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It’s that time of year again, when people look ahead to the new year and salivate over tomorrow’s videogames. 2010 is shaping up to be a stellar year for hardcore gamers. And with so many games coming out, narrowing down the list to just 10 wasn’t an easy task. But we’ve eliminated games that haven’t officially been announced yet and focused on big games for each console, as well as the PC. We’ve also arranged these games in alphabetical order.
Although there are dozens of big games across every genre, this list includes samples from the key game types across platforms and PC. Any way you look at 2010, it’s going to be a very good year for gaming. And with the recession finally becoming a thing of the past, these big games – and many others – should account for an upswing in software sales come Jan. 1, 2011. Here’s a peek at last year’s list. And vote for your favorite at the bottom.
DC Universe Online (PlayStation 3, PC). Sony Online Entertainment/Sony Online Entertainment Austin Studio. Despite the recent success of J.J. Abrams Star Trek film reboot and Atari’s upcoming release of Cryptic Studio’s Star Trek Online, the standout massively multiplayer online game experience of 2010 should be DC Universe Online. As the first licensed comic book MMO game to market, DC Universe Online has the potential to attract fans of The Dark Knight, Wonder Woman and Superman to a huge new world filled with superheroes and master villains. With an emphasis on PlayStation 3-style arcade controls, DC Universe Online is the first MMO designed for the console audience. SOE Austin has used Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3 to create third-person action filled with customizable superpowers and completely destructible environments. The ability to join forces (for good or evil) and battle together adds a multiplayer experience not possible in stand-alone games like Electronic Arts’ Superman Returns or Eidos’ recent masterpiece, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Cryptic Studios already showed the potential of comics with its City of Heroes/Villains franchise for NcSoft. Now SOE, which has 10 years of experience with EverQuest, hopes 75 years of DC Comics mythology will be the next big thing in MMO gaming.
Disney Epic Mickey (Wii). Disney Interactive Studios/Junction Point. At first glance, Warren Spector, the man behind such revered games as Ultima, Deus Ex, and Thief doesn’t seem like the first choice to reboot Mickey Mouse for Disney. But it turns out that Spector was a fan of Walt Disney’s second creation from way back. The new game pits Mickey against his brother, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who happens to be Walt’s first animated creation and the star of 26 silent cartoons for Universal back in 1927. The new game takes place in the Cartoon Wasteland where old characters go to live. Oswald rules over this world, which Mickey stumbles upon. The player will use the Wii Remote to literally paint or erase the many areas within this world, changing the very playing field before their eyes. Designed for a broad audience, Disney is banking on the ubiquitous Wii, which itself has lost steam recently, to entice families to see Mickey’s first game adventure in years. From a bigger picture perspective, this game could be a launching point for a new, more mischievous mouse across other media moving forward.
God of War III (PlayStation 3). Sony Computer Entertainment America/Santa Monica Studios. Gamers have been waiting what seems like an eternity since March 2007 when Kratos’ exploits last appeared on a console. Sony had success with God of War: Chains of Olympus in 2008 and more recently with the God of War Collection, a remastered high-definition version of the first two games on Blu-ray Disc for PS3. And fans have been buying up Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s District 9 Blu-ray to play the God of War 3 demo. The ex-Spartan warrior is out for revenge in this third game, which features towering giants and lethal creatures. The leap from PS2 to PS3 is truly mesmerizing when playing the new game, which should help Sony sell more hardware throughout the year. This is a killer app and it’s exactly the kind of game that showcases what’s possible on PS3, a console that has been gaining steam since 2009’s price drops.
Halo Reach (Xbox 360). Microsoft Game Studios/Bungie. Given the recent success of Halo: ODST, gamers have not grown tired of the Halo franchise. Next year, Halo Reach takes fans to the beginning of the conflict between the humans and the Covenant. This prequel to Halo is set in the colony world of Reach, one of the United Nations Space Command’s most important military centers (and training center for the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers). Players step into the role of the Lieutenant, a member of the SPARTAN supersoldiers Noble Team. When it comes to shooters, Bungie knows what its fans want – and they have a lot of fans. This fall 2010 release is a guaranteed blockbuster. The big question is whether Microsoft will release both a new Halo and Gears of War game in the same quarter. Microsoft and Epic have been mum on Gears of War 3, but given the past development timetable, 2010 would be the next release year for that shooter franchise.
Lost Planet 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC). Capcom. Capcom hit one out of the park when it released Lost Planet: Extreme Condition in North America in January 2007. This sequel takes place 10 years later and replaces the snowy landscapes of the original with a variety of locales, including dense jungles. Up to four players will be able to take part in the new co-op mode, which also supports fully customizable characters and RPG-style experience points. Gamers can also engage in online multiplayer action for up to 16 players. Capcom, which recently delayed the release of this game to an undisclosed time, has been busy improving gameplay elements. Players will be able to control the mech-style Vital Suits while teammates hang on to the sides and take out enemies. Hollywood has taken notice, as well, with a Warner Bros. Pictures movie in development. This franchise is poised to deliver across media in 2010 and beyond.
Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360, PC). Electronic Arts/BioWare. When BioWare releases a role-playing game, it’s like printing money. The acclaimed studio consistently lives up to the hype that surrounds each new game. Mass Effect took the gaming world by storm in November 2007 introducing a sci-fi universe that was rich in story, characters and action. One of the key tenants of BioWare has been to create emotional connections with virtual characters. Mass Effect 2 promises to push this envelope further. This sequel once again focuses on Commander Shepard, who must put together a crew and embark on a suicide mission to save the universe. The second part of a planned trilogy, Mass Effect 2 will ride the wave of accolades and the huge sales of the original to further expand its gaming audience in late January.
ModNation Racers (PlayStation 3). Sony Computer Entertainment America/United Front Games. At the end of 2010, this game might not sit atop sales leaders like Sony’s Gran Turismo 5, but like Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet, ModNation Racers should usher in even more user-generated games across genres. While the idea behind LittleBigPlanet was in the right place, that game was far too difficult for mainstream players to create content for. United Front Games has focused on simplicity as well as creativity, allowing even novice players to build a complex racetrack in just minutes. For those who want to dig deeper, there’s plenty more under the hood and time invested in creating tracks will be enjoyed by everyone online. Gamers have seen customizable vehicles and characters before, and even track editors; but there’s never been such an intuitive package that allows one’s mind to race as fast as the kart racers they create. Nintendo has made a killing over the years with Mario Kart, and now Sony has ModNation Racers. It’s also worth noting that developer United Front Games is also building Activision’s True Crime reboot, which makes this independent studio one to watch for 2010 and beyond.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC). Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal. Originally slated to ship back in Fall 2007, Ubisoft’s acclaimed Montreal studio literally went back to the drawing board to ensure that the fifth installment of the best-selling spy franchise remained a blockbuster. The extra development time has resulted in one of the most mainstream-friendly games in the franchise. There’s even a new prequel cooperative story mode that introduces two new characters, Archer and Kestrel. In the single-player game, Sam Fisher’s out to avenge the death of his daughter and he’s gone rogue, which means Third Echelon is on his trail, along with an assortment of bad guys. The game borrows from Hollywood to let the environments and interactions propel the story forward. Fisher can blend into these open worlds more seamlessly (taking a page from Assassin’s Creed) and he has a new arsenal of weapons and gadgets at his disposal. Ubisoft made the right decision to invest more time and money into one of its key franchises, and gamers will buy this one up as a result.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC and Mac). Activision Blizzard/Blizzard Entertainment. The PC games business has very much become a franchise-driven business. Blizzard Entertainment, which dominates the PC gaming market with its World of Warcraft franchise, is finally ready to release its sequel to the 1998 real-time strategy (RTS) game. This long-awaited game is so big that it’s already encompassing three parts. Wings of Liberty will focus on the Terrans, human exiles from Earth, while two expansion packs will explore the insectoid Zerg (Heart of the Swarm) and the psionic alien Protoss (Legacy of the Void). While the focus of this game has always been multiplayer strategy, each of these three experiences offers a rich single-player game that spans about 30 missions. With new non-linear gameplay, players will be able to explore this hostile 26th Century universe as they please, or jump into the fray as one of the three factions and engage in combat on Battle.net. Once unleashed, look for StarCraft II to rule the PC charts for quite some time.
TRON Evolution (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC). Disney Interactive Studios/Propaganda Games. This time next year TRON Legacy should be doing the kind of 3D box office that Avatar is achieving now. While the final word on whether Ubisoft’s Avatar game has lived up to the hype is still out (critics booed it), the potential audience for both the TRON movie and game is much bigger. After all, the movie is set in a videogame universe. And there has been a solid track record of successes from the TRON arcade game to Tron 2.0 PC, Xbox and GameBoy titles of 2003. The new game will bridge the gap between the 1982 film (which launched the computer-generated imagery revolution in Hollywood) and the December 2010 3D movie (which was filmed with Avatar’s camera system). Actress Olivia Wilde will reprise her role as Quorra from TRON Legacy in the new Evolution game, which should further fuel the fanboy fire to make both the movie and the game a success next Christmas.
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