Looking back, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t agree that 2011 was a great year for video games. It was a year that brought us Portal 2, Batman: Arkham City, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Minecraft finally left beta, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 slugged it out in a grudge match for military shooter supremacy, and soon hundreds of thousands of Star Wars fans will be able to visit Tatooine and blast a few Sand People in Star Wars: The Old Republic. But now that the year is coming to a close and we’ve all done some science, improved our kill/death ratios, and filled our Skyrim houses with severed heads, it’s time to start looking forward to 2012. Here, in no particular order, are ten of GamesBeat’s picks for most-anticipated titles of the new year.
The original BioShock, developed by 2K Boston (now known as Irrational Games) in 2007, was an instant classic that introduced gamers to the dystopian underwater city of Rapture, an Ayn Randian experiment in Objectivism gone horribly wrong. The 2010 sequel BioShock 2, developed by 2K Marin, had the unenviable task of living up to the high standards set by its predecessor and was met with generally positive reviews. But with creative director Ken Levine and the team at Irrational back behind the wheel, there is a definite buzz surrounding the development of BioShock: Infinite, which trades the dark ocean depths for the blue skies and American Exceptionalism of the early 1900s.
In Infinite, players take on the role of Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent tasked with rescuing a woman named Elizabeth from the floating, weaponized city of Columbia. Levine says in order to bring Columbia to life, Irrational needed an entirely new game engine, along with brand-new animation and AI systems. It also had to rebuild and expand the arsenal players will use in the game to accommodate indoor and outdoor firefights at 30,000 feet. “The only thing gamers can be certain of is this: the rules of the BioShock universe are about to change,” Levine said.
An ancient alien race called the Reapers is destroying everything in its path. Earth has been captured. The galaxy is on the verge of total annihilation and Commander Shepard is the only one who can save it. No pressure.
The third and final installment in BioWare’s critically-acclaimed sci-fi trilogy will be the culmination of a journey many gamers began four years ago. As Commander Shepard, players will lead a counter assault against the Reapers, deciding along the way which planets to save and which alliances to form or abandon as they battle the alien threat – and they won’t be doing it alone. For the first time ever, multiplayer is coming to the Mass Effect universe. The game will feature a 4-player cooperative mode that lets players take on the role of elite soldiers sent to protect resources and assets needed in the war effort. It will also feature a new system called Galaxy at War, which will link all Mass Effect games and applications back to the single player campaign and the BioWare Social Network.
There should be a giant asterisk next to this game because, hey, it’s Blizzard. This is the same developer that took 12 years to release a StarCraft sequel…and hasn’t finished it yet. Blizzard is a company infamous for taking its time, so I won’t be surprised if Diablo III’s release date gets pushed back. With the game already in closed beta, however, more delays seem unlikely. It shouldn’t be long now before gamers everywhere are once again dungeon delving for shiny loot and challenging the fiends of the Burning Hells. The Diablo series is the granddaddy of point-and-click action role-playing games and Blizzard says it wants to build on everything it’s learned since the release of Diablo II to create the best experience to date.
Master Chief is back!
Although details on the game are scarce, we do know that Halo 4 will supposedly kick off a whole new trilogy for the franchise called the “Reclaimer Trilogy.” It will also be the first game in the series not developed by Bungie. Microsoft Game Studios subsidiary 343 Industries is taking over. According to the official description at Xbox.com, events in the game will take place during the aftermath of Halo 3 and Master Chief will have to “confront his own destiny and face an ancient evil that threatens the fate of the entire universe.”
Gearbox Software’s Borderlands became a breakout hit in 2009, selling several million copies. It was notable for its cel-shaded art style and shoot-and-loot gameplay, as well as its threadbare storyline and dim-witted AI. However, Gearbox says Borderlands 2 will be an epic sequel, and it has an ambitiously crafted story in the works for those who make the return trip to Pandora. The game will also feature all-new characters, skills, environments, enemies, weapons, and equipment. Don’t worry, though, Claptrap and his sexy dance will be back. I know you missed it.