Hope you're still playing catch-up from last year, as the initial weeks of 2012 are incredibly light, with only a pair of anticipated downloadable offerings really holding down the fort. Luckily, the last day of January delivers a couple huge franchise entries and a promising new IP, but it's pretty slim pickings until then. Still, there are some solid picks to consider before then, so check out the list below and start picking your prey – or save up for February's larger barrage of PlayStation Vita launch titles and other big-name releases.
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network
After dabbling in the world of unlicensed, narrative-based pigskin action, the Blitz brand emerged from the epic fumble of the Midway bankruptcy in the sure hands of exclusive NFL license holder, EA Sports. And just like that, NFL Blitz is back to the amped-up arcade approach of its original forbearers, bringing all 30 NFL teams to life with bulky players, massive hits, and wickedly speedy sprints. The new NFL Blitz arrives as a downloadable title for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, with the former version pegged for January 4 and the latter sure to launch within the week. As detailed in our hands-on preview, the new NFL Blitz sure looks like the classics, but arrives with some notable changes – hit the link to find out more.
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC
The initial prospect of a Batman-themed first-person shooter generated a large array of epic eye-rolls from gamers – and rightly so, considering the hero's history. But playing has often been believing for many skeptics, which have been turned into believers by Gotham City Impostors' unique take on online deathmatch battles, featuring over-the-top weapons and items used by wannabe versions of Bats and The Joker. With an art style that's more Team Fortress 2 than Arkham City, plus the guiding hand of F.E.A.R. developer Monolith, Gotham City Impostors looks to be an entertaining aside to the typical "Why so serious?" nature of the franchise. Check out our recent preview for more on these ludicrous copycats and their inventive arsenals.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
If you didn't get enough of virtual 3DS canines in Nintendogs + Cats – and don't forget Ubisoft's Puppies 3D – then perhaps My Pet Puppy 3D can sate your urges come next week. Published by 505 Games, this $20 entry promises eight different breeds to choose from, along with rhythmic minigames, pet accessories, and training exercises and challenges at puppy kindergarten. Beyond that, we don't have much keen insight to offer on a budget release that looks nearly identical to Nintendo's flagship puppy-raising sim, which itself can be found in that same price range nowadays.
Platform: PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS
First released for Wii in 2008, Order Up! is making its way to both PlayStation 3 and Nintendo 3DS for $30 a pop later this month, bringing a culinary experience that blends elements from the likes of Cooking Mama and Diner Dash. As in the former, you'll prepare dishes via a handful of simple activities, using either the PlayStation Move or 3DS stylus to chop up veggies and the like, while the influence of the latter is felt in the way you must also manage customers wants and needs. We found the Wii version fairly satisfying back when, but we'll see if the recipe still holds up when it hits fresh platforms in a couple weeks.
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
EU: January 27
It's poised to be a big year for the Silent Hill franchise, what with the impending multiplatform release of Silent Hill: Downpour and the mysterious Silent Hill: Book of Memories for PlayStation Vita. The horror party starts later this month with the Silent Hill HD Collection, however, which brings together remastered versions of Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 with optional new voice acting alongside the expected high-resolution visuals. Both well-regarded scarefests can be had in this retail package for $40, with both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions due out on the same date.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
The Nintendo 3DS version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 is already out in Europe, less than nine months after the 3DS version of PES 2011, but we'll be waiting a few weeks for the stateside release. Luckily, despite the quick turnaround between versions, it sounds like the 2012 entry is worth a look for handheld footie fans, as it includes online play (which the 3DS version of FIFA 12 lacks), as well as Become a Legend and World Play modes not present in the previous release. After the less robust launch-timed version, portable PES fans should be pretty pleased about what seems to be a much larger affair this time around.
EU: January 27
In this age of extensive downloadable content, it seems downright confusing to see a release listing for a disc containing nothing more than virtual furniture for a PC game that shipped back in 2009. But The Sims 3 continues to do its own thing with the Master Suite Stuff pack, which bundles a load of in-game bedroom and bathroom objects into a $20 retail package. And with a promise of "intimate apparel" on the cover, things are bound to get a little freaky – as if it wasn't already a bit odd to drop a Jackson on a slightly fancier virtual bed, fireplace, or bathtub.
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: February 3
Soulcalibur V continues the beloved weapons-based fighting franchise with a new entry set 17 years following the previous one, in which both familiar characters and newcomers (including some descendants of existing heroes) battle it out for the titular sword. Ezio Auditore from the last three Assassin's Creed entries makes a surprise appearance as a playable fighter on both platforms, and wields many of his familiar weapons alongside an array of acrobatic moves. It's one of the additions we're most excited about, and if you're super stoked for the game, a Collector's Edition is also available with an art book, soundtrack, and exclusive character creator DLC.
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
EU: February 3
Speaking of huge last-day January releases – the North American version of Final Fantasy XIII-2 is also due out at the end of the month, and while we loved its predecessor, some folks took issue with its strongly linear first half. Luckily, as evidenced by our extensive hands-on of XIII-2's initial hours, the follow-up lets you forge a unique path through the world and explore locations at multiple time points, which will hopefully appease fans of less-structured RPG experiences. Amusingly, XIII-2 also includes a nod to Ezio from Assassin's Creed via a costume for new lead Noel Kreiss. What's more, Final Fantasy XIII-2 earned perfect scores from Famitsu and another publication in Japan, and it feels like the hype is building with each new bit of info that surfaces.
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
Unlike the day's two other massive releases, NeverDead doesn't include any crossover content from Assassin's Creed (that we know of). What it does have, however, is the one-of-a-kind ability to dismember the immortal demon-hunting hero and use his limbs as explosive fodder, or roll his head around to solve puzzles before the rest of his body bursts back into existence (scope out our recent video preview for more). No doubt, Konami's new action IP looks to infuse some fresh ideas into the third-person shooter/melee experience; plus the grotesque beasts, witty repartee, and original theme song from Megadeth should add a little punch to the adventure, along with online four-player co-op challenges.
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