Monday, 4 January 2010

10 Games For 2010, part 2

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

While the prospect of a 3D Castlevania has always been something of a poisoned chalice, the 2D Castlevanias, from Symphony of the Night through to the more recent Order of Ecclesia, have been some of the richest examples of platforming in recent years. Quite why the Belmont family has failed to make the dimensional leap is puzzling, especially when compared to the ease with which the likes of Mario and, more pointedly, Metroid were transformed whilst still maintaining their essence. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow then is something of a last throw of the dice. The series has always had the respect of Western gamers without setting the charts alight, so Konami will be expectant that the idiosyncratic pairing of Hideo Kojima with Madrid-based studio MercurySteam ('famous' for 2007's Clive Barker's Jericho) can bring a cinematic verve and new-found sense of purpose to the brand.

Reassuringly the budget appears to be substantial (the voice cast includes both Patrick Stewart and Robert Carlyle), while producer Dave Cox, whose first Castlevania title as Konami Project Manager was SOTN, has said Lords of Shadow will take inspiration from the series' earlier games, including Super Castlevania IV (my personal favourite). I'm excited.

Heavy Rain

No other game on the list has already split opinion as much as David Cage/Quantic Dream's latest, the PS3-exclusive Heavy Rain. It's controversial, ambitious, a little pretentious and will - depending on your viewpoint - either a) set a new benchmark for interactive, emotionally-rich narrative or b) be the biggest PS3 folly since Haze.

Apparently the game's real message will be "about how far you're willing to go to save someone you love"; whether this connection and involvement can be fostered through such a tightly controlled sense of progression remains to be seen. The balance between interactivity and exposition will have to be finely nuanced, and that's without taking into account the quality of the script, acting, how much scope there is for the player to make decisions... Whatever happens, Heavy Rain will be hard to ignore.

Here's the suitably mysterious cover art:

God of War III

Bayonetta may apparently have just perfected third-person combat, and Dante's Inferno trumped Kratos in the extreme imagery stakes (slicing up "unbaptised babies", really?), but as the God of War Collection has proven, for a combination of spectacle, loose mythology, blister-inducing mayhem and hilariously OTT set-pieces, Sony's standard-bearer for all things bloody and visceral will be hard to beat. Expect familiarity, only notched up to the highest degree.

Lost in Shadow

In a similar manner to WayForward's WiiWare title LIT, Wii-exclusive Lost in Shadow sees you reliant on light as a means of progression. In a fantastic twist on 2D platforming, it's the shadows cast in the background by objects in the foreground that map out each level. You play a boy who is only represented as a shadow, with your manipulation of the foreground and light sources key to each self-enclosed puzzle. The game already has an impressively sparse and lonely feel; fingers crossed that the eventual execution can match the ideas.

The Last Guardian

Any overview of the last decade of gaming would be incomplete without the now-obligatory referencing of both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, Fumito Ueda's pair of enigmatic, heartbreaking, Playstation 2 classics. Although dropping their titles into a conversation is now almost a cliche of non-mainstream gaming, actually playing these titles again casts aside all cynicism - they are frankly works of art the likes of which videogaming still throws up all too rarely, worlds unto themselves with an immersive quality and aesthetic style that I can still vividly recall and almost feel to this day. Not much is known about The Last Guardian, its story and gameplay remaining satisfyingly vague, although an expressive use of silence, an unintelligible ending, and lots of beautiful moments, are almost certainties. File under: potential best game of 2010.

Honourable mentions: Red Dead Redemption, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Sin and Punishment 2, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Golden Sun DS, Metroid: Other M, Crackdown 2, Epic Mickey...we might even get to play Gran Turismo 5.

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