What’s the game? A huge, military-themed (but still extremely accessible) multiplayer shooter with battlefields that can be fought over by up to 256 players at a time.
What’s so revolutionary? Aside from being the biggest multiplayer shooter ever attempted on a console, MAG – created by Zipper Interactive, the minds behind the SOCOM series – ties the action to a chain of command wherein higher-ranking players direct the action by setting objectives for their squadmates, while the top brass – who are also players on the battlefield – hand down general objectives and orders to the commanders. Think of it like an RTS, except that every last one of the units is controlled by an individual player from a first-person perspective.
When’s it coming? The final quarter of this year.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
(360, PS3, PC)
What’s the game? The latest attempt at doing justice to the Dark Knight and his gallery of Gotham goons. While the vigilante has starred in countless games over the years, none have been great and most have been downright terrible.
What’s so revolutionary? Arkham Asylum isn’t shackled to the release – and thus, deadline – of any one film or television show. Meaning the game’s creators aren’t restricted to an already existing, hard-to-adapt storyline, or previously cast, probably bored Hollywood stars. Instead, they can take the necessary time, and bring together the necessary talent, to finally get Batman right. We hope. Whatever the outcome, we wish every license was handled this way.
When’s it coming? August 25 in the US. August 28 in Europe.
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony
What’s the game? This second 360-exclusive expansion to GTA IV tells the story of a Dominican gang member named Luis Lopez. Far more fascinating, however, could be the story of his employer: infamous Liberty City nightclub owner, Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince.
What’s so revolutionary? The title alone. In an industry that loves to play it safe with meaningless one-word descriptors (Infamous, Prototype, Singularity) and generic interchangeable heroes, naming a game “The Ballad of Gay Tony” is pretty bold. And brave. And undoubtedly controversial. If Rockstar actually creates believable and relatable gay characters in the expansion, though, that would be revolutionary.
When’s it coming? Downloads begin sometime between August ’09 and October ’09.
Splinter Cell Conviction
What’s the game? The long-delayed, drastically retooled fifth entry in Ubisoft’s super-spy franchise.
What’s so revolutionary? Videogames still have a hell of a time balancing storytelling with gameplay; should plot progress come in the form of a cutscene, dialog box or fourth-wall popup screen? Conviction is attempting to remove all of those barriers by having key plot points appear on the walls, floors and ceilings as you continue playing, whereas most games would force you to sit and watch a potentially uninteresting (and wholly unplayable) cinematic. The effect is supposed to look like Sam Fisher’s thoughts projected into the real world (objectives, abstract memories, flashes of his murdered daughter etc). At the very least it sounds unique, and at best it could be a new way to blend passive story with active gameplay. There’s also a chance it could end up as a useless gimmick, so we’re holding final judgment on this one until we’ve played it all the way through.
When’s it coming? October of this year.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
What’s the game? A Star Wars MMO that promises to look, play, sound and feel remarkably like the legendary Knights of the Old Republic games. Just, you know, with more people playing.
What’s so revolutionary? Everything we know about The Old Republic so far points to it being an MMO for people who hate MMOs. Putting a heavy emphasis on story, it aims to replicate the KOTOR experience on a grander scale, complete with plot-affecting moral decisions, full voice acting for every character and combat that doesn’t look like a bunch of roving hit-detection cubes going through repetitive slash animations at each other. It’s also possible to play by yourself, if that whole “being dependent on the schedules of others” thing doesn’t appeal to you.
When’s it coming? Possibly this year, but much more likely next year.
What’s the game? An MMO from the original creator of Grand Theft Auto and the developers of Crackdown. “Law Enforcement” and “Gangs” battle 24/7 for control of a city.
What’s so revolutionary? While the modern setting and crime angle will be refreshing breaks from the usual fantasy and sci-fi trappings, what could make APB truly popular – and inspire copycats – is its focus on skill over grinding. Putting in a hundred hours might give you more customization options, but it won’t automatically make you a better player than those who just started playing. For those afraid of losing their lives to black holes like World of Warcraft, the concept is enormously appealing.
When’s it coming? The release date has slipped and shifted a bunch of times. Our current prediction is early 2010.
Wii Sports Resort
What’s the game? Sequel to the best-selling videogame of all time, Wii Sports Resort increases the number of tech demos/minigames to 12. More importantly, it includes Wii Motion Plus, the little dongle that gives Nintendo’s motion-sensing true 1:1 capability.
What’s so revolutionary? Okay, so the ratio should have been that accurate three years ago, when the console first debuted, but still… it feels right and works uncannily well. Although we’re well beyond the initial awe and wonder of the Wii, the Motion Plus might help us get past the more recent sarcasm and snark. Think of the hardcore-pleasing possibilities, like a real lightsaber game or a good Red Steel game.
When’s it coming? July 24 in Europe and July 26 in North America.
What’s the game? “Game” isn’t the right word, really. Microsoft’s motion-sensing doodad, which uses only your body’s motion as input, is nothing but tech demos and lofty promises at this point. We may not play a Project Natal game for years… and it might not be on the Xbox 360.
What’s so revolutionary? No matter how vague, distant, and gimmicky, the potential impact of Project Natal remains undeniable. “You are the controller!” sounds like a silly cliché; if proved true and functional, however, it could transform gaming and take us another substantial step towards virtual reality. Or it could be an overhyped EyeToy. Time will tell.
When’s it coming? Expected in late 2010, but no official release plans have been announced.