Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Games of October 2013.

In one month's time, the sky will rupture and crack open, the next generation will haul itself through the breach in our reality and, like a leviathan of promise, crash into these white shores.  Before that momentous event, however, it's still the current gen - and on the current gen, October has a couple interesting titles and the generation-straddling flagship franchises from Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, which drop at the end of the month before taking up residence on the next-gen consoles.

There's nothin' this month that needs a purchase, unless you're giving the next-gen launch a miss until after the platforms have a more robust library (not an unwise tack), and nothing that I'm really falling over myself to lay hands on.   Still.  Batman.

First up, a smaller title I've never had much faith in.

October 1st
Rain - an atmospheric, arsty adventure.
Hype-O-Meter : Myehhh.

I'm a big fan of SCE Japan - a single name for a number of development studios under Sony's banner in Japan who, collectively, have given us cool, weird shit like Siren: Blood Curse, Tokyo Jungle, Gravity Rush and Patapon - but despite its somewhat original hook, Rain doesn't strike me as particularly interesting.

You play as a young boy who sees the silhouette of a girl in the rain.  When you chase after her, you discover you too have become invisible, and can be seen only by the silhouette you form when standing under the downpour.  Under overhangs you can only detect your wet footprints - and off you go, solving puzzles and escaping similarly silhouetted monsters in search of the little girl.

It's like someone over there said "let's try to make something like ICO again, 'cause The Last Guardian really may never come out."

I expect it'll get very positive reviews, but I'm trusting review scores less and less, lately.

October 8th
Game of the Year Editions for

Borderlands 2, a pretty-darned-good lootfest FPS RPG and

Dishonored, a frickin' awesome first-person stealth title in the vein of Thief.

Both games have seen their share of campaign-enhancing DLC over the past year, with cool new areas to explore and villains to fight in each.  The Game of the Year Editions collect all these (rather appetizing) extras along with the core games into single packages, and - I'll be honest - I'm pretty tempted by the Dishonored one.

Dishonored's frickin' awesome.

An interactive drama/adventure.
September 8th - PS3 - Hype-O-Meter : Day One, with some caveats. 

Beyond: Two Souls is an interactive drama/adventure game that sees the player guiding a girl named Jodie Holmes from ages 8 to 23, as she contends with the unique gift she's been saddled with - a sentient, invisible entity named Aiden is mysteriously tethered to her soul, and can never leave her side.

Like L.A. Noire, I found Quantic Dream's last interactive drama, Heavy Rain, easier to appreciate than enjoy. Writer/director David Cage fancies himself a bold agent provocateur, but more often than not his work comes across as tediously over-written and amateurish, despite the phenomenal visual presentation values that Heavy Rain had.

I, honestly, don't have any higher hopes for Beyond: Two Souls, but that doesn't exclude it from my Want list.  It may very well be cheesy, over-written and poorly-directed (and PR footage to this point suggests that it is), but it's also the only game in town beyond Telltale's The Walking Dead that focuses itself entirely on narrative.

The modern adventure game is the rarest of breeds, and a triple-A, gorgeous adventure game starring Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe is way cooler than that gorgeous, triple-A adventure game we didn't have since the last thing Quantic Dream dropped.

Plus, you never know.  I could end up pleasantly surprised.

October 15th
Valhalla Knights 3, a JRPG.
Hype-O-Meter : I was kinda' hyped, 'till I saw this stupid shit.

When we're talking about JRPGs on the Vita, the conversation goes Persona, Disgaea, Atelier - and that's about it (outside of Japan, at least).  Valhalla Knights, with its unusual 7-on-7 real-time combat system and seriously pared back story, has never really penetrated in the West - Valhalla Knights 2's Metascore is a flat 50 - and I'd be surprised if 3 manages to do much better.

Still, if you're dyin' for an RPG on the Vita, here's one.

An open world brawler/stealth/action game.
October 25th - PS3, 360, PC, Wii U - Hype-O-Meter : I want to love you, Batman.  Day One.

Rocksteady Studios have, since 2009, been the only studio on the planet to have made a seriously great Batman game, with Batman: Arkham Asylum setting the bar and Batman: Arkham City shattering it in 2011.

Batman: Arkham Origins is, one should note, not made by Rocksteady.  It's being made by Warner Bros. Games MontrĂ©al, a studio that suddenly appeared in 2010 (the year Warner Bros. bought Rocksteady) which ported Batman: Arkham City to the Wii U with the Armored Edition.

This is important information.  The folks who made the only two truly great Batman games are not making this Batman game - kinda' like how Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time was made by the folks who ported Sly 1, 2 and 3 to the PS3.  Also worth noting is that the enthusiast press has been rather standoffish when it comes to Origins.  Preview articles are, as a general rule, notoriously fluffy fare - rarely having anything bad to say about a given game - but journalists have been careful not to get too deep into Arkham Origins' corner.

The whole thing smells fishy, if you ask me - but Arkham Origins remains an open-world Batman game in, at least, the vein of Arkham Asylum and City - and that's worth rolling the dice on.

October 25th
Batman : Arkham Origins Blackgate, a 2.5D-take on the Arkham formula.
Vita, 3DS
Hype-O-Meter : Could be awesome.  No promises.

Arkham Origins Blackgate, a humble portable counterpart to Arkham Origins is - like Arkham Origins - made by a studio that didn't exist until it ported another game (Armature Studio ported the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection to Vita).

Blackgate looks promising, but not-quite-there.  I haven't heard anything good about the locomotion mechanics (most people say it feels "too slow," but on the bright side it seems they've retained the unique Arkham combat mechanics, and Blackgate has set itself up as a classic 2D homage to the formula of Arkham's roots - a Metroidvania.

It could be awesome.  Fingers crossed!

An open-world seafaring action platformer.
October 29th - PS3, 360 - Hype-O-Meter : maybe this one will be good?

I'm buying it, of course - but not on the current gen.  I'll wait for the PS4 version in November, and will hope to be terribly impressed by all the next-gen-ness.

The Assassin's Creed games have been cranking the ambition and lowering the quality for their last two iterations, with Assassin's Creed III being nowhere near as long on fun as it was on budget (or hype), and its predecessor Assassin's Creed Revelations feeling decidedly phoned-in.

At the same time, though, Assassin's Creed III had those incredible naval combat sequences - and IV looks to have built itself from the ground up around the delirious fun of that concept as you cruise around the Caribbean as a badass assassin pirate.  Also, it's worth noting that if we all just gave up on Assassin's Creed after a shitty game came out, no one would have played the fantastic II or Brotherhood.

It'll be worth a shot, on this gen or the next.

The military-themed FPS that isn't Call of Duty.  It's awesome.
October 29th - PS3, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : Day One (on PS4)

As far as I'm concerned, the next gen actually began back in 2011 when Battlefield 3 dropped on PC.  It was just a phenomenally good-looking game (and still is), and with Battlefield 4 on the PS4, I'll finally get to sample that ridiculously attractive shooting for myself.

I actively dislike military-themed FPSs, for the record.  I tried Modern Warfare 2 and hated it - don't own a single Call of Duty title - but I really enjoyed what I tried of Bad Company, and so I've been buying the Battlefield games ever since.

...haven't actually played any, but that's beside the point.  At the very least, I can attest to Battlefield 3's multiplayer having remarkably long legs, as my older brother is still playing it.

Finally... Luftrausers may finally come out this month.

October?  Maybe?  Its original release date was August - we have no idea.
Luftrausersa high-flyin' retro flight shooter.
PS3, Vita, PC, Mac, Linux
Hype-O-Meter : yet more indie deliciousness on the go.

Not to be confused with a shoot 'em up or bullet hell game (though you do shoot them up, and there is a helluva lot of bullets flying around), Luftrausers is the latest thing from Vlambeer, an indie darling studio responsible for Super Crate Box and the Apple Design Award-winning Ridiculous Fishing.

Your little custom-built plane (which has three interchangeable parts and a ton of possible combinations) swoops and loops around the game's 2D plane, taking out enemy fighters and laying waste to their ships.  Looks like a nice, twitchy little actioner.

* * *

...and that's October!  A pretty thick month for folks not jumping right into the next gen - and either way, I'm super curious about Batman and will be quite happy to sit down with something very, very different when Beyond drops.

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