Whether it’s the excess of alcohol consumed, the onset of more than two days in a row off work or just the mass hysteria we all know as ‘Christmas’, there’s something about the end of the year that makes it a great deal easier to spend money. It’s just as well, because there’s an almost absurd upswing in the volume of incredibly high quality games in the run-up to the end of the year that’s impossible to resist. Here are five of the season’s triple-A titles likely to be gracing the area underneath Christmas trees nationwide.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (1 November)
After last year’s poorly received and generally lacklustre Need for Speed: The Run (proving that ‘innovative’ does not in any way mean ‘good’), Most Wanted will have to do a lot even to begin to live up to its moniker. Scrapping the silly, largely pointless plot and QTEs is the first part of that reconditioning, but as a game designed by Criterion, makers of the wonderful Burnout series, there’s plenty to be hopeful about. EA says, as well as balls-out racing there will be a strong social competitive angle with friends’ times easily accessible on its leader boards, tempting you to best their times and then gloat about it.
Halo 4 (6 November)
The franchise that launched Xbox has been a consistent draw for the platform ever since providing one of the most reliable multi-player games in console history, but the question is, how much of that success was down to developer, Bungie? For the first time ever, development of the game has been taken over by Microsoft’s 343 Industries and nobody knows quite what that will mean. Five years after we last looked out through the Master Chief’s mirrored visor there’s a sense of nervous anticipation about this outing although everyone’s suspicion is that we’ll be seeing tweaks rather than any dangerously messy reinvention of the jewel in Microsoft’s crown.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (13 November)
Although it’s a Treyarch-made game (the poor cousin when it comes to Call of Duty episodes) there’s still plenty of hype around a new instalment of this seemingly unstoppable juggernaut of big budget special forces heroics and incendiary spectacle. Featuring two story lines – one from the 70s and 80s and one from the near future, giving an excuse to use gadgets, UAVs and very slightly sci-fi weapons – it’s also been revealed that zombies mode will make a comeback. Yes. Even more zombies. Multi-player mode is where players spend most of their time and this one comes with a surprise or two, including Home Run, which pits two teams with separate flags against just one base.
New Super Mario Bros U (18 November)
There are few things as exciting in a gamer’s calendar as the launch of bona fide new hardware and it’s fair to say that Nintendo’s is grossly overdue. Wii’s GameCube-era technology looked out of date when it launched, so the company’s entry into the HD era can’t come soon enough. The New Super Mario Bros games to date have been precise rather than magical and it remains to be seen whether the same lack of sparkle will affect WiiU’s flagship title. Featuring WiiU’s twist on co-op mode – ‘asymmetric co-op’, which means only one player has WiiU’s touch screen controller, in this case used to assist up to four fellow players in Boost mode.
ZombiU (18 November)
For those concerned about the possible anodyne qualities of Super Mario Bros U, there’s always ZombiU, a game so gritty you can practically scratch yourself looking at screenshots. Perma-death, no pause to swap weapons and only one life per character make this about as hardcore as you can imagine, which is at odds with the rest of the console’s launch line-up. However its use of WiiU’s extra screen as both item grab bag and nerve-wracking scanning device both look hugely compelling, giving the system to genuine points of difference to be savoured along with those turkey leftovers.
Hitman: Absolution – Nov 20
Its smaller, less open world-feeling levels are already making cognoscenti of the series wary, but this more accessible version of a game that has in the past traded on its lack of pandering to players, will certainly offer a different experience. Similarities remain however, including Agent 47’s proclivity for quiet murder and the need to attempt levels multiple times to figure out the best approach. It’s also by far the most beautiful looking outing in a series that has previously played for clever sandbox mechanics rather than photo-realism.