Mass Effect 3 Commander Shepard's final voyage is almost at hand, and I'm incredibly stoked. The Mass Effect series really hit its stride in part 2, with its blend of conversation-based role-playing and 3rd-person shooting. Although I wasn't very pleased with the second game's decision to over-simplify things like equipment and weapon customization--rather than improving the clunky system from the first game--the Mass Effect Series remains some of the best interactive science-fiction available to date, in many ways filling the nebulous, space-opera-sized hole left behind by the inanity of the clumsy Star Wars prequel films. Mass Effect 3 also marks the conclusion of a story in which player decisions carried over from one game to the next. While the decision-based consequences reflected between parts one and two weren't incredibly poignant, I'm anticipating that BioWare will pull out a few more stops for the third chapter. And though I don't have a Kinect yet, being able to vocally select dialog choices in Mass Effect 3 might just be enough for me to justify purchasing the peripheral. I just hope the trilogy's climax isn't as gob-smackingly silly as the ending of Mass Effect 2. BOOM video 11403 Hitman: Absolution Agent 47 is about ready to choke the living daylights out some more unsuspecting suckers again in Hitman: Absolution. Based on the extended developer commentary trailer released by IO Interactive--and the fact that it's been almost six years since the last Hitman game--I'm more than ready for another dose of murder-for-hire. Besides looking fantastic, Hitman: Absolution is promising a multitude of improvements and refinements from the previous games in the series, not the least of which is improved enemy AI. NPC's will react more appropriately to the deadly protagonist, depending on his chosen disguise and surroundings. I enjoyed the prior Hitman games for the most part (especially Blood Money), but as a stealth-driven experience, they all suffered from varying degrees of trial-and-error gameplay which made it a bit more difficult to plan as tactically as I'd have liked for an elite assassin. Absolution is addressing this problem by implementing an interesting feature called "Instinct" which allows Agent 47 to sense enemy patrol routes, hide in plain sight, and even see enemies through walls for a limited time. In a series that's always required precise timing and planning to pull off the perfect kill, I've got high hopes that the ability will make things more enjoyable for the stealth-inclined. Be sure to check out the end of the developer walkthrough video where the game's improved crowd technology is shown off. Absolution will have a ton of little (but significant) improvements like that, which will hopefully all come together to deliver the best game in the series.
Borderlands 2 from developer Gearbox Software
Grand Theft Auto V There are a few primary reasons that Grand Theft Auto V is one of the games I'm most excited about playing in 2012--if it does end up hitting store shelves next year, that is. Despite the fact that games featuring open-world mayhem have become prevalent in the modern gaming landscape, the studios under the Rockstar Games banner continue to impress me with each new title that refines and improves the formula that was pioneered back in 2002 with GTA III. As a long-time Los Angeles resident, I'm very excited for the opportunity to cause chaos in Rockstar's rendition of my local habitat, and have been blown away by the satirical accuracy in which my real-world neighborhood of Venice, California will be portrayed. Sure, the game's locale was already featured in GTA: San Andreas, but clips of Rockstar's versions of locations ranging from downtown L.A. to the Altamont pass seem to tease the possibility of another massive world--or at least one that can be expanded with sizeable expansions or DLC. Little is known about GTA V's story, or even who the main character will be, but given the series' track record in those regards, I expect good things. It's also the first next-gen GTA game to include airplanes that appear (though are not confirmed) to be flyable. Squee! BOOM video 11074
Hitman: Absolution from developer IO Interactive