A new year is upon us and it is this time that everyone looks ahead to what gaming will bring us next. Last year’s games are behind us, they’ve received their Game of the Year nominations and wins, but that’s all history now. What matters most is what more we can have now. While 2013 is sure to usher in at least the news of new consoles from both Microsoft and Sony, there are still some great games already slated for the first half of this year that still beg to question why we need new consoles at all. Well, that’s a discussion for another time.
Every year after a console’s launch, the inevitable sequel is released. 2012 saw an influx of major franchise sequels and 2013 will be no different. Coming in February, the Dead Space series will see the third game released and will follow Isaac Clark’s journey as he travels, this time, to a planet to search for the source of the Necromorph outbreak. Dead Space successfully reinvigorated the survival horror genre and I sincerely hope that Dead Space 3 does not go the way of Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise and become more of a Gear of War clone. With the addition of a second character, soldier John Carver, that can be played by another player, it seems the survival horror aspect may be lost. Survival horror is about being isolated in an unknown, close quarter location not knowing what to expect around the next corner. By moving this title to a planet surface, outdoor environments, and adding a partner player, the very nature that defines a survival horror may be lost. While I am still excited to return to this franchise next month, I am not holding out hope that the very nature of the series will remain intact. Dear franchise developers: not every game needs multiplayer. There is still value in a single player experience. Let’s not lose sight of that.
This year is looking to be a year of reboots and redefining some classic franchises such as January’s reimagining of the DmC: Devil May Cry series, featuring Dante’s first adventure, before he got his classic anime white hair. Another long standing franchise that is receiving a long-overdue revisit is one of my personal favourites: Tomb Raider. Gone is the “Lara Croft:” prefix from the title as Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix strive to bring Lara into the 21st century as a true modern-day hero. Completely redesigned from the ground up, including Lara herself, she is no longer the big-breasted bombshell for the 13-year old boy. Tomb Raider returns Lara to her very origin and retells and reinvents her very first adventure, before she became her iconic tomb raiding self. It seems that Crystal Dynamics is taking some liberties with this story and actually changing Lara’s history. As a fan of the series, I’m okay with that; all good stories deserve a revisit and, if needed, a rewrite. Look at Battlestar Galactica, for example. The reboot turned out far superior than the original 1978 series. What I hope the developers don’t lose, however, is the very core of what makes a Tomb Raider game: adventure and exploration. Previous games in this series were more about the adventure, puzzle solving, and collections, than they were about combat. If this new title can retain that balance and make sure that combat is not the focus of the title, then I believe they will have another hit on their hands. If they mess with the core of Tomb Raider, then long-time fans like myself will be sorely disappointed. March 5th can not come soon enough.
While technically a sequel, this next game, also slated for a March release, is a new franchise of sorts. The Bioshock franchise is moving from the underwater city of Rapture to the airborne city of Columbia in an all-new action-packed title called Bioshock Infinite. Helmed by the first Bioshock’s frontrunner, Ken Levine, I am hopeful for a return to the amazing storytelling that he brought us with the first game. Could we see another history making twist in the story like we did in the first game? Will there be some relationship between Columbia and Rapture that we didn’t see coming? Like Tomb Raider above, I hope the core gameplay mechanics in Bioshock Infinite mimic the ones found in Bioshock and its sequel. The main character, Booker DeWitt (is that one of the coolest video game names ever?), and his rescue target, Elizabeth, promise to provide gamers with an emotional bond like we’ve never seen before in a game. Elizabeth’s abilities will augment Booker’s in ways we’ve never seen. Bioshock Infinite is shaping up to be another incredible journey like its predecessors before it and I’m sure there’s plenty of surprises to be revealed yet.
2013 is already looking to be another amazing journey in video game goodness, even on the current slate of consoles. With seven years of development knowledge behind them, developers can push our consoles to their limit just in time for them to shift gears and begin learning how to do it all over again on new consoles that will inevitably be announced this year. These three titles above are just a fraction of the wonderful games that will grace our homes this year. SimCity will make a return in March, Bethesda has been teasing us with The Elder Scrolls Online, and Star Wars is looking to make a comeback in an M-rated game, Star Wars 1313. So many other games are making headlines too and I hope to be able to cover them all right here when they release.
What titles are you looking forward to this year? What will dominate your gaming time in the months to come? Are you hoping to rule the streets in Grand Theft Auto V? Journey to the stars with Captain Kirk in Star Trek? Survive in an post apocalyptic world in The Last of Us? Or perhaps you’re looking forward to some amazing visuals and interactive fiction with Beyond: Two Souls. Weigh in with your most wanted list in the comments below.