Andrew's Shortlist of Upcoming PC Games for 2011 You Should Be Aware Of

Once again a shortlist of PC games for this year that you should be aware of, if you aren't already. And if you see a game I missed on this list, it's because I did it on purpose to offend you.

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2010 is very much in the rearview mirror, and 2011 is under way. And there are plenty of very promising PC games scheduled for this year. This is, once again, my own little shortlist that includes some of what I consider to be the most important PC games of the year. If you play PC games on any kind of a regular basis, you should at least be cognizant of the fact that they exist (even though you're probably aware of most of them, if not all of them). That's why I've compiled this shortlist, which is arranged in no particular order. And which is not intended to include everything, partially because there are too many promising PC games on the horizon to list all at once, but mainly because I specifically excluded your favorite game. On purpose. To forever insult you, your microwave johnnycakes, and everything else you stand for…along with your children, and your children's children.*

*(for three months)


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Shogun 2: Total War


Projected Release Date: March 15, 2011
Genre: Strategy, Real-Time (and Turn-Based)
Recent Preview Coverage: Total War: Shogun 2 Hands-On
Recent Video: Shogun 2: Total War Battle Report Trailer

Shogun 2 will have more-intimate tactical battles, new feudal intrigue, and hopefully better AI.
Shogun 2 will have more-intimate tactical battles, new feudal intrigue, and hopefully better AI.

A lot has been said about Total War's problematic artificial intelligence, particularly as it relates to how computer-controlled enemies in the series don't put up too much of a fight, especially over the course of a longer game, where all parties involved have huge empires to manage. Napoleon: Total War took the step of reducing the scale even further, and Shogun 2 will take the series back to feudal Japan with even more-intimate land skirmishes, new siege battles, and even naval engagements. What we've seen of Shogun 2 so far has been gorgeous artwork and impressively detailed tactical battles, along with new multiplayer options. The studio has made its efforts to improve the AI a matter of public record, and hopefully things will be greatly improved in the sequel.


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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings


Projected Release Date: May 17, 2011
Genre: Role-Playing
Recent Preview Coverage: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Impressions
Recent Video: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Development Diary #3 (Polish language with English subtitles)

Geralt has a new adventure, and--spoiler warning--he might just have to deal with some unsavory characters along the way. Don't say we didn't warn you.
Geralt has a new adventure, and--spoiler warning--he might just have to deal with some unsavory characters along the way. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Frankly, the story behind 2007's The Witcher wasn't the kind you normally expect from such a good game. It was developed by CD Projekt RED--essentially, a spin-off of a game retailer that became interested in developing games of its own, using the Aurora engine that BioWare created for its 2002 game-plus-software-toolkit Neverwinter Nights, and a story inspired by a series of dark fantasy novels that were extremely popular…in Poland. Oh, and the combat system had this weird rhythm-game-type feel to it. Yet it ended up being one of the best RPGs of that year, and the sequel now has an all-new graphics engine, a new story, and a brand-new combat system that will let you fluidly transition from attacking to evading to attacking again. It'll also have all kinds of adult language and other content that definitely won't be suitable for small children--but it should have plenty of good stuff for the rest of us.


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Crysis 2


Projected Release Date: March 22, 2011
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Recent Preview Coverage: Crysis 2 Updated Hands-On
Recent Video: Crysis 2 Be the Weapon Trailer

You'll take a leap of faith in Crysis 2, but fortunately, you get to take a rocket launcher with you.
You'll take a leap of faith in Crysis 2, but fortunately, you get to take a rocket launcher with you.

A pretty obvious addition to this list. The first Crysis was effectively the debut of German developer Crytek, and it was such a fantastic game, in terms of being both a great shooter and a technical marvel, that it more or less instantly helped the studio establish itself as a heavy-hitter. In Crysis 2, like in the first game, you're dealing with an alien invasion, and you still have a superpowered nanosuit, but this time around, the invasion takes place in the Big Apple, and the aliens are bigger and meaner and have even less respect for local property value. In addition, the multiplayer is being developed by Crytek UK--the studio formerly known as Free Radical and the creator of the well-regarded TimeSplitters shooter series, which offered outstanding pick-up-and-play multiplayer. This is a good thing.


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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim


Projected Release Date: November 11, 2011
Genre: Role-Playing
Recent Video: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Announcement Trailer

Yeah, OK. Another obvious pick here? Skyrim will be the fifth official chapter in Bethesda Softworks' Elder Scrolls role-playing series, and the studio chose to announce the game with ancient runes encoded in "dragon language." I don't speak dragon language, but if it sounds anything like Patrick Stewart going nuts, I'm in favor of it. Though I had mixed feelings about the enormous sprawl of the previous Elder Scrolls game, since then, Bethesda has shifted gears to create Fallout 3 (and work with an external developer on New Vegas), has acquired PC game technology house id Software, and has announced that it will be using a new engine for Skyrim (I'm hoping those last two developments are related). Hopefully Skyrim will be a much more focused, tighter version of Oblivion that has less sprawl and more of the good stuff. (Insane Patrick Stewart would also be a definite plus.)


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Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution


Projected Release Date: March 1, 2011
Genre: Strategy, Real-Time
Recent Preview Coverage: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II: Retribution Q&A - The Tyranid Campaign
Recent Video: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II: Retribution Story Trailer

Even the Tyranid get their own campaign in Retribution.
Even the Tyranid get their own campaign in Retribution.

The original Dawn of War II caught some flak for trying something different with its single-player campaign, but since then, developer Relic Entertainment has been working furiously to make up for any lost ground with tons of free patch improvements and an expansion that brought back the evil Chaos Marines. The studio isn't stopping there. Retribution will add tons of new content, including all-new campaigns for the Orks and the Tyranids, plus new multiplayer units, heroes, and maps.


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Guild Wars 2


Projected Release Date: TBA
Genre: Role-Playing
Recent Preview Coverage: Guild Wars 2 Updated Impressions
Recent Video: Guild Wars 2 GC 2010 Defending Shaemoor Demo

Guild Wars 2 will offer new playable races and will let you tear up the scenery to squash your enemies flat.
Guild Wars 2 will offer new playable races and will let you tear up the scenery to squash your enemies flat.

The first Guild Wars was an unusual game that was kind of, sort of a massively multiplayer game but was more like a prettier, 3D version of Diablo with better grouping functionality and really interesting, strategic multiplayer that drew inspiration from collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering. With Guild Wars 2, developer Arena Net intends to build a game that's much more about massive online interaction but also much more about immediacy and using the environment to your advantage. While you can no longer play a multiclass character that's half of one thing and 50 percent of another, you can instead play as one of five different races, which have their own particular strengths.


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Diablo III


Projected Release Date: TBA
Genre: Role-Playing
Recent Preview Coverage: Diablo III Hands-On - Player-Versus-Player Arena
Recent Video: Blizzcon 2010 - Diablo III Demon Hunter Class Interview

Diablo III will send you back to the dungeon, but this time in a fully 3D game with all-new characters to play as.
Diablo III will send you back to the dungeon, but this time in a fully 3D game with all-new characters to play as.

Speaking of which: Diablo III. You guys know Diablo III, right? The sequel to Diablo II, one of the most addictive hack-and-slash action RPGs of all time? How the new one will have a fully 3D engine and new character classes, like the monk and the demon hunter, plus a new competitive multiplayer system? Yeah, that Diablo III. It's coming out this year. Unless it isn't.


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Deus Ex: Human Revolution


Projected Release Date: 2011
Genre: Action Adventure
Recent Preview Coverage: Deus Ex: Human Revolution Updated Impressions
Recent Video: Deus Ex: Human Revolution Extended Trailer

Will the new Deus Ex game recapture the magic of the original?
Will the new Deus Ex game recapture the magic of the original?

While the second game didn't quite live up to the legacy, the first Deus Ex game was a cult classic that did a great job of fusing action-adventure gameplay with role-playing-style character development, essentially as the successor to System Shock 2 (at least, until that other successor to System Shock 2 came around). Human Revolution has looked more and more interesting each time we've seen it. The game's recently announced delay is a bit worrisome, but hopefully this will just mean some of that "further polish" mentioned in that official announcement.


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The Sims Medieval


Projected Release Date: March 22, 2011
Genre: Strategy
Recent Preview Coverage: The Sims Medieval Exclusive Hands-On - Building a Kingdom, Plus More Gameplay Details
Recent Video: The Sims Medieval Official Trailer

We've found a witch! May we burn her?
We've found a witch! May we burn her?

The Sims 3 was a great successor to The Sims 2 that added new stuff like new lifetime wishes, open-ended travel around town, and personal traits. And then, in a move that surprised nobody, it went on to add expansion pack after expansion pack after expansion pack. But with The Sims Medieval, the series is going in a different direction. A very different direction. This is going to be a Sims game where you focus heavily on the quests and story of characters in a medieval town, and where you're trying to gain the highest score possible for when the game ends (because yes, unlike in any other Sims game before it, games can and will end). This is a big change for a successful series that has been criticized for sticking too close to the same formula, and it warrants further investigation.


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Star Wars: The Old Republic


Projected Release Date: TBA
Genre: Role-Playing, Massively Multiplayer
Recent Preview Coverage: Star Wars: The Old Republic Updated Hands-On - The Jedi Consular and Multiplayer Flashpoints
Recent Video: Star Wars: The Old Republic - Republic Troopers Trailer

In The Old Republic, hokey religions and ancient weapons will, in fact, be a match for a good blaster at your side.
In The Old Republic, hokey religions and ancient weapons will, in fact, be a match for a good blaster at your side.

Didn't see this one coming, did you? This is only one of the most highly anticipated massively multiplayer games this year (if not the most), thanks to its strong pedigree--namely developer BioWare's previous work with the Star Wars universe on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I'll be honest…it's hard not to be skeptical of a game this ambitious. BioWare essentially intends to make a massively multiplayer online game with all the depth of a story-driven single-player game, but each time I've played early versions of the game, I've come away impressed (or at least, a lot less skeptical). There's still a lot more of this game that we haven't seen yet, like the space gameplay, player-versus-player, and what it'll be like to play as a high-level character, and with any luck, we'll see more of that stuff in the months to come. I'll keep you posted.


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Portal 2


Projected Release Date: April 19, 2011
Genre: First-Person Shooter, Puzzle
Recent Preview Coverage: Portal 2 Co-Op Impressions
Recent Video: Portal 2 Co-Op Trailer #2

In Portal 2, you'll face a longer campaign and can also tackle the sequel's unusual puzzle gameplay with a friend.
In Portal 2, you'll face a longer campaign and can also tackle the sequel's unusual puzzle gameplay with a friend.

Portal was the biggest and best surprise of 2007, a brand-new game sandwiched between the long-awaited Half-Life 2 and the even more long-awaited Team Fortress 2 as part of the hefty compilation known as The Orange Box. It was a single-player-only first-person puzzle game that made heavy use of what was then considered to be state-of-the-art technology--specifically, the Source engine's in-game physics. It had one of the most well-written and endearing stories we'd seen in any game. And GLaDOS is all set to make her gloriously homicidal return in a new sequel that will offer a longer single-player game, along with online multiplayer. Yes, Portal in multiplayer.


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Brink


Projected Release Date: April 12, 2011
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Recent Preview Coverage: Brink Updated Hands-On - Character Creation, Weapon Loadouts, and Head-to-Head Battle
Recent Video: Brink Developer Diary #5 - Minds on the Brink

In Brink, you'll be able to customize your character and weapons from end to end.
In Brink, you'll be able to customize your character and weapons from end to end.

Developer Splash Damage has made a name for itself with polished, deep multiplayer experiences that date all the way back to 2001's Return to Castle Wolfenstein, specifically, the outstanding Enemy Territory add-on. Later, the studio created its first full retail game in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, a game based on 2005's Quake 4 and that game's renewed battles against Quake II's Strogg aliens. While Quake Wars didn't quite hit its marks, the studio's next game, Brink, clearly seems like it's being created with the developer's previous experiences in mind. Despite what it looks like at a glance--another military shooter that takes place in bombed-out urban environments--Brink will offer tons and tons of customization, from your character's appearance down to dozens of different weapon mods, plus a free-running system that lets you hop around or clamber up most environmental obstacles.


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Duke Nukem Forever


Projected Release Date: May 3, 2011
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Recent Preview Coverage: Duke Nukem Forever Q&A - Randy Pitchford
Recent Video: Duke Nukem Forever Interview With Randy Pitchford and Steve Gibson

Duke Nukem will return. With a confirmed launch date, no less.
Duke Nukem will return. With a confirmed launch date, no less.

I just want to go on record as saying that I've seen and played the PAX 2010 demo. This is a real game, guys.

And it's coming out on May 3.

Yeah. No, I know. Yeah.


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That's it for this year's shortlist. Feel free to share your thoughts and flag your other highly anticipated 2011 PC games with a comment, below. And again, if you don't see your favorite game here, I left it out on purpose, specifically to make you upset. Yes, I mean you. The one reading this right now. You might not be able to see me, but I'm pointing at you right now, through your monitor. Yes, you. So nyah. Nyah to you all.

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