Fall video game preview: Halo 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, NHL 13, Resident Evil 6
Each year at this time, it seems as though the best-ever list of video-game titles is approaching, and this fall is no exception. Only someone with the power to stop time will be able to fully appreciate the trove of blockbuster titles being released in the next three months. Here’s our list, which barely scratches the surface of what’s coming.
First up is NHL 13 (EA Sports). Believe it or not, the developers at the campus in Burnaby have come up with another game that exceeds EA’s predecessor. New artificial-intelligence and skating engines promise to make this hockey sim more fluid and realistic than ever before.
Borderlands 2 (2K Games) continues things with a bang. The sequel to one of the best games of 2009, this action role-playing game is again set on the crazy, Wild West planet of Pandora. Borderlands 2 has the potential to make the rest of this list irrelevant.
There’s some evolution going on with Resident Evil 6 (Capcom), and we’re not talking about zombies. Unlike earlier games in the franchise, RE6 opens things up a bit, in terms of the paths taken by players and the types of combat you’ll get into.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (2K Games) is the revival of a real-time-strategy classic. Blending elements of strategy, role-playing, and turn-based games, this title has players defending Earth against an alien invasion.
Adapting Peter Jackson’s films, Lego The Lord of the Rings (Warner Bros.) has a different tone than previous Lego games. It’s less slapstick, and it sports a more realistic environment. But the characters are still familiar Lego mini figs, and the developers have based the entire world on J. R. R. Tolkien’s maps.
In Dishonored (Bethesda), a first-person action game with a decidedly steampunk flavour, you play a supernatural assassin living in a plague-infested city. You can choose to play overt and brutal or sly and stealthy, and the game tracks how many innocents you kill.
Skylanders: Giants (Activision) features new, larger action figures that become characters in the video game using the Portal of Power peripheral. Because the toys have “brains”, any enhancements players make to the characters are permanent, so they can be transported and used with any portal, even on different consoles.
Assassin’s Creed III (Ubisoft) takes you to the American Revolution, where you get to become a half-English, half-aboriginal assassin. With development led by Ubisoft’s Montreal studio, gamers also get to take part in vivid sea battles against all manner of pirates and privateers. Also watch for Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, for the PlayStation Vita, which stars a female African-French assassin and is set in New Orleans.
This fall, we’ll likely see a new record for the biggest entertainment launch in history. The question is whether it will be set by Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Activision) or Halo 4 (Microsoft). They’re both first-person shooters, but while Black Ops II flips between the early 1980s and 2025 and deals with indigenous conflict, Halo 4 is set firmly in the far future and the far reaches of space. It’s also the first Halo shooter to come from 343 Industries, rather than Bungie.
LittleBigPlanet Karting (Sony) is being developed in Vancouver by United Front Games, and marries the studio’s superb kart-racing expertise with the unique DNA that comes from Media Molecule, the group that created LBP.
In the first game, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was out to get his younger brother, but in Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (Disney), the pair team up to stop the Mad Doctor from ruining the Wasteland. While the first game was a Wii exclusive, this sequel will be available for all consoles and operating systems.
It’s all offence and no defence in the fighting game PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (Sony). Up to four people can battle each other using a PS3 or a PS Vita, and the characters in the game come from well-known Sony franchises and popular third-party properties.
The next-generation console from Nintendo is the HD-capable Wii U, which adds a new wireless, tabletlike controller to the gaming experience. Called the Wii U GamePad, it has an LCD touchscreen, thumbsticks, buttons, and motion sensors, and it facilitates interesting and new types of multiplayer experiences.
Games expected to be released on or around the date the Wii U hits shelves include Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition (Warner Bros.), which has been redesigned to take advantage of the Wii U GamePad, Lego City Undercover (Nintendo), New Super Mario Bros. U (Nintendo), Pikmin 3 (Nintendo), and ZombiU (Ubisoft).
Other hardware coming this fall includes the 3G model of Sony’s PS Vita handheld and a very sexy Halo 4 limited-edition Xbox 360 that comes with two controllers, a headset, a 320GB hard drive, and a copy of the game.