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By 3 February 2012 | Categories: feature articles

 

This year is already promising to be a bumper year for games. In fact, trying to narrow down our top 5 games for the first half of the year was particularly challenging, with so many standout titles from which to choose. Get ready to clear your calendar ...

Max Payne 3

Due date: May 2012 | Trailer: bit.ly/maxisback3

5. Max Payne 3

Poor old Max. He thought he might catch a bit of sunshine in Sao Paulo after what happened in New York in MP2, but unfortunately the girls and their troubles seem to follow him around. Doing duty as a “security consultant”, this time around hard-drinking Max looks even gloomier than before, now also sporting a shaved-off head. So why does MP3 make it to our Top 5 list? Simple – developers Rockstar Games have matured into one of the most bankable companies around, being responsible recently for L.A. Noire, GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption. We enjoyed the Matrix-style bullet-time of the previous version, so we’re glad to see it back again, this time supported by the excellent Euphoria physics engine for some decent FPS thrills.

Final Fantasy XIII-2

Due date: February 2012 | Trailer: bit.ly/finfant

4. Final Fantasy XIII-2

The word “epic” gets thrown around a lot in talk about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Although it’s advisable to take this with a pinch of salt, we’re starting to believe that it might not be that far off, especially with Spawn creator Todd McFarlane onboard as art director. The massive open-world RPG is developers’ 38 Studios’ debut effort, but already they’re promising “the best combat that you’ve ever seen”. The RPG market is pretty hot right now and Reckoning faces some stiff competition (think Skyrim, Witcher 2), nonetheless Reckoning might just be one of the top new original titles of the year (and watch out for an Amalur MMO game to follow).

The Hobbit: An unexpected journey

Due date: As soon as February 2 | Trailer: bit.ly/amalura

3. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Ah, the return of the familiar. Director Peter Jackson revisits Middle-Earth, this time with the story of Hobbit Bilbo Baggins’ epic quest to slay a dragon. Events take place before those of The Lord of the Rings, and sees our hesitant hero Bilbo (played by one of our favourite British actors Martin Freeman from The Office) join at least eight familiar faces, including Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and Orlando Bloom (Legolas). Although part one can’t come soon enough, we can’t help but wonder what magic Spanish director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), who was appointed as director but left due to delays, could have done with Tolkien’s realm.

Mass Effect 3

Due date: March 2012 | Trailer: bit.ly/masseff3

2. Mass Effect 3

It’s going to be a joyous but sad day when we finally get to say goodbye to Commander Shepard in the final instalment of the Mass Effect trilogy. Known for its massive world and excellent storytelling, the Mass Effect franchise has been one of the most successful of the past few years. After defeating the Collectors in ME2, Shepard is once again at it, trying to unite species against the Reapers who have now invaded earth. ME3 allows you to include saved files from the previous titles, influencing not only gameplay, but also how the story (and ending) unfolds. One of the features we can’t wait to test out is the four-player co-op multiplayer missions, while Bioware (Dragon Age II, Star Wars: The Old Republic) is also working on “deepening” Shepard’s character, adding to the emotional appeal of the story.

Diablo 3

Due date: Mid-April, but with Blizzard at the helm don’t set aside that Easter holiday just yet. | Game demo: bit.ly/dia3blo

1. Diablo 3

Words cannot express quite how much we are looking forward to the next installment in the Diablo RPG series. As we’ve come to expect from developers Blizzard (WoW, Starcraft II), they’ve certainly taken their time to get this finished, with Diablo 2 already marking its 13th anniversary. From what we’ve gathered from the gameplay videos Blizzard has posted, Diablo 3 will look, and play, amazingly well, adding a new hotbar to help you use your skills more easily and upping the animation to a whole new level. There is even talk of a new Auction House, where you can sell some of your hard-to-acquire artifacts for either in-game gold or real money. [MJ]

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What new tech or developments are you most anticipating this year?
New smartphone announcements (15 votes)
Technological breakthroughs (16 votes)
Launch of new consoles, or notebooks (9 votes)
Innovative Artificial Intelligence solutions (10 votes)
Biotechnology or medical advancements (16 votes)
Better business applications (53 votes)