December 2010 recap: to Vietnam and the future
It’s been a month of drinking, eating, and spending time with loved ones, and a month for announcements – big announcements. The following games were unveiled: Uncharted 3, The Elder Scrolls V, Mass Effect 3, SSX Deadly Descents, and a new Tomb Raider; it is a very impressive list. We also learned more about some of 2011’s most exciting games: Homefront, DiRT 3, L.A. Noire, Batman: Arkham City, Resistance 3 and Bulletstorm.
There weren’t many new releases, but the Vietnam expansion pack for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was a highlight. We also got some demos – and yes, a demo can be a highlight, but only just. Here is the re-cap of the month…
Most of the announcements happened at the VGA Awards; the show itself was torture, but the trailers certainly raised the excitement levels, with us getting to see footage of Uncharted 3, Batman: Arkham City, Resistance 3, and a playful video for Portal 2.
There was a teaser for inSane, the upcoming game from celebrated director Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), which, judging by the trailer, will dirty underwear round the world. EA used the event to reveal Mass Effect 3 and SSX Deadly Descents, and Bethesda, to reveal The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
However, the game that stole the headlines during December was unsurprisingly Uncharted 3. Trusted companion Victor Sullivan will be rejoining Nathan Drake, and this time they will venture into the Arabian Desert in search for the Atlantis of the Sand. Naughty Dog are citing the early career of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and his autobiography, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, as source material. The studio knows how to tell a gripping adventure story, and we cannot see this being anything but great. Drake certainly has not lost his knack for getting into scrapes.
Drake’s adventures in Uncharted 3 will not be limited to the desert though; we have already seen flaming-hot gameplay footage from a French Châteaux, and a trip to Britain may be on the cards, if the twenty-pound notes in the teaser trailer are anything to go by; and different footage shows Drake fighting on what looks to be a boat, possibly one that is sinking.
Uncharted 3 will retain its classic gameplay – that perfect mix of dramatic platforming and manic shoot-out sections – and it will, of course, feature numerous heart-stopping narrow-escape set-piece moments. Improvements are already noticeable with the melee combat and we are seeing more detail from the rendering engine. Flame and water effects are vastly improved, and the sand doesn’t look too shabby either.
On the lead-up to the VGA Awards, BioWare sent out cryptic clues, hinting at the big game that they were set to announce. That new project happens to be the final chapter in the Mass Effect trilogy.
Earth is under invasion – “two million dead on the first day, another seven by the end of the week” – and only Commander Shepherd can save the day. The threat is huge, literally, and London and the rest of Earth is about to be destroyed.
We knew that Mass Effect 3 was on the way, everyone did, but the trailer still raised the hairs on the back of our necks. Seeing Big Ben alters how you view the world; it’ll still be the ultimate space opera, but it suddenly feels more familiar – and more exciting for it.
The wait until November seems cruelly far away, but thankfully, we have Mass Effect 2 to keep us occupied in the meantime. It is coming to PlayStation 3 in January, and a demo is available on the PlayStation Store. Definitely check it out.
EA’s announcement of SSX: Deadly Descents was a surprise, not so much the news of a new SSX but more so the direction that EA Canada appears to be taking the series. Out goes the colourful, almost cartoony, graphics, and in come a realist and moody style, closer to something like Black Ops. EA Games are assuring SSX fans that the gameplay in Deadly Descents will be familiar, and they are making a big deal about online play. Check out the trailer here. It has been too long since the last SSX.
It has also been too long since we had a new The Elder Scrolls game, the last being Oblivion, which is still considered one of the best role-play games available on the PlayStation 3. The fifth instalment in the series is entitled Skyrim, which refers to the wintry region where the game takes place. Details are sparse at this moment but dragons feature heavily in the début trailer. Bethesda Game Studios has developed a purpose-built game engine for Skyrim, which is music to our ears, and the improved graphics are already noticeable, even in the video. We hope that the in-game footage will be equally impressive. More details will be with us soon, but all you need to know is that the daddy of role-play games is returning in 2011.
We were also delighted to see our first footage of Batman: Arkham City, which had Batman beating up many thugs – a sight you can never tire of. There was little actual gameplay, but we did get our first look at Professor Hugo Strange, and heard plenty of his voice. We know it well, it is unmistakable; it has to be that of Lord Summerisle, Mr Count Dracula and Saruman – yes, Christopher Lee himself! If this is not Christopher Lee’s voice, we will eat our hats. View the trailer above and judge for yourself. His voice is perfect for the role.
There was also more footage of Resistance 3 at the VGAs. Much of it was live action, but the actual gameplay looked excellent, showing considerable graphical improvements over Resistance 2. We like the suburban setting, and the darker feel. Is this to be the year Resistance finally becomes a genuine AAA title?
Many well-known franchises will be making a return this year, but none as famous as Tomb Raider, which is due for another reboot. We’re being told to forget everything we think we know about Tomb Raider, because Crystal Dynamics will be taking Lara back to her roots, when she was be young and fragile. Surprisingly, considering how familiar Lara is, Tomb Raider games are never plot heavy; however, we expect this to flesh out Lara’s character more than any other game in the series.
In other game news: THQ released more details for their upcoming near-future shooter, Homefront (1 & 2), and it is shaping up to be one of the boldest shooters for a while. However, the developers at People Can Fly are taking themselves less seriously with Bulletstorm; it is a game all about killing with skill, and it is certain to be an instant hit. Learn more about its mad characters here, and find out out about its co-op multiplayer here. To appreciate the game, you really have to play it; it is tremendous fun. One thing that does not need to be played though is DiRT 3’s Gymkhana. The Ken Block inspired trailer is enough to get us excited. It is viewable from here.
The latest L.A. Noire footage was equally impressive, although in a less dramatic way. Team Bondi’s MotionScan technology is producing some remarkable performances, allowing for life-like lip-syncing, essential for this dialogue-heavy crime thriller. We expect L.A. Noire to be one of the most interesting titles in 2011. Check out the MotionScan trailer above.
Finally, we did actually play some games in December. The Vietnam expansion pack for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 arrived and that has been occupying our time. The pack is fantastic value, and definitely builds on the Bad Company 2 experience. We will be bringing you a comprehensive review soon, but if you’re a Battlefield fan, don’t wait for our final verdict, because you’re certain to love it.
Ladies and gentlemen, have a delightful January, and play safe!