Last week, I attended the Eurogamer Expo in London; a geek fest of smelly teenagers, scantily clad booth babes and insanely long queues. For the most part, I was disappointed; I don’t know what I expected really, but it wasn’t that.
There were a few unique indie titles on show, but nothing truly compelling. Some titles simply reeked of individuality for the sake of it – like Prison Architect – really? Most of the show was dominated by sequels; Microsoft staff wriggling around to demonstrate Dance Central 2 to a small group of disinterested onlookers that only ended up there because they were trying to find the toilets; while hordes were glued to the big screen for the PES2013 tournament (someone tell me exactly how a football game changes from year to year?). Anyway – here’s my pick of sequels that I am actually looking forward to this and next year.
Company of Heroes 2
Taking the series into the Eastern Front this time, Company of Heroes has always been a historically accurate and realistic, real time strategy game – and this time around looks set to continue that winning formula without introducing any groundbreaking changes.
Visually, the original was already pretty stunning and ahead of it’s time as far as I’m concerned, but the sequel dutifully ups the special effects. In fact, the cold ice and snow not only adds a visual depth, but changes gameplay too, with soldiers dropping out and critical decisions being made over whether to fight and fire or stay concealed.
I lost many many hours to the original campaigns; I’m confident I’ll be losing more when the beta opens in a month or so and the final version is released next year.
Eschewing accepted naming practices, the next in the SimCity line will just be called SimCity; though technically, it’s somewhere around number 5. The original stretches as far back as DOS and Windows 3.1, so it’s a franchise held dear by millions. What’s new? First off, the graphics look extraordinarily good, and adapt dynamically to the kind of city you create – whether that be a barren wasteland led by an industry that exploits the poverty line citizens or a lush green enviro-town of happiness.
The individual Sims are now reflected at a more granular level too; each sim is an agent – one who goes to work, produces goods, consumes, and might lose their job and have to live homeless in the park. The point is, each sim matters; they aren’t just representative of traffic. Add in a modular construction system that let’s you upgrade key buildings, and you probably have a recipe for success. As a fan of the series from the original, I’m really hoping the balance is right; from what I’ve played so far, it should be. Expected February 2013.
Xcom: Enemy Unknown
With an almost 20 year gap between this an the original, it’s almost given that someone is going to be upset.
The game flits between third person, top down squad management for movement; entering fire mode puts you into a first person view for an action sequence. I’m not entirely convinced the first person view is at all necessary but it does add some variety; the camera transitions make the whole experience more dramatic.
Another challenge lies in the console compatibility, though apparently it’s been developed as console-first. I played through the intro mission on the Xbox, and the controls didn’t seem too slow or detracting, but part of me pined for a mouse.
The base view is also pretty neat, with a pseudo-3D underground cross-section that you can customize and upgrade as the game progresses – the core elements of capturing alien technology and choosing research paths remains unchanged.
Although I was a big fan of the originals, I must admit I was never actually able to finish one; it was just too difficult. You won’t have to wait long though – this one is due October 9th 2012 (12th in Europe).
Black Ops 2
The original remains the world’s best selling game for a reason; it’s fun. Hate on it all you want, but Black Ops 2 is going to be just as successful. With a revamped loadout mechanism and focus on tournament play and live events, the game heads squarely into the future this time around, leaving us with armed quadro-copters and other mechanized silliness. The excitement however was not great enough to compel me to queue for 2 hours to play the thing; especially when it’s out November 12th anyway. Expect this one to top the Christmas lists.
Perhaps I’m just getting old and skeptical, but I don’t have the time or money to spread around on 20 different games nowadays – so I stick to what I know and love. How about you? Any video game sequels you’re really looking forward to in the coming months? Or perhaps you’re a fan of the original and really not looking forward to a sequel for some reason. Sound off in the comments!