It seems that I called out, and the Fates listened. After posting my list of my most anticipated games for 2012 on Monday, there’s been a big announcement made about every game on my list, bar one. That can’t possibly be a coincidence.
1) Mass Effect 3 gets shouty with the Kinect
BioWare brought out a video of Mass Effect 3’s Kinect integration the other day, ahead of the release of the demo on February 14 (happy Valentine’s Day, nerds). Mass Effect 3 only uses the voice functionality of the Kinect, letting you bark orders at your team mates, and while I think the ability to issue voice commands to your squad could work pretty well, I reckon you might get a little self-conscious shouting flank left and shoot the Geck on the bridge! aloud in your living room for hours at a time. More bizarre is that the voice commands also apply to Shepherd himself, and you can select different weapons or open doors by yelling at yourself. For me, when I’m trying to immerse myself in the role of Commander Shepherd: Handsome Intergalatic Badass, having to tell him to open the door! or change to the rifle! with my own weasely whine seems to break the spell a little bit. It seems like it might be hard to suspend my disbelief when I’m garbling requests at my character in my own vodka-soaked voice.
2) Max Payne 3 is delayed again, May is now officially Rockstar month
Rockstar have pushed back the release of eagerly-anticipated gun party Max Payne 3 for two months, presumably part of their annual campaign to financially dominate the month of May. For the past two years Rockstar have chosen May as the month to drop staggering triple-A epics; last May saw the long-gestating motion-capture sleuth-em-up L.A. Noire, and the year before that we had the gargantuan cowboy romp Red Dead Redemption. In both years, they were the biggest-selling games of the month, and amongst the top-selling of the year. Hopefully Rockstar Vancouver, who have taken charge of the franchise from series creators Remedy, will be using the extra couple of months to tighten the whole game up, and the final product will benefit from some extra polish. They’re taking the series in a bold new direction, and given how reports from Remedy say the game is shaping up to be pretty boss, I’m still very much excited about Max Payne 3.
3) The world follows my lead and vocally demands Valve give us Half-Life 3
Seemingly minutes after I posted my most-anticipated for 2012 list up Eurogamer’s Tom Bramwell tweeted about a group of Valve forum users who had banded together to demand Valve let the world know they’re at least thinking about doing another Half Life game. The group now has over 20,000 members, and after so public a cry for information, Valve is in kind of a tricky position. As John Walker argues in his intelligent and insightful RPS article about the story, Valve have enjoyed an unprecedented level of fanlove to date, and to give Valve credit, they’ve worked really hard to nurture a great relationship with their fans. But at this point the most recent entry in the series was the sensationally superb Half-Life 2: Episode 2, and that was five years ago. Since then we’ve had precious little information about the continuation for the series, and we still don’t know whether there’s even going to be an Episode 3 or whether they’ll just go straight ahead with Half-Life 3. As I said before, every time Valve bring out a new Half-Life it’s a total game-changer, so if they need the time to do it right, then we’ll wait. Given Valve’s track record, we know it’ll be worth it. Just give us a sign.
4) Bioshock Infinite: partying like it’s 1999
If Valve are maybe forgetting to pay lip service to the fanboys, then Irrational Games are massaging fans with scented lotions by candlelight while Sting plays in the background. It has been announced that the aerial fin-de-siècle body blaster Bioshock Infinite will come with a version of the game called 1999 Mode, a difficulty setting that will strip the game of all its current-generation airbags and kick your ass with some punishingly retro mechanics. Ken Levine is warning that the scarcity of ammo, lack of respawn points, and pared-down health system will make the game intensely challenging and meticulously strategic. Irrational’s plan with 1999 mode is to make every decision have permanent consequences, and interestingly this is exactly what the fans want, with over half saying the game would be better if every choice had an irreversible impact. I think 1999 mode sounds like a great idea, and is probably how I’ll play Bioshock Infinite when it comes out. It suggests a tense and urgent experience, one without any of the hand-holding and coddling you get from most games at the moment.