PC Games Features
Seven in `07: The PC Games We Want
By Derek Boiko-Weyrauch Dec 31, 2006, 0:54 GMT
Out with the old and in with the new. We gaze into the future to find the games we\'re looking forward to in 2007.
2006 was a good year for sequels. While there were a few stand-out beacons of originality shining forth, the majority of the releases were just re-imaginings of previous successes. Not to say that these were not good games – far from it in fact, as our reflection on 2006 noted. But it seemed as if for every innovation the console market enjoyed from the three new systems released, the PC market suffered from just as much stagnation. But hope springs eternal in the gaming world. Like the world of professional sports, it’s always rejuvenating to look to the future and imagine what is to come. Even if those hopes are dashed soon after, the phrase “there’s always next year” brings light to even the darkest chasm. And with that sense of renewal, we bring you our look forward to the games of 2007.
With more innovation dripping from its maw than all of the previous year’s titles combined, Spore is definitely a Big Deal. The brainchild of Will Wright, Spore takes the concept of the ‘sandbox game’, dumps it all over the playground, and starts throwing it at the other schoolchildren. It begins in a tide pool, with the player starting out as a microbe just trying to stay alive, and progresses from there through a variety of different stages (weaving through a number of different genres, from Pac Man to RTS) until the player has free reign over the entire universe. Equal parts god game and commentary on the evolution of gaming. The game industry is a fickle mistress for high concepts, and Spore may not even be out in 2007, but the remote possibility of playing it by this time next year sends us into a tizzy of nerdly joy.
More info about Spore
We all mourned the passing of Looking Glass Studios, the folks responsible for such atmospheric shooters as System Shock and Thief, when they went belly up several years ago. But all is not lost. 2K Games snatched up Irrational Games, the team who put together System Shock 2, and set them to work on its spiritual successor. That game is BioShock, an art-deco underwater thriller that brings the atmosphere of the System Shock series to the world of real-time shadows, high dynamic range lighting, voluminous water, and the rest of the technological innovations that the Unreal 3.0 engine brings along. And beyond the technology, BioShock’s gameplay looks to be promising as well, allowing the player to manipulate the environment around them to solve problems and make progress. Throw in some social commentary on technology’s encroachment on humanity, and you have the makings of a game that we look forward to getting our hands on.
More info about BioShock
While 2006 was the year of the sequel, 2007 looks to be the year of the ‘spiritual successor’. BioWare’s forthcoming Dragon Age inherits the ghost of the Baldur’s Gate series, heralding their return to the PC platform from their momentary diversion to console and sending the world of sword ‘n sorcery, elf ‘n orc high fantasy for a spin. And what a return it is. The game boasts to be everything BioWare’s previous classics were, but bigger and better. Gone is the Dungeons and Dragons system, replaced with a new gameplay system, and a new darker-fantasy setting along with it. And the bread and butter of BioWare’s past RPG success - the editor - has even been re-tooled to allow for a greater amount of control over created worlds – even if the learning curve is a little bit steeper. All in all, Dragon Age can be seen in pure Dungeons and Dragons terms as Neverwinter Nights +1: taking every facet that made the game so great and making it even better.
More info about Dragon Age
John Woo Presents Stranglehold
It’s no big revelation that the union of games and movies is rarely a blessed one. Abominations have been hatched from the intersect of these two media, and it’s easy to shudder at the thought of more game and movie crossovers. But what happens when a movie director directs a game? And what happens when that director is John Woo, the father of bullet time and creator of Hong Kong blood opera cinema? And what happens when the game is billed as a sequel to Woo’s most famous work, “Hard Boiled”? Stranglehold happens. The gameplay may resemble Max Payne, even down to the game’s bullet-time - titled ‘Tequila Time’ after the main character – but the steady hand of John Woo behind the action sequences means that battles will be more than just an exercise in tapping the bullet-time key and twisting around to blast everyone in the room. There will be beauty in the madness and art in the destruction, and the game looks to be every bit as balletic as it is devastating.
More info about Stranglehold
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
Hopefully this will be the last year that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. makes an appearance on critics’ ‘most wanted’ lists. It was delayed in 2004 so that it wouldn’t have to directly compete with established heavyweights such as Doom 3 and Half-Life 2, and further delayed to optimize and update the code base, but the first-person post-apocalyptic survival-shooter roleplaying game from Ukrainian developer GSC Game World is poised for a first quarter 2007 release and doesn’t look to be going the way of Duke Nukem Forever anytime soon. Good post-apocalyptic roleplaying games have been few and far-between since the days when Fallout roamed the earth, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. mixes up open-ended roleplaying and exploration with the savagery and chaos of a first-person shooter, sets it all in the irradiated ghost town of Chernobyl, and sends the player forth to do as they please. Good times all around.
More info about S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
The more Madden and Tomb Raider games the industry pumps out, the more appealing the independent development side of things seems. The beauty of the PC as a platform is its openness to independent content, from mods of existing popular titles to entirely new and different games. The experimental nature of independent content means that a lot more risks can be taken, leading both to some abysmal failures and some wild successes. Penumbra: Overture is a dark and atmospheric adventure game (think Lovecraft) with an innovative physics system that works its way into the game’s puzzles (think Half-Life 2’s gravity gun but applied to everything in the world) and a slowly-unfolding sinister storyline. And did we mention that it will retail for less than $20?
More info about Penumbra
Seriously. It’s a game about brewing beer. What more could you possibly want?
More info about Beer Tycoon
If even half of these titles prove to be as good as they promise (or are even released, for that matter), it will be a good day indeed. The next year looks so bright we have to wear rose-colored shades.