Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Games of February 2013.

2013 continues to stroll along with an easy confidence.  After the pleasant surprise of Ninja Theory's shockingly satisfying Devil May Cry and the grand, polished world of Ni No Kuni in January, February comes out similarly swingin' with a humble handful of titles any gamer worth their salt should be drooling over - and a proportionally high number of day one titles for a month with only five games worth talking about.  (Seven if you include Omerta and Fire Emblem - but I don't.)

February 5th
Sly Cooper : Thieves in Time
PS3, Vita
Hype-O-Meter : Don't fuck this up, Sanzaru.  Day One

There is a deep and wholesome pleasure provided by a game which allows you to smoothly platform around a rich cartoony world as a sneaky anthropomorphic raccoon burglar.

A day-one purchase based entirely on hope - not to be confused with faith.  Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is the first game in the under-appreciated platformer's history not to be developed by Sucker Punch.  (Following the success and overall excellence of inFamous 2, Sucker Punch was purchased by Sony - they're now working on projects unknown.)

No, Thieves in Time is being put together by Sanzaru games - who've never really made anything of substance. They made a shitty ninja game for the Wii, the half-decent but hardly-thrilling Secret Agent Clank for the PSP, and then... the Sly HD collection - which somehow convinced the folks at SCEA they could design and realize a full-release Sly game.

Which seems kinda' crazy.  Particularly after playing the demo last year, which lacked both the comfy platforming feel and vibrant look of Sucker Punch's work on the PS2.  But I hated the demos for Uncharted and DmC too - so here's hoping Sly is another example of bucking the trend.

Protip: If you have a PS3 and a Vita, just buy the PS3 version.  It comes with a free download for the Vita version - the PS3 version is $40, the Vita version alone is $30.  

February 5th - PS3, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

There are concerns that Dead Space 3 may have stepped too far away from the series atmospheric roots - but we had the same concerns about Dead Space 2, and that turned out to be frickin' awesome.  Given that core team member Steve Papoutsis is overseeing DS3 in a producer role, our fears for the frightful series may prove unfounded - and you can bet EA is bringing their full weight to bear on this title, in the same way Rockstar kept a very watchful eye on Max Payne 3 last year.

Dead Space hasn't let us down, yet.  It's always offered a gorgeously-presented, tense, creative and inspired universe to explore - with a strangely keen narrative eye.  I'm giving Visceral Games the benefit of the doubt until they prove me wrong, with this one.

I don't think this team actually made Dante's Inferno anyway.

February 19th
Crysis 3
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : Sorry, I'm a Metal Gear fanboy.

Developer Crytek is still, indeed, making actual games.  Far Cry may be under the (surprisingly accomplished) care of Ubisoft, but the original CryEngine dev continues to plug along on their core series.

I didn't dislike Crysis 2.  It was good.  It was fine.  Quite good, even - but nothing that ever really seized upon my imagination, and nothing that really absorbed.  Worth having in the library, sure, but never requiring a second playthrough.

And so - despite my generally high regard for the developer and the comfortable, creative gameplay they offered up in 2011 - it's a game I'd be curious to try, not one I need to play.

February 19th - PS3, 360 - Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

Folks flipping out over Rising's deviation from the standard Metal Gear Solid formula need to take a deep breath and remember that Metal Gear Ac!d (a card combat game) turned out pretty damn awesome. This is hardly the first time the series has gone off-book.

I never hated Raiden.  While certainly cool in his own bishie way, he was just never as cool as Snake - but c'mon - we all liked that demo of him cutting watermelons.

After The Melons, development on Rising hit several snags at Kojima Production to the point that the game's future was in question until Platinum Games stepped up and said "hey, Kojima - you guys know how to make gorgeous games with intricate stealth mechanics, but you're hardy an action game developer."

And Kojima Productions was all "what of it?" to which Platinum replied,

"We made Bayonetta and Vanquish - hardcore action games are what we do, man!"

And lo, it came to pass that the next Metal Gear game would be made by a third-party developer under the suspicious oversight of the franchise's founders.  Rumor has it Rising's narrative was the subject of many head-butts between the two companies, with everything from concept art to story points hitting a brick wall of Kojima Productions' vision of what a Metal Gear game can - and can't - be.

But the game is now complete, and Platinum have an opportunity to redeem the irredeemably not-too-bad Anarchy Reigns.

'Cause I don't go to Platinum Games for not too bad.  I go to them for the awesomest action this side of Yuen Woo-ping - and if this doesn't deliver it, I'll be gobsmacked.

February 26th
Rayman Legends
Hype-O-Meter : Goddamned exclusivity!

Look, man.  I want to play Rayman Legends - and Bayonetta 2, while we're on the subject - but I'm not spending $300 on a new console that'll be out of date in nine months to play them.

That being said, if you have a Wii U, you really should consider buying Rayman Legends.  2011's Rayman Origins and its incredible 2012 Vita port felt like a re-invigoration of the age-old 2D platformer, with mechanics so sharp you were liable to cut yourself and presentation that was never less than sumptuous.

If you lack the requisite Wii U, however, take heart.  This is Ubisoft, and they're quite fond of retaining the rights to their properties and making cash money off them - I'd bet similar cash that we'll see multiplatform releases of Legends before the end of 2013.

* * *

And that's February.  Five awesome-looking, triple-A, major-developer releases in the span of a mere three weeks.  Luckily for me, I've already got half my preorders for this month paid off.  

It's called fiscal planning.

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