Far Cry 3
First announced: November 2009
Since then, we’ve seen: A gameplay demo at E3 last year, a few screens, a couple interviews and not a whole lot else.
Why we won’t see it: You mean aside from the fact that we’ve barely heard a peep about it since it debuted at E3? Well, Far Cry 3 looks poised to combine a huge, freely explorable world with open-ended combat and stunning visuals, and that’s something that’ll take a lot of time to get right – especially if Ubisoft wants to avoid a backlash similar to the one that erupted from Far Cry 2’s bugs and weird AI behavior, which it almost certainly does. If we learned anything from last year’s release of Dead Island and Skyrim, it’s that rushing ambitious open worlds out the door leads to problematic games and disgruntled players. True, Ubisoft’s no stranger to springing big, open-world adventures on us with just six months’ notice (coughAssassin’sCreedcough), but the scope of the project and the fact that Ubi hasn’t been hyping it lately lead us to think we won’t see it anytime soon.
Best-case scenario (if we’re wrong): Ubisoft Montreal is a pretty sizable developer, and given that three other Ubisoft studios are now splitting the work for Far Cry 3 (a tactic that’s made Assassin’s Creed a yearly franchise), the game may actually stand a better chance of seeing the light of day this year than the other games on this list. If that happens, we expect to see it launch late this year – probably on the same day as Assassin’s Creed III and at least one other high-profile release, knowing Ubisoft.
South Park: The Game
First announced: December 2011
Since then, we’ve seen: A big reveal in Game Informer and a small handful of screens.
Why we won’t see it: One word: Obsidian. Five more words: Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Although the South Park creators are no stranger to turning big projects around in a hurry (usually taking just one week to make a TV episode from start to finish), their commitments to the show and other projects could hinder their ability to write, voice and otherwise work on the game. Then there’s Obsidian, a developer that – for all its likability and storytelling talent – has become notorious for running into repeated delays and then releasing broken, unfinished products anyway. Combine its track record with Parker and Stone’s insane schedule, and suddenly the planned release for the latter half of 2012 seems wildly overambitious, no matter how uncomplicated the visuals might look.
Best-case scenario (if we’re wrong): If South Park: The Game can somehow weather the potential hellstorm that pairing two incredibly busy creators with Obsidian implies, then we could see it as early as this summer – although if it manages to hit that window without being seriously buggy and/or flawed, we’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The Last of Us
First announced: December 2011
Since then, we’ve seen: A few screenshots, a teaser video and a gritty announcement trailer.
Why we won’t see it: The Last of Us hasn’t officially been confirmed for 2012, although there’s some speculation that it might be a winter-holiday release. And while we can’t see Sony releasing a game from star studio Naughty Dog at any other time of the year, we don’t think it’ll happen during this holiday. For one thing, as impressive as the trailer is, it’s not gameplay – and while Uncharted 3’s first teaser trailer (which also debuted at the VGAs less than a year before that game’s release) didn’t even show any characters, there was still a two-year gap between it and Uncharted 2. The idea that Naughty Dog would let loose a new IP a year after Uncharted 3’s release seems more than a little crazy, and given that fan expectations for it are going to be sky-high after Uncharted’s successes, our money’s on the developer giving Last of Us more time to ripen.
Best-case scenario (if we’re wrong): Naughty Dog may have been working on The Last of Us at the same time as Uncharted 3, something that – given the ambitious scope of both games – seems like it would stretch the company’s resources pretty thin. (Then again, that might help explain why Uncharted 3 wasn’t as resounding a success with critics as Uncharted 2.) In that case, we’d expect to see the first gameplay demo in the next couple months, followed by a November or even October release. It’d be a pretty impressive feat, but it could happen.
Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney
First announced: October 2010
Since then, we’ve seen: A few screenshots and a couple of trailers, the most recent of which featured gameplay.
Why we won’t see it: Capcom and Level-5’s 3DS crossover project – which brings Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright together in a medieval alternate reality – doesn’t even have a firm release date in Japan, for starters. And while that might seem like a trivial point to bring up in an age when the lead time between Japanese and western release dates has frequently been shaved down to a few months, it hasn’t been the case with the Layton games. At all. With the exception of the first game (Professor Layton and the Curious Village, which arrived stateside a year after its Japanese counterpart), each “new” installment of the Professor Layton series is already about two years old in Japan by the time it hits the US. And while Capcom’s Ace Attorney games have markedly better lead times (around a year on average), the amount of nuanced dialogue that’ll have to be translated into English when the two series are combined will probably be staggering.
Best-case scenario (if we’re wrong): As of right now, it’s not even clear which company – Capcom, Nintendo or Level-5 – would even publish PLvAA in the US. However, that also means the three could potentially come together and throw a big wad of cash behind the localization if they think it’s going to be successful, which might shorten the wait for its US/UK release significantly. Even in that case, though, we’d be surprised if it arrived on our shores before the holiday season at the earliest.