Videogame Releases: Week of March 3rd, 2013

Videogame Releases: Week of March 3rd, 2013

Where last week was bereft of notable videogames, this week sees two major franchises come roaring back, another featured in its greatest glory, and one more that continues its sordid campaign to irk series’ fans.

Tomb Raider (360, PS3, PC)

Lara Croft gets her long-anticipated reboot this week in the simply-titled ‘Tomb Raider‘. The franchise has attempted to modernize a few times previously with middling-to-disastrous results. When coupled with those lame movies, this would seem to indicate that the character doesn’t deserve the incredible amount of effort that Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have put into the game. However, not only has the entirety of the franchise been rebooted, the new game seems to be garnering enough praise to stand tall next a series of similar ilk, ‘Uncharted’.

Not only has the serious take on ‘Tomb Raider’ succeeded to the point that its level of presentation buoys all other AAA games, it also seems to have emerged from its earlier controversies, a challenge often faced by Square Enix and other global game publishers in the U.S. That said, the game’s gruesome level of violence, both to the title character and to the endless string of bad guys, is not for everyone. (And yes, ‘Hunger Games’ fans will be enthused about a nimble bow woman.)

SimCity (PC)

The birth child of Will Wright, ‘SimCity‘ is a cultural phenomenon that has spanned not only sequels, but entire new approaches to city planning. The concept of the game, where a combination of administrative powers and real-time city manipulation allows the player to either grow an ideal metropolis or purposely terrorize the city’s inhabitants with disasters and disastrous initiatives, represents some of the best and the worst in gaming. Balancing resources and manipulating the game through a logical set of cause-and-effect circumstances is possibly strongest corollary between a videogame and real life. Yet, as the successive spin-off ‘Sims’ took off, and social games like Zynga’s ‘CityVille’ rose in prominence with their endlessly time-intensive progress-quests, ‘SimCity’ faded, no longer able to hold the attention span of players.

Thus EA, with a refocused Maxis, attempts to re-engage players using the modern PC platform with an always-on online multiplayer component that draws together neighboring cities as never successfully attempted in prior games. Has that magic been recaptured? I can’t yet say, but at the very least, ‘SimCity’ has returned to the conversation of serious PC games.

MLB 13: The Show (PS3, Vita)

MLB 13: The Show‘ is the big enchilada as far as ‘MLB’ games go. Last year’s commercial where the Cubs finally won the World Series illustrates one the most attractive reasons for playing games like these. (More on that later.) This year’s version adds several interesting features, some of which seem like no-brainer additions.

Beginner Mode allows new players to gradually learn the fundamentals of hitting and pitching – that is, playing the game – and likewise allows more causal gamers to play without having to know the nuances that veteran players use regularly. Every sport sim needs a mode like this, otherwise it can be frustrating to pick up. The key here is that the goal is to reach the normal nuanced control mode, as opposed to just having a dumbed-down version to play.

Franchise Mode has been revamped to encourage players to do well over the course of a season, while player development for minor league prospects (“Road to the Show”) has been completely overhauled. Post-season Mode offers the ability to skip the playoffs, something I can recall from sport sims way back in the ’90s. Cross-platform allows PS3 players to play against Vita players, but understandably only in Home Run Derby mode.

What really held me back from diving into ‘MLB 12: The Show’ was the PS Move controls, which seemed tacked on. Swinging with the PS Move should be a huge boon for the game, but nothing thus far has suggested any effort to improve for this year’s version. If somehow the Move controls have leveled up, I will happily spend hours in ‘The Show’.

MLB 2K13 (360, PS3)

MLB 2K13‘ is the other current baseball game, a distant second to Sony’s ‘The Show’, and the only option for the Xbox 360. 2K, owned by Take-Two interactive, had a disastrous exclusivity deal for third party Major League Baseball games that expired last year, and it seemed like the company would let the ‘MLB 2K’ series die a quiet death. Only recently has a new deal with MLB been announced along with this year’s entries. The bad news is that the uncertainty undoubtedly affected this year’s version, which winds up as a carryover from last year. On the other hand, some would say that all yearly sports sims are carryovers anyway.

As an Astros fan, a game like ‘MLB 2K13′ is the only chance my team has to compete for a pennant.

Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk (PS3)

Unsurprisingly, ‘Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk‘ is a Japanese RPG. In this one, the lead character struggles with her family, both the legacy of her past grandfather and her missing younger sister. Finding the sister through turn-based battles and world exploration is the name of the game. The latest in a long line of ‘Altelier’ titles, the trope-heavy melodrama looks to be quite intense and promises to be a lengthy game, but only hardcore JRPG fans need apply.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC (360, PS3, PC)

It’s been nearly a year since ‘Mass Effect 3‘ was released, and BioWare (a division of EA) finally allows gamers to play with the party members that joined and were fleshed out in ‘Mass Effect 2′. Being honest, that bitter feature is the only pro of this DLC. Otherwise, it seems that some mercs are out to kill Commander Shepard. Big effing deal.

Battling mercenaries on the Citadel has already done been, both in ‘Mass Effect’ and ‘Mass Effect 3′. Giving Shepard a swank place to hang out in the guise of DLC was done in the first game as well. Also, don’t forget that the twice-baked ending for ‘Mass Effect 3′ makes anything like this DLC entirely pointless anyway. Spoiler Alert: The supposed ending of the trilogy, while not so bad as to engulf the internet as it did, nevertheless snuffed out most of the enthusiasm for any additional single-player story.

This DLC, as with other DLC packs for ‘Mass Effect 3′, eludes Wii owners, and there’s no telling if that will ever change.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate (3DS)

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate‘ for the 3DS is the portable sequel to 2010′s ‘Castlevania: Lords of Shadow’, a game with gameplay and design I hated so much that I only mention this sequel for the sake of 3DS owners. In theory, this title, which links ‘Lords of Shadow’ with its upcoming sequel, was developed from the ground up to be a ‘Castlevania’ game, unlike the mishmash of its predecessor. Both the gameplay and art design are 3D, but supposedly exploration has been emphasized over the predecessor’s dreadful ‘God of War’-cloned mechanics.

10 comments

  1. William Henley

    Another Maxis product to kill hours upon hours of my time. “Just 5 more minutes…. What do you mean its been four hours?”

      • HuskerGuy

        Only played about 30-45 minutes last night unfortunatley. Initial impressions were that the game is very good looking and plays well. We’ll see how it shakes out over the next several hours though. Sadly I probably won’t be able to get back to it until Thur. night or Fri :(

  2. I know this is an old post, but I’ve been playing the new Tomb Raider and figured I’d add my thoughts.

    It’s a mixed bag…. Graphically fantastic, the animation is wonderful and the sound is great when it’s not just filled with explosions. Having said that, it lacks any of the mystery or excitement of previous Tomb Raider games. Call it “Sarah’s Big Island Adventure” and you’d draw plenty of comparisons to other games before your thought “Ooh, this bit is a little like a Tomb Raider game.” (The actual Tombs are even relegated to optional very short and easy side missions!!)

    It’s definitely more shoot-em-up than mystery/puzzle-solving adventure. Which unfortunately isn’t a good thing. I enjoy a good shoot-em-up, but that’s not what I want to play a Tomb Raider game for. To be honest, after the admittedly stunning introduction and the scenery of the wrecked ships, I can’t remember a single moment where I found myself feeling an “Ow wow!” visual moment the way the old TRs did. I’m not talking about the quality of the graphics, I’m talking about the settings and imagination behind them. Remember those moments when you discovered a new temple or crypt or something and your eyes lit up with excitement at exploring this new environment? Those moments are gone, in exchange for more blood and gore than a Verhoeven film, but with a lacklustre script and characters. (I know Tomb Raider was never about great story or script, but this one tries to be, and falls a bit flat)

    Lara’s not even a particularly fun, sympathetic or interesting character now. Once she gets past the moment of ‘tragic young woman having to kill someone to defend herself’(which itself is a somewhat disappointing moment) she just becomes lil’ miss Rambo. The game is also plagued by endless controlled cut-scenes (let me just play the game for pity’s sake!!) and those horrible moments where you have to waggle the stick or press a button at the right moment to create the illusion of controlling a pre-determined scene. It’s a bit like Linda and her TV moment in Farenheit 451!!!

    It’s fun enough, but it’s certainly not going to stick in my memory the way the old games did.

    • Oh and commenting on a new release game that you’ve played, that is just crazy! Feel free to do so whenever, I’ll be pinged regardless of the length of time.

  3. Week of March 3rd?! Does that even exist anymore? :p

    I am less attached to the historical gameplay traditions of Tomb Raider, but I get what you mean. There are already so many third person shooters it really would be better if this game were more distinct. Did you play Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light?

  4. I have played about the 1st 10 mins of Guardian of Light (discovered it not long before getting the new TR). It looked good fun and I liked the slightly different style of it. I’ll be getting back into it now I’ve finished the new one. ;-)

    To be honest, my problem with the new TR isn’t so much nostalgia as just missing the general structure and mysterious atmosphere of those earlier games. Puzzles that have you scratching your head, reveals that have you going “Wow! Cool!”, no ‘press x repeatedly’ cut-scenes. I sound like an old git, but the old games simply had good gameplay. And I don’t necessarily mean the controls, which are slick and usable in the new game. It’s the way you play the game…

    I was always a big fan of the Hitman games as well, and recently played Absolution. I enjoyed it, but again, it missed some of the old feel. It turned very much into “The best way through this level is just to patiently shoot everyone” rather than puzzle your way out. And there were virtually no actual ‘assassinations’. He’s a Hitman!! ;-) Not just a vigilante on a killing spree.

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