In 2012, while exclusive console titles were lacking in video gaming, one thing wasn’t: delays. But that’s for our past versions of our selves to worry about as our future selves are elated at the plethora of games ready to be released, and many big titles early on this year. It's possibly the last full year of the Xbox 360 and while the exclusive titles remain elusive, there are a lot of multi-platform and third-party games to fill the void… again.
Games on this list have a "good" chance of being released this year and aren't titles that may never see a release like "Half-Life 2: Episode 3." You can view last year's most anticipated games here.
10. Gears of War: Judgment
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Developer: People Can Fly, Epic Games
After every Locust, Reaper, and Flood is exterminated effectively ending a hero’s journey and trilogy, the question that follows is “what’s next?” There’s no reprieve or time for celebration, as gamers we’re impatient and ready for more and franchises “Gears of War,” “Mass Effect,” and “Halo” are too popular (and lucrative) to fade away. After saving the galaxy as Fenix, Shepard, and Master Chief, there’s no obvious path to take for each series, especially to fit within a cohesive story. For now, developer Epic Games is taking the prequel route, like Bungie did with “Halo 3: ODST” and what Sony's currently doing with “God of War: Ascension.” Loudmouth sidekicks-turned-main-characters Baird and Cole are in control of “Gears of War: Judgment” in a game that looks like “Gears of War 3.25” opposed to a full-fledged sequel. Consider expectations tempered, but still excited for more "Gears of War."
9. Dead Space 3
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Developer: Visceral Games
The “Dead Space” series hasn’t been about scares, outside of an occasional necromorph popping from the darkness to greet you while stealing your liver. The series is about atmosphere and intensity, creating pressurized situations defused by the player's ability to react. Moments like freeing your leg from a tentacle necromorph as it thrashes you against walls to drag you to be consumed or being swarmed by slashers within tight corridors with only a mining laser to protect you. Adding a partner for Isaac Clarke has a potential to kill the ambiance of “Dead Space 3” especially if newcomer John Carver has poor A.I. resulting in frustrating deaths or an actual human partner who finds it humorous to not render aid while your insides are being carved out.
However fears of co-op working in “Dead Space 3” were quashed just after the title was announced at E3 2012 thanks to the co-op demo. While watching the video, the scene reminded me of the “No Mercy” level of “Left 4 Dead,” where at one point the survivors are underground with only their flashlights as a light source. Desperation was felt as a horde of zombies swarmed the group following boomer belching bile leading to group being devoured and I felt the same feeling watching the "Dead Space 3" trailer. The enormous mining drill precariously swinging in a tight space, intermittently blocking the light source as necromorphs danced under the strobe-like effect as Clarke and Carver contended with it all. Okay, partners will work in “Dead Space 3.”
8. Dragon Age III: Inquisition
Release Date: None… yet
The first “Dragon Age” was a great role-playing game with multiple origin stories and a great, if not bloody, journey to a player-constructed ending. The follow-up, “Dragon Age 2,” felt like a lesser battle, but still a strong game with a few annoying quirks like repeating environments. The sequel felt similar to another Bioware sequel: “Mass Effect.” Bioware chose to streamline many of the battle elements and creating a faster and more uptempo action, but watering down the role-playing elements. In the third game, while not much is known, if Bioware continues the “Mass Effect” path with "Dragon Age III," it'd be ideal to see a return to the deeper role-playing system and expanded story paths to return. Otherwise, continuing the smartly and mature writing will undoubtedly bring another strong entry into the series.
7. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Release Date: August 20, 2013
Ever since a knife was introduced in “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory,” Sam Fisher continued his slide into badass-ness. Sam’s new sharpened tool and storyline decisions changed the gameplay complexion and resulting in a less-than-stealthy Fisher which is evident in “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist.” Much like a later game on this list, “Tomb Rader,” it’s not necessarily bad for a series to evolve and blur the lines between genres, but can turn-off hardcore fans of the series. Fisher hasn't put forth a poor effort to date and the quicker pacing the trailers seem to exhibit would be a refresher for the series if it can still retain the stealth elements that made Fisher such a deadly force.
6. Watch Dogs
Release Date: None… yet
Initial trailers rarely remain true to the finished product, or completely change like “Overstrike” changing to “Fuse,” which seemed to spoil its charm and good humor from the debut trailer of “Overstrike.” “Watch Dogs” was the thrill at E3 2012. An amazing mix of cinematic flair and intuitive gameplay, the trailer showcased a slick assassination through hacking and sneaky force. What made the game look so amazing was how concise and tight the story and gameplay with a mixing of events to keep a flow to it. Can it keep the entire game this well-scripted and tight through player interaction? A similar series, “Hitman,” is great when its parts work flawlessly together. When they don't, say an event doesn’t trigger and it devolves into a firefight despite meticulous detail, gamers will feel ripped off. But for now, if this game gets a 2013 release, it potentially could be a game of the year contender.
5. South Park: The Stick of Truth
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: March 5, 2013
As a kid, you wonder why your favorite cartoons don’t look like their counterpart video games until you discover “Dragon’s Lair” arcade game. Later on you realize “Dragon’s Lair” utilized the futuristic technology called Laserdisc and at best functions like a DVD movie. Today video games like “Rayman Origins” have tackled the cartoon look, but “South Park: The Stick of Truth” appears to be the game to mimic the look and feel of the source material, even if it’s high-definition animated cardboard. There is some hesitation as video game adaptations of cartoons, especially “South Park” licensed games, are usually terrible and significant gameplay footage has eluded us. But it’s all trumped when you have Matt Parker and Trey Stone fully on board with the writing and voice overs, who haven't lost their status as comedic geniuses as time passes (See NSFW music video from season 16. The worst you can say is it’s a catchy tune). It also doesn’t hurt that Obsidian Entertainment is developing, with a pedigree in role-playing games like “Neverwinter Nights 2,” “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords,” and “Fallout New Vegas.” A playable episode of "South Park" is an appealing idea.
Developer: 2K Games
Release Date: None… yet
It’s hard to list troubled projects as one of the most anticipated games in year because there’s always a good chance they’ll be delayed or cancelled (hopefully your not waiting for the “Last Guardian”), but “XCOM” has a chance thanks to two outside aspects: Firaxis Games and “Bioshock.”
Firaxis Games revitalized the defunct PC game series thanks to what many believe was last year’s game of the year, “X-Com: Enemy Unknown.” I concur as its high-quality addictiveness stemmed from stellar micro-management and team-based elements. It does fizzled out towards the end, which didn’t help from a lackluster story, but the ride is strong enough to overcome it. Reportedly, 2K Marin is developing the game as shooter, a departure from the strategy roots of the series, but 2K Marin worked on “Bioshock 2” and consists of members of Irrational Games, who worked on the first “Bioshock.” If the project can solidify, it has all the right parts to create a winner.
3. Grand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar Games
Release Date: Q2 2013 (most likely in late April to May like most other Rockstar Game releases)
Setting aside the notoriety and controversy that has long followed the series; “Grand Theft Auto” is a stellar series, mastering the open world gameplay and always boasting an surprisingly exceptional story. Since “Grand Theft Auto III,” the series has examined the American dream and the lengths people seek to grasp it, like an eastern European looking for a do-over, and ready to gun his way to it. “Grand Theft Auto V” boasts three main characters (without a single female lead still) that look to craft another long and well-told story.
If the series suffered anything from its near five-year long layoff, it’s emergence of legitimate contenders. Any outrageousness in “Grand Theft Auto” is mild after the “Saints Row” series emerged and while “True Crime” never truly challenged “Grand Theft Auto” (GTA), it’s spiritual successor “Sleeping Dogs” is a game that's closing in on GTA. Rockstar Games has stayed on top of the genre and industry thanks to its innovative choices and top-notch story-telling, so it’ll be interesting to see if it can continue its dominance in gaming.
2. Tomb Raider
Release: March 5, 2013
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Darker doesn’t equate better in gaming. “Prince of Persia” for the original Xbox was a wondrous tale with great time-bending gameplay, but the follow-up “Warrior Within,” to appeal to a broader audience went more violent and darker and the series lost much of its charm to me. Though “Tomb Raider” is deviating from its lighter action-adventure exploration path to a darker game with emphasis on third-person action and blood, the trailers have been nothing less than exhilarating. Existing over 15 years in video games, this younger Lara Croft is less focused on sex appeal and more on survival, trading her signature dual pistols, in both senses, for whatever is made available to her. It's evoking thoughts of “Uncharted” than “Tomb Raider,” but growing and evolving a series in a new direction isn't always off-putting. “Resident Evil 4” drastically changed the series from survival horror to action and one of the best games ever for me, so this newer, darker Croft, isn’t such a bad deviation.
If the trailers do reveal one aspect, Croft is certainly competing in a different type of body contest this year as she tries to break the most bones and lose the most blood of any other character on this list.
1. Bioshock: Infinite
Release: March 26, 2013
Developer: Irrational Games
Saying goodbye to Andrew Ryan’s underwater utopia Rapture is beyond just a scenery change or gimmick for the next stage in the highly-acclaimed “Bioshock” series. It’s the fresh approach the series is taking to prevent feeling too waterlogged as it continues to examine the power struggle of man taking to the city in the sky, Columbia, the imaginative classic American-inspired locale that beckons to be explored. Ken Levine and his team at Irrational Games craft immersive and wonderful, if not chaotic, worlds that could function as an old school point-and-click style adventure game without the danger and still be a highly-touted series, but the well-structured gameplay mechanics is additionally why the series is so unique and loved. With the promise of fluid combination of powers, exhilarating and deadly rides on the Skyline rail system throughout the city, and Songbird, Columbia's beefed-up flying version of the Big Daddy, it’s shaping to be a shooter well-beyond many others.
"Bioshock: Infinite" ditches the silent protagonist format to introduce Booker DeWitt and his damsel-in-distress Elizabeth. Undoubtedly the tight and compelling writing will flourish again with the new duo format leading to more back-and-forth chatter resembling chatty duos like the ”Prince of Persia’s” Prince and Elika rather than Sonic the Hedgehog and Tails. While the game has been delayed several times, it’s expected an early launch in 2013, so the wait for my most anticipated game for 2013 isn’t long.
Have any other selections you’re looking forward to this year? Be sure to add them to the comments section below.