This week is packed with new videogames, and oddly enough the Wii U gets the bulk of the love. With Legos, Gears, DreamWorks, Capcom, Tecmo and the Dixon brothers all on tap, it’s almost like Good versus Licensed Evil.
Lego City: Undercover (Wii U)
All the way back to ‘Lego Star Wars’, family-friendly humor has been an essential component of all the license-derived Lego videogames. With ‘Lego City: Undercover‘, Traveler’s Tales makes a lot of firsts. This is one Lego title that stands alone. It has no other tie-in license to joyfully mimic (though plenty of classic cops and robbers puns abound). It’s completely single-player, which has normally been the games’ weakest area, and it’s only for the Wii U. The Lego games are usually made for as many platforms as possible, but this one is decidedly designed with the GamePad in mind. A prequel game for the 3DS was supposed to be released this week, but has been pushed back a month.
‘Lego City: Undercover’ is an open world, sandbox game, and it’s clear that just about any kind of vehicle (T-Rex included) will be accessible at one point or another. Add that to an original story and you have a Lego game with ‘Grand Theft Auto’ style depth. Likewise, much of the gameplay mimics various other AAA titles such as a ‘Assassin’s Creed’. For me, this all spells “Must Buy.” Everything just seems to hit the right notes. I even like the cheesy soundtrack. For those who count on the Lego games for casual cooperative play, I suggest taking turns or else miss out on what promises to be a great start to a new direction of deeper Lego titles. On the other hand, fear not, because rumors of a co-op style Sherlock Holmes Lego game have been going around.
Gears of War: Judgment (360)
I’m not a fan of the ‘Gears of War’ story. The previous three installments have repeatedly promised to simplify an ever-confounding mess, only to drop each story thread in the search for new ones. (‘Gears 2′ is the worst in this respect.) Not to mention the character designs, which are nearly criminal for their grotesque distortion. But the games have been both epic (pun intended) and groundbreaking in bringing one the all-time greatest game engines to bear with superior production value and moments of superb design.
This brings us to ‘Gears of War: Judgment‘, a game developed not by series father Epic, but by People Can Fly. Nowadays, the revolutionary campaign of first ‘Gears of War’ is old hat, and even the multiplayer achievements of parts 2 and 3 are not held in high regard. Oh how quickly we forget. By all accounts, ‘Judgment’ breathes new life into the series by bringing the story back to basics, prequel style. It should be an excellent a game, even without the all-out technically and logistically brilliant moments that speckle the previous games.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct (360, PS3, Wii U, PC)
Well, well, if it isn’t our old friend, the licensed game. ‘The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct‘ has been, prior to release, a poster child for how a licensed title that could be a series leader is instead handled like a crummy knock-off. Short dev cycle, crummy engine, questionable voice acting and character/story decisions (because people just love the Dixon brothers). Since the game hasn’t been pre-reviewed (an even worse sign for a game than a movie), the best that I can expect is for the game to be functional – as in, a player can beat the game and reach the credits screen without it breaking routinely. Like a really bad movie (such as that ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ remake), you may have a hard time just getting through it, even while looking for humorous short-cuts and deviant production choices.
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (Wii U, 3DS)
The ‘Monster Hunter’ series is ridiculously huge in Japan, but hasn’t caught fire in other parts of the world. I honestly hated ‘Monster Hunter Tri’ on the Wii, with its tiny environments, tiny text and obfuscating menus. I was too busy noticing how much I disliked every detail to derive any fun from it. ‘Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate‘ has the same gameplay on the 3DS as it has on the Wii U. This should be a warning sign. The game is mired in its PSP roots and has just been reskinned for the Wii U, albeit with added monsters and enhanced online play. For me, better textures can’t help this game (although not having micron-sized text on a 50″+ screen would be nice). Those who get into the endless hunting, skinning, cooking and selling of this series will in all likelihood love it.
The Croods: Prehistoric Party! (Wii U, Wii, 3DS, DS)
‘The Croods’, as a movie, might be good, clean family fun. ‘The Croods: Prehistoric Party!‘, on the other hand, is basically the kind of game that gets sold in grocery stores to parents who are too busy to understand why they probably shouldn’t be buying videogames in grocery stores.
Dead or Alive 5 Plus (PS Vita)
Team Ninja roars onto the PS Vita with the latest installment of the breast-jiggly fighter with a ton of content and features. For ‘Dead or Alive 5 Plus‘, front and center is competitive cross-compatibility with the PS3 version. The core game has extra modes, extra costumes (formerly DLC) and even a new touch fighting mode. While I’m not a ‘DOA’ fan and often dismiss the series due to its beach volleyball style offshoots, I won’t begrudge the fighting game’s loyal fan base. ‘DOA 5′ is not the system-seller that ‘DOA 3′ claimed to be, but it’s competitive, and a portable cross-compatible version is a must-buy for fans.