Top 5 game releasesBy TheStudentGuide
Our superduper games reviewer, Jeremy Thackray, gives us the lowdown on the biggest upcoming games releases.
Batman: Arkham City
The greatest superhero game ever gets a sequel
Batman: Arkham Asylum was a revelation for Bruce Wayne fans, but Rocksteady are not just churning out a cloned sequel. Arkham City will feature more combat moves, additional gadgets, a refined detective mode, and a whole new playable character in the form of Catwoman. Best of all, the game is five times bigger than its predecessor. Batman now has a whole district of Gotham to prowl around rather than the smaller island of the first game.
“This highly anticipated sequel introduces a brand-new story that draws together a new all-star cast of classic characters...as well as a vast range of new and enhanced gameplay features to deliver the ultimate experience as the Dark Knight.”
Before Arkham Asylum no developer had ever really succeeded in bringing Batman to the gaming world, but that game effortlessly captured the essence of his world. Gripping stealth sections and brutal hand-to-hand combat combined with a brooding realisation of Gotham and a great rogues’ gallery to make a brilliant game that left fans itching for more. I don't think we'll be disappointed.
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Warner Bros.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Dragon duels and flower-picking at its best
The Elder Scrolls is a series revered for its vast open worlds and freedom of choice, a combination that has been raking in the plaudits since Arena in 1994. Since then it has become the biggest RPG name of them all. The fifth game which centres on the return of the dragons to the mortal world, is set in the cold northern province of Skyrim; full of snowy peaks, woolly mammoths and Nordic influences.
Your character, naturally enough, is a chosen one able to speak the dragon language. From the fantastic gameplay trailers it looks like you'll be fighting them off and devouring their souls rather than nattering. Alternatively, you could forget the dragons and explore the massive environment, learn how to turn plants into potions, become an enchanter, rob every house in the world, lead an assassin's guild...
“Skyrim re-imagines and revolutionises the open-world fantasy epic...the legendary freedom of choice, storytelling and adventure of The Elder Scrolls is realised like never before.”
2011 has already given us two great fantasy RPGs, Dragon Age 2 and The Witcher 2, but for all their ambitions they stand firmly in the shadow of Bethesda's latest adventure.
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer and Publisher: Bethesda
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Yet more princess saving – but we love it
Skyward Sword is the first true Zelda game built solely for the Wii. The console already has one brilliant game from the series in its library, but 2006's Twilight Princess was the swansong of the Gamecube and wasn't designed with the Wii's motion controls in mind. Skyward Sword takes full advantage of Wii Motion Plus to bring one-to-one swordplay to the series. Players will be challenged to slice and swing in the right directions to get around opponent's blocking tactics.
“The game marks a turning point for the franchise, as the introduction of full motion controls [offers] the most intuitive play control of any Legend of Zelda game to date.”
The graphics have taken a step back from the more realistic bent of Twilight Princess in favour of a brighter stylised look. Link does eventually don his iconic green outfit and Zelda will doubtless end up as a princess at some point, but the starting story is a bit different from usual. The opening of the game sees the characters and their friends learning together at a boarding school, before the inevitable kidnapping and subsequent adventures kick in. Skyward Sword looks set to follow the standard Zelda formula, with a sprinkling of innovation on top of a classic, well-loved foundation.
Developer and Publisher: Nintendo
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3
8 November/25 October
Gunfights and explosions, or explosions and gunfights?
This is perhaps the biggest one-on-one sales battle the games industry has ever seen. Call of Duty is by far and away the largest gaming franchise in the world, making the most money from the most lucrative genre going. Battlefield 3 is the fiercest challenge it has ever faced, a game with just as much pedigree and financial backing and just as talented a development team working behind it.
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is by far the most epic Call of Duty experience yet.”
“Battlefield 3 captures the intense reality of modern warfare across the globe.”
Gameplay-wise, we know precisely what to expect: colossal, epic battles with more military hardware on display than a Red Square parade, both in solo campaigns and multiplayer. So what's the difference? Battlefield 3 has bleeding-edge graphics, a better use of vehicles like tanks and jets and a more team-based approach to multiplayer. Call of Duty has a story cranked up to World War 3 levels, multiplayer honed through long experience and, most importantly, the name Call of Duty plastered on the box. There are billions of dollars at stake as these two square off.
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: DICE (BF3); Infinity Ward & Sledgehammer Games (MW3)
Publisher: EA (BF3); Activision (MW3)
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Saving the galaxy with all your friends
The Old Republic is a colossal undertaking, the most expensive project in the history of its publisher EA. It is the first fully voiced game in the MMO genre, those enormous online multiplayer games over which World of Warcraft reigns supreme. Unlike that game, players won't read some text explaining a quest and click 'accept'. Instead, they'll speak with other characters and engage in branching conversations, which should add some real narrative force to the genre.
“Star Wars: The Old Republic is designed to redefine the MMO category by introducing Bioware's signature storytelling and rich, emotional human performances to the genre.”
The last time RPG supremos Bioware brought their skills to the Star Wars license, the result was the single-player epic Knights of the Old Republic. Each of The Old Republic's eight classes reportedly has a storyline as long as the whole of Knights, totaling hundreds of hours of gameplay altogether. The basics haven't been forgotten either, with fast explosive combat, extensive crafting options and plenty of social tools. Rumours persist that the game could slip into 2012, but when it does come out it will certainly be a force to contend with.