After bleeding gamers dry through the very busy months of October and November that witnessed a crazy amount of AAA title releases, December gives a respite to bruised wallets and bungled expenses. When I say respite, I mean no notable video game releases save for three. That's a rather uncharacteristic lull in what's otherwise supposed to be a holiday season elsewhere in the world characterised by an unabashedly materialistic pursuit of electronics and all sorts of expensive stuff that one does not need. I guess that's the video game industry's way of telling you to go out and get some vitamin D.
Far Cry 3
Releasing on: 4th December
Platform: PC, PS3, X360
The original Far Cry came at a time when everyone was stoked about the much-vaunted impending next-gen wave in the form of Doom 3 and Half Life 2. The FPS shooter brought open world goodness and excellent AI in a technically competent package that was unprecedented for its time. It pretty much ruined Valve and Id Software's thunder, by delivering breathtaking graphics in ridiculously expansive maps without load screens to interrupt the action. While the competition was busy grappling with next-gen business, here was a game that was not only gorgeous, but also commendably optimised and loads of fun to play.
After parting ways with Crytek and buying the rights to the Far Cry brand, the Ubisoft-produced sequel couldn't really pull off the same magic; even as Crytek went on to make a successful spiritual successor to Far Cry's legacy in the form of Crysis. After the malaria-riddled mess of Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3 goes back to the roots of the original with its combination of open-world and stealth. The only difference is that this time the world has been touted to be 10-times larger, with additional sandbox elements incorporated into the franchise. Throw in an island teeming with psychopathic pirates, an unwilling hero, and a strong survival themed gameplay replete with open-world goodness and you have a winning combination on your hands.
Battlefield 3: Aftermath
Releasing on: 4th December
Platform: PC, X360
A lacklustre single player campaign notwithstanding, Battlefield 3 is a great technical achievement. In a world of half-assed console ports, it's one of the rare PC-optimised games that can really bring the best out of your expensive PC hardware. It is, however, mainly well-regarded for its stellar multiplayer mode. With large, expansive maps replete with both land and air-based vehicular combat, Battlefield 3's multiplayer mode has garnered a strong fan following. Its class-based team gameplay may be found in many other online multiplayer games, but the addition of series staple destructible environments and a fine gameplay balance sets it apart. This brand of destruction has been underscored in the Aftermath DLC, which includes four urban maps with a damaged terrain theme running strong through each one of them. As the name suggests, it takes place in the wake of a devastating earthquake 170 miles from Tehran, Iran.
The most notable addition to the DLC is the new Scavenger multiplayer mode. It's a battle of attrition characterised with a marked dearth of weapons and ammo, even as you seize control of bases and try to bleed the enemy dry of “reinforcement cards”. The DLC also includes a new crossbow dubbed XBOW, featuring various types of bolts and a customisable scope. The expansion comes with its own assignments as well, and while this may not sound much on paper, the sheer size of the maps and the potential for multiplayer anarchy makes this worth checking out.
Releasing on: 12th December
The buzz across town is the rise of free-to-play model that's touted to be the future of video games. If that hypothetical future looks anything like Hawken, I'm game for it. Developed by a small independent studio called Adhesive Games, this online-only vehicular FPS combat game looks gorgeous enough to put most AAA titles to shame. Being free-to-play isn't the only thing going on for it though, because Hawken heralds the resurgence of the long-dead, but incredibly awesome Mech genre. The idea is to customise and arm your mecha to the teeth, pitting it against your friends in online multiplayer arenas. There isn't much that compares with controlling a hundred-tonne hunk of armour and missile pods. Don't take my word for it; just watch the mind-boggling gameplay videos.
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