2013 will no doubt be unlucky for some, but for PC gamers it will be a conveyor-belt of entertainment assortments, which we can pick and choose from with our long steel chopsticks of purchasing. In this part "two" of the list of the year, we get to see how games have blossomed as a form that is wide as it is long, and very, very loud. Hot damn.
Release date: I want to believe
After so many years, the fate of 2K Marin's fanbase-enraging first-person not-man-shooter was looking pretty iffy even before Firaxis' sterling XCOM: Enemy Unknown proved the thirst for turn-based strategising was still there. (On PC, at least). Now that 'XCOM' has contemporary resonance again, I'm not entirely convinced 2K will want to mess with the brand they've built. We shall see. When last we heard from XCOM, it appeared to have morphed into a 'downloadable' third-person shooter with echoes of Ghostbusters, though that was unconfirmed. I wonder if we really might see XCOM come bearing an entirely different name when (and if) it rears its oft-changed head next.
Release date: March
With THQ currently looking about as stable as a David Icke fan, it's hard to not see spectral question marks hovering over the sequel to Metro 2033. But if THQ can continue to suckle on some kind of money teat for the next few months, my last sighting of Last Light suggested a game not too far off completion and ready to go. Slicker and, potentially, a more traditional shooter than 2033 but without throwing out the downtime, societal vignettes and wasted overworld of its noble but awkward predecessor, to not have this on hard drives soon will be a mini-apocolaypse. I think.
Release date: Late 2013
The only Kickstarter game I've (that being Alec - anonymous Ed) ever backed (that wasn't made by one my colleagues), before I reasoned that it's better to remain journalistically aloof and ahahahahahahahah objective about such things. The upside of this is that I have access to the backer-only devblogs and whatnot, and as such can now confirm that Inxile have changed tack and are now making a free-to-play third-person shooter with quick-time events.
No, no, no, no, I badly jest. At the moment the only real sense is that they're creating a vast amount of stuff, that precious 'content' which is so necessary to an open-world RPG. At this stage, it's still infuriatingly impossible to get a bead on how it's all going to come together. While obviously Brian Fargo and chums have their own plans and desires for this turn-based, post-apoclayptic RPG, this really is being made with a notoriously vocal fanbase in mind. So there is a fascinating fruissance in seeing what comes of a game so informed by voices who've spent the last 15 years aggressively claiming that they know best.
Release date - TBA 2013
A new hope, or the same old dispassionate marketing empire strikes back yet again? The big If around this Unreal-powered Han Solo-does-Uncharted here is whether the shock acquistion of the House of Chinless by the House of Mouse in 2012 will affect it, or if it's one of those projects that's being allowed to complete as-was. And part of that may relate to MickeyCorp's plans for Episodes VII and onwards - suddenly, there becomes a risk of Star Wars games' fictions conflicting with the galaxy far, far away's unknown future. Thinking beyond 1313 - of which we have seen little, and many
moons space-stations ago, I do get the sense that Disney realise the people want classic Star Wars, not Clone Wars bobbins, and perhaps - perhaps! - that bodes well for TIE Fighters and Jedi Knights to come.
Release date - TBC 2013
I wonder if Watch Dogs could be the alluded-to reflection of Ubisoft Montreal's changed/evolved thinking about the nature and twisted message of action games, as according to Far Cry 3's bewildering writer Jeffrey Yohalem. This is presuming he wasn't yanking our collective chain, at least. The first videos suggested a hugely ambitious game about hacking the underlying systems and electronic infrastructures of a city, level of interaction and conquest far beyond the traditional Schwarzenegger fantasy that Far Cry 3 was apparently (and if so, obtusely) lampooning. And that, truly, activates my Excitment-o-Tron 3000. Then the videos showed guns and manshooting and half of us went 'oh. Oh well', so right now it's still far too hard to call whether Watch Dogs is GTA with hacking or Deus Ex++.
One thing that has me extra-enticed - assisting with Watch Dogs are Ubisoft Reflections, who recently did a (sadly under-appreciated) bang-up, shooting-free job on Driver: San Francisco.
Release date: March 2013
Fan-favourite developer Obsidian is handling the latest attempt to videogamify Cartman and his potty-mouthed chums, which increasingly seems odd. With their madly successful Project Eternity Kickstarter, it rather seems as though they've escaped the franchise-work-for-hire ghetto they've spent the last few years labouring within. Whether that spells new resolve for this visually-faithful South Park joint or just a desire to be shot of it and move onto their own stuff I don't know. I don't know about the game itself either, to be honest - I dig South Park, especially the take-no-prisoners, radical South Park of three or four years ago, but trailers suggest a more targetless, zany-adventures kinda 'episode'. Like any RPG, trailers are probably barely relevant to the ultimate experience, so I'm highly curious yet.
N.B. As with Metro: Last Light, the fate of Kyle & ko depends on whether THQ evade the reaper.
Release date: August 2013
It's rare that I feel even slightly compelled to prefix a mention of a racing game with 'man, I loved...', but man, I loved GRID. Codemaster's 2009 car was a riotous party of a halfway house between the believable and the impossible. Its handling and error rewind power turned off simheads, but for someone like me - who wants some measure of forgiveness for my many, many driving faults but without being patronised by Mario Kart-style cartoon shrugs - it tickled me right on the sweet spot.
Will GRID 2 take the same approach? Word is Codies are bringing in aspects of their more simulationary DIRT and F1 games but the air of slight unreality will persist. Extreme damage modelling and least twelve more graphics will be involved, and apparently they're doing something fancy, new and secret with the rewind feature. Man, I hope I love GRID 2.
Release date - TBA 2013
Whatever the earlier, deeply silly Lost Planet games were trying to do seems to be over. Footage suggests the big, bright, snowy open spaces have been replaced with small, dark, icy spaces, very much in the Dead Space stylee. That's right, I'm the first person to write 'stylee' since 2002. I'm not sure we need another Dead Space and I sure am sad about seeing spectacular Arctic settings gone all grimdark, but I won't miss the anime-esque excess and death-by-cutscene timbre of the earlier games.
But really, if they're going to turn Lost Planet into survival horror, they should be making a new The Thing game.
Release date: late 2013
I can't work out how to pronounce this. That's okay though, because my ratio of typing to talking is very much weighted towards the former these days, so it's highly unlikely I'll have to say sir vary um out loud anyway. Grud only knows what's going on with Stalker since Bitcomposer allegedly bought the wrong rights in the wake of original dev GSC's partial collapse, so for the time being our eyes turn to this MMOFPS from some of the ex-Stalker 2 team.
The move to 'sessions' rather than an open world will be a bitter pill to swallow, as will the lack of a singleplayer mode, but what sounds like a smaller scale DayZ with anomalies, factions and mutants is an enticing prospect indeed.
Since the release of their Fox-fuelled nightmare of a 'concept' video, the Patriots over at Ubisoft have been very quiet. Their silence may be explained, in part, by the fact that three of the team's directors and the lead designer left the project back in March 2012, so perhaps by the time we next see the game it'll have less quicktime kisses and more squad-based shenanigans. Although the game has likely been postponed so as to coincide with the next console generation, the ridiculous bullshot of pre-orderer systems reaches new nostril-wrinkling heights at the official website – 360 and PS3 versions of a game with no release date and that may never be on those consoles are listed for pre- order. But they're out of stock.
Release: Q2 2013
Along with Patriots, here's another Ubisoft sequel with layers of torture and terrorism slathered all over it. Following an initial showing that suggested Sam Fisher's new voice had made him as angry as a bunch of Ironside fans on an internet forum, Blacklist has been reminding the world that it's really all about stealth. Violent, neck-breaky stealth but stealth nonetheless. It has been doing this by running around with a neon sign that says 'SNEAKY BASTARD' strapped to its bum, shaking the tightly packaged posterior in the general direction of the internet. Expect Blacklist, along with the first sunlight of 2013, in spring.
I don't pledge to many Kickstarter projects, being a naturally wary soul, but I'm not as irritated by GODUS' use of crowdfunding as so many people seem to be. When Braben and Molyneux laid siege to the site, they didn't seem to eclipse the smaller, less known developers, and even though Elite: Dangerous is yet to win me over, I feel like one of the few people in the world who is actually keen to see how GODUS turns out. Well, there's at least me and the 17,184 people who backed it, I guess. As much as anything else, the noise about this 'spiritual successor' to Populous has just made me realise quite how few god games have actually been made.
Release: May/June 2013
When gleeful backers kickstarted Shadowrun Returns, the game was due in January, but so much money was raised that Harebrained won't finish counting it until April, at which point they will start work on the game and finish it in May or June. Either that or they are using the extra funding to increase the game's scope and have switched to an isometric view, adding more visual details to the world. This was the best Kickstarter to follow back in the early months of 2012 (RIP), combining modest promises, passion and honest surprise. Updates continue to impress.
Release: Q2 2013
Drawing much of its inspiration from Total Annihilation, Uber Entertainment's RTS in which meteors can be hurled at planets and the whole business of base-building and warfare is on a ludicrously large scale. The Kickstarter campaign raised – and let me just check my figures here – all of the money, which in these receded times comes to just shy of two and a quarter million dollars. That was enough to unlock every stretch goal, although despite additions there's no mention of the Q2 release date slipping.
Epic's slapstick approach to the freeform construction space could offer a few twists on the defence and crafting genres. Those things are genres now, right? A beta is due in 2013, although when exactly in the next twelve months is unclear, and Nathan was impressed by the humour and looting when he saw the game at PAX. Perhaps most exciting is the fact of Epic's return to the PC. It has occurred just as the udders of the current console generation come to resemble deflated balloons, but Fortnite's participatory beta and DIY ethic seem particularly suited to personal computing devices.
Release: Q3 2013
Europa Universalis IV is a huge game for Paradox, not only because it marks the continuation of the flagship property of the company's grand strategy output, but because Crusader Kings II is peering over its shoulder with a castratopincer in its hand. Any slip up could see EU becoming the EU-nuch of this particular court. The bar has been set remarkably high and I will be watching eagerly to see if the more complex and gamey functions of the nation-building epic can be as effectively constructed as the dynasties of degenerates that were 2012's cerebral highlight.
Every time I watch a video of a game that has the word 'sniper' in the title, I'm compelled to point out that a lot of the content doesn't appear to involve sniping. The latest trailer for Ghost Warrior was particularly deceitful as it contained more stabbing than shooting and there was nary a spectre in sight. Maybe they're invisible, but that's not what Ghostbusters taught me and, by Gozer, it has rarely failed me. There is lots of warring, I suppose, and if slightly sneaky shooting and stabbing appeals, there might be enough to please.
I mostly avoided games during the dying days of December, but I decided to try Monaco. Just for a little bit. If nothing else, it could well be the most stylish game released in 2013. From a guard's mumbled confusion to the delightfully jaunty piano-plinking, which somehow beams the concept 'classy heist' directly into my brain, Monaco is as polished as the queen's porcelain throne. I haven't even touched the co-op yet and can confirm that single player is a blast, although the game isn't entirely what I expected. '2D Metal Gear Stealth- Pacman Topkapi In A Living Blueprint' is how I'd describe it, adding that it's one of many reasons that 2013 will, once again, be the year of the indie sensation.
Release: Late 2013, or something. Who can tell with these new-fangled indies?
One of the golden-children of Kickstarter's appearance in the UK, Maia is a god game from one man studio Simon Roth. Roth is promising us a return to the good old charms of the Bullfrog days of yore, and now has his work cut out for him with Bullfrog-master Molyneux doing exactly the same sort of thing. With a neat sci-fi aesthetic, and a stern indie attitude, this game could make for one of the most please victories in the crowd-funded ecology of 2013's space year releases.
This is something like an "interval" game. Not a game of the film, nor a prequel or sequel, but instead a game that fills in the blank space between the Star Trek reboot and its Khan Wrathing sequel. It sees star chums taking on the Gorn, and is being developed by the enormously experienced Digital Extremes. There's little doubt that it will be a spangled action-shiny of a game, but just what sort of quality we're looking at remains to be seen, as we've yet to get a good look at it. All signs point to quality.
Release: Q1 2013
Speaking of Digital Extremes, they're also making a free to play shooter called Warframe. This third-person science-fiction offering looks a good deal more ambitious than a lot of other multi-player shooters, encompassing old fashioned shooting with melee action and a wide range of class powers, a toolset that the developers clearly hope will facilitate a good deal of experimentation and invention on the part of the players. The game is in closed-beta right now, so we'll get hands on with it soon enough.
Release: Mid 2013
The Stanley Parable, in case you missed it, was a beautiful experiment in Half-Life 2 modding. The HD Remix is going to be a big bold second pass on the idea, something like Dear Esther's remake from last year. With wry cleverness, a puzzling approach, and brilliant voice-acting, it made for a fine distraction. Perhaps this new version will engage and indulge us even more seriously. We await with archly raised eyebrows.
The Showdown Effect
Attempting to cram in every 80s action cliche imaginable, Paradox/Arrowhead want to recapture both the fun of side-scrolling action platformers, and the movies that so often inspired them. And being Paradox, it's multiplayer too, with up to 8 people firing grenades and swooshing light sabres. Last time the two companies teamed up we (eventually) got Magicka, so there's good reason to expect something properly entertaining and insane.
There are impossibly few first-person adventures, and after the success of the Penumbra series it makes no sense that it's not a burgeoning genre. Fortunately Gone Home is coming, which seems to completely understand the point. From The Fullbright Company, made of some industry vets with impressive CVs, including BioShock 2. This is a far more low-key affair, emphasising gentle exploration in a low-tempo story, and is looking extremely compelling.
It's a shame they're prioritising the iOS version of the surveillance hacking thriller. The PC version comes out in Autumn instead, and the whole project is very much flagged as being designed for touch devices. (Although seemingly not Android - sigh.) After a very close call on Kickstarter, this looks increasingly like it's going to drift from our attention.
Double Fine Adventure/Reds
Tim Schafer's high-profile Kickstarted adventure is deliberately keeping its details available for backers only. Which is an odd choice. We know that it features two characters, apart and trying to reach each other. And we know it's made by a man who's yet to make an adventure game anything short of brilliant. So, well, what's not to look forward to?
Human Head's open-world bounty-hunting game is still happening, apparently. Our hearts broke asunder when it was rumoured that Bethesda had canned the beast, but apparently it's still happening, despite big trouble at the little French studio. The truth remains murky. The game itself promises to be a bold piece of design, with the player hunting wanted aliens through a teeming science-fiction cityscape. If that isn't enough to make you crave it quite badly then you are to be banished to the wastes until you develop some taste.
Tune in tomorrow for part three!