There are a lot of games coming out next year, and rest assured, we’ll be keeping our hawk-like eyes on all of them. Inevitably, there are some we’re more excited about than others, and this is a list of those games. We reckon each and every one of them will be worthy of your close attention.
Let’s be honest: there are a fair few games hitting next year that we still don’t know much about, but the pedigree of the developer or the prequels hints that we should get something of outstanding quality. Nonetheless, the following list details what we’re looking for to, and why.
Star Wars: The Old Republic – PC
We suspect that watching RPG super-studio BioWare’s first foray into the realm of MMOs is going to be fascinating, even if The Old Republic turns out to be a catastrophic failure. Thankfully, though, it looks like it’s shaping up pretty well. We’re most intrigued to see how BioWare are going to fit a full-fledged story with voice acting and moral choices into what is traditionally a story-light genre, but we’re also happy to see plenty of emphasis on soloing with AI companions and letting them deal with the crafting while you’re offline, if you don’t fancy doing it all yourself. With BioWare’s typical polish and EA’s resources, this might be an MMO that’ll stand the test of time.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – PS3
The Uncharted series, thus far, has always been worth watching. Playing like a more action-oriented version of Tomb Raider, the adventures of Nathan Drake have impressed us massively, last year garnering Naughty Dog our coveted Best Developer award and Uncharted 2 our Game of the Year award. So, saying that we’re looking forward to Uncharted 3 is akin to saying that breathable air is a required component for human life: it’s a little bit obvious.
We confess that we’re a little bit worried about Uncharted 3’s sandy setting, but as it’s apparently being set in that sort of locale to push the team, we’re looking forward to having our doubts smashed. With other promises including improved enemy AI, improved multiplayer and co-op, and the ability to fight multiple enemies at once, we’ve got high hopes for this one.
LA Noire – 360, PS3
We’ve been waiting for this for what feels like forever. A recurring joke on the podcast was that every game that ex-staffer Andy Alderson wished for would, before long, be announced or revealed – and sure enough, his desire for an open-world cop game was followed by Team Bondi and Rockstar giving away a load of information on their open-world cop game LA Noire.
Players will take on the role of Cole Phelps in a post-WW2 Los Angeles, with the game apparently channeling every film noir ever made in terms of tone and graphical style. Moral ambiguity and the seedy underbelly of the entertainment capital will be revealed as Phelps investigates a number of cases and rises through the ranks of the LAPD. We’re expecting murder, corrupt cops, femme fatales, moral ambiguity, dames worth killing for, a vast conspiracy or two, a truckload of drinking and smoking, some gloriously snappy dialogue, and a whole mess of thick darkness and sharp light. With genuinely jaw-dropping motion capture being used for the faces, we’re hoping to get as drawn into this as we did Heavy Rain as we follow clues, track down killers, and expose the bad guys. If we’re not stuck into this by the halfway point of 2011, we might start contemplating a murder or two of our own.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – PC
The Witcher was one of the surprise RPG joys of 2007, offering gamers of all regions an opportunity to get to grips with Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s fascinating fantasy world. Part fairy tale, part dark fantasy, The Witcher offered players grey moral choices with consequences so far ahead in the game that you couldn’t simply reload and pick another option. Talent-based skill progression and an action-like combat system offered a rather different take to traditional RPGs.
The sequel is looking good. This time around, your choices throughout the course of the game will determine the fate of entire kingdoms – and some of those choices will be time-limited, upping the pressure. The combat system has been upgraded, allowing for different types of strike in the same combo, as well as allowing for more tactical thinking. Perhaps most importantly, CD Projekt RED is building its own engine, which should allow the game to function more as they intend. Roll on May.
Hunted: The Demon Forge
We’re liking the look of this one, a co-op fantasy action title from Bethesda and InXile. If you;ve seen the trailers then you’ll know that this is one dark and moody game that looks like it’s going to deliver some great action.
Described as a Dungeon crawler with FPS style action, we think that this could really excite a lot of players who are looking for a fantasy setting with the pace and excitement of modern day shooter. When we spoke to InXile’s Brian Fargo last year, it was clear InXile and Bethesda were looking to plug a gap in the market and Hunted: The Demon Forge with it’s co-op and pick up and play style is one to watch,
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Duke Nukem Forever – PC, 360, PS3
No, really, it’ll be out next year. Okay, we’ve been hearing that since 1997 (seriously) but with Gearbox having taken over development duties, with people having played it, with interest finally ramping up again, we think that it’ll really, honestly, truly be out this time.
Whether it’ll be any good or not is another matter entirely. We’re not sure anything can justify what’ll have been a 14-year development cycle, but recent reports, at least, have been extraordinarily promising: the crass humour is there, the silly weapons are there, the over-the-top everything is there. But somehow, the game’s quality almost doesn’t matter. We just want the damn thing to come out. We want to play it. In early 2011, that wish might come true.
Dragon Age 2 – PC, 360, PS3
Dragon Age was always the most terrifying game in BioWare’s product lineup. Trailers and previews focusing on blood, sex, and Marilyn Manson? Wasn’t this meant to be a complex and tactical CRPG? Clever BioWare: the game we all hoped for was still there, but they managed to market it to the masses.
In keeping with tradition, we’re also terrified of Dragon Age 2. We’re in love with the framing device and the setting – the game spans over a decade, starting before Dragon Age: Origins and finishing years after its close, allowing for truly far-reaching choices, and the game is told in past tense as characters argue over what happened and what the actions meant – but we’re more than a little worried about the more action-oriented combat. This’ll apparently only affect the console versions, and the console combat interface certainly needed improvement (lead producer Fernando Melo told us the console Dragon Age interface could get “cumbersome” late game, and he should know) but it’s still a worrying prospect, particularly concerning how it might affect the balance between versions. Should we be worried? Probably not: BioWare always seem to make the right decisions. But we’re eagerly awaiting March, when we can find out for certain.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution – PC, 360, PS3
Deus Ex is a regular entry in list of Best Games Ever, and deservingly so: its conspiracy-driven plot and completely freeform gameplay, allowing you to tackle challenges as you saw fit, made it not only compelling but replayable; going back through it a second time and taking different upgrades and approaches to situations wouldn’t just give you a different feel but would frequently show you different areas and quests that you may have missed first time around. Sadly, Deus Ex’s sequel Invisible War was a massive letdown thanks to a nonsensical plot, constrained areas, a more pronounced lack of choice, and a universe that we simply couldn’t relate to. We get the impression that Eidos Montreal has learned from these errors, however: the trailers and info thus far show off what looks like a moody and freeform game that might just be the sequel we’ve been waiting for.
We’ve still got plenty of conspiracy theories and corporate power struggles, but we’ve also got open areas, the choices between stealth, hacking, charm, and open warfare, the upgradeable weapons, and the lofty philosophical and sociopolitical debates. We’re hoping we’ll be able to look on this as fondly as we do Thief: Deadly Shadow – a sequel by a different team that, while not identical, managed to capture the most important aspects of the game and turned out to be a worthy addition to the series. If not? Well, it’s got a gun that shoots through walls, and that’s something we’re always happy to see. We’ll find out just how well Human Revolution fills the boots of its origin game towards the middle of 2011.
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Portal 2 – PC, 360, PS3
I’m not sure if it’s fair to say that Portal was a surprise hit, but its inclusion for free in The Orange Box led to pretty much every PC gamer playing it at some point. Valve’s later moves – releasing it for free on Steam for a short period – meant that these gamers could then evangelise it to everyone they knew, and the fanbase became wider. Some called it short, but we thought it was the right length, with a constant stream of new challenges and consistently amusing writing that never had the chance to get old.
Portal 2 looks to be bigger and better in almost every respect. Chell and GLaDOS, of course, return, and we’re expecting plenty of witty banter and a hundred more memes you’ll be sick of within a week. Puzzle-wise, the biggest change comes from “gels” that can be applied to surfaces to alter their properties – the Propulsion Gel, for instance, increases Chell’s speed as she crosses a surface, and we’re expecting this to really mix up the sort of puzzles we’ll see. Honestly, though, we’re most excited about the two player co-op mode starring a pair of robots who need to work together to traverse the facility. April for this one.
BRINK – PC, 360, PS3
If you loved Splash Damage’s work on Enemy Territory: Quake Wars then we think you may just love BRINK, hell I know we do. Having played the game a few times now at various shows and events we think this is one FPS you need to keep an eye on.
Set on the floating city of the Ark, which is now a refuge for humanity, the islands are on the verge of civil war and it’s here that your battles will take place. As it’s a Splash Damage title you know it’s all about the multiplayer experience whether it be co-op in missions or against other teams. Splash Damage are paying a lot of attention to customisation of characters and if you’ve seen the game at all then you’ll know that it looks and plays fantastic.
We have really high hopes for this title, it’s one of those games that could keep you locked into the multiplayer for months on end thanks some great gameplay mechanics such as the S.M.A.R.T (Smooth Movement Across Rugged Terrain) system which allows the player to get around awkward obstacles.
Watch out for BRINK, it should be hitting the shops around March.
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Batman: Arkham City – PC, 360, PS3
Batman: Arkham Asylum was one of our favourite games of last year. It was one of the first genuinely great comic book games, showing Batman for what we’ve always taken him to be: a terrifying, stealthy monster in the shadows, a melee combat master, but still a man who falls all too easily to a hail of gunfire. With top-notch production values, Arkham Asylum also presented a wonderful story with plenty of villains, plenty of side-quests, and plenty of replayability.
Arkham City looks to up the game. Arkham Asylum’s inmates have essentially been relocated to a sectioned-off part of Gotham City, and Batman’s going to have to use a host of new tools to keep the peace in this area run by the worst that the crime-ridden city has to offer. With new combat moves, new forensic devices, new areas, new characters, a rumoured combat mode, and the same eye for detail, character, and comic-book progression, we’re having difficulty with the prospect of waiting until autumn.
Mass Effect 3 – PC, 360, PS3
We’ve known for ages that Mass Effect 3 was coming. The series was originally conceived as a trilogy, so the recent announcement of the third part isn’t really much of a surprise, but it’s nice to have it confirmed and it’s nice to know it’ll be hitting sometime in winter 2011.
So far, all we have to go on is a trailer showing the Reapers attacking Earth and word that Shepard will need to rally forces to fend them off, but it’s the little hints that really intrigue us. We’ve heard that (as it’s the closing part) Mass Effect 3 will really diverge based on your choices in the past two games. We’ve heard that it’ll contain stronger RPG elements. We’ve heard that the mining minigame might not feature. Whether that’s all true or not, one thing’s for certain: we’re eager to see Mass Effect 3 if only because Mass Effect 2 was so adjective-defyingly brilliant, and we want more.
Gears of War 3 – 360
Unlike many major sequels, Gears of War 3 actually has the potential to seriously change things up. The past two games were pretty much the quintessential cover-shooters, only rarely shifting away from cover-fire-advance via the medium of setpieces. While this is likely to form a large part of the game (polished to an even higher degree, we suspect) the mentions of new Lambent enemies and guns that can take out foes behind cover make us think that we might have to adopt a load of new tactics.
Whether that’s true or not, Gears of War 3 will be one of the breakaway hits of 2011. With a new campaign that promises to conclude the story and answer many questions, four-player co-op, highly polished mechanics, new multiplayer modes, improved netcode, a lovely summer-y look, and plenty of new weapons and enemies, it’s guaranteed to sell like crazy when it hits the 360 in late 2011.
RIFT – PC (360 possibly later)
It’s been in development for five years and if you think about ot, this is one MMO that has been a slow burner in the hype department which will probably really benefit the developer TRION. With the game only a few months away from release,  the closed Beta test is now underway.
Set in the fantasy world of Telara, two factions, the Guardian and Defiant share a common enemy of a nasty looking character called Regulos. At the same time Telara is under constant attack from Rifts that open in the game world and spawn all sorts of nasties from the other planes of existence, and this can happen any time, anywhere. As a hero you travel back in time to prevent the destruction of Telara and you have the choice of playing as a Guardian who follows faith or a Defiant who follows technology.
Of all the MMOs we have tested during Beta, RIFT is the most polished we’ve played. Having spent a lot of time in the game we’ve debated who will be attracted to RIFT  and we’ve come to the conclusion that while it shares many features of other MMOS such as Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft, this game feels edgier and is a lot more unpredictable. The game’s features are going to appeal to anyone looking for an MMO that has more to it than running between A and B and handing in quests, although that is obviously part of the game. RIFT offers some exciting mixes of gameplay and we have a feeling a few World of Warcrat accounts could be getting cancelled this year.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – PC, 360, PS3
The last two Elder Scrolls games, Morrowind and Oblivion, were huge hits. Say what you will about the level-scaling and the identikit NPCs: the genuinely massive open-worlds with the freedom to do or avoid the main plot as you wished, the masses of side-quests, and the genuinely impressive mod tools captured the imagination of plenty.
We don’t know much about Skyrim, but what we do know is promising. A brand-new engine is a good start, and Bethesda has stated outright that it’s brought on new team members to improve the characters and animation – two of the biggest bugbears with the previous entries. With Fallout 3 having fixed a lot of the issues we had with Oblivion’s gameplay, we’re eager to see just how much Skyrim takes from that and what further improvements it’ll bring. We’ll have to wait until November, but if that gives Bethesda the time it needs to polish Skyrim to a level far surpassing Oblivion, we’re happy to wait.
Roll on 2011
So there you have it, these are the games that we’re foaming at the mouth for this year. A real mixed bag of gaming goodness is coming your way and there will probably be a few surprises along the way, at least we hope there will be.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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