12 reasons — well, 13 — that 2011 will be awesome

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Yeah, yeah, this is the time of year when everyone runs a list of teh most anticipated games of 2011!1 or whatever. Not that I’m above doing what everyone else is doing, but I can guarantee that several of the games I’m about to show you aren’t mentioned on those other lists. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’ve either forgotten about or don’t even know about a couple of them.

Does that pique your interest?

After the jump, it’s 12 — well, 13 — games that will make 2011 awesome

Atom Zombie Smasher

What it is: An action/strategy game about containing a zombie apocalypse. By any means necessary!

Why you should care: Even when Blendo Games’ Brendon Chung misses, his games are well worth seeing. From the fantastic bite-sized drama of Gravity Bone, to the weirdly laid back space combat of Flotilla, to the head-scratching edutainment of Air Forte, there’s not a Blendo Games game I’d want to miss. So sign me up for Chung’s take on the zombie apocalypse fad.

When you can play it: January 24


Brink

What it is: Yet another team-based shooter with players of different classes fighting over various objectives

Why you should care: The guys at Splash Damage know how to piece together a team-based shooter so that it’s not a bunch of dudes team deathmatching in a DICE engine. And they have some pretty exciting tricks up their sleeve for Brink. By the way, would it have killed them to crank out a couple more awesome maps for Quake Wars?

When you can play it: Spring 2011


Bulletstorm

What it is: Juvenile, stupid, over-the-top, and very M-rated, bitch!

Why you should care: Bulletstorm is the welcome marriage of People Can Fly’s unhinged creativity with The Club’s scoring shenanigans with Electronic Arts’ and Epic’s resources with a whole bunch of Beavis.

When you can play it: February 22, bitch!


Din’s Curse: Demon War

What it is: The expansion to the smartest thing to happen to action RPGs since Diablo invented them

Why you should care: In Din’s Curse, dungeons push back. You aren’t just clearing static levels of spawning monsters. You’re wrestling with an ecology that threatens to overrun your town. The Demon War add-on not only throws in new content, it also extends the concept of an ecology to the town itself. In brief, it makes Din’s Curse even more Din’s Curse all over.

When you can play it: Now, if you’re willing to jump into what I hear is a mostly stable and feature complete beta.


Guild Wars 2

What it is: Yet another MMO

Why you should care: This is next best hope we have for an MMO that breaks the stranglehold of all those World of Warcraft conventions. The original Guild Wars was brilliant and unprecedented. The developers at ArenaNet have spent four years quietly scheming, and I predict more unprecedented brilliance is on the way.

When you can play it: 2011 isn’t confirmed, but neither is it denied. So, hopefully, some time this year.


Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard

What it is: The best MMO of all time (as determined by a board of experts consisting of me and my cat) expands into Dunland and butts up against Saruman. Orthanc or bust!

Why you should care: Turbine showed what they could do with with just another boring dungeon when they created Moria, which turned out to be one of the coolest places you’ll ever visit in a videogame. I don’t know what’s supposed to be exciting about Orthanc and Saruman and Dunland, but I trust Turbine to figure it out.

When you can play it: Fall 2011


Minecraft

What it is: Heck if I know. Some kind of Legos style world exploration and crafting thing that people use to make blocky videos.

Why you should care: Again, I’m not sure, but this thing is still in beta and it’s already sold a million copies as of last Monday. That many people can’t be wrong (he says, listening to Lady Gaga’s Fame Monster and pondering whether to investigate this Justin Beeper fellow). So I wish the dude making Minecraft — it’s really just one dude — would hurry up and put in some sort of actual gameplay. Because I’m all over this thing once it leaves beta.

When you can play it: The beta now, but the real game? Who knows. Wildly successful lone developers are so unpredictable.


Patapon 3

What it is: A rhythm-based real time strategy game with adorable little eyeball people jumping and dancing and hooting and singing and worshipping you by name. Oh, it’s for the PSP, so, yeah, there’s that.

Why you should care: Patapon 3 is doing some fancy stuff with multiplayer, but I honestly couldn’t care less about that. I just want more Patapon. I miss Meden.

When you can play it: No idea. Sony has been hemming and hawing about the release date, which was originally sometime last fall. Hey, Sony, never mind that Little Big Planet hoo-ha! Give us our Patapon.


Six Gun Saga

What it is: A card-based strategy game set in the Old West. Think Magic the Gathering, but not as facile and with cowboys.

Why you should care: Vic Davis of Cryptic Comet is the guy who brought us Armageddon Empires and Solium Infernum. He marries gameplay and theme better than anyone else currently making strategy games, and he does it with modest resources. Davis describes Six Gun Saga as “the opposite of the epic-ness of my previous two games” for how he’s confining the game space, the hand size, and the stacking limit. I sense the great gameplay that comes with difficult and meaningful choices.

When you can play it: Davis says “by the end of 2011”.


Spy Party

What it is: A multiplayer psych-out game

Why you should care: This is the latest and arguably most ambitious take on multiplayer murder party gaming like The Ship, Bloody Good Time, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Unlike those games, which are based on shooter concepts, Spy Party is about interacting with a handful of characters in a small space and trying to figure out who’s who. But I consider it a sign that game development is thriving creatively when there’s already a small box for people thinking so far outside the box.

When you can play it: Indie developer Chris Hecker is all, like, “there’s no release date, it’s early in development, blah, blah, blah”. But he’s been getting folks excited long enough that surely he knows he’s got to release it this year or we’ll all turn against him.


Test Drive Unlimited 2 and Motorstorm Apocalypse

What it is: Big budget driving games with fancy graphics

Why you should care: I don’t expect either of these games to do anything their predecessors didn’t already do: a languid drawn-out caRPG in the case of Test Drive Unlimited and a wild ride with gratifying physics in the case of Motorstorm. But this is the kind of stuff we need to clear our palates of that awful Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit dross foisted on us by EA last year.

When you can play it: February 8 for Test Drive Unlimited 2, and April 12 for Motorstorm Apocalypse


True Crime: Hong Kong

What it is: Activision’s latest attempt at the piece of the Grand Theft Auto pie.

Why you should care: True Crime is more of a punchline than a franchise. But did you know the lead developer of Bully is helming this latest iteration, in production at United Front Games, which has gathered a whole mess of Vancouver’s development talent? Based on their E3 presentation, it seems United Front has a solid grasp on how to make this a great open-world game. And, yeah, I just used the word “helming” to refer to a dude making a game. Look out, Hollywood!

When you can play it: All signs point to late spring, but unless Activision ponies up with a release date soon, I’m worried this will slip into the holidays.

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