Q4 is always a busy time of year (though February next year is beginning to look pretty murky with top-notch releases), and with so much to filter through, we thought we’d ask the experts what it is they’re looking forward to. So we got our amazing stable of contributors to give us their two most anticipated games (or games actually already released), and give us a blurb on why it is, exactly, that they’re so excited for them. We also then had them give us two more games coming in 2013 they’re champing at the bit for with a one-liner or more, whatever worked for them.
But we went one step further, and decided to get the other
experts out there to throw in their two-cents, so we’d like to welcome all of our competitors (read: buddies) from the Aussie gaming community to AusGamers with their thoughts as well. HYPER
and PC PowerPlay Magazine
, IGN AU
, Kotaku AU
, Game Informer Magazine Australia
, Official PlayStation Magazine Australia
and GamePlanet ANZ
join our regular stable of cats, as well as AusGamers full-timers Dan and Eorl. I decided to steer clear of my picks, because I tell you what to play and look forward to all year, so it's time to listen to someone else.
And so, without further delay, here’s what you should be looking forward to, according to the people who play them for a living, this last quarter of 2012 and into 2013, beyond the Never Never.
David Wildgoose – Group Editor, PCPowerPlay and HYPER magazines
Far Cry 3
I realise I’m being entirely predictable here, what with being That Guy Who Loved Far Cry 2 and all, but hear me out. To be honest, I don’t actually know if I’m going to love or hate Far Cry 3. When I saw it at E3 2011 and interviewed the creative director, the demo looked promising and he talked a good game – at least, he convinced me he understood why I loved Far Cry 2 and promised all the things I loved would be in Far Cry 3. Since then, though, a series of terrible dubstep trailers, inane gameplay videos showing linear platforming sequences that wouldn’t look out of place in an Uncharted, and a dubious co-op mode have all conspired to tie a rock to my expectations and shove them into the ocean. But then I saw this gameplay demo at PAX and… Man, that’s the game I want: a proper open world shooter where you’re thrown into a sandbox and given a bag of toys and chaotic magic emerges. I still don’t know if that’s the game Ubisoft is going to give me, but I want to believe.
Need For Speed Most Wanted
This looks great, of course, as great as you’d hope Burnout Paradise 2 would be, which in my case is pretty fucking great. But I really only wanted to mention it here to use the obvious joke – which Joab has already used – so I’ll throw in a few other honourable mentions instead: ZombiU
, The Unfinished Swan
, Scribblenauts Unlimited
, all the Tokyo Jungle
DLC, and the chance to play through all five episodes of The Walking Dead
in one sitting.
Eidos Montreal surprised everyone by not completely ruining Deus Ex despite trying to ruin it by adding – nnnngh! – sticky cover, third-person views and cinematic takedown moves in Human Revolution. So I’m quietly hopeful they will also manage to not completely ruin my favourite game series. But I will smack them with a blackjack and dump their bodies in a well if they add sticky cover to Thief 4.
When not being filmed in silhouette sitting alone and contemplating the creative death of the videogame industry, Jonathan Blow makes videogames. He made Braid, which was an allegory for the creative death of the videogame industry. He’s now making The Witness. It looks a bit like Myst but as you wander its deserted island and solve abstract puzzles you will no doubt be given cause to reflect on the creative death of the videogame industry.
Dan Chenoweth - Editor, AuGamers aka Dan
Doom III: BFG Edition
on the Oculus Rift
Although I consider the original 2004 Doom 3 to have been largely overrated by critics at the time, its re-release this year has my attention because it will be coming packaged with the developer prototype Oculus Rift head-mounted display we hope to be receiving this December (after pitching in on their Kickstarter).
Doom 3's chief criticisms at the time included excessive darkness, a ludicrous flashlight mechanic, and a rampant overuse of "monster closets" for scares. On technical merits however, the game's id Tech 3 engine still holds up well for eight year old software, at high frame-rates that make it a great match for an introduction to VR.
Despite hardware resolution limitations, the Rift purports to offer a level of immersion that can't be achieved by a conventional monitor -- 3D or otherwise -- and I'm incredibly looking forward to wandering the desecrated halls of a derelict Mars space station from a real first-person perspective.
The last few games have trailed off for me, but I'm eager to see whether a new development team with a lot to prove can bring some freshness back to the old Chief as 343 Industries take the fight to the Forerunners.
While not hanging for any title specifically, the launch of Nintendo's new console will undoubtedly be featuring prominently on my xmas period activities. The line-up seems distinctly lacking of killer-app contenders, but the mere prospect of finally getting some Nintendo action in HD is powerfully alluring.
Epic Games bringing some love back to the PC? We haven't heard a whole lot about the game yet
, but with a coopertive focus, emergent construction gameplay, and open modding support, the first game to be built on the impressive Unreal Engine 4 ticks the most boxes on my 2013 anticipation proclamation.
Battling the undead is getting a little too ubiquitous these days, but if Fortnite is the game I'm expecting, I won't be holding its zombie thematics against it.
Cam Shea - Senior Editor, IGN AU
The Unfinished Swan
Putting aside the fact that I'm a wanker who likes arty games, this one looks intriguing. The idea of actively mapping the world around you using paint is really novel, and I can't wait to see where they take it. I'm hoping The Unfinished Swan is going to be the exclamation point on a year of brilliantly quirky releases. Sound Shapes, Tokyo Jungle, Journey, Fez and so many more - it's been a great year for small teams with singular visions.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
I'm a sucker for the Paper Mario series. Thousand Year Door in particular was absolutely masterful: striking art direction, quirky-cool electronic soundtrack, a delightfully playful exploration of the paper thin central conceit, and solid battle mechanics that were elevated to a new level by the idea that players were fighting on a stage in front of an audience. Sticker Star is shaping up to be yet another unique outing for the series, with the sticker motif influencing all the core mechanics, from puzzles to battles. The latter have changed quite significantly: attacks are now a finite resource, and the old party system has been dispensed with. I'm not completely sold on the sticker concept yet, but it certainly works thematically, and hey, I'd always prefer developers try something new than stick with the tried and true.
Beyond: Two Souls
Whether you like David Cage's games or not, there's one thing you can say about them with absolute certainty - they're not designed by committee. Projects driven by the true auteurs of our industry are always going to be worth paying attention to, and with Beyond, Cage is pushing the boundaries of his brand of interactive storytelling even further. Heavy Rain was brilliant because no two players had the same experience; the story adapted dynamically based on the player's actions (or inaction). Beyond takes the same basic approach, but does so over 15 years in the life of the central character(s), meaning there's the potential for players to have even more divergent experiences. The supernatural elements should add an interesting gameplay twist, while Jodie/Aiden are already characters I want to know more about.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
South Park crossed with Paper Mario? Count me in. This game looks AMAZING. Not only is the presentation basically indistinguishable from an actual episode of the show, the content's not in any way watered down. The humour is as deranged and filthy as you'd expect (a special attack where Mr Slave literally swallows an enemy with his cavernous ass? Yup!), and it's laugh out loud funny. It's probably the funniest game I've ever seen, in fact… and that's based on a ten minute demo. With so many years of South Park heritage to riff on, Stick of Truth is sitting atop a comedy goldmine, but just as importantly, the RPG elements and battle system look great too.
Kosta Andreadis - AusGamers Contributor aka KostaAndreadis or Toadovsky
Ok sure, this has already come out and most players are still knee deep on Pandora picking up blue and purple weapons, melting robots with corrosive shotguns and exploding bandits into tiny gibs with an assault rifle that spews out tiny balls of explosive death - but this is a keeper. And it will no doubt keep players busy on and off for months with its addictive loot-inspired action RPG shooting and steady stream of DLC content on the way. And with Bioshock Infinite being pushed back to next year and the only other shooters on the horizon being of the Call of Medal Field variety, people should find no real reason to leave Pandora anytime soon. The original Borderlands was a surprise hit, but failed to make an indelible mark as a classic due to a long list of shortcomings that have now been pretty much fixed right up with this sequel. From more variety in both locations and weaponry, and even skills, to a better implemented narrative, and even some truly memorable side-quests and boss encounters, Borderlands 2 is clearly designed to please fans of the original whilst improving or expanding upon almost all of the game’s features.
Assassin’s Creed III
Muddled storyline? Check. Free-form running and exploration? Check. Clever combat and kinetic action? Check. Third part in a so-far exceptional gaming series? Check. Does that mean you’re playing it? Check.
With all the rave reviews and comparisons to BioShock, what was previously an unknown entity has now potentially become game of the year material - consider this one played.
This is a game where the more you see the more excited you get, but also the less you want to see more of, because the end result looks like it’s going to be something rather special. Even if it’s half as good as the original Bioshock, this will be a great game, but expectations are riding high so here’s hoping for something twice as good.
Company of Heroes 2/Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
RTS gaming doesn’t get more traditional than Starcraft or as progressive and forward thinking and Company of Heroes, and with two instalments of each franchise hopefully coming out in 2013, they should more than quench the strategy thirst in all of us.
Joab Gilroy - Editor at GameArena.com.au, The Guardian of the Universe, Friend of All Children, Super Monster
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Criterion remakes Burnout: Paradise but with real world cars and a free-flowing approach to group multiplayer – who could possibly ask for more? Criterion do crashes better than anyone, and they've spent the last decade painstakingly defining and redefining how we look at arcade racers. They have the perfect pedigree to take a decades old concept of player progression and throw it out the window - giving us (almost) all the cars right from the get go.
Arcade racing is a pure form of fun, but let's face the facts - I'll probably have just as much fun obeying the road rules as I do breaking them. That freedom is what makes open world games so great - and this Need for Speed is definitely one of my... Most Wanted
It's been a mod in beta for months now, and I was there at the ground floor to see it grow. I've got a pretty personal attachment to this game, and I've sunk more than a couple hundred hours into it as a mod - I'd say I could give better directions to Berezino than I could to Petersham.
Forget killing zombies – DayZ is about the essence of human interaction, expressed through the free exchange of 9mm bullets. The standalone game will bring a better approach to vehicles, better control of the hacking problem and (eventually) the ability to alter the world to your own vision. And of course, I gotta get dem Beanz
If we’re lucky BiS will get their people out of Greek jail and we’ll see another insanely detailed military shooter, terrible voice acting and all.
Only time will tell whether the always-online approach is a boon or bane for the SimCity reboot – but I’m pumped to find out either way.
James O’Connor - AusGamers Contributor aka jickle
Assassin’s Creed III
Just when I think I’m out…
When Brotherhood came out a year after Assassin’s Creed II, it was impressive to see such a fine game worked up so fast, but also slightly disheartening that Ubisoft hadn’t taken the time to craft a full sequel. Revelations was actually pretty tired, as interesting as it was guiding Ezio through his later years, and once it became clear that a fifth game was releasing in 2012, I wasn’t sure how up for it I was.
But Assassin’s Creed III has been touted as something of an end-point for the series, which will continue on with its annual release strategy, but which will also hopefully tie up a lot of what has already been introduced with this one. This is the sort of game that could well represent the point where I say ‘goodbye’ to the series for a while (not that I’m unlikely to play future sequels, I just doubt I’ll find myself quite so invested after this one), and as such my feelings towards the game are bittersweet. It also looks and sounds really interesting – following Ezio as he grew up was great, and I look forward to doing the same with Connor, and positioning the game in a time when cultures and technologies were clashing in such significant ways should yield awesome results.
I’m also really excited about the Vita game, purely because it’s set in New Orleans. I can only hope that they’ll sneak a Confederacy of Dunces reference in there somewhere.
The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left
Because after The Walking Dead Episode 4: Around Every Corner, I’m extremely confident that the finale will be incredible. If you'd asked me a month ago, I would have expressed concern that the ending might struggle to provide the emotional closure that the series was building up to. Now, I'm fairly confident that the full season will be a game of the year contender.
Last Friday, I drafted a 12-item long To Do list and received Dishonored. Come Monday, I had finished the game, and list was still 12 items long. No regrets.
Adam Mathew - Editor, OPS Australia (Official PlayStation Magazine)
For a truly balanced diet, the 2012 gamer should feast from the three food groups: downloadable, AAA and handheld. Retro City Rampage
should be your downloadable entrée, even though it looks like an 8-bit shit sandwich. That's sort of the point, however, as it's every NES game that mattered lovingly pooped onto an original GTA bun and sprinkled with '80s in-jokes. It gets my vote because the controls are tight, it's stupidly addictive, and it force-feeds the Blops generation my classic gaming heritage
Moving onto mains, you'd be silly not to order up Assassin's Creed III
. New era, new character, new engine with pirate missions so sexy they should be rated arrr: this is the raddest sequel since Aliens. Ubisoft fights such a good fight against franchise fatigue here - it captures this old cynic's heart. That, and they had me at "grizzly bear assassinations".
Mind you, they also had me at "shiv alligators", a shenanigan featured in Assassin's Creed III Liberation
, our PS Vita dessert for this evening. Say what you will about console sales and release schedule anorexia, the Vita has a killer app with this – the most gorgeous and features-rich open-world title on any handheld device today. Ridiculously scalable Anvil Next engine, we've only just met, but I love you.
Looking at 2013, I'm going to be as boring and centre-field as possible. Failing some catastrophic coding error, or the Mayan apocalypse, Grand Theft Auto V
is the GOTY to beat. The GTA series has always been Rockstar's flagship, and as such it's all but guaranteed to feature at least one innovative watershed moment and/or mechanic that'll be hastily facsimiled by lesser developers. There's a reason all other titles -- third and first-party alike -- quiver with fear and shift about nervously in their release windows.
Nathan Lawrence - AusGamers Contributor aka nachosjustice
At gamescom 2011 I was completely blown away by a single back-to-back presentation of two games that weren't on my radar: Prey 2 and Dishonored. While Prey 2's fate is up in the air, Dishonored impressed me by tapping into the feeling of some landmark titles. If BioShock, Thief, Half-Life 2 and Mirror's Edge had an orgy, Dishonored would be the result. I had the pleasure of two very short hours of hands-on time with Dishonored at QuakeCon 2012, and I didn't even feel like I'd scratched the surface of what it had to offer.
The art design is striking and instantly recognisable, moving through the world is a fluid experience and the sheer amount of options on offer are intimidating... in a good way. I tend to adopt an aggressive gameplay style, but Dishonored somehow challenged me to play it ninja. When the shit hit the fan it wasn't a 'RELOAD CHECKPOINT' situation; instead, my newly adopted stealth tactics were ditched for what I do best: killing everyone.
Best of all, the ridiculously addictive gameplay formula is complemented by a strong narrative foundation. Your motivation is made clear from early on, and the characters surrounding protagonist Corvo Attano keep the game world engaging and actually make you want to listen to what they have to say. But, by far, the real fun is found in the so-called 'emergent narrative': that is to say, the little unscripted story moments that the player can influence in moment-to-moment gameplay.
In a year riddled with some heavy-hitting sequels, it's refreshing to see a contender for the GOTY crown that doesn't have a number in its title.
Assassin's Creed III
The announcement of a new engine was enough to regain my interest in the Assassin's Creed franchise, but the features that are being poured into this title continue to impress.
Far Cry 3
If Ubisoft Montreal can nail the 'grounded insanity' angle and pull all the various gameplay elements together, Far Cry 3 will be the Skyrim of the FPS world.
Mark Serrels - Editor of Kotaku Australia
I'm precious about Halo. I'm precious about balance, and I'm precious about the liberties taken with that balance. Yes, I am that dude. I'm that guy you hate, the one with the Battle Rifle, four-shotting you, the one complaining about vehicles. The guy who wants Lockout remade for the fifteenth time.
But I'm not the guy tea-bagging you. I have a kid on the way man, I'm way too classy for that shit.
I'm the guy who is sort of afraid of the pinball scoring mechanics being implemented into Halo 4, by the focus on silly objective mechanics, by bloated load-out choices and leveling up nonsense. But I'm also the guy happy to see a development team making a genuine concerted effort to make sure Halo is relevant again. Once again I'll use that word 'balance'. Because that's what it's all about. Making sure preening K/D monkeys like myself are happy with the competitive side of things, whilst giving other folks the opportunity to love Halo like I love it.
Halo has been round the block a fair few times and, in a sense, it's stuck in a cul-de-sac. Hopefully 343 will retain Halo's unique point of difference (balance, feel, weight) whilst pushing the series forward in a meaningful direction.
Assassin’s Creed III
Jesus wept. I had hope to establish a little bit of indie cred by making The Unfinished Swan my next choice for Q4 2012, Cam Shea has already bogarted that joint, so I'll ignore that impulse and go big
Assassin's Creed 3 is this generation's Gone With The Wind. It's a game ludicrous in scope, utterly bewildering. It's a game being made, simultaneously, across multiple different studios, across multiple different genres, across multiple different continents. It's a production the likes of which we've never seen in gaming, and most likely will never see again. In a strange way, playing this game is going to feel like being a part of history. Both literally, and figuratively.
Assassin's Creed 3 is too big ignore, too big to cast aside -- but it has the kind of ambition that scares me. Will the game be burdened by its own insane scope? If it were any other franchise, any other studio, I'd say yes. But Assassin's Creed has barely put a step wrong, and what I've played of this game so far has my gut saying every base has been covered. This game is the last of a dying breed.
In ten years time you'll think about this game, and find yourself muttering, 'they don't make 'em like they used to'.
I worry about this, I really do. Why so quiet? Why no shouting from the rooftops? We should have been playing this already.
Initial demos of BioShock Infinite forced me to ask myself some questions, the first of which was, "is this really possible?"
I certainly hope so.
Apparently it took Ken Levine and his team years to simply get the grappling hook/skyline mechanic working -- but the team persevered because they wanted to create something that would completely transform the first person experience. And that's what this series is about: transforming boundaries, combining thematic and mechanical elements to reinvent what is possible.
Irrational Games is shooting high. It's shooting for the sky. I hope for everyone's sake they hit the target, because if they do, this game will have just as big an impact as its predecessor did.
Bennett Ring - AusGamers Contributor aka GunSlingerAUS
I’m really torn about my game of the year for 2012, because I think it might have already arrived in Borderlands 2. I thought the first game was pretty good, but the second has me feeling like the guy on the Borderlands 2 cover – my mind is utterly blown.
The original had incredible potential but was let down by a few stinky features, and the sequel has taken a giant can of Glen 20 to every single one of these flaws. The world is far more interesting to explore, with a wider range of environment types and structures – instead of trudging through endless desert plains like the first game, you’re now exploring ice caverns, stumbling through giant underground bases and walking around lakes filled with acid. The enemies can now do more than charge or shoot, with each of the many creatures exhibiting unique and intelligent behaviour. Even the stupidest bugs have a challenging dodge routine, making them tricky to kill. The storyline reminds me of my favourite 2000AD comics as a kid, with a cast of freaks who somehow remain endearing, even when they’re talking about dismembering neighbours. Throw in seamless co-op (well, it is now that this week’s patch fixed the minor networking issues) and the result is a game that’ll keep me playing for at least 100 hours. It’s no wonder I’ve signed up for the Season Pass already, with no idea of what the DLC will include.
But there’s a game that has just arrived that has the potential to topple Borderlands 2 from my GOTY throne. Dishonored is yet another first person game, but that’s about all it has in common with Borderlands 2. It’s got a far darker, more serious tone, and follows in Deus Ex’s multiple pathways to let gamers use their IQ instead of their trigger finger to solve missions. With environments designed by the same guy behind City 17, and mechanics thought up by a guy that worked alongside Warren Spector, this has the potential to be a more adult experience. Perhaps it’s not fair to compare the two – if Dishonored lives up to its promise, it’ll be the moody cerebral experience I’ll play when I want to feel part of a real world, while Borderlands 2 will be the game I turn to when I need to have some fun with a bunch of mates. Regardless, as a fan of first person games, to have two such amazing games in one year is brilliant for me, and proves that the genre isn’t limited to corridor shooting like so many of its critics seem to believe.
Dead Space 3
In space nobody can hear you shit your pants, or smell it, which is fine by me considering how terrifying I find the Dead Space games. Despite the third focusing more on action than terror, I still think it’ll be scary enough to give me a bad case of the space willies, and doing it with a friend will be even better.
Need I explain why? With Battlefield 3 perched atop my list of all-time favourite games, I can only imagine how incredible the next instalment will be. If all they do is add squad-VOIP for the PC version I’ll still be a happy little camper. Not that I camp at all, as GameArena’s Joaby found out when I decimated him in a recent one on one…
James Cullinane - Editorial Director, Gameplanet Australia and New Zealand
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
StarCraft: Brood War, the expansion to the first StarCraft, radically changed the competitive gaming landscape - at least, it did in Seoul. Since the release of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, Blizzard has grown the popularity of broadcast eSports in Western countries, but the game still has a very high barrier to entry and a steep learning curve. It is balanced, but some strategies require very difficult counter-strategies to overcome.
Heart of the Swarm seeks to overcome some of those difficulties by introducing new units that plug key gaps in each race’s playstyle. The goal is greater accessibility without compromising the core gameplay that makes the StarCraft II so popular today.
As World of Warcraft finally begins to show its age, it’s likely Blizzard will be looking to StarCraft II more and more to pick up the torch and represent the company as its flagship product. Heart of the Swarm is an important release - and an important one to get right: win over more of the mildly curious, and they’ll have another world-conquerer on their hands.
Assassin’s Creed III
Like everyone else here, it seems, I’m also incredibly excited by this one. The last instalment, Revelations, was a bit of a lame duck. It carries the ignominious distinction of being the most poorly received Assassin’s Creed game released, and when it comes to selling series, an individual’s previous experience with that series is more likely to persuade or dissuade another purchase than anything we writers have to say on the matter. Didn’t like Revelations? Thought the whole concept was getting a bit tired? Get over it.
Yes, Ubisoft will probably slaughter a few historical sacred cows to shoe-horn their protagonist into the pages of history, and yes, it’s likely to be bloated with all manner of trivial distractions - seriously, am I the only person who thinks the limited naval gameplay is all dazzle, no razzle? - but years of core refinement is on display in this title. I’ll eat Mark Serrels’ tam o’ shanter if this isn’t the best Assassin’s Creed released.
Grand Theft Auto V
I’m actually surprised I’m the only person who has mentioned this one so far. After two games that almost unanimously won over critics but probably fell short of Rockstar’s own very high expectations at retail, the company will no doubt come out swinging for the fences with Grand Theft Auto V.
Its been very quiet since Rockstar stole an awful lot of thunder, column inches, and investment with the game’s surprise announcement in November last year, just a trickle of screenshots in fact, but even these allude to a game with much greater scope than the more tightly controlled Grand Theft Auto IV.
This is the only game anywhere on the horizon that has even a sniff at competing directly with the Call of Duty series for the crown of “biggest entertainment launch” - a title the Grand Theft Auto IV used to hold, and one that the Housers would very much like back before this console generation closes, no doubt.
Dylan Burns - AusGamers Contributor aka Gameboffin
Assassin’s Creed III
My list is going to read from the fairly predictable line up of major releases, but with so many packed into this final part of the year there are plenty to choose from. My most anticipated is Assassin’s Creed III, although this is tempered fairly heavily by my equanimity when it comes to the last few spin-off titles in the franchise. I adored AC2, but the games that followed, splintering off to tell Ezio’s and Desmond’s story, felt like B games. Knowing that AC3 went into production straight after the release of AC2, with the same team, makes me confident that we’ll see something truly special. I have heard from those who have gotten some play time with the game that there is a real Red Dead Redemption feel to the exploration, which sets my dial even higher!
I’ve kept deliberately dark on too many details. I find I like to do that with some games so that it’s a true surprise when I sit down to play it (which isn’t always easy given my job). I know that the game is set in early America, and that the protagonist is of Native American heritage. I’ve also caught glimpse of some truly vast landscapes, including hidden temple ruins. It will be interesting to see what new elements are introduced to combat, as things got rather bloated by the end of Revelations, with bombs and tower defence getting squeezed into an already full roster of side distractions. I truly hope they wipe the slate clean and introduce new gameplay devices, because another game with the same side quests is just going to seem stale. I’ve got confidence that Assassin’s Creed III will live up to my expectations, now I just need to try and clear the time to play it - so many games!
Need For Speed Most Wanted
Forget the stupidity of reusing the name. This is a brand new Burnout game and I’m oh-so-ready for that.
Far Cry 3
Another title on my “keep dark” list. I know little beyond that there is some crazy new antagonist and there is probably some big “twist” to the story.
Chris Stead - Editor, GameInformer Magazine Australia
I don't consider myself a big Halo fanboy, but I can't deny the fun I have had playing through each of the games in the series, with the same mate, in co-op. I like the breath of fresh air 343 is bringing to the project, too, and look forward to experimenting with the new weapons and tactics that will (should?) eventuate from having the new Promethean force to contend with. There's just something about that Halo tune that gets my blood rushing and when it lands, I'll be dialling up the same mate again, smashing some beers and settling in.
I got a lot of love for old-school stealth and a lot of disappointment for games that pretend they're old-school stealth but provide a "if you want to you can take the action route" cop out. I feel that Absolution is veering towards the former and could be the strongest old-school stealth game since Pandora Tomorrow or even Silent Assassin. The levels I have played thus far have been spectacular in their scope - this Glacier 2.0 engine is the duck nuts. When you get a feel for the size of the world, the number of NPCs it contains, the multitude of ways you can affect the world and how this code must keep its shit together to provide a believable gameplay experience... well it's the kind of complexity that would make even Rain Man flip out. Uh, oh, ten minutes to Wapner...
Metro: Last Light
I discovered Metro 2033 only recently as I was clawing my way through my ever-expanding pile of shame looking for something fresh. And I got it. There aren't as many games in this generation as there should be that consistently intertwine theme and aesthetic with the class to deliver true atmosphere - Condemned, BioShock, Dead Space and Fallout 3 come to mind - yet Metro 2033 delivered on that. If they can carry that torch again, but tighten the gameplay right up, I'll plunge face first into the nearest gas mask and dive in.
The Last of Us
Uncharted 2 is my favourite game of this generation. I think it's the perfect summary of everything we have tried to achieve in the last seven years as an industry... the text book definition. Great gunplay, fluid level navigation, brilliant storytelling, solid multiplayer and more polish than Peter Sterling's head. Naughty Dog can have my baby. Uncharted 3 didn't knock me out (the first few hours were weak), but perhaps that's because the focus was already on The Last of Us. Although I am disappointed by the choice of a post-apocalyptic, zombie-like setting (surely that's the new "it's a FPS set in WWII"?), the studio's track record demands respect and I'm frothing to get hands-on with this.
PS: Honourable mention for 2013 is finding out WTF Microsoft is doing with one first-party game on the schedule - and that's a random Gears
spin-off from a studio that's losing all its key staff. If there isn't a big announcement of a new console early in 2013 then Sony (with a stack of great exclusives) and Nintendo (with a new console) will take to the Xbox like Matt Dillon's brother takes to that poor helpless Vietnamese dude in Platoon. No we didn't see his head explode, thank God.
Dave Kozicki - AusGamers Contributor aka ko-zee-ii
I’ve always avoided any game with “stealth” in its description like the plague. Getting all sneaky sneaky just never really appealed to me. After Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mark of the Ninja and an extended hands-on with Hitman: Absolution I realised something. I didn’t mind stealth as long as I had the right death dealing tools if it all went tits up. Dishonored gives me all the carnage I could possibly want and then some.
To the layman it may appear I almost play through each mission twice. I’ll go through all ninja like, sticking to the shadows, only killing when absolutely necessary with my crossbow to remain undetected, utilising the Blink teleporting ability and Dark Vision to avoid enemies. Once the primary objective is complete, however, all bets are off.
The corners of my mouth upturn in a Joker-esque type grin and I start toying with the remaining guards. Sure, I could say I was just being thorough. That I was sating a completionist’s desire to hunt down those elusive Bone Charms or Runes, but I’d only be lying to myself, and you dear reader. I just like frakking with people and Dishonored really lets me indulge my evil streak.
I’ll Bend Time and dump a Spring Razor on a guard’s back, Blink outta sight and restart the clock as he approaches a comrade in arms and turns them both into instant salsa. I’ll pick off sentries one by one leaving them scratching their heads wondering where their buddy, beside them a mere second ago, has disappeared to.
The pièce de résistance has to be reversing the polarity of an electrifying Wall of Light, tripping an alarm on purpose and taunting rushing guards into the fray. I’ll toss grenades, shoot bullets into walls, throw any item that makes a ruckus and giggle maniacally as they all disintegrate into wisps of ash.
I know I’m impacting negatively on the in-game world and making it harder for myself, but I just don’t care. I’m having too much fun. Now if Dishonored can cater to my demented style of play, surely this outstanding release has something for everyone, right?
Ninja Theory knows its shit when it comes to kick-arse combat and I'm psyched to see all the little surprises it has in store for Dante.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Trey Parker and Matt Stone knock it out the ball park in everything they do and I don't think I've wanted an RPG as badly as this before.
James Cottee - AusGamers Contributor aka JamesCottee
This is one of those games that's so compelling, and so all-consuming, that after a marathon session you can still see it when you close your eyes.
Without screwing with the formula of the first Borderlands, Gearbox has incrementally improved every aspect of the game. The randomised gun parts, the skill progression, the enemy AI, the boss grinding, the level layout, and most everything else are all demonstrably, tangibly better. But the biggest upgrade has been to the games personality.
Toxic swamps... Rolling highlands... Dusty Wild West main streets... Each level is a rich, intricately-crafted kill-box, with spectacles on the horizon and an oppressive Death Star in the sky. These diverse environments are brought to life by the fruity denizens that lurk therein, and the bonanza of NPC dialogue makes every side quest a treat – even the escort missions.
Co-op mayhem, myriad secrets, end-game loot grinding, DLC, and those intriguing Mechromancer skill combos will in all likelihood drag out the Borderlands 2 experience for the better part of a year.
I was especially impressed by the quality and quantity of the wisecracking robots, the midgets, and the wisecracking midget robots. Top stuff!
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
An uncanny hybrid of classic tactics, Firaxis charm, and luxuriant skivvies.
Retro City Rampage
An overdose of 80s nostalgia and 8-bit insanity.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Now with high-definition graphics and three times the dragon-slaying content.
Borderlands 2 DLC
More guns, more goons, more wub-wub.
Naren Hooson - AusGamers Contributor aka narenhooson
Far Cry 3
This is the game I’m most keen to see live up to my current expectations. With the game taking place in an amazing looking island setting, this kicks off the epic journey that will be Far Cry 3. Perfecting its FPS shooter roots and branching out to include hunting and crafting, the ride will be insane
to say the least. The various environments that are visited in the open world create enough variety in how the game will be experienced, from jungle to beaches, to the villages and pirate camps that need to be taken back.
Interaction with the numerous vehicles on the island as well as the various mini-games included will add to the adventure and skill building. Not to mention the currency system allowing various upgrades, gambling and much more.
Top all this off with a deep storyline and our character’s ability to delve in and out of his own realms of insanity as well as the NPC we’ll interact and side with but also the ones we’re up against. This will be one hell of a luau!
I’m not sure I’ll ever want to stop playing this game. With its awesome unique art style, crazy amounts of guns and humorous commentary, and DLC now out, I’m only going to want to throw countless more hours into it, finding as many guns as I can and exploring Pandora’s vast expanse of environments.
Assassin’s Creed III
You guessed it, I’m also keen as mustard for this one. Awesome dual-wielding combat combos, epic eastern seaboard battles, large-scale battle scenes and an open frontier world. Not to mention dashing through the trees, hunting and what promises to be a deep story and third part of the overall series. All this in a new engine too!
A game with true variety in approaching objectives. Having experienced a few options, this is a great combination of visceral experiences and problem solving in gaming and will only get deeper the more immersed one becomes.
Daniel Roy - AusGamers Junior Staff Member aka Eorl
Arkane’s newest effort seems to collect the ideas Valve began with Half-Life and Half-Life 2, combining them with elements of Thief and a dash of BioShock to make what is hopefully going to be an awesome game. The idea that I can go about my own path has always appealed to me from the early days of Thief and Splinter Cell, or even Metal Gear Solid, where you are actually given a choice, and playing it again gave a whole new outcome.
Also one of the other great things about Dishonored is the kill system. Being able to take down an NPC with any means is another great appeal of the "do whatever" system, and having it affect the outcome of your story is even better. Add in the art-direction that borrows liberally from steampunk and you have me sold for a game that looks and feels like what it is being influenced by.
I’ve always been a fan of the BioShock series, and to see this one taking place in the air is something I’m really excited about. Again, more steampunk art and again
you have me sold on what could potentially be better than the original BioShock. Hopefully we’ll have some good twists and brilliant musical tracks.
I’m always a fan of new technology, and the Wii U is definitely bringing together both the tablet and console in a unique and interesting way. The initial games list is strong, and among them is the undead-infested ZombieU which looks to be a real suprise. Following in the footsteps of DayZ with more survival measure, it is definitely one to keep an eye out for.
We actually had a few others lined up to chime in on this meaty feature, which in itself started out as a much smaller project, but getting the cream of the Aussie industry crop on board was a great experience and not only gives a good indication of what top games are turning the top writers' heads, but also what not-so-well-known games are doing the same thing.
We gave everyone involved a pretty loose set of guidelines and the above is what they presented, and we'd love to say a massive cheers to all involved, and to those too crunched to join us, hopefully we'll see you next time.
Now, armed with all of the above, drop your thoughts and hotly anticipated/currently loving games in our Comments section.