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Ten Most Anticipated Games of 2009

Contributor:
Adrian Hatwell
Adrian Hatwell

Divining which upcoming games will be worthwhile is an almost impossible task, with the inexhaustible corporate hype machine able to conjure a rose-tinted view of even the most despicable piece of rubbish. Still, that’s never stopped the onslaught of ‘most anticipated’ lists before, so why mess with a good thing?

For the first issue of ’09 the staff of Gamefreaks Magazine were asked to list their top ten most anticipated releases of the year (pick up the forthcoming issue to see how that all panned out /shameless plug) Here were my picks based on the initial glimpses/scavenged details/bald-faced publicity lies that we have been privy to thus far:    

Resident Evil 5

“Oh hey, way to go with the safe option” I hear you chide, but I’m a sucker for the series. Resident Evil 4 was, no exaggeration, one of the finest games I’ve ever player, so I’m able to choke back my natural disgust for the never-ending sequel machine and actually look forward to this zombie holocaust with glee.

I will admit to being a little uneasy about the trailer at the heart of the initial racial controversy; images of a white military man slaughtering an African population painted as savage and subhuman has unmistakably nasty colonial connotations. I’m certainly not part of the ignorant ‘it’s just a game, don’t take it so seriously crowd’ but I have to believe that, in the context of the finished project, things are handled with a lot more tact and respect.

If I’m wrong I’ll be dropping Resident Evil 5 quicker than the directors cut of Birth of a Nation.
 

Rock Band 2

I said I wouldn’t mention Rock Band again for a while and, bless your naïve little soul, I bet you believed me. It couldn’t possibly be omitted from the list after all my caterwauling about the original; new tracks, improved instruments, what’s not to salivate over? The price tag, that’s what.

You wont find this on many other ‘most anticipated’ lists, however, because gamers in civilized parts of the world have been playing this bad boy for months. What in the name of all that’s holy is going on with our release dates in New Zealand?

StarCraft 2

I’m not a PC gamer by any stretch, but you can’t help but be interested in StarCraft 2, if only from an sociological perspective.

All of Blizzard’s games have attracted a totally fanatical crowd, but for whatever reason it was Starcraft that caught the collective attention of Korea. Participation in online multiplayer matches has reached such frenzied scope that the game is basically the country’s national sport. Professional StarCraft players are full-blown, hyper-paid celebrities over there – and this is a game released over a decade ago.

So the release of Starcraft 2 (which is, more accurately, a trilogy of games) is to Korea kind of like what the invention of some sort of Rugby part 2 would be to New Zealand; only way crazier. Success or flop, it’s going to be on a scale way out of hand for a mere videogame, I can’t wait to see how it goes down.

Flower

Though there’s only the most vague of descriptions floating around for this PlayStation Network title, it might just be the game I’m most looking forward to.

It’s more the name behind the game that has caught my attention. ThatGameCompany are responsible for two of my favourite experimental games of recent mention; Flow and Cloud. The games defy traditional goal-based gameplay and competition, instead employing an atmospheric aesthetic that inspires players to participate by merit of beauty and theoretical engagement.

Inspired by the non-violent whimsy of Katamari Damacy, the Interactive Media students behind ThatGameCompany have been pushing their games in a rich, alternative direction that I believe gaming desperately needs to go.

Rhythm Heaven

Just to maintain my obscure Japanese game quotient, Rhythm Heaven is the DS sequel to the GameBoy Advance music game Rhythm Paradise, which never saw a release outside Japan.

Even so, it’s reputation reached the ears of those willing to listen to fanciful tales of worthwhile games not based in the English language, and that lead to its sequel getting an international release some time this year.

As addictive and bat-shit insane as anything Wario and his crew ever got up to, the gameplay on Rhythm Heaven will be a revelation to Heaven-virgins worldwide. I know this because – and don’t you judge me - I’ve been playing it for a while via less than virtuous means (hey, I’m promoting it’s eventual release here!)

Bioshock 2

This is shaky ground; Bioshock took us by surprise, challenged the way we thought of storytelling in games, and set aflame heated, intelligent discussion web-wide. Can that lightening be bottled a second time?

Probably not, most notably because the development team behind the original opus have nothing to do with the sequel (off to find weirder pastures, apparently.) As if that wasn’t enough to qualify the unnecessary extension of the Bioshock legacy, the third game has already been announced to coincide with the release of the Bioshock movie, Bioshock Happy Meal, Bioshock Nike Hi-Tops, and Bioshock limited edition Little Sister print toilet paper. Oh boy!

These successful properties that later get stretched into trilogies have a tendency to go all kinds of wrong, still one can but pray it’s more (original) Star Wars than Matrix.

MadWorld

I’m always open to a good reason for firing up my Wii again, and MadWorld might be just the bit of ultraviolence I’ve been looking for.

Featuring a mechanic with a chainsaw for an arm brutally slaying his way through some kind of demented TV death-show, all rendered in charming almost- black-and-white fashion; MadWorld looks like the exact kind of game that doesn’t appear on Nintendo’s Wii.

It’s already got watchdogs up in arms over it’s virtual crimes against humanity, but unlike other such cases like the completely soulless Manhunter 2, MadWorld seems to have a wicked sense of humour about what it’s doing – more Itchy and Scratchy than perverted snuff flick. So hopefully it will see the light of day.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Virtual forays into the world of DC Comics have been mixed experiences at best, but I hold out foolish fanboy hope that Arkham Asylum will break that mediocre tradition.

The game will be set firmly in the continuity of Batman comics (which is both good and bad for those that give a toss) and is being penned by the great Paul Dini, the man responsible for the amazing DC animated shows.

Most heartening of all is the news that the game will focus on detective work as much as combat, so players can step into the spiky boots of the world’s greatest detective, not just some remorseless pain-machine. If they manage to capture just a hint of the atmosphere that characterised the comic of same name then this could be a chilling success.

Brütal Legend

To be honest I’m not overly interested in ‘Tenacious D The Videogame’, as the premise seems to entail, but once again it’s the name behind the curtain that intrigues.

Being no great Metal fan, the story of a roadie (voiced by Jack Black) sucked into a Heavy Metal fantasy world doesn’t really tickle my fancy, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for Tim Schafer.

Schafer is responsible for some of the unarguably finest videogames of all time, including Psychonaughts (the best game you never played) and classic Lucas Arts adventure games Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, and Secret of Monkey Island.  Talk to any gamer who came up playing these games and they will speak of them in the hushed, reverent tones that boxing fans use in discussing the days of Rocky Marcianno, Sugar Ray Robertson, or George Forman. Golden age, baby.

inFamous

Being aware of a development team or industry personality behind an upcoming title really is the best measure the savvy gamer has at her command in prejudging games beyond mere hype. And even then it’s dubious at best. Even so, that is again the basis for my pick.

It might sound like a fairly unremarkable GTA clone on paper, but inFamous is being put together by Sucker Punch Productions, the fine folk behind the Sly Cooper series. Sly is the Racoon Master of Thieves, and he and is team of oddball specialists perform daring heists in the name of justice and profit across three brilliant platforming games.

If anyone can inject a little originality and polish into GTA-with-lightening-powers it is Sucker Punch Productions.

While I would love all of these titles to live up to my expectations, or exceed them, the nature of the game pegs that as unlikely. What I would much prefer, however, is for a whole host of games to come out of nowhere and really knock me over with quality, originality, and that refreshing sting of the new.

Here’s to ‘09, geek massive.
 

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