games I'm looking forward to

I don't have any great, high-minded reason to be posting this, aside from feeling the urge to remind myself of the upcoming games I'm looking forward to, post-E3. I can't claim that this list is anything but mainstream, but it's at least plugged-in, and has helped me remember that there are a lot of exciting new titles just around the bend.

Most Anticipated overall:

The Last Guardian:

Viewing the original (leaked) trailer for the new game from Team Ico last month ended my mind and left my mouth hanging open. Every element of the game seems so perfectly conceptually balanced-- the platforming and friendly AI of Ico meets the epic creature scale of Shadow of the Colossus. The creature itself instantly captured my imagination-- a baby giant, a presence that at once feels innocent, friendly and clumsy in its youth, but dangerous and imposing in its stature-- and the spears and arrows dangling from its flesh imply a vulnerability that might cast the player as his occasional protector as well. The single technical and interactive challenge they've chosen-- a complex, friendly AI with the scale and interactivity to meaningfully impact the player's navigation of the gameworld-- is incredibly inspiring for me from both a designer's and player's perspective. I can't wait to befriend this strange, wonderous creature and see what new aspects of Team Ico's unique fictional world he'll help reveal. The one misgiving I have is a stealth element hinted at by the trailers. I have confidence in Team Ico in pretty much every regard, but their games also aren't perfect, and stealth is very easy to screw up in an extremely frustrating fashion. Regardless, the mere promise of this game should be enough to remind any designer of the potential for novel expression that big-budget game development holds.

Outright sequels:

Super Mario Galaxy 2:

The sequel to what I would have personally awarded Game of the Year in 2007 (even over BioShock and Portal!) has been announced. I was honestly surprised, as it hasn't been Nintendo's habit since Mario 64 to directly sequelize their flagship Mario titles. But more Galaxy, plus Yoshi, is nothing to sneeze at. Some games feature such great core premises that more content alone is draw enough to foster legitimate excitement, and Mario Galaxy is one of those games. Bring on more weird floating space orbs! And Yoshi.

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle:

Being a huge fan of the ethos and execution of No More Heroes (and Killer7 before it, though to a lesser extent,) I was excited to hear that NMH was getting a sequel, as I'd never heard it performed especially well at market-- it was cited fairly often as "proof" that hardcore games were destined to fail on the Wii. But again, more original content set in Travis Touchdown's wild world of otaku, beam swords, hipster t-shirts and world-renowned assassins is more than enough for me. Bring it on!

Mafia 2:

The first Mafia game (by the former Illusion Softworks, now 2K Czech) was one of my favorite games of the early 2000's. I was especially impressed by the mature (not "M for Mature") story and characters, and the sober characterization of the gameworld itself: you had to live as a civilian in the city of Lost Heaven, as opposed to being a rocket-launcher-wielding immortal. The characters were human and believable, their arcs were compelling, and it all wrapped up in a satisfying and melancholy conclusion. I was especially impressed with how little the game's narrative pandered to a juvenile audience-- no ultraviolence or fantastical wish fulfillment, no reliance on "nerdy" tropes that even other notable story games of the time-- Half-Life, System Shock 2, Deus Ex, Planescape Torment-- copped to. Not all games need to be so grounded, but Mafia impressed me with the degree to which it felt so ahead of its time in this respect. Mafia 2, due some 8 years after the original, promises a similarly deep fiction, with perhaps a greater emphasis on high-octane action and forgiveness of player misbehavior, along with an even richer, more absorbing, living gameworld. I can't wait to play the game that 2K Czech have been toiling over in those intervening years.

Mass Effect 2:

Another game where "more of the same, but better" is fine by me. I played through Mass Effect at its release and have felt the urge to replay it a number of times since, but I'm holding out for the sequel. As a normative nerd type, I'm excited to explore the Blade Runner-esque city of blackened highrises and flying cars depicted in the game's trailers, to meet new partymembers such as "the greatest assassin in the universe," and to carry over my character from the first game in classic RPG style. I look forward to returning to Bioware's Star Wars-meets-Star Trek universe and experiencing the sequel team's "darker, grittier" approach to the material.

Red Dead Redemption:

Reading McCarthy novels like Blood Meridian and All the Pretty Horses has made me want a game set in a more grim, grounded version of the rural west than those offered by, say, Neversoft's Gun or the original Red Dead Revolver, and Red Dead Redemption seems poised to deliver just that. Rockstar is clearly trending more intently toward "serious" takes on their subject matter (just look at GTA4's, and even more pointedly The Lost & Damned's, depressing view of Liberty City,) and the Capital Wasteland has sold me on the potential for exploring a huge, open no-man's land. Red Dead Redemption promises an unsettled plain dotted with fledgling frontier towns, trappers' camps and cavalry forts, and even "a complete ecology" wherein hawks snap up jackrabbits and coyotes descend upon NPC's campsites in the wild. I can't wait to explore Rockstar's vision of the American frontier.

Not sequels:

Little King's Story:

I was turned on to Little King's Story by Edge's review, which speaks more or less directly to me when it says: "Perhaps the game’s greatest achievement... is a constant focus on you, the player, delicately changing the world as your kingdom expands." Something of a (I'm guessing accidental) cross between Dungeon Keeper, Pikmin, and Civilization, the player controls the Little King, who runs around the gameworld throwing his subjects at obstacles in order to clear rocks and trees, gather resources, build towns and defeat enemy armies in his quest to oust all the other nefarious kings in the world, spreading the borders of his kingdom to the four corners of the map. The tone and style sound irreverently self-aware, and watching your territory expand is always satisfying. I expect it to be incredibly original, and the glowing reviews floating around only buoy my excitement to play it.


The breakout hit of E3 probably doesn't need much introduction at this point, but suffice it to say that one play session of the game produced a battle between a giant Kraken, Einstein, and God, all on the Nintendo DS. The player can type in any concept they can think of, and more often than not it's been created in pixel form by the game's developers, appears onscreen, and goes to work interacting with whatever else has been spawned. Einstein might eat cherries, be flammable, and apparently goes aggro on God. Stories told from E3 playtesters include spawning a time machine which transported the player back to the time of the dinosaurs, then spawning a meteor which caused all the dinosaurs to go extinct. Even Keyboard Cat was present. Sample puzzle objectives include reaching a star high up on a perch, or getting a beached whale back into the water. Do you go the simple route (for instance, spawning a ladder to climb up to the star) or do you spawn the most gonzo conceptual Rube Goldberg device you can imagine? As Crayon Physics Deluxe is to player-generated physics interactions, Scribblenauts is to conceptual emergence, and hot damn am I eager to see all of the insanity that's guaranteed to result.

Night Game:

I was entranced by the understated, lonesome atmosphere and simple, satisfying movement and collection mechanics of Knytt, and Night Game seems to retain these elements while adding 2D physics gameplay to the mix. You play as a self-actuated rolling stone, bouncing across an evocative silhouetted landscape. To what end? I'm not sure, but I'm interested to find out. And while I'll certainly miss Knytt's player avatar (what I referred to lovingly as the "stupid little cat,") I'm looking forward to spending more time rolling around Nifflas's singular, alien world.

New translations of old games:

Flower, Sun, Rain:

As noted above, I'm a fan of Suda's work that's been translated into English (including the overlooked Samurai Champloo tie-in game, which bore all the Suda hallmarks and was surprisingly good.) So of course I'm intrigued to play a translation of one of this PS1 games, being brought to DS this year. The story (as I understand it) involves a private eye arriving on a resort island along with the sentient, crime-solving AI contained in his briefcase. A murder mystery (maybe?) is afoot, and surreal occurences are guaranteed. An adventure in the point-and-click tradition through Suda's demented lens, with new touchscreen additions for the DS release. Sign me up.



Though the Policenauts fan translation has been in the works for some years now, they're currently "one bug til Beta," barrelling towards a releasable build... hopefully within the next year or two :-) I really enjoyed Kojima's Sega CD cyberpunk adventure Snatcher when I played it a few years ago, and Policenauts is the spiritual sequel: aping Lethal Weapon like Snatcher aped Blade Runner, set in a gritty near-future (and, interestingly, featuring the Metal Gear Solid universe's Meryl Silverburgh,) I'll be happy to point-and-click through some vintage Kojima nuttiness. The successful fan translation of Mother 3 gives me hope that this project might finally see the light of day. I've got my Ebayed copy of Policenauts for PS1 sitting right here, waiting.


Fallout: New Vegas:


Any spin-off or companion to Fallout 3, perhaps my overall favorite video game of all time, is sure to catch my attention. An all-new Fallout game (not DLC or expansion) by Obsidian Entertainment, a company founded by Interplay and Black Isle veterans, is certainly an interesting proposition. I have misgivings-- honestly I was disappointed with Fallout 2 compared to the original (including their gimmicky take on Reno,) and haven't been much impressed by the Fallout 3 DLC I've played so far-- but the potential is there.

Lost Planet 2:

I was reading the preview of Lost Planet 2 in this month's Edge magazine, and was surprised at how excellent it sounds. The focus on character customization in particular caught my eye-- the sequel is focused on four-player co-op in that strange, low-tech future-steampunk style shared by id's RAGE and certain anime (it makes me think of Iria that always seemed to be on the Sci-Fi Channel when I was in high school for some reason,) and allows each player to customize the appearance of their avatar's futuristically anachronistic wargear. Along with building your own anime supersoldier and blasting up enemies with your friends, there's co-op grapplehooking, which looks like a blast, and big, nasty co-op mech battles, which I'm totally onboard for. Hell, the trailer above opens with a rip of the Offworld Colonies zeppelin from Blade Runner, and I'm taking the nerd bait. On the other side, the first game didn't impress me much, and I'm skeptical of fighting more big weird insectoid monsters, which is never very interesting to me. The trailer does feature a good deal of soldier-shaped cannon fodder, but if the combat mechanics aren't well tuned or the campaign uninspiring, I could see getting tired of this bug-blaster real quick. But I'll play it long enough to cobble together a cool-looking cyber-steam-space marine at least. That's just how I am.

The Saboteur:

This open-city game of the WWII French Resistance shares a lot of mechanical overlap with one of my favorite game series of all time, the Hitman games: stealth (both view-cone and social,) costume changes, a third-person orbiting camera, and complex planning that can hilariously blow up in your face at the drop of a hat. Add in a beautifully-realized real-world setting, some Assassin's Creed-like parkour elements, car chases, and a game board that you gradually flip to your own side mission-by-mission (structurally reminiscent of Syndicate, maybe?) and it all ends up a pretty exciting package. Led up by Fallout and GTA veteran Tom French as lead designer, it even has an impressive personnel pedigree. The question is whether the full package adds up to more than the sum of its promising individual parts, which is yet to be seen... but I'm optimistic.


While I'm interested in Borderlands' new visual style and the FPS/RPG genre bent, I'll be honest: I'm a sucker for futuristic revolvers. The mix-and-match approach to generating near-infinite weapon variants means that I'll play this until I've found the ultimate-cool magnum revolver that eradicates enemies with a single round and looks amazing doing it. For me, the magnum is generally a highlight of games that feature it-- The Darkness, the Half-Life games, Fallout 3, Army of Two, Rainbow Six Vegas, even GTA: Vice City-- and the ability to roll my own nasty future-Mateba chambered with acid-tipped high-velocity rounds is pretty much irresistable. And get this-- you can even roll a sniper rifle that's constructed with a revolver's cylinder, meaning I'll be on a quest for the ultimate one of those, too. On the downside I usually am not big on the Diablo-style grind structure, so I don't know if this can really be one of my personal favorites in the long-term, but I am looking forward to playing it.

Red Steel 2:

Red Steel 2 is as much a series reboot as any: they've gone completely bonkers, it seems, pushing the setting to some strange, future-retro east-meets-west post-apocalyptic Japanese frontier town in the American neo-old-west (?) The game looks to roughly share a visual style with Borderlands, and I'm interested to find out more about their wacko shift in setting. If the gameplay is better than the first thanks to Wii Motion Plus, it could be great fun. On the downside, the levels look incredibly linear and sort of repetitive even in the 10-minute video showcase above, so I could see this wearing out its welcome quickly, but I'm intrigued by their extreme departure from the first game at least.

Infinite Space:


I'm kind of worried about this one, as it's fallen off the radar a bit: no showing at E3, Sega? But it's still scheduled for release sometime this year (or next?) and the initial promise has kept my interest: a Platinum Games-branded DS title (initially called "Infinite Line," now "Infinite Space,") conveying a grand space opera, with mechanics focusing on building your own fleet of battleships from myriad parts and stats, then engaging in epic confrontations between opposing armadas. It looks incredibly twiddly and deep, as much of a fleet simulator as anything, and reviews of the Japanese version, released earlier this year, have been quite positive. If it ever does make it to these shores, I'll be interested to try my hand at this uniquely Japanese take on the hardcore (handheld!) space sim.

Silent Hill Shattered Memories:


I'm on the Silent Hill 2 respect train, though I wasn't especially excited about any of the other games in the series. But I see potential in Climax Games' interesting re-imagining of the original Silent Hill as a combat-free, iced-over, player-tailored nightmare factory. The two big draws are a game where the player's only recourse against threats is to run like hell-- aim your flashlight with the Wiimote and use a PDA to scan your surroundings and take photos; look for clues to find your lost daughter; and when the town of Silent Hill flips to its alternate dimension of frost and ice, and a flayed horrorshow gets up in your grill, you turn tail and get the fuck out as quickly as possible. Vault over fences and skid around corners, then hide in a closet or under a bed if you can, hoping one of the ghouls won't sniff you out. It seems to be taking inspiration from the rest of the survival horror canon-- Fatal Frame and Haunting Ground come to mind-- but it doesn't stop there. By giving the player a psychological questionnaire at the outset and monitoring their playstyle along the way, the game attempts to tailor the experience to fit the particular player's profile, switching character alignments and setpieces on the fly. Dynamism and a unique mechanical aesthetic? I'm pretty excited... though Climax hasn't really proven itself yet with its prior time in the Silent Hil universe. I'm hoping this will be their time to shine.

Dead Rising 2:

More Dead Rising? Hell yes. No Frank West? And the game being developed by a fairly unknown studio that's mostly made baseball games in the past? Well... things are looking up regardless, if early trailers are anything to judge by. Starring what seems to be a stunt dirtbike rider from a Vegas extreme sports show, the player tears through a zombie-infested entertainment complex featuring casinos, theatres, restaurants, hotels, amusement park rides and more. Having apparently installed the duct tape mod, the player can tape chainsaws to either end of a mop handle for some Darth Maul action, or to the handles of his dirtbike to shred hordes of zombies while burning rubber. Could a new protagonist and new developer suck the soul out of Dead Rising? I'm worried that maybe so, but hopefully my worries will end up unfounded.

Theoretical/rumored games:

The next Hitman game:


As noted, the Hitman games, particularly Hitman: Blood Money, are some of my favorite games of all time. Blood Money may not be the most polished, technically flawless experience you'll ever have, but god damn if the possibilities and emergence it presented weren't endlessly entertaining. The end cutscene of Blood Money (which I've been half a dozen times now) promises more adventures for Agent 47, and I feel like I've heard "Hitman 5" bandied about by Eidos once or twice, but details are nonexistent yet. Like the "outright sequels" above, I'd happily take nothing more than additional levels for Blood Money-- the sooner the better!

The new Syndicate game from Starbreeze:


So there's supposed to be a new Syndicate game in the works. And it's supposed to be made by the team behind Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness. And now you've pretty much described my dream game. Syndicate is one of my all-time favorite titles, having delivered a dark, violent, emergent open-city experience to my IBM-compatible some 8 years before GTA3. The tone of the property fits perfectly with the grim, gritty aesthetic demonstrated by Starbreeze's games, and the time is ripe for a rebirth of this seminal M-rated IP. Would Starbreeze take a more classic, squad-based approach? Or might you control some sort of lone saboteur skulking in the shadows of Eurocorp? Whatever it is, I certainly hope the rumors of this production turn out to be true, and can't wait for an official unveiling.

ThatGameCompany's next game


Flower made me a believer in ThatGameCompany. Now they've got Robin Hunicke onboard as well. What will their third game for Sony be? Following the rousingly understated triumph of Flower, I'm as interested as anybody in finding out.

Xeno Clash sequel


I'm rooting for ACE Team-- Xeno Clash was born of an earlier project called Zenozoik, a first-person open-world RPG set in a fantastically surreal world. But the featureset was too unwieldy and they put the project on hold, focusing it down to the linear first-person brawling of Zeno Clash as a proving ground. Now that that title has been released on PC to great acclaim, and ACE Team is in negotiations for an XBLA port, they're planning to revisit the enormous scope of Zenozoik as a "sequel" to Zeno Clash. Sure it could easily buckle under its own weight, but the sharp design sense and pragmatism shown by the team through Zeno Clash makes me hopeful that they'll pull it off... and I'll sure as hell be along for another mind-twisting ride through the heads of the three brothers Bordeu.

2K Boston's next game


You'd think I might have an inside line on 2K Boston's next project. You'd be wrong. Like everyone else, I'm incredibly curious to find out more about this ambitious new project that Ken Levine has hinted at. I was a fan of BioShock, of course, before I started working on BioShock 2, and a fan of System Shock 2 and Freedom Force and Swat 4 before that. So naturally I can't wait for the next project that the team in Boston's got brewing. Viva Irrational!

Well, enough of that. The great thing about all this is that I know I've skipped a bunch of games that I'm not personally psyched on, but that plenty of other people are excited for. No matter what kind of gamer you are there's something thrilling waiting just around the corner. When your head's wrapped up in the development of one particular game all day, it's useful to get a concrete reminder of all the amazing stuff that's being worked on by other teams out there. Good luck to all the folks working hard to get these titles onto the shelves!