Already a memorable year
2010 has already proven to be a singular year in the videogame world. With so many triple-A titles fleeing from the 2009 holiday season to stay clear of Modern Warfare 2’s massive wake, the first few months of this year have an unusually star-studded feel to them. Traditionally a wastebin of average publisher inventory and delayed second-rate titles, the first two weeks of January have already seen the release of such critical gems as Bayonetta (90 on 360), Darksiders (84 on PS3), and Army of Two: The 40th Day (77 on 360), with highly anticipated Mass Effect 2 (9.5 from Official Xbox Magazine) hitting the shelves at the end of the month.
Also worth noting is the fact that the Xbox 360 is hitting its stride now that it is into its fifth year of existence, and the Playstation 3 and Wii are both in their fourth years (with no next-gen console announcements on the horizon), meaning developers are extremely familiar with the platforms and how to create and optimize games for them -- enabling these creative teams to truly push their boundaries.
Finally, there is the theory that every three years, the gaming industry puts out a group of uniquely outstanding games. Three years ago, we played such groundbreaking titles as Bioshock, Halo 3, Resident Evil 4, Super Mario Galaxy, Uncharted, Rock Band, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, to name just a few. And three years before that, in 2004, we were graced with the such critical faves as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Halo 2, Half-Life 2, World of Warcraft, Ninja Gaiden, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and Far Cry. Coincidence? Probably. But competition among the consoles and publishers has never been more fierce, and 2010’s still-growing list of releases is already impressive.
Not yet convinced? Below, we provide more reasons to start saving your money, as we preview the hottest titles expected to arrive over the next 12 months. We start with cross-platform games ...
Aliens vs. Predator
PC, 360, PS3 (Feb. 16)
This first-person shooter from the developer of the original Aliens vs. Predator game (that was back in 1999; there have been many sequels since) features creatures from the Aliens and Predator movies. An attempt to reboot the game franchise, AvP is divided into three campaigns (one for each species, including the Colonial Marines), and features a variety of solo and multiplayer modes.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
PC, 360, PS3 (Mar. 2)
EA's sequel to its 2008 game Battlefield: Bad Company has fans of the series hoping that this new installment might surpass the similar multiplayer shooter Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 -- one of the best-reviewed games of recent years. Customizable weapon selection and more destruction (take down entire buildings!) are some of new features in BF:BC2, which will include desert, mountain and jungle terrain.
PC, 360, PS3 (Feb. 9)
The groundbreaking first-person shooter BioShock earned the title of Metacritic's 2007 Game of the Year thanks to its inventive story and engrossing steampunk-like setting. This highly anticipated sequel returns you to the dystopian underwater city of Rapture in the role of the very first Big Daddy, and your pressurized diving suit will allow you to step outside of the city and explore the ocean floor for the first time. While the single-player game is set 10 years after the original, a story-driven multiplayer mode actually takes place before the events of the first game.
PC, 360, PS3 (Sept. 2010)
One of the few titles on our list that isn't a sequel, Brink is a first-person shooter set in a future Earth that has been flooded. The action takes place near a floating utopia known as The Ark, where disastrous overcrowding has pushed the population to the brink of civil war. The game allows you to create your own character, and also offers a multiplayer story mode.
PC, 360, PS3 (Fall 2010)
The second installment in what is now a planned trilogy of sci-fi shooters takes place four years after the events in 2007's Crysis, which was a PC-only release notable for its stunning graphics. There's still relatively little known about this title, including whether or not it will land on store shelves this year (a very late 2010 release is likely, but it could get bumped until early 2011).
360, PS3, PSP (Feb. 9)
Compared to the God of War series, EA's third-person action-adventure is loosely based on Dante's epic poem The Divine Comedy -- at least, the part of it that takes place in hell. (Who really wants to play a Paradiso game, anyway?) The action follows a bulked-up Dante through all nine circles of hell as he seeks to free his fiance from the clutches of Lucifer. The visuals look promising.
Dead Rising 2
PC, 360, PS3 (Fall 2010)
The delayed sequel to 2006's Dead Rising is another survival-horror actioner starring a new character (Chuck Greene) who must battle a zombie infestation that has spread from the original game's Colorado setting to the Vegas-like Fortune City. DR2 is expected to include more missions, more weapons, and a lot more zombies than the first installment, as well as a multiplayer mode.
Dead Space 2
PC, 360, PS3 (Fall 2010)
As in 2008's Dead Space, players of this third-person sci-fi survival horror shooter will control Isaac Clarke, a man trying to avoid a virus-like alien lifeform that turns humans into deadly monsters called Necromorphs. The action in this sequel will take place in a sprawling space station, known appropriately enough as "the Sprawl." While a 2010 release isn't guaranteed, EA has promised that it will arrive before March 2011.
Fallout: New Vegas
PC, 360, PS3 (Fall 2010)
While a true sequel to Fallout 3 is still expected at some point, fans of the series will have to make due with this new RPG set in the same universe -- a distant, post-apocalyptic future that is reminiscent of 1950s America. Few details have been announced to date, but, unlike previous Fallout spinoffs, it is expected to be a true role-playing game and not an actioner.
Final Fantasy XIII
360, PS3 (Mar. 9)
Obviously, somebody doesn't understand the meaning of the word "final." Already a huge hit in Japan, this latest RPG in the never-ending Final Fantasy series (which began in 1987 and includes over 30 titles) is, like previous installments, not a direct sequel but a new game set in the same universe. However, the story and characters established here will continue throughout multiple titles (and platforms) over the next 10 (!) years.
360, PS3 (Fall 2010)
Namco Bandai's third-person shooter hopes to turn the genre upside-down -- literally -- when it arrives later this year. In the future, an alien race called the Lutadore have invaded Earth, bringing their gravity-manipulating weapons with them. Playing as a cop searching for his missing son through this disorienting world (or as the cop's neighbor), you'll have a chance to twist gravity to suit your own purposes -- when you aren't being flipped yourself.
Just Cause 2
PC, 360, PS3 (Mar. 23)
A free-roaming action title (like the Grand Theft Auto series ... or 2006's Just Cause), JC2 is set on the fictional tropical island of Panau, where you (playing once again as Rico Rodriguez) are charged with overthrowing the island's evil dictator (if you want to -- remember, it's an open-ended sandbox game). The huge, incredibly detailed island locale promises hours of playing time.
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
PC, 360, PS3 (Fall 2010)
The sequel to 2007's poorly-received Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is another gritty third-person shooter centering on the adventures of the two titular criminals. Aiming to bring documentary-style realism (and YouTube-style amateur video) to gaming, the new title puts you in the role of "self-medicated psychopath" Lynch this time around, after the first title was presented from mercenary Kane's point of view.
Lost Planet 2
PC, 360, PS3 (Spring/Summer 2010)
This delayed follow-up to the sci-fi shooter Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is set a decade after events in the original, on the same terraformed planet (which is now more fully developed). The planet's native inhabitants -- an insect-like race known as the Akrid -- are back and literally bigger than ever, and they want to kill you and your fellow soldiers. A May release is the word right now, but the game could surface even later in the year.
PC, 360, PS3 (May)
A sequel to the 2002 cult hit Mafia (which excelled in its PC version but received mixed reviews on the previous-generation platforms), Mafia II is a period action game set, sandbox-style, in the fictitious Empire Bay, which is an amalgam of San Francisco and New York. While the original game took place during the 1930s, the sequel moves forward to the 1940s and '50s, and allows you to build up your own crime empire as aspiring mobster Vito. The detailed open-ended world includes music, weapons, and over four dozen automobiles from the era.
Mass Effect 2
PC, 360 (Jan. 24)
Well, here it is. Possibly the year's most-anticipated game, this second installment in a planned trilogy is another sci-fi action RPG set in a dangerous universe, where you (playing as the hero, Commander Shepard) lead a team to combat whatever interstellar forces are causing entire human colonies to vanish. The first Mass Effect was widely praised for its compelling story and characters, so hopes are high for this sequel. At least you don't have to wait much longer.
Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
PC, 360, PS3, Wii, PSP, DS (May 11)
Taking place between the events of 2003's fan-favorite The Sands of Time (which has spawned a feature film that is arriving in theaters this summer) and 2004's Warrior Within, this latest title in the ongoing Prince of Persia action-adventure series follows the Prince's attempt to save his brother's kingdom after it is besieged by a mighty army.
Red Dead Redemption
360, PS3 (Apr. 23)
If Grand Theft Auto's Liberty City environment were even bigger and set in the Wild West, it might look something like this free-roaming adventure from the publisher of GTA, Rockstar Games. A sequel to the 2004 western Red Dead Revolver, Redemption is set on the American frontier during 1908, and centers on a former outlaw, John Marston, who is now on the side of justice. While cars figure prominently in the GTA series, horses and wildlife play a similar role here, and the terrain ranges from mountain passes to frontier towns. And did we mention that there is a civil war brewing in nearby Mexico?
PC, 360, PS3 (Feb. 15)
An American Air Force pilot crash lands on a Russian island that is home to a mysterious science experiment in this puzzle-filled first-person shooter from Activision. Playing as the pilot, you discover a Time Manipulation Device that can send enemies forward and backward in time. But, as you play, the island itself is jumping backward and forward between two time periods (think "Lost"), each home to Russian forces who oppose you.
360, PS3 (May 3)
EA's latest skateboarding title introduces team-based play to the Skate franchise. In Skate 3, even the single-player mode finds you hitting the streets of the new city Port Carverton with fellow skaters. The title also includes a park creation mode and a skate school.
Super Street Fighter IV
360, PS3 (Spring 2010)
Capcom's bargain-priced update of the acclaimed fighting game Street Fighter IV features all 25 characters from that 2008 game in addition to several brand-new fighters and reintroduced classic combatants like Cody, Dee Jay and T. Hawk. In addition to a number of refinements, the title (which was originally set to be DLC before it grew too large) includes new ultra combos and a Team Battle online mode.
Supreme Commander 2
PC (Mar. 2), 360 (Mar. 16)
This epic, real-time strategy game takes place 25 years after the events in Supreme Commander, a strong 2007 PC effort with a middling 2008 Xbox port. In SC2, players can choose a leader of one of three different factions and customize an enormous army to wage war on a massive scale.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction
PC, 360 (April 2010)
Splinter Cell: Conviction is the fifth title in the Splinter Cell series of stealth action games. The storyline again centers on agent Sam Fisher, who has gone rogue to investigate the murder of his daughter -- a search that uncovers an even bigger threat against Washington D.C. Conviction will feature several new multiplayer modes, including a local co-operative mode.
Our 2010 Games Preview will continue in the very near future with a look at platform exclusive titles, including Halo: Reach for the 360, God of War III for the PS3, and Metroid: Other M for the Wii. In the meantime, what games are you most looking forward to this year? Let us know in the comments section below.