Thunderbolt’s Most Wanted of 2009
It seems as though we say it every year, but damn, last year was a great time to be a gamer. Whether you were languishing in the innovative and charming LittleBigPlanet, beating up your friends at home or online in Super Smash Bros. Brawl or just chainsawing some aliens in half in the blockbuster Gears of War 2, there was something excellent for everyone in 2008.
But, never shy to try and outdo itself, the industry has got some cracking games lined up for the next 11-odd months, so we would like to present our (rather belated) Most Wanted line up for 2009:
Killzone 2 - it feels like Killzone 2 has been such a long time coming, but we’ll finally have hold of the finished article in less than a month (offensive lyrics in any licensed songs notwithstanding). If early playtests, feedback on the beta and the slew of beautiful videos are to be believed, this might just live up to and maybe even surpass all the hype. Be excited.
Resident Evil 5 - Dead Space may have claimed the current-gen survival horror crown, but in barely a couple of months Capcom might effortlessly snatch it back again. Concerns have been made that the game looks and plays incredibly similar to Resident Evil 4, but frankly that was such a bloody brilliant game that many would rightfully welcome this news.
Noby Noby Boy - I don’t know too much about how this game will actually play, but the fact it’s from the creator of the Katamari series is more than enough to attract significant interest. So long as it’s put on PSN for a decent price this should be a day one purchase.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena - a belated chance for those who missed Riddick: Butcher Bay to finally get to play one of the very best original Xbox games. The fact it’s coming complete with multiplayer and a whole new chapter only makes the proposition all the sweeter. Could and should be the best game Atari have published in years.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - Naughty Dog are one of the most consistent development houses in the world, so anything from them is of interest. But when it’s the sequel to arguably still the best action-adventure this generation, well, now you’re talking. Should be a real highlight, even amongst all the tough competition.
White Knight Chronicles - stellar JRPGs have been a bit thin on the ground this generation (particularly on PS3), but hopefully this will break that trend and prove just as good as Level-5’s other works.
inFamous - on paper it sounds wonderful, visually it looks wonderful and Sucker Punch are an excellent and underrated studio, but can we please have a release date, please? This can’t come soon enough; it looks absolutely great.
Halo 3: ODST - sure, Halo is starting to become old hat, but so far, we’ve hardly had a dud given to us - excusing the atrocious ending of Halo 2, of course. Halo 3: ODST promises more than just a silly name: a new protagonist, an untold story, and of course, more delicious Halo action over Xbox Live. It may be an old standby, but sign me up.
Afro Samurai - playing this at PAX got me suitably pumped for the game based on the Samuel L. Jackson-backed anime. It’s a simple hack-n-slash, with fun, simple combat and gorgeous visuals. The game looks shockingly similar to the cartoon, which adds a lot, especially for fans. It’s ridiculously violent, too, which, when coupled with Jackson’s voice talent, equals one tasty burger.
50 Cent: Blood On The Sand - mark my words: this will be the ultimate guilty pleasure of 2009. Just watch the epic trailer. The game is literally dripping with drama, with such brilliant writing - writing showcased in the trailer, no less - as “Where’s my skull!?” Tasteless, absurd, and absolutely hilarious, I’ll be the first in line for this gem when it comes out.
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume - Valkyrie Profile is a JRPG that tries its damndest to stand out from other JRPGS. After two great games, as well as an excellent re-release on the PSP, Valkyrie Profile is going in a different direction on the DS, with a strategy title. With two screens and a new gameplay style, consider my curiosity piqued; let’s just hope that the story is as morbid and depressing as ever.
See you in 2010Our picks for games which we wouldn’t be surprised if they slip into 2010.
Gran Turismo 5 - c’mon; this is GT. It wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t some kind of 12 month delay. (Another one, that is).
God of War III - I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think this’ll be out this year. Sony will want to make sure this is done properly, and the end of the year is a notorious time for slippage.
Alan Wake - is this game even down for an ‘09 release? Is it ever going to appear? Is it another Duke Nukem Forever in waiting? Answers on a postcard.
Speaking of which… Duke Nukem Forever. What is there to say? Will it be out this year? No. Will it be out next year? No. Will it ever be released?! Probably not. Will we get another FMV teaser trying to convince us it’s still getting a release? Almost certainly.
Fat Princess - if you were somehow to mix old school Zelda, Castle Crashers and Team Fortress 2 you’d have one hell of a game, and that game is Fat Princess. Played in an old school action RPG style manner you choose from five separate classes and go to war. This war just happens to be of the ultra violent cartoony variety, and you’re objective is to acquire a Princess, a real hefty one at that.
inFamous - inFamous may be another sandbox game, but it’ll be a whole lot more too. Coming from the fine guys who brought us the Sly Cooper series, you can expect some awesome platforming, acrobatics, great character abilities and some ingenious missions. Additionally, you can chart your own destiny as the hero or anti hero, as the city attempts to rise from the ashes.
Street Fighter IV - the father of the fighting game genre finally returns with a proper sequel. It’s been around 10 years since the Street Fighter III series wrapped up, and in many ways the genre has remained stagnant. Rather than turn things on their ear, Street Fighter IV is back to recall the glory days you may have experienced at a local arcade in the early ’90s. Armed with the entire original cast, some new faces, a few new gameplay tweaks and legions of repressed fighting fans waiting to jump online, Street Fighter IV will be the competitive game of the year.
Brutal Legend - finally finding a home with EA, the bizarre Jack Black-starring action/rock/metal/opus is becoming more of a reality. Although Psychonauts, Tim Schaffer’s previous game, had it’s share of problems, it is still fondly remembered for its great setting (psychic summer camp) and insane characters. Brutal Legend looks to continue Schaffer’s tradition of great games with non-traditional premises and off the wall protagonists.
FIFA 2010 - after such an excellent release in 2009, it’s going to be interesting to see where EA take their football sim. It’s been a long time since the series could call itself a premier sports title, especially after the years of hurt Pro Evolution Soccer inflicted on it. Fear not, after the success of the last twelve months, FIFA will turn up oozing confidence as it effortlessly steps out onto the pitch for another crowd pleasing display. Expect a wealth of neat new touches and a greater set of modes to play your way through, and you have yourself what will surely be one of the most complete sports games ever. I hope you’re listening Seabass, 2010 is a must win year for you.
Yakuza 3 - after the absolutely superb Yakuza 2, i know exactly where all my hype is going this year. While it may be Sega’s underdog series everywhere other than its homeland Japan, don’t think for a second that there aren’t a faithful group of fans out their ready to lap up whatever’s next. A gripping narrative, brutal action and an authentic setting make for a special experience that is hard to rival. Lets hope the third instalment raises the bar even higher this time.
Dawn Of War II - after four years of expansions, Dawn Of War is back, this time bringing the ruthless and unforgiving Tyranid race into the fray. With new and overhauled gameplay, a graphics engine to die for, and new units and heroes, this is definitely my pick for RTS of the year, even over the return of the venerable Starcraft franchise. With Relic’s new school of game design, mixing the gameplay of their highly successful Company Of Heroes series with the ultimate sci-fi license of Warhammer 40,000 will surely surprise old fans and newcomers alike.
Battlefield Heroes - with more and more browser-based games taking over a large percent of the PC gaming market, it’s no surprise that EA wants a piece of that pie. To compete with the likes of Quake Live and InstantAction.com, DICE has been commissioned to create a new Battlefield title. This time, though, you won’t be fighting in an ultra-realistic warzone. Instead, DICE has opted to make Heroes a more cartoony and silly game, featuring character designs similar to that of Team Fortress 2. With gameplay similar to the original Battlefield titles, Heroes is sure to be a big hit in 2009.
Wolfenstein - while id may be focusing on their new title, Rage, they haven’t forgotten their hardcore fans. Not only is Quake Live coming out officially in 2009, but we will also be getting another shot at taking down some undead Nazis with a sequel toReturn To Castle Wolfenstein. Simply called Wolfenstein, the game is being developed by Raven and is going to explore even more occult weirdness that was wildly popular among certain Nazi officials during World War II. With an open world, supernatural powers, and more of the crazy weirdness from RTCW, this will be one game based on the battle between the Axis and Allies you won’t want to miss.
Dragon Age: Origins - BioWare is revisiting the ideas and gameplay that made their Baldur’s Gate series so successful in order to create their new and original game, Dragon Age. Blending their more revolutionary ideas from Mass Effect with their classics, this will be a game with an entirely new fantasy universe that will not be based on the regularly used Dungeons & Dragons license. Instead, BioWare is promising something mature and different than what we’re normally used to, and if anyone can deliver on this sort of promise it’s got to be the developer of some of the best RPGs in the history of video games.
Splinter Cell 5 - after churning out sequel after sequel, Ubisoft had decided that their latest Splinter Cell game needed some work and delayed what was going to be the fifth entry, Splinter Cell: Conviction. After a break of a few years, Sam Fisher will be making his return on the PC and Xbox 360. What was changed since the original version of Conviction is unknown at this time, but we’ll surely be hearing more details about it in early 2009.
Beyond Good and Evil 2 - while not much is known of this highly anticipated sequel, the announcement of a new Beyond Good and Evil back at Ubidays was enough to get people talking. Its trailer didn’t give much away, apart maybe from the setting and the fact Jade and Pey’j return, but its style was undeniable. Whether these more realistic visuals will be used in the main game is yet to be known, but with the original game’s creator Michael Ancel at the helm, and stellar music composer Christophe Heral returning for another beautiful soundtrack, you sure as hell wouldn’t want to miss it.
Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer - aside from video impressions and a few sketchy details, Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer has remained under the radar for anyone unfamiliar with the developer’s previous outing, Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy. A genre-bending adventure game tinged with murder and the supernatural, Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy garnered a massive fan following, and a sense of notoriety for Quantic Dream, which only had the dismal Dreamcast title Omikron: The Nomad Soul to its name. Heavy Rain will feature ultra-realistic environments, characters who have been dubbed as “virtual actors” (able to convey a wide range of emotions), an intuitive control system, and the sort of thriller/mystery plot which so few games seem to pull off well. There’s always the fear that the story will just tread into downright goofy territory, or that the actual gameplay won’t mesh and end up as an over-polished tech demo, but if it goes well, Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer could be the movie-esque title that balances a year full of shooters and role-playing games.
Resident Evil 5 - like Terence said, the difference (or lack thereof) between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5 may be the one thing keeping Capcom’s latest entry into their survival horror series down. While not necessarily a bad thing, the big change between RE4 and previous titles was so refreshing that it’ll be interesting to see how long fans will be willing to stick with the new formula before it begins to stagnate. A question for later perhaps, as Resident Evil 5 looks amazing, with the action-oriented gameplay christened by it’s predecessor, and a buddy system that just might work.
Street Fighter IV - the fighting genre is close to dead, and the only way to revive it is to take a few step backwards. While I’m interested to see the stylized visuals of Capcom’s Street Fighter IV play out on my home screen, I’m definitely worried that the progress made with Street Fighter III: Third Strike will have been for naught. The parry system was a great element, and I’m very sad to see it go, but I don’t have much doubt that Street Fighter IV will be the year’s best fighting title, but really, what is it really going up against that could compare? The genre needs a major facelift, and Street Fighter IV may be the first title to take the necessary steps towards revival.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate - I’ve only read a smattering of Wanted, and I definitely did not enjoy the film as much as I had hoped. Bullet Time is a thing of the past, but not in videogames, and Wanted: Weapons of Fate may be the first game since Max Payne to really make good use of the mechanic. Acrobatic gunplay, a slew if assassinations to take on, and slick graphics could make this the sleeper action title of the year. Oh, yes, and the costumes from the comic are included.
Street Fighter IV - it’s odd that my most wanted game of potentially the strongest year in videogames so far is a title I can essentially go play now on my SNES (well, if I still had one). Capcom has decided to drop the highly divisive parry system in Third Strike this time round and with the more forgiving interpretation of button commands, the focus seems based on expression and knowing when to perform a move as opposed to knowing how. It’s this new found accessibility that will see Street Fighter IV take its place as one of the greatest 2D beat ‘em ups of all time. Of that I have no doubt.
Halo 3: ODST - I’m apparently one of the few people on the planet that thought Halo 3’s campaign was superb from start to nearly finish (curse you Flood: bane of my existence). So more Halo is always a good thing in my books, and I’m especially attracted to the apparently different manner in which this stupidly titled expansion pack will be played. Who says we need Master Chief to have a good time in the Halo universe?
Professor Layton 2 & 3 - While those lucky gits over in Japan are knee deep into the adventures of everyone’s favourite professor, the rest of us are sat here with our thumbs stuck up you-know-where. I have faith, however, that we’ll get at least the first sequel over in PAL land before the year is out–and when it does eventually arrive, it shall be a joyous occasion because I am so ready to feel stupid all over again.
I think that for at least the first third of 2009 I’ll be catching up with the hectic Christmas schedule; Far Cry 2, Prince of Persia and de Blob still sit unopened on my shelf, whilst Fallout 3 awaits more content and Fable II a sizeable price drop.
I’m still interested in Alan Wake, and the last time I paid attention to it I noticed a release date of March 2009. There’s Empire: Total War on the PC and a splattering of indie titles such as Unfinished Swan and Machinarium to check out, both of which have some brilliant ideas unseen so far in videogames.
I suppose my most wanted of 2009 is, if it finds a release this year, Halo 3: Recon, or whatever poncey name Bungie have thought up this month. I loved Halo 3, even if Call of Duty 4 stole its thunder online, and I crave more from the Halo universe. Speaking of space, Mass Effect 2 will be unveiled come the spring and despite my disparaging comments regarding BioWare I’ll still be waiting intently to see the details.
NHL 2K10 - This year the 2K series needs to re-capture what put them at the top. 2K9 may not have been the brightest entry and people seem to have responded negatively to the Zambonie mini-game. Here’s hoping that it can find some balance and rejoin EA’s regular helping of beer-soaked action.
Afro Samurai - The game tracks how much blood you’ve spilled from opponents, by the gallon and Samuel Jackson is featured for voice acting. Plus, with the RZA behind the game’s soundtrack there’s no way this can go wrong. Right?
Punchout Wii - about time.
TimeSplitters 4 - I know I might be a bit optimistic thinking the next TimeSplitters will show face this year - especially with Free Radical going into administration - but I don’t think there’s a game I’ll be more excited to hear news about. Still haven’t found anything to replace the monkey and robot multiplayer massacres that I’m so fond of.