Update: Aliens: Colonial Marines has been delayed from spring to fall.
Our look ahead to 2012's biggest videogames concludes today with a preview of the top titles expected for the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and Wii U, in addition to PCs. If you missed it, we previewed games for the Nintendo 3DS and new PlayStation Vita earlier in the week.
Key multi-platform releases
As always, most of the year's top titles will be available across multiple platforms, and we've picked out nearly 50 of the biggest and the best below. Release dates are listed when known.
Aliens: Colonial Marines Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC Wii U Sega, tbd fall
Developed by Gearbox Software (Borderlands, Duke Nukem Forever), the first Aliens-themed console game since 2010 has been an off again, on again project for the past four years, but should finally surface this fall. The first-person shooter takes place between the events of the second and third movies, and puts you in control of a group of four fighters, who get to use a wide variety of weapons. Encouragingly, the story comes from Battlestar Galactica scribes Bradley Thompson and David Weddle.
Assassin's Creed III
360 PS3 PC Ubisoft
Devoted Assassin's Creed fans know that the ongoing story's main protagonist, Desmond Miles, eventually gets caught up in a plot involving the end of the world in December 2012. Since that storyline would seem a bit less plausible if the game were to come out after December, Ubisoft will be rushing to get the concluding chapter of Desmond's story in stores prior to the end of the year. Specifics, however, have not yet been revealed.
BioShock Infinite Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC 2K Games
This much-anticipated third BioShock titled follows the perhaps unfairly maligned (in retrospect) 2010 release Bioshock 2, though, storywise, the new game is not a sequel. Fans should be happy to hear that original Bioshock creative guru Ken Levine has returned to craft the story. (A bevy of awards for the still-in-development game at last year's E3 was similarly encouraging.) Instead of exploring the underground ruins of Rapture, you’ll now explore the floating city of Columbia as you play as Booker DeWitt, a detective who’s tasked with finding a woman named Elizabeth. Expect stylish, early-1900s high-flying third-person action that expands the Bioshock universe even further.
Borderlands 2 Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC 2K Games
The cartoonish FPS/RPG hybrid returns with a new game that builds upon 2009's surprise hit Borderlands. The sequel features a new setting, characters, and story while adding polish to nearly every element of the game, which means we could be in for a treat, though we'll likely have to wait until the fall.
Untitled Call of Duty game
(unknown) Activision, tbd November
Given the working title Call of Duty 9, the next installment in the massively successful franchise will arrive in November. The new game will be developed by Treyarch (who last gave us 2010's Call of Duty: Black Ops), but otherwise little is known about the game.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC Valve
The latest installment in the Counter-Strike series is an online, team-based shooter that has its origins in the PC title Counter-Strike: Source (and, thus, the original Counter-Strike as well), but expands on that game with additional maps, characters, and game modes, and will support cross-platform multiplayer.
The Darkness II Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC 2K Games, due February 7
A sequel to the 2007 title The Darkness, the new game (delayed from last year) continues the original's blend of FPS and story-driven survival horror. The action picks up two years after the first game, and the graphics have more of a comic book style (especially that of the particular series from which the game is adapted).
Darksiders II Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC Wii U THQ, tbd June
Not to be confused with The Darkness II is Darksiders II, another game appealing to the comic book crowd (its creator is noted comic book artist Joe Mad). This action-adventure sequel to 2010's Darksiders again centers on one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, though this time it is Death, who sets out to clear the name of the first game's War after he is wrongly accused. The events of the new game take place concurrently to those of the first game, but you'll find a larger world to explore—and a faster pace—this time around.
Dead or Alive 5
360 PS3 Tecmo
The last two installments in the fighting series have been Xbox exclusives, but Dead or Alive 5 will get a simultaneous release on both the 360 and the PS3. The new game (the first DOA title in seven years) will add some MMA fighting techniques to the usual assortment of moves, while also allowing more interactions with your environment as you fight.
360 PS3 PC Bethesda Softworks, tbd Q2
This sequel to—oops, sorry, we got used to typing that. Bethesda's Dishonored is actually the first original title on our 2012 list. A stealth action game developed by relative unknowns Arkane Studios (Dark Messiah of Might & Magic), Dishonored takes place in a unique rat-infested industrialized world that blends futuristic and antique elements, while gameplay combines elements of BioShock and Deus Ex and changes to adapt to how good or evil you behave (without preferring one or the other).
DmC: Devil May Cry Watch trailer
360 PS3 Capcom
Yes, this title was also listed in our 2011 preview article a year ago, but given that initial fan reaction to the original designs and details of the Devil My Cry reboot were so negative, perhaps the additional development time (with a lot of the work being done by the UK's Ninja Theory) is a good thing. But it'll be a while yet before we know how much the new action game's promised darker, more brutal approach pays off.
Far Cry 3
360 PS3 PC Ubisoft
There's nothing like a lush, tropical island setting to relax you after a hard day of work. Of course, this blissful setting is not quite so comforting when it's filled with mentally unstable locals who are constantly trying to kill you. After a 2008 detour to Africa in Far Cry 2, the series returns to its tropical roots in this open world FPS, though you once again play as a new character: tourist Jason Brody, who is separated from his girlfriend while vacationing on an increasingly lawless island.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 Watch trailer
360 PS3 Square Enix, due January 31
The numbering might be getting ridiculous, but Final Fantasy fans who were disappointed by 2010's Final Fantasy XIII might find more to like in this RPG sequel, which features a time travel storyline and has received strong reviews in Japan, where it was released at the end of last year.
Grand Theft Auto V Watch trailer
360 PS3 Rockstar Games
It’s been four years since the acclaimed Grand Theft Auto IV and a lot has changed with the controversial franchise. The new locale for Grand Theft Auto V is the fictional city Los Santos, which originally appeared in 2004's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and is based on modern day Los Angeles. Exactly what you'll be doing there (other than driving, which, in fact, is what we L.A. folks do much of the day) is still a secret, though we know that it might use the MotionScan technology implemented in Rockstar’s L.A. Noire, it will likely allow you to inflict damage in a huge environment, and it will sell tens of millions of copies.
Hitman: Absolution Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC Square Enix
The fifth Hitman title (and first in six years) is another stealth action game centering on the assassin known as Agent 47, who is know operating as a free agent on his own mission while caught up in a dark conspiracy. A new "instinct" mechanic makes the game a bit easier for novices, while the action side of things will also show some changes, though everything should still be familiar enough for longtime fans.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC Electronic Arts, due February 7
Tired of Skyrim? Then circle February 7 on your calendar; that date brings the first chapter in the new open-world action-RPG property Kingdoms of Amalur. Reckoning has quite the pedigree: it comes from the lead designer of the third and fourth Elder Scrolls games, while Todd McFarlane (Spawn) worked on the artwork and best-selling fantasy/sci-fi author R.A. Salvatore handled the story. While it's just a single-player game, if it is as successful as expected, expect an MMO to follow in the future.
Lollipop Chainsaw Watch trailer
360 PS3 Warner Bros. Interactive, due April 24
Rainbows, sparkles, and blood ... lots of blood. The latest insanely over-the-top action title from Goichi "Suda51" Suda (Shadows of the Damned, No More Heroes) centers on a chainsaw-wielding high school cheerleader who battles a horde of rock 'n' roll zombies. Did we mention that her boyfriend is a disembodied head?
Mass Effect 3 Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC Electronic Arts, due March 6
Could this be 2012's game of the year? Given that 2010's Mass Effect 2 scored 96 on the 360 (and 94 on other platforms), expectations are sky-high for the concluding chapter in BioWare's sci-fi action-RPG trilogy, though all depends on how well they wrap up Commander Shepard's storyline. Veterans will be rewarded when decisions made in the first two games shape the events in ME3, and the game will feature a co-op multiplayer for the first time in the series (as well as Kinect-enabled voice commands for 360 owners). In the single-player game, though, you'll have to save Earth, which has been taken over by the Reapers. Can't wait.
Max Payne 3 Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC Rockstar Games, due May 15
A lot has happened since Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne came out in October of 2003. Hollywood tried and failed to make Max Payne into a good movie (unless you consider 31 good), and the gaming universe has become ever more sophisticated. Can a new installment revive the franchise? Max Payne 3 finds the titular character as an aged beefy bald badass who’s now kicking ass in São Paulo, Brazil. The game takes place eight years after events of the last game and is written by Rockstar Games writer Dan Houser, who also wrote Red Dead Redemption and many of the Grand Theft Auto games.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
360 PS3 Konami
Aside from introducing a new word into the English language (or, maybe not) Konami's latest Metal Gear title also adds a new emphasis on action to the stealth franchise, while bringing in a new developer Platinum Games (Bayonetta). In fact, there's little sneaking around to be found here at all (and the game takes place outside the Metal Gear Solid series); instead, it's all hacking, all slashing ... of nearly anything or anyone. That's quite a change from a series that encouraged you to avoid killing altogether, though you can still make it through Revengeance without murdering a single human. You can, but you won't.
Metro: Last Light
360 PS3 PC Wii U THQ, tbd summer
THQ's Metro 2033 was a good idea somewhat poorly executed. This sequel, also set in Moscow's underground rail system in a post-apocalyptic Russia, hopes to rectify the problems of its predecessor with a vastly improved combat system (at the very least, it would be hard to make it worse), while also offering stunning graphics.
Ninja Gaiden 3 Watch trailer
360 PS3 Wii U Tecmo, due March 20
Ryu Hayabusa will be busy in 2012. Not only will the ever-popular character show up in Dead or Alive 5 (above), but he'll once again be the protagonist of the latest hack-and-slash title in the Ninja Gaiden series. NG3, however, will be the first game in the franchise developed without the guidance of original creator Tomonobu Itagaki, which may or may not be responsible for the new game's relative emphasis on realism over fantasy. There's still plenty of violence to go around, however.
Overstrike Watch trailer
360 PS3 Electronic Arts
The first multiplatform game from PlayStation developers Insomniac Games (Ratchet & Clank, Resistance: Fall of Man), Overstrike is team-based action game (with both four-player co-op and single-player modes) that retains the developer's flair for odd gadgets and weaponry. It also gets points (from us, at least) for not being a sequel or a reboot.
360 PS3 PC Bethesda Softworks
While 2006's Prey was in development for over a decade, this sequel (again developed by Human Head Studios, though for a new publisher, Bethesda) came about relatively quickly. The new first-person shooter Prey 2 features an open world environment—specifically, that of the alien-infested planet of Exodus, where you serve as a bounty hunter—and actually shares very little with the first game. That could be a good thing; an early preview at E3 last year generated a ton of positive buzz, especially for its sci-fi-meets-western design.
Prototype 2 Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC Bethesda Softworks, due April 24
Yes, it's another sequel, and another open-world action game. Prototype 2 follows a new protagonist, Sergeant James Heller, but he has the ability to shapeshift and assume the identities of others like the first game's Alex Mercer. From the looks of things, he can also do some serious damage to helicopters.
Resident Evil 6 Watch trailer
360 PS3 Capcom, due November 20
Can't wait until November for the latest chapter in the long-running survival horror series, which will take place a decade after the Raccoon City incident and include co-op multiplayer and twin storylines? There's actually plenty of Resident Evil to go around in 2012, with Resident Evil: Revelations arriving soon for the 3DS, third-person shooter Operation Raccoon City coming March 20 for multiple platforms, and Resident Evil: Retribution hitting theaters on September 14. (It's probably best not to get too excited about that last one, though.) Meanwhile, a team of over 600 developers around the world will be working to get RE6 out in time for the holidays.
Silent Hill: Downpour Watch trailer
360 PS3 Konami, due March 13
The eighth game in the survival horror series indeed features plenty of rain, as well as a new focus on puzzle-solving and combat (structured around a fairly linear story, which means you'll be doing much less town exploration than you're used to. The PS3 version includes support for 3D televisions. The early buzz is actually fairly good, which is encouraging given that recent releases in the series have been lackluster.
SoulCalibur V Watch trailer
360 PS3 Namco Bandai, due January 31
At press time, the first few reviews are looking positive for the fifth (or sixth, or eighth, depending on how you count them) chapter in the fighting game series. The events, such as they are, take place 17 years after those in SCIV, but you're here for the swordfighting, which has a few tweaks but should feel familiar to fans. The character creation mode returns, as do all of your favorite characters, while Ezio Auditore from Assassin's Creed is playable as a guest character.
South Park: The Game
360 PS3 PC THQ, tbd Q3/Q4
There have been a few videogames based on the long-running Comedy Central series before, but this one is set to be the biggest and the best. South Park: The Game is an RPG that pits you as the new kid in town, and you must make friends with Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny. The script was written by series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who also voice the characters), and the graphics retain the show's 2D look.
SSX Watch trailer
360 PS3 EA Sports, due February 28
Delayed a year, EA's reboot of its snowboarding series finally has a firm release date, though the title (once SSX: Deadly Descents) has been shortened. Test out your skills in real-world locations ranging from the Himalayas to the Antarctic (plus Mt. Fuji, in the PS3 version), and play by yourself or compete online with friends.
Syndicate Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC Electronic Arts, due February 21
EA's 1993 tactical shooter Syndicate is reborn for modern consoles as a FPS, though it retains some of the original game's futuristic sci-fi premise about a world controlled by mega-corporations (and their armies). You'll have a chance to use both relatively conventional firepower and more hackerish weapons (controlled via a chip implanted in your mind), and the game includes a four-player co-op mode.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Online Watch trailer
PC Wii U Ubisoft
One of two Ghost Recon titles expected in 2012 (see below for the second), this online multiplayer third-person tactical cover shooter should surface in the second half of the year, and yes, will be exclusive to the new Wii U as far as consoles go. Ghost Recon Online will be free to play in its PC version (possibly on the Wii U too, though that is unclear at the moment), though you can upgrade your equipment by paying real-world money via microtransactions.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Watch trailer
360 PS3 Ubisoft, due May 22
While early versions were released in 2010 for the Wii and PSP (under slightly different names), the fourth major installment in the tactical shooter series finally arrives on the major consoles in May. (An on-again, off-again PC version is on again, but will follow at a later date.) The full game is playable with up to four people in co-op mode, and there are a ton of customization options for your weapons. The game is also Kinect enabled.
Tomb Raider Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC Square Enix, tbd Q3
If films and television shows can have reboots, why not video games, too? Lara Croft gets a revamp in the form of this Fall’s Tomb Raider. The action-adventure title is a prequel that shows how Croft became such a tough-as-nails survivor so kick-ass. The game will incorporate elements of survival horror into a stranded-island setting that the protagonist finds herself in after escaping a massive sea disaster. The game is said to feature a more grown-up and gritty story, which should set it apart from the original Tomb Raider games that were more about shooting dual guns and ogling Lara Croft’s impractical outfit. Just don't expect a Wii U version; that's officially off the table.
XCOM Watch trailer
360 PS3 PC 2K Games, due March 6
Another long-dead franchise gets a reboot, though the new XCOM is a vastly different game (think first-person tactical shooter, rather than a straight strategy title) from the X-COM series of the 1990s. (That hyphen? Also so very 1990s.) The Cold War-era storyline finds mysterious alien forces invading our planet, and it's your job as a FBI agent to stop them (and yours alone; there is no multiplayer mode). 2K's Marin studio handled the development, fresh off their success with BioShock 2.
On the next page...
Continue reading for a look at the major platform exclusives expected in 2012.