2012: The Year of Apocalypse Games

2012: The Year of Apocalypse Games

8 apocalyptic games to ‘survive’ this year

by: dkpatriarch

©2012 David Hilton

Well, here we are: 2012.

With all the natural and ecological disasters, terrorism, scary scientific advancements, deadly viruses, wars, and economic instability who would have thought we’d have made it this long.

No asteroids or alien invasions yet even.

I guess we have to hit the magic Mayan marker of December 21, 2012 for doomsday (I assume it won’t be Australian time and we may get an extra day?).

There is a cloud of pessimism in the air, and much like every century or millennium end (cough…Y2K bug…cough), people throughout history like to think of the “End of The World” coming in their lifetime and attribute disasters like the Black Death to signs like misread Mayan prophesies that it is indeed coming soon.

This feeling is mirrored in art: where in the past there were paintings to represent doomsday and world devastation, we now have film and games.

Apocalyptic games have been ramping up in the last few years: Fallout 3, Resistance 3, Enslaved, Dead Island, Rage, Crysis 2, Left4Dead 2, Dead Rising 2, Gears of War 3- well, you get the point.

Now that we are living in 2012, The Year Of Apocalypse is apparently upon us, and a host of games representing the struggle to survive mass destruction are also coming.

Here are a few of them:

1: The Last Of Us

When Naughty Dog announced that their next project was going to be a post-apocalyptic story of a girl and man’s struggle to survive in a hostile environment, I frowned.

When they detailed that our current civilisation and everything it brings has crumbled, and the two would be struggling against other humans fighting for scarce resources and populated by deadly de-humanised ‘infected’, I groaned.

Don’t get me wrong, Naughty Dog will do a great job of telling the survival story in a way that most games don’t, but I’ve seen so many films like this and frankly find this serious approach depressing.

Two of the greatest strengths of the fantastic Uncharted series are the adventure story and the light-hearted banter, which have become relatively rare in film and gaming lately.  Everything is so serious.

Like my colleague in his article, The Last of Us: Has Naughty Dog Made A Mistake?,  I wonder if The Last Of Us brings anything new or is it just a rehash of I Am Legend?

Throwing zombie-like elements into the post-apocalyptic mix is simply cliché.  And in American cities no less.

Still, if you wished that Dead Island had turned out more like its powerful trailer, then maybe this will be what you are after.

The scenes we’ve seen also show a less typical grey post-apocalyptic colour scheme, with some of the art direction much more colourful with overgrown nature a bit like Enslaved.

• Due for release late 2012 on PS3.

2: I Am Alive

Ubisoft’s I Am Alive has been in development since 2008, so it probably wasn’t planned as a 2012 ‘jump on the Mayan bandwagon’ apocalypse game.

At the time of announcement the game seemed a fresh look at survival horror action gaming: what if a terrible event occurs and you have to survive the destruction of society and a breakdown in basic human values against other survivors trying also to survive?

Could you use scarce supplies wisely and how much violence against your fellow survivors would you inflict so you could stay alive and find your family?

Again, not what you’d play for ‘happy time’, but thankfully without a zombie in sight, this game looked to be something fresh.

Exploration over combat, bluffing over straight out killing; it was going to be tough, but interesting.

Luckily it has been revived as a downloadable XBLA and PSN game, which, while a curious choice, hopefully doesn’t mean a compromise on quality or the aspirations of the title.

• Due for release Quarter 1 this year on XBLA (360) and PSN (PS3).

3: Assassin’s Creed 3

(Big Spoiler alert)

We know this game is coming this year.  We also know very little about it so far: except that it will feature Desmond and will be set partially at least in New York state (see here).

It will probably also be set during either the French Revolution or the American one, judging by some of the symbols used at the end of Brotherhood.

The Assassin’s Creed games have been building to this: an apocalypse on earth.

The modern day Templars, Abstergo Corporation, are planning to launch the Eye-Abstergo satellite on 21 December 2012.  The same date as the Mayan “end of the world”.

Presumably their intention is to use it to control the populace for their “New World Order”, where peace comes at the cost of free will.

Except that Desmond, through his ancestors’ memories, has been getting warnings from Those Who Came Before that a huge catastrophe will hit the earth, like it did before, between 69,000 and 77,000 years ago.

The ‘Toba‘ catastrophe was a supervolcanic eruption that plunged the planet into a 6-10 year volcanic winter with a possibly 1000 year cooling episode.  It was thought to reduce the human population to something like 10 000 or even only 1000 breeding pairs, and causing a bottleneck in human evolution.

In the Assassin’s Creed universe though, The Catastrophe is illustrated at the end of Revelations as a solar flare that burnt the world, exposing everyone to radiation.

The First Civilization had attempted in various vaults to test various ways to prevent The Catastrophe, but they evidently had not found the right way in time, leading to the destruction of most of their people and much of the human population as well.

Some humans, and even hybrids, with bloodlines traced back to genetic DNA experiments, like Adam and Eve, survived and the human population recovered.

Desmond, the central protagonist of Assassin’s Creed,  is a relative of Adam.  Those Who Came Before did not do as well and died off.

Assassin’s Creed 3 will have Desmond locating the New York vault which may help prevent the second, and possibly final, apocalypse.

Obviously it won’t be as simple as that; Desmond will be dealing with Abstergo/Templars and possibly an unknown agenda by Those Who Came Before (and their ‘self-projections’), as demonstrated by the forced killing of Lucy.

• Due for release late 2012 on 360/PS3/PC.

4: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

You can’t accuse Capcom or the Resident Evil franchise of making a survival horror game to take advantage of the 2012 apocalypse hype, because they’ve been making these games for over a decade.

Still there is no doubt that Resident Evil‘s third person action is all about survival after an apocalypse, even if it tends to be limited to a certain region in the games.

This game takes us back (yet again) to that fictional American town Raccoon City, whose residents have been transformed into zombies after an outbreak of a ‘t-virus’ developed as a bioweapon by the pharmaceutical company Umbrella Corporation.

Instead of playing the good guys trying to learn more about the virus and its origins while trying to survive, get out of town, and save any other survivors, you are a member of the Umbrella Security Services sent in to destroy any evidence or witnesses to the event.

While this apocalypse is familiar and localised it provides an ‘alternate’ history to the story where you can kill some of those who prevented the virus spreading or being used as a weapon around the world in previous games.

Therefore you are fighting to spread the destruction, while not being killed by the zombies, a feat made more difficult since you can now bleed and attract more attention from the hungry hordes.

In contrast to the other games on this list where you fight just to survive or prevent an apocalypse, here you fight to secure the means to cause a future apocalypse for Umbrella.

Mind you the catchphrase is: “Survival is YOUR responsibility.”

This game  is not meant to be overly serious, and now that we can both run AND shoot (new in the Resident Evil universe) its focus is much more action oriented.

With multiplayer now a feature, it will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

• Due for release in March 2012 on 360/PS3/PC.

5: Mass Effect 3

(Spoilers ahead)

Many will be surprised to see this game on my list.

After all, this sci-fi epic isn’t much like the others and the focus is a bit different.

However, if you watched the trailers (see one below) and know the plot you can see that the annihilation of Earth and its prevention is a major plot and marketing point of the game.

In the same way Resistance showed an apocalyptic aftermath of an ‘alien’ invasion, this game, though an action RPG and not an action shooter, will feature the struggle to prevent absolute destruction.

Though Earth is not the only location, the game will begin with the Reaper invasion and with Shepard forced to flee to gather forces.

As this is a game with different results based on gameplay, it has even been reported that you can lose to the Reapers and watch Earth fall.

According to BioWare’s Mike Gamble, on The Escapist: “In Mass Effect 3, the theme is literally galactic extinction, so the choices that you make can have that much larger consequences, and because of that, you think a little bit harder before making them.

If that doesn’t sound apocalyptic, I don’t know what does.

• Due for release in March 2012 on 360/PS3/PC.

6: Metro: Last Light

Taking up from the doom and gloom ending of 4A Games’ Metro: 2033, you are again beneath post-apocalyptic Moscow, in the Metro tunnels, surviving the poisoned air above and the mutants below.

As if that wasn’t hard enough, the station-cities populated by human survivors are on the verge of civil war with each other over a doomsday device they all want to find.

These wars threaten to destroy what’s left of humanity in a ‘post-apocalyptic’ apocalypse.

This game promises to bring survival horror to a new desperate level in a shooter: not only are you preoccupied with your own survival against the odds in a hugely hostile and bleak environment with little ‘light’ or hope, but you have to save what’s left of humanity as well.

I think I’d just curl up in a ball and rock back and forwards mumbling to myself, but not Artyom…he’s one of those ‘give me a challenge’ types, I can tell.

• Due for release late 2012 on 360/PS3/Wii U/PC.

7: Ravaged

The newest title to take on the apocalyptic theme in 2012 is 2DawnGames’ Ravaged.

It resembles RAGE, with its post-apocalyptic setting and ‘Mad Max’ vehicles.  However, this game is unique in that it is an online multiplayer 1st person shooter only.

Earth has been destroyed by natural disasters caused  by solar flares (wow that’s two games with that).  As is often in post-apocalyptic settings, the game chronicles a war for remaining resources and territory between the “Resistance”, who want to restore some civilisation, and the “Scavengers”, who are those who like being able to do whatever and take whatever they want.

This game is meant to focus on the fun of online multiplayer over a gloomy insight into humankind’s descent into savagery when civilisation is stripped away.

Before you write off this unfortunately PC-only game, members of the dev team have previously worked on games like Desert Combat, Battlefield 2, and Frontlines.

• Due for release mid-year 2012 on PC.

8: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2

GSC Game World caused a bit of a stir late last year when they seemed to say they were in trouble and that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was cancelled.

This proved to be incorrect though (see here) and it is apparently still being worked on.

Originally slated for a 2012 release, we can only assume that they are still aiming for that.

The first game, released only on PC,  dealt with The Zone, an area affected by the nuclear meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor and by Soviet experimentation.

The game is a non-linear sandbox first person shooter, where you try to survive against mutant animals and humans, as well as deal with ‘anomalies’ that affect the post-apocalyptic environment.

You must also contend with radiation, hunger, and injury, which will bleed your health away.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is being designed with a completely new engine, which may be the source of some of the issues plaguing the title.

• Due for release (until told otherwise) sometime late 2012 for the 360/PS3/PC.

©2012 David Hilton

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