The games of February 2012

Vita launch and other big names means a short month of madness

February 21

Syndicate

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
EU: February 24

Despite years of persistent rumors, it was still surprising to see EA's modern-day interpretation of Syndicate in action. What once began as a beloved tactical affair is now a pulsing first-person shooter, complete with a booming Skrillex-backed teaser trailer. Series vets might be dismayed, but it's hard not to be excited for Starbreeze Studio's vision here, in which futuristic corporations battle it out in a high-tech war for capitalist supremacy, with the main character using neural implants to hack minds and weapons alike to his advantage. It looks thrillingly intense, and a separate four-player co-op mode should appease multiplayer die-hards. Don't miss our recent hands-on video of the co-op mode, complete with commentary from executive producer Jeff Gamon.

Asura's Wrath

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: March 9

Asura's Wrath may be an original title, but based on all of the footage we've seen – and the playable demo released last month – Capcom's action experience looks like the closest approximation to what a Dragon Ball Z game should feel like. We say that with love, as the battles feature an anime-like sense of scale that we don't regularly see in games, along with ludicrous sights – such as a multi-armed hero destroying a world-sized boss in space (from under his gargantuan finger). And Asura's Wrath seems to be in on the idea that it’s an anime homage, thanks to the elaborate mid-battle monologues and faux ad breaks in the middle of a lengthy conflict. It'll be interesting to see if it swings too closely to feeling like a lightly interactive movie, but for now, we're plenty curious.

Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D

Platform: Nintendo 3DS
EU: March 9

Snake Eater is getting a fresh round of playthroughs thanks to the stellar Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on consoles, but the third numbered entry is finally just weeks away from a standalone appearance on Nintendo 3DS. Last time we saw the game, we were a bit underwhelmed by the visuals, which seemed slightly diminished from the original PlayStation 2 release, and we've heard numerous complaints about the cramped control scheme, although the addition of the Circle Pad Pro compatibility may help on that front. We're interested to see if the sheer amazingness of the game shines through on smaller screens in the end. After all, it's hard to think that a game this fantastic could ever really disappoint us.

Touch My Katamari

Platform: PlayStation Vita
EU: February 22

If you feel like the myriad Katamari Damacy titles have offered diminishing returns since the initial PlayStation 2 pair, Touch My Katamari probably won't change your mind. But if the prospect of a new portable iteration of the beloved (and frequently baffling) ball-rolling experience sounds like a winner – and that beautifully perverse title lights your fire – it's hard to believe you'll emerge from this Vita launch title without a smile on your face. We fumbled through the full Japanese import release to find few surprises; the touch controls are an interesting option, though we think most players will just be content to have two analog sticks on the go.

Ridge Racer

Platform: PlayStation Vita
EU: February 22

Ridge Racer and system launches are pretty synonymous, plus we still have shiny memories of the sparkling PSP iteration in our heads – so the base prospect of a new Vita iteration is pretty exciting on the surface. The Vita release looks nearly identical to the others we've seen on PlayStation 3, PSP, and Xbox 360 in recent years, and undoubtedly features many of the same cars and tracks that have populated the series at one time or another. Curiously, this $30 release seems to arrive with much less content than you'd expect from a common Ridge Racer game, with the difference to be made up with paid DLC – a risky tactic for a series that seems content to consistently trade on the familiar time and time again.

Grand Knights History

Platform: PSP
EU: N/A

We haven't seen or heard that much of Grand Knights History in its run-up to release later this month, but this PSP-exclusive RPG is sure to turn heads even in the midst of the Vita launch barrage. Why? It's the latest game from Vanillaware – the studio behind such stunning and wonderful titles as Odin Sphere and Muramasa: The Demon Blade – and it looks just as gorgeous as those hand-drawn treasures. Grand Knights History lets you connect online and send up to 32 warriors to wage war in 30-hour cross-nation conflicts, and they'll continue fighting even as you disconnect, sleep, and play other games. And again: Wow, it's totally gorgeous.

Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen

Platform: PlayStation Vita
EU: February 22

Despite hailing from Namco Bandai, Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen is one of the lesser-known PlayStation Vita launch titles, though it's remarkably similar in parts to a much better-known franchise: Tenchu. Shinobido 2 actually comes from the same developer as several Tenchu titles (as well as the more obscure Way of the Samurai games), and similarly stars a feudal-era ninja who must sneakily dispatch of foes using various stealth-kill tactics. We never received the previous PlayStation 2 and PSP entries in the States, which makes the Vita version's branding a bit odd, but it seems safe for Tenchu fans to add this to their launch picks. For all others, we have an amusingly explanatory trailer available.

Sledge Hammer

Platform: Xbox 360
EU: N/A

Hailing from Maximum Family Games, Sledge Hammer is a combat-centric racing game in which you'll command heavily armed semi-trucks, with the goal being to reach the finish line first while decimating your opponents. It sounds a bit similar to Full Auto, albeit without the convoluted rewind mechanism, though it does feature a supremely campy storyline in which hero Jack Hammer is kidnapped and forced to race – otherwise a bomb implanted inside his head will detonate. Amazing, right? This budget-priced release isn't exactly shooting for the stars, but with luck, it'll be a cheap and silly little diversion.

February 22

Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
EU: February 22

Alan Wake was an odd little beast. For some, the brooding atmosphere and stellar storytelling worked wonders, while others found it too plodding and awkward to stick with. Given the opportunity to shake things up for an Xbox Live Arcade spin-off, Remedy opted to shift its assumed inspiration from Twin Peaks to Pulp Fiction, with a more direct and action-oriented affair that seems approachable and to the point. Hell, it even includes a single-player Arcade Action mode, which does its best Horde impression with waves of aggressive enemies. With luck, American Nightmare will maintain the quirky style and tone of the original while shifting just enough to pull in new fans. Maybe then we'll hear about a proper sequel.

Escape Plan

Platform: PlayStation Vita
EU: February 22

The PlayStation Vita launch is absolutely packed with familiar franchises, ranging from Uncharted to Lumines and Wipeout – but we've been particularly taken aback by one of the lineup's rare originals: Escape Plan. In this monochromatic PlayStation Network platform puzzler, you'll command Lil and Laarg, an odd-couple pair of guys who must use their disparate dimensions to work through various challenges. And despite the black-and-white look and flat title, the game is loaded with personality, and we think it may be the Vita's best original launch option for folks who want to try something new alongside the fresh hardware.

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