SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH
Format: 360, PS3, PC | Developer: Obsidian | Publisher: THQ | Out: Spring
Following a solid tower defence outing - South Park: Let's Go Tower Defense Play! - and a less solid platformer - South Park: Tenorman's Revenge - on XBLA, the South Park license is now in the hands of Fallout: New Vegas devs Obsidian, who are offering the most promising videogame interpretation of the license to date in South Park: The Stick of Truth. With series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker acting as creative advisers to the game - prepare for humour ranging from the socially satirical to the scatological - hardcore fans have every reason to get excited about this expansive RPG set in the South Park universe. (Especially as CVG's sister publication, GamesMaster, cited it as being "the most controversial game of the year". Sounds great.)
Here's how it works: you're the new kid in town, and having custom-crafted a character look in the iconic style of the show, you pick from one of five classes and then take to the turn-based battleground alongside Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny. Support comes from a raft of series favourites such as Mr. Slave, whose "Wrecked 'em" power-up eliminates enemies by, er, inhaling them with his... bum. The most high brow release of 2013. JH
THE LAST OF US
Format: PS3 | Developer: Naughty Dog | Publisher: Sony | Out: May 7
The Last of Us is Naughty Dog's apocalyptic vision of the future; a marriage of The Road and I Am Legend, where nature has retaken our cities. To prove it, Boston has been stripped of its population and turned into a literal concrete jungle, and scattered amongst the ruins are a few hardy survivors (some friendly, some not) and an army of Infected: mushroom-headed zombies (think 28 Days Later's red-eyed sprinters, rather than Romero's shambling hoardes) who have fallen foul of a deadly plague-like fungus.
At the centre of the game is mysterious loner Joel, and the girl he's ended up protecting, Ellie, a beautifully-pitched father-daughter-like relationship, powered by a sharp script and equally good voice acting. Ellie is entirely AI, and as Joel you're tasked with keeping her alive, using a mixture of gunplay, melee combat and stealth. It's taut, frenzied stuff, though, every fight a desperate struggle, every bullet you use up, a bullet you don't have for the next encounter, but as fellow end-of-the-worlder The Walking Dead proved with Lee and Clementine, there's fewer more powerful motives for staying alive than the protection of someone you love. To round things off, the game will even change depending on how you play it.
We love what we've seen of it. And so, apparently, does Hideo Kojima. TW
Format: 360, PS3, PC | Developer: Dontnod | Publisher: Capcom | Out: May
Looking past the Uncharted-inspired chase sequences and Batman: Arkham City-esque combat shows an intriguing premise dictating the design of Remember Me. You play as Nilin, an expert memory hunter who has been robbed of her own recollections and thrown in the Bastille. But as with any game that opens in a prison, Nilin soon busts herself out - cue cartwheels, climbing, and the more unique mechanic of memory manipulation. One such sequence sees Nilin taking out an assassination target via memory alteration - led to believe he killed his girlfriend, the target takes himself out in a moment of utter despair.
Whether the grand premise of Remember Me can sustain itself across the campaign remains to be seen, but the developers certainly talk a good game. JH
Format: Wii U | Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo | Out: Summer
With great power comes great possibilities, and in Pikmin 3 the biggest will be allowing four players to lead their garden armies simultaneously. The goal: to explore caves, forests and beaches in efforts to collect scrap for their spaceship and chart a route home.
Physics and visuals have been beefed up too, with walls no longer crumbling in canned animations but at the exact point of impact, and crisp HD visuals combining with lush depth-of-field effects to make this one of the Wii U's most graphically advanced games, one played on two control schemes: Wii U Gamepad or Wii remote (with Wii MotionPlus) and nunchuck.
Pikmin 3's newfound power has limitations. Four-way multiplayer is confined to offline mode, as online, Nintendo have stated that framerates wouldn't keep up with the sheer number of Pikmin being flung around (and with new rock and flying critters, that number rises). Still, this is Nintendo finally wielding current-gen tech - expect something special. BG
ROME 2: TOTAL WAR
Format: PC | Developer: The Creative Assembly | Publisher: Sega | Out: October
The devs describe Rome 2: Total War as the "Saving Private Ryan of the ancient world". This is because you can now zoom into a soldier's head and view battles through their eyes with the new first-person camera. From above - the view you'll be using most of the time to organise your units - it looks awe-inspiring, but it's just as impressive at ground level. Whenever you're in a soldier's head, little real-time cut-scenes play out around you. Generals shout orders, and your pals talk nervously about what lies ahead.
Shogun 2: Total War was great, but the developers freely admit that they held back on the scale to polish the tactics. But now they have a new engine, they're dedicated to making this the most epic Total War game yet. AK