E3 is all but upon us, and the hype trains are running totally out of control. Remember that bit at the end of Back to the Future Part III? That's what they're like this year. Where we're going, we don't need roads... although we sort of do, actually, because Los Angeles is like one giant freeway with a few shops next to it.
In this series of articles, VideoGamer.com staff members single out some of the games they're most eager to see at this year's show. Today it's Neon's turn.
Last year, 2K's XCOM was one of the unexpected highlights of my E3. It was creepy, atmospheric and thoroughly unnerving. Some 12 months on, and how much have we seen of the game since? Nothing, zilch, nada.
Normally, I'd take this as a sign that we should be concerned. There might be a very good reason for keeping the game behind closed doors, but when all falls silent it's hard not to think something is amiss. After all, the X-Com series' history is in turn-based strategy outings; long-terms fans have previously expressed concern about the switch to narrative-driven first-person shooting, and it's not unthinkable that 2K Marin might have been swayed by these comments.
On the other hand, it's hard to see the developers lurching back towards the strategy genre, and its relative lack of popularity. The bottom line is that I want to find out what the hell is going on, and since I really liked what I saw at the first showing, I hope it has retained the same tone. The 50s Roswell style worked for me, and more importantly the aliens were decidedly unnerving. We're all used to fighting extra-terrestrials that are either giant bugs or simply humans, but the black blobs in last year's demo were genuinely alien - especially given that you had to shoot them in their strange white lungs to kill them.
A new Hitman, you say? Hell yeah, says I! The return of Agent 47 has long been rumoured, but it was only at the start of this month that we got official confirmation of the game's existence. I was so happy that I went out and headbutted a traffic warden, stole his uniform, and stuffed his naked body into a bin. Just like I do every Tuesday.
In any case, the point is our favourite slap-headed psycho will almost certainly be doing the rounds at the LA Convention Centre. At the moment we've got very little to go on, other than a smattering of news about the game's casting and Motion Capture tech. The rumour-mill says that Absolution will be an overhaul of sorts, updating the established Hitman shtick with more a more modern sensibility. That's all very well and good - the old engine was looking a bit long in the tooth, after all - but I can't be the only one hoping that they don't stray too far from what's come before. Then again, Hitman: Blood Money felt like the pinnacle of the established formula, so I guess some kind of change was always inevitable.
In terms of specific wishes, I'm hoping that IO Interactive maintains the excellent level variety we saw in the last game - the opera house and suburbia levels were my personal favourites. Naturally I think we'd all enjoy a few new ways to kill our targets, too. I had a lot of fun with the remote mine in the last game, so perhaps a few new explosive tools might be nice. Or the ability to kill people using toothpicks.
Batman: Arkham City
It's not exactly a great stretch to say that Batman: Arkham Asylum set a new standard for superhero video games. The only question now is whether or not the sequel can live up to the inevitable pressure.
Thanks to its "island occupied by bad guys" setup, the first game often played out like a Batman variant of Metal Gear Solid. This follow-up finds The World's Greatest Detective battling through a massive swathe of Gotham City's slums, with several criminal gangs occupying different parts of the game world. The new playground is supposedly five times the size of the Asylum and its surrounding environments, so all signs are pointing to a larger, more epic experience.
If Rocksteady employs the same level of care and attention that it did for the first game, this should be a treat for long-term fans of The Dark Knight. Mark Hamill will once again voice The Joker - supposedly for the last time ever - but the rest of the Rogue's Gallery sounds equally appealing, with Two-Face, The Penguin, Dr Strange, Catwoman and Mr Freeze all set to appear. For me, Batman's villains are some of the best in all modern pop culture, and I'm encouraged by Rocksteady's claim that this will be a much darker game than its predecessor.
My only mild concern is that the developers might over-stretch themselves; Arkham Asylum gained a lot from the fact that it was a very focused experience with very little filler, and so I hope Rocksteady won't sacrifice consistency while they're striving to make this as epic a sequel as possible. Still, the studio has done more than enough to earn our faith in their abilities.
Other games I'm eager to see: Skyrim, Uncharted 3, Tomb Raider, Dark Souls, Mass Effect 3.