Max Payne 3Max Payne 3
Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: March 2012

The years have not been kind to hard-boiled New York City detective Max Payne. Sporting a bald head, a dirty wife beater, and what appears to be the beginnings of a beer belly, Max has left the Big Apple to work for a wealthy industrialist and his family in Sao Paulo, Brazil. But when that family is targeted by gangs, the former cop will have to save them, clear his name, and rid himself of the demons of his past. Rockstar says Max Payne 3 will utilize cutting edge technology to create a cinematic action experience, incorporating the latest advances in Natural Motion physics and a brand new iteration of the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine. The game will also feature an extensive range of realistic weaponry, an intelligent cover system and, of course, Bullet Time.

Like Mass Effect 3, Max Payne 3 will be the first title in the series to introduce a multiplayer component. Rockstar says its multiplayer aims to deliver a compelling experience that dynamically alters maps and mode progression for all players in a match, and will include traditional modes along with a deep reward and leveling system, persistent clans, and multiple strategic load-out options.

Grand Theft Auto VGrand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: TBA 2012

All we’ve seen of Grand Theft Auto V so far is one teaser trailer, but that hasn’t stopped gamers from already salivating over the thought of causing vehicular mayhem and punching out prostitutes. Rockstar says the fifth entry in the GTA franchise will be a “radical reinvention” and a “bold new direction in open-world freedom, storytelling, mission-based gameplay and online multiplayer.” Players will return to San Andreas, specifically the city of Los Santos, as a former criminal trying to retire from a life of crime. You can guess how well that will go.

The Last GuardianThe Last Guardian
Developer: Team Ico
Publisher: Sony
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Release Date: TBA 2012

The Last Guardian is being developed by Team Ico, the studio responsible for critically-acclaimed cult hits Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Both games are known for their visual aesthetics and their immersive game worlds, and this latest title will likely share the same style, theme, and gameplay mechanics of its predecessors. The Last Guardian is a story about a young boy, a bizarre creature, and the bond they form as they make their way through an unfriendly world, but recent events have gamers wondering if they’ll ever have a chance to experience it. The game was originally scheduled to be released this year, but Team Ico decided to push that date into 2012. The project also recently suffered another blow when its executive producer, Yoshifusa Hayama, left Sony to work for social games developer Bossa Studios. However, Fumito Ueda, the leader of Team Ico and the director of all three of the studio’s games, says he is committed to finishing The Last Guardian.

Tomb RaiderTomb Raider
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: Q3 2012

Lara Croft is a gaming icon. The Guinness Book of World Records has named her the “Most Successful Human Virtual Game Heroine.” She’s even appeared on the cover of Playboy magazine. Developer Crystal Dynamics gave the gun-toting archaeologist a needed shot in the arm with last year’s well-received isometric cooperative adventure Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Now, it hopes to repeat that success with a new reboot.

Tomb Raider will introduce gamers to a young and inexperienced Lara Croft out on her first adventure. The game will be grittier than its predecessors and Crystal Dynamics says we’ll find out just how far Lara will go in order to stay alive. “Forget everything you know about Tomb Raider, we are exploring things that have never been done before in this game,” said studio head Darrell Gallagher. “This is an origins story that creates Lara Croft and takes her on a character defining journey like no other.”

Xenoblade ChroniclesXenoblade Chronicles
Developer: Monolith Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Wii
Release Date: Spring 2012

Japanese role-playing game Xenoblade Chronicles has been a critical darling in Japan and Europe, and soon American gamers will get to experience it for themselves. A group called “Operation Rainfall” campaigned for the game’s release in the States and, finally, Nintendo announced earlier this month that it will hit store shelves as a GameStop exclusive sometime in the spring. With the Wii U scheduled to launch next year, Xenoblade Chronicles just might be the original Wii’s swansong.

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