Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Hottest Games of Summer 2009 - Part 1

Found an interesting article.

"The summer months used to be lean on gaming entertainment. Not anymore. "Punch-Out?" "The Sims 3"? "Fight Night Round 4"? "The Beatles: Rock Band"? We're now seeing premium games hit all year round -- and this summer is no exception.

To help you plan your summer gaming, PC World's experts -- Game On blogger Matt Peckham (twitter: game_on) and Casual Friday columnist Darren Gladstone (twitter: gizmogladstone) -- ruminate, dish and occasionally disagree on some of the season's biggest titles. Let's get started!

-- By Matt Peckham and Darren Gladstone, PC World"

Four Great Licensed-Franchise Games: 'Batman,' 'Ghostbusters,' 'Terminator,' 'Wolverine'

The Scoop: "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"; "Terminator: Salvation"; "Ghostbusters," expected June 16; "Batman: Arkham Asylum," expected June 23

Darren: "Licensed-franchise games" -- those three words dredge up memories of failure and cross-media marketing. And yet, this summer we have "Batman: Arkham Asylum," "Ghostbusters," "Terminator: Salvation" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," all coming out to every platform known to man. And I'm really looking forward to a couple of 'em. Dan Aykroyd is so behind the "Ghostbusters" game that he has rallied most of the original cast to help with voice-acting duties. But it's more than just a sequel to the flicks -- the few demos I've seen make me eager to bust spectral noggins. Heck, I’ve been waiting for a good "Ghostbusters" video game since the Apple II days. As for "Batman," that title has two things going for it: sweet graphics and an asylum's worth of loony, superpowered inmates. You're squaring off against classic comic villains -- and, of course, a small army of goons who somehow wormed their way into Arkham Asylum. The idea of openly stalking Arkham's halls and the free-flow combat are enough to wash away concerns that this might be a mindless button-mashing beat-'em-up. What say you, Matt?

Matt: It's pathetic how predictably rotten licensed games are. They still sell well? Might as well justify crack cocaine (or movies starring Miley Cyrus). Still, I'm with you on the "Batman" and "Ghostbusters" nods, Darren. I've already had my hands on "Wolverine," and while the combo-driven fighting system is interesting (lunges rule), the levels feel like cattle pens linking dopey mob fights. "Terminator: Salvation" gets an anticipatory thumbs-down from me, too, after the debacle that was GRIN's "Wanted: Weapons of Fate" (hey, I'll always cheer a surprise comeback!). But as you say, "Batman" looks promising, and it has Paul Dini writing it, to boot. Will it really have "a dark and gritty setting reminiscent of 'Bioshock'"? Doubtful (thanks for the nonsensical analogy anyway, Game Informer). Otherwise, there's no cooler milieu in the "Batman" universe than Arkham Asylum. As for "Ghostbusters," I'm out of space, so ditto on what you said about the tech demos, except I'll see your Apple II and raise it by my one-year-earlier Commodore 64 version.


The Scoop: "Punch-Out"; Genre: Boxing; By: Next Level Games; From: Nintendo; For: Wii; Rating: Everyone 10+

Info: Nintendo's classic boxing brawler returns 15 years on with 3-D visuals and two-handed motion controls.

Darren: Anybody who has rubbed two quarters together in an arcade or owned a Nintendo Entertainment System knows the glory that is "Punch-Out," the classic boxing game. I've had a chance to go a few rounds with the latest version of the venerable champ, and you know what? It's still got the moves. The controls certainly are new, though: You can box your way out of fights with the Wii Nunchuck controller and the Wii Remote by punching at the screen. Or, if you want to kick it old-school (like me), you can flip the Wii Remote, holding it like the classic NES controller.

Speaking of the classic moves, when going up against Glass Joe, I remembered the dodge-counterpunch pattern drilled into me as a child. And it still worked. My only concern, from the few minutes I've played this game, is that I can't tell yet whether it's just the old game under a new coat of paint, with maybe a couple extra moves thrown in for good measure. It doesn’t feel like a sucker punch, though.

Matt: What do "Guitar Hero" and "Punch-Out" have in common? They're both essentially rhythm games, except the first sounds like Metallica or Aerosmith, while the second is more "Ugh! Gah! Argh!" Wrap your hands around the Wii Remote, and the preview version of this remake already feels right -- which is saying something, given the Wii's reputation for dodgy motion controls. In Next Level Games' nostalgic touch-up of everyone's favorite pugilistic prancer, you have six inputs to work with. You can swing the Wii Remote for left or right punches, wave the Nunchuck for left or right dodges, lift up for blocks or high shots, or drop down to duck. (The game also offers a Balance Board option, but color me dubious.) Darren gets points for tipping his hat to the 1984 arcade version, but then loses a few for settling on the sideways control mechanic. Hey, boxing is a two-fisted affair, right? Play like you mean it!

'inFamous' -- Expected May 26

The Scoop: "inFamous"; Genre: Third-person sandbox; By: Sucker Punch Productions; From: Sony Computer Entertainment; For: PlayStation 3; Rating: Teen

Info: You're a biker dude given plasma-based powers and a panic-stricken city to either save or torment.

Darren: We don’t need another hero … or do we? Forget all those franchises that make you strap on familiar Underoos in Metropolis or Gotham. Here's something I can get behind: You have a huge, deteriorating city to explore (think Snake Plissken's stomping grounds) and newfound powers to master. The thing is, this isn't some crusty Boy Scout scenario. As in "Spider-Man Web of Shadows," you can tap your inner heel or live up to being a hero. You have to make all kinds of small moral decisions along the way: For instance, do you share supplies with citizens or hoard them for yourself? It's those choices -- and how you improve your powers -- that make this title interesting to me. Provided that the rest of "inFamous" is as good as what I've seen so far, this superpowered PS3 exclusive has blockbuster potential written all over it.

Matt: Two words: "Sly Cooper." If you missed that series of PlayStation 2 games, you can't call yourself a proper platform gamer. Now the same developer is having a go at the whole Grand Theft Superhero With a Moral Dilemma shtick. Pay attention, because this PS3 exclusive has the potential to be platform-defining. You can go pretty much anywhere and climb any ridiculously detailed building. You have upward of 70 electrical superpowers -- including one that lets you vent plasma to slow your descent in free fall -- to use against mutant bad guys who can teleport around or fiddle with light and shadow. Best of all, morality is in the eye of the beholder. Expect "inFamous" to be dark and darker, Teen rating or no. Don't let Darren fool you, by the way -- he's a bona fide Boy Scout. There's no zapping passers-by with sticky grenades or leaving the injured to wail and croak for that closet do-gooder.

to be continued....

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