2012 is due to see some big releases in the gaming world, designed to make those trigger happy fingers even happier. But what should you be most excited about? We give you our top 5 picks below:
#5 Max Payne 3
Genre: Third Person Shooter
The wait for Max Payne 3 has been almost as emotionally turbulent as the experience of playing Max Payne. Longing which led to expectation and despair, has finally given way to hope as it finally looks like Rockstar has gotten its act together and is about to bring out a Max Payne game worthy of the series. MP 3 finds Max in Sao Paulo, haunted (as always) by the ghosts of his past, and ready to be drawn into yet another shadowy conspiracy.
For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Max Payne games are noir. Real noir. Max’s world is one of violence, loss, betrayal, and bleak poetic monologues rasped to himself amidst the intervals of his lone fight against the world. The game’s signature style is ‘Bullet Time’, involving slow-motion gunfights where Max gracefully dives, spins, and dodges while simultaneously shooting down his enemies.
And now Rockstar claims to have taken the Bullet time mechanics to the next level. The graphics and physics too are said to be on the cutting edge of realism; the previews give good reason to believe these claims. The game’s release has been pushed back a couple of months to May, but after having waited so many long years, a month or two more shouldn’t be too big a deal.
#4 Bioshock Infinite
Genre: First Person Shooter / Role-Playing Game
Bioshock Infinite isn’t directly related to its predecessors, Bioshock 1 and 2, both set in the underwater city of Rapture in the 1960s. Infinite takes place in 1912, this time on the floating city of Columbia, where you play a detective named Booker DeWitt hired by a mysterious party to rescue a woman named Elizabeth from Columbia. DeWitt reaches the city only to find it in the midst of a civil war between ultranationalist and resistance groups.
Bioshock games always have incredible atmosphere, which includes not only the visual setting (part historic and part fantasy) but also the ideologies present in the game: Objectivism in the previous Bioshocks, and now an exploration of American exceptionalism seems in the offing. Players will be able to navigate the city of Columbia using a grappling hook, and also develop a variety of abilities as in the previous game, including telekinesis, the manipulation of electricity, etc.
The previews of the game look beautiful, and the bright city of Columbia is a very nice contrast to the dark and gloomy Rapture. This is a game to watch out for.
#3 Halo 4
Genre: First Person Shooter
After flitting around in Halo’s extended universe for a couple of years, Microsoft seems to have finally decided that the Master Chief’s story arc is just too good to put down, although this time it’s 343 Studios and not Bungie that’s developing the game.
Halo 4 will be the first in a new series called the ‘Reclaimer Trilogy’. It picks up right after the events of Halo 3, when the Master Chief defeats the zombie-like species known as ‘The Flood’ and, along with Cortana, finds himself stranded in space.
The game sees him discovering an ancient Forerunner structure: a sort of bubble-world. According to 343 Studios, Halo 4 will focus more than ever on the mysterious (and extinct) Forerunners, the creators of the massive ring-worlds found in the series.
There are also some murmurs of moving beyond the conventional First Person Shooter experience, though nobody knows yet what exactly that means. The Halo games have always enjoyed mass popularity, largely owing to their incredibly addictive multiplayer and their sprawling single player campaigns pitting humanity against a bunch of hostile and seemingly-unstoppable aliens. Halo 4 seems poised to maintain that tradition. It comes out sometime at the end of 2012.
#2 Grand Theft Auto 5
Genre: Open World Third Person Shooter
Putting GTA 5 on this list is a tricky affair because it’s entirely possible that the game’s release will get delayed to next year, but as of now the official date seems to be sometime in 2012. Precious little is known about the game, save for one trailer showing off a gorgeous-looking Los Santos (the setting of GTA: San Andreas and based on the city of Los Angeles)
But it’s probably safe to expect more of the great gameplay, cutting satire, and sometimes plain silliness that has come to characterize the series. Expect to once again fill the shoes of an endearing criminal-with-a-good-heart as you rob banks, steal cars, get into all kinds of trouble with the various local mafias, and basically do the very sorts of things that periodically raise the ire of parents and rating boards all over the world.
#1 Mass Effect 3
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Role-Playing Game
You guessed it; our top spot goes to Mass Effect 3, coming out this March.
A predictable choice, perhaps, but it’s shaping up to be such a solid game that it would have simply been perverse not to pick it. ME 3 is where it ends. The Reapers (an ancient race of colossal machines) have finally returned after millennia of slumber to consume all life in the universe, and you, as Commander Shepard, are the only one who can lead the various species of the universe to victory.
All your actions in your past adventures- and even the rich backstory built up over the past games- will have a bearing on how Shepard’s journey ends, so if you’ve never played Mass Effect I suggest you pick up and finish the first two games before March.
Bioware has, over the course of the first two Mass Effects, created a powerfully magnetic blend of fast-paced action and RPG elements that really make the characters and story come alive. What is weeded out is the shallowness that is too-often found in shooters as well as the tedium and repetitiveness that afflicts many RPGs.
I thought ME 2 was near-perfect, but the combat in ME 3 seems to be even better; there’s an improved cover system and the AI is apparently much advanced. Bioware is also claiming to have a deeper weapon customization system, which is a welcome change since the customization in ME 2 felt a little flat.
Finally, there’s a new co-op multiplayer mode called ‘Galaxy at War’ wherein you team up with two other players to beat a set of multiplayer missions. The single player campaign is still the main draw, but the multiplayer could bring some variety to the experience, which is always a good thing. One thing is certain: Mass Effect 3 is the game to play this year.