1. God of War III
Despite the fact its seems that the God of War series has, so far, been criminally underappreciated by some of my fellow contributors at TAGS, the God of War games have cemented their place as one of the best series in the history of gaming. Following Kratos, a Spartan warrior and unwilling pawn of the Greek gods, your goals usually involve senses shattering battles against the likes of Ares, Apollo and Zeus, not to mention every single monster out of Greek Legend you can imagine in epic conflicts that defy imagination. Kratos feels like a real ancient greek character that his adventures were recorded by Homer and chronicles alongside the twelve tasks of Heracles. In fact some people would probably be surprised to learn the character was invented for the game series, a lowly mortal who risked everything a lost, then decided to give the gods a giant and very sharp up yours. The last game finished on a cliff hanger with (spoiler alert) Kratos scaling the side of Olympus with an army of monstrous titans poised for the final war against the Greek gods.
It's hard to pinpoint a single aspect of God of War that stands it out, the overall weave of graphics, gory swords and sandals action, puzzle solving and mythological monsters creates a game that shakes the senses. Okay, try this, the start of God of War 2 has Kratos, stripped of his powers and forced to battle a giant, sky scraper size statue possessed by the power of the gods. It's one of those amazing openings that you feel the game couldn't possible top for the rest of its duration and yet it does, over and over.
Did I mention these amazing games have so far only appeared on the PS2 and PSP? God of War III is the first next generation title in the series, essentially the third and final part in an epic mythological revenge story, and a game you can’t afford to miss in 2010. Definitely a Game of the Year contender.
Whens it out?
2. Splinter Cell Conviction
It has been way, way too long between drinks for Sam Fisher. Our favourite gravelly voiced, government sponsored psychopath who spends US tax dollars flying around the world and killing people. We missed you and we’re looking forward to snapping necks and creeping through shadows all over again with you. The Splinter Cell series has been consistently great and a flagship title for Ubisoft and their Tom Clancy series of games. Splinter Cell Conviction has Sam on the run from the government, trying to discover who was actually responsible for his daughters death, which led him to go into deep cover in the last game. It's probably largely down to Michel Ironside's voice acting but Sam Fisher feels like a real person, a real terrifying person, but still like someone you might meet one day, shake his hand, then wonder why you feel a cold shudder afterwards. With a bunch of new features such as marking targets to automatically take them out, objectives getting flashed on walls movie style so as no to break the flow of play and real time interrogations using the environment, Splinter Cell Conviction looks set to re-establish itself as the number one stealth action game.
In addition the multiplayer, one of the shining lights of the series since Chaos Theory, will now feature the Persistent Elite Creation System that kept people coming back to Rainbow 6 Vegas. Points earned in online modes can be spent on new weapons, spy gear and costumes to dress up your multiplayer persona. Splinter Cell Conviction will be your number one torture stroke murder simulator in 2010.
Whens it out?
3. The Last Guardian
Another Playstation 2 series making a long overdue next gen debut on the PS3. The Last Guardian is the latest title from Team Ico, previously responsible for two games that will always be in my top ten list: Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Naturally the story behind the game is almost impossible to figure out from the games trailer but, much like the previous games, the specifics might not be important.
The game continues the tradition of using familiar fairy tale tropes in a unique and original style. This time it’s the little boy with the mysterious pet, a giant fox headed chicken legged monster identified in the Japanese trailer as a Sea Griffin. Gameplay seems, for the most part, to see you take the role of the boy and trying to manage your giant pet to solve puzzles such as throwing stones to attract his attention and trying to make him stay on a pressure pad. It’s not quite clear if the guardian is meant to be the boy or the monster, or something else all together. But one look at the trailer below and I ache to play this game.
Whens it Out?
Maddeningly the release date is still floating around as sometime in 2010.
4. Red Dead Redemption
I think it’s fair to say we haven’t had a defining western game yet, a game that we could hold up and say his the cowboy game against which all others will be found wanting. The original Red Dead Revolver was pretty good, Gun was decidedly average and it’s been too long since I played the Oregon Trail to comment on that either. I think it’s also fair to say that, based on trailers of the game so far, Red Dead Redemption is going to change all that dramatically. With Rockstar behind it the game looks set to shove a stick of dynamite up the backside of the gaming world and surprise the hell out of people. As having a stick up dynamite shoved there would most likely do.
You might think that combining the open world gameplay of GTA into a Western setting would make for a boring game. All that open world without an urban sprawl to mix things up in, no cars to crash through windows or cops to outrun. Well except for the bears, cougars, wolves rattle snakes, bandits, apache and if you’ve been naughty bounty hunters on your ass, you’d be right. Red Dead Redemption is going to have an entire ecosystem of danger to be worried about, the wildlife isn't just for scenery in this game. From the look of things you’ll be far too busy just trying to survive to take in a lovely desert sunset. As John Marston, outlaw turned federal lawman, it’s up to you to bring your old gang boss to justice in the last fading frontiers of the old west. Oh boy I can’t wait.
Whens it out?
5. Final Fantasy XIII
Feels like we’ve been waiting for this game since forever, since that first amazing trailer with Lightening and her gun sword thing taking out that hallway of storm troopers, this game has been superglued to my ‘must buy’ list from that point onwards. I’m looking forward to all the usual things Final Fantasy games offer, a bizarre almost incoherently complicated plot, massive summon attacks, a chokingly syrupy romance subplot, a strange orchestral score I won’t be able to stop humming. Not to mention amazing cut scenes that put 90% of game graphics to absolute shame.
Hell it’s a new Final Fantasy game! You should know whether or not you're going to buy it by now or not. If you’re unsure whether or not you like J RPG’s (or what that term means) I strongly recommend you pick it up. Final Fantasy XIII doesn't sound like a game that's going to change the love/hate relationship many have with Final Fantasy games, but for the sheer visual splendour of the thing its going to be worth picking up for gamers of all tastes and interests. If you’re gifted with some Japanese language skill you could import a copy from the land of the rising sun today as it was released there in mid December. Although you might have some trouble as over half of the original stock of two million copies was sold on the first day. It’s worth noting that this is, technically the first true Final Fantasy game to appear on a next gen console and an event not to be missed.
Whens it out?
6. Heavy Rain
Tired of the same old thing shooters, strategy, RPG’s? Consider Heavy Rain to be your ‘something different in 2010. Game director David Cage has defied gamers expectations in the past with titles like Fahrenheit where you played as an unwitting serial killer and seperately play as the cops trying to catch him. Heavy Rain has a similar concept with four characters, a private detective, an FBI agent, an architect stroke family man and a journalist all individually trying to track down the Origami Killer, a serial killer responsible for several grisly murders. To be honest its pretty damn hard to work out exactly how Heavy Rain works from the previews and trailers that have been released so far. The game has been nicknamed and interactive movie in a few places but most hands on previews seem to indicate a deeper experience than that.
In addition a unique control scheme and cinematic approach to gameplay sets Heavy Rain apart from most games. During moments of danger, such as an attack or trying to escape, quick time events will determine your success. If you fail the quick time event the character you’re currently playing as may be injured or killed, but this only changes the course of the game, it doesn’t end it. It’s easy to read about but it’s difficult to envision how Heavy Rain will work. The plot will also involve a lot of morale choices but from previews these often sound like the ‘lesser of two evil’ type of choices than the usual black and white options. I'm a big fan of anything new and shiny and Heavy Rain definitely looks like a whole new shiny kind of game. If you want a mature, intellectual experience in 2010 then Heavy Rain is definitely your game and it’s not many titles that claim to be a whole new gaming experience.
Whens it out?
7. Battlefield Bad Company 2
Modern Warfare 2 was the war game of 2009, hands down, no argument, that’s all she wrote. Well unless the Medal of Honour redo pulls some big rabbits out the hat Battlefield: Bad Company 2 will your war game of 2010. The multiplayer Beta currently has a lot of people, including our own Sam (read his preview here), singing it’s praises to the roof tops. And why the hell not? Once upon a time if a game had Battlefield before its title you were guaranteed the best multiplayer wargame a tinsoldier could wish for. Ranks, platoons, class specific weapon sets, unlockable weapons and all the motorised war tools you can imagine, jets, helicopters, boats, jeeps, tanks. People who played and loved Battlefield 2 probably look at Modern Warfare and wonder what the hell the fuss is all about. It seems about time the Battlefield marque stepped up to the plate for a big swing.
So what’s new Bad Company 2? Well the destruction level has been ramped up and its now possible to demolish buildings down to their foundations, actually thats all I need to know right there. It must be the Irish in me but when I get to turn a building into a cloud of dust and soot in a game I get inappropriately excited. Blood has also been added to the game, the first time a Battlefield game has had blood in it since Battlefield Vietnam. For gun porn enthusiasts there’s also now a customisable weapon menu scopes, sights and grenade launchers to weapons. Some new vehicles will also be entering the mix. If you love war games, and who the hell doesn’t, Battlefield: Bad Company is a must have for 2010.
Whens it out?
8. Halo: Reach
Okay, Halo: ODST wasn’t the sequel we wanted after Halo 3. It was, possibly, the greatest mod ever using the Halo 3 engine, but it was no full fledged sequel. Halo: Reach though? This is the sequel, the Reach team has been working on this title since developed ended on Halo 3 and it falls into the familiar three year development cycle that all of Bungie’s major games do.
We have Spartan’s again and this time instead of poor old John 117 all on his own with the regular soldiers we have an entire team of ass kicking genetically augmented super soldiers to fight the Covenant with. Expect a single player campaign with fully supported coop for, possibly, more than four players given the Noble One team used in all the Reach advertising so far have five members. Halo: Reach does have that unfortunate problem of we, the audience, all ready knowing the end of the story, kinda like watching Titanic. The Halo Reach Beta will also be happening sometime in early 2010 for those of us who picked up ODST. Some allegedly leaked screenshots show new weapons, or at least variations on existing weapons, and perks similar to the Modern Warfare multiplayer perks being applied in gameplay. Bungie still has the capacity to surprise us and with three years under the belt I think Halo: Reach could surprise a lot of people, both fanboys and haters.
Whens it out
9. Warcraft Cataclysm
World of Warcraft has had something of a renaissance in my house with a new computer allowing us to actually play PC games again. Although we’re only inching into the Burning Crusade content and are not even close to picking up Wrath of the Lich King we’re all pretty excited about the third WoW expansion Cataclysm.
Ignoring the fact the evil black dragon around which Cataclysm revolves is hilariously named Deathwing, which is what I called all my imaginary dragons at age 6, the expansion promises some big changes to the world of the World of Warcraft. There’s some of the expected changes with an expansion such as a level cap boost and new instances but Blizzard are also promising big changes to the existing areas which will affect players at all levels. For instance, the Badlands are set to be sundered, that’s right ‘sundered’, in two creating new areas, mobs and quests to discover. Two new races have been revealed as well for each faction. The alliance have the odd addition of the werewolf like Worgen and the Horde get the long requested Goblins.
Whether or not you’re a warcrack addict, Cataclysm will undoubtedly be a major release in 2010 and if you’ve resisted the pull of WoW up till now it doubles as a pretty good time to jump on the bandwagon.
Whens it out
Sometime in 2010, probably Q4.
10. Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty
Suppress your gag reflex for a moment and swallow this information. Starcraft came out in 1998, that’s right 19 freaking 98. How many games do you know that are still on the shelf selling new copies twelve whole years later? The game revolutionised real time strategy and set a bar that has never quite been beaten over the years, plenty of games have banged their heads on it but none have really pushed it higher. Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty will make its debut in 2010 and the collective gaming world should be pretty damn excited about that. Based on the the screenshots so far it looks like Blizzard haven't made many changes to the core gameplay of Starcraft, just remade it to fit the technology of a decade later.
The same three factions return, the Terrans, Zerg and Protoss, and there will be roughly the same number of units available in the game. But it’s a whole new Starcraft game, the first in twelve years, twelve freaking years people. Really, when was the last time you played a really, really good RTS game?
Whens it out
Sometime in 2010.