As per usual, us gamers are treated to a glut of triple-a titles in the final quarter of the year, with this influx of releases mainly due to the positive affect that the Christmas holidays can have on the sales of a game.
For whatever monetary problems you may have, set some cash aside from now, because with all of these titles due out for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Arcade, you don’t want to miss out on what is clearly going to be another monumental end of year finale for Xbox owners.
So, in this article, I have marked some titles to look out for between the months of August and December. With RPG’s, Racers, and of course shooters, the end of year release calendar is going to leave your wallet empty, but your Xbox satisfied. Here’s to another strong end to the year.
The Elder Scrolls V: SKYRIM – RPG – Bethesda – November 11th – Retail
SKYRIM is not a direct sequel to its predecessor Oblivion, it is however another chapter in the ‘Elder Scrolls’ universe. New features in the game include dynamic weather, some big-ass dragons, being able to shout at said dragons, and a new ‘Radiant Story’ feature which will generate side-quests for the player depending on how they have approached the games main story arc.
The game also comes in a limited edition version, featuring a map, DVD, art-book and plastic vacuum-formed head of some dude from the game, all for the meagre price of £130 sterling. So, do you like Dragons, pillaging and extensive dialogue with humble townsfolk? Then SKYRIM might be just what you’re looking for.
Higher than the great mountains of Valus.
Forza Motorsport 4 – Racing Sim – Turn 10 Studios – October 14th – Retail
Personally what I didn’t like about the games predecessor, Forza 3 was that it was almost too sure of itself, or ‘too clinical’ as a friend of mine put it. With Project Gotham Racing dead in the water and the likes of Race Driver: GRID and Race Pro being shit, Turn 10 are now the established purveyors of the 360’s premiere racing title, and would do well to make use of their rub of the green.
What’s new in this years Forza’fix however, is ‘Kinect’ compatability, more cars than ever (over 500), an improved game engine, and also a partnership with the BBC’s own, Top Gear. This partnership will feature Jeremy Clarkson narrating the new ‘Autovista’ mode (allows the player to examine all aspects of the car), the official Top Gear test track, some Top Gear inspired mini-games such as Car Football and Car Bowling, and if you buy the Limited Edition of the game a 96-page book detailing all of the cars in the game, as written by the editors of Top Gear magazine. The game is shaping up to be everything that Forza 3 was, only a little bit better.
Through the sunroof.
Minecraft – Sandbox – Mojang – Unspecified 2011 – Live Arcade
Minecraft is essentially the most successful ‘indie game’ of all time. Developed by then amateur programmers Markus Persson and Jens Bergensten through Java, the game was released in mid-2009. Since then, the game has sold over 3 million units, gained a massive fan-base, and led to the creation of Mojang Studios by the games creators.
Minecraft is a sandbox game with extensive RPG elements, allowing the player to create massive structures and explore the seemingly endless terrain in front of them. The game also features a select few enemies, co-op play, and regular updates. Whether or not these will be available for the Xbox 360 version of the game however, remains to be seen. If you only buy one Xbox Arcade title this year, make it Minecraft.
Up another notch.
FIFA 12 – Football sim – EA – September 30th – Retail
Not much to say here really. EA shovel out another annual FIFA title with the promise that it will revolutionise the game series, and lo and behold, it doesn’t. That said however, I do enjoy FIFA. Since Pro Evolution Soccer 6, FIFA has well and truly been the superior title. Manager Mode is fun and creating and moulding a Virtual Pro is pretty good too, online however, not so much.
For FIFA 12 to be better than FIFA 11, online needs to be improved in a way that minimalizes connection issues, punishes quitters and generally makes playing online more enjoyable. Improvements have been made to the games flagship ‘Manager Mode’ however, which do sound quite positive. Players are now each individually affected by morale, and the transfer market is improved to the point of realism to name but a few of the tweaks. FIFA 12 will not be anything new in terms of core gameplay and presentation, but it’s all we’ve got. Pro Evolution is awful, and unless PES 2012 is closer to the enjoyment of PES 6 than any other Konami release to date, than EA have nothing to fear. FIFA will have walked it for another year.
Low, like the chance of Arsenal signing somebody over 25.
Batman: Arkham City – Action/Adventure – Rocksteady Studios – October 21st – Retail
When Batman Arkham Asylum was first announced, it was difficult to really gauge on how popular the game would be. Sure, fans of the DC universe would lap it up, but would more casual fans of the caped crusader see this game as a worthwhile purchase? The track record of developer Rocksteady Studios wasn’t anything to go by either, with only a single Playstation title, Urban Chaos, to their name. If you did go out on a limb and buy the game however, or if you bought it expecting at least a half decent game, then Rocksteady Studios didn’t disappoint.
Simply put, Arkham Asylum was one of 2009’s greatest releases, and of the greatest comic-book games of all time. Asylum featured an original, entertaining storyline based around Batman having to pander to the Jokers whim as he took control of the Asylum, and threatened to unleash hell upon Gotham City. The game itself delivered some fantastic fighting sequences, boss battles, brilliant art direction, stealth elements and even the freedom to explore your surroundings at will. If this is anything to go by Arkham City (which will continue the storyline debuted in Asylum only one year later), will be a great purchase. If wearing underwear over you clothes is something you enjoy, then get Arkham City. If you haven’t played Asylum, then pick that up first.
Four bats out of seven.
Rugby World Cup 2011 – Rugby sim – HB Studios – August 26th – Retail
Well, I lie, but that’s only because I refuse to count the abysmal Rugby League Live game released earlier this year. Plus, who likes Rugby League more than Rugby Union? Self-assured bastards, that’s who. Ahem.
Simply put, Rugby World Cup 2011 runs on the same game engine as Rugby 08, so if you liked that, you will like this. RWC 2011 features authentic pre world cup tours in its own unique mode, the majority of the nations involved licensed, the tournament in question, and in game tactical options. Can you stand sitting through the entire Rugby World Cup without playing a videogame equivalent of it? Of course you can’t. Look out for this game at the end of August.
Looks like a rucking good game.
Burnout: Crash – Driving – Criterion – Late August – Live Arcade
Sadly, it probably won’t be. This game is unfortunately nothing but a stop-gap from Criterion, almost a consolation prize for Burnout fans. You see, Criterion were due to start work on a new Burnout title but instead had the opportunity of developing a game in the Need For Speed universe, which they did with Hot Pursuit. This subsequently put them behind on their still to be announced next major game, and as a result, here we are with an arcade title in Burnout: Crash.
The game will feature several game modes all based around the ‘Crash’ objective, but is that enough to keep the fans happy? Sure it might be a bit of a laugh, but I fear this may go down the route of fellow Live Arcade car smash-em-up Scrap Metal, in that it will be fun for a very short amount of time. I hope I am wrong, because I would love for this game to be a success.
Like having cut breaks on a steep hill.
Battlefield 3 – First Person Shooter – DICE – October 28th – Retail
What’s that? No collective sigh like what is usually met with the release of another Call of Duty game? Damn straight. This year, DICE steps away from the Bad Company series of games and instead focuses on the teams main IP, Battlefield. Since the release of Bad Company 2, DICE has been hard at work on Battlefield 3, and aims to make it the most enjoyable shooter on 360. DICE’s aim is simple, they want this game to be the ‘Call of Duty killer’.
How are they going to topple the most popular console FPS you might ask? Well, here’s how. Firstly, DICE have improved on everything that made Bad Company 2 such a hit. Their award winning sound FX have been tweaked to near-perfection, weapons have been improved with new additions and more attachments, the class-based combat system has been refined, and even the Battlefield trademark Destruction 2.0 has been improved for added realism. Add this to an engrossing campaign mode and incredible attention to detail, and you have yourself a direct competitor to the Call of Duty throne.
Buy. This. Game.
Soaring majestically like a UAV drone.
Modern Warfare 3 – First Person Shooter – Infinity Ward & Sledgehammer Games – November 8th – Retail
Well, it’s the third instalment of the IP, it’s particularly modern, and there might be some warfare involved? But, we already knew that. Just like we already know that this game will play, look and feel identical to Modern Warfare 2. If you didn’t like Modern Warfare 2, you won’t like this. After all, it’s pretty much the same game.
What’s new in the game is likely to be what’s new in every Call of Duty game. Perks, Weapons, Killstreaks, Maps, I could go on. What’s new in the game and excitingly different however is the additional of a two-player Spec-Ops survival game, improving on the already impressive Spec-Ops mode which debuted in Modern Warfare 2. Other than that, we have the continuation of the games storyline. If you’re a fan, get it, if not, then save your money. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Al-Asad-ly not that high.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary – First Person Shooter – 343 Industries – November 11th – Retail
When released in early 2002, the game was quick to break several records as it sold one million units faster than any other game at the time, and was adopted as the original Xbox’s flagship game being sold alongside fifty percent of the consoles. The game was credited by Gamespot as being the innovator of the first person shooter, and providing inspiration to many other shooters which came after it.
The remake of Combat Evolved due out later this year is the first major project that the new overseers of the Halo universe, 343 Industries, have been tasked with. The game will feature a completely high-definition campaign, with the option to freely switch between classic and re-mastered graphics at the touch of a button. Add to that a full achievement list and several multiplayer maps playable through Halo Reach, and 343i have seemingly delivered the complete nostalgic package to tide us over until the release of Halo 4 late next year.
Ready for the great journey.
Battleblock Theatre – Platformer – The Behemoth – Unspecified 2011 – Live Arcade
In fact, it isn’t even known if it will be released this year. Assuming it is released this year however, we will be treated to what looks like as equally an entertaining and humorous plat forming romp as the highly successful Castle Crashers which came before it.
From what information can be gathered from the only released trailer and gameplay footage so far, you play Hatty Hattington, a delightfully named character who, along with his unnamed friend, end up being captured and imprisoned it what is likely to be ‘Battleblock Theatre’. Here, Hatty and his associate must traverse through many tricky environments in order to win freedom over the other imprisoned characters. It’s sure to be as fantastic as Castle Crashers was/is, and if it does make a 2011 release, you would do well to buy it. Did I mention it has 16 player co-op?
Need for Speed: The Run – Driving – EA Black Box – November 18th – Retail
The next instalment in the Need for Speed franchise will see the player, for the first time ever in a Need for Speed game, be able to exit their vehicle. Unfortunately, this then leads to an awfully tacky quick time event as your character punches law enforcers and leaps across rooftops. The Run also represents the first game outside of EA’s Battlefield series to run using the Frostbite 2.0 game engine, however whether this means that you will have to weave through collapsing buildings remains to be seen.
In the past, we have seen Need for Speed games with an emphasis on Street Racing, Track Racing and the battle between law enforcement and racers. In The Run however, the emphasis is on the player having to cross the US from San Francisco to New York in order to ‘save his life’, as the games developers have put it. What this means exactly, isn’t clear, but if the game is as impressive as the previous Need for Speed title, Hot Pursuit, then The Run could very well be a surprisingly decent game with a unique emphasis on both the racing element and storyline.
Assassins Creed: Revelations – Action/Adventure – Ubisoft Montreal – November 15th – Retail
Ah, Assassins Creed. With each coming Assassins Creed title, the jumps get bigger, the climbing gets tougher, and the religious conspiracies get even more ridiculous. But, I like that. I like that at the end of Assassins Creed 2, some sort of omnipotent wizard-god Minerva spoke to you, and I like in Brotherhood how the videos showed that Adam and Eve were actually in some sort of futuristic, yet regulated paradise. The back story, the gameplay and the overlying feeling that you are more than just an Assassins killing for pleasure combine to make Assassins Creed one heck of a game.
In Brotherhood we saw a multiplayer feature added to the series for the first time, and in Revelations, this feature has been ironed out, tweaked, and made more enjoyable. New modes, characters and the conclusion to the Altair and Ezio chapter of the Assassins Creed story will also be revealed, as we finally have an answer to the cliff-hanger that Brotherhood ended on. So strap your hidden-blades to your wrists, and lets go murder some historical tyrants.
Gears of War 3 – Third Person Shooter – Epic Games – September 20th – Retail
Gears of War is a third person shooter released in late 2006 which tells the story of ex-convict Markus Fenix and his band of burly friends trying to save fictional planet ‘Sera’ from an invasion of Locust aliens. Does that sound like it was written by somebody who has barely played the game? Well, it was. Gaming journalism eh?
Anyway, I never really liked Gears of War, but I cannot discount its popularity amongst Xbox 360 owners. The game is clearly not shit, and the only reason it features in this list is because it will obviously sell millions of copies, after all, it is what you would call a triple-a Xbox title. New game modes, a new campaign and your typical multiplayer shooter updates will feature, as the Gears of War storyline meets its ever so gripping and untimely end. Unless they bring out Gears of War 4, which would be totally lame.
Rampant like a lambent infection.
Each year is usually better than the last, but with so many fantastic games lined up for the end of 2011, 2012 is going to have a job on its hands bettering this year. So far, we’ve got Halo 4 and Counter Strike Global Operations to ready to go in 2012, and many more still to be announced titles throughout this year and next. Just in case all that Mayan shit kicks off though, enjoy the rest of this year, and take your pick from the best games to offer in 2011. Thanks for reading.