Monday, May 9, 2016

FEATURE - The Games of May 2016.

Alrighty, let's get this ball rollin'.  May is a smorgasbord of shooters, remasters, indies, dungeon crawlers and brawlers, and at least one of the most important games of the year.  Let's get into it.

May 3rd
Battleborn - a first-person MOBA from Gearbox.
PS4, One, PC
Hype-O-Meter : Myeh.

Gearbox, of Bordelands fame and Duke Nukem Forever/Aliens: Colonial Marines infamy blend their charismatic character shooting with the framework of a MOBA.  Y'know MOBAs, like Defense of the Ancients and League of Legends.

Also blending first-person shooting with the battle arena genre, soon, will be Epic Games' Paragon - but if you don't want to wait 'till this fall or have accepted what is best described as an abusive relationship with Gearbox, you can get in on Battleborn right now!  Alex is into it.

May 3rd
SUPERHOT - an ultrastylish, mechanically original FPS.
PC, One
Hype-O-Meter : Day One, if I had an Xbox,

SUPERHOT began as a game jam game in 2013 with a simple, brilliant premise - the world only moves when you move through it.  So bullets can be flying towards you and you can just stop, and everything hangs in the air - only moving as slow or as quickly as you do.

Combine that with terribly limited ammo, the ability to throw an empty weapon into an enemy's face to take him out, grab the shotgun he drops out of the air in slow motion and slip around a hail of gunfire to line up your next shot?  Oh man.  I could get in on that.  And I will, if it ever lands on PS4.  I wonder if my new PC could run it..?

May 3rd
Neverending Nightmares - a weird sidescrolling psychological horror.
PS4, Vita, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Might check it out on sale.

Neverending Nightmares is kind of a post-traumatic stress disorder / atmospheric depression simulator, in which the hero is caught in a never-ending cycle of nightmares, each ending with the death, grim specter of depression or "commits self-harm."  Then you wake up again in a new nightmare - or maybe the same one again!

With a cool ink line-art style, I'm pleased to have the option of Neverending Nightmare on my Vita, but I don't think I'm gonna' jump on it right out of the gate.

May 3rd
Shadow Complex Remastered - a pretty-damned awesome Metroidvania!
PS4, One, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Temptiiing...

I really liked Shadow Complex back on the 360. Its story was pretty meh, but the actual act of platforming around its world and shooting mans was super fun.  If you haven't checked this one out, you're down for a triple-A 2D Metroidvania and you've already played Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition, I highly recommend it.

May 3rd
Ray Gigant - a triple-A dungeon crawler.
Hype-O-Meter: I wish I loved dungeon crawlers.

...'cause there's so many dungeon crawlers on Vita, and a number of those come from the rather-experienced Experience Inc - who also released Stranger of Sword City not-too-long ago.  Ray Gigant is somewhat unique in that its enemies and heroes are actually animated and aren't just static portraits - unlike, say, every other dungeon-crawler this side of Severed.  You don't get a big cool animation for attacks or damage, but it's definitely a step up for a genre that's remained pretty staunchly old-school in its presentation for the last twenty years.

Reviews have suggested that Ray Gigant, which follows the stories of three playable protagonists, is a rather easy affair, so if you're lookin' for a high production value My First Dungeon Crawler, look no further.

A third-person shooter action/adventure.
Sorry, wait, no.
The third-person shooter action/adventure.
May 10th - PS4 - Hype-O-Meter: Day One.

Not many folks are sure Uncharted really needed a fourth entry after 3 - particularly as Naughty Dog went on to produce the exceptional-in-every-single-way The Last of Us - but reviews are out in the wild for Uncharted 4, and they seem to be so completely and uniformly positive.  If you're unfamiliar with the franchise and studio, here's what you need to know:

This will be the best-looking console game you have ever seen.  Its story presentation, writing, performances and art direction will drop your jaw, repeatedly, throughout its campaign, and it will have some of the funnest, most gorgeous third-person stealthy-shootie-brawlie action you'll ever play.

It'll be awesome.  Barring some surprises, it'll be a frontrunner for game of the year 2016.

May 10th
MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies - a brawler in the Neptunia universe.
Hype-O-Meter: One day, probably.

Senran Kagura has mellowed me considerably on turning up my nose at silly Japanese games, so there is a place in my heart for a zany brawler in which anthropomorphized game console princesses battle a plague of undead.  One day!  Maybe!

Sorry, wait.
The FPS.  Is back.
May 13th - PS4, One, PC - Hype-O-Meter: Day One.

id Software return with their first game since 2011's Rage - and the first without legendary coder John Carmack at the company - a cold reboot of the legendary, seminal shooter that built the company's name, and became the most well-known game in the world this side of Super Mario Bros. 

DOOM 3 got some flack, back in the day, for its monster closets and linear design, but I adored it.  I adored Rage, too.  In fact, I can't think of an id shooter that I've ever failed to love - so I will be terribly surprised if 2016's DOOM is less than some of the funnest gaming I'm gonna' enjoy this year.

A tactical JRPG.
May 17th - PS4 - Hype-O-Meter: Day One.

Valkyria Chronicles is my second-favorite JRPG on the PS3 (first place goes to Resonance of Fate), and one of those games that I have like literally six copies of for some reason.  Whenever I'd see a copy of it for less than forty bucks, I always felt the pressing need to give it a long, hard look - and most of the time, I'd just take it home.  What if I wanted to give it to a friend, one day?

It's terribly unique, as far as tactical RPGs and as far as JRPGs go.  Each of your squaddies has a bunch of passive quirks that can activate based on everything from the other soliders they're fighting alongside to the terrain they're running across on their way to take the next bit of cover.

Beyond that, the way Valkryia Chronicles handles is characters is phenomenal, compared to almost any other JRPG.  The heroes and villains are all completely, deeply fleshed out, and your foes are always less moustache-twirling baddies than well-realized characters with believable stakes.  It's a touching, heartfelt journey through an alt-history sorta'-steampunk WWI, where tanks are driven by a magical ore called ragnite and ancient warrior-goddesses may still walk the earth.

Wonderful stuff.  Day one.

May 24th
Overwatch - a multiplayer shooter.
PS4, One, PC
Hype-O-Meter: If I played Team Fortress 2, I'd be playin' this next.

Between (Gearbox's) Battleborn, (Epic's) Paragon and Overwatch, I have to go with Overwatch as the multiplayer FPS most likely to not crash and burn.  Here's three reasons - but they mostly boil down to "Overwatch is made by Blizzard."

Reason the First:  Blizzard are richer than God, and can advertise the ever-loving crap out of it - which is kind of the first step towards getting folks to buy your game - which is the first step towards having a healthy online community - the bedrock of a good multiplayer FPS.

Reason the Second: Blizzard don't tend to do things in half-measures.  They're going to released a very accomplished game and (if Diablo III is any indication) will spend the next half-decade just refining it, sanding it down, smoothing it out and making it better.

Reason the Third:  Have you seen gameplay of this thing?  It looks super fun, and those who've gone hands-on with it seem to feel that it actually is.

May 24th
Downwell - an arcadey indie Roguelike.
PS4, Vita
Hype-O-Meter: I'm down for this on Vita.  Day One.

Downwell was a breakout indie hit last year - a twitchy-fasty arcadey Roguelike that sees your little pale hero flying down a great well with a pair of gunboots strapped to his tootsies.  You shoot to gain a touch of lift and kill enemies, and of course there are shops to discover, upgrades to find and all sorts of little procedurally-generated bits of goodness.

It was a hit on iPhones and Androids, but it also wasn't the kind of game I wanted to play on a touchscreen - so I have waited.  And waited.  And it'll be five bucks when it lands on Vita.

May 31st
One Piece: Burning Blood - an anime brawler!
PS4, Vita
Hype-O-Meter:  Looks promising.

One-Piece: Burning Blood is a triple-A one-on-one 3D brawler, pulling from that sort-of-magical-pirate manga/anime One Piece.  I'm not into One Piece (weird, right?) - I try to avoid endless anime franchises like Dragonball and Naruto - but I am in the market for a nice high-production-values brawler on my Vita that I don't have to feel very conflicted about.

Looking at gameplay doesn't fill me with confidence - it looks a bit simple, to me - but worth keepin' an eye on!

May 31st
Dead Island: Definitive Collection - the best first-person zombie brawler this side of Dying Light.
PS4, One, PC
Hype-O-Meter: Actually really hyped!

Look, (Dead Island publisher and IP-holding) Deep Silver can kiss my ass and I don't want to give them any of my monies, but (developer, creator) Techland produced something that was revelatory with Dead Island and its sequel Riptide.  Specifically, they pretty much perfected brawling and melee combat in first person, and each game were kind of the funnest game of the year each year they came out.  And they're open-world.  And they're RPGs.  And the entire thing can be played co-op.  Frickin' spectacularrr.  I love these games.

Techland went on to refine and simplify their combat a bit, in combination with some deliciously tactile, immersive first-person open-world platforming in 2015's Dying Light - which is also spectacularrr - but I'll admit I'd really like a definitive version of their first two landmark games.

Prolly gonna' have to get this.

* * *

And that's May!   Uncharted!  DOOM!  Valkyrie Chronicles on your hot new console!  Yayyy!

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