2010 has been a pretty ridiculous year to be a gamer, with so many all-time classics emerging over the course of the past twelve months that for perhaps the first time, even those with a near-infinite amount of leisure time wouldn’t have had time to enjoy all of them. What was perhaps most surprising though is that so many of those great games were sequels, and 2011 is going to have more than its fair share of hugely anticipated follow-ups too. But will they even come close to matching the likes of Mass Effect 2, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood or Rock Band 3? Let’s have a look….
7. Max Payne 3
It may be one of the most irritating things in the world, but when a game ends up facing a drastic release delay, the resulting title is almost always one of an exorbitantly high quality. Because of how much they’ve been ripped off the first two Max Payne games haven’t aged brilliantly, but their dedication to the essence of hardboiled film noir still grips, and this third installment looks to be taking things in some very interesting directions. Hopefully the explanation for Max’s shocking physical transformation is as rich as we’re hoping it is.
6. Dead Space 2
Easily one of the biggest surprises of 2008, the allure of the original Dead Space hasn’t faded one iota since its release. It was a game that seemed to have come completely out of nowhere, and whilst this sequel won’t contain that same element of surprise, it’s currently looking like a model follow-up. Though it features a faster, beefier Isaac Clarke in the lead as well as a brand new multiplayer component, it’s the story – so taut and effortlessly compelling in the original – that will probably set this apart from the competition.
5. Killzone 3
Bigger, louder, prettier. Although Killzone 3 looks about as jaw-dropping as a PS3 first-person shooter ever possibly could, it’s the news that Helghan is going to offer up a much more open experience this time that intrigues most. The brutal new melee system looks the absolute business, and a whole host of new multiplayer options have been promised. The plot, which sees a vicious power struggle emerge between the deceased emperor Visari’s wildly ambitious former generals, looks like it could be something genuinely exceptional too.
4. Batman: Arkham City
Like Dead Space, Arkham Asylum was a tremendously entertaining title that nobody really saw coming, but development team Rocksteady are clearly taking steps to ensure that the sequel is anything but a cynical rehash. An interesting plot (hell breaks loose after Gotham’s Mayor decides to populate his city’s grim slums with some of Arkham’s most dangerous lunatics) and much gameplay refinement (including new offensive freeflow manoeuvres and a refined gliding mechanic) make this look like one of 2011’s safest bets.
3. The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword
It may have turned heads when it was first unveiled at E3 2009 – primarily for its very unusual hybrid art style that was derived from both Twilight Princess and Wind Waker simultaneously – but when was the last time that a Zelda game let anyone down? Even Zelda titles that are farmed out to other development studios (such as Capcom) are never anything other than excellent, but it’s Shigeru Miyamoto’s direct involvement here that tantalises the most. Featuring Wii MotionPlus-enhanced swordplay, this surely cannot fail.
2. Gears of War 3
Another much-delayed release and another game that’s almost certain to benefit greatly from the extra development time. Far more ambitious than either of its predecessors, Gears 3 will feature four player co-op play for the first time, and a new Beast mode that is the exact flip-side of the massively influential Horde game type. It’s already looking impossibly slick, and Epic have more than earned our trust after the wonderful first two, but the best news is that they’ll be providing their own servers for multiplayer this time.
1. Portal 2
Still shrouded in intense secrecy – much more so than any other game on this list – and yet still unquestionably 2011’s big one. The original, Orange Box-bundled game was so extraordinary that (despite its relatively punchy duration) it would have been more than worthy of a fully-priced release all on its own, and a dedicated new co-op mode is surely going to bring the very best out of the perpetually ingenious concept. And almost nobody is more skilled at expanding on a masterpiece than Valve are. If this isn’t another masterpiece, we’ll find the cake, and we’ll eat it.