Thunderbolt’s Most Wanted of 2010
With 2009 now behind us it’s time to look ahead on the gaming horizon in 2010. While 2009 certainly had its fair share of great games, 2010 looks to be one of the best years for gaming during the current hardware generation. The first four months alone are so chock full of high profile releases you might forget we aren’t neck deep in the holiday gaming rush.
Rather than bore you all with each and every potentially interesting title of the new year, we’ve each picked out a few games that are at the top of our own most wanted lists.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
When it was revealed that Hideo Kojima was involved with the new Castlevania there was a lot of hype; and for good reason. No matter what you think of his views or development practices, the man ships high-quality product and his involvement can only spell good news for Castlevania fans. With that said, Lords of Shadow is the first title in the long running franchise to be developed externally and Mercury Steam doesn’t have the long illustrious pedigree of Konami’s internal studios. Nevertheless, videos of Lords of Shadow have shown tons of fantastic scenery, gigantic bosses, fast action and perhaps more importantly a larger sense of adventure, something that has been dearly missing in both Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness. Plus, it has narration from Patrick Stewart, what more could you ask for?
Super Meat Boy
There aren’t enough platforming games based upon constantly bleeding blocks of meat. Coincidentally sounding a lot like Super Mario Bros., Super Meat Boy is technically as formulaic as they come. Jump over obstacles, don’t fall from the stage, and be sure to reach the chunk of feminine meat awaiting your arrival at the top of the stage. All the while, your trail of blood smears permanently onto the walls. Your failed runs at any given stage are recorded, and once completed, every attempt you’ve made at the level is played back, causing the screen to fill with numerous Meat Boy’s and blood spouting from every buzz saw or other obstacle which impeded your progress. Thankfully, players are given an infinite number of chances to complete the levels (the count’s said to be around 300). That’s not all though! Some of your favorite Indie characters are also going to be playable in multiplayer, such as Tim from 2008’s breakthrough hit, Braid and the ever-popular Alien Hominid. It’s good to see some varied offerings made available on WiiWare. If Super Meat Boy’s any indicator, then Twenty-Ten ought to be a great year for the additional Wii platform.
God of War III
Details have been sparse on God of War III despite its looming March release date; but from what’s been shown so far, and from what I’ve played, it’s shaping up to be just as brutally outstanding as its predecessors. The gameplay may not have changed much judging from first impressions, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Play the God of War Collection and you’ll see just how relevent and impressive those first two games still are. Ripping apart enemies with the Blades of Chaos is immensely enjoyable, and with the power of the PlayStation 3 behind it and the chance to improve the gameplay in dynamic ways, God of War III should be a game on everyone’s radar.
It’s time to be honest – nobody knows much about Metro 2033. Its developer 4A Games may not be instantly familiar either, but when one finds out some of its key members previously worked at GSC Game World on 2007’s astounding, Tarkovsky-inspired S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl, things become a little clearer. The Ukrainian studio’s first release is based on a novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky, who is according to Wikipedia a rather popular Russian author. No, we’ve never heard of him either, but what little has emerged about Metro 2033 is more than promising. If that strange, brutal artistic intensity unique to Russia and the former Soviet territories is exploited to its fullest, this could be one of the best shooters of the year.
Deus Ex 3
Not a whole lot is known about Deus Ex 3 thus far. Developed by the recently formed Eidos Montreal, DX3 is a massive undertaking for the studio’s first game. Combine that with the lukewarm reception for Invisible War, and there isn’t a whole lot of positive momentum for DX3. Despite all these factors working against it, the Deus Ex name still carries a lot of weight and is a property many gamers are still passionate about. If Eidos can once again strike the proper balance between FPS and RPG, while weaving an interesting conspiracy based narrative then they’ll have done their part. No game bearing the DX name will ever live up to the original, so lets give them a chance to start anew.
Mass Effect 2
Sometimes before a sequel is released I’ll go back to the original game just to refresh my memory. With Mass Effect 2 on the horizon I spent these past few weeks playing through the first, not just as a reminder, but because the choices I made in that game would have a significant impact on the events of its immediate sequel and even the distant Mass Effect 3. I couldn’t start these games with particular characters dead, or relationships destroyed, so I did everything I could to get the best possible outcome during my second playthrough. It’s not often a game can place such a heavy burden on your shoulders and make you dwell on your decisions, but Mass Effect is just that sort of game.
At the hands of Bioware and with a crack team of talented voice actors behind them, the story and characters are almost certain to pull you in once again. The technical issues have been ironed out, combat looks to be up there with the best of them, and the vast array of new and tweaked classes add a lot of depth and replayability to what is sure to be another mammoth RPG. The original didn’t have many faults, but those that were present have been addressed to make this the complete package. 2010 could see its Game of the Year as early as January.
Over the last few years, the FIFA series has seen a revival driven by improvements to its underlying gameplay. Football isn’t just about how it’s played on the pitch though. FIFA 10 was the first of three instalments of the series where the Manager Mode is the focus of the annual improvements. Last year’s game fixed many of the issues that had plagued the mode, but many still remain and it’ll be interesting to see how far FIFA 11 goes towards remedying them.
Super Street Fighter IV
2009 was easily the best year in the fighting genre in recent memory, thanks to titles like BlazBlue, King of Fighters XII, Tekken 6, Battle Fantasia and of course, Street Fighter IV. Super looks to keep the momentum going into the new decade with a meaty roster update and a number of small tweaks and additions to flesh out the overall experience. Personally I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original SFIV when compared to games such as 3rd Strike, but with an extra year to play around with the already solid mechanics of SFIV and add some sorely missed features from last year’s release, Super Street Fighter IV is poised to be the definitive fighting game of 2010.
Apart from some minor alterations, this looks to be the same game we all played back in 2006, only more. Moaning about game publishers’ sequelitis is fair enough in most cases, but few can moan about another one of these bad boys. The developer may be new, but Ruffian’s combination of series newcomers and Crackdown veterans is welcome, not to mention that the change of hands has allowed the remainder of Realtime Worlds to work on 2010’s other promising, Dundee-developed, open world crime title in the shape of APB. So, want to blow shit up, jump more buildings and karate-kick some pedestrian ass all over again? Ready when you are, Agent.
When I went to the 2009 Eurogamer Expo back in October I was expecting my game of show to be something big like God of War 3 or Heavy Rain. Instead, much to my surprise, I was taken back by one of the most explosive and downright exhilarating racers I’ve ever seen. Of course the Burnout comparisons are there but Split/Second is a completely different monster. Your car is not the weapon, everything else is. Buses will explode in the middle of the road, buildings will collapse creating new paths through the track, and you’ll even be faced with a crash landing airliner barreling straight at you and your fellow racers. It’s completely bonkers and absolutely fantastic. If Michael Bay ever made a video game this would be it.
Only this might actually be good. With less robot scrotum.
Final Fantasy XIII
I’m not a huge player of RPGs but Final Fantasy has been an exception, a huge franchise that can quite easily help any RPG stranger into the genre. Final Fantasy VII revolutionised the genre with its then impressive cinematics, and Final Fantasy X uplifted the visuals for the PlayStation 2. Releases haven’t been so consistent though, nor as well received. The first true sequel, FFX-2, hasn’t gone down so well in history where its glamour marketing failed to pay off, and FFXII was appraised by the press but mixed with fans with a new take on the random-battle system. Its release on the Xbox 360 marks an end to the PlayStation exclusivity of the main series since 1997. Although relatively late to the party, it boasts stunning cinematic and further shifts in game-play, in a world set between a land of wilderness and a high-tech one. Its release in Japan has brought positive praise, whilst others have pointed on much linearity. Can this release set a generation bench-mark once more? Or will it be sponging off its reputation?
In development for what seems like years now, Fez looks set to land in the first half of the year. For those that don’t know, it’s another independently developed, side-scrolling platformer. Withhold the sighs, because this one also happens to scroll its merry little way out of the genre’s two plains of movement and into the third dimension. The trailers have been teasing those interested in its unique stage-flipping mechanic and awesome lo-fi aesthetic for far too long; that Phil Fish has been talking about it since 2007 only adds insult to injury. Fez certainly has the potential to be this year’s breakout indie hit in the vein of Braid or Flower, but whether it delivers on its promise like those two remains to be seen. Fingers crossed, and hopefully we won’t have to hang on too much longer to find out.