2012 was a phenomenal year in video games, between such high-end releases as "Halo 4," "Assassin's Creed III," "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" and "PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale." And 2013 could be even bigger — given the titles that have been announced.
We're sure several more will join the list once they're revealed. But for now, these selections are definitely top dogs …
Taking place in the flying city of Columbia, the latest title from Irrational Games is an imaginative first-person shooter with plenty of high-octane action. You play a bounty hunter out to rescue a damsel in distress, amidst warring soldiers and a heinous flying creature known as the Songbird. With exquisite art design and inventive gameplay techniques (like using a harness to slide along the city's railway system at rapid speed), this one's bound to please.
The latest from Gearbox Software (developers of blockbuster "Borderlands 2"), "Aliens: Colonial Marines" pays tribute to the 1986 James Cameron blockbuster, putting you in control of a squad of Marines visiting an alien-infested planet. The art style is quite impressive at this point in development. The single player missions will keep you busy for hours, and there are multiplayer options where you can play as either high-powered soldiers or cunning aliens.
In this harrowing, third-person adventure, you play one of two survivors (a grizzled old man and his young protégé) battling a slew of human and inhuman enemies in a ravaged post-apocalyptic world. Featuring dazzling level design and multiple ways to get through a level (either through stealth or shooting and fighting), it appears to be even more involving than previous efforts by the developers at Naughty Dog – including their "Uncharted" series. [See our review of an early version of "The Last of Us."]
Think you know Lara Croft? Think again. The buxom treasure hunter is reborn with Crystal Dynamics' breathtaking reboot, which follows Lara as a teenager, fighting savage enemies on a remote island. Here she learns her survival skills, performing breathtaking escapes and utilizing weapons, including a bow and arrow, to stay alive. With a fresh new story and the addition of a new multiplayer mode (which will be detailed next month), Lara's ready for her return.
Normally, the "Metal Gear" games are about sneaking around enemies and utilizing Solid Snake's abilities to subdue enemies and remain undetected. But with "Revengeance," it's more about "How quickly can I slice an enemy into sashimi?". The series focuses on Raiden, a laser-blade carrying assassin who cuts down anyone in his path as he faces a slew of well-armored robots and heavily armed soldiers. With over-the-top action and an excellent control scheme – including the ability to precision slice a bad guy multiple times – "Revengeance" looks like a winner.
Kratos is one of gaming's most destructive bad-asses, but he wasn't always that way. With "Ascension," Sony Santa Monica tells how he became the weapon-wielding madman that he is, with more over-the-top action and carnage than ever before. "Ascension" will also introduce a multiplayer feature, with would-be gods fighting one another in open combat, before finishing off an oversized ogre to seal your victory. A multiplayer beta will launch on January 8th for PS Plus subscribers, and a week later for everyone else. [See our full preview of "God of War: Ascension"]
Like "God of War" before it, "Gears of War: Judgment" takes the prequel route, with returning favorites Baird and Cole (a.k.a. "The Cole Train") taking on the vicious Locust Horde. Unlike previous chapters in the series, "Judgment" is being developed by People Can Fly, the same team behind shooter "Bulletstorm." The single player missions look great thus far. And the multiplayer, including a fun new mode called "Overrun" (where you either protect or overtake a certain generator on a map, depending what side you're on), will definitely keep fans coming back for more.
Originally slated to come out during the Wii U's launch window, "Rayman Legends" unfortunately got pushed back to February. But the wait will be worth it. Along with classic side-scrolling stages like last year's brilliant "Rayman Origins," "Legends" will also include an innovative new multiplayer mode: One player activates objects by touching the GamePad screen, while the other runs through the stage at breakneck speed. You can check out a demo now at retailers, including GameStop and Best Buy. [See also: Hands On with 11 Upcoming Nintendo Wii U Games]
You very rarely see a role-playing adventure as involving as "Ni no Kuni," mainly because of who's working on it. Level-5, makers of "Professor Layton" games and other RPG-based delights, have made the combat engine both approachable for newbies and worthwhile for dedicated fans. What's more, the animation masters at Studio Ghibli ("Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle") have created character design and background art that it's nothing short of spectacular. You can check out a demo now on your PS3 by logging on through the PlayStation Network.
The troubled yet defiant Isaac Clarke has been through hell alone in the first two "Dead Space" games. But this time around he works alongside a mysterious new soldier as they travel along an icy cold planet, battling twisted xenomorphs with as much firepower as they can carry. This version has both single player and cohesive co-op modes. Players can build their own weapons utilizing materials picked up over the course of the game, which will be quite useful against larger, nastier enemies. Be on the lookout for a multiplayer demo on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 starting January 22nd (or earlier for the 360 if you sign up).