Forza Horizon is a fantastic game with an identity crisis. To racing enthusiasts who love the traditional Forza titles, this game may seem far too casual. Likewise, those who prefer arcade racing experiences may be scared off by the Forza title on the box. However, the triumph of Forza Horizon is that it successfully manages to blur the line between simulation and arcade, making for an experience that just about anyone will enjoy. Continue reading
This holiday, the launch of the Wii U will be upon us, hailing the start of a new generation of consoles. Additionally, its expected that Microsoft and Sony will both be making some sort of next generation console announcement, meaning the next Xbox and PlayStation could launch as soon as Holiday 2013. However, before we leave behind our current crop of consoles, I recommend dusting off your controllers, and pick up a great game you might have missed.
Here are a few recommendations, and this is by no means an extensive list.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (PS3, Xbox 360)
In the west, Namco Bandai is known for two things – Pacman, and fighting games. So, when the action/adventurer Enslaved: Odyssey to the West released, it flew under the radar for many players. Ensalved’s best assets are visual – set in a deserted metropolis, buildings over run with vegetation, filled with enemies and characters that charm and bring players in. The game isn’t perfect, suffering from somewhat generic combat, however this grievance doesn’t manage to bring the entire experience down, thanks to the great story telling paired with sharp visuals. Enslaved drew comparisons to Uncharted, though it didn’t have near the amount of advertising and marketing Sony’s hit franchise enjoys. If your looking for a great single player romp that isn’t a sequel, look no further.
Darksiders (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
It’s no secret, I’m a bit of a Darksiders fan, it seems to be exactly what the game industry needs to keep players interested in console gaming. Incase you haven’t heard, Darksiders is one of THQ’s only critically successful franchises, combining exploration and puzzles from the Legend of Zelda, with the brutal action and combat of God of War, and it’s a winning formula. Darksiders never enjoyed explosive sales, and many players have never even heard of the title, yet the game managed to impress enough people to earn a sequel, set to launch August 14th. Darksiders can be found for under $20 just about everywhere – so pick it up, and get yourself ready for what looks to be a great sequel.
Sin and Punishment: Star Successor (Wii)
Its difficult to describe Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, so I’ve decided to include gameplay footage above. As you can see, the game somewhat resembles Nintendo’s Starfox series in terms of gameplay, though it’s far more hectic, and well, punishing. (no pun intended, I swear.) Star Successor is the follow up to the original Sin & Punishment released over a decade ago for the N64, and though the title was praised, it never managed a release outside of Japan. The game was recently featured in Best Buy’s summer of games promotion and sold for only five dollars, which is an absolute steal. If you own a Wii, and like a challenge, you need to try Sin & Punishment. (Bonus: The original N64 title is also available via the Wii’s virtual console)
Alan Wake (Xbox 360, PC)
Does Alan Wake belong on this list? After all, there was a fairly large amount of buzz surrounding the game before it released. So, what happened? Despite solid reviews, and praise from fans, sales didn’t quite meet expectations. However, that doesn’t make Alan Wake any less of a great game. Alan Wake is a game filled with atmosphere, darkness, and suspense. Its a great ride, fueled by a well written story, which is fitting given the protagonist is himself, an author of horror stories.
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
If you haven’t heard the tale of how Xenoblade came to America, you’re in for a treat. You see, a group of fans banded together and demanded that Nintendo bring the excellent action RPG to the states. The movement known as Operation Rainfall, was successful, at least in spirit, as Nintendo eventually decided to bring the titles stateside, and that’s a very good thing. Xenoblade is a JRPG that gets rid of slow turn based combat in favor of an addicting real time system. When you’re not battling, you’ll be exploring some of the most expansive locations the Wii has ever seen. Its a great title for those who are in need of a new title for their Wii while they wait for the Wii U to launch.
There you have it, five excellent titles. If you’ve played them all already, then congratulations, you have blazed the road less traveled.
Thanks to titles like Little Big Planet, and Mod Nation Racers, it seems as if Sony has cornered the market on creative gaming. Thankfully, Trials Evolution is here, giving Xbox owners an incredible community of creative minded players, all building experiences that make Trials Evolution a game with no finish line.
Trials Evolution is the sequel to Red Lynx’s popular XBLA title, Trials HD. The first game in the series set the stage for Evolution, as both titles feature an amazing physics system, and implement a basic control scheme – easy to pick up, impossible to put down. The Trials games are platformers disguised as motor-sports titles. Each level tasks players with navigating a series of treacherous obstacles that grow increasingly difficult as the game goes on. In the case of Trials Evolution, the moment the single player campaign is over, the real fun begins.
Trials Evolution contains a very powerful level editor, on par with games like Little Big Planet. You can tweak just about every aspect of the game, from the camera, to the physics, to the bike, and it makes for some truly awesome community made levels. There are plenty of traditional “Trials” levels, you’ll race through tributes to movies and other games, (there’s a really well done tribute to Portal 2, and I highly recommend it.) However, there are also plenty of levels that have absolutely nothing to do with motorcycles. Players have taken the camera off the rails, and made full 3D games, such as flight simulators and first person shooters.
Interestingly, the horror genre has sort of blossomed in Trials Evolution, players have created fully functional tributes to Amnesia, as well as their own frightening creations.
I’ve played both Little Big Planet and Trials Evolution extensively, and while LBP may seem like the king of creative, I tend to disagree. Both titles have powerful level editors that allow players to create entirely new experiences, both are essentially platforming games, and both have communities filled with dedicated players. Why does Trials have the edge? Its all in the physics. Little Big Planet has always had issues with physics, something about the way Sackboy handles, its far from being broken, its just not perfect. Trials on the other hand feels incredible to control, even poorly designed levels can be fun thanks to the level of feel and control you have over the bike.
Trials Evolution is one of the best experiences on Xbox Live Arcade – but be warned, the soundtrack is not the best, specifically the intro songs, are a bit rough on the ears. This is my only fault with an otherwise perfect title.
When was the last time you bought a game you didn’t plan on purchasing? For me, that game was the original Darksiders. It wasn’t a long awaited sequel, it wasn’t a production 10 years in the making, it was simply a new game. There’s something alluring about all new IP – it’s like a fresh start, a clean slate, a game that carries no “sequel baggage”. However, part of what drew me into Darksiders are the elements it borrows from other titles. When it launched, many claimed the game was The Legend of Zelda meets God of War, and I can thankfully agree. Darksiders brings together tried and true game components, while managing to create a compelling universe of its own.
Its been more than two years since Darksiders launched, and THQ has called the game a success, at least successful enough to warrant a sequel, which is set to launch in August in North America. The game launched at full price, only to gradually reduce as sales failed to materialize. This turned out to be a winning strategy, once the game hit $20.00 USD, players seemed to take notice, and the title has now sold millions of copies. Clearly, Vigil games has a winning formula on their hands.
At its core, Darksiders is an Action/Adventure title that also manages to blend several RPG elements – the end result is a game that is rewarding to play, even if it doesn’t get everything quite perfect. For example, Darksiders features huge dungeons to explore, yet it isn’t always perfectly clear where your next objective is. Additionally, combat is over the top and satisfying, but executing certain attacks requires button memorization, which can lead to frustration. However, these grievances are few and far between, as I played through the vast majority of this title without any issues.
One of the high points of Darksiders is its fantastic art direction. The game takes place in a city that somewhat resembles New York, several hundred years after an apocalyptic event. The buildings have become ruins, the streets over run with demonic life, and whole areas of the city have become wild deserts or forrests. Put simply, the game has a great sense of atmosphere, and more than makes up for the lack of graphical polish. To be fair, Darksiders came out in early 2010, and the textures certainly show their age, but the this doesn’t hurt the overall experience, as I came away impressed with the world that surrounded me.
When Darksiders is at its best, you’ll be exploring fantastic dungeons that will give seasoned Legend of Zelda fans an experience not felt since the N64, at its worst, you’ll find yourself wandering about, wondering where the room with the next key is. Despite its flaws, Darksiders is an easy recommendation, there’s something to be said about all new game that manages to impress enough people to get a sequel from a publisher on the brink of bankruptcy.
The original Darksiders was an unplanned purchase, and I’ve had such a good time with it, ill be there on launch day for the sequel.