We all love to look forward to the coming year with hearts full of hope and reckless schoolboy optimism. And with good reason. We've certainly got a lot to look forward to in 2012, and though we say this every year, the games lineup really does look absolutely spectacular.
However, balance is the key. While we're salivating with lust just thinking about some of 2012's killer titles, we're also more than a little concerned about how some of them are shaping up. Worried, even. Some of these games are looking incredibly shaky or have a mountain to climb in terms of living up to expectations... and though we genuinely hope that we're proven wrong, we just can't shake off some persistent nagging doubts. Join us, if you will, for an unfettered and uncharacteristic celebration of cynicism and paranoia as we round up 2012's most potentially disappointing games.
10: Diablo III
We all know that Diablo III is going to be great. But we knew that years ago, and each passing month brings both higher expectations and a general feeling of malaise that saps at our love for the seminal dungeon crawler. With last year's revelations of always-on DRM nagging at the back of our minds, Blizzard will need to absolutely astound in order to fulfil our increasingly unrealistic hopes and dreams.
Again, though, they probably will. Blizzard aren't in the business of making bad games.
To say that we were concerned when EA announced an FPS reboot of Bullfrog's classic strategy series would be a colossal understatement. Incandescent with fury would probably be more accurate.
But after playing it, we reckon that Starbreeze are actually onto a winner. We're just a little concerned that our newfound controversial optimism might be misplaced... and either way, we can't wait to find out.
8: Assassin's Creed 3?
Note the question mark. Ubisoft has only hinted at a new AC title this year... but to be completely honest, we hope it stays that way. Assassin's Creed: Revelations proved that even the best franchises can suffer from an annualised release schedule, and with the tower defence elements still fresh in our minds, we'd like to see Ubisoft take a step back and take plenty of time developing the next true sequel. Plus, we'll be good and hungry for it in 2013.
6: Max Payne 3
Rockstar promise that Max Payne 3 will be brilliant. Remedy reckons that it's "looking absolutely phenomenal". So considering Rockstar's demanding quality standards, we've got little cause to doubt that it will be an excellent game in its own right.
But will it be an excellent Max Payne sequel? So far we've seen little in the way of noir and multiplayer that, frankly, doesn't seem to have any place in the franchise. There's a world of difference between bad and disappointing, and we truly hope that Max Payne 3 won't be either.
6: Fable: The Journey
We have a bizarre relationship with the Fable series. Dicking about with random townsfolk is always great fun, but the land of Albion just isn't an engaging game world, worse, it's a humorous parody that isn't suited for a serious RPG. Molyneux stunned us all by announcing that the next game will be an on-rails game... that isn't on rails... and only allows us to use magic... playable only with the Kinect sensor... without adult humour... and frankly The Journey needs to be absolutely incredible in order to convince us that the series still has sticking power.
Oh, and by the way Peter, I'm still waiting for my acorn to grow into a tree.
Alarm bells always start ringing when developers start a demonstration by saying "our game is like Gears Of War, but with [insert gimmick here]." Honestly, this actually happened. And from what I played, Inversion is going to have a job convincing us that it's anything more than just another third person shooter. The protagonists, who should be terrified and relateable, trot out macho one-liners like there's no tomorrow, and the gravity manipulation appears to take a back seat to clunky cover-based combat.
As I said at the start, I pray that the final build makes me look like a blithering idiot. I'll be the first to admit it.
4: Call Of Duty 9
While we thoroughly enjoyed Modern Warfare 3 as the conclusion to Infinity Ward's trilogy, our full review pointed out that the franchise absolutely has to innovate in its next iteration. The engine is overworked and outdated. The action is becoming increasingly homogenous despite being intensely visceral. And the multiplayer, while empirically excellent, was essentially a rehash rather than a revamp.
Battlefield 3 has rightfully attracted a huge player base, and Battlefield 4 could well be the turning point for the two franchises if DICE work on delivering a decent singleplayer and co-op campaign. Though Battlefield won't be annualising according to developer statements, Call Of Duty's 2012 showing has to move with the times or face destruction.
Yes, it's been recently pushed back into 2013 [that's the danger of writing articles ahead of time - Jon], but it's still going to be filling us with nagging doubts throughout the year, and one game that we'll be approaching with scepticism at this year's rounds of conventions in the summer. 2K Marin have a job on their hands convincing us that the world really needs an FPS reboot of Julian Gollop's X-COM series. The gameplay admittedly doesn't look too shabby, but it's so far removed from the original game that we'd be happier if 2K just dropped the license altogether.
Now that Firaxis are developing a true tactical reboot, one of two things could happen. Either we'll get our fill of strategy and enjoy XCOM on its own merits, or it will throw the flaws in 2K's philosophy into stark relief.
2: Ninja Gaiden III
Itagaki has gone, and his absence left a gaping gash in Ninja Gaiden III's horrendous preview build. Abominable QTEs ruin the immersion at every opportunity. Ryu spends half the time sliding around on his arse, and the rest of the time tortuously climbing up walls that he used to be able to clear in a few simple flips. Dismemberment, decapitation and the flying swallow are history, replaced by a silly rechargable attack. And why is there competitive multiplayer?
There is still time to fix it. Please fix it. Please.
1: Star Wars Kinect
Mere words can't adequately describe how hateful our hands-on time with Star Wars Kinect was... but Matt gave it a damn good go regardless. Star Wars deserves a great Kinect game, but this monstrosity lurches about with a sickening set of shallow minigames that keep getting worse as more details come to light. Did that Rancor just use the Force?! Is there really a dance minigame?!! Why aren't the controls working?!!!!!
Because, honestly, it was crap. Microsoft and Lucasarts wisely listened to feedback (many reviewers died to bring them this information) and pushed the release date into 2012... but sooner or later, Star Wars Kinect will finally be fully operational. We fervently hope that the extra time results in a fun game that makes up for a lack of depth with fun and accessible gameplay, but we sense a great disturbance in the Force. As if millions of gamers suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.