Other than “Lost in Shadow,” a puzzle-filled, platform-jumping game for the Wii that came out this week, the game industry is in the middle of a month-long hibernation. With that in mind, it’s a great time to look ahead to the rest of this year’s games, some of which have only been announced recently.
It’s also a great time to look back at the year that was. I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks boning up on 2010 titles and plan to discuss my Game of the Year for 2010 next week. then follow with a column on the runners-up. In the meantime, here’s a look at 10 games worth watching in 2011.
My list doesn’t include any Wii games or titles exclusive to the Xbox 360 or Kinect because Nintendo and Microsoft have thus far played their 2011 plans close to the vest. We know Nintendo is working on a new “Legend of Zelda” game, for example, but we might not see it this year.
“LittleBigPlanet 2” (Jan.18 for PlayStation 3): The first “LittleBigPlanet” kicked off the PlayStation 3’s “Play. Create. Share.” campaign by letting players design and upload their own platform-jumping levels so that other players could download and rate them. Oh, and it was all free, too. Last year’s “ModNation Racers” applied the formula to kart racing. Now, “LittleBigPlanet 2” is upping the ante by letting players create multiple game types, ranging from racers to shooters.
“Dead Space 2” (Jan. 25 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3): The sequel to 2008’s chilling, intense shooter brings back a lot of the same gameplay elements and puts protagonist Isaac Clarke through the ringer all over again. You’ll once again be using an arsenal of industrial tools to quickly sever the limbs from hordes of freakishly fast zombies, known as necromorphs. The sequel also boasts an all-new multiplayer mode.
“Bulletstorm” (Feb. 22 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3): This arcade-style, first-person shooter features a heavy dose of M-rated attitude that’s either the gaming equivalent of a Bruce Campbell movie or over-the-top terrible. There’s a great chance that the year’s most memorable line of cornball dialogue will come from either “Bulletstorm” or Epic Games’ other big 2011 game, Xbox 360 exclusive “Gears of War 3.”
“Dragon Age II” (March 8 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3): BioWare’s follow-up to my 2009 Game of the Year looks to be taking the hardcore nerd’s RPG in a more mainstream, action-focused direction. Rather than creating your own character, like you did in “Dragon Age: Origins,” players will be controlling a new hero, known as Hawke. Expect the design change to mean your character has more dialogue and a fixed background, like Commander Shepard, the hero of BioWare’s “Mass Effect” games.
“Portal 2” (April 19 for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3): The first “Portal,” which fused first-person shooter controls with mind-bending, physics based puzzles, made a lot of critics’ 2007 Game of the Year shortlist. Unlike the first game, which was a few hours long and part of a multigame compilation, the sequel is a full-fledged, stand-alone $60 game that features online co-op. “Portal 2” may well make its players feel smarter than any other game released this year, or at least send them running to YouTube for puzzle solutions.
Nintendo 3DS (spring): Nintendo hasn’t yet announced a release date for its handheld that will allow 3D gaming without the use of glasses, but a big announcement is coming Jan. 19.
“Rage” (Sept. 13, for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3): What I saw at last year’s E3 of the latest shooter from iD Software (“Doom,” “Quake”) looked a lot like a prettier, more realistic-looking version of the desert-like wasteland in “Borderlands.” The blend of frenetic shooting and vehicle-based combat didn’t do anything to dispel that initial read.
“Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception” (Nov. 1 for PS3): The latest game in Sony’s “Indiana Jones”-style adventure saga is sure to feature plenty of stunning vistas, archaeological intrigue, gunplay and flirty repartee between series lead Nathan Drake and one or more beautiful females.
“The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” (Nov. 11, for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3): Epic role-playing game factory Bethesda Softworks handed the reins for “Fallout: New Vegas” to Obsidian Entertainment last year so that its designers could continue plugging away at this epic, single-player swords-and-sorcery affair. “Skyrim” was only just announced during Spike TV’s Video Game Awards, so details are scarce.
Unannounced “Call of Duty” game (November): We get a new “Call of Duty” every fall and, up to this point, development duties have alternated between game developers Infinity Ward (the “Modern Warfare” team) and Treyarch (the “Black Ops” and “World at War” team). This year, it’s Infinity Ward’s turn, but the studio has been decimated by the defections of its two heads and dozens of key staff members. A studio called Sledgehammer Games is making a new “Call of Duty” game, but Activision has said it’s not the flagship, 2011 game. This implies another title is in the works. We’ll have to hold tight for a bit before we know who’s making it.