YES: "Gears 2 is the only must-have of the year." - Wesley Yin-Poole
When Cliffy B, revved-up chainsaw in tow, smugly trotted out on stage during last week's Games Developer Conference in San Francisco, he single-handedly saved 2008 for Microsoft. Why? Because he confirmed the worst-kept secret in gaming - that Gears of War 2, the sequel to one of the Xbox 360's best-selling and, well, just plain best games, will be coming this November.
Gears of War 2 is, for me, the only confirmed Xbox 360 exclusive I'm interested in this year. Ninja Gaiden 2 and the whole hack and slash genre doesn't push my buttons. Fable 2 talks the talk but will it walk the walk? Halo Wars is a console RTS - nuff said. We know next to nothing about Rare's Banjo-Kazooie 3. There are already reservations emanating online based on GDC impressions of Too Human, and don't even get me started on Alan Wake, or Alan Where? as I like to call it.
But that's just my opinion, which everyone is, of course, entitled too. Many will disagree with me, and say that Gears of War 2 is bottom of their Xbox 360 exclusive hit-list. But what can't be disputed is the commercial harsh reality - apart from Gears of War 2 there's nothing exclusive to the 360 coming out this year that will have the kind of mass appeal to sell consoles.
Will anything sell as well on the 360 this year as Gears of War 2? The first game has sold over 4.5 million copies worldwide - a quite stupendous achievement for a brand new IP. Expect the second game to surpass that by quite some margin. We might not see Halo 3 numbers, but it will push it close, that's for sure.
If we look down the list at 2008's exclusive 360 games, there's nothing that can compete with this. For all Ninja Gaiden 2's hype online, it remains a hardcore game (Japanese gamers are still fuming it's only coming to the 360 - the console no-one out there owns). Fable 2, the sequel to the 2004's Xbox original, is somewhat of an oddity, and gamers with good memories will still feel burned by developer Peter Molyneux's grand promises for the first game that were never kept. Halo Wars should do well because of the Halo license but won't set the tills alight. Too Human is a hard sell, being a new IP and I'm not even sure we're going to see Banjo-Kazooie 3 or Alan Wake this year anyway.
Look at the hype generated online following the Gears of War 2 confirmation. We've all studied the teaser trailer, trying to spot gameplay hints and story details. And you can see from the posts on our very own forum here at VideoGamer.com that there's crazy interest in the game. Nothing coming up exclusively on the 360 can compare to that. Indeed, little coming up on any platform can compare to that.
And all this comes at a time when Sony's PS3 is starting to flex its considerable muscle. Analysts are already making noises that Sony's PS3 will have a much stronger 2008 than it did in 2007, and sales data shows it's slowly building up momentum.
Let me point out at this point that I am no Sony fanboy. Indeed, I own a 360, which for me is still, right now, the best games console out there, not because of what's in the box, but because of the quality of games available exclusively for it. This is changing, with Metal Gear Solid 4, Resistance 2 and Killzone 2 coming out exclusively for Sony's beast and developers finally getting to grips with the complicated architecture under the hood (recent high profile releases Burnout Paradise and Devil May 4 are as good as if not better on the PS3). Now, for the first time, the PS3 is actually looking like it's worth the money. Although anyone who thinks MGS4 will be able to win the console war on its own is clearly delusional (don't even try to claim Final Fantasy XIII will be out this year).
Perhaps the feeling is exacerbated by the quite stupendous 2007 Microsoft enjoyed, not only in terms of sales but also in terms of critical success. 360 owners had Halo 3, BioShock, Mass Effect and Project Gotham Racing 4 to enjoy all to themselves. Perhaps we've been spoilt.
Whatever the reason, for me, Gears of War 2 and its celebrity game designer Cliffy B have saved 2008 for MS. Without it, the 360 in 2008 looked pretty, well, meh.
Read on for why Tom thinks the Xbox 360 line-up in 2008 might even match up to last year's blockbuster releases.