Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Shape of Things to Come: Computer Games in 2009

To round off my 2009 preview, let's take a look at some of the games coming out this year.

Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage, The Pitt & Broken Steel
PC & X-Box 360

Late January, late February and late March 2009

These three new downloadable episodes ($10 each, apparently) will each add new content, new missions and new perks to the existing game. However, only Broken Steel will raise the level cap, so those who already got their characters to Level 20 may want to hold out for that before trying the new expansions. The expansions are also exclusive to the PC and 360, with PS3 owners likely having to wait until a boxed copy is released, probably in late 2009. Interestingly, Bethesda have played down the possibility of a full, Shivering Isles-style expansion for the game, instead preferring to concentrate on getting Elder Scrolls V ready for release in 2010. I would be surprised if a full expansion didn't appear in time however.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
PC, X-Box 360 & PS3
13 February 2009

The original F.E.A.R. was a great FPS when it came out a few years back, utilising elements of horror borrowed from Korean movies to great effect. Expect the sequel to expand on elements in the original game and explain some of its mysteries.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
20 February 2009

Relic deliver the long-awaited full sequel to their 2004 hit Dawn of War and its myriad expansion packs. Dawn of War II throws out base-building in its entirety to focus on combat and incorporates many innovations from Company of Heroes as well. Also, the tyranids (aka genestealers) make their long-awaited debut in the franchise.

Company of Heroes: Tales of Valour
9 March 2009

Relic keep their other bestselling franchise in the mix with a new expansion which adds new multiplayer options and modes (expect a new focus on co-op missions and campaigns) and a new singlepayer campaign in which you directly control a King Tiger and get to blow up everything around you. To be honest that doesn't sound too great, and I was hoping for a proper Wehrmacht campaign but what the hell? Rumours are starting to circulate about CoH2 with much excitement at the prospect of introducing the Russians to the game.

Empire: Total War
PC March

Empire marks the beginning of the third generation of the Total War franchise with a whole new game engine, a more global scope (with India and North and Central America added to the traditionally Europe-centric map) and the addition of two features long-requested by fans: full 3D naval combat and proper multiplayer campaigns. Creative Assembly are also trying to interest fans more interested in linear strategy games, with the incorporation of a campaign mode depicting the colonisation of North America featuring cut scenes and voice acting. It's looking superlative at the moment.

Red Alert 3: Uprising
PC & X-Box 360
March 2009

This is a stand-alone single-player expansion to Red Alert 3, with a new storyline following up on the Allied victory in the prior game. Expect new missions, new units and new FMV.

Dragon Age: Origins
PC: April 2009
X-Box 360: Late 2009

The news that BioWare would be returning to its Baldur's Gate-style roots with a new fantasy RPG, this time set in a world of their own devising (but drawing on George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire for inspiration), has made gamers very happy indeed. The news that the game uses a remote floating camera viewpoint similar to that older game (but can be played over-the-shoulder as with Mass Effect and Jade Empire) was also welcomed warmly. The excitement died down a little with the underwhelming preview vids, but BioWare have very rarely put a foot wrong in the past. This looks like an impressive game.

Black Mesa
PC Spring/Summer

In development for over four years, this is a fan-made mod which will update the original, seminal Half-Life to the Source engine. It looks like Gordon Freeman's original adventure will soon be played by a whole new generation of gamers. Valve are apparently seriously impressed by the professionalism of the game, so some sort of official release may also be possible. Check out the trailer here, and be impressed.

PC, X-Box 360, PS3, PS2, Nintendo DS & Nintendo Wii
16 June 2009

The Ghostbusters game looks like being the biggest multi-format release of the year. Timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the original movie, the game is set two years after Ghostbusters 2 and features the return of all the original movie cast, including yes, even Bill Murray, to provide voice work. In addition, the story is written by original writers and castmembers Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis. Whether it's any good or not remains to be seen, but the previews look promising.

Alpha Protocol
X-Box 360 & PS3: 30 June 2009
PC: 31 August 2009

A new action-RPG from Obsidian, the developers of Knights of the Old Republic 2 and Neverwinter Nights 2, this looks like being a possible dark horse of a game, mixing Obsidian's RPG experience (garnered from many years' cooperation with the mighty BioWare) with some decent action game stylings.

Aliens: Colonial Marines
PC, X-Box 360 & PS3
Summer/Autumn 2009

It's been a while since the seminal Aliens vs. Predator FPS games on PC, so a new Aliens game based on modern tech is a mouthwatering prospect. The new game's setting is also interesting, as the long-pondered fandom question of what happened to the Sulaco after the beginning of Alien 3 is finally answered: a bunch of Colonial Marines arrived to find the ship infested and have to clear it out. But that's only the beginning of the story. The developers, Gearbox, have excellent FPS form and the game's co-op mode with each player taking an important role in the squad sounds brilliant. Expect way too many VOIP cries of "Hudson! Run a bypass!" and "Express elevator to hell, going down!"

StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty
PC & Mac
Summer/Autumn 2009

The first game in what has become the StarCraft 2 Trilogy will hopefully ship before the end of the year. Picking up four years after the events of Brood War, Wings of Liberty follows grizzled Terran commander Jim Raynor as he tries to eke out a living as a renegade. The Dark Templar Zeratul brings word of a dark threat to the Korprulu Sector arising out of the depths of the past of both the Protoss and Zerg, and it isn't long before all hell breaks loose. Blizzard seem to be intent on keeping the game as polished and balanced as possible. Expect the sequels, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void, to follow in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Mafia 2
PC, X-Box 360 and PS3
Autumn 2009

2002's Mafia remains one of the finest gaming experiences money can buy, with a fascinating storyline and characterisation to die for, not to mention the thematic exploration of morality and violence handled in a manner that belies its status as a simple computer game. GTA4 very desperately wanted to be Mafia and didn't come close. The sequel is looking very promising, with the same writers and most of the same production team on board. The time setting will be later than the original game, being set in the 1950s, and likely will not involve any of the same characters. Has the potential to be the biggest sleeper hit of the year.

Diablo 3
PC & Mac
Winter 2009

Personally I would be surprised to see this game in 2009, but you never know. Blizzard look set for a two-fer, with new instalments in their long-quiet StarCraft and Diablo franchises plus constant new content releases for World of WarCraft. Diablo 3 looks set to remain faithful to the first two games, with the story taking second place to good old-fashioned dungeoneering.

Metro 2033
Winter 2009

Created by an off-shoot of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. team, this post-apocalyptic horror-RPG-shooter seems to be veering towards a Fallout 3-in-Moscow vibe, which could work out quite well.

Deus Ex 3
PC & X-Box 360
Winter 2009

Likely to drop to 2010, this is the prequel to the classic Deus Ex and the somewhat less-classic Deus Ex 2: Invisible War. It has huge shoes to fill from the first game, but accusations of 'consoleitis' are already being flung at it based on some of the initial previews.

BioShock 2: Sea of Dreams
PC, X-Box 360 & PS3
Winter 2009

The sequel to one of the most acclaimed games of 2007 (which I own but still haven't played, unfortunately) is apparently a sequel, but will also contain a lengthy sequence set before the first game. Other details are hard to come by at the moment, but it should be an interesting game.

Half-Life 2: Episode 3
PC, X-Box 360 & PS3
Winter 2009

With Valve keeping a tight lid on Episode 3, it's debatable whether this will make a 2009 release. However, the news is looking good so far. Episode 3 is set in the Arctic, partially on a ship called the Borealis which is frozen in the ice. New gameplay elements will apparently be included and Valve are hinting that the game will wrap up Gordon Freeman's story and explain some of the core mysteries behind the series, such as who the G-Man really is. It should be huge.

Portal 2
PC, X-Box 360 & PS3
Winter 2009

Slightly disappointingly, it now sounds like Portal 2 will be a prequel to the original, classic game. Fans were hoping for a sequel directly tying in with the events of Episode 3. Still, it should be an inventive and interesting game. I suspect Valve will ship Portal 2 and Episode 3 together in The Mauve Box or something.

PC, X-Box 360 & PS3
Winter 2009

The return of id software. It's been five years since their last game, the underwhelming Doom 3, but John Carmack's crew have spent the interim building a new game engine that will apparently redefine what current and next-gen technology is capable of. Rage, a post-apocalyptic Mad Max-style game with vehicles and a new generation of physics tech, is looking mighty fine at the moment, with a new Wolfenstein game based on the same tech likely to follow the following year.

Crysis 2
Winter 2009

The follow-up to Crysis and Crysis: Warhead was already partially complete a couple of years back, when CryTek decided to shorten Crysis and turn it into a trilogy. Rumours of console versions are abounding, but at the moment the game looks set to be a PC-only affair which picks up on the cliffhanger ending to the original Crysis.

Mass Effect 2
X-Box 360: Winter 2009
PC: Early 2010

The second game in the trilogy. Apparently BioWare are set to make some major announcements about this game in the near future.

The Outsider
PC, X-Box 360 & PS3
Christmas 2009

Frontier Developments' long-gestating techno-thriller features a CIA agent on a dangerous mission in Washington DC. According to designer David Braben, the game intends to redefine what 'freedom of choice' means in a modern computer game.


Starbreeze, creators of the unexpectedly excellent Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher's Bay, are developing Syndicate 3 for EA. The original Syndicate is one of the greatest and most seminal games ever made and Syndicate Wars, although not quite as good, was a reasonable continuation. Expect some kind of FPS four-player co-op thing, although if Starbreeze kept the original isometric viewpoint and made it more awesome I'd be seriously happy. Not every game has to be first-person any more, you know?

With Remedy's impressive Alan Wake getting pushed back to 2010, rumours are circulating that Take 2 and Rockstar are going to commence development of Max Payne 3 themselves. Meanwhile, Remedy's old partners, 3D Realms are now claiming that Duke Nukem Forever isn't too far off. With a straight face.

With The Outsider moving towards completion, Frontier Developments are now in pre-production on Elite 4. However, I wouldn't realistically expect the game this side of 2012.


ediFanoB said...

Unfortunately there is not much time left which I can spend for gaming.

But I really look forward to Dragon Age.

So far I watched all the videos and I have been impressed.

Anonymous said...

I think you meant Half-Life 2: Episode 3.

Otherwise, a very nice write-up as always. StarCraft 2 will most likely be the first game I purchase since the original Half-Life 2 release back in 2004. :)

Luke said...

Fantastic that you can totally ignore Kill Zone 2, God of War III, Infamous, Prototype, MAG, Fat Princess, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Assassin's Creed 2, Mad World, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Resident Evil 5, Heavy Rain, Bayonetta, Street Fightwer IV, Afro Samurai, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Brutal Legend, Final Fantasy XIII and a whole host of other important releases.

Adam Whitehead said...

I'm a PC gamer and most of the games you mention are console titles. The list reflects the games I am interested in this year and isn't meant to be exhaustive across all formats ;-)

Of the games you mention the only one I'm vaguely interested in is Final Fantasy XIII. Although it's good to see that Violition - creators of the legendary Freespace 2 - are still alive and well with a new Red Faction game. Call of Duty 6 could be worth a look, but I'm still waiting for CoD4 to drop down to a more affordable price so I probably won't get to that for a while.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Yep...I'm going to be going broke on games this year! Certainly looking forward to many of these. Didn't realize F.E.A.R. 2 was coming this year. Cannot wait for that. I just pulled the first one and the expansion pack out recently and ran through them again.

Jebus said...

Please Diablo 3 come out this year! Been biding my time by re-running games of Titan Quest to get my mad clicking skillz trained up :)

Used to be a big PC Gamer but not so much in recent years but I'll always have time for Diablo - the gusy that do Blizzard's cut scenes should start making movies.

Adam Whitehead said...

Ha, they are. The cut scene team are apparently going to be doing a fully CGI World of WarCraft movie.

Earl Waren said...

such a very good gameand i am happy to play it. The graphics are very creative and interactive. Each level give you so many challenges the curiosity increases in each step

George Wallace said...

its a very good game any one who play this game should lot of enjoy.Each steps of this game is quite challenging. The sound and graphics quality is very good.

GirishLaikhra said...

Computer Games in 2009 is a very good article......
Yes that is a nice idea but have you ever thought of going up to the biggest guy on the subway and telling him your thoughts on this. I wonder what he might do, or would you even do it.
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Anonymous said...

The Shape of things to come computer games in 2009 is very funny & interesting game.
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