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Jumping Ahead: A Look at What 2009 Has in Store

January 14, 2009

Jumping Ahead: A Look at What 2009 Has in Store
By: Steven Hopper

There’s really no denying that 2008 was a huge year for gaming. While the headlines where often gobbled up by the dire economy and its effects on the whole world this year (including various companies within the video game industry), it cannot be denied that there were some truly phenomenal games that launched in the past year, across all systems and platforms. And as was the case right after 2007, it can be difficult to try to think of how the video game industry will top itself next year. However, there are quite a few games to get excited for in the coming year, with a variety of fantastic titles launching pretty much completely throughout the upcoming release pipeline.

In the post-holiday doldrums, a lull is expected in the latter winter months after the first of the year. However, that is not the case as several publishers are coming out with their big guns post-Christmas. Sony’s long-awaited and mega-hyped shooter Killzone 2 is expected to finally launch this February. Early reports on the game are very positive, despite some negative early press concerning the game’s “smoke and mirrors” debut at E3 2005 and a lukewarm reception for the first game on the PS2. However, there are still some unanswered questions for Sony’s touted “Halo-killer”, namely whether or not the gameplay will live up to its more-than-impressive aesthetic. I guess we’ll find out soon.

Will Killzone 2's gameplay live up to its excellent aesthetic?

Early 2009 will also give some love to Grand Theft Auto fans with two big releases scheduled. The first of which will see the anticipated episodic content for Xbox 360 players finally come to fruition when “The Lost and the Damned” launches on February 17. Additionally, the first GTA title for a Nintendo system since Grand Theft Auto Advance on the GBA, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, will launch on the Nintendo DS, offering a top-down perspective set in Liberty City, touch screen controls and hours of gameplay.

Also finally seeing the light of day in early 2009 will be F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, the follow-up to the successful horror-shooter. In the capable hands of Monolith Productions, developer behind the first game, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin promises to scare the pants off of many gamers, just like the first one.

Another scary, early triple-A title on the pipeline is Capcom’s 800-pound gorilla, Resident Evil 5. Scheduled to release on March 13th, 2009 (yes, Friday the 13th, very spooky), Resident Evil 5 will carry the torch from its hugely popular predecessor, Resident Evil 4, a title championed for making some major improvements to the series as a whole. Resident Evil 5 brings its own additions to the table, including co-op multiplayer, high-def graphics, and a brand new setting in a sun-drenched African nation. The game looks great and plays very well, and it definitely cause for fans of the series to get excited for.

Resident Evil 5 is a prime example of a huge game launching in the gaming off-season.

On the MMO front, online gamers will get a few new launches in the upcoming year, including a couple that will undoubtedly appeal to superhero fans. Sony Online Entertainment is gearing up to launch their DC Comics-based MMORPG, titled DC Universe Online. In an inspired move, DC Universe Online doesn’t squander its license by sticking well-known characters in the game arbitrarily as quest-givers here and there, instead allowing you to fight alongside staple heroes like Superman in the game’s missions, assisting them as you fight cooperatively against threats. Another big-name MMORPG that will hopefully see a launch in 2009 is BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic. While not much is known about BioWare’s direction with the title, considering their previous work in the Star Wars universe (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), then it’s pretty safe to assume that the franchise is in good hands.

Speaking of BioWare, the company is also hard at work for their upcoming PC RPG, Dragon Age: Origins. The ‘spiritual successor’ to the developer’s acclaimed Baldur’s Gate series, Dragon Age: Origins will be an ambitious fantasy title that promises to do for the genre what last year’s Mass Effect did for “sci-fi neo-noir action-RPGs”.

Of course, one of the biggest and most highly anticipated titles of 2009 for Xbox 360 gamers is Halo 3 ODST. An expansion of sorts that was initially known as Halo 3: Recon, ODST will put you in a separate campaign that occurs before the events set forth in the previous Halo title, and also has you playing as a regular human soldier, and not the Master Chief. Offering a new perspective and possibly some new story elements to the Halo universe, it’s easy to see why Halo fans for excited for this one.

A hotly-anticipated title for next year, Final Fantasy XIII still doesn't have a solid North American release date.

Of course, aside from these confirmed titles for 2009, there are a few titles that are a bit less solid in terms of release date that are definitely cause to be excited. God of War 3 is set to turn the PS3 on its head, presenting the final chapter in Sony’s flagship franchise, as well as its perennial anti-hero badass protagonist, Kratos. Additionally, Final Fantasy XIII, the latest entry in the quintessential RPG series from Square-Enix, is set to launch for the PS3 and Xbox 360 sometime in the future, launching this year in Japan, but lacking a solid release date in North America.

While I’ve mentioned quite a few games scheduled for launch next year, I’ve barely scratched the surface of games launching in 2009, not to mention the copious amounts of huge games that haven’t even been announced yet. 2009 is shaping up to be a very exciting one already, and there’s no better time to be a gamer.

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