A little over a year ago, Grim and I assembled top ten lists for our most anticipated Xbox 360 games of the year. Looking back, we both laughed about a few of our picks. For starters, we both picked Huxley, which still isn’t out and doesn’t even interest us at all anymore. Then there was Grim picking the game which shall not be named. We also both underestimated BioShock quite a bit.
So when 2008 came around we decided to collaborate again to see how well we would predict the future, but we both noticed something funny: none of the games on either of our lists were coming out for months, and most of them weren’t scheduled for release until late in the year. The result was us deciding to hold off on posting our opinions for a while to show that, even though the year is almost half way over, we both still think the best is yet to come for the Xbox 360 this year.
Check out both our lists after the jump, and let us know which game you think will be the Xbox 360 game of the year.
Fronz’s Top 10:
10) Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
After watching the trailer below, I’m convinced that Michael Bay is involved with this game’s production, and while that might be bad if this were a movie, it can only mean a lot of fun awaits in the Mercenaries sequel. In between blowing up entire cities and hitchhiking helicopters, there looks to be enough varied gameplay to excuse the cheesy characters and dialogue. This game, along with many others on both our lists, seems to show a popular trend that games taking place in exotic settings far from America are in high demand this year.
9) Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
World of Warcraft might have millions of more online players to boast, but Age of Conan has millions of more polygons to brag about, and when you want to play a MMORPG that you’ll stare at everyday for the rest of your soul-less life, then it’s hard to tell which game is the right player poison to pick. I’d even put Age of Conan a few notches higher up on my list if it weren’t for that annoying monthly MMO price tag that you have to worry about.
8) Banjo Kazooie 3
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Here’s to hoping Rare doesn’t kill off another part of my childhood: “Rareware is turning into that grandma plagued with Alzheimer’s — she used to give us some sweet birthday presents and now all she does is call the house 20 times a day with nothing new to say. Rare, please take your pills. We realize the trauma you went through when Nintendo divorced you, but Microsoft isn’t that bad, there’s no reason you had to take it out on Perfect Dark Zero. And breast feeding Kameo for seven years probably wasn’t the best idea either. You might want to copyright Viva Funeral just in case things go downhill soon. I don’t think you’re ready for another baby, you might want to put Banjo Kazooie 3 up for adoption. Have you considered abortion? I’ll mail you Duke Nukem‘s number.” Rare, the Banjo Kazooie games are the only platformer series other than Mario that I still care about. It had better be music notes to my ears, or I’m giving up on you guys forever.
7) Resident Evil 5
A #7 spot might seem low, but a #7 from me means a lot for this game — because I HATE zombie stories. Especially this series. I hated this series for years, constantly asking friends why they wouldn’t just try making a similar game with less annoying cameras and controls. “You just don’t get it” is what I was told for years. Then Resident Evil 4 came out in such a fashion, grabbed countless Game of the Year awards with ease, and I refused to play it out of spite. However, after seeing the recent trailer for the fifth game, I don’t think I’ll be able to put off jumping into this series any longer. I still despise zombies in general, but a survival-horror game that takes place in a jungle should be extremely refreshing from the typical city or woods clichés of the past. I Am Legend was the first zombie movie (other than Shaun of the Dead) that I didn’t completely hate, and Resident Evil 5 is looking like it will be the first zombie game that I’ll be able to enjoy.
6) Dead Space
The trailer for this game reminds me of when I first saw the early BioShock trailers — that tingly feeling that this game might be amazing. Sure, I thought the same thing about Assassin’s Creed, but something tells me Prototype will end up being closer to this year’s Ass Creed, and this game will be closer to BioShock. I can’t remember the last time a game trailer made me jump in my seat and didn’t come with a flashlight mod. Not to mention it looks a hell of a lot like Aliens, one of my favorite movies of all time. And most appealing of all: it’s a survival-horror game with NO ZOMBIES!
5) Alan Wake
Made by the people who brought us both Max Paynes, this game’s older than the Xbox 360 — is it ever coming out? By pushing PCs to their limits, Alan Wake looked as good as today’s Xbox 360 games back in 2005, but its window of opportunity is closing quickly. This psychological action thriller takes place in a beautiful rural environment teeming with mystery, spectacular lighting and vicious weather-induced physics effects. Add to that an action adventure story that looks like what I envision Stephen King’s autobiography to be, and you’ve got yourself a must-buy game for this console . . . if they ever release it.
4) Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
We’ve seen a trilogy that explores the good side of the “force” and loved it. We’ve seen a trilogy that explored the bad side of the “force” and . . . well I hated a lot of it. In this game you play as Darth Vader’s secret apprentice who’s basically Luke if he had succumbed to Vader, and most importantly, George Lucas isn’t directly involved. Above and beyond that, all you need to hear is the game’s specs: ILM motion capture animations, plus the Havok physics engine, plus the Euphoria behavioral animations A.I., plus Digital Molecular Matter interactive game environments. Sold. This game is the equivalent of a fully revved Mustang or tricked out Lamborghini, and I can’t wait to replace the sour taste George Lucas left in my mouth with something refreshing.
3) Castle Crashers
When a game is basically Gauntlet Legends meets Zelda Four Swords, how can you go wrong? At #3, this artistically appealing action game sits in the exact same spot it did on my list last year. What’s changed since then? Several delays and promises that the game will now be even longer and more action packed, with dozens of new unlockable characters and way more content. This is the sort of stuff gamers get promised all the time by delaying developers, but when The Behemoth, the men who brought us possibly the most famous indie game of all time, promises us something, we trust them and wait patiently without asking questions. Instead we bother the Media Molecule developers over why we must wait so long for the equally artsy and cute game LittleBigPlanet. How LittleBig can it be?
2) Fable 2
Characters who age realistically into an infinite amount of outcomes, coupled with environments that consist of trees and blades of grass that grow in real-time. That was supposed to be the first Fable game, so surely the sequel can’t be far off from completely filling its shoes. Right? Right! Okay, well Peter Molyneux has been moderately tame this time around, and while he isn’t promising us the game to end all games, everything he’s shown so far has looked great. His promises of a dynamic world don’t sound too far-fetched this time, and the atmosphere of everything revealed to date looks gorgeous and demands exploring. The dog sidekick mechanic looks like it might be the next Agro or Epona-worthy companion to win over the hearts of gamers, and the family and multiplayer aspects both seem to be a leap in the right direction that hopefully other developers emulate in the future. The downside? Don’t be surprised if this game, among others on both our lists, slips into a vague 2009 release window.
1) Grand Theft Auto IV
As a recent Game Art & Design degree college graduate, this game plucks all the right notes in my heart. Everything that could have been said about this game has already been said, and I agree with most of it, so I’ll just mention what I hope to see from this series in the future as I pray that Rockstar leads the industry into a Golden Age of Gaming.
I look forward to a day when games can swear freely just like the box office does excessively in its artistic pursuit of storytelling. A day when games can include tasteful or even tasteless and explicit nude scenes just as the box office does far more frequently without media protest. A day when games willingly explore violence and sexuality and homosexuality and racism and all other subjects that have seemingly been untouchable up to now by the game industry, despite the movie industry tackling today’s biggest social dilemmas and getting Academy Awards for it as opposed to ignorant assholes on TV trying to prevent freedom of speech and artistic expression. A day when the world realizes that gaming is the number one entertainment industry because the average gamer is nowhere near his or her teen years, and can not only handle mature topics, but longingly begs the industry for them.
And if I had to pick a single series that I think represents the millions of gamers trying desperately to shove the pendulum back at the idiots of all ages in the media, it would be the Grand Theft Auto series, and I highly doubt GTA 4 will disappoint. Now excuse me while I pick up my copy and find out for myself. Here’s Grim with his own Top 10 list of the most anticipated Xbox 360 games of the year.
Grim’s Top 10:
10) Castle Crashers
Castle Crashers makes the cut primarily because I can never pass up a good 2D beat ’em up, especially one that’s being developed by The Behemoth. Factor in Dan Paladin’s drop dead gorgeous art and the notion that you’ll be able to play the game online with 3 of your closest buddies, I think Castle Crashers could easily become the king of Xbox Live Arcade. Either that, or Frogger 2 will outsell it and Jeff Minter will laugh maniacally while trying not to spill the llama’s blood from his chalice.
9) Mercenaries 2: World In Flames
My love for simulated bloodshed is topped only by my adoration for large-scale destruction, and it pretty much goes without saying that Mercenaries 2 will not disappoint in that respect. If it wasn’t for a lengthy delay, we’d all be tearing up a virtual Venezuela by now. Assuming that the extra time is put to good use (and there’s no reason it won’t be), we’ll end up with a more polished and enjoyable experience than was originally set in stone, and a sequel that will hopefully live up to its predecessor.
8) Brütal Legend
A Tim Schafer game starring an axe-wielding metal band roadie (voiced by none other than Jack Black) who’s fallen into an alternate history chock-full of demons and other bizarre-looking creatures? If there’s a cooler videogame premise already in existence, I haven’t heard about it. While only a few screenshots and a CGI video have been released thus far, the guys at Double Fine have already proven themselves with the sublime Psychonauts, so we needn’t be too worried.
What happens when you combine The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, Grand Theft Auto, and Riki-Oh? You get Prototype, an open-ended sandbox game that has you fighting an elite government organization in a viral-infected New York City. As one of the infected, you’ll not only have super-human abilities, but you can also shape-shift and, should you find it absolutely necessary, punch straight through your victim’s torso. If that fact alone doesn’t put a sinister grin on your face, Prototype isn’t going to be your cup of tea.
6) Ninja Gaiden II
Not even the painful memories of Ninja Gaiden‘s harsh difficulty will prevent me from anticipating Mutilationfest VI: The Bloodening Ninja Gaiden II. Ryu Hayabusa is back, and he’s developed the insatiable desire to chop his enemies into tiny, bite-sized pieces, and then slice those pieces into even smaller pieces until there’s nothing left but the smell of dried blood and über man-sweat. I can’t speak for the rest of you, but as a gore-loving action junkie who’s mentally prepared himself for another virtual roundhouse kick to the face, that sounds like a mighty good time.
5) Soul Calibur IV
I was already overly-excited to control revamped versions of Voldo (don’t hate!) and Yoshimitsu in Soul Calibur IV, but when Yoda was announced as a playable character for the Xbox 360 version of the game (and Darth Vader for the PS3 version), my anticipation rose to startling new heights. While such a fighting scenario may seem a bit unusual to some, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you about Soul Calibur‘s female’s nonsensical breasts that are so epic in proportion, you’d be risking your very life to enter the 10’ radius that surrounds them. In short, this is one of those games that doesn’t need to make a lick of sense to be fun.
4) Resident Evil 5
It isn’t known for sure whether or not Resident Evil 5 will be out in 2008 (I’ve heard rumors of a possible Nov. – Dec. release), but that doesn’t mean I can’t anticipate it anyway. While little footage and info surrounding the game is available, we do know that RE5 centers around Chris Redfield a whopping 10 years after the events of the original Resident Evil. Additionally, Resident Evil 4‘s aiming scheme will be used, heat will affect gameplay in some way or another, and while the enemies do possess more intelligence than ordinary zombies, they aren’t Ganados. If there was ever a way to build upon the sheer badassness of RE4, I think Capcom can pull it off.
3) Grand Theft Auto IV
A high-definition Grand Theft Auto with more realistic gameplay opportunities than previously thought possible? Count me in! Even after the unwanted controversy surrounding the series and GTA IV‘s delay, my anticipation for the game has yet to waver. Every so often we see a supposed groundbreaking new game that inevitably falls short of the unrealistic hype it receives from its legion of fans. Grand Theft Auto IV is not going to be one of those titles.
2) Fallout 3
Fallout 3 makes my list because while I could never get into the previous Fallout games, I still found their source material highly intriguing and want to see how Bethesda adapts it. Actually, I really just want to try out the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System for myself. If you’re unfamiliar with V.A.T.S., it’s basically a turn-based alternative to standard gunplay that lets you pinpoint your foe’s specific body parts and watch them explode in great detail upon using your weapon of choice. The “Burnout with body parts” quote used to describe the system has been etched into my brain ever since I first heard it, and it’ll remain there until I can get my hands on Fallout 3 and experience V.A.T.S for myself.
1) Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
The Force Unleashed combines Havok, Euphoria, and Digital Molecular Matter to bring us some of the most advanced gameplay mechanics we’ve ever seen from this generation of consoles. But what exactly does all of that jargon mean? It means the ability to create some truly hilarious situations involving Stormtroopers and those generic metal boxes that future civilizations will apparently carry in large quantities. Above all, Force Unleashed has wood that actually splinters like real wood. Tell me, is your mind blown too?
What about you guys and gamer girls? What Xbox 360 games are you looking forward to the most this year?