With the next Xbox possibly around the corner, 2012 could be the last hurrah for the 360, but will it be its biggest yearever? Ahead of a distinctly Xbox-themed week, here are a few of our most anticipated titles for Xbox 360 this year.
Mass Effect 3 – March 9
The conclusion to the biggest space opera of the decade draws ever closer, with the fate of Commander Shepard being revealed. The best part of this game is the fact that every player’s story will finish differently, as a result of countless decisions made through the previous two titles (presuming you played them, and if not, shame on you). Endless possibilities beckon, did you punch the journalist in the face? Did you release the space beast in ME1? Did you save whats-his-face’s wife? There’s new features, such as an added element of danger to the omni-tool with an added melee blade, and even slicker combat style with everything polished up from ME2’s leap forward. There might be a slightly uneasy multiplayer mode added, but with BioWare pouring everything into this final instalment, and with no Mass Effect 4 on the way meaning no loose ends to leave open, they will be sure to end Shepard’s story out with a bang.
A sequel which has been a long time coming, and from a new studio, the new Max Payne title keeps the spirit of the first two games with a more gritty edge – courtesy of Grand Theft Auto Kings Rockstar Studios (though admittedly a different branch to that creating Grand Theft Auto 5, also due this year, but the story is from the same lead writer). Always a broken character, Max is older, boozier and has a penchant for head-shaving in this game, which is set a few years after the events of The Fall of Max Payne. The signature bullet-time returns, with 360 degree shooting, as well as Max’s trusty painkillers. There’s also multiplayer on the cards, and with Rockstar calling the shots it’s sure to be something special, expect unusual game modes and there’s even dynamic maps which change in-play to contend with. With third person shooters quieter this year with no new Gears of War title, Max could well fill the void and deliver an out and out shooting-fest with real character.
Almost 30 years after the release of James Cameron’s film, the dreams of xenomorph fans across the world could well be answered in the form of Colonial Marines. While it may have lost its original squad-based shooter dynamic, the game is shaping up to deliver as strong an alien playing experience as well as letting you fill the shoes of machine-gun and flamethrower-toting marines. There’s no heads-up display, which should make for a more immersive experience, but there is some relief in the form of the signature gun-mounted motion-tracker. There’s new alien types available too, as well as the classic xenomorph and the face-hugger, there are ‘runners’ which are faster, scout-style aliens, and you can be sure the queen will make an appearance at some point. The game is set on planet LV-426, the same place where the Aliens film is set, but some time after, and it’s been confirmed the crashed ship from the first film will feature, suggesting plenty of fan service. There have been concerns about the ‘meaty-ness’ of the Aliens’ acid blood, but this is a franchise dear to the hearts of many, which should be ecouragement enough for developers Gearbox to get it right. The developers have a reasonable back catalogue – if you omit the misstep that was Duke Nukem Forever – having contributed to the Half Life series as well as Brothers in Arms and Borderlands, putting the game on course to deliver the experience fans have been waiting for.
From the depths of dystopian Rapture to the blinding heights of Columbia, BioShock Infinite will make you long for darkness. Another broken society, Columbia isn’t empty of life bar crazed slicers, but a functioning(ish – it has descended into warring factions) city with people milling around. One of those inhabitants is Elizabeth, who protagonist Booker DeWitt is trying to rescue from the city, which is a metropolis flying high above the Earth. Instead of walking around through corridors, you glide through the city on ‘skyrails’, as Elizabeth follows along behind. Reportedly an interactive AI, Elizabeth reacts to your actions, behaving differently depending on what you do. If designer Ken Levine is to be believed, then it should offer the most developed player to AI relationship in a game. Elizabeth isn’t just a follow-along companion though, since she has the power to reach through the fabric of space and time, but exactly how that will work is anyone’s guess. The game is far removed from the events of Rapture, with no Adam or Big Daddies to worry about, but Levine won’t confirm if and how the games are linked. Once everyone has worn out Skyrim, this is the game they will be moving on to for single player storytelling – something Irrational Games are known for.
The result of a genetic splicing experiment between Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Crysis 2, Syndicate could be the near-future set game of the year. In 2069 the world is controlled by corporations and business, and in the game, a re-boot of a 1993 strategy game in little more than name, you work for a syndicate – which the world is comprised of – and go around carrying out contract killings and other missions to protect the company. The real intriguing point is the Dart 6 chip, which allows you to hack into enemies and control them, causing them to shoot themselves or tell you everything you need to know, as well as more combat-based hacks, such as redirecting projectiles. The big feature is four-player coop, surely a standard in a squad-based game like this, and there are plenty of powered-up-hacker scenarios you can imagine being great fun with a few friends. The competitive multiplayer won’t hurt either.
What, no Halo 4?
That’s right, we aren’t too excited about Halo 4. It may be the game that made the Xbox, but that was a decade ago now, and we are begging for some new innovation. It might be that new studio 343 can come up with some fresh new ideas to re-invigorate the series, but for now it’s a franchise which is struggling to remain relevant, thought the multiplayer matchmaking is still something to be envied – DICE take note.
Stay tuned for more gaming news in the coming week.
James Michael Parry