1. Halo 4:
The game that puts the hype for virtually every other game to shame, Halo 4 is the fourth proper entry into the Halo line and the first not developed by Bungie. As a game that switched from being developed by a major studio to a new startup, Halo 4 has been worrying fans for some time. However, Microsoft would not hand their flagship title to just anyone and Halo 4 is shaping up to be a stunning game. The first thing people will notice, even before anything else, is that the game looks devastatingly good and that is not just artistic brilliance (in fact, it might not even be artistically fresh) but the actual technology under the hood is stunning. The first level, where you will notice a difference in the HUD (heads up display), is where it becomes evident that this is easily the best looking Halo game ever made and leaps and bounds above most current-generation shooters. The lighting is eerily realistic and character models have more detail than ever, although the details seems to make them seem a bit different from the Grunts and Elites that Halo fans may be used to. They seem bulkier and even more armored, but it is rather amazing that the game still maintains a strong Halo feel in the gameplay department. You will quickly be recapped, in essentially less than a minute, all the things that happened in the first three games and then it’s off to explore. Find an enemy, take their weapon and you will find a room that is so large with so much open space that it is simply begging for a firefight. As always, the enemies show up after an alien ship docks outside and from that moment on, it is pure Halo. Even the multiplayer keeps similar names to previous editions and the objectives, at their core, are the same. However, the customization is absolutely mind-boggling. If you wanted to never play the same game with your friends twice, it would be a long time before you would get to the end of that list. So, essentially, this is a Halo game with better graphics. What more could you want?
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios; Developer: 343 Industries; Genre: Action; Release Date: November 6, 2012; Console: X360.
2. Need for Speed Most Wanted (Criterion’s version):
Not to be confused with the decent game of 2008 sharing the same name, this game developed by Criterion (Burnout Paradise) is chaotic, but in a good way. The NFS series has seen something of a revival in recent times after having fallen off the radar in the past decade or so but it has come roaring back thanks to Criterion. This game clearly bears resemblance to Criterion’s previous Burnout, as it is another open-world driving game, this time really playing up the sandbox feel. Now, players can go up and down stairs, fight with police cars and engage in street races.
The beautiful part, the part that always irritates gamers who are fans of shiny cars, is that no car is locked or has to be bought through a shop; they are all somewhere in the city and you are required only to find them. The game also uses an Autolog feature, where statistics will be updated in real-time and billboards will show you just how better your friends are when they beat you at an event. The game also keeps a sense of speed alive by actually allowing players to change cars with the press of a button and still plays up the role of crashing. This time, however, the crashes are bigger and destruction is a bit more expanded so the chaos is even greater than the Burnout series. If you harbor fantasies of going insanely fast without personally hurting yourself, this is a game to keep an eye on.
Publisher: Electronic Arts; Developer: Criterion Games; Genre: Driving; Release Date: October 30, 2012; Console: X360, PS3, PC, Vita.
3. Assassin’s Creed III:
Trying to establish itself as different from it predecessors in more than just setting, Assassin’s Creed III sees players assuming the role of Connor, a mysterious warrior that plays an unseen role in the American Civil War. An interesting level, taking place in the Caribbean Sea, sees players tasked with taking down two boats. However, unlike the previous games where the objective was murder, the objective here is naval warfare. Lining up one’s ship appropriately to fire cannons at the opponents, while also having to brace yourself for the impact that you will feel when they return the favor, seems more akin to a defense strategy game rather than a stealth operation.
The level also highlights how the player can then jump onto the other ship and decimate the crew onboard, also like an action hero rather than a stealthy assassin. Previously, the game has also revealed stages revolving around hiding at high spots in towers or camouflaging one’s self in trees as you take out people with arrows (the original sniper rifle). The achievements list for the game has been leaked, which allows players to see some more details, but that is a spoiler and will therefore not be included in this preview.
Publisher: Ubisoft; Developer: Ubisoft; Genre: Action; Release Date: October 30, 2012; Console: X360, PS3, Wii U, PC.
4. WWE ‘13:
The latest in THQ’s abnormally long line of WWE games, ’13 is a true throwback to the classic days of wrestling, the “Attitude” era, as fans call it. During the nineties, the WWF (yes, those days when it was still WWF) was going through many changes in terms of style, programming and popularity, something that allowed a small group of stars to rise to the top. Be it Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley, DX, or The Rock, it seemed as though a few people dominated the WWE. This dominance will be relived in story mode, which allows individuals to play as eight different characters in varying storylines: DX (a two person stable of Triple H and Shawn Michaels), The Rock, Stone Cold, Mick Foley, The Undertaker, Bret Hart, and Kane. Of course, numerous people might not know why these immortal feuds started or even the ones that know would want a little nostalgia, so the studio has also produced videos that will help people understand the context of the gentleman’s soap opera.
The game also has a tremendous amount of unlockable goodies, including alternate costumes, videos, concept art, etc and the player will now have greater freedom in how much they want to edit the world around them, including the stage itself. The biggest positive, however, is that no more arbitrary tasks from previous versions of the game (such as having to win via pinfall, or only using grapples); this time, there is just winning.
Publisher: THQ; Developer: THQ; Genre: Action; Release Date: November 2, 2012; Console: X360, PS3, Wii.
5. Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle:
Also referred to as Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, the latest in Nintendo’s puzzle series takes advantage of the 3DS’ capabilities by utilizing the third dimension to great effect. The small previews available highlight the fact that 3D will be central to both the graphics and the gameplay, although the game itself seems rather familiar. The latest game places people in a highly European setting, named the City of Miracle, and visuals actually seem to resemble a popup book in that characters actually work as 3D models while the background shifts into the back whenever a cut scene occurs. Of course, the series is known for simple, colorful design so nothing photorealistic will appear in the game. As for the gameplay, the 3D also gets involved here as we now take the role not of a magnifying glass but a camera that pans over an environment, changing color whenever coming across something important. The puzzles displayed so far were rather simplistic but the series is known for ramping up the difficulty in a big way so be sure to keep an eye on the always-pleasing adventures of Professor Layton.
Publisher: Nintendo; Developer: Level 5; Genre: Puzzle; Release Date: October 28, 2012; Console: 3DS.