I do love the smell of a fresh Top 100 recap in the afternoon, don’t you? A pretty random mix of games for you today, as we head well into the top fifty of our list.
Read in amazement at how poor Gears of War: Judgement’s reception was, compared to previous entries in the series! Be confused about what the hell is going on with Command & Conquer! Marvel at Injustice: Gods Among Us and how good that pun just was! All that and more is contained within today’s recap, so read on…
45. Injustice: Gods Among Us
Kris is a huge comic book nerd, just see our original 45-41 post for proof: “As a huge comic book nerd [Injustice] is one of the games I’m most excited about from next year.” Told you so.
[drop2]At least it looks like Kris had reason to be excited, as the game managed an impressive average Metascore of 80 across all platforms, and even topped the UK charts in its launch week. An impressive feat for a fighting game, even if it is buoyed by the DC licence.
We didn’t review Injustice, here at TSA, but Giant Bomb did, with their 8/10 coming right on the average. While 2008’s Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe was a bit of a flop, simply adding in DC characters to the existing MK universe, it sounds like Injustice is a whole different story.
The most surprising thing about Injustice: Gods Among Us is how different it feels from Mortal Kombat, the previous game from NetherRealm Studios,” said GiantBomb’s Jeff Gerstmann.
At times, fights in Injustice look almost exactly like the sort of fight you’d see in MK9. The way the characters move and the cadence of the combos as fighters bounce and juggle each other around has a very similar vibe. But the way it controls and the way its various systems are implemented make Injustice feel like its own thing… and it’s a pretty good thing, too.
Reception to the game across the web seems pretty positive, and while the game has long dropped out of the UK charts, the ongoing DLC campaign for the title also seems to be going down well, with Martian Manhunter the latest to be added to the roster. Injustice: Gods Among Us is out now on PS3, 360 and Wii U, with listings suggesting a release on Vita and PC (much like the last Mortal Kombat game) is not too far off either.
44. Gears of War: Judgement
Ever since Gears of War: Judgement was unveiled at E3 2012, it seems to have been in a strange state. Much like God of War: Ascension – to which it retains a number of connections, being an end-of-generation non-numbered entry of the respective series, and having launched in March this year – it never really gathered one of the “hype trains” that are common in the modern game industry.
This could be attributed to the shift in developer, with People Can Fly taking over duties on the game, but the team’s previous game Bulletstorm was by-and-large well-received. So what went wrong?
“Gears Of War: Judgement is a good game and I can see hours being invested into the multiplayer,” said Aran in his 7/10 review. “However, it isn’t as good as its predecessors – Gears 3 for example – with a story that is quite forgettable.”
In fact, as the lowest-rated game in the series so far, Judgement only managed first-month sales a fifth of those for 2011’s Gears of War 3. Many reviews criticised the game for feeling thin and rushed, and Aran said he got through the campaign in six hours, even activating almost all of the optional challenges along the way. On the multiplayer side, the series’ trademark “Down But Not Out” feature is absent, as are Locust vs COG matches. The game’s XP-boosting micro-transactions didn’t exactly go down all that well either.
Overall then, the game just feels a bit limp: “The thing with the previous Gears titles is that the little things matter just as much as the big things,” says Aran. “The conversations between squad mates during stages added character and helped give them some depth, but that wasn’t really present in Judgment. There weren’t really stand out moments here either, nothing like that tense, breathless moment we faced a Berserker for the first time.” In conclusion: “Judgement is a good Gears game, but it’s not a great one.”
Gears of War: Judgement is out now on Xbox 360.
43. Command & Conquer
The game formerly known as Command & Conquer: Generals 2 has had a rough development, complicated further by EA’s nonsensical branding strategies. In fact, imagine the following few paragraphs as a montage – depending on how you’re feeling, a black-and-white one with slow-motion transitions and narration by Liam Neeson, or if you’re so inclined, by Lenny Henry with backing by the Benny Hill tune:
Following the poor reception of March 2010’s C&C4: Tiberian Twilight, which saw it receive the lowest review scores yet in the franchise, and the company’s inability to successfully expand the franchise (including the cancellation of FPS Tiberium in 2008), EA decides to rethink all things Command & Conquer.
Despite comments later that year, that a new entry in the series was in the works at Visceral Games and was “a ways off”, but has never been mentioned again, EA then reworks its Los Angeles studio – the previous home of the franchise – effectively closing down development there, and opened up two new and specifically-targeted studios in its place: Danger Close, set up to work on modern Medal of Honor games, and Victory Games, established to bring back the beleaguered Command & Conquer franchise.
In February 2011, Victory Games is officially announced, as is its emphasis on the future of C&C, before being rebranded BioWare Victory that December. The same month, their new project is announced as the Frostbite-based Command & Conquer: Generals 2 at the Spike Video Game Awards, alongside a trailer but not a whole lot of other information. Then in August 2012, the title is renamed to just ‘Command & Conquer’ and re-announced as a free-to-play title, despite the separate F2P browser game Tiberium Alliances having just left beta and been released publicly.
Then in November 2012 the studio is renamed back to Victory Games – that Visceral C&C project was probably just another name for that same studio, wasn’t it? – and in July this year EA shutters Tiberium Alliances developers Phenomic Games.
I think that just about brings us back to the present day: a free-to-play, Origin-exclusive Command & Conquer reboot developed by a new team (with origins in the old ones). Given that all three of those are not good positions to be in around the current gaming community, Victory really does have its work cut out to win over the C&C fanbase.
However, politics aside, the game does look promising. The game – which does feature a dedicated single-player mode – is intended to serve as a platform, similar to something like Zen Pinball 2, that the developers can add content to at will. For example, the content already produced for Generals 2 now forms a branch of the game set in the series’ Generals universe, while packs based in the Tiberium and Red Alert series are also in development – here’s hoping for cross-universe multiplayer.
We got a new trailer at E3 in June, and fans only need wait for the beta later this summer for the chance to get their hands on what Victory has planned for the series.
42. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
You may not have realised it, but we live in almost a new golden age for 3D platformers. Ratchet’s still around, Sly’s had a new game, and alongside Jak and Daxter they’ve also all had recent HD collections of their previous games. Then there’s Tearaway on the way for Vita, Mark Cerny’s Knack for PS4, Sonic: Lost Worlds looks great, the Super Mario 3D series is on top form, and the portable Skylanders games (with their less brawler-y focus) are the closest you’ll find to a proper new Spyro game. Basically, I’m in heaven.
While Ratchet series developers Insomniac decided to focus on a rebooted ‘Future’ universe this generation, Sly: Thieves in Time is a direct sequel to the well-received, if often overlooked, PS2 games. Developed by relative newcomers Sanzaru games, who all but begged to work on the project after completing the Sly Trilogy up-ports, Thieves in Time currently sits on a promising Metascore of 75, while here at TSA Dan gave it a 7/10.
Aside from the pretty lengthy load times, the one thing that a lot of reviews picked up on is that the title does indeed feel like a PS2 game in style. As Dan says at the end of his review, “Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a solid title that sticks rigidly to the Sly Cooper formula. Whether this is a bad thing or not is purely down to personal preference. In my opinion now was the perfect time to add a twist to the proceedings.”
Dan again, on the game’s AI: “The enemy AI also feels extremely basic. Maybe this is something people want from a Sly game – enemies that have clearly defined, non-changing routes through a level, but it just ends up feeling exactly like a PS2 game.” Game Informer commented on the game’s “old-school platforming”, GamingTrend described a “constant feeling of déjà vu”, and so on.
I think that’s probably what your feelings on Thieves in Time are likely to come down to. If you’re after a new PS2-style platformer, then this seems almost perfect for you. If what you were hoping for was a Ratchet Future-style reboot of the series, you’re going to walk away feeling disappointed.
Despite the game only reaching 31st in the UK chart in its first week, before dropping out completely, the game does appear to be selling reasonably well over time. If you’re looking to pick it up, check out the current deal on the PlayStation Store where the Cross-Buy-enabled PS3 version is currently around a tenner, with the Vita-only listing a pound or two cheaper.
41. LEGO City Undercover/LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins
We weren’t to know this when we voted last year, but LEGO City Undercover actually ended up being two games across Nintendo’s two platforms, with the core game being released on the Wii U in March, while 3DS prequel – The Chase Begins – rolled up in April. So first, the Wii U game:[drop]
LEGO City Undercover is a free-roaming platformer/light action game set in a LEGO-fied version of San Francisco, starring top undercover cop (who’s so undercover he’s showing his badge on the cover of the game) Chase McCain, who can switch between costumes to achieve different goals. In practice, the game is basically a LEGO version of GTA, with all the open-world nonsense that description suggests.
Fear not, parents, as Alex says in his 7/10 review, “It’s safe for kids, providing relatively easy gameplay and a genuine sense of exploration and progress, whilst connecting with adults via its movie references and off the beaten path side missions and minigames, of which there are plenty.” In conclusion, Al noted that the game, much like the existing LEGO titles, “exudes a certain charm that makes its few gameplay issues relatively easy to ignore.”
Those issues include sometimes iffy platforming, and load times that really take the biscuit: “‘Ugh, progress bar!’ exclaims hero Chase McCain,” says Alex. “Were this a self-aware parody I’d laugh, but it’s not, and by the time you hear his little quip, barely ten minutes into the game, you’ve already sat through loading times (and the respective progress bars) the likes of which we’ve not experienced for some time.”
The 3DS spin-off The Chase Begins (previously known as LEGO City Stories, and changed for some mysterious reason), didn’t fare quite as well. While Al did note that it’s the “closest thing to a GTA-style adventure on the 3DS”, it sounds like the game is necessarily restricted in scope, and loses a lot of the game’s humour due to the loss of voice acting.
Other reviews bemoaned the Silent Hill-style fog that fills much of the game world due to hardware limitations, and the general lack of life in the world (with the Official Nintendo Magazine brilliantly describing it as more of a “post-apocalyptic LEGO City”, due to its emptiness), but as Al concludes, the game still offers the original’s “simple, charming entertainment”.
“I get The Chase Begins. It’s a competent enough adventure that sits alongside the Wii U version rather than under it by virtue of its sheer determination to offer up the same sort of game.” Al explains. “It has obvious visual cut-backs but the core game remains largely the same – and that’s the key: anyone looking to find out how Chase got to where he is now would probably find lots to enjoy here, and Nintendo’s portable just about manages to allow Traveller’s Tales to build a world that isn’t that far away from that seen in Undercover.”
The fact remains that LEGO City Undercover is still among the best titles available on the Wii U, and certainly a big evolution for the LEGO franchise, while fans of the series or the Wii U game particularly will find lots to love about The Chase Begins. The game is out now on both platforms.
That’s it for today – come back tomorrow for games forty and up!