2011 Game Titles set a High Bar for ’12

Game enthusiasts across the nation are undoubtedly still knee-deep in many of the fantastic titles of late 2011, temporarily oblivious to what’s in store for them in the coming months. But if the Mayans are correct and we do indeed find ourselves hurtling towards our imminent doom this December, I’m sure we’d all benefit from a few more choice titles before some asteroidal catastrophe or nuclear winter puts an end to our existence. So just how well will next year will stack up against the uncharacteristically prolific year in gaming that was 2011?

Last year offered more than mass protests and overthrown dictatorships. With record-breaking sales across the board, 2011 represented a distinct victory for video games within the entertainment industry as a whole. Activision’s “Modern Warfare 3″ became the best-selling piece of entertainment merchandise ever. It quickly earned $1 billion in sales, faster than the previous record-holder: James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which many believed untouchable in its number one seat. Maybe Americans are finally realizing that a $60 game that will last years is a better investment than shelling out 15 bucks for two hours of a three-dimensional, futuristic re-hash of “Pocahontas.”

Sales figures aside, 2011 offered some of the greatest game titles that we have seen in a long, long time. The release of numerous cross-platform smash-hits including “Skyrim,” “Arkham City,” and “Battlefield 3″ ensured every type of game player had a chance to get in on the virtual action. Console exclusive titles such as the third installments of “Uncharted” and “Gears of War” gave console fanboys across the globe something to brag and argue about. Even the Wii got in on the action with its masterfully-done “Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword.” Such a venerable cornucopia of game titles offers a strong challenge towards game developers to up the ante this year. It’s hard to imagine that 2012 could possibly eclipse, or even equal the glory that was last year. Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the shimmering prospects coming our way.

Role-playing fans will certainly have their carpel tunnel-ridden hands full this year. Many of the most anticipated games of 2012 involve role-playing elements of some kind, and the first one to keep your eye on is undoubtedly Bioware’s “Mass Effect 3.” Its past predecessors offered some of the best space exploration gameplay ever seen, where players actions drastically effect the outcome of the game. Players can expect an additional four-player co-op mission mode to add to the galactic mayhem.

Blizzard Games will rear its mighty head this year as it will finally continue its hugely popular and HIGHLY addicting Diablo series with the release of “Diablo 3.” It’s been more than 10 years since the release of the Lord of Destruction expansion pack to “Diablo 2,” and yet hundreds of thousands of diehard fans, including myself, still occupy its Battlenet servers, hunting for loot and fighting ubers until the hell cows come home. The game is currently in its beta stage, and a release date has not yet been slated … typical Blizzard. Rest assured though, we will see this game released within the year.

Incidentally, 2012 will see many game developers hoping to chip away at Blizzard’s stranglehold on the RPG market. “Guild Wars 2″ is supposedly making its debut within the first half of the year. The original “Guild Wars” offered a top-notch MMORPG without the “pay-to-play” label stamped on it, which is something that other hugely popular games can’t say (cough, “World of Warcraft,” cough). “Guild Wars 2″ will hopefully offer superior visuals, complex gameplay and a huge and immersive world without the $15/month subscription to bleed you dry.

One title which assuredly has many people giddy with anticipation is 2K Games’ newest Bioshock title, “Bioshock Infinite.” Past Bioshock games were known for their distinctly dystopian feel, offering beautifully done surroundings in which to dish out carnage with a huge variety of unique weapons and deadly psychokinetic powers. The new game will not be set in the underwater city of Rapture however; it instead will take place on a giant, floating city. Apparently the folks at 2K Games have a real problem with solid land.

Japan-based Capcom Games recently announced their newest project, “Resident Evil 6.” The game will feature Leon Kennedy, the man, the myth, the legend and hero of what many call the best Resident Evil so far, “Resident Evil 4.” Anyone who has played Resident Evil alone in a dark room knows that it is in fact possible to be scared shitless by a video game, and hopefully this game will be no exception. By the way, RE6 will feature real zombies, none of that genetically-altered but still somehow alive crap. Chalk one up for the living dead.

It’s probably safe to say that although this year may not top 2011 in terms of its number of quality games, it certainly won’t be even close to a bad year. As the gaming industry continues to grow exponentially in the coming years, and with the announcement of new consoles by both Microsoft and PlayStation, things are looking good. Until then, we’ve got a hell of a lot of quality games to keep us occupied. Now if you’ll excuse me, “Skyrim” beckons.

Andrew Lahr is a creative writing major by day, gamer by night. Email questions, comments and column ideas to [email protected].