Halo 2 (Preorder) (Nov. 9, Xbox): Perhaps the game that we're most anticipating is Bungie's "Halo 2." When we purchased our first Xbox on launch day we also bought "Halo," an unproved yet highly touted first person shooter. From the second we loaded that puppy up we could tell it was something different, something revolutionary. From the graphics to the AI to the gameplay mechanics and physics, "Halo," blew all other games out of the water. Now, "Halo 2," is primed and ready to do the same. As Bungie Studios says, "Halo 2 is a lot like Halo 1, only it's Halo 1 on fire, going 130 miles per hour through a hospital zone, being chased by helicopters and ninjas ... And, the ninjas are all on fire, too." The AI is reported to be simply amazing, the graphics will be all the better, and most importantly, the engaging story of the "Covenant" alien races in an epic battle against you, Master Chief, in an effort to save the Earth will continue and be sure to take some twists and turns. Perhaps most exciting to some will be the addition of XboxLIVE capabilities. This game is going to be a blockbuster!
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (Holiday 2004, PC, Xbox, N-Gage): "Splinter Cell" is by far our favorite in the stealth/action genre of games. Earlier this year, "Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow" debuted and is an excellent game. Recently, Ubisoft announced that the third game in the "Splinter Cell" series, "Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory," will be ready for "Holiday 2004." What's that? Two "Splinter Cells" in the same year! I must have been a good boy. Ubisoft promises a, "new gameplay experience, exemplified by a totally open level design, a completely immersive and interactive environment, and advanced AI in which enemies are aware of their environment and remember past events, making them smarter and even more dangerous." They remember past events! Those rascals. Is there such a thing as too much "Splinter Cell?" I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Preorder) (Oct. 19, PS2): Ah yes, the next "Grand Theft Auto." Very few details have emerged regarding this follow-up to the juggernauts that were "GTA:III" and "GTA: VC". What has been revealed is that "GTA: SA" will be set in the early '90's in a fictional state named, "San Andreas" (California). Playing as a character named Charles Johnson, you must travel back to your home city of Los Santos (Los Angeles) to avenge the murder of your mother. As opposed to earlier versions of "GTA," "San Andreas" will have you traveling to two other cities as well: San Fierro (San Francisco) and the gambling town, Las Venturas (Las Vegas). Although there won't be anything revolutionary in this game the tried and true formula will once again make this one of the best selling, and most fun, games ever.
GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (Preorder) (Nov. 15, XBox, PS2, GameCube): It is generally agreed upon that the N64's "James Bond 007: GoldenEye" is the best Bond game to date. When EA acquired the rights to the Bond series shortly thereafter everybody thought the series was done for. After three successful EA Bond games, the most recent and best being, "Everything or Nothing," EA announced that they were going to remake "GoldenEye." The gaming community breathed a collective gasp. Would they ruin it? Will it be exactly the same? WTF? Then, EA announced that you weren't going to be playing as Bond. In fact, you will be playing as a rogue 00 Agent, exploring the dark side of the Bond world. You will be recruited by super-villian, Goldfinger, in an effort to topple Dr. No, for control of the Bond underworld. This game is going to be very fun.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (Preorder) (Nov. 19, GameCube): "Metroid Prime" is probably the best all around game made for the GameCube. "Metroid Prime 2" will be even better. Here's the story synopsis from the Game Director at Retro Studios, "Samus has been called to a planet called Aether to rescue a Galactic Federation trooper squad...[however] it's not as simple as just finding these guys. Samus finds herself in the middle of a struggle that's been going on this planet for many, many years. A very large, planet-wide trauma has happened on Aether that actually split the planet in two. There is now a dark and light version of Aether. Both worlds are struggling to be the dominant planet. They're struggling for their existence. So Samus finds herself in the middle of this struggle between light and dark, good and evil. Everything in the game revolves around the duality of dark and light." Sounds lovely. There is also, for the first time in a "Metroid" game, a four-player battle mode. This is the type of game that just feels right.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Preorder) (Nov. 1, PS2): Legendary game designer, Hideo Kojima, has revealed his third game in the "MGS" series. This time, the game is set in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War when the world was split in two and nations were under a veil of constant fear. New game elements include, "The "camouflage index" showing how much you have blended into the surroundings adds depth to the stealth mission. Survival -- the duty of life transcending the mission. Search, capture, and eat snakes, fish, and fruits living in the jungle. Snake turns from a hider to a seeker." The only thing that ever bothered me in the first two "MGS"s were the controls and camera angles. I'd imagine that those have been tweaked and I fully expect a wonderful stealth experience.
Pikmin 2 (Preorder) (Aug. 30, GameCube): A few years ago, Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto (Super Mario Bros., Zelda: Ocarina of Time), came up with a new game: "Pikmin". A sort of arcade style real time strategy game featuring cute little flower creatures, Pikmin, and a stranded spaceman, Capt. Olimar, who is able to control the Pikmin in an effort to help him get back home. "Pikmin" is one of those instant classics: anybody can pick it up and easily understand the concept, however, it's difficult to master and a ton of fun to play. Now we have "Pikmin 2." Capt. Olimar has an assistant, Louie, and there are two new breeds of Pikmin: Purple and White. There are no guns, lasers, bombs, exploding heads, or stealth. Just cute, cuddly, bright, Pikmin and a little brain power are all that is required. This is the essence of what games should be and is instantly recognizable as a Nintendo game. If you don't have a GameCube yet, this (and Metroid Prime 2) are reason enough to buy one.
Gran Tursimo 4 (Preorder) (Nov. 15, PS2): Allison and I only have room in our hearts for one racing series and that series is "Project Gotham Racing" for the Xbox. However, I know that if I had the time, I'd really be into the "Gran Tursimo" series as well. "GT4," with over 500 photo-realistic cars, painstaking detail (the tracks are accurate to within 15mm!), and exact physics will prove to be the racing game to have in '04. Add in PS2 Network (online) capabilities where you can race against others and a "Photo Mode" where you can plug a printer into the USB port and print out pics of your favorite cars using a wide variety of photo tools and you have another blockbuster game.
Doom 3 (Preorder) (Aug. 3, PC) and Half-Life 2 (Preorder) (Sept. 1, PC): As you may know, Lunabean focuses primarily on console video games (PS2, Xbox, GameCube), however it's hard to deny the hype and anticipation surrounding these two games. "Doom 3" has been in development for years and "Half-Life 2" has been delayed more times than an airport in a blizzard and has been stolen more times that the Muppet's Baseball Diamond. Both of these games are going to be huge not only because of their prodigious histories, but because they have become legends in the gaming world due to the constant delays and news stories surrounding them. Unless somebody buys us an Alienware PC, we'll have to wait until the games get ported to a console. By then, we may be onto the PS3 and Xbox2.