Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/2523

Eight Months of Gaming

by Eddie Turner on May 8, 2008 12:00 AM EST

We're back to bring you a taste of some of the great games that you can expect see, and hopefully play, in the coming months. This is by no means a comprehensive list - we figure the average attention span for an article drops off rapidly past a certain point - but we've got some great stuff to talk about here. Let's get started.

What's Happening this Month?

Let there be foliage! Ever since the release of Far Cry in 2004, a number of games have followed the trend of being set in exotic jungle locations with lots of greenery everywhere you point your AK-47. Haze continues this trend as an exclusive title for the PlayStation 3. In this politically charged first person shooter, you play as a member of the Mantel Corporation whose mission is to take down the one man whose dealings with a drug called nectar have been stirring up a fair amount of trouble in the world. But when you find out the truth behind Mantel's motives, you are faced with joining your enemy's forces, along with a few questions. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? Which side am I on? [Ed: Looking at the Haze website, I'm not sure Mantel Corporation looks even remotely reputable.]

With a proven track record for creating shooters like TimeSplitters, plus Managing Director David Doak's work on GoldenEye, Free Radical has created what looks to be a force to be reckoned with in the FPS genre and a welcome addition to the roster of PlayStation 3 exclusive titles. Haze will be released in May with a lengthy single player/4-person co-op campaign and support for up to 24 players online via the PlayStation Network. Further details should be available later this month.

Staunch PC gamers who cringed when BioWare released their action/RPG Mass Effect as an Xbox 360 exclusive late last year will finally get some relief as the space epic makes its way to PC. Known for their creation of such titles as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire, BioWare expands on their role-playing roots with real-time versus turn-based combat, and a rich story line whose outcome largely depends on the decisions made by the player. In Mass Effect you play as John Shepherd, a freedom fighter who leads his team on a galactic adventure to take down a former comrade who has taken a turn for the worse.

According to BioWare's technical producer, Derek French, Mass Effect on PC utilizes DX9 rendering with "no promises" made regarding DX10. Much like Epic's PC release of Gears of War, the game runs on Unreal Engine 3 with graphical enhancements including a revamped graphical user interface that precludes to Mass Effect from being a simple port of an Xbox 360 game. While system requirements are still being fleshed out, gamers can expect similar hardware specs for other recent releases running on Unreal Engine 3, such as Bioshock and Unreal Tournament 3.

June Bugs

During the first half of 2008, things are looking a bit quiet on the racing front as far as new releases are concerned. The second half doesn't look to be too active either, save for the one or two of the usual suspects that release a new game in a series each year. But if you focus your attention to the year's midpoint, you'll find Race Driver: Grid. From the team at Codemasters that brought us DiRT in 2007 comes a very promising looking racer. Although the game stems from a series, Race Driver has not seen the light of day on consoles or PC since the release of TOCA Race Driver 3 in early 2006. Now sporting a full crash engine that will have parts of your car flying all over the place upon impact, Grid takes you on a solo career initiative to locations in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

Unlike many more recent racing games, Grid's focus will not be on car customization. There's no pimping your ride, so to speak. Instead, the game is all about the racing experience with fully licensed vehicles that can be added to your garage as you progress. While it's totally possible to destroy your vehicle during a race, Grid offers a "flashback" feature that allows you to rewind the race ten seconds before your crash and hopefully avoid what was once certain death. Some may view this feature as a cheat, but it may very well be appreciated during some of the longer races. We can better make that determination when Grid ships in June.

Metal Gear Solid 4, titled "Guns of the Patriots", was announced in 2005, long before the PlayStation 3 hit the market. While many hoped that the new game would be the first of a trilogy in the long running series, the folks at Konami assured us that this was not the case. In fact, Guns of the Patriots was named as the final game in the Metal Gear series. While this may disappoint, the game should not -- it looks incredible.

In Metal Gear Solid 4, hero Solid Snake returns in odd but rare form. As the result of a faulty cloning process, Snake is now aging rapidly with looks that could pass for the father of the Solid Snake we've seen in previous games. The final adventure finds Snake using stealth mechanics and an OctoCamo suit to blend in with his surroundings as he attempts to assassinate long time rival, Liquid Ocelot. Expect to be reintroduced to the many familiar characters that made the series great when the game ships in June.

Also slated for a June release is Alone in the Dark. Now here's a title we haven't seen in quite a while. While many believed that The New Nightmare released in 2001 marked the end of the series whose title was synonymous with the survival horror genre, the developers at Eden Studios confirm that this is not the case. Fans that enjoyed Alone in the Dark since its debut on PC in 1992 will be pleased to see the return of protagonist Edward Carnby as he investigates supernatural occurrences that are shaking up New York City's Central Park.

While adventure elements such as puzzle-solving will most certainly make their way into the latest installment, an entirely new way of experiencing the series has been implemented. This time around, the game will be broken up into 30-40 minute episodes. While episodic gameplay is nothing new, it is most commonly offered in separate releases a la Half-Life 2 or Sam and Max. However, in this case, gamers will get the entire saga in a single package. Each episode's cliff-hanger ending will be followed by a quick recap of the events specific to your game and the routes you chose to take on your way through that episode. This seems like a cool feature, but only time will tell if gamers will react favorably or see it as a hindrance to the overall experience. And that time is slowly but surely drawing near. As for me, I have seen this game in action and it certainly has all the elements that should appease fans of survival horror and action junkies alike.

The Doldrums of Summer

HEI$T (Heist) is an open world crime action game set back in 1960's San Francisco. In the game your character leads a team of bank robbers on a crime spree that involves knocking off six major banks before finally taking on the San Francisco Mint. As quick and easy as this may seem, the game actually has quite a bit of depth to its gameplay. Before you can rob one of the six banks, your team must gain experience and intelligence information by taking on a number of side missions that include robbing a number of smaller establishments. During these side missions, your team will learn critical maneuvers that will aid in the next big score.

Your team consists of the usual suspects: the brains, the brawn, the safecracker, etc. Each will play a role that ensures a successful job. For instance, one member will serve as crowd control, another will mind the entry ways and exits, and one will take care of the establishment's security measures while your character goes for the big payoff. Another element that adds depth to the game is the fact that the way your team handles side missions has a large effect on each major bank. If your team carries out its side missions quickly and quietly with little to no casualties, the bank's security will never see you coming. On the other hand, if your team builds a rep of being trigger happy, those in the bank will be packing some major heat in the event that your team drops in for a visit. Also, how well your team members perform their duties is largely dependent upon the skills learned in the numerous side quests.

In HEI$T, robbing banks is only half the fun. The other half involves the getaway, so you can expect some wild car chasing sequences following each score. Sound like fun? Well, there's more. As you gain points during your side missions, you have the ability to deck out your getaway car with options like nitrous boosters, tinted windows, and mounted weapons. See, I told you there was some depth to this game. We'll see just how all these cool features pan out when the game is released in July.

Creation, exploration, and domination are three words that describe the varied gameplay you'll experience in Spore, an upcoming simulator of sorts by Maxis who brought us games like The Sims and SimCity. This is certainly a tough game to describe without omitting a lot of elements, but I'll give it the old college try. In Spore, players will begin the first of four stages of the game as simply a cell, in which you move about eating smaller creatures to grow. When your cell is large enough, players can begin to add physical features to your cell that aid in advancing to the creature stage. Once your cell has evolved into a creature, you are able to join other online players in this stage in an open world of newly created creatures. Note that this isn't a multiplayer game; instead, the other creatures are imported from an online database. In this stage, you'll spend the majority of your time interacting with others and collecting DNA points that allow you to add physical features and increase attributes such as brain power and levels of hostility. Players will spend lots of time in this stage utilizing the creature editor and exploring the countless options that will differentiate your creation from others. This stage of the game also includes an intuitive vehicle editor that will allow players to create means of traveling about and exploring this world of creatures.

The next stage of the game allows you as a new species to create civilizations. The ultimate goal in this stage is to become the dominant species by battling other civilizations in a real-time strategy setting. Once your civilization has become prominent enough, you can take on a much larger scale battle in space. In this stage of the game, players will utilize their customized space vehicles to travel the galaxy, visiting and conquering newly discovered planets. Spore is the type of game fans will sink their gaming teeth into and latch onto for the long haul. From single-cell to galaxy-spanning civilization, your options in Spore are literally limitless, providing what appears to be a never-ending gaming experience. Survival of the fittest species is slated for early September.

Also in September, Ubisoft will release Far Cry 2 - a game that is being developed internally by Ubisoft rather than Far Cry's creators Crytek. Far Cry 2 still contains a lot of graphical goodness, but it uses a new engine dubbed Dunia. The good news is that Far Cry 2 is not expected to be as taxing on PC gamers' systems as 2007's Crysis. [Ed: Thank Goodness!] This time around, the game's setting takes a turn from the beautiful and exotic jungles we saw in the previous games to a more sinister outdoor setting. Far Cry 2 will be set in Africa during a time when war is being waged between two political factions. According to Ubisoft Montreal's Patrick Redding, players can expect less of a clear-cut story in Far Cry 2. While a story does exist, it is mainly played out in your character's interactions with NPCs (non-player characters) you encounter. This allows players to create their own story in their heads instead of having it thrust at you via cutscenes and linear gameplay. Since how you choose to interact is largely dependent upon each player's decisions in the game, the story elements will unfold differently. In other words, you as the player decide what is going on and what you're going to do about it.

While Crytek is no stranger to creating games for consoles, the focus has frequently been on creating games for PC. None of Crytek's games to date have released simultaneously on PC and consoles. Previously, console users got spin-offs like Far Cry Instincts and Far Cry Instincts: Evolution for the original Xbox console in 2005 and 2006 respectively, Far Cry Instincts: Predator for the Xbox 360 console in 2006, and Far Cry: Vengeance for the Wii in 2006. With Crytek out of the picture things are changing, and we should see a simultaneous release of Far Cry 2 on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in September.

One Must Fall

Fallout 3 is a game that needs no introduction - at least if you're a PC gamer and have been around a while. If you're not a PC gamer and have stuck mainly to consoles through the years, chances are the only taste of the beloved Fallout series you got was a hack-n-slash spinoff Brotherhood of Steel, released in 2004. In all fairness, let's forget I mentioned that game, shall we? The original Fallout game made its debut in 1997 and is still referred to by many as the RPG to end all RPG's. A year later, Fallout 2 was released, thus turning the Fallout name into a franchise that would rival the likes of the ever popular Diablo series. Now, ten years later, the third installment in the series surfaces as Bethesda Softworks (maker of The Elder Scrolls series) takes the reigns. Much has changed, but Bethesda has made it clear that they are not looking to create The Elder Scrolls: Fallout.

While Fallout 3 might be referred to as a first person shooter, its cult followers know better. The game is very much an RPG with deep statistical character progression that will result in a different experience for each gamer who plays it. In this role-playing experience of epic proportions, the story unfolds thirty years after the events in Fallout 2. The year is 2050 and Vault 101 where your character's lineage took refuge during a nuclear holocaust is now open. In an attempt to investigate the disappearance your father, you emerge into the mutant-ridden wasteland that is Washington D.C. While there are countless ways to play Fallout 3, Bethesda has made sure that the outcome is also varied. In fact, there will apparently be 200 ending scenarios. So, if you're the type of gamer whose goal will be experiencing each ending, this may well be the last game you buy! Look for Fallout 3 on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 later this year sometime between Halloween and Christmas.

The city of New York lies in ruins. Thick black smoke pours from the rooftops. The remaining inhabitants of the city are in a state of panic. As the camera pans past images of an alien stronghold and destruction and lands on the image above, the tagline reads, "You can't know what control really means . . . until you lose it." This is the scene portrayed in the recently released teaser for Spider-Man: Web of Shadows.

While very little about this game has been released at this point, the developers have given us just enough to believe that Web of Shadows has the potential to be the Spider-Man game that fans have been waiting for. If the fact that this game is not based on a movie isn't appealing enough, players now get to play both good and evil sides amidst a number of other characters from the Marvel Comics universe. Spidey now has the ability to build his own combat system from the ground up by gaining experience and choosing which new powers to upgrade. While RPG elements are nothing new, they do help to break the monotony of what could be another boring sandbox game. Regardless, if the developers can nail the whole web swinging aspect that the previous games didn't quite do, I think we're going to see a lot of happy people.

Q3 Werewolves and Ghosts

In a world full of first person shooters, developers often need to shake things up a bit to make their game stand out among the crowd. We saw this successfully done with Bioshock last year, as well as Team Fortress 2, both of which scored high in the gaming community due to their uniqueness and originality. So, where does one go from here? How about a modern day shooter with werewolves and giant flying gryphons -- and maybe throw in a few ghosts and demons for good measure? It's the kind of thing you'd expect to see after the opening of Pandora's Box, which is what the game's story line is based upon.

Originally titled Legendary: The Box, the game centers around the actions of art thief Charles Deckerd who believes that he is taking on a routine smash-and-grab job when he obtains the infamous Pandora's Box. While further details of the game's story are being kept under wraps, we do know that he opens it at some point and thus somehow becomes the only person that can close it. Legendary is being developed by Spark Unlimited who brought us the award winning Call of Duty: Finest Hour. While this is a nice accolade, Spark is also responsible for polluting the FPS genre with its lackluster 2008 title, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty. One can only hope that the developers have learned from their mistakes, and judging by how the game looks in action, they may just be on the road to recovery. As an FPS buff, I'll definitely be keeping a watchful eye when Legendary opens the box later this year. Expect a full review.

It's been twenty-four years since Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson teamed up to rid New York City of its pesky paranormal pests in the popular film, Ghostbusters. [Ed: And 19 years since the bastard stepchild Ghostbusters II.] Late this year, we will once more be able to ask the question: "Who ya gonna call?" No word yet on whether or not we'll get a "catchy" new jingle, but the original cast of the film is reuniting to lend their voices and likenesses to Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

In a story written by stars of the film Aykroyd and Ramis, you play as a new recruit who joins Ghostbusters International, a franchise of the original Ghostbusters establishment. No sooner do you get your foot in the door than the city becomes infested with ghostly activity. Prepare to get slimed! While the extent of the actors' involvement in the game is not yet known, already released media assures us that a boss battle with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is confirmed. Even after two decades, there are fans of the original movies, and technology may finally be at the level where we can truly get a great ghost-busting game. We'll see if there's any substance to this game or if it's just a bunch of fluff from Mr. Stay Puft -- presumably just in time for Halloween.

Holiday 2008 (Pending Slippage)

Fans of sandbox action titles experienced one of the largest playing fields in such a game to date when Just Cause launched in 2006 from Eidos Interactive. Instead of the city-sized map that most of us have come to expect, the map scale was closer to that of a small country and consisted of a series of islands. While it would take more than a day's time for your character to walk from one end of the map to the other, Just Cause made sure we had plenty of land, air, and sea vehicles to get to our next destination. And if you were flying, you could simply jump out of your plane and freefall for three full minutes from the map's outrageously high canopy before pulling your parachute. [Ed: Bah! Who needs a parachute?]

Just Cause 2 promises an equally large scale map with improved graphics to boot. This time around, Eidos has decided to get rid of all the repetitive side missions that players were required to complete in the previous game, thus focusing entirely on the game's story. So, will you still be able to drive a motorcycle off a cliff, jump off of it in mid-air, land on the tail of a helicopter, kick the pilot out, fly it over a busy street, jump out, pull your chute, use your grapple gun to latch onto a vehicle below, reel yourself in, land on the vehicle, kick out the driver, and then drive away? Absolutely. In Just Cause 2, not only will you be able to perform outrageous stunts, the new and improved grapple gun will allow you to pull them off much easier as it can be used on any object in the game, including your enemies. Expect Just Cause 2 to be released during the 2008 holiday season.

Gears of War made quite a name for itself long before the official release. Originally slated to be an Xbox 360 launch title, the game's delays only added to the hype factor. With stunning graphics and intuitive character design, the game appeared to rival anything released on the console thus far when it finally hit the shelves in late 2006. As it happens, the game delivered on all fronts. And now, with Gears of War 2 officially announced, the hype factor is back in full force.

When the sequel was announced at the 2008 Game Developers Conference, lead designer Cliff Bleszinski took the stage to ensure fans that Gears of War 2 would be "bigger, better, and far more badass than the first game in every way." New additions to the game include chainsaw duels, an improved cover system, a slew of new weapons, drop-in co-op play, and improved physics that were made possible in the latest version of the Unreal Engine 3. Although only an Xbox 360 release has been announced, gamers can bank on an eventual release for PC.

Sometime in 2008 - Maybe

If you own a PlayStation 3, chances are you've already experienced the essence of what gamers love about first person shooters in Resistance Fall of Man. I certainly did and I can't bring myself to let go of it. In fact, it managed to squeak its way into my 10 ten favorite FPS games of all time. The game certainly deserves consideration for the title of best PS3 exclusive on the market. The sequel promises to be nothing less. In Resistance 2, you'll rejoin Nathan Hale as he once again attempts to rid the planet of those pesky alien Chimera. Only this time, the fighting will take place in more familiar territory: the United States.

Creators of the much-loved Ratchet & Clank series, Insomniac Games plans to bring Resistance back to the PS3 with a vengeance. In Resistance 2, gamers will get two separate full campaigns, one for co-op and the other for single-player. If that wasn't innovative enough, the multiplayer will now support 60 players online. That's right, 60. In addition, Insomniac touts full squad and clan support, along with a comprehensive matchmaking system integrated into the game's official website for storing your stats. Being a PS3 owner is just getting better and better.

Our final game of this preview extravaganza is Zeno Clash, a fantasy first person combat game running on Valve's Source engine with a unique style that is sure to win over gamers of all interests. Heavily focused on melee combat, the developers steer away from the traditional shooters that saturate the genre in hopes of providing a fresh and ultimately fun experience. Exotic ranged weapons are also used, but take a backseat to your fists and otherworldly objects that should make for some brutal gameplay. The story begins as the main character is exiled from his clan and hunted down by his own brethren who you'll interact with in the game's deep story line.

The ACE Team's Andre Bordeu, states, "Source is an incredibly flexible engine that lets us create environments with rich visuals, expansive and highly-detailed believable characters that interact with players in intelligent and challenging ways." Jason Holtman, the Director of Business Development at Valve, also comments on the game: "We're pleased that the ACE Team has chosen the Source engine for their promising debut game, which will expand the use of Source into new gameplay and visual styles." While no official release date has been set, the recommended system requirements for running the game are available. They include a Pentium 4 processor (3.0 GHz or better), 1GB RAM, a DirectX 9 compatible video card, and a choice between Windows 2000, XP, or Vista. ETA: TBD.

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