#4 Madden 13 - In recent years, Madden has been trending in a downward spiral, releasing a particularly lack luster effort last August. Madden 12 marked the first Madden that I did not buy since I became a madden fan pre-Xbox 360/PS3. Why will Madden 13 be better? Developer EA Tiburon seems to finally realize that they’ve dropped the ball. A greater effort is being made in the game play as well as the presentation. There will be two new announcers in the booth and they were actually recorded together, sounding more natural than the robotic Chris Collinsworth, who color-commentated the last few games. Even if EA’s hard work doesn’t pay off, this game can’t possibly be worse than its predecessor.
#3 Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - I’m excited for Black Ops 2 for the same reasons as the upcoming Madden. Call of Duty has become stagnant. Gamers unanimously agree that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is by far the best installment in the franchise. Since CoD 4, each annual release has been almost the same thing with little to keep things fresh. Like Madden 12, last years Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was the first ever CoD that I didn’t buy since the franchise’s birth. I have not been alone in clamoring for changes to the CoD franchise and Black Ops 2 is bringing changes. Part of the game will be taking place during the Cold War in the 1980’s. The rest of the campaign and all of the multiplayer will be in a future Cold War in 2025. So far the campaign appears to be as over-the-top as ever, but there seems to be signs of evolution as well. There will be several times during the campaign where players will be forced to choose which mission to go to next while those that they do not pick go un-played. The decisions you make impact aspects of the story including who lives and dies. The missions will also allow players to run through the entire mission commanding troops and drones from a birds eye view, hopping into a drone, or playing as a soldier on the ground. Players will also be able to switch to whoever they want whenever they want. This will add replayability to the campaign for the first time in a long time. Little has been revealed about the multiplayer, but there are sure to be changes there, too; hopefully significant ones.
#2 Assassin’s Creed III - After the success of Assassin’s Creed II, the franchise began releasing games annually (Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed Revelations). Unfortunately, annual releases are rarely a good thing for gamers since the short development times oftentimes lead to games that aren’t particularly polished or innovative (see Call of Duty and Madden) and that proved to be true with Assassin’s Creed as well. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood felt like ACII, but somehow not as good. Assassin’s Creed Revelation was supposed to provide fans with answers, but left them with more questions instead. For the first time since the release of ACII, ACIII will bring a lot of change to the series. Ezio Auditore, the main character in the last three Assassin’s Creed installments, is gone; his story has been told. The franchise is abandoning more than just one of the best characters in video game history, but Europe, the Middle East, and all of its characters that don’t play into the modern day story line as well. Players will now be exploring colonial America and will be spending the majority of their time during the American Revolution playing as a half Native American, half British assassin. Although there will be some large cities to use all playgrounds (Philadelphia, Boston, etc.), there won’t be anything like the colossal cities featured in past games. Instead, the wilderness will become a significant part of the game. Trees will be a new way of transportation. Players will have to fend for themselves out in the wilderness, hunting animals for food. Another first for the series is weather; there will actually be seasons. Snow will dramatically slow players down. More so than in the past, players will have to really think about their surrounds both before and during combat. The combat itself will receive various changes, providing more options, and hopefully, simply be better. Ubisoft took some big risks by implementing such huge changes to the setting; will they backfire?
#1 Borderlands 2 - The original Borderlands was phenomenally fun; it earned game of the year awards for a reason. Borderlands 2 will bring gamers back to the planet of Pandora. Four new character classes will be playable as well as a fifth class that will be downloadable sometime post-launch. However, the original four playable characters and other characters from the first game, will make appearances, too. Borderlands was known as a game where players fought a ton of enemies, grabbed an incredible amount of loot, fired thousands of different weapons, and didn’t experience much of a story. Borderlands 2 has set out to change some things. Players will encounter a much greater variety of enemies and more of them. There are thousands of more weapons and each weapon manufacturer feels and plays very different, no longer being just a name. Gearbox is actually valuing story. The antagonist of the game is Handsome Jack (the first game didn’t really have a bad guy), owner of weapons manufacturer Hyperion. He is taking over Pandora in pursuit of alien technology and riches. There will be tons more dialogue as well as parts in-game that serve as cutscenes while keeping players in the game. The graphics are better, there is even more color, and the game brings a much greater variety of environments for players to explore (the first game was mostly, but not exclusively, a desert wasteland). Each new character appears to be a fresh, evolved version of their predecessors. Instead of a berzerker that uses both his fists to pound enemies into submission when filled with an animalistic rage, there is now a gunzerker that has the ability to dual-wield any two weapons (even rocket launches) and unload a significant amount of punishment on his foes. There is a siren class again, but instead of temporarily becoming invisible and very fast (phasewalk), she can now immobilize, suspending them in the air and leaving them vulnerable to attack (phaselock). Each characters skill will also be highly customizable, completely changing the integrity of what the skill is. Claptrap will be making a comeback and is likely to provide more lovable moments to those who adore him, and more rage to those who hate him (or love to hate him). And of course there will be loads or more sweet, sweet loot. Borderlands 2 will be bigger, better, more customizable, and (hopefully) more fun than the previous installment. This is the game that the original Borderlands was supposed to be and that game was pretty damn good.
Missed The Cut - Halo 4 - Players return to Master Chief for the first time in years and much has changed, but Bungie is no longer at the reins and this sequel almost feels forced.