2009 is done and dusted, but there's an awful lot to look forward to in 2010. Over the next week we'll bring you our 50 most anticipated games of the year. It's fair to say that gamers appear to be in for quite a treat in 2010, should most of these titles make their expected release dates and deliver on their early promise. The year will bring everything from MMOs and single-player JRPGs to mature adventure games and visceral first-person shooters. Read on to whet your appetite for the year ahead.
50. Star Trek Online - PC, February 5
Our recent hands-on with the closed beta has dampened our enthusiasm for Cryptic's Star Trek Online, but we're hopeful the developer will sufficiently tweak the level progression and mission structure to make the game more interesting than it currently is. The potential is certainly alluring: take control of your very own starship and live out, virtually, the Captain Kirk fantasy. The game's space combat is where it's at - it's a slow, considered experience that focuses on smart ship positioning; lower enemy shields with broadside phaser attacks, then let them have it with hull-shattering photon torpedoes from the front. As with all MMOs, the truth won't be revealed until release - betas only tell half the story. Fingers crossed then, that STO begins with a bang worthy of a warp core explosion.
49. Just Cause 2 - Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, March 26
Rico Rodriguez's grappling hook may just be the must-have in-game gadget of 2010. You can climb buildings with it. You can use it to pull bad guys off cliffs, or to tether two guards together before throwing a grenade at them. You can even use it to catch a ride from a passing helicopter. And perhaps more importantly, it seems as if Avalanche Studios has listened to the criticisms of the first game. There will be hundreds of places to visit (and blow up) on the oppressed Southeast Asian island of Panai, from towering Casinos to space ports, and thanks to Rico's friends on the black market, transport is a doddle: order a jet plane online, and it'll be delivered to you in seconds. If only Amazon could do this...
48. Red Steel 2 - Wii, Q1
Guns and swords are a winning combination, but the first Red Steel was a crushing disappointment that failed to deliver on its promises. Happily, it looks like Ubisoft has genuinely turned things around for this sequel, thanks largely to the use of the Wii's MotionPlus tech. The cel-shaded art style looks ace, and the new samurai-cowboy slant is undeniably cool, but it was the revamped controls that really sold us the game at gamescon last year. The movement of your sword isn't 100 per cent synced with the movement of the Remote, but it's damn close - and when the game starts pitting your against several armed goons at once, you feel like you're Uma Thurman in Kill Bill... only with man-boobs.
47. No More Heroes 2 - Wii, Unconfirmed
No More Heroes: "It's good but it's not right". The slash-em-up for cash-em-up was great when you were knocking lumps out of the brilliant bosses, but it felt a bit boring when you were slaving with the side quests (not surprising, really - one of them was mowing the lawn). No More Heroes 2, then, promises to improve matters while retaining the game's quirky sense of humour. What's Grasshopper Manufacture's nut bag head honcho Goichi Suda revealed about the game? There's dual wielding and the side quests will be more varied (thank god!). That's good enough for us, to be honest. Sex-starved hero Travis Touchdown is a legend, and as long as he doesn't stray too far from the sexual innuendo that served him so well in the first game, No More Heroes 2 will be all right. But please: No More Lawn Mowing.
46. Ghost Recon - Expected 2010
OK. We know nothing about this one, but it's a new Ghost Recon game from Ubisoft and therefore we're pretty excited about it. If the leaked name is correct, the publisher is dropping the Advanced Warfare series and going with "Predator", a title we reckon will mean gamers are in for a more action packed, high-tech weaponry shooter. First-person or third-person? It's anyone's guess at the moment. While the most recent games in the franchise have been third-person on consoles, they were first-person on the PC, and Ubi's other franchise, Rainbow Six, did very well combining the two. We're going to plump for a third-person, cover-based shooter, primarily set in the jungle, where players get to use a cloaking device. You heard it here first.
45. Command and Conquer 4 - PC, March 19
Command & Conquer 4 will mark the end of an era, concluding the Tiberium Saga plotline that began way back in 1996. That's the theory, anyway: C&C4 should certainly tie up a few loose ends, but it's hard to see EA completely abandoning such a well-established franchise. In any case, C&C4 will also murder a few of the series' sacred cows. There's no resource gathering, base-building is now only a minor gameplay element, while your Mobile Construction Vehicle (MCV) is now a mobile factory that leads your troops into battle. Long-term fans may take these changes as a massive slap to their veteran chops, but we like the new formula: it's swift, it's dynamic and it has the potential to be extremely addictive.
44. Total War: Napoleon - PC, February 19
Creative Assembly is the mac daddy of strategy gaming; Napoleon Bonaparte was the mac daddy of invading foreign countries and forcing people to eat his tasty cheeses. Put the two together, and you may just get the mac-est father in the history of historical real-time strategy. The Total War team has been on a roll for some time now, so our expectations are riding high for this sixth entry in the series. The level of detail here will be so high that every soldier in a given unit should have their own unique face... a face that will no doubt be contorted into a mask of despairing anguish as your tactical incompetence sends yet more troops to their digital doom.
43. Aliens vs Predator - Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, February 19
It should be called Aliens vs. Predator vs. Marines, really, because this Relentless-developed gore-em-up will bring with it the power of three. Sure, each race has its own single-player campaign, cleverly interwoven to form a rug dripping with acid blood, but we're in it for the multiplayer. Balance will be the key. An overpowered race will break the game, but, conversely, if the Predator is nerfed to within an inch of its life, then Relentless will have gone too far. The developer is walking a fine line - one misstep and it could send the whole show plummeting towards that safety net thing tight-rope walkers like to fall on. But we have faith; faith in Relentless and faith in dismemberment and skull polishing. Definitely not game over, man.
42. Mafia 2 - Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, May/June
Is this the thinking man's GTA? Well, these days Rockstar would probably argue that GTA is the thinking man's GTA, but there's no doubt that that 2K Czech are cooking up something special. The fictional city of Empire Bay looks to be packed with mouth-watering detail, and since the game's plot unfolds over the course of 10 years, we'll get to explore both a 1940s and a 1950s version of it. Then there's Vito Scaletta, our Sicilian antihero, and the cast of gangster heels who surround him. The first Mafia was renowned for its adult storyline, and from what we've seen so far, this follow-up should offer a similarly heavy punch to our emotional guts. Expect violence, betrayal, and plenty of natty suits. Badda bing!
41. Dante's Inferno - Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, February 9
Make no mistake about it: Dante's Inferno is the most blatant God of War clone we've seen. Don't hold that against the Visceral Games developed hack 'n' slash too much, though, as it's looking like being a highly entertaining game. It's got all the ingredients of a successful mainstream release in the genre: violence, unique setting, stylish visuals, welcoming controls and giant enemies. The demo is out now so you've no doubt already sampled the brawling that'll be on offer come February. We weren't convinced to begin with, but now we reckon console gamers (especially 360 owners who won't be getting God of War 3 in a few months) should definitely keep an eye on Dante's Inferno.