Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Games of June 2011.

Compared to the trickle that came before, June is a tidal wave of noteworthy titles. I wonder why? Perhaps it's because it's in such close proximity to E3 - indeed, this month's highest-profile game launches during the expo - and titles may hope to be buoyed by the general video game hype.

Things kick off, however, with a little nut-punch of a game.

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June 6th
Mega Man Legends 3: Prototype Version
Hype-O-Meter: "You've got to be fucking kidding me."

The Mega Man Legends franchise has a small but ravenously loyal following. The games are, essentially, action-RPGs set in a slightly non-canonical Mega Man universe - and the original title is said to be (Mega Man co-designer and legendary producer) Keiji Inafune's favorite game.

Legends 3: Prototype is... sort of a demo. It's also sort of a beta release of Mega Man Legends 3 so the developers can (a) see how much interest there is in the the game, (b) have gamers test out their new mechanics and tell them they suck, instead of - y'know - playtesting their game - and (c) charge said gamers for the privilege.

Dick move, Capcom. Dick move.

June 7th
inFamous 2
Hype-O-Meter: This is my single most anticipated game of the year.

Above, greened and suitably bolded, you will find a bold statement. 2011 boasts Dead Space 2, Uncharted 3, Gears of War 3, Dark Souls, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City and other hugely noteworthy titles - so why would I put inFamous 2 ahead of that exemplary pack?

Gameplay. That's it. Unless Sucker Punch have seriously screwed the pooch on this one - and they haven't let me down yet - I expect inFamous 2 to be the single funnest game of 2011.

I feel no other developer working today has such a masterful handle on three-dimensional platforming. No, not even the folks who brought us the Super Mario Galaxies can really plug in to the pure platformy pleasure Sucker Punch provides. There is a wholesome, tactile, deeply immersive quality to their games. Pitch-perfect controls elegantly and instantly translate intention to action, and you never fumble with their mechanics or execution.

It's also an open-world game. It's also a fantastic third-person shooter with none of the stumbly bits that genre is prone to. It's also got a graphic-novel bent. Fantastic animation. An above-par story - but who gives a shit about all that?

I expect inFamous 2 to be the funnest game of the year, and that's all that matters.

June 14th
Alice: Madness Returns
PS3, 360, PC
: Day One. Medium.

I'll be honest, I already have my preorder down on Alice - but lest you get swept up in my personal wave of hype, I should warn you that by all reports, it will be a merely fair game. It won't play sweetly, it won't satisfy your platforming appetites or puzzle propensities, as its mechanics will feel rather stiff and unwieldly - but it will be gorgeous. And interesting. And emotionally thrilling.

I look forward to it.

June 14th
Duke Nukem Forever
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Day One. Medium-high.

The unshippable game - so long in development it became an industry joke - has recently gone gold, and will actually appear in stores on June 14th.

Thirteen years in the making, DNF was constantly hamstrung by a creative director who wanted to make a perfect game instead of a great one. Whenever a new mechanic or action style was introduced as other new games hit the market, he would go to his team and insist it be included - which essentially required them to constantly re-make sequences over and over and over.

Don't expect Duke Nukem Forever to be a revelation of gameplay and design thanks to its unthinkably long gestation, but welcome it for what it is - a tongue-in-cheek, self-aware, wholly indulgent throwback to the days when first person shooters were played predominantly by near-children who had recently discovered the thrill of masturbation.

Also, it has boobs.

June 14th
Child of Eden
Hype-O-Meter: For me? Meh. For fans of Rez? Day one.

Child of Eden is the spiritual sequel to cult classic psychedelic rhythm shooter Rez, which saw a resurgence of interest with its HD up-port on Xbox Live in 2008. The game can be played with the Kinect or a standard gamepad - and actually tweaks its difficulty depending on your method of choosing (Kinect = easier, gamepad = harder).

Child of Eden is a gorgeous current-gen re-imagining of Rez's mechanics, and is certain to find an instant audience with those who fell in love with Rez - but PS3-centric gamers will have to wait until September to give it a spin.

June 17th
American McGee's Alice
Hype-O-Meter: Oh, it'll be a treat.

The high-def up-port of 2008's American McGee's Alice is actually included with new copies of Alice: Madness Returns as part of EA's Project Ten Dollar. You've got to hand it to EA - they come up with some pretty creative solutions for implementing the plan with single-player titles.

Personally, I couldn't be more pleased with this - despite its gameplay gubbins, I've always wanted to own a copy of Alice - but it works out well in my case, as I tend to buy games new and sealed. For folks who won't want to take a sixty-dollar plunge on Madness Returns, the original Alice will be there to tempt them on XBL and PSN for ten dollars worth of virtual cash.

June 19th
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Hype-O-Meter: "All of them. Over and over."

Ocarina of Time remains one of the top-ten most critically acclaimed games of all time, and the flag bearer of Zelda quality. Personally, I'm partial to Link to the Past - but it's no wonder the title has had (sometimes multiple) ports on every Nintendo console since its launch. Folks love this game - and it's probably the single most-anticipated title for Nintendo's new handheld.

At the same time, I can't help but be cynical about it. There's something pathetic - something distasteful - about the most important game on a new platform being thirteen years old. The 3DS's launch lineup should have included something new - something thrilling, something inspired, something surprising - but Ocarina 3D is merely the latest in a growing list of good-old-game ports.

That said, improved ports of classic, beloved titles certainly have a place in my library - and if you own a 3DS, this one likely has a place in yours.

June 21st
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Low as a snake's belt buckle.

This game was supposed to come out last month - so I'm just going to copy-paste what I wrote then:
"I have friends who are hyped for this game, but I still just don't get it. These have always sort of seemed like... well... shitty games to me - but maybe I'm a nutcase and F.E.A.R. titles have always been landmarks of quality entertainment, packed tight with thrills, chills and spilled blood. Either way, it's dropping this month and I predict a Metascore in the 70-85 range."

June 21st
Shadows of the Damned
PS3, 360
Hype-O-Meter: Medium - and rising.

Two weeks ago, I was more than a little worried about how much consumer-friendly influence publisher Electronic Arts had wielded on Shadows of the Damned - a title which represents the teaming-up of legendary game stylemeister Suda 51 (Killer 7, No More Heroes) and legendary action game director Shinji Mikami (Okami, Resident Evil 4, Vanquish).

Today, I am much less worried. More than that, my interest in the title has skyrocketed thanks to this preview article, which lays it out so simply I'm a bit ashamed I didn't think of it before: Suda 51 has always been long on ridiculousness and style, and short on gameplay. Mikami has always created exceptional gameplay, but is less interested in the context.

Together, they form a singularity of video gaming ridicul-awesome that threatens to tear the universe asunder. Color my interest piqued - and piqued hard.

June 22nd
It's Double Fine, so day one.

Trenched is a WWI sci-fi third-person steampunk-mech-piloting shooter which wages you against some crazy onslaught of neon-colored creatures. That's all I can tell you, because I only heard about this game two days ago.

That said, I can't say my (remarkable) ignorance of the title has much of an effect on my interest level. This is the next thing made by Double Fine - and so, it gets a purchase. Double Fine, in the unlikely event you're unaware, is one of the single most creative, funny and entertaining developers in the business - who are tragically unappreciated in a commercial sense. The only game of theirs I'm aware of that I won't be getting is that Sesame Street game - because I don't have or want Kinect.

June 29th
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
Hype-O-Meter: Low.

Not just a port of an old game - Mercenaries 3D is a port of a part of a game - and not even the best part.

There's no denying it's the single best-looking game coming to the 3DS, however. How they'll match those awesome screenshots on Nintendo's new handheld is beyond me, but the platform could use a solid action title - whether or not Mercenaries is that title remains to be seen.

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There you have it. We shan't see a flood of games like this until the Fall tsunami of releases heats up. "June 2011: like September, October or November - except it's June."

I've trademarked that tag line, but you can use it.


  1. Finally! Another 3DS game that is not crap and hitting the shelves soon. I haven't played Zelda before so I'm hoping it's some-what exciting.

    Btw, I like reading your games of months posts :)