Thank you, "Mass Effect 3."
The year's first blockbuster has whet our appetites for an incredible slate of high-end releases and potential sleeper hits due in the coming months.
And "Game Cache," b's new gaming blog, will be all over them. We'll be covering the exciting medley of sequels, re-boots, and imaginative new titles coming to a console, PC, or mobile device near you. Let us be your guide, as you declare 2012 the year you rediscover what you love about video games.
Here are 15 titles to make your palms sweaty with anticipation.
'Ninja Gaiden 3'
Xbox 360/PS3/Wii U
Release: March 20
If there is one consistent aspect in the storied "Ninja Gaiden" series (going all the way back to the NES) it's a high degree of difficulty. "Ninja Gaiden 3" finds entirely new ways to make you feel inferior, with harder enemies and more gruesome katana sword attacks. However, the lasting quality of "Ninja Gaiden 3" may actually rest in how well it will demonstrate the features of the new Wii U console when it launches later this year.
Release: April 17 (rumored)
It's been over a decade since "Diablo II" (Blizzard's been a little busy in that time), but the anticipation for this dungeon-crawling point-and clicker has hardly waned. The beta version of the game indicates a good balance between class specialization, looting and good old hack-and-slash fun. Blizzard also seems to have addressed the offline black market that was rampant in "Diablo II" with a sanctioned "Auction House."
'Max Payne 3'
Release: May 15
The third title in the "Max Payne" series takes place eight years after "Max Payne 2" and is set primarily in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The early word on the game, based on an IGN.com hands-on, is that multiplayer is the real prized feature of "Max Payne 3." By weaving a compelling story and the series' trademark "Bullet time" into the team online "Gang Wars," Rockstar is going for a true advancement in the online shooter experience.
'Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier'
Release: May 22
For many years, local author Tom Clancy has lent his name and characters to video games with a generally high degree of success. However, with first-person military shooters very much en vogue, it's hard not lo look at "Future Soldier" as a thinking man's "Modern Warfare." Still, the Clancy brand's connections to military realism lead to a slick-looking projection of near-future conflicts, with an uptempo emphasis on high-tech weapons and intense firefights.
"Minecraft" has been available to PC and mobile users since November and has created a legion of loyal fans obsessed with painted geometric blocks. "Minecraft" doesn't need to do gangbusters on the Xbox Live Arcade or the PlayStation Network to be successful, having already sold 5 million copies. However, it will be a minor breakthrough if the world-building sandbox title translates to both the console experience and the console-only gamer.
Lara Croft is not immune to the reboot rage. Since you can't do a reboot without an origin story, we find ourselves with a young Croft in "Tomb Raider," figuring out how to survive for the first time in such tight outfits. Early indication is that this "Tomb Raider" title will be more sandbox-oriented than in the past, playing to the series' strengths of puzzles and exploration. Please, guys, just don't make another movie.
Release: Sept. 18
"Borderlands" was the surprise hit of 2009, delivering a game rich in the visceral thrill of a first-person shooter with a healthy serving of materialistic looting and customization. The cartoonish visual feel of "Borderlands" actually helped differentiate it. "Borderlands 2" promises to build on that formula, providing a completely different, RPG-influenced flavor to shooter fans than the run-of-the-mill blaster titles provide.
"FIFA 13" is important because "FIFA 12" was simply the best sports game of 2011, and the series has shown the greatest propensity to evolve compared with other sports franchises, growing from an arcadelike goofy cousin of "Pro Evolution Soccer" to the best online and offline sports game experience around.
Release: Oct. 16
"BioShock" is going all Lando Calrissian on us and heading to the clouds. "BioShock Infinite" takes place in the mechanical airborne city of Columbia in the year 1912. Steampunk fans will die happy with enemies such as a mechanical George Washington with a Gatling gun for a hand. It's a little sci-fi, a little Old West, and a lot of "BioShock."
'Assassin's Creed III'
Release: Nov. 16
While there have been two major "Assassin's Creed" titles since "Assassin's Creed II," this is the first true sequel in the stealthy action series. "Assassin's Creed III" jumps forward to Revolutionary America, with what looks to be a very "Red Dead Redemption"-influenced gameplay experience. Moving to colonial times is a bold and interesting step for "Assassin's Creed III," and much like "BioShock: Infinite," an exciting change of scenery in an already great series.
'Transformers: Fall of Cybertron'
The saving grace for "Transformers" fans who do not appreciate Michael Bay's subtle filmmaking style is that the "Cybertron" series of games has proved to be surprisingly great. The biggest flaw in the previous "War for Cybertron" was the clunky and uninspiring mutliplayer modes, but there are rumblings of improvement in that area for this upcoming release. An improved "Transformers" third-person shooter rich with characters, weapons and (finally) Dinobots? Yes, please.
'Call of Duty 9'
Activision has confirmed its annual "Call of Duty" title for what will likely be another November release. It's all but assured that this will indeed be a sequel to 2010's "Call of Duty: Black Ops." The good thing about the first "Black Ops" was that in addition to the wildly popular multiplayer mode, there was a decent single-player story with a historical setting. One can hope this is an innovation for the franchise, not simply an iteration.
Release: Holiday 2012
A new trilogy in the "Halo" story begins under Microsoft's 343 Industries, a team created solely for the development of the beloved franchise. Master Chief and his arsenal will sport an updated look that takes advantage of boundary-pushing art for this console generation. The bar is incredibly high for "Halo 4," given its predecessor's acclaim, but there's every indication it will live up to the "Halo" name.
'Grand Theft Auto V'
Little is known about "GTA V," except what can be gleaned from Rockstar's minute-long teaser trailer. It's clear that the game is set in a fictionalized version of L.A. called "Los Santos," and that there will assuredly be the sandbox-style mayhem "GTA" fans know and love. It's appropriate that Rockstar's description of the game's story is about "the pursuit of the almighty dollar," because "GTA V" is bound to sell millions of copies, potentially the most of any 2012 release.
'The Last of Us'
In a year of third, fourth, and ninth sequels, it's refreshing to see some promising new stories and settings that are worth getting excited over. "The Last of Us" is a survival horror/adventure game that looks to be heavily influenced by some of the great post-apocalyptic fiction we've been treated to recently (Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" immediately comes to mind). The trailer indicates perilous survival, the wastes of America, and of course, zombies. Who's not excited?Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun