Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Respice, Prospice (Part 2)

Time to kick the New Year laziness and get to grips on part 2 of good games we can expect to see in 2010.

Starting Part 2 off we have...BioShock 2.

Developer: 2K Marin / 2K Australia /
Digital Extremes / Arkane Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Expected: 9th February 2010

The sequel to 2007's Game of the Year from almost anyone who mattered, BioShock 2 has the almost singular privilege of being the only game I can recall to have four developers. With that many fingers in the collective pie it makes me wonder whether this game will suffer from "too many cooks" syndrome.

2K Boston, aka (and now once again) Irrational Games are not involved in this second iteration, despite headlining the original game, and it remains to be seen whether new creative teams can orchestrate a worthy return to Rapture. This time around we will see multi-player (courtesy of Digital Extremes) that is, rather confusingly, set before the events of the original game. The single-player campaign though is a traditional sequel, set some 10 years after the events of the original.

I'm still undecided on this one. On the one hand the original BioShock was an amazing game that was well worthy of the accolades that it received. It had a rich and vibrant world and a story based upon Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy that really did reach out and grab you. On the other, 2K Boston / Irrational Games and Ken Levine are not substantially involved in this sequel, and when much of the success of the first was primarily down to them it makes me wonder how this sequel is going to turn out.

Either way, we don't have long to wait to find out. Would you kindly wait for a full opinion until after the game is released in February.

Starcraft 2

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Activision Blizzard
Expected: 1H 2010

What with Blizzard needing more money to fund their takeover of the world, Starcraft 2 looks to be one sequel that we should actually be seeing in 2010 (unlike Diablo 3 which won't be seen until 2011 at the earliest). Blizzard have decided to split the game into three parts, each one concentrating on a specific race and campaign. The first part is subtitled Wings of Liberty and will concentrate on the Terrans (humans) but was also recently announced to be featuring a micro-campaign for the Protoss.

Aside from the obvious advantages Blizzard will receive from having gamers buy one game three times, the game itself looks to be shaping up nicely. I can't say I was much interested in the first, RTS isn't really a genre that appeals to me tremendously, but I'll probably be giving SC2 at least a cursory examination due to everyone in the world seemingly intending to buy it, especially in South Korea.

No release date yet but Blizzard expects to push this one out the door sometime in the first half of 2010.


Developer: Splash Damage
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Expected: Autumn 2010

Originally expected in the Spring, Splash Damage's newest offering attempts to blend online and offline play in a way that hasn't really been done in a game before. Set in a floating futuristic utopia known as the Ark you have the choice of either playing as Security or Resistance who have been brought to the brink (aha!) of a civil war over the Ark's resources. The clever part is that you can play through the campaigns offline with bots, or you can play online so that the NPCs become real player characters, played by other people around the world. You will participate in their games as much as they will participate in yours.

You will gain experience points for completing class-specific quests and objectives, which in turn will unlock new clothing and other visual perks which are fully transferable from online to offline and vice-versa. In short, anything you unlock online is available offline and anything you unlock offline is available online, the game doesn't differentiate between the two.

The game also features the SMART system (standing for Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain), which is a fancy acronym for context-specific movement. You could be looking at a chest-level pole; run towards it holding down the SMART button looking up and you might vault over it, run towards it holding down the SMART button but looking down and you might skim underneath it. Earth-shattering? Hardly, but it could be an interesting feature for getting around with.

Brink has some noble concepts but whether Splash Damage are actually able to implement them in a fun and working game remains to be seen. If done right, Brink could be the sleeper hit of the year.

Black Prophecy

Developer: Reakktor Media
Publisher: TBA
Expected: "2010"

A game that I firmly believe 95% of people won't have heard about due to flying so low under the radar it's practically skimming the ground, Black Prophecy is an interesting spacefaring MMO in development by German company Reakktor Media. They seem to be aiming for Eve Online lite, which if executed correctly could eliminate what seems to be one of the popular complaints about Eve that is frequently banded about, that it is an excellent game but very newb-unfriendly and has more menus that I've had hot dinners.

Full disclosure: I will say that Eve is one of the most attractive and engrossing spreadsheets that I have ever played.

Some of the screenshots from the BP site are, frankly, amazing. Make sure you check out the videos as well, as aside from an over-enthusiastic announcer in one of them they are very visually striking. Sign up for the beta while you're over there, as well.

As BP is an MMO expect the usual fetch / kill / grind triple-play transplanted to a sci-fi setting. The storyline for BP has been written by a real sci-fi author as well, in the shape of German storyteller Michael Marrak. No, I haven't heard of him either but at least it's a step in the right direction for lovers of narrative that actually makes sense.

There's no publisher for BP yet. Reakktor are apparently shopping the game around various publishers to see who is interested, and hopefully an announcement will be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future. Keep an eye on this one, it could be something special.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Developer: EA DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Expected: 2nd March 2010 (NA), 5th March 2010 (EU)

The sequel to the console-only Battlefield: Bad Company actually hits the PC this time around. DICE seem to be going to great pains to not replicate almost every mistake that Infinity Ward made with Modern Warfare 2 on the PC, including guaranteeing that dedicated servers will be available for the PC version and that party chat will be available for each mode.

I can't say that this is a game which was of particular interest to me, but people have spoken about it with such reverence that I felt compelled to include it here. A short multi-player beta for the PC begins at the end of the month and this will at least let us get a taste of the game before it's out in March.

Maybe BC2 will be that game that actually makes me interested in modern, realistic shooters. Stranger things have happened.