Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Games of February 2014.

After a two month hiatus (nothin' really happens in December and January), we have a great month of releases to look forward to in February.  It's a good thing I settled down to write this, or I seriously would have forgotten to make sure I had Lords of Shadow 2 preordered.

That's totally happening.  First up, one of my most-anticipated Vita games.

February 4th
Dustforce - a lovely, hard-core 2D platformer.
Vita, PC
Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

2D platformers (Guacamelee, Spelunky... Olli Olli, if you're prepared to consider it such) work really well on the Vita, and I've been drooling over Dustforce since the first time I saw its lovely, stylishly-animated slides, leaps and attacks in action.

This is probably tied with Thief for my highest-hype game of the month.

February 11th
Far Cry Compilation - a collection of Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (awesome, open-world first-person shooters).
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : Perhaps.  One day.

Perhaps.  When it becomes clear that this fantastic collection will never come to PS4 (I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for a 1080p, 60fps Far Cry 3), I may well shell out twenty bucks to have Blood Dragon on a physical disc.  'Till then?  No.

If you don't own these three games (Far Cry 2 is good, 3 is fantastic), forty bucks for all three is a steal.

February 11th
Lightning Returns : Final Fantasy XIII - the final chapter in the beleaguered FFXIII trilogy.
PS3, 360
Hype-O-Meter : Day One.  Cautiously.

I keep trying.  Lord help me, I keep trying to enjoy a Final Fantasy game and it keeps not happening.  Even VII.  I don't like Final Fantasy VII.  There, I said it.  The only Final Fantasy I've put more than forty hours into was XI Online - I quit XIII after about thirty, and though I own XIII-2, I've never played it.

But with Lightning Returns, Square has obtained my interest.  The demo last week solidified the preorder I'd placed months ago - the game's fast-paced combat system seems wide-open from the get-go, and even within the demo you can see the potential for so much depth and customization that I'm entirely willing to forgive the kinda' ugly environments.

February 11th
Danganronpa : Trigger Happy Havoc - a murder mystery!
Hype-O-Meter : Not my cup of tea, I'm afraid.

Mogs will pick up Danganronpa and tell us all about it.  It's described by those in the know as 999 + Phoenix Wright - a bunch of high school kids start killing each other off, and after each death there's a classroom court in which you determine who did the murdering.  If you accuse the right person, they die and everyone else lives.  If you fuck it up, they live and everyone else dies - game over.

It looks suitably crazy, but I'll be quite comfortable with Lightning Returns, thank you.

February 11th
TxK - a psychedelic shooter.
Hype-O-Meter : I'll wait for reviews.

TxK is the next thing from Jeff Minter and Llamasoft, who made Space Giraffe.  Don't run away yet - Minter has said that he wants TxK to be a traditional, straightforward and accessible game - a spiritual sequel to classic vector shooter Tempest 2000.

February 11th
Toukiden : The Age of Demons - a boss-hunter game.
Hype-O-Meter : I can't crave this.

I'm Canadian, but I've never eaten poutine.  When people learn this they look at me like I've just revealed my dermis to be the camouflaging carapace of some hideous insect hidden within - "how can you have never eaten poutine?!" they ask.

"Well, do you ever get like a poutine craving?  Like you need to have a plate of poutine?"


"I can crave burgers and pizza - I can crave a lot of shit that's bad for me - but I can never crave poutine.  And I'm good with that."

So it is, with Toukiden.  It can ably be described as a game like Monster Hunter or Gods Eater.  If you like those, chances are you'll like this one, too.  As I've never tasted those particular dishes, I have no appetite for Toukiden.

February 14th
The Last of Us : Left Behind (DLC) - a story-driven prequel to The Last of Us, a stealth/action/amazing tearjerker.
Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

In my review of The Last of Us, I suggested that its writing is so astonishingly accomplished that we are unlikely ever witness a narrative of its caliber in gaming again. A look at the DLC's opening suggests that may be true, but it'll still be a phenomenally good-looking slice of gaming, and if it even approaches what Naughty Dog managed last June, it'll be worth whatever they're charging for it.

February 21st
Donkey Kong Country : Tropical Freeze - a classicy platformer.
Wii U
Hype-O-Meter :  Is there waggle?

For years, I had kept and fanned a tiny flame of love for Nintendo, and hoped one day they would start making games I could love as much as I did when I was a kid.

Of my (relatively sparse) library of Wii games, only Muramasa really moved me.  All the first-party stuff -Super Mario Galaxy, Skyward Sword, Kirby's Epic Yarn - none of them could touch me the way the old games did.  When Donkey Kong Country Returns came around, I hoped it would be the return of one of my all-time favorites from the 16-bit era, so I bought it.  And they made you waggle to roll.

Returns was, I think, the game that finally broke my Nintendo heart.  They probably can't force waggle on us with the Wii U's gamepad, but I'm past it, now.

I still love you, Nintendo.  In a way, I think I always will.  But I can't let you hurt me any more.

You understand, don't you?

February 25th
Castlevania : Lords of Shadow 2 - a gothic brawler/Metroidvania!  Yay!
PS3, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2010.  Sure, it was pretty much a God of War clone (which was, itself, more than a bit of a Devil May Cry clone), but it managed it with far more grace and accomplishment than any other pretenders to the throne (see: Conan, Dante's Inferno).  Its story was decent, but its art direction and music were off the charts, offering an incredible gothic fantasy world.

It was a sleeper hit, and Lords of Shadow 2 - which sounds far more ambitious and actually returns to the franchise's semi-open world gameplay that gave us the word "Metroidvania" - is definitely a game to keep your eye on.


February 25th
Thief - a first-person stealth exercise.
PS4, PS3, One, 360, PC
Hype-O-Meter : Day One

Let's be fair.  Thief will probably be a disappointment to fans of the series.

A PC-only title in 1998, Thief: The Dark Project from Looking Glass Studios was a seminal title, significantly influencing stealth design and first-person games in general for years.  You can see its sneaky footprint in everything from Half-Life 2 to, more obviously, 2012's wonderful Dishonored, which was a blatant spiritual sequel to this legendary franchise, even as it emphasized violence over silence.  Remember the platforming, leaning and wall-climbing in Dishonored?  Yeah.  Thank Thief for that.

It is perhaps troubling, then, that Eidos Montreal's Thief appears to be far more Dishonored than, well, Thief.  Gameplay slices we've seen thus far indicate mostly-linear, semi-open levels akin to Dishonored, not the wide-open, sprawling invitations of exploration of Thief and Thief II: The Metal Age.

It also offers the player many more combat options (slow down time to land a bunch of headshots... ugh), and a recent dev walkthrough ended in a scripted sequence which sees the player fleeing in an Assassin's Creed-esque escape, under a hail of arrows.

Color me suspicious - but also color me a sixteen-year fan of the Thief franchise - and given that I wasn't able to play the third game (from developer Ion Storm), I'm absolutely willing to take the risk.  It's worth noting press preview articles have been pretty standoffish about Thief.  If I were you, I'd wait for reviews.  Because I'm me, I'll have to buy it on hope alone.

* * *

And that's February!  2014's pretty sexy so far, and I can't wait to see what the big dogs have up their sleeves for reveals this year.  Word is the next footage we see of The Order: 1886 is gonna' blow our minds.

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