Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Games of November 2013.


Step right up, step right up!  This is it, folks, the month you've been waitin' fah!  Amaze your eyeballs and astound your ear-holes!  Be among the first to see the next generation of delightful digital diversions!  All this can be yahs for the low, low price of about five hundred greenbacks, and that's just for a start!

Now, before we get too deep into the nitty-gritty, let me first suggest that unless you're a personage of compromised sanity when it comes to video games - unless you're a nutcase on par with Mogs, Chamberlain and I - you totally shouldn't buy a PS4 or Xbox One at launch.  It would be a stupid idea.

Lemmie' 'splain. No, there is too much.  Lemmie' sum up.


Console launches are double-edged blades.  Sure, you're the first on your block with the hottest new thing - this is true, and not without its pleasures.  The downside is, any gaming platform's games library doesn't generally become robust enough to take up the lion's share of your gaming time until a year or two after launch.  Both Sony and Microsoft's platforms have an unusually large crop of games coming at launch - larger than any other launch lineup the video gamescape has ever seen, to be honest - but I can pretty much promise you that (multiplayer aside) you'll have cleared all those games by Christmas and will find yourself turning to current-gen distractions until the big names start dropping next year - Titanfall, inFamous: Second Son, DriveClub and so on.

The wise man or woman would wait until each system has at least a half-dozen big, beefy games you wanna' get your hands on.  Sony, for its part, is shoring up that gap with a ton of great-looking indie fare, but it would still be prudent to wait until say, this time next year, before buying an Xbox One or PS4.  That being said...


It's finally here - two platform launches and an explosion of console-launching content!  Doing a quick calculation, November is gonna' cost me $858.80 - actually the first time I've ever picked up a console at launch (while being painfully aware that it'll take at least a year or two for the library to become genuinely robust).  There's a lot to cover and a ton of day-one purchases - this is, far and away, the longest monthly releases post I've ever writ - so let's get crackin'!  First up, the current gen ain't done with me by a long shot.


November 12th
Ratchet & Clank : Into the Nexus - a downloadable slice of planet-hopping platforming with an emphasis on awesome weapons.
PS3
Hype-O-Meter :  Don't let me down again, Insomniac.  Day one

Insomniac haven't been in my good books since Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time.  Since then we've received a few disappointing re-imaginings of R&C mechanics with All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault, the developer went multiplatform with the poorly-received Fuse, and they're currently working on a big multiplayer shooter for Xbox One

Ratchet & Clank : Into the Nexus almost feels like an apology after the last few games from Insomniac, but I'll take it.  There is a very soft spot in my heart for exploring lush, beautiful alien worlds as a gun-toting anthropomorphic space wombat while nodding my head to a catchy space-bop soundtrack - and I want to fall in love with this series again.

Bring it on.


A turn-based tactical RPG.
November 12th - PS3, Xbox 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : Day one

One of 2012's most thrilling, challenging experiences gets a massive expansion with Enemy Within.  While PC players can simply download the expansion, we console peons must purchase an entirely new disc which contains the entirety of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and the new content of Enemy Within. 

Enemy Within, for its part, boasts a ton of new locations to (nervously, chillingly) move your beloved squad through, a new resource to collect and spend, new genetic upgrades for your soldiers (storey-high leaps or chameleon-like camouflage!), you can turn your troopers into half-human mechanical monstrosities and - of course - there are terribly dangerous new enemies to throw down with.

Day one so hard.  My only fear is I may get so absorbed with XCOM that I won't want to switch over to the PS4 when it drops - but, much as I love XCOM (and I do), I'm not entirely sure it'll be a problem.  After all, only three days later...


Sony's next generation console.
November 15th - $399.00 - Hype-O-Meter : Day one.

I'm in Sony's camp, no doubt about it.  After their respective conferences at E3 this year showcasing the new consoles, a Sony exec famously said to a Microsoft exec on the show floor, "you got the games, we got the gamers."

And they did.  They accomplished this by simply giving us what we wanted of the next generation of consoles - the same-old rules of disc ownership, a relatively open system that's terribly inviting to indie developers via a self-publishing model and support for popular indie engine Unity, a decent price and more powerful hardware than the competition. Oh, and it's cheaper.

Early looks at multiplatform parity between the PS4 and Xbox One have leaned in Sony's favor, as its more comfortable memory pipeline and beefier processor seem easier for devs to program for, and offer more breathing room.  For now, the PS4 is the console of choice for multiplatform games - but it's likely things will even out as the generation ages, as it did for the (notoriously hard to program for) PS3.

Above are all good reasons to go for the PS4 over the One - a gamer-focused approach, price, power, indie support - but they're not why I'm picking up Sony's console day one. As well as Sony's done in presenting the PS4 this past year (and they have done quite well), my loyalty is less for Sony than it is the developers they have in their stable - folks like Sucker Punch, Guerrilla Games, Media Molecule, Sony Santa Monica, Ready at Dawn, SCE Studio Japan and of course Naughty Dog.

These are the studios that make games I reliably love to play, and I'll buy whatever platform I can play their next game on.  That's the PS4.  Oh, and PS+ is a sweet deal.

Launch Lineup 
(available at or almost-immediately after launch)

Exclusive : Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, Resogun, Tiny Brains, Contrast, Sound Shapes, Super Motherload, Stick It To The Man!, Flower, Warframe, DC Universe Online. 

Multiplatform : Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Battlefield 4, FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Just Dance 2014, NBA 2K14,  Injustice: Gods Among Us - Ultimate Edition, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, Skylanders Swap Force, NBA Live 14, Need for Speed Rivals and Angry Birds Star Wars (for forty bucks!?).


November 15th
Call of Duty: Ghosts, a humble indie FPS hoping to make it with the big dogs.
PS4, PS3, One, 360, Wii U, PC
Hype-O-Meter : Meh.

I still can't bring myself to care about the Call of Duty franchise.  I tried, years ago - I've nothing against military shooters as a concept, but the fun factor is often lacking, and what I tried of Modern Warfare just never really resonated with me - so I've avoided the franchise ever since.

That being said, it's still Call of Duty and it'll sell a gazillion copies without my support (or that of any reviewer), so no big loss.


An open-world seafaring action platformer.
November 15th - PS4, PS3, One, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : maybe this one will be good?  
Day one on PS4. 

Black Flag dropped last month for current-gen consoles, but I'll happily wait for the next gen to check it out.

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.


The military-themed FPS that isn't Call of Duty.  It's awesome.
November 15th - PS4, PS3, One, 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.


A gorgeous sci-fi FPS.
November 15th - PS4 - Hype-O-Meter : Day one.

I don't require an entire hand to count all the first-person shooter franchises I really, consistently enjoy - DOOM, Killzone and - my complaints about Infinity aside - BioShock.  Heck, even the handheld Killzone on Vita is pretty damned awesome.

I was one of the few who was genuinely impressed and pleased with the gritty, heavy feel of Killzone back on the PS2, and the franchise has been good to me ever since - effectively riffing on the horrors of war in the ways that only science fiction can, removed enough as it is from reality to begin effectively discussing uneasy moral gray areas that wouldn't be attempted in "realistic" shooters.

I'm picking up Assassin's Creed, Battlefield and Knack on launch day, but I'll admit - if I could only pick one - I'd be going home with Killzone: Shadow Fall.  The story picks up after the doomsday obliteration of an entire planet at the end of Killzone 3, and I can't wait to see where this morally muddy series goes next.


A kid-friendly action-platformer. 
November 15th - PS4 - Hype-O-Meter : They pushed back Watch Dogs?  (Sigh.) 
I guess I'll have to preorder... (sigh) ...Knack.

Knack is the poster child for this most auspicious of months because he is both the hope and the disappointment of the next gen rolled into one.  Yes, things will look better - but when it comes down to it, we'll be playing games very similar to those we've been playing for the past decade - though Knack takes that arrogance to the extreme.  Knack was the first-ever PS4 game shown to the public, and I celebrated it with a post which read - in its entirety - "The first PS4 game announced is... [trailer] ...seriously?"

Throughout the past year, Knack's inclusion in the PS4's launch lineup has often felt like a joke at Sony's expense.  I know for a fact I'd feel far less meh about such a kid-centric game if it had Ratchet & Clank for a title, but Knack, all on its own, does little to really get one's gamer juices running.  It's the R&C comparison that gives me a bloom of hope, however.  There's something that, to this day, remains satisfying and correct about just running around a world, smashing stuff up and growing more powerful - which is almost entirely what Knack is about.

I put about five minutes into Knack at a demo kiosk this week.  It has some beautiful visual effects, and yeah - there remains something very wholesome about walking up to an object, smashing it, and absorbing some sort of goodness from the wreckage.

It'll be worth a shot.


November 15th
Resogun, an explodey side-scrollin' shoot 'em up.
PS4
Hype-O-Meter : Can't beat free!  Day one

Resogun is the latest thing from Housemarque, of Super Stardust fame.  Each platform launch Sony's done since the PS3 has coincided with a Super Stardust game - gorgeous, classic twin-stick shooters from a developer who's been rocking the template since '96.

Housemarque's dipped their toes in other waters here and there - I, personally, was a fan of Dead Nation - but Resogun offers a real departure from the norm for the developer, taking place as it does entirely on a 2D, side-scrolling plane similar to Odin Sphere (fly left or right for a few seconds and you'll circumnavigate the level).  Featuring jazzy explosions of color and tight, twitchy gameplay, Resogun will be an early indie favorite for PS4.


A stylish platforming puzzler.
November 15th - PS4, PS3, PC - Hype-O-Meter : Day one, also free!

Contrast is an indie I've had my eye on ever since it was announced for Vita at E3 2013.  It's not coming to Vita any more - developer Compulsion changed their minds on that one, for some disappointing reason - but it remains a game you'll likely want to have on your radar.

It follows a little girl named Didi as she negotiates the traumatic memories of her parents, finding bravery and comfort in her imaginary friend Dawn - a bold and confident grown woman who dashes through scenes of Didi's past, flashing in to 3D space before popping into a 2D shadow to run across the outstretched arm of the shadow Didi's mother casts on the wall.

I don't know if it'll be any good - Compulsion claims to be populated by "industry veterans," but I don't believe I've ever played a game by them, or even if they've made any prior to Contrast - but I'm certain it will be cool.


November 19th
Stick It To The Man!, a zany adventure game.
PS3, Vita
Hype-O-Meter : Looks sassy.  Day one.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Stick It To The Man! will actually come out this month - this is the release that it's claimed for a while, but it's worth noting we've heard almost nothing about the game since June, and it may have slipped.

When it drops I'll definitely grab it - it features hand-drawn 2D characters, aware that they live in a 2D world, and a set-upon main character who discovers "a pink spaghetti" coming out of his head, which he quickly learns can be used to tear the 2D stickers that make up his world to be placed elsewhere.  Is that jerk giving you a hard time?  Rip off his mouth and replace it with the happy grin of a chihuahua - now he's quite friendly! (If a bit yappy.)


Microsoft's next generation console.
November 22nd - $499.00 - Hype-O-Meter : Back off, Kinect 2.0!

Now... (rolls up sleeves) things are gonna' get a bit personal.

Just thanks to Sony's in-house developers, I was never gonna' buy an Xbox One at launch - but after the past year Microsoft has had trying to sell us the box, I'll admit, I find I almost hate the thing.  Originally announced as a console-style Steam Box for which the player didn't actually own the disc games they purchased (they owned a one-use license to install the game on their home console, and if they gave that disc to a friend, the friend would have to pay market price to XBL to play the game on their box), Xbox One experienced a massive backlash following E3, which gave rise to a complete reversal of almost all of the policies surrounding their next console.

What Microsoft wanted to do with the One wasn't an entirely bad idea, but their execution in selling us on it was severely flawed - not the least of which was disregarding consumer rights in favor of their bottom line.  I, for one, have no interest in trusting one of the first companies to sign up to siphon user data to the NSA with a 3D infrared camera that can monitor the heartbeats of everyone in my living room, even after being assured that your Skype calls on the system are private, even if voice chat is not.

But don't fret, dear, valued, super-important consumer - sure, Kinect will be monitoring your expression, pulse and conversations and sharing that info - but remember, it's all for you, the gamer!  And by you, I mean Microsoft's ability to assist their business partners in showing you ads to bleed every last penny they can out of you.
.
So that's my emotional reaction to Microsoft's bullshit.

Objectively, on paper, Microsoft's next console now looks like this, if you want to look at things simply:

  • Not as powerful as the PS4 (slower processor, memory bottlenecks)
  • More expensive than the PS4 (Kinect 2.0 ain't cheap)
  • Fewer first party developers but Microsoft regularly makes deals with third-party companies for exclusivity. 
  • Xbox Live remains a robust and reliable online gaming portal.
  • Will spy on you.
-Penny Arcade-


It is getting Titanfall next year, which looks totally awesome, and its launch lineup does in fact have a game I'm terribly jealous of - Dead Rising 3 - which is likely a timed exclusive, but still absent on the PS4.

Launch Lineup 
(available at or almost-immediately after launch)

Exclusive : Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, Killer Instinct, Ryse: Son of Rome, Crimson Dragon, Fighter Within, LocoCycle, Zoo Tycoon. 

Multiplatform : Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Battlefield 4, FIFA 14, FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Just Dance 2014, NBA 2K14, Flower, Injustice: Gods Among Us - Ultimate Edition, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, Skylanders Swap Force, NBA Live 14, Need for Speed Rivals, Zumba Fitness: World Party. and Angry Birds Star Wars (for forty bucks!?).


November 22nd
Forza Motorsport 5, a gorgeous racing game.
One
Hype-O-Meter : I'm not really a racing game guy...

...but if I were, I expect I'd be salivating over Forza 5.  These games have long skirted the meticulously simulation-minded dryness of Sony's Gran Turismo in favor of something a bit more playable and dare I say it, fun.  If nothing less - it's absolutely stunning.


An open-world zombie genocide/humiliation simulator.
November 22nd - One - Hype-O-Meter : If I had a One?  Day one.

I loved Dead Rising 2, so Dead Rising 3 is the one Xbox One exclusive that really stings - moreso than Titanfall, even.  As opposed to the closed mall complexes of the first two titles, DR3 sets the player loose in a huge swath of city, complete with vehicles (to customize with zombie-killin' accessories), and - unless the demo footage we saw was a dirty lie - a great deal of freedom in actually exploring every nook and cranny of the open world (going into houses, et cetera).

These games' combat mechanics are never hugely deep or perfectly precise, but the massive variety of the weapons you can get your hands on makes the accessibility of the mechanics feel correct, and necessary.  Dead Rising 3 should definitely be on your must-buy list, if you're getting the One.


November 22nd
Ryse : Son of Rome, a lovely-looking, simple brawler.
One
Hype-O-Meter : I'd wait for reviews.

Ryse looks to be the Xbox One's equivalent of Heavenly Sword.  A gorgeous launch-window brawler with excellent presentation and not-quite-there gameplay.  I've spoken to folks who've gone hands-on with it, and they say the gameplay is actually pretty fun - but preview articles from journalists who've been able to spend a few hours with the title express concern that its simple combat gets stale pretty quickly.

Heavy on the (un-failable) quicktime events, shallow in its depth and absolutely beautiful to the eye, Ryse will be a good tech demo for what the One's capable of - but given the mixed things I've been hearing about its gameplay, I wouldn't begrudge any gamer for waiting for reviews on this one.


A combo-crazy, particle-heavy fighter.
November 22nd - One - Hype-O-Meter : I'd get it, if I had a One. 

Killer Instinct is one of my top-three favorite games from the Super Nintendo, up there with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Mario World.  It is part of my gamer DNA, and I - like the rest of the world - was pretty disappointed with Microsoft that they bought (IP owner) Rare years ago, and did nothing with the legendary property.  So we were all suitably thrilled when they announced its return at E3 this year.

I'm not an authority on fighting games - my expertise on the current gen extends to Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown and nowhere beyond - but even I would drop a few bucks on the return of one of my all-time favorite games.  The character models aren't really mind-blowing, but the particle effects that explode across the arenas as they fight is a sight to behold.  It's worth noting that developer Double Helix (who're also working on the multiplatform Strider reboot) don't have any history whatsoever with fighting games, but if there's one game I'd like to see surprise me with success, it's Killer Instinct.


November 22nd
Need for Speed Rivals, a racing game.
PS4, PS3, One, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : Another racing game from EA.  Okay.

The Need for Speed franchise is about as old as 8-tracks and just as relevant. While I expect it to be pretty good-looking on the next gen consoles and PC, I also expect it to get hosed on the One in favor of Forza, and those who pick it up on PS4 will only do so because they can't wait for (or aren't aware of) Driveclub.


An adorable platforming adventure. 
November 22nd - Vita - Hype-O-Meter : D'awww one.

Tearaway is the first really original thing to come out of Media Molecule since LittleBigPlanet, and beyond its beautiful, charming paper pop-up aesthetic and twangy music, those who've gone hands-on with the title attest that it heaps creativity upon creativity, consistently delighting in its clever twists on familiar gameplay and mechanics.

I'll be neck-deep in next-gen goodness when Tearaway hits the Vita late this month, but I'll day-one it and happily put the heady demands of oh-so-mature PS4 games away for a few hours of childlike wonder.


November 26th
Ys : Memories of Celceta, the latest in a long-standing action-RPG series.
Vita
Hype-O-Meter : I do love these kinds of games...

...but I'll admit, I wasn't exactly blown away by the Ys game I tried on PSP.  That being said, a fun, button-mashy 3D action-RPG with dozens of hours of content is just what the Vita needs.  It's got heaps of pleasant turn-based JRPGs and 2D sidescrolling action-RPGs, but something a bit broader would be a welcome addition to the handheld's library.  I'm definitely keeping my eye on Memories of Celceta.

* * *

...and that's November!  Never in all of gaming has there been such a month.  Novembers are usually the months wallets should most fear, but November 2013 is a totally different, mutant beast.  Two console launches?  That just doesn't happen. 

This should be fun. 

2 comments:

  1. Just scrolling down to the comments link to comment and say that I'm so excited to read this post right now.

    ReplyDelete