In the wake of the first console launch in six years, gamers can give thanks for some big releases this week, including what I expect to be the game of year.
Some highlights for this week that I’ll mention briefly up front include the PC version of ‘Assassin’s Creed 3′ and the final episode of Telltale’s ‘Walking Dead’ game. Also, let me wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
Hitman: Absolution (360, PS3, PC)
Finally, with the release of ‘Hitman: Absolution‘, the public will witness the glory of the Glacier 2 engine. For far too long (six-plus years since the peerless ‘Hitman: Blood Money’), Agent 47 has been absent from the release schedule, but no longer. With the latest installment, IO Interactive reintroduces ‘Hitman’ to everyone currently playing AAA games, and presents a story more central to the game than in past titles. As Agent 47 skillfully marauds around Chicago, IO has scored with the single player campaign, delivering far beyond what was initially promised.
What’s more, gamers who were understandably concerned that this title may not present the challenge and creative flexibility of past ‘Hitman’ games will be absolutely floored by the new “Contracts” mode. The player-derived challenge mode can only be explained as similar to a combination of a racing game and attempting to win at H-O-R-S-E in basketball. Basically, any character in the game can be made a target for online competitive ranking with a variety of possible special conditions. This new creative competition is likely to be copied by other franchises in the future, but it requires the sort of solid gameplay, AI behavior, physics, etc. that many games just can’t approach. For the uninitiated, a simple game trailer can’t express the particular style that’s unique to this franchise. Each aspect reflects a refined composition that a Guy Ritchie film would love to have.
Even with evidence to the contrary, I think Conan “gets” this game.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3, PS Vita)
I’m an unabashed ‘Smash Bros.’ fan. At the same time, I think that cloning a somewhat unique game is part and parcel for the industry. After three Nintendo games and one Konami game, Sony’s own mascot brawler, ‘PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale‘, should be a boon to PS3 and PS Vita owners.
Unfortunately, even with modest expectations, I found the beta to be a disappointment. Granted, the limited roster, connectivity issues and barren presentation should all be addressed now. However, the combat was still unsatisfying. In contrast to ‘Smash Bros.’, the player’s goal is literally to inflict enough damage to earn a super move, which can be saved to earn up to a Level Three super move, or deployed in order to defeat the other players and score kills. That means that each moment of the match is either about earning a super move or avoiding an opponent’s super move. This one-note focus soured the gameplay, as each stage just felt like a hindrance devoid of the charm that we’ve come to expect. Nevertheless, I feel that the final game could still be redeemed, and that a sequel could nail the quality that the title deserves. After all, I gotta believe.
Persona 4 Golden (PS Vita)
The ‘Persona’ series is one that the Japanese RPG crowd swears by. Four years after ‘Persona 4′ graced the PS2, ‘Persona 4 Golden‘ arrives as an expanded port for the PS Vita. This time around, the students get sucked into the TV world after some of their classmates are inexplicably found dead.
‘Golden’ is an expanded version of an already lengthy game, but it’s a game that devotes considerable effort towards developing its characters and confronting their darker sides. Anyone who enjoys turn-based battles, collecting personas and grinding levels should probably get hold of a Vita and say farewell to the real world for a while.
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! (3DS, DS)
I’m not even going to attempt to explain ‘Adventure Time’ as a show. I can only hope that the logic that makes the cartoon series work (and be funny) is at least partly conveyed by the game, ‘Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!‘. That’s actually possible, since the game was written by Pendleton Ward. Unsurprisingly, the plot revolves around the Ice King’s attempts to land a princess. This time, however, he builds a princess out of garbage that he’s stolen from Finn and Jake. While the story seems strange, developer WayForward Technology has some serious pedigree. Games such as ‘Shantae’ and ‘Contra 4′ don’t come along every day.
Rise of the Guardians: The Video Game (360, PS3, Wii U, Wii, 3DS, DS)
Did I mention that the ‘Adventure Time’ game looks awesome? As in, not like a licensed thing made as quickly and cheaply as possible?
Well, on the other hand, we have ‘Rise of the Guardians: The Video Game‘. At least this one is value priced.