More big names for every platform
Earlier this week, we previewed the most-anticipated cross-platform games of 2010 -- a list that included titles like Mass Effect 2 and BioShock 2.
But that list tells only half the story. The coming year will also see the release of hotly-anticipated titles like Halo: Reach, Fable III, God of War III, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and our personal favorite, Star Trek Online, to name just several of a long list of platform-exclusive games.
Those games and more are described in detail below, beginning with upcoming releases exclusive to the Xbox 360.
Xbox 360 Exclusives
In development since 2005, Alan Wake is a psychological horror thriller set in the Pacific Northwest and influenced by Twin Peaks and Stephen King stories. The story-driven game from the developer of the Max Payne series centers on a writer whose wife mysteriously vanishes, leading him into a nightmarish journey that pits him against dark forces. Additional episodes will be available for download after the game's release. [A PC version, originally planned for 2010, has been postponed indefinitely.]
An open-world, third-person shooter like its mostly well-reviewed 2007 predecessor, Crackdown 2 features more of everything present in the original: more customization, more power-providing orbs, more verticality (including the ability to glide, and an unlockable helicopter) and more multiplayer modes. Players can roam free in gang-infested Pacific City as "The Agent," who must also deal with a group of escaped mutants.
Picking up 50 years after the events in Fable II 89, this new action RPG sequel finds the land of Albion under the rule of a tyrant. Playing as the child of the hero from the previous game (your previous saved games will be imported into this new title), you must lead a revolution against the evil king and defend the continent from a foreign invasion.
Already predicted to be 2010's best-selling title, the latest shooter in the massively popular, platform-defining series will be the last Halo game developed by Bungie (although Microsoft will continue the series with a different developer). Reach takes place in the days before the events depicted in the original Halo, with players taking on the role of a soldier in an elite special ops unit (the "Noble Team") on a somber planet named Reach that's about to fall to the Covenant alien alliance.
Microsoft's answer to the Wii, Project Natal (rest assured, that's not its final name) is not a game itself but offers an entirely new way to play them. Like the Wii, this new 360 add-on necessitates the use of a sensor bar near your television. Unlike Nintendo's console, however, Project Natal requires no physical controllers; instead, your body becomes the controller. The sensor can detect your three-dimensional physical movements, gestures and speech, opening up a new range of possibilities for game design. It is expected to be released in time for the holiday shopping season, but the number of Natal-capable titles that will arrive this year is still unknown (although Fable III, above, will be one of them).
Xbox LIVE Game Room
Microsoft's new virtual arcade will ultimately feature over 1,000 classic 8-bit games -- presented, oddly enough, in full 1080p -- available for download with Microsoft Points. (The Game Room itself -- in which your avatar can wander among the retro game cabinets -- is a free download.) At launch, the service will include 30 titles (including Crystal Castles, Centipede and Tempest), and additional games will be released weekly.
Playstation 3 Exclusives
A brand-new title for the PS3 from Rockstar Games, Agent is a Cold War-era espionage adventure set in the 1970s. Shockingly little is known about the game -- and no images or trailers have been released -- but Rockstar has set its sights high, declaring that Agent has the potential to have a GTA-level impact.
God of War III
The fifth title in the God of War series (those Roman numerals merely indicate its place in the overall story), God of War III is both the first new GoW title for the PS3 and the final installment in the overall series. Like its predecessors, the new game offers plenty of gory combat set in the world of Greek mythology. But the increased power the PS3 offers compared to previous-generation platforms means a wealth of improvements, including shockingly bloody details and more challenging battles (with up to 50 enemies on screen at once).
Gran Turismo 5
Sony's acclaimed racing series returns with its first major installment for the PS3. Five years in the making -- and with a production budget exceeding $60 million -- GT5 has fans hoping for not just another racing game, but the racing game. And there are a lot of encouraging signs, including a host of new features and a greatly improved physics engine. The new title will offer close to 1,000 different vehicles and 20 tracks (playable in both day and night conditions, with weather a factor), and includes licenses for NASCAR, Indy Racing League, World Rally Championship, and Super GT for the first time. An online mode will be available, for up to 16 players at a time. Another first for the series: you can inflict realistic damage on the cars (both external and mechanical), and cars can even be overturned. (Not that you would try to do that intentionally, of course.)
A stylish, film-noir style crime thriller from Quantic Dream (Fahrenheit 83, also known as Indigo Prophecy), Heavy Rain blends unconventional gameplay with a cinema-quality story and visuals. Many of the specific plot details depend on the actions and choices you make, but the story does involve a serial killer known as "The Origami Killer," and players may choose between four playable characters who are trying to track him down. (Should your character die, the story continues with you playing as one of the others.) The unique control scheme relies upon separate head and body controls and "contextual actions," and also requires players to turn their characters' thoughts into actions.
The Last Guardian
Although we prefer the literal translation of the Japanese title ("Trico, the Man-eating Sea Eagle"), The Last Guardian represents another unique release from the team behind the acclaimed titles ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. This hybrid of adventure and puzzle game puts players in the role of an unnamed boy who befriends a gigantic, feathery, griffin-like creature who accompanies and assists the boy on his quest.
This Massive Action Game (yes, that's what the title stands for) is a massively multiplayer online first-person shooter from Zipper Interactive, the developer behind the SOCOM series. MAG is set 15 years in the future, when national armies have effectively been replaced by private military organizations -- who are now battling each other in a "Shadow War." A whopping 256 players can compete in each battle, divided into teams (consisting of squads, platoons and companies) whose leaders are determined by experience.
PlayStation Motion Controller
Like Microsoft's Project Natal, Sony's new Motion Controller (a name change is expected) aims to steal some of the Wii's thunder by allowing motion-based game controls. Whereas Project Natal requires no physical controller at all, the Motion Controller is much closer to the Wii Remote, with the addition of a glowing orb at the end of the device. Motions are tracked via a combination of inertial sensors within the controller and the use of the PlayStation Eye camera.
On the next page, we continue our preview by looking at the hottest upcoming games for Wii, PC and PlayStation Portable