10) Saboteur (360, PS3)
Developed by Pandemic Studios, the masterminds behind the Mercenaries and Star Wars: Battlefront games, comes Saboteur, a stealth-based World War 2 game. In many regards, WWII has been done to death in the gaming industry, but Saboteur seeks to bring new life to it. Rather than go in, guns-a-blazing, Battlefield-of-Heroes-at-Arms-doing-their-Duty-with-Honor-style, Saboteur places you in the shoes of one man, Sean, as he seeks to aid the French Resistance in their quest to rid the country of Nazis. The game will feature a unique aesthetic similar to Okami or Prince of Persia in that areas will start out in mostly black and white, but as you rid the place of Nazis, color will gradually begin to flourish as the French Resistance takes over. We haven’t seen any real gameplay yet, but at the very least, the stylish, jazzy, noir aesthetic is enough to separate it from the rest of the pack.
9) Heavy Rain (PS3)
Quantic Dream, creators of Indigo Prophecy, aim to make a game that tells a rich, deep narrative in a realistic setting where your adventure consists of the choices you make, rather than relying on manual dexterity or traditional puzzles to drive the game forward. Think of it like a "choose your own adventure" movie. This sounds like a natural evolution from Indigo Prophecy, but unlike that game, director David Cage promises that Heavy Rain will have no out-of-left-field supernatural antics plaguing what is otherwise a down-to-earth setting. Consisting of some of the best graphics the PS3 has ever seen and a unique stance on what games could be, Heavy Rain looks to be one of the most interesting games of 2009.
8) Alan Wake (360, PC)
We haven’t heard much about this in awhile, but Alan Wake by Remedy Entertainment, creators of Max Payne, seeks to reinvent the survival horror genre (now that RE is more an action game than anything). The concept bears more than a passing resemblance to John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, revolving around a Stephen King-like horror author stumbling upon his own fictional town. It sounds a bit like Silent Hill too, with Alan on the lookout for his missing fiance. The central concept that differentiates from those titles is that the enemies only come out at night and are vulnerable to light, so you’ll have to set up light sources strategically as you huff it about town, avoiding whatever it is that’s chasing you. We have yet to see any gameplay footage of the game, but the concept of an open-world, thinking man’s survival-horror game has me more than a little intrigued.
7) Prototype (360, PS3, PC)
Radical Entertainment, creators of Hulk: Ultimate Destruction aim to up the ante on what made that game great — the destruction. Playing as Alex Mercer, an amnesiac who escapes from an experiment gone horribly wrong (or right, if you’re a half-full kind of guy), you find yourself loose in New York City being hunted by black ops and crazed citizens transformed into mutants by a mysterious virus. The twist here is that when you defeat an enemy, you absorb their powers, allowing you to take their shape and absorb their knowledge. Kill a mutant with claws? You get claws. Kill a helicopter pilot? You learn how to fly a helicopter. Kill a guy who can cook a mean omelet? You learn to cook a mean omelet. Ok, I made that last one up. But you get the idea.
6) Trine (PS3, PC)
We all love 2D gaming, but is there any reason it’s been relegated to handhelds? Trine seeks to fix that, bringing its lush, vibrant, 3D art on a 2D plane to consoles. Think of it like LittleBigPlanet without the awkward 2.5D plane switching. Billed as an action/adventure puzzle/platformer game with physics-based puzzles where you play as multiple characters, Trine is probably the closest thing we’ve seen to a next-gen Castlevania. Being able to will object into existence certainly looks interesting, as do the different character classes. With any luck it’ll bring 2D gaming back into prime time, and it could well be a great game on its own.
5) The Another World (DS)
Level 5 seemingly came out of nowhere and started making some of the best RPGs out there, including Dark Cloud 1 & 2, Dragon Quest VIII, and Rogue Galaxy. Now, in a shocking turn of events, Studio Ghibli, the studio behind such films as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbor Totoro, has decided to make their first foray in videogames with Level 5’s upcoming The Another World. Okay, I know the title doesn’t make very much sense. But did you read the beginning? It’s a Level 5/Studio Ghibli collaboration! The story has something to do with a 13 year-old boy who travels into another dimension, Wizard of Oz style, where everyone he knows shows up in a different role. It all sounds rather thought-provoking and mature, and based on the teaser trailer that’s been released, it could be magical as well.
4) Bayonetta (360, PS3)
Hideki Kamiya, creator of Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe, and Okami, seeks to resurrect the third-person hack-and-slash game. At first glance, Bayonetta looks like Devil May Cry with a female protagonist and wonderfully sexy, over-the-top, "gun heels" (that’s right, the heels on her boots are revolvers; how cool is that?), but Kamiya insists that it’s an entirely different beast. It’s hard to tell until we get a chance to play it, but the differences between games in the genre are often very subtle nuances that may not be apparent at first glance. Given Kamiya’s track record, I’d say he knows what he’s doing and that there’s a reason he’s not just making a sequel to an existing franchise. With Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden, and God of War all in full-on sequel mode, this could make for a fresh reinvention of the genre.
3) Madworld (Wii)
Since the closure of wunderkind studio, Clover, creators of such titles as Viewtiful Joe, Okami, and God Hand, many of their members branched off to form Platinum Games. Madworld will be their maiden game, and it looks to be a worthy successor to their legacy. Utilizing cel-shaded graphics with a black and white with red all over color scheme, Mad World looks a bit like Frank Miller’s Sin City in full 3D. The story deals with an organization of terrorists taking over Varrigan City and reducing it into a Running Man-esque game show called, "Death Watch" where citizens must kill each other for survival. The idea is that you’ll gain a higher rating based on how varied and clever your murdering is, and from what we’ve seen so far, you can throw thugs onto a giant dartboard of spikes, kick them into an iron maiden, impale a sign post through their heads, hold their bodies against a moving train, or stick to the good ’ol chainsaw-to-the-head strategy. Really, it makes No More Heroes look like a trip to Disneyland, and I for one, couldn’t be happier.
2) inFAMOUS (PS3)
Nevermind the fact that it was about cute, furry animals; Sucker Punch’s Sly Cooper series had some of the most lovable characters and sharpest writing in gaming. Now, they seek to do for superheroes what they previously did for cat burglars. They’re going for a more serious tone than they’ve done in the past, but if anyone can do it, Sucker Punch can. Taking place after the mysterious destruction of Empire city, protagonist Cole is infused with some badass electricity powers (note: he cannot create electricity out of thin air, but he can store it in his body and release it Emperor-style on his foes). Whether the player seeks to rule this desolate metropolis with an iron fist, or stand as the lone hero rising from the ashes and attempt to restore peace and order to the anarchy that is Empire City will be entirely up to the player. With a thoughtful, mature storyline and a colorful, yet gritty setting, inFAMOUS could very well shape up to be the best morally ambiguous, open-world, superhero origin game ever conceived.
1) Brutal Legend (360, PS3, PC)
Tim Schafer, mastermind behind such titles as Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, and Full Throttle seeks to make the ultimate heavy metal game. The story revolves around Eddie Riggs, a roadie played by Jack Black, whose cursed demonic belt buckle sends him back in time to an age when rock gods ruled the earth. Given his Army of Darkness-esque situation, Eddie is given no choice but to fight the forces of darkness with his rocking! As the player travels throughout the Viking/Metal world, he’ll gain new powers from the gods of rock, such as being able to melt faces with his guitar riffs, or liberating slaves who have been forced to dig with their heads and recruiting them as the head-banging fans every metal icon needs. Schafer aims to make it so every possible screen capture of this game will look like it could be an 80s metal album cover. And based on what we’ve seen so far, he’s succeeded.
Alpha Protocol (360, PS3): Mass Effect meets Jason Bourne. This action-RPG spy thriller puts you in the shoes of a CIA man on the run from his superiors as he tries to unlock a mass conspiracy.
Borderlands (360, PS3): A free-roaming post-apocalyptic wasteland action RPG. Think Fallout 3 with up to 4 player co-op and real-time combat shooter action.
The Conduit (Wii): With Metroid Prime 3 a year and a half ago, Nintendo proved that the Wii has, hands down, the best control scheme for first-person shooters. It’s about time we had another one, eh?
Darksiders (360, PS3): It’s God of War meets Zelda: God of War combat and bosses mixed with Zelda’s open-world action-adventure design. What could be better?
Dark Void (360, PS3): Gear of War with a jetpack! This third-person shooter seeks to combine duck-and-cover action with flying. Something like Dead Space with more zero-g environments, perhaps?
Edge of Twilight (360, PS3): With a Hellboy-like goth comic aesthetic, this action/adventure seeks to be a mix between Devil May Cry and Zelda. A winning combo, in my mind.
White Knight Chronicles (PS3): Level 5’s next console RPG. It may not have Studio Ghibli working on it, but it does have the power of the PS3, which is enough to make this follow-up to Dark Cloud 2 and Rogue Galaxy one of the most anticipated RPGs of the year.