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Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS, 3DS, PSP
EU: May 13
At this point, we know exactly what to expect out of the Lego games. Whether you’re dead-tired of or completely behind the same-old puzzle-solving and simple combat mechanics should be enough to determine whether you want a Lego-fied Pirates of the Caribbean. The goofy comedy of these films seem best suited to the light-hearted humor these games are known for, though, so that’s a huge plus. It might also be another great title to add to your 3DS library – Lego Star Wars III, for all its typical faults, looked great on that fancy new handheld.
Platform: Xbox 360, PC
EU: May 6
The guys and gals behind Tropico are trying something much different this time around, abandoning the real-time socio-political city-building strategery for third-person action role-playing. The hook here seems to be co-op, as you’ll always have an A.I. ally on hand to help out with the stabby-stabby. If the title wasn’t a huge enough hint, you’ll be searching for the Holy Grail of Holy Grails, the Holy Grail. It deals with some heavy religious themes – there’s corruption in the Catholic Church, not to mention its Holy Inquisition’s wholesale slaughter of heretics. It’s pretty ballsy stuff, and it’s enough to assuage our worries that came with having forgotten The First Templar existed before writing this little summary about it.
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
EU: May 4
Virtua Tennis 4 beefs up its career mode with a board game-like approach. Players will have to use their movement tickets strategically to rest, train, and make it to tournaments on time. It’s a faster, more arcadey tennis game than Top Spin’s super-sim-ness, and the goofy minigames embrace the idea that this is meant to be plain ol’ fun. It doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from past games, but the VT series has always had a great handle on what it does right – messing with that could ruin it, so it opts to throw additional stuff around it. New training games, a fancier presentation, and some stronger A.I. mean it’s already a better on-paper improvement over Virtua Tennis 2009.
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: May 13
THQ’s annual dirtbike- and quad-racing franchise is trying something a bit different in terms of structure this time around – and that’s potentially its biggest caveat. At $40 it’s a great impulse buy, especially given the series’ track record so far, but of course it comes with a catch. MX vs ATV: Alive lets you pay what you want to play what you want. You’ll have to drop some coin if you want to access brand-name bikes or certain tracks. It should be interesting to see how this new approach to releasing a retail game goes, and to see if anyone follows suit.
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: May 13
Splash Damage’s next first-person shooter has a lot going for it. The class-based multiplayer comes with the requisite levelling up and unlocking new abilities, and oodles of character customization, which is meant to bleed seamlessly into the single-player campaign. In both cases, dude murdering isn’t as simple as just pointing and shooting. The visually striking, ridiculously detailed world is built for bitchin’ parkour, which lends a special something to the objective-based gameplay. It falls back on SMART (that’d be “Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain,” see), a fancy-pants platforming system for slipping under, jumping over, and clambering up obstacles while firing bullets into folks’ faces. Brink is meant to be an innovative change of pace in a genre filled with me-too crap, and this sounds like the right kind of step forward.
EU: June 24
First-person bullet hell in 3D sounds like absolute chaos, which is exactly what Dream Trigger aims for – it’s proper gibberish, indeed. Lots of enemies fire off lots of bullets in trippy lookin’ levels, This, naturally, makes it an incredibly difficult game to actually play. Love having your self-esteem drained? Dream Trigger is 50 levels of brutalizing shmupping. It’s nice to see an original IP in the launch window of the 3DS’s release, but it’s definitely a game built with a certain audience in mind (see: masochists).
EU: Available now
Who knew they were still making Yu-Gi-Oh anything these days? Well, with more than 4000 collectible cards, it seems they – whoever makes all the Yu-Gi-Oh everything, that is – has been busy, to say the least. That’s a lot of metal-mega-whopper-dragons to bring into online multiplayer duels. Seriously, though, that’s an impressive number of collectible cards, and even though we burned out on this anime series’ video game overkill years ago, our obsessive hobbyist tendencies are salivating at the idea of kicking the crap out of wild-haired punk kids to collect on their sweet, sweet CCG loot.
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
EU: May 20
Team Bondi and Rockstar buddy up for what looks to be a huge change of action/adventure pace. LA Noire takes its cues from Private Eye pulp fiction to create a world that’s rife with murder mysteries, dames and fedoras. This comes from what used to be The Getaway team, so it’s a slower-paced game not only in its spread-out action, but in its approach to investigations. Detective Cole Phelps isn’t just going to walk into a scene, discover the evidence necessary to hunt down the killer and subsequently shoot a billion bullets in his brain. No, no. This is more Phoenix Wright than Niko Bellic. Meticulous police work – picking apart a crime scene, following leads, and grilling chumps during heated interrogations – is the name of the game here, with fire fights playing second fiddle. The absurdly real looking facial animation system blurs the line between reality and fiction in an Uncanny Valley kind of way, but it plays an important role in reading characters’ responses to questions. That’s a tall order, and if LA Noire can pull it off it’ll set a new bar for believable characters. How are people going to react to the fact that this isn’t a balls-out action game? That’s what we’re wondering most, because we have enough faith in LA Noire to not need to wonder whether or not it’ll ace its lofty ambitions.
Geralt of Rivia returns to find things for people, to cut some people, and to bed some of those lady-people, presumably. It ditches the rhythmic, timing-based combat of the first game, which could bum fans of the first game out. The swing-smash-stab combos approach isn’t the only way developer CD Projekt has streamlined The Witcher 2 – stances are gone, too, and conversation dialogue requires speedier response decisions. Ideally, this’ll make murdering, chatting, and the general getting-things-done faster-paced. Geralt’s also more acrobatic than before, and has since learned the unbelievable feat of leaping up and over small ledges. It’s gorgeous, it’s violent, and it’s more of Geralt. Right on.
We haven’t heard anything out of Peter Molyneux’s rather loud mouth about Fable III for PC, so let’s just go ahead and assume that it is totally Fable III for PC. Balverines will be slayed, hands will be held, people will be farted on, thrones will be toppled, etc. It’s getting a few new features, fortunately, and for the first time we’ll see Fable rebuilt specifically for the PC – this isn’t another crummy console port. Fable III PC has a first-person camera, a “hardcore” difficulty and 3D support, on top of some other nebulous “additional content.”
EU: May 20
SpongeBob Squigglepants is, for all intents and purposes, WarioWare. We haven’t seen a WarioWare game in a while, so Nickelodeon jumped on that delicious micro-game action. Have a short attention span? Great. This is the game for you. THQ’s been pushing its uDraw Tablet accessory hard on the Wii, which is the necessary peripheral to play it there, but the touch screen on Nintendo’s new Game Boy works just as well. The 3DS version comes with a new level, but whether that means another world full of mini-games, or another 8-second-long diversion that’ll get buried beneath dozens of others remains to be seen. It’s fast paced, obviously, and its short bursts seem more suitable for portable gaming than tinkering with a tablet on the couch.