Its once more unto the breach dear readers, as today we head up in to the top twenty-five of our list. Today’s five games actually all managed to be released (or have solid release dates in the not-too-distant future), and include the likely biggest-selling game of the year, Rockstar’s latest epic, and two great portable platformers. If you missed Friday’s games (30-26), you find them here.
25 Prototype 2
Prototype 2 wasn’t the best game in the world ever, but it was certainly more than decent – Gamoc gave it an 8 in our review, and the Metacritic rating across three platforms is in the mid-to-high-70s. Unfortunately, it also happened to be developed by a studio owned by Activision, an Activision increasingly focused on the war machine that is the Call of Duty franchise and very little else.
So, whilst the game was a relative success critically, the poor sales for the title (despite a strong launch week) led to layoffs at developers Radical, which now exists solely as a support team for other Activision studios, much like Raven Software. The layoffs were symptomatic both of concerns in the Vancouver development scene, as well as the all-but-complete disappearance of the middle of the software market.
But hey, let’s talk about the actual game: released back in April, Prototype 2 sees James Heller as the new playable character, with a bunch of new (and particularly tentacle-y) powers to smash up New York with. Here’s Gamoc:
Prototype 2 is nothing if not faithful to the original. It keeps and improves the brilliant combat, upgrades the graphics so it’s at least ‘pretty good’ looking and adds a storyline that’s at least a little interesting, if not earth-shattering. The game is one of few that have no qualms with just making you stupidly powerful and letting you run rampant. Even if it doesn’t quite scale its difficulty with the power it gives you, it’s all about the adrenaline rush of throwing a van at a helicopter and it’s certainly not missing any visceral carnage.
So perhaps not the most difficult or perfectly-polished game you’ll ever play then – Gamoc specifically called out the AI in his review, saying it’s “no more evident than when they just run around like idiots after something terrible has happened to one of their fellow soldiers and they have no clue where you are” – but it does sound like a whole load of fun. And that’s why we play games right? If you like the sound of some mindless videogame violence, you can now find the game online for about £20 new.
24 Call of Duty 9
In the original post for these games, we made a couple of predictions about this year’s Call of Duty: it will feature guns, war, “soldiers of different nationalities” as the main campaign characters, it’ll be developed by Treyarch, include zombie mode, and probably be a continuation of the Black Ops line. Needless to say, pretty much all of those were proven true with the announcement of Black Ops 2 earlier in the summer.
But Black Ops 2 doesn’t seem to be everything we predicted. Set in the near future, and including various flashbacks to the Cold War setting of the original game. The future plotline sees a world whose governments have placed their faith in military drones which – spoilers! – are now being turned back on them by some unknown evil. New to the series is a branching storyline, with ‘Strike Force’ missions which can be picked between (blocking out the alternatives), and changing the events of the game, how the story progresses, and even potentially how the entire war works out.
The series’ long-running and massively successful multiplayer mode is also going under the knife: three- and four-team matches are now possible, the create-a-class mode has ditched the primary/secondary/equipment set up, with a grid now offering slots for whatever you choose to fit (just a pistol and a whole bunch of grenade variaties? Go for it!), killstreaks and deathstreaks are gone, replaced by score streaks that more accurately reflect players’ contribution to the match, wager matches have been ditched, and Treyarch has added a whole bunch of features designed for the eSports sector, as well as making it easier for players to share their match successes online. In addition, the popular Zombies mode is now a whole campaign of its own (with a zombies version of Nuketown coming as part of the game’s special editions). See? Looks surprisingly fresh.
Black Ops 2 is due out worldwide November 13th on PS3, 360 and PC, with a freshly-announced Wii U version due sometime after then. There’s also a Nihilistic-developed, Vita-exclusive entry in the series named Black Ops Declassified due out around the same time as the console versions. It includes a separate campaign of shorter missions that slot into the established Black Ops universe, as well as 4vs4 wifi multiplayer on close-quarters maps. Here’s the not entirely confidence-inspiring trailer:
23 LittleBigPlanet (Vita)
It’s surprising just quite how many appearances Sackboy has made since his first game was released back at the end of 2008. As well as LittleBigPlanet 1 & 2, and the various costume and level packs for those games, there’s LittleBigPlanet PSP, Sackboy’s Prehistoric Moves, and a bunch of cameos in Everybody’s Golf, Ragdoll Kung Fu, Worms, Invizimals, Uncharted 3 and more.
Even by those standards, this year is a big one for Sony’s littlest of mascots: there’s a starring role in United Front’s LittleBigPlanet Karting, a roster position in Superbot’s PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, and also this: a full on series sequel by the name of LittleBigPlanet PS Vita.
Despite being present at the Vita’s first announcement as the NGP, LittleBigPlanet is only just about to be released, the first of the handheld’s crucial second wave. Being developed outside of Media Molecule at the tag team of Tarsier and Double Eleven, the game adds a whole bunch of new features to the series – touch and tilt controls of course, but also tools to help developers create levels on par with smartphone games like the Savinator.
So, how does LBP’s first Vita version shape up? Here are some wise words from Al’s 8/10 review:
Naturally, the real notion is that the story mode is a means to an end, a way to populate your Pop-It and fill your bag full of materials, stickers and goodies; as it always was. And once into the Create mode, the game takes on another lease of life entirely – the Vita’s touchscreen perfect for building levels, whatever their genre. If the main campaign was the only element here we’d probably advise caution; but it’s not, it’s merely a taster. And elsewhere Double Eleven and Tarsier have worked wonders.
So while the latest instalment does a fine job of translating the series’ trademark physics-based fun to the Vita, the new additions don’t seem to serve to freshen up the game’s ‘Play’ story mode all that much – but hey, if what’s there is still fun, I’m not complaining.
Of course – as is the LittleBigPlanet way – the real genius is in the ‘Create’ and ‘Share’ modes, the two sections of the game that benefit most from the fact that Tarsier is heavily made up of veteran community creators from the existing LBP games. In fact if you’d like to an insight into Tarsier, then you can read our interview with them from earlier today.
Of course it remains to be seen just how successful the community is with the new tools, but if what we’ve seen from the series so far, and what the new game’s tools can do, is anything to go by, LBP Vita could really be something special.
22 Rayman Origins (Vita/3DS)
In the States, Rayman Origins only managed to sell 50,000 copies across PS3, 360 and Wii in its first four weeks on sale at the end of last year. Here in the UK, it didn’t even manage to chart in its launch week.
Part of that problem is undoubtedly that Origins is a hand-drawn 2D platformer with a full-priced retail release; part of it is also likely down to the complete lack of advertising for the game. However, there’s another contributing factor: the game was also announced for release on PC, Vita and 3DS at later dates (the Vita version was a launch title, the PC version released later in the spring, and the 3DS version has only just been released – although isn’t due out until November in the US).
“So what?” I hear you ask. Well if anyone thought the way I did – and by the comments on our review of the original game, many indeed did – the combination of that gorgeous 2D art and the Vita’s large OLED screen was too much to pass up, and as such I was waiting for that later release before jumping in with the Rayman resurrection.
While those iffy sales likely contributed in no small way to the sequel, Rayman Legends, being announced as an exclusive for the Wii U (even if it likely ends up elsewhere) at this year’s E3, that doesn’t mean that Origins isn’t one of the best platformers in years.
“Rayman Origins puts Sonic in his place and stands atop the pile of this generation’s 2D platformers,” said Blair in his review of the original release. “It’s as close to platforming perfection as we can get from a Rayman game and not just a step forwards for Rayman himself but ultimately a step forwards for the genre altogether.” So, how do the handheld versions of the game hold up?
We didn’t review Origins 3DS, so I’ll hand over to friend of TSA, PocketGamer’s Peter Willington: “I can confidently say that this handheld rendition is absolutely the very worst port of the game, and though it never does enough to completely scupper the quality of the core experience it’s very tough to recommend if you have access to another platform to play it.” While the gameplay transfers almost flawlessly, the low-resolution of the 3DS’ screens, as well as downgrades to the game’s artwork, animation and sound means the game’s presentation disappoints in comparison to the other editions.
The 3DS version might not be the best then, but how does the Vita one fare? Much better, luckily – it runs at the Vita’s native resolution, and the colours really pop on that screen. On top of that, while the Vita’s in-built speakers aren’t the best, the sound work in the game makes the transfer flawlessly so it sounds great through headphones or external speakers.
While co-op doesn’t feature, there are some new Vita-specific additions: you can pinch to zoom in and out so you can decide whether you prefer to see the artwork perfectly all up close, or be able to see more of the surrounding area, you can touch to pop bubblised enemies that might just be out of reach (as well as navigate the menus and world map), there’s a ghost mode, and some extra collectibles in the form of near-shareable ‘relics’. All in all, unless co-op is absolutely necessary to your enjoyment of the game, I’d go as far to say the Vita version is the definitely version of Rayman Origins. If you haven’t had a chance to yet pick it up, please, please do – you won’t regret it.
21 Max Payne 3
I never really “got” the Max Payne games – for some reason, they just never appealed to me. I did give it another proper try when the PS2 original was released for free on Plus earlier in the summer, but oh wow, those controls really haven’t aged well. But for those who had more luck with the series’ previous iterations, does that mean you’ll like Max Payne 3?
Maybe, maybe not: “it is not quite the Max Payne I remember from my youth,” said baggyg, replying to our call for WeViews after release. However, they said new developers Rockstar Studios have “added enough of their own flair to make the story memorable, cinematic and enjoyable”.
In his 9/10 review of the game, Peter agrees:
[Max Payne 3 is] a seriously good game, from an explosive start to a gripping finale, through a few plot twists and action that rarely lets up. The emphasis on cover is intelligent, and works well with the Bullet Time system, and some of the visuals really are ground-breaking – Rockstar know how to make a cinematic game, but Max Payne 3 pushes the genre way beyond the likes of GTA or even L.A. Noire, with some lovely animation and acting that keeps the player connected as the story comes to its dramatic conclusion.
Not everything’s all rosy – despite his praise for the game’s style, baggyg said the actual gameplay felt “like one huge Gang Hideout mission from Red Dead Redemption – clear a room, walk on, clear another room, repeat” for example), but the game managed to win itself an overwhelming “Buy It” in WeView. Final words go to Peter: “It’s not perfect, it’s really not, but it’s balls out brilliant entertainment.” Can’t really argue with that.
See you tomorrow for more Top 100 Recap!