Ambitious adventures often swerve into action or RPG territory these days and rarely leave, but not everyone has given up on thoughtful and slow-building games where players walk rather than run and the dialogue is something to be savoured rather than skipped or discarded. In fact, of all the genres covered by this year's Coming Attractions, we're pinning a disproportionate number of hopes in the adventure category.
The premise is simple: Chicago's been crippled by an unexplained earthquake, and you've got to cut across it to try and find your girlfriend. But this is no platformer and no shooter. Instead you fend off other survivors fighting for bottled water by tricking them onto disintegrating glass panels, hold looters at bay by waving an empty shotgun in their direction, and avoid confrontation, despite the first-person perspective.
Ubisoft has been responsible for some of the most ambitious game-worlds of the last few years (Assassin's Creed, Far Cry 2 and Prince of Persia most notably) but there's often been a tension between the technology and the increasingly predictable gameplay overlaid upon it - a trend the unpredictable landscape of a post-disaster Chicago will hopefully arrest in I Am Alive.
It might not work out - and the developer's previous game, Cold Fear, was a bit spotty - but Ubisoft's permanent determination to do something different is beguiling, despite a few missteps, and the thought of a disaster scenario built on restraint rather than reflexes is enough to propel this to the top of our most-wanted list.
Supporting Cast (in alphabetical order)
It's Michel Ancel back doing his thing. The first game was beautiful, elegant and charming beyond its means, and deserved the success the first Prince of Persia reboot, launching at the same time, found instead.
It's Tim Schafer back doing his thing, this time with a little help from manic funnyman Jack Black. The story - a roadie dragged into a fantasy world based on rock culture - is straight out of a Tenacious D record. As Psychonauts proved, the game could be anything; it'll certainly be something.
On: PS3 / Developer: Quantic Dream / Publisher: Sony / Release: Second half
It's David Cage back doing his thing. Fahrenheit was inventive but a bit divisive and grew increasingly ludicrous towards the end, but you couldn't not finish it. Heavy Rain is even more ambitious, and strives to provoke a similarly kaleidoscopic emotional response.
On: PS3 / Developer: Amusement Vision / Publisher: SEGA / Release: 2009
It's Toshihiro Nagoshi back doing his thing. The Yakuza games' bare-knuckle scuffles may be pure action, but their appeal is really all in the whisky-sodden melodrama, hostess-bar seductions and street-strutting cool. The first PS3 instalment wowed TGS with virtual actors to match Heavy Rain's and an actual drunk karaoke mini-game; here's hoping SEGA gives Yakuza a louder Western voice this time around.
The interminable development of Alan Wake rumbles on at Remedy, but we vaguely expect to see it this year; Telltale persists with its impressive episodic adventure efforts by calling upon Nick Park's lovable Wallace & Gromit for Grand Adventures; and Tecmo manages to stop re-enacting a Neighbours episode in the courtrooms long enough to put out Project Zero 4 on the Wii, with a bit of help from the excellent Grasshopper Manufacture.
Coming Attractions concludes on Monday with the long-awaited Shooters & Racing.