What is an action-adventure game, anyway? According to the Oxford English Wikipedia, it is "a videogame that combines elements of the adventure game genre with various action game elements". For further clarification let's ask Tom. "Probably a game that combines elements of skill-based violence and exploring with a story-driven focus," he reckons.
Fancy. For the purposes of this article, let's say it's a game where you walk around being in a story and doing people over with a gun or a fist or a lightsaber. And sometimes you do a puzzle or get in a car.
Also sometimes there is jumping. In olden days jumping games were called "platform" games but no one makes them any more because kids can no longer read and cannot grasp the concept of linear progression and think wooden crates are teh ghey.
By the above definition, there are plenty of action-adventure games coming our way in 2008. Some old friends will return (Solid Snake, Lara Croft), some movies will get tie-ins (Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones) and some 500 billion people will buy Grand Theft Auto IV regardless of whether it's any good. Let's take a closer look at some of the most promising titles.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Nearly three years since it was first announced, Metal Gear Solid 4 is almost here - assuming they're sticking to that Q2 2008 release date. Guns of the Patriots sees our Snake, now an old buffer, embarking on one final mission. He will travel to the Middle East and South America as he seeks out Liquid Ocelot, encountering the likes of Raiden, Meryl Silverburgh and Roy Campbell along the way.
Tom got to play a short demo of the game at last year's TGS. It's "deceptively but welcomely simple", apparently, and has a monkey in it. The game had better be good for Konami's sake - producer Ryan Payton reckons they need to sell a million copies on day one just to break even.
Hideo Kojima has stated Guns of the Patriots will be his last Metal Gear game, but he always says that.
Trailer park: There are some lovely trailers for MGS4 over on the gamepage, along with some nice screenshots.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction
In which Sam Fisher is a fugitive being ruthlessly hunted by the very government he once served, and looks like a tramp. The "all new improvisation-based gameplay" will see you using objects in the world around you to survive. There's also an emphasis on blending in with crowds to remain undetected by enemies.
As Tom found out last year, the game will have a simpler control system than previous instalment Double Agent. Plus it'll feature a brand new multiplayer element, but Ubisoft is keeping details under its big French hat for now.
"We'll just have to wait and see whether Ubisoft's bold decision to ditch most of what made Splinter Cell such a success was a wise one or not," says Tom. Conviction is due out on PC and Xbox 360 this spring.
Goggle search: Since swapping his goggles for a beard, Sam is frequently mistaken for the mythical Fifth Baldwin.
Who ya gonna call? Bill Murray's agent, that's who, and you're going to say, "We've made loads of money off Scarface and World of Warcraft, do you want some of it for being in a videogame?"
It's not just Murray lending his voice and likeness to this movie tie-in - Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson are also set to star. And Janine and Walter Peck. The story is set in the early '90s, following the events of Ghostbusters II, and Ramis and Akroyd are even doing the script.
Further details are lacking at present, but at least there's a nice teaser trailer to look at. Ghostbusters is coming to DS, PC, PS2, PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 this autumn.
'Tis pity she's a whore: Sierra take note, the offer is still on the table. A Eurogamer staff member is willing to perform an explicit sexual act on Bill Murray, out of respect, in exchange for an interview. If he's not into that she'll do the ping pong trick, but draws the line at watersports.
NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams
More than ten years after the first NiGHTS game appeared on the Saturn, a sequel is heading exclusively to the Wii. Journey of Dreams follows the adventures of two children who are guided around the magical world of Nightopia by stupid purple jester NiGHTS.
Along the way they will meet lots of Nightopians as well as visitors from the land of Nightmare, otherwise known as Nightmarens. Apparently the storyline is all about "courage, hope and inspiration", much like HRH Princess Diana RIP your highness you will always be the candle in our wind.
Naturally you'll be able to steer NiGHTS using the Wii remote as he glides, spirals and loop-the-loops his way round lots of brightly coloured worlds. Journey of Dreams is the first Wii game to feature Weather Channel support. This means the conditions in the My Dream environment, a customisable sandbox area, will be the same as the real weather where you are.
Tom got to try out Journey of Dreams at last year's Tokyo Game Show, and described the demo as "quite enchanting, beautifully realised and delicately scored". The full game has already been out in the States, where it's received average reviews, but then so did Craig David. A European release is scheduled for 18th January.
Good NiGHTS?: We're playing Journey of Dreams right now, so expect a review soon.
Whoooo are you, who-who, who-who? You are former Serial Crimes Unit investigator Ethan Thomas, forced to go solo following the mysterious disappearance of your partner. A string of gruesome murders have been committed and it's your job to find the committees. Ahh really wanna know.
Condemned 2 will introduce a brand new fighting system which will see you chaining both offensive and defensive moves together. You'll also get a new set of forensic tools to help with all that crime scene investigating. A variety of online modes will be on offer, including deathmatch, and you can set fire to tramps.
"It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine Condemned 2 ending up very solid indeed," says Quintin. Find out whether his imagination's run away with him when the game hits PS3 and Xbox 360 on 14th March.
Dying for a pee: In Condemned 2, you can not only set fire to tramps but drown them in dirty toilets. Don't tell Tanya Byron.
Devil May Cry 4
Bye-bye Dante, with your hair the colour of cobwebs and your twin guns and your imaginative vision of the Christian afterlife filtered through a medieval world-view. Say hello to Nero, a young warrior with the ability to pull-off endless combos and an extra-strong right arm.
He's the star of the next instalment in the Devil May Cry series, although Dante does appear later on. Nero's quite a big deal because of his Devil Bringer powers, which include the ability to to grab enemies in mid-air and slam them into the ground, and leap great distances in a single bound. There's also a new Exceed system which lets you charge up your sword and go mental once you hit full throttle.
Back in September we spoke to producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi about his plans to take the series back to its roots. "Personally I was looking back to the original Devil May Cry," he told us. "Much as Resident Evil 4 came up with a complete new type of game within the context of the franchise, if I can do that again within the Devil May Cry franchise, I will be happy."
Devil May Cry 4 will be released on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on 8th February. A playable demo should pop up before then though.
Man versus beast: Hiroyuki Kobayashi is probably no relation to hot dog eating champion Takeru Kobayashi, who is no match for a bear.
Alone in the Dark
According to the press release, the new Alone in the Dark game is "inspired by the gripping style of contemporary TV dramas". Presumably they mean The Wire rather than Doctors. According to Tom, it's "looking like more than a well-intentioned, handsomely gruesome attempt to drag survival-horror kicking, screaming and quite possibly transubstantiating into the next-generation". And he wrote that nearly two years ago, so it should be even spankier now.
The game sees Edward Carnby exploring Central Park over the course of one apocalyptic night. Apparently it is set to "break gaming clichés". The press release certainly won't, what with its promises of "stunning visuals", "advanced artificial intelligence", a "uniquely immersive interface" and "a new kind of entertainment experience".
Alone in the Dark is due out on PC and Xbox 360 some time before March. PS3, PS2 and Wii versions will follow later.
Horror movies: There are some nice videos of Alone in the Dark available on the gamepage, if you're feeling brave enough.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Yes yes the Wii version will let you swing a remote round like it's a lightsaber. But there are also DS, PSP and PS2 versions, don't forget, and they're all due out this spring.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is set in the era between Episodes III and IV. Playing as Darth Vader's "Secret Apprentice", you are on a mission to rid the universe of Jedi. Who knows where they got the idea. The Wii version will feature a multiplayer mode that lets you duel with a friend.
The Force Unleashed is "certainly the most interesting development in Star Wars franchise gaming since Knights of the Old Republic", reckons Rob. "It's got an extraordinary premise, some absolutely brilliant looking game mechanics and the full weight of LucasArts' undeniably vast development might behind it." Also it's Star Wars so an extra five points straight off.
Science never lies: Laboratory tests have now conclusively proved that the Star Wars prequels are just as good IF NOT BETTER than the original trilogy. FACT.
Good old Vin Diesel, with his silly made-up name, scratchy head and face like two scary marbles stuck in a rubber potato. He "is" The Wheelman in the new film of the same name, and the videogame to go with it.
It's mainly about vehicle combat. You can carjack any car in the game and use it to do over your enemies. Something called "Steerable Targeting" lets you lock-on to targets by using your driving skills to get your vehicle in the correct position. No idea.
Pulling off moves will style will earn you "Focus" so you can do exciting stunts and drive and shoot in real-time while the rest of the world runs at a slower pace. Again, no idea. There's also some hand-to-hand combat to be done, and team-based missions which will be playable online.
The Wheelman is due out on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in the first half of this year.
Did you know: Before he became a famous movie star and stopped looking like Screech out of Saved by the Bell, Vin Diesel appeared in a video about how to breakdance. It's amazing.
Grand Theft Auto IV
The series might be getting on a bit, the latest instalment might have missed Christmas, but there's no denying the huge appetite for all things GTA. Just look at the way the Internet goes bananas every time Rockstar drips out some more brown screenshots or a video about making the packshot. You can see them all for yourself over on the gamepage, by the way.
Grand Theft Auto IV follows the adventures of Niko Bellic, an Eastern European immigrant who has come to Liberty City to get a fresh start and pursue his dream of becoming a professional Beppe di Marco lookalike. "I killed people, smuggled people, sold people," he says in the trailer. "Perhaps things here will be different."
If you'd like a full run-down of all the things we know about GTA IV so far, Tom can help you out. The game will be out on PS3 and Xbox 360 some time around April.
Grand Theft Also: According to Webster's dictionary, "Bellic" means "Of or pertaining to war; warlike; martial." It's like bloody Countdown round here these days. I am the new Richard Stilgoe.
This new IP from Vivendi-Sierra-Blactivision or whatever they're called these days is coming to PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 this summer. It's in development at Radical Entertainment, the studio behind The Simpsons Hit and Run and Scarface.
Prototype is billed as "a completely new kind of open world game". It follows the adventures of Alex Mercer, a man with a mysterious past and some impressive shapeshifting abilities. He can also perform parkour-style leaps and wall runs, and goes bounding around New York City like Spider-Man without the silly string.
We got to see the game at Leipzig last year and were impressed - even though it was only 20 percent complete back then. "It's rare to see a game looking this good at such an early stage," wrote some bint.
He's in fashion: First Sam Fisher, now Alex Mercer... Looks like the hoodie will be THE look for moody action adventure heroes in summer Y2K8. You've started a new trend, Altair! You big twat.
LEGO Batman and Indiana Jones
Following the success of its Star Wars titles, TT Games is now giving the man with the fedora and the man with the pointy balaclava the LEGO treatment.
LEGO Batman is being developed in co-operation with DC Comics. It'll feature a new storyline that's nothing to do with the comics or films. You can play as Batman, Robin and a few villains, including The Joker and The Penguin. As with the Star Wars games, you'll be able to build vehicles using LEGO bricks and enjoy two-player co-op action.
LEGO Indiana Jones will follow the plot of the first three films (LucasArts is developing a separate game based on the forthcoming one, Indiana Jones and the Legend of Stannah). "The boulder scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark in LEGO is hilarious!", says TT Games boss Tom Stone.
LEGO Batman will appear on Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Wii, while platforms for LEGO Indiana Jones have yet to be confirmed. Both games are out this year.
Dinner dinner dinner dinner: LEGO Batman will feature an exact recreation of Wayne Manor, including the outdoor toilet. Apparently it's built like a brick sh**house.
Saints Row 2
Kristan rather liked the first Saints Row, even if it is "probably the most morally bankrupt game we've ever come across". The sequel promises more customisation options and a redesigned Stilwater to explore, courtesy of a beefed-up game engine.
New vehicles will include boats, helicopters, planes and motorbikes. There will be some additional sandbox nonsense, and online multiplayer modes including co-op.
Saints Row 2 is due out on Xbox 360 and PS3 some time this year. Probably not the same time as GTA IV, we'd wager.
All Saints: Saints Row is developed by Volition, which has its headquarters in a place called Champagne. We've been there and a more appropriate name would be Carpark.
And that's only the half of it. For part two of our action adventure round-up, which will cover Ninja Gaiden 2, Resident Evil 5 and the new Tomb Raider amongst others, come back soon.