Some time early last year, I cobbled together a list of my most anticipated games of the year. And as we’re often prone to do, as the year wound on, and new and exciting enchantments were revealed, that list changed numerous times. E3 will do that to you.
So, despite the fact that I fully intend to provide you with my picks for the top handful of games that I’ve just got to play in 2010, please don’t hold me to it. Something is bound to give at some point. Either that, or a whole helping heaping of them could simply be jettisoned to 2011 – which is what we saw last Fall when seemingly every publisher used Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as a reason to turn turtle, as if this were an industry where gamers only pledge allegiance to one title. I’m sure a few FPS boogied out of that release window to avoid sales comparisons with the juggernaut but how does that excuse some of the third person action games? Do I detect the cloaked need for additional development time? Oh well, if the end product ends up justifying the means, then by all means, run and hide. I’ll just have to add you to next year’s list.
All indictments aside, let’s get on with this. I’m going to pick a console exclusive title per system and then give you my pick for the absolute Must Play game of the year. Just bear in mind, all of this is subject to change and likely will.
This is supposedly the year of Project NATAL, and while I’ll likely be jonesing to get some hands on time with motion controls for the serious gamer, we just don’t know enough about the technology aside from a concept video and a carefully orchestrated appearance on Jimmy Fallon. So, while I’m intrigued, it’s not something that is beaming brightly on my radar.
The game that I am absolutely chomping at the bit to play, however, is Alan Wake, which is due for release in the 2nd quarter. This title was first announced at the launch of the 360, well over four years ago, and since then it has drifted in and out of gaming consciousness more times than the titular protagonist.
Developed by Remedy, the architects behind the Max Payne series, the game places players in the shoes of Alan Wake, a novelist adrift in a sleepy coastal logging town who begins to detect some eerie similarities blurring the line between his fictional narratives and the real world around him. The trailers seem to suggest an open world take on the Silent Hill school of gaming, which should prove to be a creepily immersive experience, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for; a mystery that I can get lost in.
After three years of bad press, Sony finally picked up some traction with a few strategic moves that while late, were large enough to make a difference. Of particular note was the long awaited price drop to the palatable $299 mark – which when coupled with their Trojan Horse Blu-Ray drive, made for a no-brainer impulse purchase. In addition, the new hotness of the PS3 Slim, timed with the aforementioned price drop, led a lot of gamers to finally procure a Playstation. That this system had been absent from many media centers for so long was a major shock given Sony’s decade long stranglehold on the market.
Topping off their year of fine accomplishments, Sony released some stellar first party titles including the best single player experience I’ve had in the last five years, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. This is an important property, on par with Microsoft’s control of Halo, and it serves as not just a great game but a tremendous entertainment experience as well. Sony will do well to keep the Naughty Dog fed and happy.
2010 looks to open strong for them with the one-two punch of Quantum Dream’s Heavy Rain and Sony’s internally developed, God of War 3. While the latter game will definitely grab my gaming dollars, as I am a huge fan of that franchise and long to see which deity Kratos destroys next, I’m picking Heavy Rain as my most anticipated game as I am eager to see how successfully Quantum Dream comes to creating that true cinematic experience.
A few weeks ago, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata let slip in an interview with the Japanese press that the next Zelda title, built from the ground up for the Wii, would be released by the end of this year. That came as a huge shock to me as this title, which had only been teased in a handful of concept artwork, has largely been absent from Nintendo’s prior conference appearances and the company appeared to have their core fans appeased with the dual release of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M for release sometime in 2010. When you factor in the rumors that refuse to die that an HD Wii is due for release in 2011, it’s easy to connect the dots and assume the next Zelda will be a launch title for this current generation of high def gaming.
So, while Zelda would be my no brainer pick, I’ll believe it when I see it.
Which leaves my original pick, Warren Spector’s Epic Mickey. While the screenshots revealed thus far don’t match the dark whimsy of those concept art pieces that appeared last year, Spector is a genius developer who truly shaped the way games play today with his late 90’s masterpiece, Deus Ex. While many contemporary action and RPG titles offer gamers the ability to follow light or dark allegiances that have lasting consequences on the narrative development, it was Spector who fine-tuned the art of handing players the ability to choose their own adventure.
Spector is a self-avowed Disney fan (and historian) and when his company was folded into Disney Interactive, he cobbled a dark fable of forgotten characters in revolt over their lost fortune and fame. These are former cartoons left to the ravages of time who suddenly strike out at the face of the organization; aiming to take Mickey down for the simple twist of fate that made him a household name recognized the world over. That’s a compelling hook and I’m dying to journey through Spector’s take on the Magic Kingdom and see what he’s done with the place.
My Most Anticipated Game of 2010
Finally we come to my Must Play game of the year, and this is a complete no-brainer.
When those first, cryptic flashes of a new Team Ico game appeared weeks prior to E3 2009, my internal sensors went into overdrive. And then when that sublime trailer dawned in the days before the conference, set to Carter Burwell’s haunting and hopeful soundtrack to Miller’s Crossing, my interest level piqued. I knew then and there that I needed to add a PS3 to my Wii60 household so that I could play The Last Guardian on Day One.
I am a huge fan of Team Ico’s prior efforts; Ico and the awe-inspiring Shadow of the Colossus. While not traditional sequels, anyone who had played both games have found that they exist organically in the same universe. Both titles are at heart, adventure games, and they goose that primal area of the gamer in me that longs to dive into a mystery, solve a puzzle and save the princess.
Beyond that, their eerie aesthetic and production values, backed by stirring musical scores all in support of a subtle, simple and truly effective narrative do more than most games have to further the argument of Games as Art. Every time film critic Roger Ebert expounds upon the topic that games can never be art, Shadow of the Colossus shuts him right up. Next to Braid, it’s one of the most important games of the last decade – and also one of the most fun.
Which is why we play these enchantments in the first place. And which is why The Last Guardian is my most sought after prize in 2010 and regardless of what I said in the intro, nothing will knock this one from its perch.
…unless it sucks.