Let’s face it, 2011 was one hell of a year for gaming. We saw a new Elder Scrolls, another great installment of Batman, some simply incredible shooters, the ambitious L.A. Noire, the Mortal Kombat reboot, and the mind-bending Portal 2, among many others. There was never a time to be bored when it came to gaming, and I still have a stack of unfinished games just waiting to be played. But now we’re face to face with 2012, and I’m convinced we may have an ever better year coming up. So here are the five games I look forward to the most in 2012:
I was a late-comer to this cell-shaded franchise they call Borderlands. I bought it used on a whim one day while looking for a good co-op game to play with my buddy B-Star. I anticipated another run-of-the-mill shooter like FEAR 3, but instead it turned out to be a strange and unique RPG that blew me away. Short on story but heavy on guns, this game was a blast to play, fighting more with my friend than the enemies over who could loot the fastest. It had a bizarre sense of humor and some truly original art, and we had fun playing days on end. Sure, the environments were all pretty much the same, and though there were thousands of guns, after a while the only differences were the stats, not the looks. The enemies weren’t very varied either, but as a first run, I could tell the developers had stumbled upon a promising concept. Now, with the second installment, they’ve promised to give us more of what made the game great, while building up an actual story and giving us more variety, and I think Borderlands 2 could very well be one of the most enjoyable games of this year. Plus, they say you can use beer bottles as silencers and hubcaps as machine-gun magazines, so that’ll be cool.
Max Payne 3
To be honest, I haven’t read a lot about this game, mostly because I know I’ll be buying it regardless. Max Payne is one of those franchises that I thought was long ago dead, and so I have mixed feelings about it’s resurrection. I played the first two on my PS2 years ago and had a blast with the bullet time (I was, after all, fresh off the Matrix), the gritty environments, and even that creepy dream level with the blood and baby crying. At the same time, I also wasted money watching that utter shit they called a movie, so who knows. Maybe they’ll find what made Max Payne great and give us a wonderful third installment, or maybe they’ll screw it up and Mark Wahlberg will direct it or something. Either way, I’ll buy it, I’ll play it, and I’ll rant and/or rave on here about it.
Grand Theft Auto V
Do I really even need to write anything here? It’s gonna be a brand new GTA, so of course everyone on the planet will be excited about this game. So far, all we’ve gotten is a teaser trailer and more speculation than the trading floor of a stock exchange, but that’s enough to get me really excited. The graphics look incredible and the detail is more than we’ve ever seen before in a GTA game. I remember the first time I ever played GTA 3 and thinking there was no way graphics could get any better. And then I think about this trailer, and I think “My God, this will be epic”. Plus, I can’t wait to see some frantic suburban moms on TV again wringing their hands about how video games are corrupting their precious snowflakes. It’s gonna give me limitless things to make fun of, and I can’t wait.
There are few games that give me that “feeling” like those in the Hitman series. That “feeling” where the world fades away and all you can focus on is the game. Where you’re hiding in a hotel room, standing above a body, hearing the murmurs of police just beyond the door, searching for an escape. They are slow paced, deliberate games, ones that force you to think in sinister ways. They are smart games, serious games that must be analyzed, looked at through different lenses, experienced and planned. Of all games that make you feel like the protagonist, the Hitman series may do it best, placing you in the shoes of a nameless killer, forcing you to assume the persona and do his deeds. I remember every level of the previous games simply because I lived in those levels, and it is rare for me to remember so much of a game so many years later. It is a sign of a wonderful franchise, and I have no doubts that Hitman: Absolution will be nothing short of incredible.
When Justice Scalia struck down a California law regulating violent video games, he got a lot right, but he erred in one major way when he said that video games still don’t amount to art. When confronted with a statement like this, I point first and foremost to the BioShock series, a franchise that has transcended the line between simple games with simple objectives (think Pong) and art. BioShock’s releases are not games. Sure, you control a character and use a controller, but that alone does not make something a game. No, you engage in art. You experience BioShock, you don’t play BioShock. You are forced to make complex moral decisions, you wander worlds beautifully and creatively rendered, and you engage with people and situations that draw you in more than most movies. Those that would say Thomas Kinkade makes art, and Irrational Games (formerly 2K) do not, truly do not understand art. Either that, or their senses are dulled beyond redemption. Nevertheless, BioShock: Infinite is going to take us away from the underwater “Utopia” of Rapture and catapult us into the cloud city of Columbia. I’ve seen the trailer, and it looks stunning. It looks like it will be set a little further back in time, more towards the Victorian turn-of-the-century time, and set in a steam punk world. I’m eagerly waiting to see where they go with this, and I’m certain it will be a strong contender for Game of the Year.
Call of Duty 9 (2012)