Happy New Year! It's our sincere hope here at Cheat Code Central that all of our readers had an enjoyable, potentially debaucherous, and, most importantly, safe New Year's Eve experience. Last week, in fact, we took the chance that the end of year release lull provided to devote our Pick & Play to a look back at the year that had been, and some of the more titles that may have passed beneath many a gamer's radar or, on a more somber note, disappeared into the depths of development hell. Some had been outright cancelled. In this, though—our first Pick & Play of the new year—we'd like to take advantage of the continuing dearth of releases to look forward at the year to come, as well as what we're still playing after the fall glut of games.
(PC, PS3, X360)
The conclusion to Commander Shepard's epic journey, a tale you've constructed yourself over two massive RPG-shooters, finally arrives on March 6. Mass Effect 3 brings with it promises of refined combat with a greater focus on its action elements and a story that brings players back to Earth for the first time in the series' history. Shepard can, of course, be imported from Mass Effect 2 end-game saves, which may bring along their Mass Effect 1 decisions as well. Story-wise alone, as is generally the case with BioWare titles, this is an ambitious project, and the first time the developer has ever personally developed a third entry in one of its series. It's also the first time in the series that male Shepards (Brosheps?) have a same-sex romance option.
What happens when an over-the-top Japanese action blockbuster is handed off to a Western studio for a series reboot? DmC, 'twould seem, as Ninja Theory—the developers behind Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West—have taken the platinum-haired half-demon out of his element and thrown him into a world very much their own. In many ways, the game is more grounded than one has come to expect of the Devil May Cry games, a series defined by surreal metaphor (seriously, read some of the flavor text for key items) and hectic, eye-popping action. The combat seems slower, more deliberate, and Dante is perhaps a bit more subdued, with less of the happy-go-lucky attitude that had him scarfing down pizza while fending off scythe-wielding specters. At once, it introduces a "limbo," a demon world into which Dante can be pulled where the game's already gothic architecture is skewed along a surreal bent, and it would appear that those left in the real world are transparent shadows cast in light. It's not traditional Devil May Cry, but DmC is still one of the more compelling titles coming down the pipe in 2012.
The New Guy:
(PC, PS3, X360)
I'm a sucker for a good action RPG, and Kingdoms of Amalur looks like it will deliver. This brand new fantasy property, coming to shelves on February 7, brings with it violence and mayhem from a third-person perspective, with fast-paced action combat and an in-depth skill system. There are multiple character classes, as one would expect, and an intensely deep lore against which the game's events are set, which you're encouraged to explore as you quest through a world crafted by both Todd McFarlane and R.A. Salvatore, as well as Oblivion lead designer Ken Rolston. There's tremendous potential here for a new fantasy property, and here's hoping the game delivers.
Oh God, We're Still Playing This:
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim could have just as easily filled this spot, since the game seems endlessly vast. For me, though, the biggest surprise during the holidays was Star Wars: The Old Republic. I was determined not to like it before I'd even played it. My history with MMOs is not great and the Star Wars license has disappointed me so many times in the past. I felt that even with BioWare at the helm, even derived from the Knights of the Old Republic continuity, I couldn't help but feel that the actual "game" would be sacrificed by the multiplayer nature of the beast, that providing a deeply individualized story for each class was a neat idea, undermined by the fact that thousands of other players would be experiencing that exact same story alongside you. And then I played it. I saw just how well written the story was, just how engaging it felt to adventure alongside a friend and participate in conversations together, and I watched over ten hours of my time melt away to this title in one day, during which I felt not even a momentary lapse of interest. I was constantly driven forward, not by a number by my portrait or a bar at the bottom of the screen, but by a desire to see more, to find out what would happen next. And that is why I'm still playing TOR, and intend to continue doing so well into the new year.
Shelby's Personal Pick:
Maybe they've never been "Game of the Year" material, but the modern Ninja Gaiden games hold a special place in my heart as the spiritual successors to the old school, hard-as-nails side-scroller's lineage. The original NES Ninja Gaiden games were absurdly challenging madhouses, which peaked with the second entry, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos. Ninja Gaiden/Black/Sigma and Ninja Gaiden 2/Sigma 2 took the elements that made these games work—sharp, precise controls and challenging enemies—and tied them to a combat system with all of the complexity one would expect out of a one-on-one fighting game. Precision in modern Ninja Gaiden games isn't just about movement, but extends to one's performance in combat as well. Ninja Gaiden III has some naysayers, with its almost fetishistic focus on the collision of bone and steel, but it looks as though it's shaking up the series' formula, taking some risks. We'll see whether or not those risks pay off when the game hits shelves on March 20.
By Shelby Reiches
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*