January blues got you down? Worry no longer, dear friend, as 2012 holds fat stacks of delicious games that'll cheer you up no end. Assuming you're into games, that is. If you're into tractors or something, we can't help you.
SIX GAMES YOU PROBABLY KNOW ABOUT ALREADY BUT WE'RE DEAD EXCITED ABOUT THEM
The Darkness II
You're a mob boss, fighting for his life. Not interesting enough? Okay, you're a mob boss fighting for his life against an ancient evil cult. No? You're a mob boss fighting for his life against an ancient evil cult using a vast array of weaponry and massive fuck-off DEMON TENTACLES that sprout out of your back and rip the hearts out of men. Still nothing? Man, some people are impossible to please.
Soul Calibur V
This series has always performed admirably when it comes to the honourable pursuit of knocking the tar out of each other with oversized weapons that inexplicably fail to draw blood. This latest update features faster, slicker combat and a hefty whack of new characters, including Official Renaissance Bastard Ezio Auditore de Firenze from the Assassin's Creed series. Here's hoping one of his moves doesn't involve hiding in a pile of hay.
Mass Effect 3
Those of you with abnormally long memories will remember us touting this as one of the games of 2011 this time last year, but due to release dates slipperier than a banana skin on an ice rink, it's been pushed back to March 2012. But it's still gonna rock. Commander Shepard takes on big ugly aliens again, this time fighting his or her way across future Earth. Exciting stuff, and with streamlined combat and that Bioware storyline in tow, we can't wait.
Max Payne 3
Your boy Max has been gone a long time ever since he starred in Max Payne 2, one of the finest games ever made – eight years, in fact – and since then he's put on weight, shaved his head, grown a dodgy beard and moved to South America. He still dives sideways holding two guns though, which is what's really important – and as much as we complain, we're still going to buy it. It's Max Payne, guys.
Stories are nifty little things, whether you're reading one to a hyperactive child in an attempt to lull it into unconsciousness or regaling your friends with an almost-entirely-true one at the pub about the time you got off with Christine Bleakley1 – which is why Bioshock is so important. The first Bioshock game (we don't talk about the second) had one of the best if not THE BEST storytelling bits ever seen in a game, and with bearded genius Ken Levine back at the helm for this civil-war-style zepplin-city prequel, it can't go far wrong.
Baldy-headed sociopath Agent 47 returns in this long-awaited sequel to the string of noughties' murder-'em-ups. Although they've removed some of the free roaming aspects and replaced them with more directed action scenes, we're still keen to break out the ol' piano wire and start strangling innocents again.
SIX GAMES YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE HEARD ABOUT BUT OH BOY ARE THEY GONNA ROCK
You've seen it happen in films – some goon fires all his bullets at the superhero and fails to hurt them, so he throws his gun in a last-ditch effort to hurt them then runs away. NeverDead is a bit like that, except instead of throwing guns you pull off and throw your own arms, legs and head in an attempt to get one over on your enemies. And as your character's immortal, that's not as dangerous as it sounds. It has a few echoes of cult classic Stubbs the Zombie, which is no bad thing.
We often get a bit bored with fighting games. We sit there thinking: 'This punching is all well and good, but why can't we turn into a fighter jet?' And in an ultraviolent answer to our prayers, Anarchy Reigns descended from the heavens on twin streams of fire, playing an electric guitar. We played this massive brawler at the Eurogamer Expo, and there are few ways more entertaining to turn your brain off and beat the tar out of some guy while also, somehow, being a plane.
You play a mysterious neo-Victorian assassin with a suite of magic powers – powers like freezing time, summoning swarms of rats, force-pushing folk out of windows and possessing chambermaids then messily exploding out of their head – who's carving his way through an old-timey city in Not-England looking to uncover the true secret of fabulous whale oil. Or something. It's got the guys from Deus Ex and Hitman behind it, though, so if it's not good we'll eat not only our hats but the hats of everyone else around us in a hideous milinery buffet.
South Park: The Game
After a disastrous outing on the N64 with a shoddy Turok clone which involved pissing on snowballs to increase their damage, the boys have been quiet on the gaming front – but since their show continues to go from strength to strength in the US, they've hit back with a new title due for release this year. As a new student to South Park Elementary, you'll win the favour of Cartman, Kyle, etc, and take part in Fantasy RPG-style fights across the town. Plus, it looks just like the cartoon, and one of the featured classes is "Jew".
As far as cinematic trailers go, this one's got us feeling all tingly inside – watch it, if you haven't already. Developers Insomniac (Resistance, Ratchet and Clank, Spyro) seem to be bringing a TF2-style angle to the action-spy genre, which is great. Now all we need are some details about gameplay, please. Any at all. That'd be super.
The Last Guardian
From the feverish genius minds of Team Ico – the team behind the brilliant Ico and Shadow of the Colossus – have been making this game for bloody ages, and it's been pronounced dead only to be revived at the last minute. But it's finally due for a release date this year, so we're strapping on our Official FHM Excited Hats and looking forward to another poignant, beautiful and almost impenetrably Japanese adventure as a young boy leads a massive, kinda-cute bird-dog-griffon monster through barren, ruined landscapes. It doesn't sound great on paper, but going by past form, this should be a classic.
But wait – that's only HALF of the 22 most exciting games coming out this year! Join us tomorrow for Part 2.
1 Well, you saw Christine Bleakley, anyway. And she was totally into you