While 2008 didn’t reach the pinnacle of video game awesomeness that 2007 embodied, the past 12 months also provided an incredible lineup of hardcore titles from nearly every genre, with “Metal Gear Solid 4,” “Fallout 3” and “Grand Theft Auto IV” emerging as the most stunning available releases.
With all three consoles (Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3) at full steam, 2009 looks to be the year where anyone willing to pick up a controller will have something for their taste. Wading through the usual muck and mire of games that are average and below, the New University brings you a checklist for the next calendar year, the best of the best to keep your eye out for and your wallets full.
5. Alan Wake (Remedy Entertainment – Xbox 360, PC)
This game is low on our list because the details of its release have been so shaky for the past few years that we are not even 100 percent sure of a 2009 release date. But the “psychological action thriller” story about a best-selling thriller writer suffering from severe insomnia after the disappearance of his wife, along with the developer’s previous work on the badass action series “Max Payne,” is more than enough to make us willing to believe the release rumors.
Set in a coastal town beset with demonic entities all looking for a chunk of our protagonist, Alan Wake could be the sleeper survival horror hit of this year, and one fright fest that you shouldn’t be left out of.
4. Prototype (Radical Entertainment – Xbox 360, PC, Playstation 3)
Radical’s experience at the open-world action game is as close to a quality guarantee as you can get. Its newest, “Prototype,” tells of an anti-hero, stricken with memory loss and incredible super-human abilities, searching through the memories of those he kills for those that cursed him.
With your super-powered parkour and transfiguration abilities, you can take on tanks, helicopters and literal armies of people, using their bodies to surf down the highway until they are reduced to disgusting chunks of pulp. Mothers and Christians will loathe it; the rest of us will bathe in a glorious flood of gore and grit, with a side of action movie storytelling for good measure.
3. Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream – PS3)
Developer Quantic Dream is known for swimming against the tide of popular taste, giving us something we never knew we wanted. Its latest work is tagged as an “interactive film noir,” where players will take control over multiple characters on the search for a gruesome killer. Not much is known about the final product, but technology demos have displayed an almost photo-realistic presentation, with a gripping control system that eventually becomes second nature. This isn’t a shooter game fresh from the sequel-o-matic, but that might be a good thing. Those looking for a mature, story-driven experience no longer need play detective.
2. Batman: Arkham Asylum (Rocksteady Studios – Xbox 360, PC, PS3)
“Batman: Arkham Asylum” plans to take our appreciation for Batman (rediscovered with Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”) even deeper, steeping us in the gruesome dwelling place of some of comic-book’s most vile. After the Joker escapes the police at the Asylum’s entrance, the Dark Knight must head into the shadowy depths after him, encountering villains like Killer Croc along the way. Not just a stealth game, Batman can combat his way through any situation, even employing detective skills when the need arises.
It’s said that this will be “the ultimate Batman experience,” and with what we’ve seen, that can’t be a bad thing.
1. Brutal Legend (Double Fine Productions – Xbox 360, PS3)
Pardon us; we think our geek is showing. Think what you want of lead voice actor Jack Black, but this game might be the most original and humorous action game in years.
Headed by Tim Schafer, the game industry’s answer to Terry Gilliam, this send-up and literalization of rock music’s Nordic and Greek inspirations will have players actually melting faces with their guitar riff attacks and acquiring female groupies of most excellent attractiveness as they battle evil guitar masters voiced by actual heavy metal legends. It’s tongue-and-cheek cranked to 11, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.