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The Year Ahead, Part One

Below is the first part of our intricate guide for PC gaming in 2010. There's a horde of muscular-looking titles on the horizon, many of them likely to stop you and demand your money, like ludological bandits. Meanwhile, others that we expected to land, such The Old Republic, have already fled to 2011. Read on as the clouds in our crystal ball roll back...

The strongest echo at the RPS sonar station is from Mass Effect 2, which is set to arrive on the 29th of this month. The science fiction RPG sequel is looking extremely strong, with amped up combat, a darker overall tone, and resolution of plenty of the things we were uncomfortable with in the first game. We've recently done an interview with the lead gameplay designer, and we've posted a few of the several dozen videos that Bioware have release. Consider the hype machine for this one fully spooled. We have high hopes.

Also this month we should see the start of Star Trek Online. The beta for that is already in progress, so there's probably not much to be said about it here. I'm going to call this another Cryptic middle-ground MMO. Probably going to have a following, but not be world-changing.

February is going to be busy indeed for the PC platform, as we get Call Of Pripyat in the first few days. The game is already out in Russia and the rest of Europe, and my initial playthrough has given me some hope that this will be a genuinely interesting title. More RPG elements, huge areas, and already the sign of some interesting mods. This could be the precious oxygen that Stalker fanatics (because let's face it, the basic "fans" doesn't cut it in this case) need to stay alive and unparalysed by cynicism.

Then there's Bioshock 2. This emerges from the depths around the 9th of February, and should cause a major stir one way or another. I think we'll even see plenty of people who were dissatisfied with the first Bioshock returning to sample this one. The attraction to a vaguely immersive shooter is just too great. I'm personally very interested to just see what the level designs have got up to with Rapture, and I know that there will be at least a handful of breath-taking moments in there. We should have a review of that coming up relatively soon, anyway.

Shooters, it seems, will be well served in February, because we're also expecting Aliens Vs Predator to turn up around the 16th of the month. I think it's fair to say that we're cautiously excited. Not all the experiences at preview have been entirely positive, with some reports of clunky, clumsy sequences with various characters. Hopefully nasty bumps will be ironed out by the time we get it, because we could really do with a tense, hell-for-leather shooter.

Shooters aren't just going to be offline single player in February, either, because we're also going to get Global Agenda. You really should be paying attention to this one. It's a complex team-based game with persistent territory conflict as well as jump-in-and-kill-stuff type opportunities. I suspect it's going to be overlooked by much of the mainstream press, which would be a shame. Hi-Rez studios are saying all the right things, and have change on their minds. I hope this turns out to be as good as it looks.

We're also expecting to get our hands on the PC version of Assassin's Creed II next month, as the PC release date is the 26th of February. All signs point to this being a lot better than the original, not least the sign provided by it being a lot better than the original on the consoles. I've had a bit of a play with the 360 version and enjoyed it much more than the first outing. And I do like that horse.

But it's not all action and shooters. Napoleon: Total War is scheduled for February too. Sega recently sent over a build of the game, so we'll try to take a look at this soon. It looks like this is Creative Assembly's mini-campaign model, as soon in Viking Invasion and Alexander, but it'll be interesting to see whether the iconic French guy will make for an entertaining subject. All signs point to oui.

There's even a high-profile racer set to turn up next month, in the form of track-shattering explodo-racer Split/Second. This is supposedly a fun time, in a sort of ultra-violent way, but I can't admit to having followed its progress very closely. I'll be interested to see reactions when it arrives.

March continues the strategy theme with Command & Conquer 4, and what is apparently the end of the Tiberium saga, if not the end of the Command & Conquer franchise itself. The radically over-hauled download-only game looked like an interesting test-bed for EA, but the news that they've already decided to let the team go doesn't bode well for future developments in the C&C milieu.

Far more exciting, for me at least, is the Dawn Of War II expansion pack, Chaos Rising, which should turn up some time in March. I'm a sucker for the Chaos faction in Warhammer, so I'll be fascinated to see how Relic deal with it in their rejigged 40k game. I have to admit I've had no inclination to go back to Dawn Of War II, but like the original game and its expansions, I've got time set aside in my future for playing everything that comes out.

Also worth getting your hopes up for in March is Battlefield: Bad Company 2. I've not paid much attention to the single-player campaign on this, although there are positive noises appearing about it, because the multiplayer looks so solid. The videos we've seen so far are really interesting, and I've a bit more faith that the DICE/EA team will provide a better balance - and of course dedicated servers - which will make this a far superior experience to Modern Warfare 2's glitchy multiplayer.

We can also expect Battlefield 1943 to pop up in the next couple of months. It's been out in console land for ages, but we're expecting confirmation for PC very soon. I'm not sure I can really bring myself to care about this, as it feels a little disposable as multiplayer games go.

March also threatens more Dragon Age. I have to admit I've been hard-pressed to get the original finished, but the expansion might just be brief enough to blast through in a few sittings, so that could lure me back to fun times with Skeletor. Awakening is scheduled for March 16th.

Perhaps March's most eagerly awaited release, however, is Just Cause 2. Oh how we have laughed at the lunacy of this sandbox action nonsense. It looks entirely absurd, and just the sort of thing we'll need to shake off those winter blues. It's not worth me describing it, when these moving pictures can do the job so much more efficiently.

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