It’s nearly that time of year again. As I currently write this, all the windows in the house are open, and I’m nursing a serious Solero yearning. Mark my words though, in two month’s time, your local shopping centre will be decked in tinsel and everyone who works there will be driven crazy by Jingle Bells playing on a loop.
On the plus side, though, the traditional summer games drought is coming to an end, and blockbusters like Resistance 3 and Star Fox 3D are on their way in a matter of weeks. Looking past that, which big incoming games should you be really excited about? Which titles will you be tucking eagerly into on Boxing Day, in a hungover state while munching turkey sandwiches? Let’s take a look…
Mario Kart 7
This time last week, the 3DS had already been branded a failure by forum users everywhere. Overpriced, under gamed and unloved, according to some, Nintendo should have shot their latest handheld at birth. And then, this week, something happened and suddenly those forums are singing a different song. A price drop was announced, a ‘thank you package’ rolled out to existing users, and some exciting new releases given dates. Mario Kart 7 was one of those titles, and the confirmation of its launch this year has made a lot of people very happy indeed.
Scheduled to reach us in November, most who have tried the game describe it as evolution not revolution, and that’s just fine by me. The DS version was addictive fun, and ideal fodder for gaming on the go, and the tiny cartridge held just enough tracks and missions to provide many hours of kart racing goodness. Chuck in some spiffing use of 3D and new hanglider and underwater sections, and I’m sold.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
It’s amazing to think that we have so far seen only two games in the Uncharted series, spread out over the last four years. The main characters and mix of platforming and shooting seem so ingrained now it feels like we have known Nathan Drake forever. This year will see the number of games in the series double, however, as Uncharted: Golden Abyss hits the Vita (sadly not in the UK, which is why you won’t find it on this list), and the PS3 gets Drake’s Deception.
This time around, we join Nathan on the hunt for the lost city Iram of the Pillars, the cue for much desert exploring and amazing sand physics. Other parts of the game that have been seen so far include a very Helen Mirren-esque nemesis, an escape from a burning chateau, and another excellent multiplayer section. Could this be the pinnacle of PS3 gaming?
Gears Of War 3
Another series that feels like it has been around forever, in reality, it was back in 2006 that we first inhabited the ridiculously macho world of Marcus Fenix and Cole Train. Basically inventing the whole cover and shoot dynamic, or at least refining it, with the arguable recent decline in the Halo series, it remains the Xbox 360’s biggest exclusive IP.
The big new feature in GOW3 will be four-player co-op, something that will surely have gamers renewing their Live subscription at just the prospect. As someone who used to gather their friends together to play as their favourite Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle on the arcade game back in the day, this is something of a dream come true. When you add a raft of new playable characters, a reversed Horde mode where you play the Locust attacking COG members, and Mr Ice-T himself, you have a recipe for many late nights this winter.
Batman: Arkham City
Many people’s vote for game of the year 2009, myself included, Arkham Asylum came as a bolt from the blue. Although early looks had promised a lot, years of disappointing licensed titles led to most gamers holding their enthusiasm in check. They needn’t have worried, though, as the game’s heady mix of great writing, well designed levels and hidden extras made it an experience many will remember.
The sequel promises to top it in every way, from the number of super villains queuing up for a good kicking, to a playable Catwoman, and a more open world structure. This time the whole city has become an asylum, and you’re here to deliver the medicine.
Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Most of us sunk a serious amount of time into Oblivion. Released at the beginning of the rein of the 360 and PS3, it’s mixture of sandbox gameplay and meaty combat, was a lot of players’ first experience of an RPG, in the same way that Final Fantasy VII attracted a lot of PlayStation gamers into the RPG fold back in the 90s.
If one criticism could be levelled at the game, it would be that the fantasy world it’s set in is a little generic. The emperor is dead, you may be his heir, you must travel from the snowy north to the lush south to follow your destiny. Replace that with the horned helmets, pointy sticks, norse influences and the dragons of Skyrim, and we may have an even more popular follow-up. I’ll say that again in case you missed it. Dragons.
Super Mario 3D Land
The second big release for Nintendo this Christmas, Super Mario 3D Land is currently slated for release in December. I hope it doesn’t slip, because it’s certainly sizing up to be a fantastic mix of the old and the new.
Forget the sprawling levels and hub worlds of every Mario 3D game since Mario 64, this handheld experience sees a return to more compact platform-centric levels and flag-jumping not seen since the 80s. Heavily inspired by Super Mario 3, we also see the return of the racoon suit and airship sections. By all accounts, the 3D effect is particularly impressive as well, so this could be the game that changes the public perception of the 3DS for good. What’s the betting we may see a bundle combining this with the 3DS console in time for St Nick to squeeze it into stockings everywhere this Yuletide?
Let’s roll out the old comments to get them out of the way. Yes, this game plays like a cross between Fallout and Motorstorm. Hang on though, aren’t they two of the best games released in recent years? And isn’t id one of the most talented and experienced FPS creators out there? And you have quality shooting and racing in the same game? Okay, where do I sign up?
Set in a post apocalyptic future where an asteroid has destroyed all but a few pockets of resistance, the main focus of the game will be on its combat, and scavenging items to use in your fight against the factions competing for supremacy. The multiplayer aspect of the game will be based solely around its vehicles – a choice that has surprised many.
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Our third 3DS game, this one has again impressed many who have seen it. Gameplay is split between flying, Starfox type levels and ground-based shooting. Boss battles also seem to play an important part in proceedings. As someone who got hand cramps during Metroid: Hunters on the DS, the similar control scheme has me a little worried, but if Nintendo can pull that off, this might be perfect for quick blasts between Super Mario 3D Land.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
I knew you were waiting for it. Of course, the chances are this one game will outsell all of the others in this list put together, but will it be deserving of such popularity? Traditionally, the recent Call Of Duty games have all been about the multiplayer, with a balanced system of perks and killstreaks that makes the short single player aspect of the games sometimes feel like an afterthought.
This year, however, the single player seems to have been given a boost, with a plot which continues straight on from the last Modern Warfare game, with its focus on Russian ultra-nationalist and all-round bad egg Vladimir Makarov. Will it make any more sense than the story in the last couple of games? Doubtful. Wait – there’s a big explosion! Oh, you know you’ll end buying it.
Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection
Could one of this year’s biggest sellers be a re-release? From the talented chaps who coded the high-def God Of War Collection come three of the greatest games ever made, tarted up and released for your HD gaming pleasure.
Comprising the second and third Metal Gear Solid games, along with a conversion of the highly rated PSP game, Peace Walker, all three titles will be in HD, and all running at 60fps. Whether you’ve already completed all the titles, or you are new to this whole stealth thing, hands down this game will give you the most bang for your buck of any game on this list. If only they could have included the Twin Snakes version of the original Metal Gear Solid as well. It seems the best we can do is hope for a re-release of that for the 3DS or Wii U.