Last week saw the first major releases at retail for the year. This week, we continue the onslaught with new entries in long-running franchises, a sequel to one of the early games of this generation, a collection of classics from the PS2 era and, surprise of surprises, a brand new IP from EA, spawned by a new studio, but with a killer pedigree.
(PC, PS3, X360)
With a world crafted by Ken Rolston, lead designer on Morrowind and Oblivion; R.A. Salvatore, notorious for spawning legions of emo-loner, Drizzt Do'Urden wannabes (as well as writing fun and engaging fiction); and Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn and artist for, of all things, an Ultima Online expansion; Kingdoms of Amalur is an open-world action-RPG with a tremendous pedigree from fledgling developer 38 Studios (owned by former professional baseball player Curt Schilling).
There isn't too much for me to tell you. The demo is out now on all platforms, offering players a full 45 minutes of game time to explore a surprisingly vast sampling of the game's expansive world. It mixes fast-paced, third-person combat and a malleable, skill-tree-based class system into a project with Skyrim-esque scope (doing everything in the game would apparently take around 200 hours, even if one knew exactly what to do and where to go). Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning hits shelves Tuesday, February 7.
(PC, PS3, X360)
Picking up two years after the first game, players again control Jackie Estacado, now in command of the Franchetti crime family, as he struggles against his literal inner demons and the organization that wants to take them from him, for undoubtedly dastardly purposes. Offering greater control of The Darkness than its predecessor, players have a full suite of melee options spawning from the heads, including grabs and analog-based whips, expandable by way of a four-pronged skill grid using points one acquires through skillful combat. A cue taken from Bulletstorm, perhaps?
The art style makes use of light cel-shading for an almost comic-like appearance, and multiplayer has exploded into a four-person co-op mode in which each player a unique, Darkness-wielding character. A gorgeous and unabashedly violent title, earning its Mature rating in spades, The Darkness II will be out on Tuesday, February 7.
A mix of both old and new, Resident Evil: Revelations is the first handheld title in the series to provide a full storyline campaign in the Resident Evil, action-shooter style. At once, it has been hailed as something of a return to form for a series that has, in its most recent console entries, strayed from the creeping survival horror roots that have always defined it into horror-tinged cinematic-action territory.
Expect long stretches of solitude in tight, poorly-lit corridors and hideous, mutant beasts that draw as much from Konami's Silent Hill series as from the Resident Evil canon. Further, the game includes a score-based Mercenaries-esque mode as incentive for those who've completed the main story to pick the game back up and keep playing. Resident Evil: Revelations will be out Tuesday, February 7.
You remember Jak and Daxter, right? Those two wild and crazy guys, one of whom got turned into a rodent (weasel?), who went on a kooky, cutesy, platforming adventure? Of course, after that, the still-normal one got captured, subjected to horrible experiments that gave him a dark side and a penchant for explosive and violent weaponry, and (most surprising of all) a voice. What could have been just another series of decent action-platformers in the vein of Spyro and Crash Bandicoot transitioned, with its second title, into an odd mix of platformer, shooter, and open-world adventure that seemed to draw as much from GTA and Ratchet & Clank as it did from its predecessor. Amazingly, the transition worked.
Now, the first three entries in the series are coming to the PlayStation 3 with high-definition graphics and stereoscopic 3D compatibility. It's a terrific opportunity to catch up on some history, and experience one of the few franchises that chose revolution over evolution. The collection comes to store shelves on Tuesday, February 7, but those who want to buy the games piecemeal can do so digitally through the PSN.
(PC, PS3, X360)
As has become a tradition with Bethesda-published RPGs, Fallout: New Vegas is getting a full collection. The Ultimate Edition of the game packs in all four storyline expansions, originally released as DLC, along with the Courier's Stage and Gun Runners' Arsenal add-on packs. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of this collection is its price: Rather than a full $60, the game is coming to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for $50, and PC for $40. A ten-dollar discount is nothing to sneeze at. The collection comes out this Tuesday, February 7.
The DS has slim pickings these days, with developers shifting their attention to Nintendo's newer handheld. Jewel Link Chronicles is a match-3 puzzler that mixes in hidden object hunts, as well as some twists on the traditional formula. Promising four modes and over 1,000 objects to discover, Mountains of Madness aims to claim your sanity for hours at a time. It comes out Wednesday, February 8.
DLC Slated for release this week:
Hidden Gem of the Week:
I feel like Shank was underappreciated. It wasn't a tour de force by any means, but it took a virtual non-plot of which Robert Rodriguez would be proud and used it to excuse some of the most satisfying, 2D hack-slash-and-shoot action I've ever experienced. It was as though someone had managed to confine Devil May Cry to a flat plane—a side-scrolling Bayonetta—demanding awareness and precision, both of which were rewarded with smoothly animated brutality.
The sequel promises to up the ante, introducing new weapons and a survival-based multiplayer mode (the original only had co-op) as well as a redesigned combat system that looks to provide a smoother experience, with more options for the player. In games like Shank, in which combat is the primary focus of the gameplay, finding ways to provide diversity therein is absolutely key to making the experience an enjoyable and compelling one. Shank 2 comes to the PSN on Tuesday, February 7 and the Xbox LIVE Arcade Wednesday, February 8.
* The Simpsons Arcade Game was released on the XBLA last Friday, but was not announced for either platform until after the release list for that week had been compiled.
Date: February 6, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*