If you’re a hardcore gamer, now might be a suitable moment to consider turning to a life of crime in order to supplement what will shortly become a very expensive hobby. While publishers repeatedly try to spew the politically correct verbiage and claim that they want all their competitors to succeed because it helps the industry, then they can all go skipping into the sunset while walking their new puppies. In reality, a dozen publishers decided to schedule the release of their big budget games all within a three month span leading up to Christmas. That’s competition at its finest.
This fall game-race will be survival of the fittest, but it makes sense. Game publishers want to release their titles before the holidays because they are fans of money – if money were on Facebook, they would “like” it. Publishers also aren’t quite as concerned about the opening day results as the film industry is, because most gamers are fine with waiting a bit and picking up a title down the road when they have more time. There are exceptions to this, but generally software sales in the gaming industry are a marathon, not a sprint.
That being said, it’s still slightly ridiculous that so many massive games are all going to come out at the same time; and not just big games, but massive, huge titles—some of the biggest in years. If you bought the normal version of each game — not counting the various special editions on the way — it would cost you at least $720 to buy all twelve titles on this list. That’s 525 Euros. To put that in perspective, that’s 4595.33 Yuan! You could buy a car with that. Granted, it wouldn’t be a very good car, and you could probably get as many hours out of Skyrim as you would life from that ride, but you can’t ghost ride a video game.
So where does a hard working gamer spend his or her cash in this veritable gamemageddon? Should you go with the crowds and pick up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3? Perhaps you want to play a cinematic adventure like Uncharted 3? Or maybe you want to take a short break from reality for, oh say, 300+ hours thanks to Skyrim? Whatever your poison, the rest of this year in gaming has something for everyone.
(Bethesda/id Software; PC, PS3, Xbox 360- October 4)
For fans of first-person shooters, Rage represents all that is right in the world. The game may be awful and people could punch themselves in the privates rather than play it, but the pedigree behind this game and the level of support in the development alone make it worth your attention. Besides, odds are, it won’t suck. Not even a little.
It may look like a familiar setting: A post-apocalyptic world where mutants want to eat your face and in response you negotiate with lead. Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas did it, Borderlands was similar, the recently released Gears of War 3 has some of that and a dozen other titles are in the same genre. But what this title has and the others don’t is id. Id Software created first-person shooters (I look forward to your corrections, internet people). At the very least they made the genre what it is today with the Wolfenstein and Doom franchises. And so now they are back, and they have Bethesda Softworks backing and supporting them as a publisher. On top of all that, Rage will feature the brand new id Tech 5 engine which is to game geeks what a new Bugati is to gearheads.
Mix in a massive open world with a huge story line, plus several cool weapons and locations, and you are golden. Add a multiplayer on top of it, and you have a hit. To be honest, the multiplayer is sort of a “wait and see” proposal. You would assume that the fathers of FPS games would come out with something mind-blowing for its online component. And id did…sort of. Instead of a competitive FPS online, Rage features online vehicle racing. It is competitive racing with lots of weapons, but it is an odd shift. It may turn some off, but it may also go down as a genius twist.
Check out our hands-on impressions of Rage from E3.
(Microsoft/Turn 10 Studios; Xbox 360- October 11)
This game will appeal to a very particular gamer, and for a small niche, this is the one game they have been waiting for. Forza, like the Gran Turismo series, appeals to the hardcore gearhead. It’s not a racing game, nor is it a driving game. It is a racing simulator, and that makes a huge difference—as anyone that has played a game like this can tell you.
Sure there are plenty of races and various game modes that will appeal to a more mainstream audience, but the person that will get the most out of this game will be the ones that like to adjust the gear differential and change the tire type, or tweak the flux capacitor or whatever. It gets very technical, just as GT5 did. But one major difference between the games is the support that Forza 4 already has announced for after its release. GT5 has received no DLC (although there is something coming later in October), and the promised tidal wave of things like video content were a bit underwhelming. Forza 4 already has multiple expansions announced which should keep people playing for a year or more.
It isn’t necessary to delve that deeply into the game to really enjoy it, and most fans will probably just tune the stats to their advantage rather than really try to adjust the car to fit in the world of the realistic physics, but it is impressive that the options are there. GT5 may have captured the PS3 market, and it did so by having so much content that it can be overwhelming. Forza Motorsports 4 will do the same for the 360 users, and then add more through DLC on top of that.
(WBIE/ Rocksteady Studios; PS3, Xbox 360- October 18, PC- November)
In 2009, Rocksteady did something that many fans had begun to think was impossible—they made an amazing superhero game. There have been plenty of good ones over the years, and plenty of superhero games with good parts to them, but generally superhero games just don’t live up to the promise—or perhaps they just don’t live up to the promise that we think they should. Playing as Superman isn’t as cool when you can’t punch a building to atoms or fly fast enough in counter clockwise orbit to travel backwards in time. That may not be entirely realistic or even fun for anyone but me, but that’s what I want from a Superman game.
Yet Batman: Arkham Asylum managed to walk that line between making a great game and matching the expectations of Batman fans. It was also one of the most original titles of the year despite the age and history of the brand. It just worked, and for many it was one of (if not the) best games of the year. So expectations for the sequel are high.
If you aren’t a fan of Batman, then this game probably won’t mean much to you. But for many, it is everything a comic book fan could hope for. A huge selection of Batman’s rogues gallery make an appearance, Catwoman is a playable character, and you have a massive chunk of a city to explore while fighting crime and solving puzzles. So put on your Batman underoos and settle in for a massive campaign.
Check out our hands-on impressions of Batman Arkham City from E3.
(Sony/Insomniac Games; PS3- October 18)
Of all the titles on this list, this one might be the smallest release relatively speaking–which says a lot about the upcoming contenders since it’s the tenth game in the franchise. The tenth. Arguably one of the best platformers on the market today, and slightly less arguably the best on the PS3, the Ratchet & Clank series is something of an anomaly in a list filled with games built around gritty realism. The R&C games are just fun. They border on silly at times, but that is part of their charm.
It’s hard to dislike the Ratchet & Clank series. There are so many options, the levels are fun to get through and the weapons are a highlight of each title. This game has a bit of a twist for the series though: That number in the title isn’t just Ebonics at work, the game will allow four-player co-op both online and off. One of the new “things” these days with online gaming is the ability to drop into another person’s ongoing game in progress. Gears of War 3 does it, Dead Island is built around it, and many others are going to be following suit in the future. So the next time you see your friend logged in, playing a game like R&C:A4O that offers co-op, you can jump in and taunt them about their gaming skills, then run around and steal all the ammo while laughing, unaware that your buddy just threw on a set of diapers and began the long drive to your house.
Ratchet & Clank is built around the idea of having some fun and goofing around. There is plenty of action, but very little tension, which could make this game a big hit for gamers with families looking for something that doesn’t involve parents explaining to their children why the nasty old mutant needed to have his limbs cut off before throwing a grenade at it.
(EA/DICE; PC, PS3, Xbox 360- October 25)
Soon enough, your online frenemies won’t be able to hide behind little things like walls or buildings anymore thanks to the new Battlefield 3 engine. Rumor has it that the Frostbite 2.0 engine can actually read your mind and create new maps specifically for you. It can also make coffee while doing your taxes. Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the expectations on this game and DICE’s new engine are incredible.
And why not?
The early clips of the game running the Frostbite 2.0 engine are stunning. In fact they are fast approaching realistic levels of creepiness. It is fun to wipe out hundreds of enemy soldiers as they run screaming towards you, but when they begin to look like your neighbor or the guy you saw on the train to work, it gets weird. The graphics aren’t there yet, but you can see the progression towards it. It’s probably important to point out that all those awesome videos—you know, the amazing clips of what is just a hair away from photorealism—are all taken from the PC, running a computer that most of us can’t afford. The game still looks amazing on the console, just not as amazing as the videos.
But graphics shmaphics. It may look great, but there are far more important things to get excited about, like the ability to fly jets in formation with your friends as you dogfight against other players, all while another ground conflict fought by real people is going on right below you. Whether or not it can be a Call of Duty-killer (and you know EA wants it to be), Battlefield 3 is going to get a lot of attention when it is released.
Check out our hands-on impressions of Battlefield 3 from E3.
(Sony/Naughty Dog; PS3- November 1)
If you ask gamers what their favorite games on the PS3 are, you will almost always hear Uncharted 2 somewhere on the list. The original Uncharted was a decent, albeit flawed game. The sequel fixed pretty much every problem and built on it, making it one of the best games of this generation. There was brilliance in the way that the game took your hand and led you where you needed to go without letting you know that you were being guided. As you ran from things like helicopters and machine gun fire, you frequently found yourself barely escaping and high-fiving yourself for a job well awesomed.
Of course, that was how the game was meant to be played. It was basically a ten hour or so movie that you played through. And it was almost as much fun to watch as it was to play thanks to some excellent set pieces, which means that you could make an excellent argument to your significant other that playing video games was actually an event for the both of you. Let us know if that approach actually works. The third games seems to be following the same cinematic approach that made the second famous, and it will have an online multiplayer that promises to be improved from the second.
The only problem with this game is that people may not be as motivated to buy it on day one versus some of the other games. Uncharted 3 will be a hit, and it will be a game that almost everyone plays, but it may not be able to take money out of the hands of some of the hotly anticipated games. It isn’t a direct continuation of a story (except in the broadest sense of the word), and the online isn’t a huge draw. If you are counting pennies for games this Fall, then choosing a game like Skyrim with 100+ hours, or opting for the proven online games like Modern Warfare 3 just makes sense compared to a game you might play for 10 hours then dabble a bit in the online, maybe. But still it is Uncharted 3. It has the promise of being one of the best games of the year, and possibly one of the best games on the PS3. It is worth making an exception for.
(Activision/Infinity Ward; PC, PS3, Xbox 360- November 8)
You may have heard of this series. With the profits that the last few Call of Duty games made, Activision could buy Botswana. And probably California too, at this point. But eventually that level of success has to peak and roll back, like a giant wave made of money and angry online screams of teenagers that love to show off their grown up vocabulary. The question is when? Black Ops made over a billion dollars in a month, so the bar is set fairly high.
Then there is the telenovella that occurred between Infinity Ward and Activision. If the success of Black Ops proved anything, it’s that gamers will go for the games, not the drama, so the behind-the-scenes stuff shouldn’t matter much on a personal level. But, switching companies in mid-development (and bringing in both Raven and Sledgehammer to help) could have a negative effect on the game itself.
But it’s still Call of Duty, and even if it is terrible, it will probably clear a billion dollars. So even if you don’t buy it, someone will. And they will have weeks or months to level up and learn the maps while you decide if it is worth it or not.
Check out our hands-on impressions of Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer.
(Bethesda; PC, PS3, Xbox 360- November 11)
If you were trapped on a desert island with only one game to play, Skyrim might not be a good choice, because when the rescue ships finally arrived you might be mad at them for showing up before you finished it. If you really wanted to, you could probably cruise through the main story in a paltry 40 hours or so, but that would only show you a small portion of the game. Skyrim could easily steal 100+ hours, and that is not counting multiple playthroughs with different character classes.
In the open world, you can do a whole lot of different things. If you want to be a vampire, go for it. If you prefer to dabble in the occult and power up your spells, huzzah. The game reacts to your style of play and allows you to mix and match the powers and abilities that you want to level up. There is a fully realized world awaiting your exploration as well, and thar be dragons! Randomly generated dragon attacks just help keep things spicy.
The biggest issue with this game is that there is no fast way to play this. You can’t just throw it on and play for a few minutes before work. No, you need to prepare to abandon all semblance of a normal life for at least a week or more and allow it to consume you. That may turn off a lot of people dealing with annoying little things that get in the way, like jobs and families. But if you have the time, or if you just want one game that will last a very, very, very long time, try the world of Skyrim. And don’t worry about turning your phone off–soon enough all your relations will forget your name anyway.
Check out our first look at Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim from E3.
(Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal; PC, PS3, Xbox 360- November 15)
Game four in the series hits shelves this November, and it isn’t even close to being the biggest title coming out this Fall. Because Assassin’s Creed Revelations is the fourth game in the series, and because the multiplayer is more of a footnote to the campaign than something people are waiting on, the hype on this game is more relegated to fans of the franchise than a wider audience. Gamers that haven’t played the series aren’t likely to start here, and even if they were willing to try, there are so many other options to choose from this Fall.
But for those that do want to see the conclusion to Ezio’s story, and those that are excited by the return of Altair, well then you are in luck. You friends/family/spouse/pets however won’t be so lucky as they lose you to the 20+ hour tour through Renaissance-era Constantinople as Ezio decimates everyone that looks at him funny. Seriously, there comes a point in a character’s life when after killing hundreds, maybe thousands of enemies, you would think they would just leave him alone. Maybe at least give him sort of a wide berth. Perhaps just a respectful nod rather than a “There he is, get him!”
While this game probably won’t break any molds, it will take what has worked amazingly well and add enough shine to it to make the game a blast to play. There are so many creative ways to approach the world in the Assassin’s Creed games that even though it may seem like more of the same, odds are it will still blow fans away.
Check out our first look at Assassin’s Creed Revelations from E3.
(THQ/Volition, Inc.; PC, PS3, Xbox 360- November 15)
Where Ratchet & Clank goes for the whimsical for broad audience, Saints Row does the same, but for a slightly more mature crowd. Well, maybe “mature” is the wrong word, but older. The Saints Row games take the Grand Theft Auto-style, then make it over-the-top…well, more over-the-top. The last game featured a car that sucked people in and then shot them out like a catapult. The first DLC starred a porn star. What more do you need to know?
Saints Row is going to have an uphill battle facing it. It has a good audience, but it is also coming out during a run of much bigger and better known franchise releases that will steal its audience. In the long run Saints Row: The Third will probably sell a lot of copies, but only in the long run.
But, if you aren’t interested in online shooters, or combat based games, of fun platformers, or driving simulators, or Star Wars, or cinematic-inspired games, or open world assassination-centric franchises, or first-person shooters by one of the best developers on the genre, or comic book-themed games, or the newest game in one of the oldest franchises in video game history, or an RPG that may set the bar for the genre, then Saints Row: The Third may be the game for you! Then again, it may actually have some appeal just because of that, and for people looking for something a little different, this may be the game for them.
(Nintendo/Nintendo EAD; Wii- November 20)
This one is a no-brainer. If you have a Wii, the odds are extremely high that you are a Zelda fan. The last Zelda game for the Wii, Zelda: Twilight Princess, sold close to 10 million copies, and it wasn’t even designed for the Wii–it was originally a GameCube title that was ported over. Skyward Sword could not only give Wii fans the Zelda game they have been waiting for, it could give the system a much needed shot of energy heading into the holidays.
Zelda is one of the most successful and longest running game series of all time, so fans are going to buy it regardless, and rightly so. So what more is there to say? How ‘bout them Dodgers? That’s baseball right?
Anyway, Zelda should help to fill a hole in the hearts of Wii owners who would otherwise be left to watch the tsunami of games hitting other systems, like the proverbial kid at Christmas with his nose mashed against the window of the chocolate factory, looking in wistfully. It should be a hit for the Wii, and a big one at that.
Check out our hands-on impressions of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword from E3.
(EA & LucasArts/BioWare; PC- December 20)
Cancel Christmas. Now that BioWare has officially announced a December 20 release for Star Wars: The Old Republic we finally have better things to do than spread this so called “holiday joy” and be with our “families.” But even for those people that are called to celebrate the birth of Santa, what better way than to become a Sith and fry an Ewok. And if that isn’t included in the game, it’s a giant missed opportunity — maybe a DLC awaits. So come Christmas morning, fans of Star Wars can pop in the complete Blu-ray set of the movies that many people will be receiving, and then when all of Lucas’ recent changes make them mad, they can wash the taste of dying childhood out of their mouth with the Star Wars MMORPG.
But beyond the Star Wars connection, which will bring in more than few gamers on that alone, it is time for a new MMORPG for people to delve into. World of Warcraft is hemorrhaging subscribers, and with online gaming becoming the norm across all platforms and splintering gamers across dozens of titles, there is gap for something new to rally online gamers to it. If the game can match the potential of the franchise, then The Old Republic could be the PC game for the next few years.
The Old Republic also has the advantage of being a PC only game, so it might still be able to release in the middle of the surge of games and avoid the crush that threatens the mass of console titles. With Diablo III delayed until next year (at least…), this could be the perfect time to release, as crazy as that sound when you look at the other games releasing at the same time. Sure, many of the games coming for console are also going to be available on the PC as well, but odds are The Old Republic could hold off the contenders.
And lest we forget, the Honorable Mention:
NBA2K12 (October 4), Spider-Man: Edge of Time (October 4), Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (October 11), Silent Hill: Downpour (October 25), The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (November 1), Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (November 15), Super Mario 3D Land (November 13), Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (November 15), Need for Speed: The Run (November 15), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom (November 15), Mario Kart 7 3D (December 4) Guild Wars 2 (TBA) and many, many more…
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