My Most Anticipated Game(s) of 2011

Every year, as we close shut the calendar and look ahead to the next, we dream about what enchantments wait in the new year. Hell, with game developers delaying their big holiday titles with greater frequency, we have no choice but to wait – our eyes and minds teased with image of the next new “hotness” while knowing that our thumbs will soon ache once that title finally goes gold.

Last year I took a different tack; opting to highlight a game that I was dying to play, but fearful that it wouldn’t measure up. I chose Bioshock 2 – the follow-up to my favorite game of 2007 (and in my list of All Time Faves for this Decade). I knew Ken Levine wasn’t at the helm and everything I saw simply gave me a sense of Déjà vu. Been there. Done that.

I got a little heat for my completely subjective opinion so when the time came to put up or shut up, I played the hell out of it. And for the first 5 hours or so, I was thrilled to e back in Rapture. All the good tidings that exploring those dank environs the first time, came flooding back. But then, my initial apprehension revisited me. I realized that nostalgia was steering my thoughts and this game, while a solid adventure, would never scale the revelatory narrative heights of the first game.

Which leads to a bit of cyclical karma as this snake keeps circling, noshing on  its own tail. First I was in love with Bioshock. Then we broke up over Bioshock 2. And now I’m heartsick, seeking a desperate reconciliation that we can really makes this work again, with the revelation that Ken Levine was secretly steering Bioshock Infinite over the last two years.

Everything I have seen underscores EXACTLY what I felt this series should have done in the first place. Take the themes inherent to the original game and then EXPAND on them. Bring us somewhere we haven’t been before. And in an expert teaser, we are ripped from what appears to be a watery grave (actually a Rapture influenced aquarium decoration) and find ourselves in a floating Utopia. With that, Levine has me hooked and has my brain engaged all over again.

Bioshock Infinite is now my MOST ANTICIPATED GAME…
…OF 2012.

Oh, I hope the recent news that the Mayans were way off in their world-ending calculation is true as there’s no way I’m kicking it before I can play that title. I’d say I’m dying to play it, but I don’t want to tempt the eggheads to recalc that calendar and hasten our apocalyptic demise.

So, with 2012 looming, I look at two titles which lack release dates but have been in development long enough to pretty much guarantee a 2011 berth.

First is Metal Gear Rising for the 360 and PS3. I’m a huge Metal Gear fan (having received the original title for Christmas back in ’88) and I love Hideo Kojima’s wild and wacky excess. This is the comic book game writ large as Kojima expertly blends all the things he finds cool into the world’s most kick-ass Smoothie.

Hell, I trust this guy so much that I’m one of the few stalwart defenders of his narrative decision to make Raiden the protagonist in Metal Gear Solid 2. By pushing Snake to the periphery, he bolstered the legend, making the man – myth!!!

Now, unless there is another bait and switch ahead, Metal Gear Rising appears to kick-start a new series and shift the baton to Raiden, who grew infinitely cooler when he appeared in Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots as our latest-and-greatest cybernetic ninja assassin.

Reportedly, Rising will take us back in time and fill in the blanks between parts 2 & 4 when Raiden traveled the world, getting into adventures and perfecting his Wire-Fu skills. This is a Day 1 purchase for me.

Unless it happens to drop on Zelda day – which is unlikely as Nintendo always saves its prestige launches for Sunday in the U.S. While we don’t have the dates confirmed, my guess is we’ll see Skyward Sword drop sometime in Spring 2011 – on a Sunday – and then I’ll need a little sabbatical from work.

I’m old enough to have played the original Zelda – in the gleaming gold cartridge – at a time when you depended upon the playground to work out what to do with a  Dodongo. No Internet in those days, kiddies. That palpable sense of adventuring, of figuring it all out alongside Link, is melded to my marrow. The Triforce is tattooed to my brain. I wish that little chime that goes off when you solve a puzzle would sound in real life whenever I accomplished something grand – like remembered to take a vitamin.

At the very least, it will echo loudly on that triumphant day when I hoist Skyward Sword above my head and say goodbye to my nearest and dearest.