The gaming news world moves fast. Every day, thousands of nuggets of new gaming info drips out like a leaky faucet. We understand that most people don’t have the time to keep up with every single gaming blog, but want to stay on top of the most important news. In addition to the gaming coverage that we bring to you daily, we’re dishing out a weekly feature that’ll keep you informed of the latest and greatest happening, so you can go into the weekend after a hard worked week and just game.
This week, we tackle the best happing on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and everything happening in the mobile space as well as a few games that stand out from the crowd like The Darkness II , Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, Grand Theft Auto III: 10th Anniversary Edition for iPad and more. The week’s best gaming news is only a click away!
Game of the Week:
The Darkness II (Xbox 360, PS3 and PC)
2K Games and Digital Extremes’ The Darkness II isn’t due until February 7, 2012, but we got to preview the game on the Xbox 360 recently and it’s shaping up to be quite the horror game. It’s not Resident Evil and it’s not Silent Hill. Set two years after the first game, The Darkness II follows Jackie Estacado, a guy with a power called “The Darkness” inside of him that’s helped him become the the head of a crime family. At The Darkness II’s core are two elements: light and quad-wielding.
The first is the play on light and dark. Being possessed with The Darkness, Jackie’s similar to a vampire. If you expose him to any light, the game camera turns fuzzy for a while until you run back into the darkness. As such, various portions of the game require a Splinter Cell-like strategic approach to reaching a checkpoint – shooting out overhead lights or lamps as you make your way through the game, which keeps the game well paced. You can run and gun, but you’ll be missing the game’s beautiful cel-shaded graphics – an intentional look that turns the game’s noir world into a living breathable graphic novel.
The second is the quad-wielding – an element we loved. So Jackie’s equipped with The Darkness inside of him, which gives him access to two demon arms along with two human arms. How did 2K Games figure out how to fluidly control four arms at once? Simple: shoulder buttons and triggers. The left and right demon arms are mapped to the LB/RB buttons and the left and right human arms are mapped to the LT and RT triggers. The analogs handle the camera and movement.
At first, the controls seem like a lot to take in (they are), but after wrestling with the “quad wielding” control scheme for a few minutes, everything becomes natural. The demo gameplay did feel a little repetitive, though. The demo consisted of shooting lights, shooting enemies, and breaking power generators – but it was incomplete. Penned by British comic book writer Paul Jenkins, the story should take center stage and taking in fragments of it simply wasn’t enough to suffice.
Sony’s been on a run the last few months. It’s released a ton of HD remakes that put their PS2 and PSP originals to shame. Resistance 1 & 2 Dual Pack, God of War: Origins Collection, and Shadow of the Colossus & ICO have been excellent additions to the PS3 library, but Resistance 3 was where everything was supposed to be at, only it fell short. According to NPD, the game only sold 180,000 copies during its first month in the U.S. – a 205,000 drop when compared to Resistance 2.
Surely it’s not because of the fabulous orange box art, right? We absolutely adore the cover art. The numbers are disappointing, but from a gamer to another gamer, the game’s actually pretty good. The game managed to muster up a metacritic score of 83, which puts it on the above average side. Developer Insomniac Games really tightened the controls and mechanics this time around. If you haven’t picked it up, you should definitely do that this weekend. Trust us, you won’t regret it.
Sony’s major game release this week was Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One - the PlayStation’s premier platformer – basically Sony’s version of Super Mario. It’s no Call of Duty, but it’s a nice break from all the fragging and reminds gamers that there’s more to gaming that just FPS games these days. It includes four-player co-op mode and side-by-side or online. It’s a family-oriented game that’s colorful and funny and diversifies Sony’s portfolio against the Xbox 360′s. While we’re not huge fans of the co-op (it feels like it was shoehorned in because every game seems to need it), the game is at least playable in 3D.
In terms of sales, 2011 belongs to the Xbox 360. Month after month, it’s managed to edge out the competition and last month was no different. Microsoft’s six-year old console moved 438,000 units last month and it doesn’t look like the momentum is stopping. With Kinect functions for Halo: Anniversary, Forza 4′s recent release, 320GB hard drives and a system update on the horizon that’ll breath new life into the system, the Xbox 360 looks like it has very long legs to stretch.
Activision launched Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure - a collectible multi-platform video game that uses a plastic “portal” powered by RFID chips and collectible action figures to interact with the game. We managed to toy with the game for a quick hands-on last week and found the game surprisingly fun. It’s a basic overhead game where Spyro and his friends traverse the land hacking and slashing baddies and unlocking items. Pretty repetitive stuff, until you get to the collectible action figure part.
By placing figures on the RFID portal, you can instantly transport any character into the game at any time. So if you get tired of using Spyro, you might place another figurine on the portal and voila, the character appears in the game. In fact, to get past certain points, you have to use different figures – each with their own unique abilities and powers. All of the stats you accrue are stored in the figure, so if your friends have the game and the portal – regardless of the platform (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, 3DS, PC), you can still transport your character’s leveled up stats into their game.
It’s what a console Pokemon game should be – only with Spyro characters.
Nintendo’s motion shaking console that rocketed to success on Wii Sports‘ glory is showing signs of slowing down. With Wii U not slated until sometime in 2012, Nintendo’s feeling the burn. Its immediate solution is to stop the bleeding by releasing new Wii bundles. A new black Wii bundle with the updated GameCube function-lacking Wii console, matching Wii Remote Plus and a copy of New Super Marios Bros. Wii and a special bonus Mario soundtrack goes on sale on October 23 for $150.
Meanwhile, our friends across the pond in Europe will get an aqua Wii bundle with matching Wii Remote Plus and a copy of Mario & Sonic at the 2012 London Olympic Games starting on November 18.
Next Tuesday is officially Battlefield 3 day and you know what that means. Time to drop whatever you have planned because there won’t be any time for anything else but to frag and see if it really one ups Activision’s monster Call of Duty franchise. Is there a new king in town? EA wants you to think so!
Battlefield 3 will also be released on PS3 and Xbox 360. For the latter, if you don’t have a hard drive, you might want to consider getting one to prepare your console, because it’s only going to run in standard definition and not HD with all the detailed textures and lighting you’ll get on the PS3 and PC.
Mobile / Portable
Sony announced the official PlayStation Vita release date for North America and Europe: February 22, 2012. Pricing is still the same at $250 for the Wi-Fi-only model and $300 for the 3G. In the U.S., the official 3G carrier will be AT&T and app/game downloads will be capped at 20MB – anything larger and you’ll have to switch to Wi-Fi. It’s the same as the iPhone. Some people don’t mind, some people are going bananas over it. We’re just upset we won’t be downloading any PS Vita or PSP digital games on the fly. Sony’s also reported to be working on providing PSP games as digital downloads to compensate for the Vita’s lack of UMD backward compatibility – but with a fee.
In Nintendo land, the company quietly let it slip that the Circle Pad accessory for the 3DS that adds a second Circle Pad/Analog Stick to the handheld will be released in the U.S. next year in a bundle with Resident Evil: Revelations. No word on pricing, but if you ask us, anything more than $15 is too much.
Samsung and Google dropped the Galaxy Nexus smartphone running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on Tuesday. What does this have to do with gaming? Its screen. The 4.65-inch screen on the Galaxy Nexus has a whopping 1280×720 resolution. That’s the highest on any device that’s not a tablet – even better than the PS Vita’s 5-inch OLED screen. If you thought games looked great on devices like the Photon 4G, games on next-gen Android smartphones are going to blow you away.
While many are relishing their new iPhone 4S’s, the iPad 2 and Android are getting a little bit of love with Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto III: 10th anniversary edition. We had a quick chance to play with it on the iPad 2 at last week’s New York Comic Con and we walked away super pleased. The game is exactly as we remember it, but instead of a PS2 Dual Shock, it has touchscreen controls – which can be lousy at times. The build we tested out was a very early one, but it already looks fantastic with remodeled HD graphics. We’re pumped for GTA III on iPad 2. Rockstar says the game will be “affordable” and in line with most app games in the App Store.
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