Here we are, at the final entry to our recap of the games we were most looking forward to this year. Back in November 2011, when we started voting for this list, there was obviously a lot that was still unknown about the release schedule and this final five entries are a good representation of the way the whole list shaped up.
There’s a game that’s out, a Vita launch title, a game which has become almost silent and two huge Q4 releases that were pushed back into February/March 2013. It’s like the story of 2012’s game release schedule in microcosm.
We’re starting with the game that’s already released. Not only is Starhawk out, its single player side is about to go free for PlayStation Plus members. The move to open up the solitary game experience to subscribers might be an indication that sales have tailed off now.
In reality, Starhawk never seemed to have the huge impact we wanted, or expected, it to have. It never tore up the charts and it wasn’t a major focus for the gaming media for more than a few days. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great game, though.
The single player campaign got a little repetitive but had some real stand-out moments of joy and that Build & Battle system was really smart way to add a bit of extra strategy to the shooting. It was always obvious that the multiplayer side was the focus, though. In that regard, Starhawk seems to have retained a fairly hardcore following without ever truly capturing huge audiences. That’s a shame, though, because it is really enjoyable.
Maybe its PlayStation Plus availability will breath new life into it.
4. Uncharted: Golden Abyss
This was the flagship title in the Vita’s launch window and the one which seemed to draw the most plaudits from fans. It was a decent instalment in the series, closer in its themes and appearance to Drake’s Fortune than either of the sequels.
The gyro aiming took a few moments to adjust to but soon became a great addition for precision shooting and although the touch controls – and that moment which required the camera and a strong light source – were a little bit awkward and tacked-on, they offered a bit of variation in a series which is rapidly becoming perhaps overly familiar.
Golden Abyss sold well, too, making it to the top spot in the UK charts on opening weekend. That’s a feat that hasn’t been repeated by a Vita title yet – although the presence of PSN Store versions might be accountable for that.
So it seems that our enthusiasm for Drake’s Vita outing was well warranted, it scored 9/10 in our review and when we threw it open to our community in our regular WeView feature, it was heartily recommended with a simple caveat of “it’s not as good as the PS3 versions”.
3. BioShock Infinite
When it comes to evoking atmosphere, there are few games as accomplished as those in the BioShock series. Infinite has been pushed back to a release at the end of February 2013 to give the team at Irrational a little more time to polish it up so it won’t be out this year as we’d hoped.
It’s not a direct sequel or even a prequel to the existing games. Infinite takes place at an earlier point in history but in a completely different location. Building on the ideas of Exceptionalism, it follows a former Pinkerton agent (Pinkerton was a private security company and detective agency in the US around the end of the 1800s). The game is set on Columbia, a giant floating city which has become the setting for a war between factions with differing ideologies and nationalistic views.
We don’t know a lot more about it than we did at the end of last year. The game skipped E3 and Gamescom this year but is, we’re assured, still on for that February 2013 global release date.
2. Tomb Raider
Although this was originally intended for a release at the end of 2012, like so many other titles it was pushed back to March 2013. In the time between that delay and now, Tomb Raider has had a bit of a rough ride.
The E3 demo for the game showed Lara as the victim of an attempted sexual assault. Coming weeks after Square Enix’s other big promotional effort for Hitman Absolution caused a huge uproar about sexism, this again sparked much debate in the games media. The furore was enough that developers gave responses claiming that there was no sexual assault at all and the company generally tried to back away from earlier claims that this scene was key to Lara’s character development.
Without much more context, it’s impossible to know how necessary or suitable that scene is to Tomb Raider so let’s leave our thoughts about it to one side for a moment and concentrate on the other aspects we’ve seen from this game so far.
It looks stunning, with fantastic visuals and a real sense of danger in early gameplay demos. Lara is much more vulnerable and human in this game which charts how she became the kick-ass relic hunter that we know and love. I think that has the potential to make for a much more engaging, interesting story and if Square can sidestep the controversies, Tomb Raider might just be one of my most anticipated titles of next year.
1. The Last Guardian
It’s still an ongoing project, according to the brief statements we’ve seen from off-the-record sources. But since the initial video leaked to the internet a couple of years ago, and we all got excited about a supposed release date this year, it’s been a downward spiral of disheartening news.
A couple of key figures have left SOny during the game’s development, including the executive producer, Yoshifusa Hayama and Fumito Ueda, Team Ico’s designer and director. Ueda still works on the project on a daily basis, as a freelancer and Sony is adamant that development continues, albeit at a “slow pace”.
The Last Guardian is still claimed as a project in development for this generation of PlayStation hardware but many are now speculating that, with no release window narrowed down and the game completely absent from the spotlight for so long, it must be being pushed back for the next PlayStation console.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed.