The drought has ended. The desert has been crossed. Summer is over, and although that means the return of school for some, it also means the return of real game releases. For the last two months, we've had to settle and scour… this month, we finally get to play with the big boys.
Here's what to look forward to in September. Which will you be buying?
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Platform: 360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS
EU release: September 10
It’s been a couple years since the last solo Spider-Man game, and even though we really enjoyed Web of Shadows, the open world thing was getting a little old. So to change things up, Activision and developer Beenox are going with a more traditional, level-based action game, but with a twist. The regular, Amazing Spider-Man we all know and love must team up with three other Spideys in three other dimensions in an effort to save not just the universe, but the multiverse. Each dimension’s Spider-Man (Noir, 2099, Ultimate) has his own unique style, so it’s almost like four smaller Spider-Man games in one.
We’ll have a review up next week, so check then to see how this Marvel team-up works out.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
EU release: September 10
It’s not just you. It seems the entire gaming populace has been lukewarm to KH’s portable offerings when you compare their sales to the staggering amount copies moved by Kingdom Hearts I and II. You can state any theory as to why you wish, but it’s probably got a helluva lot to do with the fact that a series known for gorgeous imagery and memorable cutscenes currently has its benchmark set by a PS2 game almost five years old. That’s about to change.
In spite of being a prequel, Birth by Sleep is a worthy update of noble heart!
The PSP is more than capable of pulling of visuals that wow, and thematically, you’ll immediately notice that every level of resplendent Disneyana comes far closer to its animated counterpart. Not only that, Birth by Sleep has addressed KHII’s mashy and simplistic Keybladery and replaced it with one of the deepest combat systems you’re likely to find on a portable.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Platform: Wii, DS
EU release: September 24
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is an animated series on Cartoon Network that plays up the campier, kiddier, older style of Batman, but don’t dismiss it as a baby game. Sure, this in no Arkham Asylum or Dark Knight, but it is developed by Wayforward, makers of great, retro-flavored releases like Contra 4 and A Boy and His Blob. If anyone can make a side-scroller based around Batman and Robin teaming up with classic DC heroes exciting, it’s those guys.
It looks like it has a great sense of humor and some snazzy hand-drawn graphics to accompany the old school gameplay. After our most recent time with it, we’re looking forward to the final product.
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2
Platform: 360, PS3, Wii, PC
From a distance, HAWX 2 looks, sounds and plays much like the original. That’s good, as the first was a delightful surprise and welcome competition to Namco’s Ace Combat series. We ran through some of the differences and additions in an earlier hands-on, so you can head there for a full account. HAWX is a bit edgier and GRAW-y than Ace Combat, so if that series has never gelled with you, consider giving Ubi’s take a shot. Also, this is the first time it’s appeared on Wii, so there’s that.
Platform: 360, PS3, PC
EU release: September 10
RUSE attempts to take the RTS in a new direction, with an entire extra layer of deception as the central mechanic. Although it’s a real-world war simulation with non-sci-fi tanks, troops, etc., the ruses each player employs have a slightly arcadey bent to them. You can command radio silence to make your units invisible, deploy decoy units that appear real but are just wooden fakes, and a whole host of other sneaky maneuvers.
The game also has a weird hybrid interface of realism versus gaminess, with a standard map when you’re zoomed in that becomes almost a board game when you zoom out. We won’t know if the game underneath the central gimmick is solid until the 9/7 release, but we’re glad someone is trying a new approach to RTS gaming.
Platform: 360, PS3
The 20th “NHL” game from EA, believe it or not, features a lot of things which are “revolutionary” and “enhanced,” as every sports game does every year. Here are just a few of the features EA Sports is touting: a new physics engine with improved player reactions, enhancements to existing elements, such as face-offs and dekes, the ability to continue playing after breaking your stick (realistic! but also… yay?) and the inclusion of Canadian Hockey League’s Memorial Cup (non-Hockey nerds need not apply).
We could go on, but that’d just be a waste of everyone’s time. Sure, it’s possible that EA Sports will jump the shark this year, and produce something awful, or that it’ll blow us all away with its “revolutions,” but it’s much more likely that the NHL series will continue to be one of those never-gonna-hate-it staples for hockey fans. And with NHL 2K11 gone Wii exclusive this year, non-Wii-owning hockey fans don’t really have a choice. Go for the five-hole! (And other terms which suggest that we know what we’re talking about.)
Plants vs Zombies
Are you sure you're ready for this, 360 owners? You may plan on spending the entire month of September with Halo or Dead Rising, but that's only because you have yet to partake in the drug that is Plants vs Zombies, a gore-and-gardening take on the tower defense genre from PopCap.
It's both unbearably cute and surprisingly creepy. It's both endlessly challenging and instantly accessible. It's easily the most addictive game of the past few years – imagine Peggle times a thousand – and until now, you've been protected from it. Now you'll be getting an HD version with new modes, new features and, yep, new Achievements. Now you'll know why PC, Mac and iPhone gamers have been playing the same thing over and over again for sixteen months. Seriously, you might want to block some time off.