Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
Platform: 360, PS3
EU: October 14
This marks the first time the Ace Combat franchise has bothered to try anything truly new beyond the "dude, what if airplanes were like ‘pew-pew’ at each other?" concept. Choppers, for example, are a primary mode of murder, transport and more murder. Zipping around in jets has fundamentally changed in Assault Horizon, too. Combat is about more than painting a lock-on tool across a wave of jerks and letting missiles fly. Chases are a large part of each intense battle. Sometimes you'll slip into an automated “dogfight” pursuit in which you’ll make only minor adjustments to your movement, freeing up your focus so you can turn a sleek bit of metal into a flaming wreck. Ace Combat also looks shockingly good this time around -- buildings are breakable, the world is more convincing than most are in this genre, and the 3D characters have far more detail than the series’ usual still-image dorks.
EU: September 30
Alien inspired Metroid, and now Metroid has inspired Alien. Aliens: Infestation is a 2D, side-scrolling, exploration-heavy adventure from WayForward, the same folks behind Contra IV and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. They've got a strong track record when it comes to old-school, homage-y kinds of games, so don't be surprised if this is, uh, surprisingly good.
The Cursed Crusade
Platform: PC, 360, PS3
EU: October 7
This co-op hack-and-slasher is almost certainly dead in the water with Skyrim releasing so soon afterward, which sucks -- it's actually pretty good. The premise of cursed families, Crusade-era escapades and co-op executions gets our motor running, but this is sadly doomed to be buried beneath a storm of bigger, more heavily marketed games. It would have been much better off bringing in the New Year if it couldn't make the summer cut. This is one we're already adding to our backlog.
Dead Rising 2: Off the Record
Platform: PC,360, PS3
EU: October 14
Frank West for $40? We're more into this than the co-op Case West release, if only because Off the Record brings back Frank's PP. No, perv, we’re talking about the Prestige Points for photos. Arranging the undead in precarious and hilarious positions nets you huge points, so long as you grab a Polaroid. Snapping pictures as a photojournalist is a big part of why we loved the (flawed) first game, and we missed it in the (similarly flawed) sequel. The gameplay (and flaws) of Off the Record are pretty much what we've come to expect from the series, but the new story, settings, psychos and shutterbugging will bring us back for more Dead Rising.
EU: October 14
Promotional writings say that Forza 4 will be "unlike anything before it." Truth bomb: This game will be a lot like Forza 3. Sorry to be so reductive, but it's hard not to be; these games rarely change in many meaningful ways. Hang on, stop commenting! Give us a second to lather on the love, all right? For the intended audience, this rocks. Forza's driving, career structure and graphics are always phenomenal, and the minor changes are all car nerds will need to reinvigorate their interest in the franchise again. There’s more of what's worked in the past, but prettier and better-er. Why not? We could, and probably will, sink 100 hours into this thing. Short of some kind of miracle, though, we sure as hell won’t be doing it with Kinect.
Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns
It's like the DS version, of which we said...
"In traditional Harvest Moon fashion, light conflict – this time, two towns feuding over whose culinary expertise is superior – fuels your farming. We plan on growing hella tomatoes to buy a house that'll impress a lady. Then we're gonna marry that lady, milk some fat cows and cook until everyone in both towns realizes we're better than everyone else. This will unite the towns. Hopefully in harmony, and not in a way that means they'll try to cook us. That'd be a hell of a Harvest Moon plot twist, though. We expect a lot of what's worked for this series in its 28 billion predecessors, which is fine. We're suckers, and we accept it."
...except now it's in 3D.
Hulk Hogan's Main Event
We're still wrapping our head around the first Kinect-only wrestling game. Hulk Hogan's Main Event reacts to gestures, which involve kicks, punches, half-assed suplexes and such, to register the ass-beatings you'll lay on the caricatured brawlers. It functionally transforms your body into a Wii Remote, watching what you do and loosely mimicking your motions on screen (poorly, if it hasn't shaped up since E3). We want to love you, Hulk, but not until we see that your game is more than just a bunch of minigames with a character creator.
Kinectimals: Now With Bears
EU: October 14
The $15 disc or DLC expansion to Kinectimals is, like, Kinectimals... but... with bears. You pet bears, play with bears, take care of... bears. We're inclined to hate those furry bastards because they're haunting and dangerous. Even the little babies aren't to be trusted. Keep an eye on your kids while they play this. Maybe scare 'em a time or two just to teach them a lesson about bears. Bears.
Might & Magic Heroes VI
EU: October 14
We've seen this pop up on Steam every day for the past year, so it's been hard not to keep up with Might & Magic Heroes VI. Naturally, we're pretty stoked as a result. It functionally turns its back on a lot of what its predecessors did, simplifying resource management and other micromanagement-y things by giving us much less of them. That gives us more time to spend on its action-RPG-meets-turn-based-tactics gameplay. Each movement lets us hunt loot and monsters, attack and explore as heroes of a legendary dynasty. It's the kind of turn-based game that could get non-turn-based folks into the genre, really.
Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster
EU: October 12
We must be transforming into children, because we're genuinely interested in Double Fine's Sesame Street Kinect game. It looks silly and dumb in all the ways we should want to make fun of. The game is a strange collection of mini-games with bodily flailing in front of a Kinect, so we should extra-hate it. However, Cookie Monster is such a key component of our childhood (it explains the fat) that was just...can't. Once Upon a Monster is adorable, and you're a heartless beast if you think otherwise. Tim Schafer and co. are gearing it toward kids, naturally, which is a great corner of the Kinect market to appeal to, so we suspect this will actually do fairly decently despite the onslaught of everything else.