We're in for some interesting times this year if things stick to their release schedules. This is a quick look at some of those games that might not be on your radar, or you might only have heard of recently. Since we are a Euro based site a game that is mentioned may well be already out in the US.
First off we're looking at the release of Pandemic's Lord of the Rings: Conquest. Pandemic are hoping to relight the fire of their Star Wars: Battlefront games with a chunk of online/offline LotR action published by EA. You can play either the Light or Dark (Good or Evil) sides and there are numerous classes to choose from, each class seems to be fairly well balanced and the maps have a theme from the LotR movies. Narration for the tutorial is provided by Hugo 'Elrond' Weaving and it introduces you to the concepts of the game. There are numerous modes on offer in the retail version and graphically it captures the feel of the movies extremely well. In game-play terms from the demo, it seems to be shaping up nicely and we should be reviewing the full game when it hits on/around the 16th in the European market.
Next to come is Rise of the Argonauts. Codemasters have managed to secure the rights to publish this unique Greek themed action-RPG developed by Liquid Entertainment, the people who brought us the excellent Battle Realms and expansion. Rise of the Argonauts is a tale of betrayal, revenge and murder set in the backdrop of ancient Greece. The game is a single player experience that is 3rd person and has a focus on hand to hand combat. You are cast in the role of Jason who must try to save the soul of his beloved by searching for the Golden Fleece, the only object that has the power to help her. Along the way Jason meets up with Hercules, Pan, Achilles and numerous other characters. The game has a similar feel to Mass Effect in terms of quest dialogue choices and exploration. The Argo is Jason's main base of operations and it is here where you can choose your next destination. There are numerous powerful weapons to collect and each one is a unique design, there are no generic weapons in the game. Finally, Rise of the Argonauts features a clever experience system that allows you to dedicate your deeds (enemies killed, quests solved) to one of the four main gods: Ares, Athena, Hermes or Apollo. Each one of these can offer you a staggering array of bonuses and powers. We'll be looking deeper at Rise of the Argonauts hopefully when it hits in February.
The Wheelman should arrive on our shores around the 13th of February and promises a slice of on-foot, in-car free-roaming action with a little dash of Pursuit Force thrown in for good measure. Vin Diesel and company are creating a new IP and Vin of course is the main star. The game engine promises rapid speed based thrills that would make James Bond happy, where you can jack a car or vehicle as you're driving by leaping from one to the other when your primary vehicle takes too much damage. Offensive driving moves including being able to slam your car using the analogue stick, from left to right, mirroring the best Hollywood car chases and pile it into the enemy vehicles to ram them off the road. There is a bullet-time like feature where the car spins 180 and you can shoot out vital parts of the enemy vehicle before spinning back 180 and driving off through the city. From what we've seen of the Wheelman so far it looks like it's shaping up very nicely and should provide enough thrills and spills to keep fans of the Transporter movies happy, where we all want to be able to drive like Frank Martin.
Halo Wars should be an interesting take on the RTS on console; the developers have promised that the system used to control your forces should make it simple and easy to play. From what we've seen of Halo Wars so far that seems to be the case with the game delivering a vibrant and energetic take on the Halo universe. All of your favourite things are in and some surprises that we can't say. Of course what's fun about Halo Wars is that the attention to detail is there and units/vehicles are instantly recognisable. It's pretty impressive to see a Warthog ramp across a ravine carrying a squad of marines, land on the other side, skid a little and then drive off. You can begin to look for Halo Wars around the 27th of February (hopefully) and see for yourselves then.
No coming list of 2009 would be complete without a shout out to Resident Evil 5. So here we go. Resident Evil 5 plays in a similar manner to 4 and the controls will be instantly recognisable to fans of the series, it takes a few things and improves on them. Inventory management is better and the biggest draw of the game is that you can play split-screen coop offline and go online to play coop with a friend over Xbox Live. For the majority of the game you're accompanied by a coop AI partner that isn't bad, they can save your ass when they need to and they are capable of holding their own against the hordes of enemies. CAPCOM have upped the ante in terms of scary mini-bosses introducing the chainsaw wielding psychopaths once more, who take an armoury's worth of ammo to kill and a massive axe/hammer swinging addition who takes that and more.
You can expect lots of cheesy dialogue from Resident Evil 5, as is traditional. Some good and some bad voice performances and a host of odd characters to interact with as you attempt to uncover the mystery in Africa. Graphically the game is looking extremely nice and crisp with some beautiful character models and location architecture. Whether this can be moulded into a playable and enjoyable game remains to be seen since the title doesn't come out until at least the 13th of March.
CAPCOM are in the limelight again, and this time it's no surprise since this game is coming from the lovely developers that brought Crimson Skies to the Xbox. Dark Void promises to be an interesting combination of 3rd person on foot, vertical and seamless flight action. The hero of the game is equipped with a 'Rocketeer' style jetpack and the whole game's feel is very 'pulp' in terms of art and design. It's already looking fantastic and features dog-fighting by stealing an enemy UFO in a nail biting real time capture mechanic and then using it to blast the others out of the sky. The dog-fighting is looking simple enough with tactical choices galore, letting you concentrate on actually trying to outthink and out-fly your opponents. The on foot action is interesting since the hero has close quarters combat moves he can use against the enemy, as well as numerous powerful guns. The true star of the show is the vertical combat where you are capable of ascending via short bursts of the jetpack, up a sheer surface, hanging on via the developer's grip mechanic and still engaging enemies. You can use the various rifts in the rock for cover, ducking and popping out to shoot. Enemies fall past you to their deaths and the whole experience looks immense fun. Graphically it's got a gorgeous style and design, with some massive vistas to fly around and some truly 1930's Saturday Morning Picture Show inspired costume designs. Dark Void should be out much later this year and should be well worth the wait.
Vigil Games is working away on Darksiders: Wrath of War, a game that promises to deliver a combination of Devil May Cry, Dynasty Warriors and Legend of Zelda style gameplay. You are cast in the title role of War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Armageddon has been triggered, you're blamed for it and stripped of your powers. War isn't going to take this lying down and decides to find out what's going on. The game has some mind-blowing weapons and combat moves already, it's larger than life, hub based with massive areas to explore and War's horse, Ruin, is an incredible side-kick capable of using his own special powers and can be summoned anywhere outside. It is possible for War to leap off a building, fall down to the ground and summon/land on Ruin before he hits it. From what we've seen of Darksiders already, this game is looking to take the Devil May Cry, God of War crown and stomp it into the ground. With a mix of combo based combat with huge bosses, no sign (yet) of Quicktime events (we hope) and special weapons set over massive sprawling environments littered with puzzles, we're hoping this one can be a really sharp entry to the 3rd person hack/slash action-adventure market. It's already looking great and the character designs are superb with the 360 delivering a solid frame-rate and some blistering action. Again, you're going to have to wait a while for this one as well, hopefully it will hit later on in 2009.
Gearbox software is looking to unleash a new FPS/RPG hybrid onto the market. So far slated for 2009, but we all know how this industry goes. Borderlands is looking like it's going to be a fun romp. Gearbox are fond of taking things to the next level and this definite M-Rated adventure set on the planet Pandora, reminds me of what the original Halo promised way, way back. Pandora is a huge planet and you're free to go where you want, there are vehicles available. So far we've only seen a buggy however so there's no word if there are flying vehicles in the game yet. The game is capable of coop play with a persistent character. It has drop-in drop-out coop online for up to 3 other people and Gearbox say you can play it offline with a buddy too. What we've seen of the game showcases a deep mine and some visceral action combat, with character levelling and some of the craziest weapon combinations that are known to man. Gearbox have developed a procedural weapons generation technology that allows the game to spit out over half-a-million weapon combinations, much more than any team of designers could ever hope to create during a development cycle. Borderlands has the potential to be the coop shooter that we've all been looking for. It's obvious that Gearbox have thought deeply about the cooperative aspect of the game since the buggy allows driver/gunner to seamlessly switch positions, show in game as they leap from one seat to the other whilst the vehicle is still moving. Borderlands is definitely one to keep an eye on as Gearbox are also involved in another game that we're going to mention next.
Aliens: Colonial Marines slated for the Q1 2009 according to publisher SEGA. Working closely with FOX and SEGA Gearbox has promised an Aliens game that captures the feel of the movies. ACM will see the player as one of the grunts who are sent to discover what's happened to the Sulaco and crew. Of course Aliens will be involved and there are rumours of massive open environments as well as claustrophobic interiors devoid of lighting and full of vents for the Aliens to scurry about in. There are certain situations where the squad will be called to defend a location, setting up turret guns, booby traps and welding access points shut with the hand welder. There are rumours of quicktime events (again) and these are supposedly denoted by a system that flashes the colour to the edge of the screen as a tint. The Jury is out on this one and hopefully Gearbox will be able to implement the system so it doesn't ruin gameplay. The game is looking good from shots and limited footage, yet there's nothing solid out trailer or gameplay wise to see. The sketchy play footage we have seen looks great, with the motion tracker in and the weapons looking nice. It remains to be seen if Gearbox can dethrone AVP and AVP II as the must-have Aliens games, yet if anyone can do it they can.
Finally there is the Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena from Starbreeze. The Riddick game on the Xbox was a phenomenal hit and we really enjoyed it here at Games Xtreme. Now for the 360 it's time to get back into Riddick's head and enjoy a revamped, rebuilt, redone and re-everything version of the game. Dark Athena isn't just a re-skin, it's been rebuilt by Starbreeze to take advantage of the 360 and not content with offering an expanded look at Butcher Bay, the developers have designed a whole new episode as well called: Dark Athena. This game is looking mouth-wateringly stunning and with the promise of online adversarial play as one of the features, we can't wait to step into Riddick's shoes and use his custom knives to carve a piece out of our Xbox Live buddies. We'll keep you updated on Dark Athena as the year rolls on by and hopefully Starbreeze can reignite the flame of success they had with Trigon and Vin with the first game.
That concludes our short look at just some of the interesting titles that are on the way in 2009 (hopefully). As per usual this isn't a guarantee that the games will hit this year, some are a long way off and some are still in doubt. We could have mentioned even more like Ghostbusters but we've only got enough room for a certain amount.