The games of February 2011

As the trickle of medium-profile games held over from last year continues, some of the biggest releases of 2011 are gearing up for launch this month – among them heavyweights Bulletstorm and Killzone 3. Those aside, February is looking relatively light on big releases, although we can still expect plenty of notable ones, many of which exist online or as DLC for last year’s big titles. Here’s what we can look forward to in the next 28 days…


Call of Duty: Black Ops First Strike Map Pack

Platform: XBLA

CoD fans are a rare breed, able to pour endless hours into endless multiplayer matches, so the first strike map pack is probably arriving just in time for things to wear thin. For $15, First Strike delivers five new maps, four of which – Kowloon, Stadium, Discovery and Berlin Wall – are intended for conventional multiplayer. Meanwhile the fifth, Ascension, offers up a bizarre new sci-fi Soviet complex to tackle in the Five zombie-infestation mode. $3 a map seems kind of steep, but given how much time CoD players are likely to spend on them, you’ll probably get your money’s worth. Unless you own a PS3, that is, in which case you won’t be able to get your hands on this until sometime next month.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

Platform: PSN
EU/XBLA release: Feb. 2

Strange as it may sound, this is the first genuine sequel to the classic Bionic Commando game many of us remember from the NES days. More specifically, it’s a direct follow-up to Rearmed, the brilliant HD remake of the original. As before, the focus is on Nathan “Rad” Spencer’s bionic grappling arm and how it enables him to swing from platform to platform, or snag a ledge just before he tumbles into one of the game’s many bottomless pits. Swinging around the world is a unique sensation, one that isn’t copied often (or at all, really), so you’re at least getting a gameplay experience that’s specific to this series. We like this one just fine, but the first Rearmed (still available on XBLA and PSN) is a bit better.

The Undergarden

Platform: PSN

After arriving on PC and XBLA last November, The Undergarden has finally made its way to PSN, and PS3 owners who enjoyed Flower might want to check it out. Undergarden is like a slower, 2D take on Flower’s concept, starring a chubby little guy who floats through caverns bringing flowers and other colorful plants to life. It isn’t for everyone, as evidenced by the reviews, but those who like it tend to praise its “zen-like” qualities and relaxing atmosphere.

Rock Band: Country Track Pack 2

Platform: PS3, 360, Wii

While the “fill your living room with fake instruments” fad seems to have died down, the Rock Band juggernaut is still going strong – strong enough to sell a collection of 21 country songs for $30, anyway. To be fair, though, Country Track Pack 2 seems to pack in a pretty respectable collection of newer and classic singles (which won’t be available for individual online purchase for a while), including tunes by Merle Haggard, Shania Twain, Lady Antebellum, Dwight Yoakam and (of course) Johnny Cash, whose iconic Ring of Fire rounds out the soundtrack. CTP2 doesn’t appear to explicitly support Rock Band 3’s keyboard, but those who like singing in groups will appreciate the addition of harmony vocals.

Kevin VanDam Fishing

Platform: PS3

So hey, here’s a thing that exists.

The Sims 3 Outdoor Living

Platform: PC
EU release: Feb. 4

We've received so many press releases and media alerts about The Sims 3 over the past couple years that we've honestly lost track of how much is out there. So we did a quick check on Wikipedia and – OH MY GOD. Five versions of the core game? Three expansions? Two "stuff pack" add-ons, not including this one? All since the original was released in June 2009? Good lord, EA. Well, if you're a series devotee and still have any money left in your bank account, Outdoor Living comes with a full array of fancy new patio furniture, the most important of which are undoubtedly the extra hot tubs… or, as they're known in the Sims universe, "sex cauldrons."


Mario Sports Mix

Platform: Wii
EU release: Jan. 28, 2011

So, at long last, it’s Mario [sports we didn’t want to devote an entire game to]. Instead of choosing one biggie like baseball or soccer, Sports Mix dabbles in basketball, hockey, volleyball and dodgeball, and saturates them with Wii waggle. Sounds like a recipe for… well, probably an OK game to play in groups once in a while. We spent some time with hockey and basketball and found them to be fairly entertaining in short bursts, and with four people playing at once, the various super moves can make the playing field pretty damn crazy. It’s also developed by Square Enix (just like Mario Hoops 3-on-3), so be on the lookout for cameos from minor Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest characters.