Christmas is a time for nostalgic end-of-year lists. But it’s also a chance to gaze into the mists of the year ahead (2011, in case you’ve forgotten) and start planning your gaming calendar. So, here, take our prescient binoculars and find out which virtual worlds you’ll be booking trips to in the next twelve months…
L.A. Noire (PS3/Xbox 360)
Due: Q2 2011
Little is known about Rockstar’s next blockbuster but, as the name suggests, it’s likely to be a treat for fans film noir nuts. Set in L.A in 1947 (think The Black Dahlia and L.A. Confidential), it’s an action adventure game that sees you in the guise of cop Cole Phelps as he attempts to unravel a series of murders. And if Phelps looks familiar, it’s because he’s ‘played’ by Mad Men’s Aaron Staton.
Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360)
Due: December 2011
The game that made stamping on heads a daily pastime will return in time for Christmas 2011. GOW3 will complete the trilogy, finish the story (aka “the excuse for shooting and chainsawing loads of Locusts”) and bring a shedload of new ways to kill things to the party. We’re looking forward to the four-player co-op and the chance to dispense hot lead justice from that old shoot ‘em up staple: a huge mech.
Due: April 2011 (PC/Mac/PS3/Xbox 360)
Portal is that rare beast, a universally loved game. Well, who couldn’t adore a brilliantly designed, brain-mangling puzzler with a genuinely compelling storyline? Its sequel promises more of the same – creating portals that let you negotiate obstacles and various puzzle rooms – but will bring a new cooperative two-player mode that allows two sets of portals to be created simultaneously. Sounds tough, but we’re ready.
Grand Slam Tennis (PS3/Xbox 360)
Due: Q1 2011
Available for Wii since last year, a glossier version of EA’s star-packed tennis knockabout is rumoured to be in the works for both the PlayStation Move and Xbox 360 Kinect. If the port does indeed get the green light, swinging your Move controller or arm will replicate your devastating slice serve on-screen. With official licences for all four Grand Slams and McEnroe both in the commentary booth and on-court, it could be a multiplayer riot (and cause of many vase breakages).
Due: Q3 2011 (PS3)
Previous Sony PlayStation consoles had their own versions of Twisted Metal, a game that mixed hi-octane driving with insane combat – and soon it’ll be the PS3’s turn. Simply dubbed ‘Twisted Metal’, it’ll be focused heavily on multiplayer motoring tear-ups, with up to 16 players battling it out online, or four on one telly in split-screen mode. Expect destruction on a truly epic scale – and don’t forget to fasten your seatbelt.
Brink (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)
Due: Q2 2011
Brink could be the next Team Fortress 2. It’s an online multiplayer FPS with a distinctive art style and a choice of player classes, but unlike most games of its type it features an actual storyline. Online FPS games aren’t exactly in short supply, but the fact that this is developed by Splash Damage – previously responsible for the brilliant Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars – means our trigger finger is already itching in anticipation.
Diablo III (PC/Mac)
It’s been over ten years since a new Diablo game was released, and fans of hack ‘n’ slash action RPGs are gagging for a new fix. While Diablo III isn’t confirmed for a 2011 release, we’re pretty sure it’ll roll into shops before next Christmas, bringing with it that classic Diablo gameplay (kill everything that moves, pick up their loot, upgrade your character) and adding a host of current-gen goodies: destructible environments, ragdoll physics and lovely, lovely 3D graphics.
Max Payne 3 (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)
Another series that’s been away for far too long, the world’s favourite slo-mo shooty cop is back – and this time he’s bald and paunchy. Yes, it’s older and ‘more cynical’ Max Payne – though he’s still keen on wielding a pair of Mac 10s and sending legions of goons to an early grave. It’ll be set in Brazil, 12 years after the events of Max Payne. Let’s hope it banishes the memories of that Mark Wahlberg movie.
Total War: Shogun 2 (PC)
The last time strategy epic Total War was set in medieval Japan its armies were represented by primitive 2D sprites on a muddy, low-res background. But just look at it now: on a beefy PC, the game will feature upwards of 50,000 individually animated 3D samurai duking it out in battles so epic they make Laurence of Arabia look like an episode of Emmerdale. Add sea battles, castle sieges and a level of detail not seen in Total War before and you’ve got a game to get the keyboard-prodders salivating.
Mario Kart 3D (3DS)
All these games and we haven’t mentioned 3D yet. It’s coming to the PS3 with the likes of Killzone 3, but that requires a new telly and a pair of daft spectacles. The Nintendo 3DS, on the other hand, delivers its 3D thrills and spills sans glasses – and we know that Mario Kart is among the games making the leap into three dimensions. Info is scarce, but hey, it’s Mario Kart: expect arcadey racing, power-up grabbing and shell-chucking.