Our Most Anticipated Games (for the rest of 2010)
Another year is nearing its inevitable end, and we couldn't be any happier about it. Although 2010 has already played host to a plethora of amazing and potentially award-winning video games, it's not quite time to start hedging bets for the game of the year. Read on for our staff's own list of noteworthy releases that you should be excited for.
Sid Meier's Civilization V
September 21st -- Windows
I'm a late bloomer when it comes to strategy games, and it pains me that it took me so long to understand what makes the Civilization series one of the most cherished in the history of video games. Even though I've had a variety of friends bursting to tell me all about their fantastic strategies and the hilarious anachronisms that have arisen in the matches they've played across the entire series, it took an iPhone port of Civilization Revolution to offer me a gentle enough learning curve to work up the confidence to take on the "real" series. A couple dozen hours later, and I think it's safe to say that I'm a Civ 4 devotee.
But with some clever gameplay tweaks and some borrowed lessons from both Civ 4 and Revolution, Civ 5 looks like it'll offer the best of both worlds: the depth and scale of classic Civ with the accessibility and streamlining of Revolution. Add in full Steam support and you've got a veritable crisis waiting to happen for law students, newlyweds, and anybody with the faintest hope of maintaining a regular sleep schedule. -- Nick Cummings
Formula 1 2010
September 22nd -- 360/PS3/Windows
This is a game that will probably not receive much hype in the United States. Developed by Codemasters and built on the engine that powers its other racing franchise, Dirt, this is the first Formula 1 game for Xbox 360 and the first for PS3 since 2007. Videos and preview coverage from Gamescom in Germany lead me to believe this will be a fast, fun and gorgeous title.
More importantly for fans of racing games it promises to do something more interesting with its career structure. The off-track politics, rumor mills and movements in real Formula 1 are almost as interesting as the on-track racing; Codemasters has tried to reproduce that for F1 2010. You start at a lower team, trying to meet low team standards — you’re not expected to win with the worst car on the grid — and advance from there. If you make it into a top team, you’ll then be expected to challenge for race wins and the championship. If the handling engine lives up to the promise, this could be the best racer since Forza 3. -- Doug Bonham
NBA Elite 11
October 5th -- 360/PS3
The sarcastic answer to the question of "Why NBA Elite 11, Doug?" would be, “Because it’s how I can play NBA Jam on next-gen consoles.” And that’s partially true — NBA Jam promises to be an excellent remake of one of my favorite sports games of all time, with nice graphical and roster updates. I’m sure it will become a multiplayer favorite soon enough.
However, that doesn't take away from what Elite can become. This is the third EA Sports franchise to undergo a hard reboot in recent years, and the other two (NHL and FIFA) have become the high-water mark for their respective sports. Elite also happens to be developed by EA Vancouver, who is responsible for those other two series, and also features the producer who led the NHL revamp. I know that I play the hell out of sports games with franchise modes, and in a fall heavy on games but light on budget, if NBA Elite turns out well, I’ll get my money’s value — even before Jam is factored in. -- Doug Bonham
Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley
October 6th -- Xbox Live Arcade
Having made a name for itself with popular downloadable games like The Maw and 'Splosion Man, Twisted Pixel is set to release its third original game -- "original" being the key word in that phrase. Perhaps better than any other small developer, Twisted Pixel has infused more character and humor into its ten-dollar downloadable games than can be found in most big blockbuster titles. With Comic Jumper, Twisted Pixel seems determined to raise its bar for absurd hilarity to dizzying new heights.
The game stars Captain Smiley and his sidekick, a star-shaped thing embedded in his chest (who happens to be named Star). They're tasked with battling the good captain's arch-nemesis, Brad, across several iconic comic book styles, including the Silver Age, manga, fantasy and modern. Based on the short time I had with it at PAX, it seems like the Twisted Pixel folks are still thoroughly out of their minds -- and that can only mean good things for their games. -- Nick Cummings
Fallout: New Vegas
October 19th -- 360/PS3/Windows
Fallout 3 was a revelation. Bethesda absolutely nailed the classic series' transition from isometric 2D to awe-inspiring 3D. A game I spent a combined 150 hours playing across multiple characters says something of the quality of development. New Vegas may have been handed over to Obsidian, a studio with a spotty track record of delivering stable and worthwhile software, but it has Bethesda peering over its shoulder to (hopefully) keep the best parts of Fallout 3 alive in this full-fledged follow up. Don't get me wrong: I thought Obsidian's work on Knights of the Old Republic II was fantastic -- the arguably better storyline made its mark and showed the team's writing chops -- and I can't deny the positive critical reception of Neverwinter Nights 2 and its bevy of expansions. I'm only worried for the next installment of one of the best titles to come out this generation.
However, New Vegas has a lot going for it; be it the vivid neon Nevada landscape, the improved companion AI and significant gameplay additions like iron sight aiming and political affiliations with three different area factions. Considering I would have kept opening my wallet for extra Fallout 3 DLC until Fallout 4, I'll go ahead and place my bets and take a chance on Fallout: New Vegas.
Now say it with me: Big money, no whammies. -- Aaron Thayer
October 26th -- 360/Windows
Peter Molyneux, the head of Lionhead Studios and the lead designer for the Fable series, is nothing if not enthusiastic about his games. While many gamers had reason to chide Molyneux’s over-optimism after the first Fable, 2008’s Fable II was a different story. It might not have been perfect, but Fable II had a solid story and combat, and provided players with many ways to engage the game’s world.
Most importantly, though, it was incredibly fun and had very well-designed emotional moments. Fable III’s concept of rising to power, overthrowing the government and then having to deliver on promises is incredibly novel, and it also looks to provide more of the challenging aspects that made Fable II memorable. It may not provide the emotional impact that Molyneux is promising, but I'm looking forward to seeing how close the final game is to Molyneux's pie-in-the-sky vision. -- Doug Bonham
I don't understand why a vocal minority of gamers has been allowed to cast such a dark pall over the entire Fable series. Some people are just incapable of looking past Molyneux's boasts to accept the core product for what it has always been: inventive, imaginative and interactive. Countless designers make overblown claims about their projects, but sitting at the top of this entitled-gamer negativity pile is the work of Peter Molyneux. Oh well: I don't buy into it. Unfounded criticism won't, for me at least, detract from the great likelihood that the third Fable title will be a substantial improvement over the last one -- and you can quote me on that.
If the Lionhead team was capable of making me care about a virtual canine in 2008, I can only salivate at what they will do in 2010 with an entire royal hierarchy and political undercurrent at my fingertips. With additional polish seen in the improved graphics, tweaked combat, an upgraded dog companion and a less-cluttered menu interface, a throng of issues keeping Fable from becoming an even more exciting experience have been handled. Honestly, I'm so eager that common economic sense has failed; Fable III might just be the one special edition package I purchase this year. -- Aaron Thayer
Rock Band 3 & Dance Central
October 26th (RB3), November 4th (Dance Central) -- 360/DS/PS3/Wii (RB3), 360 with Kinect (Dance Central)
Harmonix is serving up a double-header of games this fall, beginning with what might be the closest a game can get to simulating a real-life band experience. Rock Band 3 is bringing a bajillion small tweaks to the formula I'm so intimately familiar with, but the biggest changes have to do with the new instrument lineup. For the first time, keyboards will be playable thanks to a new keytar-like peripheral. But that wouldn't be exciting if it weren't for the addition of the game's pro modes. Essentially, the pro modes attempt to bring the game as close as possible to playing real instruments by differentiating between tom and cymbal hits on the drums, mapping out a full two octaves of playable notes on the keyboard, and even integrating support for a real Squier guitar as a controller. And with the option to plug in any MIDI-compatible instruments you might have on hand, the lines between game and actual music practice really begin to blur.
But as much as Rock Band 3 is about refining an established concept, Dance Central appears to be all about introducing a brand-new one. By accurately tracking a player's movements and limb positions, Dance Central is designed to get anybody dancing -- provided they have the guts to step up and give it a shot. A highly intuitive interface helps the player to visualize dance moves quickly, and by highlighting body parts that aren't matching the current step, it also allows for fast and easy self-correction in my experience. It seems like a surefire hit for parties, but whether it'll be enough to sell Kinect to the skeptics remains to be seen. -- Nick Cummings
November 16th -- PS3
To be honest, the first LittleBigPlanet bored me. I didn't have a great time because I was thrown into the hectic four-person multiplayer with no previous training, and I had to cope with what I still feel is an awkward use of physics-based jumping. A platformer that can't jump well isn't much of a platformer at all.
But I'm no curmudgeon: Charm exudes from Media Molecule's brainchild -- it's cute and cuddly, but it also encourages cunning and cutthroat co-operative play. This is what I'd call a "smart" game. If players use their brains and imagination, an entirely new world will open up to them. The "Play, Create, Share" tagline is a marketing tool, sure, but it's also a real concept, and LittleBigPlanet 2 is evolving the already impressive design tools present in the first to embolden the control available to creative types.
As a new PlayStation 3 owner, it behooves me to support exclusive titles that go beyond the requisite elements of more blood, more violence and more banality. Looks like I'll have to shell-out some cash for more controllers. -- Aaron Thayer