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Erik Chalhoub: I’m a huge Mass Effect fan. I’ve beaten the first game three
times, and the second four times. If you’ve only beaten these games once,
you’ve really only seen about a third of what they have to offer. So many
choices are available to you, and the games just ooze replay value. I
absolutely have to listen to every line of dialogue, and on each play through I
choose different responses for my Shepard character. As a result, each play
through is completely different from the last. With Mass Effect 3, I can’t wait to see how the trilogy ends
(or to be more exact, how I choose to end it). Perhaps I will let the Reapers
destroy the universe, or maybe I will feel like saving all of civilization. Either way, I’m
looking forward to seeing what hilarious lines of dialogue Mass Effect 3 will
offer, especially for Renegade characters. I also can’t wait to tell Conrad
Verner, the series’ running joke, to get lost again. Thankfully Mass Effect
fans such as myself won’t have to wait too long, as part three releases on
Justin Speidel: The final chapter of Commander Shepard’s trilogy promises to be a colossal hit. Improved cover mechanics, instant melee kills, more functional grenades, and improved AI are just a few of the improvements, and considering how brilliant Mass Effect 2 was and still is, you have to wonder how much better the series can actually get. The major difference between the third installment and the previous two is that Mass Effect 3 will ship sporting a multiplayer mode, oftentimes compared to Gears of War 3’s Horde mode, in which players will play cooperatively to tackle enemy strongholds. There is little doubt that although this will be a departure from the strictly single-player experiences of the first two games, the new multiplayer can only add replay value to a series already renowned for being a wonderful time-sink.
Justin Speidel: By the time Halo 4 releases it will have been over 5 years since gamers last had the chance to play as Master Chief. This new trilogy, dubbed the “Reclaimer Trilogy,” will return the focus on John-117 shortly after the events at the end of Halo 3. The biggest changes will not lie in the new setting or the updated graphics, but in the design team responsible for the new trilogy of Microsoft’s signature franchise. Bungie is no longer at the helm and instead will be replaced by 343 Industries, who recently did a great job with the remake of the original Halo. There’s no doubt that this next trilogy of Halo’s will be good, but the question is how good? Will they match the splendor of the originals or will they suffer from a change in development teams? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Erik Chalhoub: Assuming that it launches during its vague release date of “Q4 2012,” Halo 4 will be one of the most, if not THE most anticipated game of 2012. Being the first full Halo game by new series developer 343 Industries (Anniversary was more Bungie than 343), a lot of questions surround the game, mostly regarding if 343 is capable of taking over the franchise. It will be great to play as Master Chief and listen to Cortana again, after the franchise was sidetracked in ODST and Reach and didn’t include its two most recognizable figures. Halo 4 will start a brand-new story arc with the Covenant no longer a threat (supposedly), and I can’t wait to see the new enemies you must blast your way through. Hopefully a question I’ve had since 2007 will be answered: What is that huge planet teased at the end of Halo 3’s Legendary play through? It will be a long wait for Halo 4, but it will certainly be worth it.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Mat Ombler: Why am I so
excited for this game? Because there has only ever been one direct sequel to a
Final Fantasy game before; Final Fantasy X spawning the steaming turd that was
X-2. So why does that make me excited? I’m being clever. I’m being a pessimist!
As well as being wise enough to accept that this game could fall either one of
two ways, I’m reserving equal amounts of optimism and pessimism just so I can
really surprise myself. From what Square have revealed so far in the form of
trailers, the game is looking beautiful. FF XIII was a brilliant game, but I
don’t want to have to play through ten hours of the game until I’m finally
allowed to enter a proper world map; surely restriction defeats the point of an
RPG. It’s reasonable to say that FF XIII didn’t really come close to touching
past classics such as VII and IX, but it was still a decent game. Believable
characters and a relatively emotional storyline helped keep XIII feeling like
previous games in the saga. If Square can manage to find room for the inclusion
of a bigger world map and more varied locations then perhaps this could rinse
the floor with its prequel. Here’s hoping.
Justin: Let’s face it, industry expectations for games developed by Square Enix have dropped significantly over the past few years. The once juggernaut Japanese developer was used to setting standards for the RPG, not lagging far behind them. With Final Fantasy XIII-2, Square Enix has an opportunity to prove to consumers that they have caught back up with expectations and perhaps exceeded them. Promising more open-world freedom, a more accessible story, and a host of new gameplay features, Final Fantasy XIII-2 looks to improve upon the original as well as addressing fan and media complaints. Hopefully this release will get Square Enix back on track and making great games when Final Fantasy XIII-2 ships to North America on January 31st rather than falling into a similar trap as they did with Final Fantasy X-2.
Resident Evil : Operation Raccoon City
Mat: Capcom have decided to invite Slant Six Games as co-developers for their newest Resident Evil title. Taking leave from the traditional feeling of survival horror seen in previous titles, O.R.C. takes a step in a completely new direction, focusing on the antics of everyone’s favorite evil pharmaceutical killers; Umbrella. Gameplay wise, it appears to be shaping out as a beautiful cross breed between Valve’s Left For Dead and the bonus game from several Resident Evil titles Mercenaries. My expectations are high and hopefully for the right reasons. Add in the fact that we’re given the chance to put a bullet through that silly fringe of Leon Kennedy’s and we’re surely onto a winner.
Max Payne 3Erik: I’m intrigued by games that suffer hellishly-long development periods, such as Duke Nukem Forever. Max Payne 3 is another game with a Forever-like status, having been in development on and off for at least seven years. The atmosphere of the first two games in the series was strong and sucked me in. The grisly film noir-type of look and voiceover was executed well. While the games tended to delve into mediocrity as they approached their endings (Lowlighted by the first game’s many boring warehouse levels), the overall experience was not disappointing. It will be interesting to see if Max Payne 3 can sustain this film noir atmosphere in a different environment (Brazil) and with a different developer and writer. I will be glad to see bullet time back where it belongs—in a Max Payne game. Also, if Max has the same monotone voice, I’m sold.
Soul Calibur V
Mat: Everyone loves a good fighter. Place a Tekken or Street Fighter arcade machine in any kind of building and I’ll lose my mind and my wallet. Fighter’s seem to be the one genre that I also suck at, yet it doesn’t seem to bother me. I enjoy myself, perhaps too much. After discovering Soul Calibur 2 for the Gamecube it’s safe to say that I certainly did lose my mind for a good couple of weeks. Given the inclusion of Link in the GC version and I was hooked for a long time. The storyline is gripping for what it needs to be and the inclusion of a large variety of different game modes always seem to work brilliantly well. Soul Calibur V is a game I’m looking forward to for a variety of different reasons. Sporting everyone’s favorite hooded assassin as a playable character as well as past favorites means I get that sense of nostalgia instantly. The great thing about the Soul Calibur series is not only do the characters look great graphically but they all play uniquely great too. There’s a character type for everyone, there’s a game type for everyone and I cannot wait for this to hit stores!