Videogame Releases: Week of November 4th, 2012

Videogame Releases: Week of November 4th, 2012

Xbox 360 owners, it’s ‘Halo’ time once again. As a smattering of other titles also ship this week, I’d toss them all aside if only EA could have gone the full measure for a videogame trilogy that deserves better.

Halo 4 (360)

Still working within the tech of the Xbox 360, the latest installment of the ‘Halo’ franchise represents a daunting task – that is, creating a ‘Halo’ game outside the confines of Bungie, the developer responsible for the creation and continuation of ‘Halo’ over the last ten years. In ‘Halo 4‘, 343 Studios (which was organized by Microsoft in order to make ‘Halo’ games after Bungie’s very public move towards independence) has tried to slay a two-headed dragon. The first head of the dragon involves retaining the specific feel in combat, presentation, story and scale of previous ‘Halo’ games. The second is to wrangle enough freshness out of the franchise to justify its continued existence.

By most accounts, ‘Halo 4’ nails each important element of the ‘Halo’ franchise. Also, by deviating from the series’ more spartan methods of storytelling, the game manages to bring a new level of interest to the story’s lore. At the same time, I’ve been told that ‘Halo 4’ is too imitative of previous titles. Each big set-piece in the single-player campaign just mimicks one of the previous games. Nevertheless, with a solid multiplayer mode that has been brought up to date with “perks” era games, ‘Halo 4’ will quickly saturate Xbox Live (at least until next week).

Mass Effect Trilogy (360, PC)

The ‘Mass Effect’ series is so good and so ripe with the effects of technology and business over the past five-plus years that I could drone on forever without even touching upon various important aspects of the series. Succinctly, I’ll say that if you have access to a 360, PS3 or a decent PC, the ‘Mass Effect Trilogy‘ is a cheap solution towards understanding one of high water marks in the history of videogames, as well as an audio-video must for the HD enthusiast.

The PS3 version, due in December, will mark the first time that the original ‘Mass Effect’ will grace Sony’s console, which is something that I thought would never happen. Unfortunately, EA has stopped way short of making this trilogy a definitive edition by including a baffling patchwork of DLC, thereby forcing the consumer the sift through outdated installs and DLC listings to determine how to proceed. (The process is similar to including an incomplete DVD special feature reprint in a Blu-ray package, rather than on the actual Blu-ray.) The one true new piece of this puzzle is the aforementioned port of the first ‘Mass Effect’ to the PS3, which will also be available as a standalone digital title.

LittleBigPlanet Karting (PS3)

Players who know the ‘LittleBigPlanet’ games are familiar with Sackboy and the cutesy, chaotic and creative world that he inhabits. Normally, it’s a world where players can craft their own levels just like cutting and pasting a child’s art project, then share their crazy levels with everyone else online. Meanwhile, the “kart” style racing genre, descended from the SNES ‘Super Mario Kart’, has long replaced most arcade-like racing games in my eyes. In a “kart” style game, the gameplay is all about screwing over other players. That means pushing them into obstacles, shooting them with items, and going from last to first (or vice-versa) on the last lap. ‘LittleBigPlanet Karting‘ seems like such a perfect match of these two concepts, I almost wonder why it took this long for it to happen. Just remember that the online multiplayer will ultimately dictate the value of this game.

NASCAR The Game: Inside Line (360, PS3, Wii)

As the popularity of NASCAR has waned, so has the popularity of its videogames. Once one of EA Sports’ pillars of dominance, what now remains for a console NASCAR experience is the Activision published ‘NASCAR The Game: Inside Line‘. This is the second NASCAR title from this developer/publisher combo and the only game in town for hardcore NASCAR fans. Personally, I think that the NASCAR challenges included in ‘Gran Turismo 5’ were exemplary and are more my kind of thing.

Harvest Moon: A New Beginning (3DS)

Once upon a time, ‘Harvest Moon’ was a gem of a series from Japan, wherein the lighthearted cultivation of the Earth could bring peace to the troubled heart and restless mind of the player. Fast forward to ‘Harvest Moon: A New Beginning‘, and it seems that the point of the game is to pick which cow to decorate in order to impress the bachelorette. While this week is the official release for North America, the game has been sporadically for sale in various stores over the past month, which means that it might already be in your home or car ready to infect someone that you care about.

Portal 2: In Motion (PS3)

It’s rare that I even mention PlayStation Move in these posts (see ‘LittleBigPlanet Karting’), but ‘Portal 2: In Motion’ may just be worth the effort of calibrating the Move. For years, we’ve heard that ‘Portal 2’ would get exclusive DLC built entirely around the Move, and at last it’s here. With an emphasis on puzzles over combat, ‘Portal 2: In Motion’ brings twenty new test chambers to players, with a combination of new motion-affected portal techniques and some re-imagined ones from the core game.


‘Pid’ is a stylish platformer, which means that it’s almost by definition retro, or at least a throwback. Of significance beyond the zany little story or pleasant 3D art style is the way that the level design changes based on difficulty setting, which introduces more hazards on the harder difficulty, thus necessitating tougher traversal. ‘Pid’ came out last week on PC and XBLA, but releases this week on PSN.


  1. JM

    Halo and Mass Effect are the only reasons I own a 360.

    But I wish Harvest Moon was on the Vita, or the iPad 4.

    My 2006 DS Lite is the last Nintendo system I’ll ever buy.

    Pid looks sponge-worthy.

  2. I just don’t understand how to have a shared culture with people who haven’t seen Seinfeld.

    Anyways, I cannot help but be frustrated that Microsoft has not ported any current-gen ‘Halo’ titles over to windows. This is the first one that really seems like it deserves the draw distance breathing room.

    I have the first Mass Effect on the 360 and on PC, but I still want a PS3 version. They’ve talked about how ‘it’s more than a port’ because of how challenging it was to port it, but really it is still just a port.

    The new Harvest Moon does seem like it would be better suited for a finger-based touch screen rather than the stylus based 3DS. Plus it seems so much like a game that should be pulled out on a cell phone of tablet and played for a few minutes while waiting in line, etc.

  3. JM

    Do you think Microsoft’s 7″ gaming tablet could run 360 ports?

    Maybe with a 10W Haswell chip, and a reveal at CES ’13?

    Mass Effect Trilogy on PS3 I might get too, so I can keep Halo on my 20GB HD.

    I always thought the Dragon Age series would play great on tablets.

    But I wish we could buy a game once, and own it on all platforms.

    • 20 GB hard drive!? That would not cut it for me. Mass Effect 2 alone with its two disc installs and DLC would have crushed a 20 GB hard drive. Of course Mass Effect 2 killed my 360 anyways…

      I’ll say here that I have yet to see a tablet that will allow for the draw calls and physics systems that allow say driving around in GTA 4. (Right now it is a cost and heat problem, so temporary for certain.)

      I refused to play Dragon Age on a console and even on my PC, there were times when the framerate tanked badly.

      Getting Portal 2 on the PS3, which included a copy for Steam was something I wish that they had done more of. But I like choice- I bought all of the Walking Dead on the PSN, and still I want the PC and iOS versions. I have Retro City Rampage on Steam, but would also like a console version.

      Anyways, I have the digital (12GB I think) version of Mass Effect 2 for the PS3 which includes all the DLC except ‘The Arrival,’ and I have Mass Effect 3 for the PS3. Both are great (and will be the versions in the trilogy). ME2 has some (not all) long load times, and the prerendered cutscenes needed a better encode, but all in all a great version.

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