A new year means new games, lots of them. The avalanche of high quality releases continues to have momentum, making the last few years some of the best that our industry has experienced. 2013 should be interesting for a couple of reasons. Foremost, you have the Wii U, a newcomer console that is embracing current performance specifications while introducing yet another new (Nintendo) way of interacting with games via the tablet-like GamePad. This year may also, if the rumours are to be trusted, see announcements made regarding the next (next) generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony. Then you have the PC, which -- despite all doom and gloom of the last couple of years -- stands at the beginning of what could very well be its biggest year ever.
Some of 2013’s multiplatform releases look amazing, but let’s forget them for a little bit, perhaps save them for a different feature. In this space, we are interested only in the platform exclusives across consoles, PC and handheld (inclusive of digital distribution).
But even with this narrowing of focus, the list is rather long, so we’ve handpicked the games that we feel are the most interesting, those that look to offer bang for your buck as well as the liberal massaging of your thought centres. Different titles will of course appeal to different people, and quantity certainly does not equate with quality, so as you read through the following allow your own tastes to be the judge of who might come out victorious in the ever messy battle of exclusives.
Honestly, things are looking shaky for Microsoft in the exclusives armoury (at least on the current
system). It seems that third-party titles are going to be heavily relied upon this year. The only major exclusive release is Gears of War: Judgment
. Set 30 days after Emergence Day, Judgment follows the story of Kilo squad, which includes two familiar faces in the forms of Cole and Baird. It’s being developed by People Can Fly, who have some experience with shooters from the likes of Painkiller and Bulletstorm. Judgment’s storyline will follow Kilo squad’s encounter with a Kantus monk named Karn, a particularly nasty general who has much human blood beneath his belt. New enemy types and executions are promised plus a new multiplayer mode called Extraction. The story looks like it will be told largely in flashbacks, with voice-overs from each character, as Kilo squad faces judgment (thus the title) for some yet to be revealed crime.
What of Destiny, Bungie’s next big thing? Well, nothing has been officially announced as yet, but the rumours suggest that it should launch in 2013 and that it may well be a timed exclusive for the 360 (as in, it then moves to PS3 and PC a year after release). We’ll chalk it down as a “maybe”. We thus turn to downloadable offerings on the 360, with XBLA also expecting a drought when it comes to exclusives (we’re pretty sure you don’t want to hear about Kinect bowling and ping pong). A few titles stand out as looking potentially great, though. The first is Crimson Dragon, brought to you by the original team behind Panzer Dragoon. It’s an on-rails shooter and features body movement using the Kinect. Your right hand is used to scan areas and mark enemies, with attacks initiated by moving your hand back and throwing it forward. Your left hand is used for subskills while action skills require both hands. With different dragons to fly, skills to unlock and online co-op, it sounds daunting but fun, assuming the Kinect controls are calibrated tightly.
Another cool looking XBLA release is Matter, primarily because of its relationship with Hollywood. It marks the entrance into games for Gore Verbinski, director of The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean and Rango. Not much has been shown of Matter, other than that it looks like a cross between Portal and Tron, with the main characters being spheres that roll around and, we presume, solve puzzles in some manner. It’s not Verbinski’s only connection with gaming -- he was set to direct the BioShock movie but has since moved to producer on that project. Keeping with the Tron theme, our final gaze into the 360’s future ends with LocoCycle, an enigmatic downloadable title from the creators of ‘Splosion Man and The Gunstringer. It will reportedly feature I.R.I.S., a futuristic sentient motorcycle that can perform combat moves and speak multiple languages.
The PS3 is looking a bit healthier, with a steady handful of strong exclusives on the way. First up, releasing this month, is Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, a JRPG developed in collaboration by Level 5 and Studio Ghibli. It looks very safe, relying heavily on player nostalgia for the genre, but it also looks gorgeous, with enough charm to melt even the most serious of hearts. Next up is God of War: Ascension
, the first title in the series to feature multiplayer. Ascension will be set before all other God of War games and will feature some new gameplay mechanics. The most interesting of these is the inclusion of prompt-less QTEs, which will allow the player to time attacks rather than be locked into specific button presses. Hardly revolutionary, we know, but God of War pretty much popularised the now maligned QTE so it might feel a bit strange at first.
The Last of Us
is on everyone’s wish list, and for good reason. Naughty Dog’s survival title is looking to follow Uncharted’s Hollywood aspirations with some truly brutal gameplay situations. The story will focus on Joel and Ellie, two survivors moving through wasteland America, encountering other survivors both friendly and foe. The game’s story focuses on protecting Ellie and getting her away from strict quarantine zones. This means flirting with infected humans who seem driven to infect others with an apocalypse-causing fungal disease, as well as interacting with other scavengers and survivors. Our main hope for The Last of Us is that it is not too scripted and that Joel has a broad enough move set to allow for varied stealth and combat solutions.
Rounding out Sony’s bids for 2013 are a bunch of lesser recognised titles. BEYOND: Two Souls
is David Cage’s next project and centres on the topic of what lies beyond death. Its story will follow Jodie Holmes (voiced by Ellen Page) throughout her life. There has been strong hinting at some kind of spiritual entity that exists alongside her. Knowing Cage, we can expect a heap of weird but exciting situations. Fingers crossed he’s worked out how to tone down the QTEs but maintain the tension.
Yakuza 5 is also looming. For those of us with less than 100 hours per week of free time, this will likely pass without interest, but there seem to be a lot of gamers out there who enjoy sinking more time than is healthy into the Yakuza series. JRPG fans also have more to look forward to with Tales of Xillia, which has reportedly sold over 740 000 copies in Japan where it was released over a year ago. Then you have Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
, which technically breaks exclusivity rules by also being slated for the Vita, but we’ll include it here under the Sony arm. In fact, if you buy a copy for PS3, you’ll automatically be afforded a version for the Vita, as part of Sony’s Cross Buy initiative. Sly will be taking some influence from Telltale’s LEGO games, with various costumes giving him certain powers and abilities, which will be needed in earlier areas to unlock secrets. It runs the risk of being anachronistic, but there aren’t many, if any, decent open platformers around lately, so perhaps Sly will find his niche.
At first glance, the Wii U’s exclusives do little to move non-adopters towards jealousy. Dig a little deeper, though, and some of them may elicit a tremor of interest. The biggest exclusive for the Wii U is Bayonetta 2, which is an astoundingly strange thing in itself, particularly given the hardcore slant of the original. The reason can be attributed to the fact that SEGA had no interest in coughing up the cash to develop a sequel. Nintendo did, and so we have perhaps one of the strongest reasons for action fans to get a Wii U. Nothing more is known yet beyond that Bayonetta 2 is a thing, it will likely be very good and many fans of the original will miss out on enjoying it.
To be fair, while Sony and the PC look to be coming out ahead in the exclusives department in 2013, there's still not a lot known about Microsoft's new platform. Rumours suggest we'll hear about it sooner than E3, and there's a very good chance they'll come out of the gates with some pretty solid exclusives in tow. However, these most likely won't see the light of day until the system is released and traditionally that happens during the year-end holiday period. This does leave us wondering what the Xbox 360 exclusives hold-up is, especially if their next foray is backwards compatible, but until they officially reveal all, we just can't speculate. The same can also be said of Sony and the PS4, really.
Platinum Games is not resting on just one exclusive for Nintendo, but is also developing The Wonderful 101, a “mass hero action” title that sees players controlling groups of superheroes inside a large city. You can be assured that it will be weird and possibly wonderful, with gameplay inspired by Pikmin. You will use the GamePad screen to command heroes to form into certain shapes, such as a large fist or sword in order to fight enemies and solve environmental puzzles.
The rest of Nintendo’s exclusive are predictable. Pikmin 3
will excite if that’s your kind of thing, with the addition of new gameplay elements such as rock Pikmin who will be able to crack the hard shells of enemies and smash through barriers. The GamePad will track Pikmin in real time across the map and allow you to touch an area for much quicker navigation. Wii Fit U is also on the horizon (yawn) and Game & Wario, a minigame collection that will only use the GamePad.
Two other Nintendo exclusives look potentially very fun. Traveller’s Tales division TT Fusion is handling development of LEGO City Undercover
, an open-city title that has full licence to use the LEGO City brand. Gameplay will reportedly be similar to Grand Theft Auto, with the difference being that the main character is in law enforcement, travelling about the city chasing criminals and no doubt smashing apart everything in sight to collect LEGO studs. It will be interesting to see how TT go without a more well known franchise to work with. Rayman Legends is a direct sequel to Rayman Origins. It will be certain to feature more Lum-capturing adventuring, this time with a time travel theme. Four player co-op will also be included, with the ability to also control one character using the GamePad to assist others by cutting ropes, grabbing enemies and collecting Lums.
2012 was a year that cemented mobile gaming as a space to most definitely watch. While we’re yet to experience much depth from an iOS or Android game, there’s no denying that it represents the most active and experimental arena. While upcoming phone games are difficult to pin down, you have the likes of Infected Wars, Assassin’s Creed: Utopia, Warhammer Quest, Real Racing 3 and, um, Modern Combat 5: The Last War.
Moving on to the PS Vita, the list gains some meat. Killzone: Mercenary, developed by Guerilla Cambridge, will see you acting as (surprise) a mercenary in the Killzone universe, taking on commissions from both sides of the war and gaining weapons and cash money for your services. It’s being built on the Killzone 3 engine so should look purdy. Soul Sacrifice, an ARPG, also looks interesting, with the main magic mechanic requiring the protagonist to sacrifice parts of himself in order to enact spells, with permanent consequences written across the character’s body. On a slightly less serious note, Tearaway, from Media Molecule, will feature a paper world in which you manipulate objects and characters through touch. You’ll also use the inbuilt camera and motion controls to solve puzzles. It has the potential to be a charming must-have.
The 3DS is looking predictable but solid. Much like the Wii U, it relies on new skins for familiar concepts. New versions of Animal Crossing, Luigi’s Mansion and Castlevania all hit early this year, while Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers kind of pushes the boundaries of being an exclusive, seeing as it will be an updated port of a PlayStation game. While there’s a lot more coming on the 3DS, most of it is either aimed at a young audience or is simply a 3DS version of a Wii U title.
Just looking at the massive release list for PC in 2013, it’s clear that this platform is basking in the aging life of the main consoles. While we’re sure that many of the exclusives here will trickle down to console at some stage, the list is nonetheless very impressive. It’s also an eclectic list, ranging from massive budget blockbusters to indies to successful Kickstarter projects.
Horror fans will be cringing beneath covers in anticipation for Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, while Neal Stephenson’s Clang! promises to bring hardcore, motion-based sword dueling directly to your office. Sticking with the hardcore bent, Arma III
will be released and most likely relegated to a side corridor of critique as the DayZ
standalone steals the spotlight. The newly announced Company of Heroes 2 will keep strategy players busy, with some exciting gameplay enhancements being brought to the genre such as Relic’s new line-of-sight tech TrueSight, which presents real-time perceptual range depending on the terrain and unit type. Company of Heroes 2
will also feature changing weather conditions and more realistic environmental destruction.
Minecraft addicts may find a lot to like in Epic’s Fortnite
, a game which also marks our first glimpse of the Unreal Engine 4. Playing like a cross between Minecraft and DayZ, with a Loony Toons cartoon aesthetic, Fortnite will allow players to cooperate and explore a sandbox world during the day, gathering resources, upgrading weapons and building defenses against the monsters that attack during the night. Taking a similar artistic approach as Fortnite, Ubisoft’s free-to-play Mighty Quest for Epic Loot will allow nefarious dungeon planners to build all manner of nasty dungeons replete with traps and horrors. You’ll then go online and try out other people’s constructs in a competitive manner.
hits in March and we predict a nation’s worth of mouse clicking and natural disaster cursing for months afterwards. The rest of the year for PC is so full that we can’t do all the titles justice in this space. Depending on your tastes, you’ll have a full variety of styles and genres to enjoy, from Wasteland 2
and The Elder Scrolls Online
, to Total War: Rome II
, Grim Dawn
, Command & Conquer, Carmageddon: Reincarnation and so much more.
In terms of output, the PC wins without a fight, but it truly does come down to your personal preferences. Which exclusives give you a tingle of anticipation and excitement? Are the Wii U exclusives enough to convince you to buy Nintendo’s latest or does the PC deluge fill you with the realisation that you may need an upgrade to prepare? Whatever your tastes, 2013 is looking to continue the bountiful showering of games, games and more games. We just hope that we can find enough time to enjoy them all.
Dylan Burns is based in WA and has been writing for the games industry for the past 8 years. His other passions include music and creative writing (he is working on his second novel manuscript this year). You can follow him on Twitter at @Gameboffin