The Last Guardian
Fumito Ueda doesn't make a lot of games, but when he does they're doozies. The mind behind PS2 classics Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus makes the leap into the current generation with his new game The Last Guardian, which looks to combine aspects of both his previous titles - the companion-oriented exploration of Ico and the giant animal interaction of Colossus.
The player takes control of a young boy trying to escape a huge castle. Early on, you free a giant creature that looks like a feathered dog, and from then on he serves as your partner in crime. But you can't control him directly - he's an animal, after all - so you need to find ways to communicate with him and direct his actions.
Everything we've seen from this game looks incredible, and we can't wait for it to drop in late 2011.
Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
Some of the games on this list are going to be absolute agony to wait for, with uncertain release dates months in the future. And then there's Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, which will be in our sweaty little hands in February, if all goes well. That's still almost too long!
It's been over 10 years since Marvel Vs Capcom 2 was released, and since then a lot has changed in both the Capcom and Marvel universes. This sequel uses the 3D graphics on a 2D plane that worked so well in Street Fighter IV, and preserves the amped-up, combo-crazy action of the previous games. The mix of characters is eclectic and awesome, from fan favorites like Wolverine and Ryu to cult heroes like Arthur from Ghouls & Ghosts and M.O.D.O.K.
Preview videos have been insane, and we expect to waste dozens of hours on this one. It's so pringles!
Duke Nukem Forever
It's almost a joke at this point - Duke Nukem Forever has been cooking since 1997. Original developers 3D Realms just couldn't produce the damn thing, leading to the company being downsized and the entire dev team being cut in 2009. Publisher 2K Games was pretty much sick of the whole deal, so they ripped the franchise from its creator's hands and handed it over to Gearbox, developers of Borderlands.
And you know what? The game looks pretty damn sweet! Maybe Duke is just what we need as an antidote to the BLOPS of the world - just a guy who came to kick ass, chew bubblegum, and steal lines from movies. We'll find out when the demo drops early this year.
I have some reservations about Rockstar's shift away from sandbox and emergence to more scripted narratives, but L.A. Noire looks to be their best effort yet.
Set in a photorealistic Los Angeles of 1947, the player takes control of a detective played by Aaron Staton from Mad Men - yes, you heard me right. The game is "acted," using an incredibly sophisticated system of motion-capture and physics simulation. The facial animation is by far the best I've ever seen, and the developers promise that a major part of the gameplay will be reading expressions and ferreting out lies.
It still remains to be seen if the writing and gameplay will match up to the graphics, but I have high hopes.
Some of the games on this list are big-budget sure hits, no denying it. But some of our picks are some under-the-radar ones. Case in point: Catherine.
The latest entry from the company that gave us the Persona series, Catherine is a bizarre adventure unlike anything we've ever seen. As Vincent, a semi-nerdy shut-in, you find yourself in the middle of a bizarre string of unexplained deaths, weird dreams, and a love triangle with two women named Catherine and... Katherine.
Part graphic adventure, part action-puzzle, all bizarre, Catherine looks to be a cult classic.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Fans of the Deus Ex series are hard ones to please - and for good reason, as the first game broke down many of the boundaries we associate with first-person shooters. Open-ended scenarios that let you explore tons of options, from sneaking to ultraviolence, made it a game with aeons of replayability. The sequel, Invisible War, lost a lot of what made the first game good. So the third installment, Human Revolution, has a lot to live up to.
Set 25 years before the original game, Human Revolution makes concessions to modernity with regenerating health, but the designers promise that the essence of the original will remain, with an unprecedented amount of choice as to how you play the game. At first we were like :| but now we're like :), as the kids say. Maybe when the demo drops we'll be like :O.
Long-time gamers know the name of Eric Chahi, the French designer responsible for his classic cinematic platformer Another World, which he developed almost singlehandedly. It's been thirteen years since Chahi released a game, but that time wasn't wasted. His new game, From Dust, looks absolutely gorgeous.
A "god simulator" in the vein of Populous, From Dust casts you as the nigh-omnipotent protector of an island nation, terraforming the land and helping the natives prosper while dealing with natural disasters and other threats. The game looks absolutely gorgeous and the real-time control over every particle of the environment is unprecedented. We can't wait to get our hands on this.
Gears Of War 3
Oh, like we wouldn't be excited for Gears 3? There's so much about this game that's going to rock, I don't even know where to start. How anbout four-player co-op? Controllable mech armor that lets you stomp around the battlefield popping Locust suckas like woah? New weapons? New enemies? New game modes, including the much-hyped Beast mode that lets you control a horde against COG soldiers? The voice of Ice-T?
Well, maybe that last one isn't such a selling point, but bear with me. Epic works harder to polish and balance their games than almost any developer on Earth, and it comes through in the games - they're just pure visceral shooter enjoyment that continues to improve.
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
From the second sequel to one of the Xbox 360's franchise titles to the second sequel for the PS3's, it's a good time to be closing out a trilogy. The Uncharted games have done nothing but improve, and Naughty Dog looks poised to bring the adventures of Nathan Drake to some exciting new places in 2011.
This adventure takes Drake on the search for a legendary lost city in the Arabian Peninsula, focusing on the Rub' al Khali Desert. Moving away from the jungle and alpine environments of the previous games, previews have shown awesome, sandy environments that look like they'll pose a completely new challenge. The game's combat system has gained some upgrades as well, with Drake now able to engage multiple enemies at once.
But what we're really in this for is the invigorating climbing and platforming sequences, which take setpiece design to spectacular new levels. Nobody does this quite like Naughty Dog.
The Last Story
So in 1987, Hironobu Sakaguchi created Final Fantasy. Obviously, that title wasn't accurate, as we've seen something like a bazillion Final Fantasies since then. Since Sakaguchi left Squaresoft and founded Mistwalker, his new studio, he hasn't had nearly as much success. Maybe it's the finality?
Thus, The Last Story. Sakaguchi's new RPG for the Wii drops in Japan in January and looks pretty fascinating - a classic JRPG with a team of mercenaries journeying to a distant island to look for work, the combat is closer to MMORPG-style, with enemies roaming in real-time and your party only partially under your control. There are some classic weird Sakaguchi-isms in store as well, including a gun that shoots banana peels that you can use to prank townsfolk.
Oh, and amazingly for the Wii, the game also has some online functionality, including a 6-player competitive arena and even co-op. Dust off your Friend Codes!
It feels sort of weird ending this list with a sequel, but let's face it: when a game as influential as Portal gets a second number, we pay attention.
The first game opened up the FPS world to some brain-bending puzzle ideas, with its simple central mechanic (a gun that shoots holes) used in a variety of fascinating ways. The sequel is shaping up to be something more. Not content to just release a level pack, Valve is throwing a bunch more stuff at the wall. Set hundreds of years after the first game, protagonist Chell is awaken from suspended animation to run through another series of tests from GLaDOS.
But this time she has more tools besides the portal gun at her disposal - special gels that change the physical properties of objects, tractor beams, reflective cubes, and more will be needed to solve the game, which is estimated to be twice as long as the original. Oh, and did we mention co-op? It has co-op.