More of the same? We'll take it
A phenomenally-reviewed open-ended adventure in a new genre from Rockstar Games, a stellar Mass Effect release from BioWare -- sure, that was the story of 2010, but it could be a repeat performance in 2011. The long-gestating L.A. Noire (due in the first half of the year) and Mass Effect 3 (coming in late 2011) are two of the most-anticipated game titles that will be vying for the attention of console owners this year.
But those aren't the only major titles coming in 2011. The next few months will see the release of major sequels like Crysis 2, Dragon Age II, and Dead Space 2, while spring will bring the hugely-anticipated Portal 2, a Mortal Kombat reboot, and F.E.A.R. 3. And in addition to ME3, the new shooter Rage and a new chapter in the Elder Scrolls saga will also arrive this fall.
As we did last year, we have divided our yearly videogame preview into two parts. Today, we present the year's most-anticipated cross-platform games. In a separate article coming in a few days, we'll cover 2010's biggest platform exclusive titles.
In addition to the titles listed below, note that Doom 4, Driver: San Francisco, Ghost Recon: Future Solider, Max Payne 3, Saints Row 3, SSX Deadly Descents and XCOM are among the anticipated titles that could appear at some point during the second half of 2011 (but may not actually surface until early 2012). And the first major multi-platform title of the year, DC Universe Online, is already out for PS3 and PC.
Batman: Arkham City
tba Q3 for 360, PS3, PC
Following up Batman: Arkham Asylum, the best Batman video game of all-time, Batman: Arkham City has a lot to live up to. In the latest trailer, Dr. Hugo Strange possesses the knowledge that Bruce Wayne is indeed Batman. What he will do with that information is anybody’s guess. According to developers Rocksteady, the game takes place one year after and is five times the size of the already massive Arkham Asylum, has an advanced detective mode that involves interrogating bad guys, adds advanced combat that will have you pulling punches on potential informants, and includes appearances by Catwoman and Two-Face. With co-op dominating 2011, wouldn’t it be cool to have Robin as a playable sidekick?
tba spring for 360, PS3, PC
Two opposing forces -- the Resistance, and Security -- are on the brink of civil war in a once-utopian (and now overcrowded) floating city known as the Ark on a future, flooded Earth. A new first-person shooter from Splash Damage that reportedly manages to blend complexity and depth with easy-to-learn controls, Brink offers team-based multiplayer missions, with the action owing a stylistic debt to previous parkour-based games like Mirror's Edge.
Feb. 22 for 360, PS3, PC
Both a parody and an embodiment of hyper-macho shooters, the intentionally over-the-top Bulletstorm centers on a drunken space pirate named Grayson Hunt, who must ward off gangs of flesh-eating mutants while in exile in a tropical paradise. The dialogue is as wonderfully cheesy as the premise suggests, but the game encourages twisted and graphic violence by rewarding "skillshots," which require creativity in your choice of weapons and how you use them. For now, you'll just have to use your imagination to figure out what attacks like "Fire in the Hole" and "Gag Reflex" might entail.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 [working title]
tba Q4 [platforms tba]
Well, we know about as much as you do: the next CoD:MW title is due late this year, but that's about the extent of the details. While there's no truth to the rumor (which we just made up) that the game casts players as a team of Activision executives who pick off members of Infinity Ward's development team one by one, it's clear that there will be a lot of new talent working on the title, thanks to a much-publicized shake-up at the latter development company.
Child of Eden
tba spring for 360, PS3
So far, Xbox 360’s Kinect and PlayStation’s Move have been seriously lacking in good software to go along with their advanced hardware. But if Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Child of Eden is anything like his innovative and legendary Rez, then players are in for a treat. Self-described as a “multi-sensory shooter,” Child of Eden has the player using body movements or controllers to target viruses that are invading Project Lumi, an experiment that aims to bring human AI to the cyberspace like Eden. Attacks and virus explosions create sounds that add to the trance/house electronic soundtrack so that the player becomes one with the game DNA. Trippy.
Mar. 22 for 360, PS3, PC
Manhattan has never looked so beautifully rendered. Too bad it's about to get squashed by invading aliens. Crytek's latest FPS moves from the tropical island of setting of the first Crysis into the big city, which means that you'll be able to move vertically through New York's skyscrapers as you battle redesigned, heavily armored, cyborg-like enemies. The first installment in the series available on gaming consoles in addition to PCs, Crysis 2 also is the first title to use the new CryEngine 3 game engine, which promises to surpass the graphics of the already-stellar original.
de Blob 2
Feb. 22 for 360, PS3, Wii, DS
One of the Wii's most charming releases is back, and this time it's available for every console. As in the original title, you control Blob, who must repaint the world in a variety of colors after it is turned black and white by mean Comrade Black. But de Blob 2 offers streamlined controls and more variety than the first title, transforming from its standard 3D gameplay into an inventive 2D platformer at various points during the game.
Taking place three years after the events in the hit 2008 original, this survival-horror third-person-shooter takes place on a labyrinthine, densely-populated base on Saturn's moon Titan, where hero Isaac Clarke once again finds himself battling the alien Necromorphs. The big news this time is multiplayer, which the original lacked. And the good news is that the first few reviews in suggest that Dead Space 2 is even better than the first game.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
tba Q2-Q4 for 360, PS3, PC
Though the series' original creators are no longer involved (development is now handled by Eidos Montreal), the action-RPG Human Revolution aims to stay true to the original Deus Ex, while serving as a prequel to the original's cyberpunk story. As they travel the globe to investigate a chilling conspiracy while playing as security expert Adam Jensen, players can upgrade their character's capabilities with biomechanical augmentations (rather than the nanotechnology used in the previous installments) in four different categories: Combat, Stealth, Technology and Social.
DmC: Devil May Cry
tba for 360, PS3
Yes, it's a reboot. Fans of Capcom's long-running action series seem less than thrilled by the early details of this origin story, especially the new dark-haired, emo look for lead character Dante. Capcom has enlisted Ninja Theory to handle game development, and the game will utilize the Unreal Engine, another first for the series.
Dragon Age II
Mar. 8 for 360, PS3, PC
An at-times radically different sequel to BioWare's 2009 fantasy-RPG Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II traces the ten-year rise to power of the new human character Hawke (that would be you, after you customize his or her appearance). That narrative framework provides more structure to your gameplay this time around, graphics are improved, and combat moves much quicker in the sequel. Some fans are worried that some of the traditional RPG aspects of the game are being sacrificed to woo new gamers who prefer more action, but we'll have to wait until March to find out if that's truly the case.
Duke Nukem Forever
tba for 360, PS3, PC
Gaming's most legendary nonexistent title could, if everything goes right, finally shed its vaporware status in 2011. Gearbox Software took the reins of the project last year after original developer 3D Realms tried and failed for 12 years to bring a sequel to 1996's Duke Nukem 3D to market, and has made so much progress that a playable demo of the FPS surfaced at gaming conventions last fall. The good news is that Duke appears to be as vulgar as ever; the bad news is that there still isn't an official release date set.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Nov. 11 for 360, PS3, PC
The highly-anticipated sequel to 2006's PC game of the year -- Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion -- moves the action ahead 200 years to the fictitious, dragon-infested Nordic land of Skyrim. Bethesda's latest open-world fantasy-RPG will also feature an overhauled combat system (including, among other things, the ability to dual-wield weapons), a new leveling system, and 10 playable races, among a host of new features.
tba May for 360, PS3, PC
Delayed from late 2010 to March and now -- as of word that just came down this week -- to May, the third installment in the spooky first-person survival horror series will feature cinematic sequences visualized by legendary horror director John Carpenter when it finally does arrive in stores. In addition to a single-player campaign, F.E.A.R. 3 (or the rather more unfortunate F.3.A.R.) adds a new co-op mode, which allows two players to take on the very different roles of brothers Point Man and Paxton Fettel.
Mar. 8 for 360, PS3, PC
Set in a bleak, future United States that has been occupied by a reunified, militant, and nuclear-armed Korea, this new first-person shooter features a script by Hollywood veteran John Milius (Apocalypse Now, Red Dawn). As a result, the game's backstory is richly detailed, while its action -- centering on the guerilla-style American resistance -- may pack an emotional punch, as ordinary civilians in a convincing environment are caught in the crossfire. The only potential problem here is gameplay, which was a subject of some criticism with early builds played by reviewers.
tba Q1/Q2 for 360, PS3
First announced in 2004 and originally scheduled for a 2007 release, Rockstar Games' latest title is set in a realistic, 1940s-era Los Angeles, with story details and a look and feel inspired by Raymond Chandler novels and classic film noirs. Of course, there will be murder mysteries -- modeled on real-life events -- to solve, and your LAPD detective Cole Phelps (a motion-captured Aaron Staton, who plays Ken Cosgrove on Mad Men) is just the man to solve them. The hard-boiled dialogue and the jazz soundtrack add to the atmosphere, and gameplay promises to blend puzzle-solving, driving, and action. If it's as good as we hope it is, you can kiss your free time (a long) goodbye.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
Feb. 15 for 360, PS3
Fighting fans and Capcom junkies have been waiting over a decade for a follow-up to arcade/Sega Dreamcast classic (yes, it’s been a long time) Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. Now, you just have to wait one more month. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds comes to us from Ryota Niitsuma, the producer and director of the impressive Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, and promises memorable Marvel and Capcom 3D character battles across a 2D battle platform. In addition to classic characters Hulk, Magneto, Ryu, and Jill Valentine, newer characters include X-23, Deadpool, Arthur (from Ghosts ‘n Goblins!) and Amaterasu the wolf from Ōkami.
Mass Effect 3
tba Q4 for 360, PS3, PC
Talk about a Christmas present. BioWare has promised that -- just in time for the holidays -- we'll see a sequel to 2010's highest-scoring Xbox 360 game, Mass Effect 2, at the end of this year. This concluding chapter in the Mass Effect trilogy will wrap up the ongoing story of Commander Shepard as (s)he stages one final mission to save Earth from a terrifying invasion of alien machines known as Reapers. Unlike its predecessor (which doesn't come out on the PS3 until next week), ME3 will arrive on both major consoles (and PCs) simultaneously.
tba Apr. for 360, PS3
The Mortal Kombat series can’t seem to catch a break. The fighting series has had trouble catching on with a new generation of gamers, despite trying everything imaginable (even teaming up with Superman and company in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe). The series is now hitting the reset/reboot button with Mortal Kombat, an alternate retelling of the first three games in the series. The famous fighters at the end of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon go back in a time-traveling twist to revisit the events of the original games. An even bigger twist for gamers who couldn’t care less about Mortal Kombat 1-3 is that God of War’s Kratos shows up in the PlayStation 3 version of the game to do battle with Sub-Zero, Raiden, and the rest of the gang. Can’t wait to see Kratos’ Babality!
Apr. 20 for 360, PS3, PC
Originally released as part of the Orange Box, the surprise hit that redefined platform gaming is back in a big way. Portal 2 takes place hundreds of years after the original, and has you exploring experimental chambers at the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, where you once again use a portal gun to deftly navigate the labyrinthine structures found within. A single-player campaign is this time joined by an additional two-player co-op mode that will make an already challenging game even more so. Other new additions include air vents that will suck in objects, propulsion gel that will increase your speed, and light bridges that will help you get to those hard-to-reach areas. Remember, the cake is not real.
Sep. 13 for 360, PS3, PC
One of the most anticipated original titles of 2011, the sandbox-style sci-fi-FPS Rage is the first new franchise from id Software (Doom, Quake) in a decade. Set in the near future after an asteroid has impacted Earth, nearly wiping out its entire population, Rage incorporates desert racing -- and car-based combat -- into its more conventional shooting action, while the developer promises a major switch into a completely different (and, so far, unrevealed) setting at the game's midway point. The gaming press is already raving about the fantastically detailed, jaw-dropping graphics (which are generated by a brand-new engine), which could prove to be the feature that sets this game apart from the post-apocalyptic pack.
Test Drive Unlimited 2
Feb. 8 for 360, PS3, PC
The 10th installment in the 24-year-old Test Drive series, TDU2 might be just another racing game, but it certainly has a lot to offer your eyes. This time, you'll be driving one of many ultra-shiny, beautifully rendered (inside and out) licensed luxury vehicles in an equally beautiful setting: Ibiza, an open world setting over twice the size of TDU's O'ahu (which also returns here, as a bonus). Day and night cycles, dynamic weather effects, and vehicle damage also play a part for the first time, while multiplayer modes are similar to those in the previous game.
Devil May Cry and Mortal Kombat aren't the only game franchises to get a reboot in 2011. Two years in the making, the simply titled Tomb Raider presents the origins of heroine Lara Croft, who washes ashore on an island after a shipwreck -- and must fend for her life -- as an inexperienced 21-year-old. This open-world action-adventure was originally going to be a sequel to 2008's Tomb Raider: Underworld, but developers reversed course in an attempt to make Croft more "culturally relevant." (In other words, Underworld wasn't very good.) As long as it's better than the movies, we'll be happy.
True Crime: Hong Kong
Q2 for 360, PS3, PC
Activision's GTA-wannabe series gets a reboot of its own (with a new developer, United Front) in an attempt to better compete with Rockstar's far superior series of open-ended urban action titles. In the latest True Crime, you control an undercover cop attempting to bring down a Chinese crime organization, but to do so, you'll need to go against your professional ethics and act like a criminal yourself. The early word on the game is that it is indeed better than the previous titles in the series, but whether that is good enough to make it a success remains to be seen.
Our 2011 Games Preview continues in Part 2 with a look at platform exclusive titles, including Uncharted 3, Gears of War 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. In the meantime, what games are you most looking forward to this year? Let us know in the comments section below.