Monday, February 22, 2010

Top PC Games

BioShock
Publisher: 2K Games | Developer: Irrational Games | Release Date: June

What is it? Pretty much the same highbrow, dystopian game we told you about on 360: You discover an undersea city that served as the home of a near-cult of crazed Libertarians. Only, things have taken a turn for the extremely weird.

Why should I care? An unusual setting, an unusual premise, and some really, really unusual characters and enemies all but guarantee that this game's going to be very...unusual.

What's the prognosis? Really good. The developers of the awesome System Shock series know how to make things creepy, for sure.

Crysis
Publisher: Electronic Arts | Developer: Crytek | Release Date: September

What is it? One of the most graphically stunning games we've ever seen. Like Crytek's previous game Far Cry, Crysis boast a tropical setting and open-ended FPS gameplay.

Why should I care? OK, so you're not a graphics whore. There's more to this one than a pretty face. For example, your character boasts an ultra-high-tech nanosuit that confers powers bordering on the superhuman. You'll also get an array of 32-person multiplayer matches that make use of the unique tactical features of the suit. And of course, you'll get the "sandbox" map builder to create your own content.

What's the prognosis? The system requirements for this puppy are through the roof...but if you've got a machine that can actually run it, you should be one happy little soldier.

Dragon Age
Publisher: BioWare | Developer: BioWare | Release Date: Fall

What is it? A new RPG from arguably the finest developers of RPGs in the Western Hemisphere. Dragon Age appears to step away from the clean-cut medieval formula and into some dark territory, with a story influenced by mature fantasy like George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Why should I care? While Dragon Age is certainly a fine looking game, it's not about the looks; it's about the story. Story is so important that you'll actually play through an "origin story" -- a sort of prequel to the main game -- that's different depending on you choice of character. Which sub-race you choose will influence not only your origin story, but also the way other characters respond to you throughout the game.

What's the prognosis? It looks incredible. What more can we say?

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Publisher: Activision | Developer: Splash Damage | Release Date: Summer

What is it? A hand-animated, point-and-click adventure game set in a haunted '70s disco. Just kidding, it's a multiplayer sci-fi FPS. What were you expecting from a Quake game?

Why should I care? You get to play as either a tricked-out human in the Global Defense Force or an ultraviolent alien Strogg. And not only does each side get a huge assortment of vehicles to do some serious damage with, you also get to pick among some very specialized -- but very important -- battlefield roles.

What's the prognosis? This is one of the finest games we saw at last year's E3, and it just keeps looking better. The lack of any single-player story is a bit of a disappointment, but aside from that we may be looking at the Next Online Classic.

Half-Life 2: Episode 2
Publisher: Electronic Arts | Developer: Valve | Release Date: Fall

What is it? The next edition in the stellar Half-Life 2 saga. Ep. 2 branches outward from City 17, involving a great deal of travel and a lot more vehicles. Much of the episode will take place out in the wilderness, with appropriately huge set pieces and breathtaking vistas.

Why should I care? Well, not only is the game all but guaranteed to be awesome by virtue of its continuation and expansion of the Half-Life story, it's also shipping with the long-awaited Team Fortress 2 and the almost indescribably cool-looking first-person puzzler Portal.

What's the prognosis? Damn good. Half-Life 2 is one of the greatest FPSes out there, and there's no reason to think Episode 2 won't continue the trend.

Left 4 Dead
Publisher: Valve | Developer: Turtle Rock | Release Date: Spring

What is it? The result of an experiment in Counter-Strike: Picture a handful of player-controlled players armed to the teeth, going up against vast swarms of bots equipped only with hand-to-hand weapons. Now picture the bots as zombies and you've got the general idea.

Why should I care? By building the entire game around a few-versus-many formula, Turtle Rock is crafting a compelling co-op game. And more than that: It should also be a game with quite a lot of replay value, thanks to procedurally generated enemies and some advanced, dynamic AI routines.

What's the prognosis? Excellent. Turtle Rock is the studio responsible for the acclaimed Counter-Strike bots, so setting up believable, challenging enemies shouldn't be a problem.

The Lord of the Rings Online: The Shadows of Angmar
Publisher: Midway | Developer: Turbine | Release Date: April

What is it? It's the long, long, long-awaited MMORPG set in Middle-earth.

Why should I care? If you don't have a secret desire hidden somewhere in your heart to go visit Hobbiton, even in a virtual way, then you have no heart. (Or, possibly, you've never read LOTR. We're not sure which is more likely.) There's also expected to be a really substantial community element, including a robust web-based interface featuring character stats, blogs, and even a Google Maps-style mapping tool for Middle-earth.

What's the prognosis? Somewhat precarious. The game itself seems quite solid, but we're not sure if the familiar setting is going to be enough to lure players away from WoW.

Unreal Tournament III
Publisher: Midway | Developer: Epic Games | Release Date: Fall

What is it? A new FPS from the folks who have been refining the genre for years. And it's not just an incremental upgrade; this one is a full-fledged sequel. It gets its own number and everything!

Why should I care? There seem to be two camps in the FPS world: Those who like slower-paced, realistic strategy and those who dig fast, frantic, over-the-top sci-fi action. UT3 plops itself square in the middle of the latter camp, with outlandish vehicles and weapons, gorgeous scenery, and ridiculous weapons. But this time, there's a significant new addition: A true single-player campaign.

What's the prognosis? A new Unreal, with a legitimate story, spanking-new technology, and virtually unlimited replay value? Yeah, it'll probably flop.