Wednesday, October 19, 2011

End-of-Year Video Game Push in High Gear

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 3:15 PM

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Before you know it, the valley will be lit up with Christmas decorations and retailers will be trying to entice consumers to spend, spend, spend. It would seem odd if the video-game industry didn't follow suit and, typically, some of the bigger titles of the year are saved and then released in the countdown to the biggest gift-giving day of the year.

Rather than try to take this month-by-month, I thought it might be easier to just fire off a list of some of the major titles releasing leading up to Dec. 25, since some times may slide by a week, some titles still have a soft (or fuzzy) release date, and some titles are precipitating their release with the death knell of other games (OK, this is one game, which we shall get to in a moment, and it has the Star Wars license stamped all over it).

On to the games:

Batman: Arkham City
PS3 (Oct. 18), PC (Nov. 30), 360 (Oct. 18) and Wii (Dec. 31)
Warner Bros. Batman: Arkham Asylum was a huge hit, not only graphically, but from an overall gameplay viewpoint. It was edgy, it was dark and it was a great deal of fun. Arkham City builds on that foundation. Classic characters, new gameplay features and a deep story are all promised, giving fans of the Bat something to really sink their fangs into.

Rocksmith
Oct. 18 exclusively on the PS3
Take a real guitar, plug it into the game system with a quarter-inch input jack and play through the musical library that includes The Animals, The Black Keys, David Bowie, Nirvana and the Rolling Stones—to name but a few artists. The game will adjust to each player's skill level and is for veteran and new guitar players alike. There are a host of other music games coming out, like Michael Jackson: The Experience (N3DS on Oct. 25), The Black Eyed Peas Experience (Wii, Nov. 8), and Karaoke Revolution: Glee 3 (Wii, Nov. 1), but this one looks to be one of the more intriguing titles in bridging the game between the real music world and the gaming world.

Crysis
Releases end of October on the 360
For all those lamenting that one of the top PC shooters wasn't available on console, stop griping because here it is. Everything has been remastered, but this should be the same high-intensity shooter-fest that PC gamers enjoyed—and at a bargain price of $20.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Nov. 1, exclusively on the PS3
For those who had the joy of playing the first two Uncharted titles, it's time to buckle in and get ready to spend a lot of hours weaving through the next adventure. For the uninitiated, Uncharted is an attitude-driven adventure that bears faint resemblance to Indiana Jones and Lara Croft but takes the genre in a richer direction. This time around, Nathan Drake starts in the Arabian Desert in a search for the fabled "Atlantis of the Sands." There are occult overtones, a shadowy, clandestine organization and—OK this was a no-brainer—a bevy of secrets to reveal. Developer Naughty Dog is a top-tier company, and if this title builds on the previous releases, this could be a wild ride.

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Nov. 8 on PC, PS3 and 360
CoD is one of the biggest-selling game franchises in the video-game history and Activision is certainly going to ride that cash cow until it can't produce. This is the third chapter in the epic storyline and this time, "war comes home" in this first-person shooter.

Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
Nov. 11 on PS3, 360, PC
The Elder Scrolls, from Bethesda Softworks, is one of the definitive role-playing console franchises and it's been way too long since another in the series was released. In Scrolls 5, the High King of Skyrim has been murdered, the world order is in chaos, alliances are formed as various factions try to lay claim to the throne and—to top it all off—dragons, long lost to the passages of the Elder Scrolls, have returned. That sounds like a fair amount to keep an adventurer busy for a couple of hours.

Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Nov. 15 on the PS3, Android, WinPhone, iPhone, PC, 360
Promising to deliver the "most immersive experience available in the series to date and the culmination of Ezio's adventure," Revelations follows the story of Ezio Auditore as he continues in the footsteps of his mentor, which will take the death-dealer to Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where a growing army of Templars threatens to destabilize the region. The game will also offer multiplayer, which has been refined and expanded.

Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
Nov. 15 on PS3, 360
Sure, there are some other fighting games coming out, like WWE 12 (Nov. 22 on PS3, Wii and 360), but when it comes to the sheer fever generated by a title, with online, beat-the-crap-out-of-n00bs, nothing starts a reflexive, twitch-based, controller-pounding zealot salivating like a Capcom "Versus" title. This time around, the online experience has been amped up a notch, with new iconic characters from the Marvel and Capcom universes, as well as popular characters such as Ryu, Wolverine, Iron Man and Morrigan, Trish from Devil May Cry and Deadpool. There are 48 total characters, new modes, and the fighting system has even received a facelift.

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Mario Kart 7
Dec. 7 on Nintendo 3DS
Say "Mario Kart" and gaming fans don't need any further descriptors. Put it on the N3DS handheld, and you have Mushroom Kingdom racing in three dimensions … well, sort of. Had to include this time because, well, it's Mario Kart and there are legions of fans, but expect more of the same intense and entertaining racing action.

Star Wars: The Old Republic
Dec. 20 on PC
This is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and when it releases, it will be the only Star Wars franchise online as a massively multiplayer online game (MMO). Yep, the Sony Online Star Wars Galaxies turns off the stars, sun and galaxies on Dec. 15 (the license expired, the servers have a low population, and the Old Republic is likely to pull in SW fans and would probably have put the finishing light-saber blows to SWG anyway). The Old Republic is set 300 years after the events in Knights of the Old Republic (and featuring some familiar faces), and will put players on either side of a massive war between the Republic and the Empire. This is a world that is far removed from the rise of Darth Vader and the film saga, and—as is the case with most MMOs—players can play on the side of good (Jedi), bad (Sith), or somewhere in-between (sure, be a merchant, there are people dying all around you and all you care about is making a profit off … wait, that's way too close to reality!). Adding a new twist, players can befriend companions who will fight beside them or, depending on the player's actions, may even betray them. It seems the fine line between reality and video-games just got a bit blurrier.

Neverwinter
Releases before the end of the year, on PC
Just needed to include this title for those PC fans of role-playing games. The game is billed as a persistent online game, meaning the world is persistent and players can team up in cooperative battles, but it is not quite an MMO. Neverwinter follows the tried-and-true methodology of the top-down, dungeon-crawling classic games, with five-person teams (either other players or computer controlled) to work through an evolving storyline. Neverwinter Nights was a classic, as were the sequels that rounded off that story, and should Neverwinter tap into that successfully, this could be a late-night delight.

So that's the list of some of the biggest titles coming down the pipe as 2011 winds down, but it certainly is not all of the games. Come the holidays, there could well be something to suit every gaming fancy, as either a big present or stocking stuffer. There should be more than enough to keep the late-fall and winter evenings warm and gaming toasty.

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