2011 – The Ones To Watch
L.A. Noire (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. Release date: TBA 2011)
The shadow of the ‘Uncanny Valley’ has long hung over the graphical potential of the current crop of games consoles – the concern being that we would soon find our game worlds populated with characters that, though bordering on photorealism, lacked the spark of humanity required to make them truly believable. It’s encouraging that – though perfection has not yet been achieved – titles such as Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain have made great strides towards realising utterly believable human characters. L.A. Noire (from Rockstar Games’ Team Bondi) is looking likely to be the next step in this evolution.
Utilising pioneering technology called MotionScan, Team Bondi have been able to transfer the performances of actors onto digital characters with a degree of authenticity outdoing anything seen to date; the range – and believability – of emotions expressed by characters in the trailers released thus far is nothing short of astounding. This alone make’s L.A. Noire one to watch; add the fact that it is coming from the same publisher who brought us Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, and it is a very exciting prospect indeed.
The Last Guardian (Team Ico/SCE – PlayStation 3. Release Date: TBA 2011)
After releasing two of the PlayStation 2’s defining experiences (Ico and Shadow of the Colossus), the weight of expectation placed on Team Ico’s PS3 debut, The Last Guardian, is huge. And yet, a mere glance into the wonderfully warm eyes of the griffin-like creature around which the game is built seems to be reassurance enough that The Last Guardian will live up to these expectations.
Like many of the games on this list, there is a lot of mystery surrounding The Last Guardian. What we do know is that you will be playing as a young boy who befriends a huge creature and that this duo set out on an adventure that will without question err on the epic side of things… A pervasive sense of mystery has long been one of Team Ico’s strengths, with a sense of intrigue being one of the main factors that pulled you ever onwards in both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, and, while we are eager to find out more about The Last Guardian, we’d prefer to do this in person rather than by reading a press release…so we really can’t wait to play it for ourselves!
Killzone 3 (Guerilla Games/SCE – PlayStation 3. Release date: February 2011)
Any console worth its salt needs a flag-ship first person shooter and, despite numerour titles vying for the crown, the Killzone series has claimed this position on the PlayStation 3. It’s not been an easy road for the series; Killzone 1 was ambitious but ultimately disappointing and Killzone 2, though a massive improvement and a visual benchmark, still received a fair amount of criticism for its grubby setting, weak narrative and grating character roster. With each instalment, Guerilla Games have proven that, above all else, they are focussed on listening to the criticisms and ensuring that they do not make the same mistakes again; and this absolutely looks to be the case with Killzone 3.
While Killzone 3 is likely to be more evolutionary than revolutionary, there is still much here to get excited about. With even sharper visuals, more varied world designs, new vehicles and weaponry coupled with much embellished multiplayer modes (see our Beta Hands-On), it has the potential to finally put the (hugely unhelpful) ‘Halo killer’ tag that has plagued the series to rest and allow it to take its own place alongside the very best of the genre.
Gears of War 3 (Epic Games/MGS – Xbox 360. Release date: Q4 2011)
Our favourite loveable meatheads – Dominic Santiago and Marcus Fenix- return for a third time to reintroduce the Locust hordes to the intricacies of a chainsaw to the face. As with Killzone 3, Gears of War 3 is unlikely to be the most original game of the year, but Cliff Bleszinksi and Epic know how to service their fan base… So, as well as the usual epic campaign, a wealth of new multiplayer modes will be included (with four-player co-op) and the introduction of female COGS. In terms of action games, the first two Gears of War games remain among the best of this generation; and Gears of War 3 should see the trilogy reach a satisfyingly explosive finale!
The above are only a small sample of what 2011 has to offer us, obviously overlooking there are, of course, those titles that lie hidden, yet to be announced and braced to take the world by storm, along with countless other titles that a worthy of mentioning: EAs flagship snowboarding series SSX finally makes are return in SSX: Deadly Descents; Rocksteady follow up the wonderful Arkham Asylum with Batman: Arkham City; Ryu will yet again clash Spiderman in Marvel Vs Capcom 3 and Sackboy gets to charm us all over again in LittleBigPlanet 2.
Then there is the hardware – the launch of the Nintendo 3DS is just around a corner – an event with the potential to be one of the most impactful hardware launches of recent memory; 3D gaming finally becomes portable and – more importantly – affordable. And let us not forget Sony and Microsoft’s motion controllers which both have huge potential that has yet to be tapped.
Whether all of these releases live up to expectations has yet to be seen, but gamers should be more than happy with how the year is shaping up, with plenty of titles to cover all tastes. Above all, however, our biggest hope is that innovation, risk-taking and originality can shine through (both critically and commercially), and that 2011 can be remembered – not just as a year that delivered a great roster of titles – but also as a year that enriched and progressed videogame culture.
Make sure you follow D+PAD throughout 2011 to see how the year pans out…
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