Even though we are just a few days into 2013, it's already clear that we are about to see an influx of incredible games over the next six months. With titles like Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us, and BioShock Infinite all expected to ship, you could argue that the first half of 2013 has a better lineup of frontline games than all of last year. If you don't want to go that far, it's still fair to say that the next few months will feature huge releases for all the major systems across a variety of genres.
Why is early 2013 so packed? The inside story is that developers and publishers are expecting a new Xbox and PlayStation later this year or in early 2014, and are thus doubling down to finish their last big Xbox 360 and PS3 games before buzz picks up on the next generation. The result will be a massive first six months for game releases, followed by some amazing new games and hopefully new systems at E3 this June.
There are more than a dozen big games coming out between now and June, but below is my list of the five games I'm anticipating the most. Send me your thoughts on Twitter @geoffkeighley or inside the GameFly App for iPhone where you can follow me.
Set in a city in the sky, BioShock Infinite promises a twisted and unexpected adventure.
Rockstar goes west for Grand Theft Auto V, set in Los Angeles.
Irrational Games has spent the better part of five years working on this follow-up to the original BioShock (the team didn't work on BioShock 2). Instead of setting BioShock Infinite in the underwater world of Rapture, designer Ken Levine has created an entirely new city in the sky called Columbia which may or may not be linked to the fiction of the original game. You'll play as Booker DeWitt, a man who's sent to this floating metropolis in 1912 and asked to rescue Elizabeth, a young girl with mysterious powers to alter the space-time continuum; this means she can create a tear in the universe, which transports her and Booker to a different time period. Players can expect a lot of first-person action and aerial combat on a series of roller-coaster-like skylines. But it's the world, the characters, and the storyline that will set BioShock Infinite apart. Delayed from last fall, the game is now due out in late March for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. I simply can't wait to play it.
By the time Grand Theft Auto V arrives this spring, it will have been five years since the release of the last GTA. In other words, fans are very eager to play this entirely new GTA that is set in Los Santos, Rockstar's version of Los Angeles. While much of the game remains shrouded in secrecy, Rockstar has announced that you will play as three different characters throughout the story: Michael, a former bank robber; Trevor, his psychotic ex-partner; and Franklin, a repo man. Rockstar promises that the storylines of the three characters will intersect throughout the game. In fact, during some missions you'll get to pick which of the three protagonists you'll play while the other two are controlled by the CPU.
If that isn't enough, Rockstar has been teasing an incredible number of features, vehicles, animals (players can now have a pet dog or can swim with sharks, for instance), and of course multiplayer, which hasn't been discussed yet. You've got to hand it to Rockstar: GTAV sounds like the most ambitious open-world game ever attempted. Knowing their track record, they will likely pull off a game that is not only huge but also richly detailed and incredibly fun.
The only entirely new game on this list comes from one of the best developers on the planet: Naughty Dog, creators of the Uncharted franchise. This Los Angeles-based developer shocked fans by announcing that it would follow up Uncharted 3 with The Last Of Us, a post-apocalyptic story about two survivors, Joel and Ellie. With a more subtle tone than Uncharted, you will fight off the infected and the survivors across various parts of the US. You'll always assume control of Joel (Ellie just follows along), but the team behind the game is promising a number of twists that have yet to be fully revealed. For instance, a recent trailer strongly hinted that there will be horseback riding sequences. Also expect some very intense combat moments where Joel and Ellie won't have the kind of unlimited ammunition that players are used to in most third-person shooters. The Last of Us is mysterious and completely different than anything else coming out in 2013.
Although she is one of the most recognizable game characters of all time, Lara Croft hasn't starred in a big-budget Tomb Raider game for quite some time. In March, the developers at Crystal Dynamics hope to change that with a complete reimagining of Tomb Raider. With gameplay reminiscent of Uncharted, Tomb Raider casts you as a young Lara who is shipwrecked on a Japanese island at the age of 21. You'll journey alongside Lara as she learns to survive and uncovers the mystery of the island and its inhabitants. Although past Tomb Raider games have been known for somewhat sloppy combat, the developers have spent years engineering a game that's competitive with today's modern action titles. On that note, Crystal Dynamics also recently announced that there will be a full-blown multiplayer mode alongside the single-player story.
Hideo Kojima has partnered up with famed Japanese developer Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Vanquish) for a decidedly different Metal Gear game due in February. Gone are the stealthy tactics of Snake in favor of cyborg ninja Raiden's sleek sword slashes in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. In a story set four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4, you'll go up against a private military company. The 60 frames per second action is over the top, as is the "slicing" mechanic that lets you use the Right Analog Stick to dice up the limbs and bodies of enemy cyborgs (and yes, it is rated M for Mature if you haven't guessed already). There's a certain absurdity to the action in this game, like the level where you jump on a series of rockets coming at you like stepping stones so you can destroy the helicopter that's firing them at you. Metal Gear fans love Kojima's action sensibility and based on what I've played, Revengeance will be exactly the kind of insane action game fans expect from the series.