Next-Gen's 30 most anticipated games of E3

10. Prince of Persia (X360, PS3)
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Est. Release Date: Holiday 2008
Officially Announced for E3: No

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was one of the last generation’s defining moments, so it would have been easy for Ubisoft to just build a standard sequel on the successes of its previous trilogy. The fact that this is not the case, that the series is instead being rebooted with an incredible hand-painted aesthetic and open world, show a strong dedication to making the Prince one of the most lasting and important franchises in gaming (though the big budget movie helps on that score as well). While previous PoP titles did sell well, after the blockbuster success of Assassin’s Creed, the timing is perfect for the Prince to really make it big.

9. Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Est. Release Date: TBD
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

Since closing the door on the last console genre, Square Enix has relied on handheld games and Wii side stories alone. If the publisher’s last fiscal statement said anything, it was that’s no way for a company to live—so while Square Enix has some other interesting console games in the pipe, it needs to bring its megaton franchise back into the public eye. It’s not surprising that Final Fantasy XIII will show up in some form at E3—and regardless of what form it takes or what the game looks like now, it could certainly steal the show if it tried.

8. Street Fighter IV (PC, X360, PS3)
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom/Dimps
Est. Release Date: 2009
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

At worst, this is a surprise come back of one of gaming’s most iconic franchises. At best, this could be the surprise come back of a genre—certainly if anything could revive a flagging fighting game field, a new numbered entry in its greatest series would be the thing to do it. Perhaps the best sign that this game knows what it will take to succeed is its reverence to Street Fighter II—all of the characters from that game will return, and the gameplay mirrors the measured pace of that early entry. Considering versions of SFII still sell in strong numbers, it’s easy to see how this strategy could succeed on the market.

7. Rock Band 2 (X360, PS3, PS2, Wii)
Publisher: MTV Games
Developer: Harmonix
Est. Release Date: Sep 2008 (X360 timed exclusive, with other versions to follow)
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

No matter what other companies say, the fast-paced game of catch-up that has gripped the music genre says one thing louder: the four-piece Rock Band is the standard for the field. And while little is known about it at this point, what is known proves that Harmonix hasn’t lost the plot with Rock Band 2. Sticking to its “platform” guns, the game will be fully backwards compatible—with old DLC, with old instruments, the works. And while user-created content is not a go this time, there are certainly things about the game yet to be announced—you don’t want to miss this one at the show.

6. LittleBigPlanet (PS3)
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Media Molecule
Est. Release Date: Oct 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

Despite seemingly constant delays, LittleBigPlanet remains one of the most unique products in Sony’s first-party arsenal. The idea of a game that lives and dies by the content created by its users has been tried before in first-person shooters, but LittleBigPlanet, with its lovely textured graphics and universal, non-violent charm wants to be much more—the YouTube of games perhaps, or the Legos of the 21st century. Of all the games that could bring PlayStation 3 to the mass market, this remains the best hope.

5. Halo Wars (X360)
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Ensemble Studios/Bungie
Est. Release Date: Oct 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

Halo Wars is more than just the next title from Microsoft to have the Halo name. It’s also more than the first Halo project not spearheaded by Bungie. Halo Wars wants to be a revolution in real-time strategy, a console exclusive built from the ground up for a console controller—in other words, Halo Wars wants to do for real-time strategy what Halo did for first-person shooters. If it succeeds, it could crack wide open the nascent console RTS market as gamers try it based on the franchise alone. It’s been reported that the game will be playable by the media at E3, so the show should give a much better idea as to how its succeeding.

4. Spore (PC, Mac)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Maxis
Est. Release Date: Sep 7, 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

It’s certainly something that even after the seemingly endless amount of words typed about Spore, even though it’s appeared in publications as non-game centric as The New Yorker, even though the wait for the game has been years long and interminable, almost everyone who knows about it is still excited at its promise. And after the success of the recently released Creature Creator, that excitement is still mounting. Will Wright’s SimEverything could very well the next big thing, tossing aside silly ideas like “demographics” and just appealing to everyone everywhere. In other words, the next Sims.

3. Gears of War 2 (X360)
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Epic Games
Est. Release Date: Nov 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

Gears of War 2 is a lot of things. To the gamer, it is epic, the sequel to the game that dominated man hours spent on Xbox Live for most of 2007. To developers, it’s the new baseline, as every new Epic game has come to represent the state of the art for the now industry standard Unreal Engine 3. In both regards Gears of War 2 looks great. A few improvements to the constantly evolving engine have already been shown, and most gamers agree that new mechanics like martyrdom and the “meat shield” look like fantastic fun. Gears of War is already one of this generation’s emblematic franchises, so it will be great to see how the sequel goes about cementing that status.

2. Resident Evil 5 (X360, PS3)
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Est. Release Date: 2009
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

RE5 is not even close to a retail release, and yet it’s already one of the most interesting topics in the industry. It brings with it the highly respected pedigree of Resident Evil 4, hands-down one of the best games of the last generation, and will probably sell strongly to the audience that loved, or even heard about, that game. Yet it’s also mired in controversy over some concerns regarding racism. So it’s a project that’s walking many tightropes of expectation, and there’s potential for huge success or massive failure here. As a result this E3 could be the most important public showing for RE5 until its release—it should be fascinating.

1. Fallout 3 (PC, X360, PS3)
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Est. Release Date: Oct 2008
Officially Announced for E3: Yes

Fallout 3 shows great evolutionary leaps every time it’s displayed for public viewing, with recent revelations—the childhood simulating character creator, the 500 endings—being particularly fascinating. Now that it’s coming precariously close to its announced release date, this E3 should represent the game’s biggest showing yet. If there are any surprises left in the title to announce, expect them to get announced at some point during the week. But even if there aren’t, Fallout 3 has already proven itself to be a sprawling, ambitious project that anyone in the gaming audience would wait to spend more time with.

Courtesy of Next Gen

Jul 7, 2008