Hell, the series mascot, the character you would think would be the most accessible and novice-friendly, is a glass cannon who balances his laughable vitality with a suite of vampiric moves. Crazy stuff!
BB only needs a few characters because each one of them is so insanely different and complex. Its a theory-fighters wet dream and makes each game thrilling to play and watch.
Even as a second-rate fighting game player, there is a lot to enjoy with the BlazBlue games. As the spiritual successor to Guilty Gear, BB inherited its fore-bearers panache for awesome metal tunes and excellent sound design. The soundtrack alone enough to give the game a chance with some of the best music around to get beaten to a pulp to.
The storyline is the kind of cliche anime melodrama that stereotypes the genre, but you know what? I like it. Yep, as the storyline keeps getting bigger and bigger, the conspiracies deeper, and more and more of the cast are revealed to be either related, deeply in love in the past, or are actually two characters at the same time, I just enjoy it more. Its good silly fun and I appreciate how elaborate it can get. The story mode plays like a visual novel complete with gag reels and Bad Ends aplenty. BB:CSEX is adding story paths for characters that lacked them (like my favourite Werewolf Butler) and apparently even some new plot lines for existing characters.
So its father against son fighting with dolls powered by the souls of mother and sister? Yeahh...
The way the game brings the story into the actual fights has always been a highlight to me. Building on what was started with Guilty Gear, there are specific songs played during certain match-ups, unique pre and post fight dialogue, and even entirely different pallets of battle cries depending on which two characters are fighting, bringing their storyline relationships into the actual brawl. Sometimes these touches are played for drama, other times for comedy. Its these little touches that make the BB games so much fun.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that BlazBlue is a spectacle of a game, and BB:CSEX looks to turn up the craziness to full tilt. That is A-OK in my book.
Street Fighter X Tekken
Speaking of fighting games, Street Fighter X Tekken is coming out this year! Is it bad that I'm looking forward to SFxT because it seems to cater to the enthusiast (which is the polite way of saying "casual scum") fighting game player? Well I don't care. I love SF games but don't have the talent or time to get truly good at them. So “SF-Lite” may just be the game for me.
I'm excited for the 4-player tag teams, the Marvel style chain combos, and Alpha style juggling. It sounds like they have made a delicious smoothie of all my favourite fighting game elements and drizzled it in the creamy sauce of SFIV graphics. I'm sold.
The Shoruyuken set may hate the gem system, but its no big deal to me. I don't play these games in tournaments or for big money matches. To me, its refreshing to see the focus of the game on fun and accessibility rather than serious pro-play. I wouldn't want every fighter to be like that, but there is certainly room for an enthusiast title.
Its just exciting to see Capcom take a chance and do something different with one of its properties. I suppose this being a freshly established cross over series, they have the freedom to design it however they like. I really hope it turns out and I look forward to getting down with it.
Then there is the other stuff I want to hear about in 2012. The industry scuttle-butt, the rumours and the hype.
What is Supergiant Games going to work on next? I want to know! Bastion was one of the coolest games I've ever had the pleasure to play. The team has already said that while they might give it a sequel later, their next project isn't going to be it. So what are they working on!?
How about From Software? Dark Souls has been my jam since October. It got its dark fantasy hooks in my brain and hasn't let go since. There have been rumours aplenty about whats next for the Soul's series. There seems to be some credence behind the DLC rumours going around – with the speculative name “Forest of Darkness”, it sounds just lovely. I'm down for all the Dark Souls I can get. Then we have the possibility of a PC port, but From Software is just too damn coy to give us a straight answer! In 2012, I want to hear all about my next dose of Souls!
There is a lot more to look forward to in 2012 than just the obvious big names. I can't wait to get into the year and see how some of these titles turn out.