Our Most Anticipated Games of 2009

With E3 2009 just around the corner, it seems like an appropriate time to outline the known games we’re excited to see released over the rest of the year. Though our staff hasn’t had access to these games in a professional, hands-on manner, our comments are based on scouring sources for factual elements with pieces of speculation and analysis tossed in. Enjoy.

The Sasquatch Trinity: The three most wickedly awesomest games to watch this year

Brutal Legend: [Double Fine Productions, Electronic Arts, Q3 2009]

Another Tim Schafer game, another memorable experience.

Double Fine’s latest has EA’s publishing power to hopefully encourage sales success instead of repeating Psychonauts’ commercial stagnation under Majesco. The ridiculous concept of the world’s greatest roadie, Eddie Riggs (brought to life by Jack Black), being transported to a heavy metal fantasy land by his belt buckle works because Schafer and his team have created a world that thrives on that very ridiculousness. But this metal homage wouldn’t work without legitimacy: Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead and Rob Halford from Judas Priest are playing major roles in both the game’s creative development and in voicing major characters. However, the undisclosed soundtrack is keeping legions of metalheads with perfect set lists swirling around their cerebrums waiting with bated breath. Will Double Fine’s licensing pull through?

While the gameplay at this stage sounds typical (think third-person portions similar to 3D Zelda titles, Crackdown and GTA), the polish visible in screenshots and trailers is already cranking this game up to “11” in the wit department. Brütal Legend also expands on Psychonauts’ third-person action-adventure formula with a reported 64 square-kilometer open world littered with metal album cover imagery and over-the-top characters.

Most of all, it looks fun.

Assassin’s Creed 2: [Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft, Q4 2009]

We here at the Silicon Sasquatch enjoyed the first Assassin’s Creed. It was a slow-burn title that offered more than the nagging comments of the Internet claimed it did thanks to its wonderful setting and interesting, if not average, plot. In fact, in the coming weeks we’ll post a Retrospective of the title with our team’s compiled commentary.

Generally, the investigation portions suffered the most flak from various reviews and message boards. Which brings us to Assassin’s Creed 2, the recently revealed , Renaissance-era sequel. Desmond’s next assassin ancestor probed by the Animus is one Ezio Auditore de Firenze, an (obviously) Italian nobleman. Details from the next Game Informerposted on a since-removed Ubisoft forum page mention that AC2 will do away with the more disliked investigation options (pickpocketing and eavesdropping) while adding variety to the mission mix. Taking place in Europe will be a great change of pace as well, though it’s worrisome to hear of “flying machine” elements and an apparent emphasis on more action–two hidden blades are, apparently, better than one.

Let’s just hope Desmond does something proactive this time around. Maybe this?

The Beatles: Rock Band: [Harmonix, Electronic Arts/MTV Games, see above]

It’s The Beatles. It’s Rock Band. Despite the currently scant details, we can definitively say this will be the game for music fans. Still, many questions need to be answered before the game’s September release. Will the graphical style be more realistic? Do players only take on the personas of the world’s most acclaimed band? If true, does that mean no one will pass up the bass anymore? E3 is only a couple of months away.

The title, which has been worked on by the music game masters at Harmonix for over a year, benefits from the creative input of the two living Beatles, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Even Yoko Ono and George Harrison’s family are lending their support to make the game as authentic as possible. Considering this experience focuses on celebrating the entire career of The Beatles and isn’t a one-shot Guitar Hero: Insert Band title, The Beatles: Rock Band can’t affort to slack off in the “feel” department at all.

In addition, George Harrison’s son, Dhani Harrison, has confirmed that unreleased Beatles audio content will make it into the game, almost making this Rock Band offshoot another Beatles Anthology project. This ties into the announcement that 14 of The Beatles’ albums, completely remastered in stereo and with other goodies, are dropping the same date as The Beatles: Rock Band. Will these new master tracks make it into the game? Without a doubt.

Fun fact: Two of our writers are confessed rhythm game fanatics and Rock Band addicts, while the other just wants to play “Revolution” on his plastic guitar.

Individual Picks

Aaron Thayer:

Champions Online: [Cryptic Studios, Atari, Q3 2009] Based on details alone, Champions Online could be the redemption of the superhero MMO concept. Cryptic’s team seems to have learned from their mistakes in City of Heroes by providing character itemization (costume pieces = loot!), more robust hero and villain customization and realtime, cooldown-free fighting.

Mafia II: [2K Czech, Take-Two Interactive, Q4 2009] The first Mafia in 2002 was the original open-world attempt at a realistic setting long before Niko Bellic came around. Mafia II changes the time period to the classic mobster era of the 1940s and 50s, but looks to keep the in-depth plot and cast while giving players a plethora of gameplay additions like faster cars with working trunks to store bodies and boomsticks. Nice.

Nick Cummings:

Modern Warfare 2: [Infinity Ward, Activision, Fall 2009]

It might be a bit audacious to put this at the top of my list. There hasn’t been any concrete information released about the game, unless poring over cryptic trailers is your thing, but as the company’s last game was the genre-revitalizing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, I’m expecting nothing but brilliance. Infinity Ward is going to great lengths to make this the definitive sequel fans have been waiting for (although Call of Duty: World at War was nothing to scoff at) by asking fans to submit suggestions for MW2 via a special Twitter site and hash tag.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: [Naughty Dog, Sony Computer Entertainment, Fall 2009]

I bought a PlayStation 3 for Metal Gear Solid 4, but I didn’t fall in love with the platform until I played Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. I’d had reservations after playing a pre-release demo at the Penny Arcade Expo in 2007 — the controls felt too loose, the environments too constricting — but just a few minutes with the retail release quelled all my fears. Uncharted was a beautiful, rich game of high adventure and sarcasm with just a dash of cheesiness. It was everything the new Indiana Jones film should have been, and the sequel, Among Thieves, aims to improve upon its predecessor in just about every way. It’s a tall order, but Naughty Dog is dead-set on delivering.

Doug Bonham:

Every EA Sports Title Released This Year: [EA Sports, Electronic Arts, various releases] Being a sports game fan, there’s always a new season’s worth of games to look forward to each year. This is of course true for the lineup from sports-gaming juggernaut EA Sports. Titles worth looking forward to include Tiger Woods 10 in June, NCAA Football 10 in July, and NHL 10 and FIFA 10 in the fall. Of course, seeing how Madden 10 turns out when that launches in August is a necessity as well.

The Bigs 2: [Blue Castle Games, 2K Sports, July 2009] Of particular note for sports games this year is 2K Sports’ The Bigs 2. The first one two years ago was a great piece of arcade sports gaming, right in the same genre as NBA Street as part of the second wave of arcade-style sports games. The sequel promises to pitch up more wicked yakkers when it launches in June, and is probably an Xbox 360 gamer’s best bet for baseball this year.

The Most Worrisome Games of 2009: Not all games are made equal.

Dragon Age: Origins: [BioWare, Electronic Arts, Late 2009]

BioWare’s announcement of Dragon Age: Origins heralded a return to its roots of high-fantasy roleplaying games like Baldur’s Gate. It’s cause for celebration for any hardcore RPG fan…on paper, at least. Sticking to strict old-school mechanics, like playing a mute protagonist, gives the impression that BioWare is developing a game around the rigid Advanced Dungeons & Dragons ruleset without even possessing the license anymore. After 2007’s stellar Mass Effect became a critical and commercial hit, it’s a little worrisome that BioWare seems to be throwing that game’s innovations out the window.

BioShock 2: [2K Marin, 2k Games, Late 2009]

One man does not a classic make, but there’s no dismissing the invaluable role Ken Levine played in the development of cult horror classic System Shock 2 and its spiritual successor, BioShock. His lack of involvement in BioShock 2 is a little disconcerting, but even more troubling is how uninspired the sequel looks in comparison to the stunning impression the first game had on all who played it. A return to Rapture isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but when the interface, enemies, Plasmids and weapons look nearly identical to the first game, why even bother making a sequel?