5 Games That Prove 2012 Isn’t A Lost Cause
The general vibe surrounding this year of video gaming so far is that it’s been something of a letdown and that it will continue to disappoint in the remaining five months we’ve got left of it. Right now, it feels as if the general majority of gamers are so eager to see the next-generation of consoles, they’re willing to overlook some of the most promising titles of the current generation in favour of sheer speculation and perhaps unfounded anticipation. Is this the right stance to take on the industry at this moment?
I would say no: little do many people know that there a strong bunch of exciting new titles headed our way this Autumn. Yes, we’re at the stage of the current generation where there are countless iterations upon iterations of dependable franchises, but that doesn’t mean by any stretch that a) new instalments won’t impress or surprise or b) that there aren’t some much-needed standalone video games coming to consoles too before 2012 ends. Perhaps the world will end come December 31st, perhaps not (I’d hope for the latter), yet if it does then you can at least sleep safe in the knowledge that you’ll have these five cracking games to play before the apocalypse engulfs all of humanity…
Bethesda have a fantastic repertoire for producing (or co-producing) high quality role-playing games. We need only look back to Fallout 3 or Skyrim for evidence of that, but perhaps their greatest triumph yet might come at the hands of their new collaborator Arkane Studios. Their steampunk RPG project Dishonored has all the makings of a genuine yet, if gamers would be so kind as to recognise a new franchise brewing among the countless sequels, prequels and reboots this year has had to offer.
Following the tale of a man forced to go on the run as he is framed for the murder of a royal, Arkane’s new title features gameplay that mirrors fantasy greats like Deus Ex while putting its own stamp on its genre with a distinctive visual and tonal style pervading the whole experience. Whether we’ll get the kind of immense choice that Bethesda’s past games and indeed the inspirations have offered remains to be seen, but anyone claiming that the rest of 2012 is all about well-established, repetitive gaming icons is clearly not noticing a groundbreaking new story that’s taking shape right in front of them! Keep your eyes firmly placed on this one. (October 12th)
2. ASSASSIN’S CREED III
It’s a shame that refined mini-sequels Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Revelations weren’t recieved so well simply due to their continuation of Renaissance hero Ezio Auditore’s story. I’ll admit that the latter was no masterpiece, yet the former very strongly built on the ACII formula to create a thoroughly enjoyable narrative and combat gameplay system. Anyone who departed the Creed franchise after its 2009 outing should definitely make an effort to catch up now, though.
As I said in my feature back in March shortly after the Assassin’s Creed III announcement, the choice by Ubisoft Montreal to move to the American Revolution for the breathtaking threequel could well spark a much-needed internal revolution for the franchise. Since then, nothing that has been shown could possibly dispute the points I made, as the E3 demo and subsequent showings have only highlighted some of the startling innovation on offer on top of the traditional series gameplay. From the subtle yet numerous new animations of Indian-Brit cross assassin Connor to the realism and life of the open world he inhabits, there really does not seem to be an element of this title that lacks any kind of polish. We’re promised intense new Desmond sequences to round off the modern-day apocalypse storyline too, so if you were looking for closure on the modern day conflict between Assassins and Templars, you will not want to miss Assassin’s Creed III. (October 31st)
3. HALO 4
I confess myself to be an Xbox 360 gamer through and through, and thus perhaps my inclusion of the fourth full Halo game on this list shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. All the same, it’s hard to deny that what 343 Industries are doing with their first entry in the new Reclaimer Trilogy appears to be having a monumentally positive impact on the focus and direction of a fledging franchise. Far from simply relying on old assets and resurrecting the repetitive Human-Covenant war, the team are introducing whole new races and planets which threaten to completely shake up Master Chief lore as we know it.
Not that that’s a bad thing, of course. Indeed, the novels; comics and anime series were getting so convoluted in terms of the universe of the original three games that it may well be hugely invigorating for the series to get a spiritual refresh. Fans won’t miss the odd nod to the past here and there, and I’m sure 343 will be happy to please in terms of nostalgia, but this should serve as a brilliant jumping-on point for series newcomers. Halo 4 may even signal the direction that the first-person shooter genre will begin to take in the next-generation, and that’s very exciting indeed…(November 6th)
4. HITMAN: ABSOLUTION
Reports on the latest Hitman game so far have been mixed, as many ‘fans’ of the franchise have been claiming Absolution is straying too far from its roots. Surely innovation is just what the series needs in a time when critics are lamenting the lack of surprises games provide us with nowadays? Therein lies the fundamental paradox of the fanbase- can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Mass Effect exec Ray Mazuka once said that even if BioWare took in every request given by the fans to make the ‘perfect’ science-fiction game, their followers would still find something to criticise, and that rings very true in the case of many of 2012′s offerings.
Nevertheless, those willing to give Absolution a chance will likely find an astoundingly realistic stealth system put into play in large, functional gameplay areas where just about anything is possible. The trick of the trade is always to keep as many plot details as possible a secret, and in this respect IO Software aren’t failing either, leaving many of the narrative twists hidden until such a time when we have our hands on the product. It’s hard to tell completely how well Hitman: Absolution will fare, but there’s a strong chance it could be a game-changer (apologies for the pun) for the stealth genre, so it’s definitely one title that you might regret not taking note of soon! (November 20th)
5. FAR CRY 3
“What is he thinking?” I hear you ask, as I close an article supposedly based around the idea of future 2012 innovations with yet another franchise entry. Well, hold on a moment, because as with its predecessors, Far Cry 3 reboots the series once again into totally new territory, and as anyone lucky enough to play Spec Ops: The Line or watch The Amazing Spider-Man recently will know, that can often be a masterstroke on the part of its makers.
Taking place on a mysterious island where everything is up for stakes, the new instalment features a psychotic lunatic chasing you through the forests, the beaches and the sparse buildings into a murderous battle of wits and endurance that can’t end well for either the player or his foe. Worries of linearity might surface for such an intensely paced narrative, yet Ubisoft are way ahead of us there, offering infinite ways of approaching the various situations of gunplay and platforming that we will come across in the campaign. Throw in a completely seperate co-op campaign and a great online multiplayer component, and you’ve got yourselves the perfect way to conclude a truly fantastic year of video gaming. (November 30th)
And why should the fun end there? On top of those five must-play experiences, there’s still games like Sleeping Dogs; Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron; Borderlands 2; Family Guy: Back To The Multiverse; Need For Speed: Most Wanted; LEGO The Lord Of The Rings; 007 Legends; Forza Horizon; Fable: The Journey; Rayman Legends; LEGO City Undercover and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale to come for starters before year’s end. Even beyond Christmas, this generation still has some life left in it too, with BioShock: Infinite, South Park: The Stick Of Truth, Tomb Raider, Aliens: Colonial Marines and Grand Theft Auto V all to come before we even reach this time next year. Oh yes, 2012 still has plenty to offer, and the future is still bright for this generation.