Friday, January 20, 2012

Top Ten With a Twist 2012. Part Two

I haven't even paid Bojeeva his winnings from the 2011 competition, yet here we are doing it all over again: picking the ten games we're most excited about for the coming year and gambling on who's list will get the highest aggregated review scores (here's Bojeeva's list).

It's a risky list-there are a lot of sequels, and a lot of them are to games that weren't that great in the first place. Where 2011 was a bumper year for great games, 2012 isn't looking so rosy. For every Bioshock or Grand Theft Auto carrying on a tradition of brilliance, there's a Prototype or Transformers, games that have shown bags of potential but thus far fulfilled none of it. We're hoping that 2012 is the year that good ideas are matched with good execution.

(10) Bioshock Infinite
A flying city named after the personificationof America violently imposes it’s will with death from above? You have to say,the setting for the third Bioshock game doesn’t exactly scream subtle.Furthermore, another exceptional city that stumbles across “vigours andnostrums” rather undermines the unique qualities that made Rapture and it’splasmids and adam feel so special. You’d be forgiven for feeling underwhelmedat the prospect of Bioshock Infinite. I’m choosing to be optimistic, however.After all, we weren’t expecting much from Bioshock 2 either, and it turned outto be marvellous, action-packed fun. Add to that the fact that Bioshock’soriginator, Ken Levine, is part of the Infinite team, and you have a recipe foryet another beautiful, bombastic outing.

(9) Mass Effect 3
The non-arrival of MassEffect last year may well have cost me a win in 2011, but with a bit of luck itwill show up in 2012 and bag me plenty of points. After all, if there is asimilarly enormous improvement between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 as therewas between ME 1 and 2, then Mass Effect 3 should be one of the best games ofall time. Bioware have already replaced the convoluted menus with a streamlinedinterface, the bland planets with worthwhile exploration, and the mediocre bossfights with genuinely absorbing battles. Minor tweaks are all it will take tomake the 3rd instalment a GOTY contender.

(8) Grand Theft Auto V
Familiar faces in a familiar setting meanthat the GTA series’ return to San Andreas for its fifth full instalment hasgot fans feeling at home long before the game shows up. What’s more exciting,however, is the appearance of jets, biplanes and jetskis within the trailer. InGTA IV the games gonzo vehicles were kept largely in the background, but thereturn the beautiful and varied environments of San Andreas seem to bring withthem the resumption of the series’ traditional full on vehicular indulgence.

(7) Half Life 2 Episode 3
Humorous haiku from Valve boss Gabe Newell,and a leaked coded containing references to Ep3 has got the whole internethoping that the long, long wait might soon be over. Ok, I’ll believe it onlywhen I finally have Half Life Episode 3 in my hands, but still, I’m optimisticenough to put it in this list. The cold light, unscripted construction andexcellent shooting are oft talked about, but for me the best thing about theHalf Life series is the locations-decaying European cities, vertiginous bridgesand towering alien strongholds. Ep3 promises to add ice locked freighters tothat list, and I can’t wait.

(6) Syndicate
Ok, all the early hints make this look like theisometric, upgrade-happy tactical adventure we remember has been chucked out ofthe window in favour of an FPS with a tech tree. So, that’s Deus Ex all overagain. But have a little faith, this is Peter Molyneux we’re talking about. Theman has one of the most consistent hit lists in gaming, and if he’s turning hishand to an FPS, then we’re sure it will be worth playing.

(5) Prototype 2
The original Prototype combined dozens ofgreat ideas into a strangely uninspiring package. Perhaps it was the genericenemies, or the sprawling, unfocussed nature of the upgrade paths, or perhapsjust the dull, unconvincing city in which the game took place. But there’s atrend in recent years for weak first games to fix their flaws in the sequels,and we reckon Prototype 2 will live up to its predecessors potential.

(4) I Am Alive
I love a good apocalypse/post-apocalypsestory, and the long delayed I Am Alive puts a particularly nice twist on thegenre: instead of being a heavily armed and armoured warrior in a world that’sstarted anew, I Am Alive has you as an underpowered everyman in a world stillreeling from the disasters that have befallen it.

(3) Borderlands 2

The appeal of the original Borderlands as so simple and appealing that I'd be perfectly happy to just play it all over again with different missions but no real changes to the gameplay. Borderlands is all about loot. That addiction to crate-smashing and chest-searching that affect every RPG player are brought to the fore here-every time you think you should turn it off, you decide to just have another rummage in the next box, under the next rock, or in the next crate. Pretty much all you find is money or special guns, and pretty much all you'll spend the money on is more special guns. Get together with your mates, tool up with lightning shotguns and acid assault rifles, and go get yourself some money. It's a simple idea that bears plenty of repetition.

(2) Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
There's an alarming trend in this list-it's almost entirely composed of sequels, and many of them are sequels to games that needed some serious polishing. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is the perfect example. It's predecessor was a perfectly passable third person cover shooter, but it should have been so much more. It could have been reskinned to feature space marines, gangsters or just about any standard gaming protagonist-amongst those towering metal environments, with all those distinctive character designs, you never felt like you were actually controlling a giant steel robot. Tweak the animations and sound effects, add a dash of melee combat, and beef up the floaty handling and you'll have fixed the flaws that held back the original.

(1) Resident Evil 6
Floppy fringed emo-cop Leon and grunting man-tank Chris, together at last. Amazingly, that's not a gay porn synopsis but a selling point for Resident Evil 6. The question is, will they be two separate playable characters with discrete missions, or will we be subjected to another ill-advised co-op adventure? This could be the difference between the heights of RE2 and 4, or the depths of RE5.