As we stare into the endless void of games releases that is July, one may be gripped by the grim terror that nothing beautiful will ever occur in this world, ever again. But take heart, dear reader! For after July comes August - and with August, so begins the Fall Rush of Games.
2012 isn't as spectacularly packed as most previous years - there are more interesting titles and fewer absolute must-owns than in years past - but it still makes for an endearing crop of games.
Keep in mind : many of these games are a long way off yet. Release dates are always subject to change, and it wouldn't be surprising to see some of these titles pushed to 2013 - but here's what we know so far.
Let's break it down, shall we?
A U G U S T
The first really interesting title in Microsoft's Summer of Arcade - which is always a source of awesome downloadable fare - is Deadlight. It's a 2D-perspective 3D-engine game a'la Shadow Complex, but it exchanges military sci-fi for post-apocalyptic shadow-enemies sci-fi. This is the next game I'm buying.
Persona 4 Arena
Atlus teams up with (BlazBlue, Guilty Gear) developer Arc System Works to deliver a fighter teeming with characters from the landmark Persona 3 and Persona 4 RPGs. Knowing Arc System Works, this will be a perfectly well-made fighter, boasting the dev's trademark huge, gorgeous sprites - though one that will be well beyond my ability to master.
United Front Games have zero credit, with me. I didn't enjoy any time spent with Modnation Racers, but Sleeping Dogs looks like a genuinely endearing addition to the open-world genre. Media who've gone hands-on with the title admit the game's brawling is heads and shoulders above what's been done with other GTA clones, and the idea of a sweaty Hong Kong crime story may be just enough to get me interested. Probably not, though, 'cause...
Darksiders was one of my favorite games of 2010 - a rootin' tootin' M-for-mature riff on the classic Zelda template, with a half-dozen other influences thrown in for good measure, pureed until smooth and given the dazzling gloss of Joe Madureira's art direction. I was 100% hyped for Darksiders II until I saw this boss gameplay - which looks to me like the pathetic and malnourished bastard of a World of Warcraft boss circa 2005. Look at the textures! Look at the "strategy" involved! Ugh!
Compared to any boss fight from the original, that does not impress. But...
Vigil games purchased my loyalty with Darksiders. I'm more than prepared to give its sequel the benefit of the doubt.
Dust: An Elysian Tail (XBLA)
Word is Dust was made by one dude - with music overseen by a separate studio. They say it's an action-heavy Metroidvania - but none of that matters. Show me a 2D title with hand-drawn, gorgeously animated sprites and you've got a sale.
New Super Mario Bros. 2 (3DS)
I shall say no ill of a 2D Mario game. If you've got a 3DS, this had better be on it.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Media were pretty sweet on High Moon Studios' War for Cybertron, and Fall promises more of the same - but polished up with a bigger budget and greater experience. Having never played the last game, I have no affection for its follow-up - but that trailer from the VGAs was pretty sweet.
Journey Collector's Edition
This disc release of ThatGameCompany's three PSN titles may seem like a bit of a cash grab, but for the developer's fans there's never been a better opportunity to dive in to these unique, artsy titles. The Collector's Edition comes with developer commentary for Journey, Flower and Flow, along with soundtracks for every game and three unlreleased mini-games.
Honestly, I kinda' want it for the commentary and sountracks alone.
Mark of the Ninja (XBLA)
Klei Entertainment secured my undying allegiance with the sublime Shank 2, and now they seem to be leaping directly at my innermost desires with this lushly-animated, 2D stealth action game. It's exclusive to XBLA, and we don't have a release date nailed down - merely "summer 2012" - but that's enough to get my hopes up.
S E P T E M B E R
For many folks, Borderlands 2 is their instant frontrunner for Game of the Year 2012. I never put any time into the original, so it holds no sway over me - but goddamn, Gearbox really need something to get the foul taste of Duke Nukem Forever out of our collective mouths.
And... that's actually kind of it for September. Sort of a weak one. There's Dead or Alive 5 and Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse, but I'll wait for reviews on that one.
O C T O B E R
Silent Hill: Book of Memories (Vita)
I was mad hating on Book of Memories - first because it looked for all the world to be a top-down shooter with multiplayer, and then because they kept pushing back its release date. It's currently - tentatively, no doubt - due to come out in October, but now I actually find myself a bit hyped for the game after learning it's actually a dungeon crawling RPG.
Which sounds kind of awesome.
Resident Evil 6
Capcom have earned little credit with the gamer masses of late, as they nickle-and-dime us to death with on-the-disc DLC and endless costume packs for their fighting franchises - not to mention the pretty-awesome-but-not-quite-right Resident Evil 5.
With 6, Capcom knows what's on the line. They know this is their biggest franchise, and they've thrown all of their resources into making it a game of the very highest caliber in terms of production values. Whether or not it scratches the necessary Resident Evil itch remains to be seen - but you can bet your ass I'll be day-oneing it, nonetheless.
Ratchet & Clank HD Collection
It's Ratchet & Clank, Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal, at 60fps, in HD, all on one disc. What's not to love?
A first person stealth-action-RPG from the folks who made Thief and Deus Ex?
Sign me up.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I have no history with the XCOM franchise, but gameplay that calls Valkyria Chronicles to mind (yes, I understand how stupid that sounds), delightful presentation and passionate dev diaries have sold me on Enemy Unknown. Unless early reviews trash this thing to hell, I'm afraid I'm going to have to pick it up day and date with Dishonored.
Doom 3 BFG Edition
I have been waiting for Doom 3 to come to the PS3 since I purchased the console, and now - six years on - it's finally happening. I don't care that it's a port of an eight year old PC game. I don't care what all those stupid reviews said about Doom 3 - this game was/is a masterpiece, I will own it, and I will be hard pressed to play any of the new releases this fall until I've secured at least one run through id's modern classic.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter
Electronic Arts continue to impotently bat at Activision's total ownership of the military themed shooter space, and Warfighter is their next attempt. What's awful is that there was nothing seriously wrong with 2010's Medal of Honor and Battlefield 3 is actually a phenomenal online experience - but this is a bit like setting up your own theme park next to Disneyland.
I mean sure, your rides are awesome and it's gorgeous, but c'mon - Disneyland.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3/Vita)
Ugh. I don't even care. Either have a demo or make it free to PlayStation Plus - 'cause if you don't, I'll never try this game.
Assassin's Creed III
The series seemed pretty stagnant with last years' Revelations, but media types have been drooling over III with every showing. Its wealth of demos at this year's E3 certainly piqued my interest - here's hoping we get another leap as significant as II.
Assassin's Creed III: Liberation (Vita)
Releasing day and date with its console counterpart, Liberations promises the full Assassin's Creed experience on a handheld - but I can't help but think allowing it to appear so close to its big brother will highlight all the ways the Vita version can't compare to the consoles.
I'm still going to buy it, of course. Assassin's Creed on the Vita? That sounds awesome.
Persona 4 Golden
One of my favorite RPGs of all time, up-ported to the Vita with additional content.
N O V E M B E R
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PS3/Vita)
I have been dying for Sly to appear on the current gen, but I'll admit I'm not entirely thrilled with what I've seen when Sanzaru Games demos it. The animation just seems a bit off...
But it's still Sly. It's still a cell-shaded stealth platformer about a wisecracking raccoon burglar - and sometimes, that's enough.
One assumes that Microsoft have thrown untold millions at 343 Industries in the hopes that they will be able to live up to the reputation set by Bungie. I'm willing to bet they'll pull it off - but it'll be interesting either way.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
'Cause we haven't had enough Call of Duties - here's another one.
IO Interactive finally return to their roots - after the abysmal Kane & Lynch, the kinda-fun Mini Ninjas and the pretty-awful Kane & Lynch 2. The Hitman games, for me, were part of the PS2's holy trinity of stealth, along with Metal Gear Solid 2-3 and Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven and Fatal Shadows.
What it lacked in smoothness of play it more than made up for in presentation, open design and straight-up style. Hitman: Absolution is one of my most anticipated games of the year - and a title I've been waiting for since consoles went HD.
D E C E M B E R
Far Cry 3
Ubisoft's latest attempt to turn Far Cry into their premier FPS seems... pretty damn promising. With Far Cry's open design and the title's new emphasis on narrative and style, 3 is - along with Doom 3 - one of only two FPSs this fall that I consider a must-own.
* * *
And that's what we know so far. You'll no doubt notice August looks pretty packed compared to later months - but I expect September, October and (early) November will fill up with releases as they approach.
And keep in mind - the WiiU is due out this holiday season.