Dear Santa, This Year I’d Like…

November is but a day away and the next few weeks are the busiest period for the gaming industry out of the 52 available to them. The biggest, and sometimes best, titles on the horizon are released, the build-up to the christmas rush begins and the dark nights draw in to entice people to spend more time huddled around their televisions.

As well as being busy and chaotic, these next few weeks are also famed for being outrageously expensive to those wanting the latest titles sat in their collections straight away. Many hundreds of pounds can be spent and often quite quickly, so therefore your money needs to be spent wisely rather than handed out like candy on Halloween night.

Throughout this post, I will share my purchases for the next few weeks, why I’ll be getting them and what I may come to expect from them, as well as any other thoughts concerning what lies ahead in the very near future. Please feel free to share your intended purchases in the comment box below should you wish to do so.

The first title that will be bought this fall will be Assassin’s Creed 3. At the time of writing this, the game launches tomorrow in the UK and is already available across the Atlantic. The reviews are positive, the game looks fantastic but above all, it looks to be what I, and many others, have been waiting a long time for – a true sequel to Assassin’s Creed 2.

Brotherhood and Revelations are good enough games in their own right, but they never truly felt like new games in the true sense of the term. They felt like addendums to the Assassin’s Creed experience and more akin to ambitious expansion packs than anything else. From what I’ve read about the game and seen in action, Assassin’s Creed III will feel like a continuation of the series rather than a stepping point in it.

I’ve enjoyed the yearly releases, even if Revelations was somewhat average in parts, but it’s past time that we had a true sequel to Assassin’s Creed 2 and I’m rather excited to get my hands on it. I’d also pick up the Vita Assassin’s Creed title if I owned the system as that game appears to be getting a good response as well.

Coming after Assassin’s Creed will be next week’s release of Halo 4 on the Xbox 360, arriving on November 6th. While I continue to see no reason or point to continuing the series other than making a tidy profit, that does not negate the fact that the game looks impressive, both visually and in scope. What I’ve read about the game makes me think that 343 has really gone all out in creating a good, expansive title both in the single-player and multiplayer and I’m looking forward to trying it out for myself.

I do still think that Halo Reach was a good place to have left the series at and, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t think that a new trilogy of three games was, or is, necessary, and I say that as a fan of the series. Whether or not I’ll still think the same after playing the game remains to be seen but for now, I’ll put all of those problems aside and wait for the actual finished product. I’m interested in seeing how 343 Industries have managed to have put their own stamp on the series and whether they are worthy holders of the Halo name now that Bungie have moved on.

Next on the list (and I’m sure you can guess what it is) will be Black Ops 2 on November 13th. Yes, another Call of Duty that will inevitably sell millions and decimate its own held records, then split the opinion right down the middle as to whether it’s rubbish, has had it’s day and vice versa. Another year, another episode of the Call of Duty show.

I have stated numerous times before of my thoughts on the Call of Duty series. I do think it has been, and continues to be, milked for all it’s worth and that it will continue to the day when people spontaneously decide to say no for once, but I’ll still be there this year. Why? Because this is a Treyarch offering.

After the frankly appalling Modern Warfare 3 released last year, I will not touch a Call of Duty title developed by Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer or their ilk. I bought MW3 knowing full well of the issues I had with MW2 but with the hope that things would be different. They weren’t  and I’ve come to expect that where Infinity Ward is concerned, they never will be. They had their day with CoD4 as far as I’m concerned.

While Black Ops definitely had its issues by the dozen, it still remained a more balanced and relatively enjoyable affair than what Infinity Ward could offer up. While IW prefer to copy and paste from their previous game when making the next, Treyarch seem to take the approach of trying to innovate rather than renovate. I will not deny that Black Ops 2 looks very interesting and that the changes it has promised look like they may just breathe a heavy breath of fresh air into the stale lungs of creativity the series has. Whether they are actually anything of the sort is still a mystery and will be until the game launches in two weeks time.

Black Ops 2 is very much the final straw for the series where I’m concerned. I’ve pledged not to buy Infinity Ward’s offerings but I would like to play Treyarch’s games. If, however, Black Ops 2 still has the same problems as the first game, or steadily becomes a broken mess as the months go by after its release, then I will be saying goodbye to the series for good, and it won’t be with regret.

Beyond Black Ops 2 lies Hitman Absolution, arriving on November 20th. It feels like such a long time has passed since Blood Money was released and that’s because it has been that long. Too long, in fact.

Many people were concerned that Absolution would be doing a Splinter Cell Conviction when it was announced. For those of you unaware, that means stripping the game of what made it so compelling and making it more action-y and therefore more ‘accessible’ and linear. While Conviction was by no means a bad game, it was still a radical departure for the series and one I was horrified would happen to Hitman.

Fortunately, from the various articles and features that I’ve read from those that have played the game, it would appear that Absolution is keeping the elements which made Hitman such a compelling franchise, such as the stealth, the freedom to accomplish objectives how you like and non-linear map design. And that’s fantastic because more of the same is exactly what people want and have been waiting all these years for, not a dumbed down abomination designed to cater to those who have to have an action scene every five minutes or they’ll get bored.

Absolution looks absolutely great but I am unsure whether I will get the game on release day or not. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that it may be an experience that’s best left till Christmas to enjoy without feeling the need to play the other games I will have bought not long before it. Regardless of when I get my hands on it, I will get it eventually and I have little doubt that it will feel beyond fantastic to be back commanding Agent 47 once again.

The next game on my list, and that will definitely be reserved for the festive period, is Far Cry 3, scheduled for a 30th November release.

I make little secret of the fact that Far Cry 2 disappointed me with its repetitive, frustrating single-player and ambitious but flawed multiplayer. I appreciated what it was trying to do but how it went about doing it was an obstacle I unfortunately couldn’t navigate around.

That being said, Far Cry 3 does look very good indeed. It’s been four years since FC2 so the optimist in me likes to believe that mistakes will have been learned from. It certainly looks more robust from what I’ve seen so far and the single-player story looks infinitely more enticing than before. Plus the multiplayer also looks stronger and the return of the incredible map editor is also a bonus.

As good as Far Cry 3 looks and sounds, it will be reserved for Christmas. It’s not the sort of game I will be eager to play on release day, more so with the titles launching before it, and I would also like to see reviews beforehand to ease the cynic in me. I also don’t think that the date it’s launching at will do it any favours either, with people possibly being saturated already with the triple A titles merely weeks preceding it and the expense of the festive season looming in the distance.

Another game on my list that released a few weeks ago, and I’ll hopefully be receiving in the near future, is 007 Legends.

The latest James Bond title from developer Eurocom, who created last year’s Goldeneye Reloaded, has been absolutely slammed by players and critics alike. It’s been labelled uninspiring, unimaginative, a Call of Duty clone, mediocre, everything a Bond game shouldn’t be and much more. And yet, despite all of that negativity, I still want to play the game. Why, you may ask? Because it’s Bond.

I have always had an ingrained love for Bond video games, even the poor ones (though not Goldeneye Rogue Agent. I could never forgive that diabolical mess). I suspect it stems from being obsessed with Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64 many, many years ago. Nevertheless, if there’s a Bond game available, I’ll be there. It has puzzled me for some time as to why developers so often get Bond games so wrong as the concept is practically video game heaven, but a lot do unfortunately.

007 Legends being called a Call of Duty clone doesn’t surprise me simply because Goldeneye Reloaded was exactly the same; Uninspiring, relied too heavily on other games and as a result, shared nothing in common with Bond other than the name. Yet I still enjoyed the online multiplayer for the most part, usually on a rainy day when all enthusiasm to play other games inexplicably faded away. The same will most likely apply to 007 Legends, hence my confusing interest in the game in the face of the cloud of negativity surrounding it.

So there you have it. By the time this is published, I will have already spent many hours playing Assassin’s Creed III and will undoubtedly be full of early opinions on the game. It will also mean that the annual fall gaming release period will have begun, and while it won’t be as crowded as some previous years have been, it will still be an expensive one nevertheless. But I’ll have all these games to quickly get over that fact with, and it’ll be worthwhile indeed.

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