Sensation and controversy are front and center this week. The humanity of 1912 has lost its way among the clouds, while haunted houses and a doomed franchise fill out the sliver of space left for new videogame releases.
BioShock Infinite (360, PS3, PC)
There are a grand variety of viewpoints in gaming genres and sub-genres, from ‘Sim City’ to ‘Temple Run’ to ‘God of War’ to ‘Critter Crunch’. And yet only the first-person view really delivers when it comes to scale. No matter how often the camera pans back to reveal a colossus in ‘God of War’ or ‘Resident Evil’ or even ‘Metal Gear Solid’, the effect pales when compared to first-person view of games like ‘Half-Life’ and ‘BioShock’, which are in turns scary, marvelous, elaborate and challenging adventures. ‘BioShock’ dropped you in a world with a compelling story, while around the next corner could be a Big Daddy, a collapsing water tunnel or a new plasmid power.
The secret of ‘BioShock Infinite‘ is the game’s desire and ability to amaze visually and philosophically, while at the same time demanding that players embrace the violence of the dystopia without becoming as mad as the other characters. Much of ‘BioShock 2’ failed to resonate with players, and came off as half-hearted. Everything about ‘BioShock Infinite’ has been sensationalized, even its allegedly enormous budget. Inevitably, it may tough for the game to stand up to that level of hype, but such an ambitious project begs to be showcased on the best gaming and home theater hardware that a person can manage. Be prepared to be stunned by Columbia and its brutal inhabitants, but also be ready for some plodding moments as Brooker’s struggle to hunt and help Elizabeth amid the floating city hits the inevitable down spots.
Army of TWO: The Devil’s Cartel (360, PS3)
The first ‘Army of TWO’ was Electronic Arts’ attempt to emulate the success of cover-based shooting games like ‘Gears of War’ by copying the mechanics, using the same engine (Unreal 3) and adding a full injection of bro-plus-bro Mountain Dew action. The second game, ‘Army of TWO: The 40th Day’, was just EA’s way of saying, “Hey, we can make this work with a few tweaks.” It didn’t. I love co-op games, but beyond playing to see which crummy objective was next to argue about with other players on X-Box Live, the game failed to get beyond a feeling of, “Blah, blah, blah… Too many bullets. Help me out, you a-hole. Blah, blah, blah…”
This time, however, everything has changed. EA dropped the Unreal 3 in favor of its own Frostbite 2 engine, which only DICE can make decent games with. EA shuttered developer Visceral Montreal the very second that ‘Army of TWO: The Devil’s Cartel‘ was finished. So yeah, if you enjoyed ’50 Cent: Blood on the Sand’, then by all means play this testament on how to fail the first through third time, every time.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS)
Here we have Nintendo at its best. Not on the Wii U where it’s needed, mind you, but on the 3DS. Nintendo took one its great properties (or part of it at any rate), and oversaw developer Next Level Games year after year for four years until Nintendo finally thought the game was ready. ‘Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon‘ brings the green-capped brother back to one of his few spotlights. ‘Luigi’s Mansion’ for the GameCube was short and sweet, but this version is a more realized title. I dare any 3DS owner to play this game and not develop an affinity for the ghost dog.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 (360, PS3)
I haven’t played a licensed golf game since the 1990s, and I can only guess that ‘Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14‘ is significant due to its ‘Legends of the Majors’ aspect. Presumably, players can attempt to determine in which era was pro golf the least boring. Oddly enough for me, outside of ‘Happy Gilmore’ and various’ Curb Your Enthusiasm’ episodes, golf videogames, especially the motion control style titles, are more interesting than the real thing. Still, Tiger versus Rory is not for me.
Terraria (XBLA, PSN)
‘Terraria’ has been a PC darling for nearly two years, but now the 360 and PS3 are getting in on the action. The two-dimensional gameplay is complimented by an SNES-era graphical style. Beyond the charming visuals are the deep exploration and joy of manipulating the game’s NPCs. Playing ‘Terraria’ is like playing a side-scrolling version of ‘Minecraft’, albeit with a fun NPC system. Digging, crafting, building and defending through day and night are just the start of the randomly generated world. This console port promises new content that supposedly will never make it to the PC due to licensing issues. Still, the PC version is so cheap that it may be hard to justify purchasing the console version.