2008 Yearbook: Microsoft Game Studios
- 2008 Yearbook: Microsoft Game Studios
After a solid year for the Xbox 360 in 2007 many thought the system could never showcase the same amount of quality exclusives in a single year again. You be the judge.
In the 2008 Microsoft Game Studios Yearbook, we've compiled a list of this year's exclusive graduating class with a detailed account of each title's current status and the stories surrounding them.
The 2008 Microsoft Game Studios Yearbook chronicles the graduates, like the soon-to-be released Ninja Gaiden II, and the titles that didn't make it to grad, like Alan Wake.
Ladies and gentlemen allow us to introduce the 2008 Microsoft Game Studios graduating class ...
- The 2008 Graduating Class
In the 2008 Yearbook of Microsoft Game Studios releases we take a look at everything from the recently revealed Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts to the hotly anticipated Gears of War 2.
We also chronicle a few games that didn't earn enough credits to graduate in 2008 and an unfortunate loss MGS suffered this year.
Sit back and enjoy as we introduce you to the 2008 Microsoft Game Studios graduating class.
- Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
Release Date: Q4 2008
Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is the long awaited return of the classic N64 platform-jumping bear. Since its announcement in 2006 fans of the series have wondered how Rare would re-introduce Banjo to a new generation of gamers. While the announcement of its development was met with a roaring cheer, no one could have guessed the game would be wrapped in such an intricate vehicle design and build mechanic.
Comparable to the customization of Sony's Little Big Planet, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts attempts to mesh a traditional platformer with a strong vehicle building undertone which adds story to the traditional collect-a-thon.
Although the mechanic seems to work work based on early hands-on impressions, could it captivate fans of the series or has the nearly 10 year wait for Banjo's return too little, too late?
- Viva PiÃ±ata: Trouble in Paradise
Release Date: September 2008
Viva PiÃ±ata: Trouble in Paradise brings gamers back to the unfortunately low-selling PiÃ±ata universe. Ask anyone who approached the series with an open mind and they'll confirm, Viva PiÃ±ata was a rare gem of a title.
Viva PiÃ±ata: Trouble in Paradise brings gamers back to PiÃ±ata Island with new environments, new PiÃ±ata's (bringing the total to around 100 different varieties) and new co-op elements. But is it enough to warrant a new price tag?
Commenters are quick to throw the label of overpriced expansion on the title but others will say that, while not a true sequel, Viva PiÃ±ata: Trouble in Paradise is the definitive version of the game.
- Ninja Gaiden II
Developer: Team Ninja
Release Date: June 3, 2008
Ninja Gaiden II has quickly elevated itself to the forefront of action games with its heavy emphasis on cinematic fighting and liberal use of blood and gore. Cited by Tomonobu Itagaki as the last in the series, Ninja Gaiden 2 promises to be the be all and end all of 3D action games when it ships this June.
While impressions have been favorable one major flaw has been mentioned in nearly every play session, an ancient camera system that lacks the focus and scope of titles like God of War.
While the game has been hailed as the best in the series, many ask if the graphical jump from its predecessor is enough to solidify a spot in the hearts of graphic-hounds.
- Too Human
Developer: Silicon Knights
Release Date: August 19, 2008
If Halo is powered by hype, Too Human has been fueled by controversy. From famed Canadian developer Silicon Knights, Too Human has been in development purgatory since its original announcement for the PlayStation in 1999.
After an abysmal showing at E3 2006, Too Human has been clawing away from its Scarlet Letter label in Microsoft's first-party lineup. Finally given a release date for August 2008, Too Human mixes a Diablo style point-and-click battle system with the cybernetic twist of Norse mythology. Controlled almost entirely by using both thumbsticks of the Xbox 360 controller, Too Human is a game that will truly be successful based on a solid demo presented to an already skeptical audience.
- Fable 2
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Release Date: Q4 2008
The sequel to the popular 2004 role-playing game, Fable 2 hopes to correct the errors made by the first release in the series--mainly over promising and under delivering.
While the first title is hailed as one of the better RPG's aimed at a Western market, Fable 2 has been cast as the only existing Microsoft franchise yet to prove its worth. Although the art style is stylish, many feel the game has yet to showcase a next-gen push in the graphics department.
With the inclusion of drop-in, drop-out co-op (online has yet to be confirmed), the game hopes to appeal to a wider audience eager to step into an adventurous environment where your actions truly change the world around you.
Fable, the franchise, may have its share of detractors but all the discussion surrounding it comes from a population of gamers who truly anticipate the title to be the grand swan song Lionhead promised originally.
- Halo Wars
Developer: Ensemble Studios
Release Date: TBA
Quite possibly the most controversial graduate of 2008, Halo Wars is labeled as such because we're still unclear if it will make it to retail this year. Skipping Microsoft's recent San Francisco event, Halo Wars is the first official title to tell the story of humans versus the covenant other than the original trilogy released by Bungie Studios.
Age of Empires developer Ensemble Studios has been hard at work to create a console specific real-time strategy game in the Halo universe that some are calling, simplistic. While looking gorgeous and remaining faithful to the Halo story, Ensemble is tasked with creating another kind of Halo experience--no easy task considering the title's fan base.
While it hasn't been officially announced for 2008, Halo Wars looks like it could compliment the diversity of titles in the Xbox 360 library by releasing along side heavy hitters like Gears of War 2 this holiday season.
- Gears of War 2
Developer: Epic Games
Release Date: November 2008
Gears of War 2 from Epic Games is the definitive release for the Xbox 360 this holiday season. Tasked with fighting off Resistance for a second time, Gears of War 2 hopes to captivate an eager audience with new combat options, a more robust online experience and a better told storyline.
Utilizing the latest version of Epic's Unreal Engine 3, Gears of War 2 hopes to take the original vision and drive of the first game, set it on fire and speed down a gasoline soaked highway of awesome when it ships later this year.
- Held Back from Grad
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Release Date: TBA
Little is known about the Xbox 360 & PC exclusive thriller Alan Wake. Remedy, creators of Max Payne, have gone dark and refuse to budge on details surrounding the upcoming title. While few details exist, Alan Wake has managed to catch the eyes of gamers everywhere awaiting the next morsel of information that's made available. We hope to see more at E3 08.
Peter Jackson's Halo Project
Release Date: TBA
Many assumed Bungie Studios was hard at work transforming Peter Jackson's vision into a new style of interactive entertainment in the Halo universe, but rumors suggest the development has been tasked to another studio. Jackson, best known for directing the Lord of the Rings films, has stated his Halo title will be very different from traditional games and will bring the franchise to a new direction. The recent departure of Frank O'Connor to Microsoft lends weight to the rumor that Peter Jackson's Halo title has been placed in the hands of the publisher, who owns the intellectual property.
- Lest We Forget ...
Marvel Universe Online
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Release Date: Canceled
Once hailed as the definitive Marvel Universe title, MUO was recently canceled by Microsoft Game Studios. Citing the genre's lack of popularity outside of best-selling PC title World of Warcraft, Marvel Universe Online was given the boot and becomes the second Microsoft Game Studios MMO (True Fantasty Online being the first example in this Xbox-specific feature) to get the ax.
Interesting side note, one of the reasons behind the cancellation of True Fantasy Online was due to the upcoming transition to next-generation platforms. You don't think that canceling Marvel Universe Online means ... nah!