It’s hard for me to believe that video game sales took a turn toward the negative in 2009. The industry appeared to be recession proof. And with so many popular titles – from the Rock Band series to the Lego franchise – invading homes on multiple platforms, you would think the industry was healthy. True, it’s hardly on life-support. But gaming companies are entering 2010 looking for a shot in the arm (and a boost in the pocketbook) as the recession wears on.
These, then, are the 10 titles that should prop the video game industry back on its feet, listed in alphabetical order. They are the 10 most anticipated titles of 2010, the games we’ll all be snatching up on opening day and talking about for weeks and months to follow. I stuck to platform titles, knowing most of you game on the Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii. Though keep an eye on the burgeoning portable world of gaming, as Apple’s iPhone reportedly is making leaps and bounds in the entertainment field.
Yes, many of my titles are sequels to games (and franchises) that already captivated us. But there’s originality on the list, as well – look at the first selection, after all. Now that the New Year is upon us, let the games begin:
Alan Wake (May 11)
A psychological action game from Microsoft that mirrors “Max Payne,” mainly because it comes from the same creative team. The game’s hero is an author who visits a small town with his wife to cure his writer’s block. But when she’s kidnapped, Wake discovers a thriller which he can’t remember writing – and every word of it is coming true. The “Wake Up” trailer from E3 scored good grades with fans. Now let’s see the game!
This one just arrived, but I haven’t started playing it yet, so technically, it’s still anticipated! The downloadable demo hinted at the fluid game play as participants control a witch who faces off against angelic enemies. The style of the action suggests John Woo’s Asian cinema mixed with Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” series, while the settings hint at more science-fiction or fantasy. Either way, it’s a combustible mix.
Bioshock 2 (Feb. 9)
Like thousands of other FPS fans, I’ve booked my return trip to the underwater paradise of Rapture and can’t wait for my “ticket” (aka, the game) to arrive! This time, we’ll get to play as a Big Daddy, and “Bioshock 2” promises bigger enemies, new maps and larger weapons, including a drill in place of your hand. But it’s the intimate details that make “Bioshock” such an engrossing title, and I’m sure the designers at 2K Marin and 2K Australia are up to the challenge of resurrecting Rapture for another gorgeous, art-deco adventure.
Epic Mickey (Sept. 16)
Yes, I am intrigued to see how game designer Warren Spector (Deus Ex) updates Disney’s iconic figurehead for the 21st century game industry. Reportedly we’ll get to see a mischievous side of Mickey as he battles the Phantom Blot and hopes to rescue his half-brother, Oswald. Early visual peeks looks a lot like Disney’s “Fantasia,” and that’s a mighty good thing.
L.A. Noire (TBA)
Tour Los Angeles, circa 1940, and solve crimes in this anticipated title from Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games. The game reportedly will draw its visual inspirations from the film noir genre of the ‘40s and ‘50s, so expect sharp black-and-white photography and plenty of shady characters. There’s no release date yet, but Rockstar has been dropping hints that the game will be finished soon.
Mafia II (TBA)
A sequel to “The City of Lost Heaven,” 2K Games’ latest “Mafia” is a sandbox-style third-person shooter set in Empire Bay in the mid-1940s. Much like “Grand Theft Auto,” it will require tough characters to climb the ranks of an organized crime family by working their way through an intricate (and violent) script. The devil will be in the details, but early trailers suggest 2K’s developers have created an Old World worth visiting.
I can’t remember the last decent Western game I’ve ever played. It probably was “Red Dead Revolver,” which explains why I’m looking forward to Rock Star San Diego’s latest creation, another open-sandbox adventure set in the wild, wild west. Former outlaw John Marston prowls the prairies in 1908 hoping to clear his name. The game promises individual standalone missions, or participation in a larger story that reportedly will lead up to the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Can’t wait!
Disney Interactive Studios have created what looks to be an intense action-racing game that blends the best elements of Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer’s testosterone flicks, and poured them into a challenging car contest. Players must pilot an automobile through a city rigged for destruction as part of a larger, hyper-competitive reality TV show. “Death Race” meets “Gone In 60 Seconds” meets “Project Gotham Racing 4.” Sign me up.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction (Feb. 23)
Another adventure with covert operator Sam Fisher. This time, the super spy takes on a group dubbed The Third Echelon as he attempts to figure out who murdered his daughter. Developed by Ubisoft Montreal, “Conviction” is rumored to include two-player play, so participants can coordinate missions.
Transformers: War for Cybertron (TBA)
We already have two big-budget “Transformers” films. Why, then, can’t we have a top-notch Transformers game to accompany that experience? The developers at High Moon Studios hope to rectify the situation with “War for Cybertron,” a high-concept adventure that harkens back to the original “Transformers” cartoons to stage a massive fight between Optimus Prime’s Autobots and Megatron’s Decepticons. If I had to guess, though, I’d say Megan Fox somehow will be involved.