Thunderbolt’s Most Wanted of 2011
As was the case with 2010, 2011 looks to be yet another memorable year for gaming. Going into 2011 threequels look to be the major player as several current-gen flagship franchises launch their third iterations, including heavy hitters like Gears of War, Mass Effect, Uncharted and Resistance. That isn’t to say original IPs have been forsaken completely, peppered throughout the years’ schedule are a handful of promising novelties and aspiring franchises, even the occasional reboot. And one conspicuous piece of historic vaporware. In other words, business is usual as the gaming industry soldiers into the new decade.
As we do every year, several members of our staff have taken the time to highlight a few choice selections that have piqued our own interest in the coming year. While every major release and curious newcomer isn’t documented, we’ve tried to cover a range of titles for 2011.
Matt Wadleigh, Deputy Editor
While it’s hard to imagine how new FEAR developer Day 1 Studios will top the shocking ending of FEAR 2, they seem to know the series intimately. The promises that they have made so far for FEAR 3 will hopefully lead to another solid entry in one of my favorite shooter franchises. The developers are randomizing enemy locations, promising to take the game outdoors, and introducing Paxton Fettle, series antagonist, as a playable character. I think the storyline, with the two characters competing toward a visit with creepy Alma as she prepares to give birth, promises to introduce a new, compelling dynamic to the series. A darker, randomized FEAR 3 sounds excellent to me.
Max Payne 3
There isn’t too much out about Max Payne 3, with the exception of the setting (Brazil) and screenshots showing that Max has grown a sweet beard and muscles since we last saw him. Max apparently has developed an addiction to painkillers (I think it’s funny that we’re just realizing this) and now he’s shooting his way through Sao Paulo. It’ll still have bullet time, still be in third person, but the game is alleged to be much brighter than previous entries. It definitely looks like it has a different style. I’ve loved the previous two entries into Max Payne’s hell and I have high hopes for a third entry.
Mass Effect 3
Alright, so I have sequel fever. Earth is under attack and it’s time for Sheppard’s team to make their final stand. With Mass Effect 2 blowing the first game out of the water, it’s hard to imagine what Bioware has in store for us with the conclusion to their epic space trilogy. The PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 is running with the third game’s new engine and it looks beautiful. The gameplay should continue to be refined in the third entry and I have high hopes that they’ll come up with something more interesting than mining planets to pass the time. Not much is known about Mass Effect 3, and I’m fearful that it might slip into 2012, but if I could only play one game next year, this would definitely be it at this point.
Edward Love, Staff Writer
In just over three months we’ll know whether Homefront is simply the product of a good marketing campaign, or a genuinely good game. But things look promising. John Milius (screenwriter of Apocalypse Now) pens a story that envisions a North Korean invasion. 2027 is a bleak and desolate time but the game gives you the chance to fight back against the invading armies. Clearly inspired by Half-Life, there looks to be a heavy emphasis placed on the singleplayer campaign, which, given the industry’s recent shift towards multiplayer, makes for a pleasant diversion. Fingers crossed Homefront makes good on its promises.
Batman: Arkham City
In the annals of comic book heroes, the Caped Crusader stands tall. Batman is a character that embodies the turmoils of human nature; of course, few of us don a suit and do battle with bad guys of the night, but were we offered the chance, we’d likely follow his lead. Arkham Aslyum, the first game in the series, was a fantastic action/adventure game, led by a strong cast and engaging combat mechanics. The sequel looks to build on the strengths of its forebear, upping both the list of villains and the game’s scope. If the sequel ascends to the heights of its predecessor it’ll likely be one the of best offerings in the coming year.
Sean Kelley, Associate Editor
Despite releases on the two most popular consoles of their respective generations, Okami is still a game that hasn’t quite found an audience. As the only legitimate Zelda alternative on the PlayStation 2 it was poised to win over critics and players alike – somehow the gamers never got the memo. And apparently, the obvious combination of the Celestial Brush plus Wii Remote still wasn’t enough to sell the feisty Sun god Amaterasu to the masses. Enter Okami-Den, what has to be Capcom’s last effort to turn the franchise into the retail darling it so readily deserves. It’s big, it’s beautiful and it could easily be the Nintendo DS’ swan song of 2010 – or it could just as easily be strike three for the unappreciated series.
PixelJunk Shooter 2: The Belly of the Beast
PixelJunk Shooter 2 is the direct sequel to 2009’s Shooter, arguably one of the best PlayStation Network exclusives to date. Combining a unique blend of twin-stick shooting with a dynamic fluid sandbox, Shooter played like no other ‘shooter’ before it. According to developers Q Games, a ton of ideas were left on the table and rather than cram them all into a Shooter Encore!, a la previous PixelJunk titles, Q has decided to go the full sequel route and are ‘throwing in the kitchen sink’. In addition to fluids and materials previously seen, Shooter 2 adds light and dark mechanics, an innovative online versus mode and good old fashioned stomach acids – an underused gaming liquid, if I’ve ever heard of one.
Make no mistake I loved Resistance 2. Apparently I was in the minority though, and objectively I can see why. With three years between releases Insomniac has a lot to prove with the franchise, and has to take some significant steps to reestablish themselves as one of the premier PlayStation 3 developers. Combining the scale of Resistance 2 with the returning sense of desperation found in Fall of Man, Resistance 3 is headed in the right direction to reestablish the brand while delivering a gritty alternate history FPS that is just as clever and ingenuitive as the studio behind it.
Calvin Kemph, Senior Staff Writer
L.A. Noire is an open-world game with a twist, asking players to leave their submachine guns and molatov cocktails at the door in exchange for a detective’s badge. Set in 1940’s L.A. the game follows decorated war hero Cole Philips, who upon returning home from the war, has taken up a job to further serve his community as a detective for the L.A.P.D.. In short, he’s not a morally reprehensible immigrant coming to America for the sole purpose of blowing shit up. As a non-Italian, it’s unlikely he’ll be joining into the Mafia anytime soon, either. By focusing on the aspect of crime scene investigation rather than perpetuating violence, developer Team Bondi have already taken a step in the right direction. In addition to providing a fresh take on a genre that’s become played out and predictable, L.A. Noire makes use of some promising new technology that captures all the subtle features of an actor’s face, and transfers them onto an in-game character. Better yet, the facial recognition features will also play a part in the gameplay, as players must read the character’s faces during interrogations, looking for tells that will help them solve their cases.
Stew Chyou, Staff Writer
Lets face it, in trying to keep up with the current demands of today’s fighting games, the MK series has done nothing more than kick a dead horse in trying to measure up with its competitors. Having tried to innovate with Deadly Alliance, Deception, and Armageddon, the franchise found itself in the ill-fated zone of lower expectations. However, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was instrumental in opening new doors of potential, thus, Ed Boon realized in order to bring back the MK love the team would have to revert to the basic formula; the game would return to the old school cast, and stick to the original 2D plane. All isn’t a retread with newly renovated classic stages, a bad ass 2v2 tag team mode, and, this time for sure, new gruesome fatalities – I cringed when I saw Kung Lao’s buzz saw fatality and haven’t felt that way since witnessing Sub-Zero’s head and spine rip back in MK1. To keep up with the times, the game also includes a “super meter” that can be used to pull off supers with an X-Ray view of the opponent’s insides being wrecked asunder, and using a portion for enhanced versions of special moves a la Street Fighter and KOF XIII. I got five words for you: Sign Me The @#$%&! Up.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
It has been ten years since the birth of Marvel vs. Capcom 2. You’d think a game that included an astounding roster of 56 characters, created teams of 3, and having some of the most insane combos in fighting game history would be enough to sate the legions of blood thirsty fans…nope. Within a decade’s time fans still asked for more, and even gone as far to create net hoaxes and photoshopped MvC3 logos. Veterans have moved on, believing there’s nothing more to expect from a series infamous for recycled 2D sprites, but they were wrong. MvC3 includes all new cel-shaded models, a new button layout to satisfy experts and beginners alike, same beloved gameplay, and the addition of dream fulfilling characters such as Dante, Deadpool, Chris Redfield, and Thor – even some hard to believe newcomers such as Modok, Super Skrull, and She-Hulk. With only a month away from release Capcom continues to tease the entire roster, which has yet to be revealed. In the meantime, it’s been confirmed that there will be DLC characters, including Jill Valentine and Shuma Gorath.
P.S. There will be alternate character colors/costumes that may be very familiar. Ever wondered when Wolverine might show up in his X-Force attire, or Spidey in his Venom symbiote, or Iron Spider gear? Let’s just say you’ll be giddy at the very least..
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Like its aforementioned arcade corner-mate from Capcom, Tekken Tag Tournament has been yet another ten year old game that fans have demanded a sequel to, which also garnered its own pedigree of net hoaxes. As if sensing the time was right with the upcoming release of MvC3, Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada announced the game at the Tougeki fighting game tournament. According to footage seen at Tokyo Game Show, TTT2 will continue to utilize walls and Tekken 6’s bound combos. Also revealed were new character specific tag combos, fresh faces including Young Heihachi and a mysterious female luchidore, the ability to have THREE TO FOUR fighters on screen at once (it was shown you can have one character perform a combo to give enough time for a partner to issue a guaranteed unblockable), and be able to interrupt your opponent’s tag combos. Harada states that the footage shown was only a work in progress and many things are subject to change, however for the time being Namco plans to release the game to Japanese arcades this summer. As for a console release, Harada hinted at the World Cyber Games that they’re aiming to have the home version come out between the releases of Street Fighter X Tekken and Tekken X Street Fighter. With three highly anticipated fighters, Iron Fist competitors are sure to find themselves deprived of sleep in the coming year(s).
Shane Ryan, Staff Writer
Duke Nukem Forever
All seemed lost when alien maggots shot down 3D Realms’ ride in 2009. After the closure of 3D Realms’ development team (not company) all that remained was low production screenshots and tech demos. Step in Gearbox Software who secretly worked for a year to ensure The King will return with the true sequel to Duke Nukem 3D. Set twelve years since the original game, we will once again see Duke Nukem battle to save not only the US President and the world but also its babes. Explosions, strippers, pipe bombs, one-eyed freaks and barrels’o’fun await. Duke Nukem Forever promises unrivalled levels of interactivity and a campaign at least three times longer than current FPS standards. As for all the other shooters of 2011… Let God Sort ’em Out.
Pete Worth, Staff Writer
Although the ending to 2007’s surprise hit, Portal, was near perfect, the game’s success made a sequel inevitable (Valve began work immediately after The Orange Box was released). In Portal 2, both Chell and GLaDOS return for more portal-based shenanigans that’ll also include laser redirection, tractor beams and, interestingly, surface-altering gels that are taken from an acclaimed DigiPen student project, Tag: The Power of Paint. I’m interested in seeing how the narrative develops and to learn more about both characters, especially GLaDOS, who’s surely one of the most memorable characters from recent years. The screens depicting the flora-infested Aperture Facility look beautifully creepy and I can’t wait to explore its confines (and maybe beyond) once again. Ultimately, though, I’m seriously looking forward to the genuine challenge that Portal 2 will surely present.
Gears of War 3
The final part of the Gears trilogy features a weapon called the Digger Launcher, a bulky hunk of metal that shoots burrowing piranha-like critters (attached to an explosive device, naturally) into the ground. The living-ammunition promptly chomps a path towards the enemy, bursts through the terrain and then either explodes next to the target, reducing them to a shower of gore, or rapidly tears through their entrails before detonating. This nasty Locust weapon is like a microcosm of the series itself; over-the-top, ultraviolent and unapologetic. The games feature plenty of genre clichés but they also happen to be awesome. If the progression from GOW to GOW2 is even matched, let alone bettered, GOW3 has the potential to be the best in the series. Expect an enticing four-player co-op mode, more incredible set-pieces, more muscles, more wanton carnage and more shades of grey and brown!
Dead Space 2
Playing Dead Space was a genuinely horrific experience, from the absolutely grotesque Necromorphs (re-animated, wall-scaling baby-corpses, anyone?) to the eardrum-rupturing soundtrack, the game lived up to its promise of scaring the cack out of gamers whilst still being an innovative and gripping game. The Visceral developed sequel promises more of the same plus added features such as an intriguing multiplayer mode, a more comprehensive zero-gravity experience, new weapons and the ability to breach the environment’s walls, causing Necromorphs to be sucked into the oblivion of space. I’m particularly interested in seeing how Isaac’s purported and, somewhat realistic, post-traumatic stress disorder will manifest itself during the game.
James Dewitt, Staff Writer
Horror fans and Wii owners rejoice, The Grinder has both of you covered. Set in an alternate world where assaults by werewolves, zombies, and vampires are commonplace, four bounty hunters team up to put an end to the terror and find out the source. Like Left 4 Dead, The Grinder is a first-person shooter that places heavy emphasis on four players teaming-up online to shoot through hordes of blood-thirsty monsters. Backed by the powerful Quantum3 engine, The Grinder looks like it has the chops to deliver a top-notch FPS experience to Wii players, but anyone with a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 can still get in on the action, albeit in a third-person format.
It seems the series has caught the reboot fever that’s been going around lately and decided the newest entry is just fine without a number or subtitle. Twisted Metal (2011) has a huge focus on both local and online multiplayer, promising four-player splitscreen and sixteen-player matches online. Instead of giving players a dozen different characters to choose from, the roster has instead been streamlined into several factions headed by the most iconic of the Twisted Metal alum—The Dolls, The Skulls, The Preachers, and The Clowns, headed up by Sweet Tooth himself. With series creator David Jaffe on board and the ability to take the fight to the skies thanks to the addition of helicopters, the new Twisted Metal promises to give PlayStation 3 owners all the vehicular carnage they can handle. Light ’em up, boys.
Terence Gage, Senior Staff Writer
For a relatively new developer, there’s definitely a certain flavour and feel to thatgamecompany’s releases, as evidenced in the minimalist and beautiful style of both Fl0w and Flower. Journey looks undoubtedly like their bravest and most unique development yet, coming across as a sort of mishmash of Demon’s Souls and Shadow of the Colossus with an aesthetic not too far from Disney’s Mulan. Should be one of the standout PSN releases of 2011.
To say I enjoyed Demon’s Souls is something of an understatement. While initially daunting, once I was over those first eight or ten hours of unforgiving gameplay and began to understand its nuances and intricacies it had me well and truly hooked to the extent that after 75-odd hours with the PAL version, I started all over again with the Asian version. In the absence of a proper sequel (come on Sony!), this ‘spiritual sequel’ from the same developer is the next best thing. I only hope From Software can replicate the same sense of atmosphere, depth and perfect balancing that Demon’s Souls absolutely nailed.
Trine was pretty much everything I could have wanted from a 2D platform adventure, and for me it had a lot more heart and soul than most major retail releases. If the sequel can recapture the same essence of adventure and fantasy as its predecessor, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be one of the best releases of the year for those of us interested in action-adventures.
Bart Robson, Associate Editor
Shin Megami Tensei has yet to make the jump to our current generation of consoles, but the team behind Persona 3 has been hard at work on Catherine, a game that might as well bear the Shin Megami Tensei banner for all its Jungian undertones and occult imagery. Somewhere between a survival-horror game and a dating sim, the game is still somewhat of an enigma. What we do know is this: in a town where murders have been increasing steadily, a man begins cheating on his long-term girlfriend, and begins having nightmares about both of his lovers. The gameplay is split between social interactions with friends and the two women, and action-puzzle sequences inside the main character’s dreams. Think of it as real-time Persona. Either way, the gorgeous art and unique premise make Catherine a game to watch.
Did we miss that one game you’re looking forward to in 2011? Sound off in the comments!