Friday, January 07, 2005

Byte: Ones to watch in 2005

After my recent (and out of character) acquisition of an Xbox, I've now got double the number of titles to look out for. It doesn't look like this year will rival 2004 in terms of the number of titles of exceptional quality, but there are still a few gems I'm waiting impatiently for. Here are my tips for 2005:

Knights Of The Old Republic 2 (PC - Obsidian): Given that the PC and Xbox releases are simultaneous in the UK, I've plumped for the PC version. The reviews of the Xbox version have been rather complimentary so far, and given that Obsidian are essentially Black Isle, I expect the story and writing to be corking. Initial reports are that it lacks the outright grandeur of KOTOR, but takes an Empire Strikes Back approach to being a sequel - with a much less clear cut and darker tone. Given that I've stuck over 300 hours into the original - I expect this to eat a similar amount of my time.

Jade Empire (Xbox - Bioware): I've been watching the promo videos of this at lunch. It's best described as KOTOR meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Bioware are one of my favourite developers, and I've had my eye on this for a couple of years now. It goes to show something about the development times for new games these days that when I first heard about it, I was disappointed that it wasn't scheduled to hit the PC, Now, two years down the line, I've got an Xbox, and it's my second-most anticipated title of the year.

Lego Star Wars (Xbox - LucasArts): A multiformat title, this one, but I think the control method is going to be better suited to a console than a PC, so I'm going to go for the Xbox version here - in the hope that you can also play co-operatively; an option that's probably not going to be available on the PC. Higher resolutions aren't everything you know. I just like the aesthetic look of this game - and it should just be fun, throwaway action - perfect for a late Friday night when you're brain dead after a week at work.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (PC - THQ): One of the more ambitious FPS games announced for release this year. They're touting it as the FPS Holy Grail of a non-linear shooter, and I'm interested to see how they're going to be able to maintain the momentum of the game without a conventional level/mission based structure.

Black & White 2 (PC - Lionhead): I loved the concept (if not the execution) of the first one. Rumour has it that they're going to remove a lot of the tedious village micromanagement, and concentrate on the creatures and conquest of enemy villages. I'll be waiting to see reviews of this before I rush out to buy it, though. Peter Molyneaux is one of the finest gaming brains in the business, but his mouth often makes promises his brain can't follow through on. (See Fable).

GTA: San Andreas (PC - Rockstar): I'm a big fan of the GTA games - especially Vice City - and the PC versions have historically been the best, so I'll be grabbing this for the PC - though perhaps not at full price. The 90's LA Gangsta setting doesn't quite appeal as much to me as Vice City did, but regardless, it's still worth getting.

Bloodrayne 2 (PC/Xbox - Majesco): A bit of a guilty pleasure, this one. I really enjoyed the trashiness of the prequel, and the PC demo was a giggle. It doesn't have a UK release confirmed yet, so this may end up being an import. Think Prince Of Persia meets Durham Red, and you're not far off.
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