And so it begins! After an onslaught of incredible releases at the end of 2011, the new year brings with it a whole new group of games to add to your GameQ. 2012 should prove to be a big year for gaming. The PlayStation Vita handheld launches next month, Nintendo's Wii-U will be out by the end of the year, and there are rumors swirling that Microsoft might give the press a first glimpse at its next system at E3 (Sony has stated you won't see a PS4 at E3).
In the meantime, there are a ton of big games for current systems due out this calendar year. Some have yet to be announced but can be expected, like another Call of Duty (from Treyarch, the creators of Black Ops), Assassins Creed 3 (starring a new hero in a new time period), and the next Medal of Honor, which was teased with a logo in the Battlefield 3 box. But for now, here's a look at some of my most anticipated games of 2012 and beyond.
Ken Levine's BioShock Infinite is set to arrive later this year.
The Mass Effect trilogy comes to an end this March.
The first big release of the year is the finale to one of this generation's best trilogies: Mass Effect. Designer Casey Hudson and the team at BioWare have promised an epic conclusion with Mass Effect 3, which will be available for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on the same date, March 6. While still a sci-fi RPG at heart, the team has worked hard to make the combat appeal to third-person action fans. The plot centers on a Reaper attack on Earth, and that means you and your squad will be fighting in familiar locations like London, as well as far-off planets like Mars. If an epic, branching single-player story isn't enough for you, Mass Effect 3 will also introduce multiplayer for the first time in the series' history.
Yes, 2012 will finally be the year of the next Diablo release from Blizzard Entertainment, Diablo III. It has been a decade since the last full Diablo, and fans got a quick taste of the new game last fall with a beta test. This time around, Diablo's loot-collecting gameplay is back with five classes of playable characters and a storyline that is rumored to take players from hell all the way to heaven. While the game is only set for release on the PC as of now, Blizzard has admitted that it is exploring the idea of a console release of a Diablo game down the road.
Next month signals the release of the PlayStation Vita handheld, Sony's follow-up to the PSP. My favorite launch title is one of the most ambitious handheld games you'll see: A full-blown Uncharted game designed specifically for PS Vita. Golden Abyss stars Nathan Drake as he searches for an ancient and secret Spanish sect. There are hours of new dialogue and cutscenes. No corners were cut here - this is a full blown Uncharted production (Naughty Dog approved the game, but it was designed at a Sony studio in Oregon). The action focuses more on exploration than pure gun-play, but the controls work well thanks to the two analog sticks on the PS Vita.
Before Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar Games is set to release a franchise they haven't touched in quite some time: Max Payne. First developed by Remedy Games in Finland, Max Payne 3 is the first time Rockstar's Vancouver studio is in charge of design and development. The location for Max's latest adventure isn't New York; it's the streets of Brazil. Long-time fans of the series will be relieved to hear that the often-imitated slow-motion Bullet Time effect is still included. I'm particularly excited about the game's multiplayer, which will be more story-driven than most action games.
The game has only been shown twice to the press, but that hasn't held back the hype on BioShock Infinite. The underwater confines of Rapture are replaced by Columbia, a floating city in the sky. While there are likely some links to the previous BioShock games, expect an all-new story with new characters, new politics, and entirely new gameplay. Much of the team's effort has been focused on building the emotional relationship between your character, Booker, and his companion Elizabeth, who has magical powers of her own. The game is monstrously ambitious, but designer Ken Levine vows it will be out in 2012.
Here's a game we know almost nothing about. Microsoft confirmed at E3 2011 that Halo 4 would be arriving in the fall of 2012. But, since then, there has been nary a drop of new info. Master Chief is front-and-center again, but Halo creators Bungie have stepped aside and handed the franchise over to 343 Studios, a brand new and unproven developer that works out of the same building where Bungie built Halo: Reach. Will they change the tried-and-true Halo formula of sandbox action and vehicle combat? We'll find out more this spring when the first real details are revealed and we get our first glimpse at actual gameplay.
No one knows if Grand Theft Auto V is coming out in 2012 or not, but the release of the first trailer last fall reminded fans that a new GTA is definitely in full development at Rockstar North in Scotland. The fact that Rockstar is calling this "Grand Theft Auto V" and not "GTA4: Los Santos" makes me think they have quite ambitious plans when it comes to both single player and multiplayer. But, with no release date and not even a confirmed name for the main character, fans will have to keep speculating for the time being.
That's it for this month, but next month I'll be back with a look at the launch of PlayStation Vita and some of the other news coming out of the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.