The original Deus Ex is (as you well know) one of the greatest video games. Set in an enthralling and remarkably intellectual cyberpunk dystopia, it subtly gave players a wonderful amount of freedom. It left us to discover our options rather than stating choices and then demanding we pick one. It felt like the beginning of something new and exciting. Yet the wave of Deus Ex-inspired games I desperately craved never came. Instead, for a decade I've been replaying Deus Ex every time someone brings it up (you're considering that now, aren't you?) and wishing that Troika had been able to properly finish its flawed masterpiece Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. Human Revolution might change that. I've tried to stay cool and detached as following up Deus Ex is no mean feat--even creator Ion Storm faltered with Deus Ex: Invisible War--but the more I see and hear, the more it seems Eidos Montreal might recreate the magic of Deus Ex. Even the initially-worrying addition of a cover system sounds reasonable--think Rainbow Six Vegas rather than Gears of War. I don't want to risk setting myself up for a fall but it seems I'm already smitten.
Deux Ex: Human Revolution
Brink is, in essence, Splash Damage's third Enemy Territory game. The class-based, objective-driven core of the shooter series is transported to a floating dystopian nation, taken back to its face-shooting roots, given a pleasingly stylised look, and graced with a neat one-button movement system for jumps, climbing and sliding. Gone are the vehicles and sprawling maps of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, though its dynamic objectives system is thankfully kept on and improved, nudging players towards teamplay. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory was a great change of pace in an era when everyone had been trying to make "the next Counter-Strike" and, judging by a few rounds I got to play last year, it seems Brink may be similarly refreshing now that multiplayer shooters are cowering in the shadow of another 'realistic' shooter.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings:
A new studio adaptating a fantasy novel series into an RPG for its debut release sounds like a recipe for disaster but, rough edges aside, The Witcher was a great surprise. It was a breath of fresh air in a tired genre, set in a world inspired by European folklore--not simply reproducing Tolkien or D&D--and far more nuanced than that old 'good vs. evil' nonsense. While developer CD Projekt RED was remarkably dedicated to improving The Witcher, some issues were beyond the reach of mere patches. Built upon a gorgeous new engine, The Witcher 2 will feature a 'proper' combat system, a fuller world and, I hope, more moments where I'm paralysed by the knowledge that I can't forsee the consequences of my decisions. It's rare that I enjoy a fantasy world of swords, sorcery, crusading knights, ale and wenches but The Witcher was pitched so perfectly that I'm quite keen to return.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Duke Nukem Forever:
It's Duke Nukem Forever, for crying out loud! The target of a thousand yearning sighs and butt of a hundred jokes is finally (probably) coming out in May. There are questions, of course. Can a decent and coherent game come from such a long and bumpy development process? Will Gearbox make another disappointing PC port? What relevance does a parody of 1980s action heroes have in 2011? Which films will Duke have lifted his quips from this time? And just how much of the misandry and misogyny is parody anyway? However, what delighted me most in Duke Nukem 3D was the wealth of interactive elements, from urinals and light switches to projectors and pool tables. Fourteen years after Duke 3D, FPS environments are still largely staid and static, though now they're rendered in DirectX 11 and I can knock boxes off shelves. Talk of drawing on a whiteboard in the DNF demo at PAX reignites my dreams of FPS worlds that are more than attractive scenery. Besides, it's not that often you get to play with a myth.
Duke Nukem Forever
Keep your eyes open throughout the week for the rest of our staff's selections--in case you don't see something you're looking forward to. And don't forget to catch up on any picks you already missed.