Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
- Release Date: Late Q1/Early Q2 - Developer: Tripwire Interactive- Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Why it's a winner? Uncompromisingly PC
A shot in the arm for the Call of Duty-fatigued, Red Orchestra 2 is Tripwire Interactive's gunpowder-perfumed love letter to complexity. We don't knock shooter-makers releasing their works on multiple platforms, but RO2 is already showing us what a multiplayer FPS can do when it's locked-in exclusively for the PC: true-to-life ballistics that differentiates between whether my bullet tags an enemy in the liver or the shoulder, a first-person cover and weapon-bracing system and massive, 64-player battlefields that forego the boring bottlenecks we're used
to in favor of intricate, varied avenues for shooting other men.
Of course, all that realism wouldn't be worth the ash off Stalin's cigar if it didn't control comfortably. But that may be RO2's greatest feat—building dazzling, detailed systems that reward precision, tactics and teamwork in a WWII setting, without any collateral damage to accessibility. EL
- Release Date: TBD 2011 - Developer: Blizzard Entertainment - Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Why it's a winner? The ultimate lootable world.
We all know that Diablo III is going to shower us in gore, drown us in loot, and make us click until our fingers bleed, but what really surprised me when I played D3 at Blizzcon is its extremely granular attention to detail. Instead of always standing around, enemies are hiding behind walls or underground, waiting to burst out. When the Demon Hunter hurls grenades, each of the three incendiaries bounce off of the steps and cracks in a broken staircase individually, taking their explosions in different directions. The world feels vast, believable, complicated and unpredictable—just what this genre needs. JA
Guild Wars 2
- Release Date: TBD 2011 - Developer: ArenaNet- Publisher: NCSoft
Why it's a winner? Reinventing online worlds
The big changes that Guild Wars 2 makes to MMORPG design—fluid class mechanics that let players swap between roles during combat based on what they think is needed at the time, player choices in quests that actually change the world for everyone, as well as spontaneous group interaction that means you're never spamming a set-in-stone spell rotation—shouldn't be surprising. What will seem surprising once GW2 launches, however, is that no one had taken those common-sense approaches to core MMO mechanics before. JA
- Release Date: April 18, 2011 - Developer: Valve- Publisher: Valve
Why it's a winner? Brain-breaking puzzles for two.
Its cast was comprised of a single NPC, some sentry units, and a cube. And yet, almost every PC gamer who played Portal fell head over heels for the game. We talked about the graffiti hidden behind the polished surfaces of Aperture Labs. We gasped at GLaDOS' wanton cruelty. We hummed Jonathan Coulton's catchy “Still Alive” theme as we hugged our Weighted Companion Cube plushies. If Valve can make a short, minimal, almost antiseptic game built around a single mechanic that provokes as much intense emotion as Portal does, then what could it do by throwing in two lovable, unkillable robots for co-op play?
The answer is, of course, oodles. And I'm not even talking about the Laurel and Hardy antics of the two 'bots who've become the newest objects of GLaDOS eternal torment. Instead, two players will enjoy a new take on co-op play that involves a vocabulary of symbols to indicate “look here,” “stand over there,” and “put a portal here”—as well as plenty of facepalms when these instructions get misinterpreted. It's the kind of intelligent, enchanting gameplay that Valve has built its name on. LD