If you pay close attention to anything for long enough, you're going to develop a sixth sense about it. Pay enough attention to the game industry, for example, and you'll be able to predict, with some degree of accuracy, how good a game is going to be before you even get a chance to play it. You're also going to want to start speculating about that, usually all the time, but especially whenever game releases are slow and there's not a whole lot else to talk about besides which games on the distant horizon have us the most excited. (Here's 100 of them, for a start.)
These are just (educated) guesses, of course. The year ahead is littered with all kinds of unknown variables, like unforeseen delays and monster gaming juggernauts that haven't even been announced yet. Based on what we know now, though, here's our best guess as to what's going to draw the most praise in the months ahead.
Guesstimated Award Probability: 65%
This deep into the console cycle, it’s getting harder and harder to call out specific games for looking better than the rest, but out of what we’ve seen so far, Far Cry 3 is kinda breathtaking. With its lush jungle foliage, striking waterfalls and crazy-eyed thugs, the demo we saw at E3 last year has stuck in our minds more than most of the other stuff we saw – although to be fair, that might have more to do with the “definition of insanity” speech in the demo.
Cry’s always been about setting players loose in big, untamed environments, and
even at its most buggy, it’s always been beautiful. And seeing the series
return to a colorful jungle setting after its tour of duty in the brown African
savanna is a refreshing change. Whatever Far Cry 3’s other faults may end up
being, its good looks are indisputable.
Dog’s post-apocalyptic something takes second place for two reasons: first, all
we’ve seen of it is a trailer that, while generated by a PS3, isn’t actually
gameplay. Second, we’re not actually sure it’s coming out this year. Even so,
Naughty Dog’s been doing some extremely impressive visual work lately with
Uncharted, and we’d expect any successor franchise to push the boundaries of
what’s possible with current-gen hardware even further. Or just look more
amazing than everything else. That’s a reasonable expectation, right?
Guesstimated Award Probability: 74%
You know what? We get it. It’s always hard to adjust when an iconic character gets a radical overhaul. And at first, we were right there with the knee-jerk-freakout reactionaries when the wraps were pulled off Dante’s “emo” new look. Since then, we’ve come around, though, because let’s face it: "old" Devil May Cry had a good run, but what was once considered super-badass gradually became stale and silly. (And really, nothing says “we’ve run out of ideas” like making the second half of your game about backtracking through its first half.)
So while turning Dante into a brooding, brunet teenager might be a questionable move, the series could really use a good shakeup, especially if it comes from Ninja Theory, makers of the underappreciated-but-brilliant Heavenly Sword and Enslaved.
Above: It helps that this looks like something we’d actually want to play
Raider is a franchise in dire need of rescue. Not because its games are bad,
mind you, but because its fans seem to have stopped caring a long time ago.
Lara Croft has been sliding into irrelevance for years, repeatedly upstaged by
the likes of Nathan Drake, so seeing the hypercompetent adventurer reborn as a
scrappy, skin-of-her-teeth survivor is a premise with a lot of potential. And
while we’d applaud it just for trying something new, the fact that it’s doing
something new and interesting actually
has us excited for a Tomb Raider game for the first time in a long time.
Guesstimated Award Probability: 100%
Oh, what, you’re not still playing this nonstop? And you won’t be for the foreseeable future? Really? Oh, fine. Guess it’s just us, then. OK, well, how about…
Guesstimated Award Probability: 76%
Back before MMOs became the go-to receptacle for PC gamers’ endless clicking, Diablo was the original time-sink. And while there’s no shortage of potential hour-devourers on the horizon, especially on PC (Dota 2, XCOM and the endless updates to League of Legends spring to mind), there’s every reason to believe that Blizzard’s tireless (and somewhat tiresome, to be honest) perfectionism and dedication to nailing Diablo’s formula will result in one of the most endlessly addictive loot-hoarding and mouse-clicking sims ever devised. Friends, lovers, spouses, children – remember that we love you. But you will never, ever see us again.
Assuming it actually comes out this year, that is...
As near-perfect a trap as Diablo III is, it has two fatal flaws: it’s not on consoles, thereby effectively immunizing those players against its harmful effects, and it doesn’t have tons of over-the-top firearms. Borderlands 2 will correct these flaws, thus ensuring that nothing ever gets done and society eventually grinds to a slow, juddering halt.