Since it's a new year, I decided to give the page a stylistic revamp. It's nothing special; but I think the design is just that liiitle bit closer to Wired's design ethos. God, I love those guys.
Snow, Sleds & Space Aliens
The Christmas season is approaching, and it's the best time for games companies to bring out some of their big projects - though not all of them manage to do so in time. Nathan Blades gets stuck into four of the big name releases for you to anticipate on those lonely winter nights...
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Ubisoft - PS3/360/PC
Now a well-established series, Assassin's Creed has now been polished to a sheen. Both the graphics and the gameplay have been upgraded since its previous incarnation - running across rooftops and plunging into bales of hay from dizzying heights has never looked so good, or been so easy to pull off.
And a good thing too, as the multiplayer mode offered will require all your skills. Put up against other assassins; you're given 'hits' to perform, sneaking up on your target, and taking them out with minimal fuss; all the while dodging those who're on your tail. It's a fun mixture of elaborate parkour to jump around the map, and patient stealth - blending in with the street rabble so your foes walk past.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood releases 16 November 2010.
Kirby's Epic Yarn
Nintendo - Wii
Kirby is adorable. In almost every game he has been a part of, he spreads both irresistable charm and emasculating cuteness. The games in question tend not to be very difficult - but the presentation and fun factor more than make up for it. Epic Yarn takes this to the extreme, with its beautiful art style. It discards the idea of hyper-realistic graphics, and fills your television screen with wonderfully animated cloth and string.
Instead of using his well known copying abilities, Kirby instead pulls apart the scenery and enemies using the string he's made out of. Reducing obstacles to scraps of fabric and buttons is incredibly satisfying - and that feeling is doubled in Two-Player mode. In an interesting design choice, you are unable to die - getting hit or falling off-screen just reduces your score - but the decision strangely works. Even the threat of death won't stop Kirby from charming you and your friends. Scary.
Kirby's Epic Yarn has an unconfirmed release date, but will be out before Christmas.
Dead Space 2
EA - PS3/360/PC
I am probably not the best person to be reviewing a game like Dead Space. Not so much because it's a horror game; more because I am entirely awful at Shooters. I cannot aim for the life of me. This made the initial Dead Space something of a trial to play, and this sequel is little different.
The excellent aesthetic design is suspenseful - engines hum, gas hisses from pipes, and odd dents and scratches mark the walls. The combat is still visceral and chunky (stomping on an alien corpse, complete with thudding squishing sound effects is oddly cathartic), but the set pieces don't change if you walk through the same area twice - eliminating the suspense.
There are new enemy types, and lead character Isaac gets some hover boots to play with, but if the first game didn't pique your interest, Dead Space 2 won't sway you.
Dead Space 2 releases 28 January 2011.
Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
Capcom - PS3/360/ARC
As a genre, Fighting games can be difficult to get in to. Fans of the genre tend to be incredibly competitive; making it hard for newcomers to find a place to get started. This makes the Marvel Vs. Capcom series just a little bit special; it's design giving experts an in-depth system to chew on, and newbies the opportunity to tear faces off as Wolverine, or fill them full of bullets as Dante from Devil May Cry.
The game is still incomplete - the version I played had a limited character roster. Capcom's been leaking new characters on the internet to drum up interest. It's definitely been working, at least for me. Spider-Man and Arthur (Ghosts & Goblins) are joining the fray, but some of the veterans from past games, like Gambit, are said to not be returning, which is a damn shame.
At time of writing, Marvel Vs Capcom 3 has an unconfirmed release date. Get it together, Capcom!
Fear and Loathing in Isshu: Pokémon Black & White
Not soon after Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver were released in the UK, Nintendo started releasing information on their newest PokéProject - Black & White. After 5 months of internet leaks and press releases, the 5th Generation of Pokémon has hit the stores in Japan. Touted as a 'reboot' to the main series, Black & White take place in the all new region of Isshu; a fantastical representation of America, rather than the Japanese-based locations of the previous games. Casinos, skyscrapers, and basketball players await.
To go along with it are a new set of 156 Pokémon, protagonists that are actually older than 10, and a plot more complicated than a straightforward quest to beat 8 Gym Leaders and thwart the criminal organization du jour. Yes, Pokémon has finally decided to grow up with us - which can be a little conflicting for some. For a lot of people, Pokémon began and ended with Pokémon Red and Blue, and so the hundreds of new beasts and locations are entirely lost on them. If you're one of those people, I implore you to get with the program! Contrary to what you might think, what Pokémon (and games in general) have become won't be alienating to the fond memories of your youth.
That's not to say the core that made the original Red and Blue so enjoyable has changed. You've still gotta catch 'em all, you still get a rush from battling your captured minions with friends, and the number crunching behind the fights is still slick and complex. As for what kind of new Pokémon are appearing this time around - I'm personally quite impressed. They span from a gigantic electrical tarantula, to a bull with a gigantic afro, to an Ice type that looks amusingly similar to an oversized ice cream cone.
Another new feature is the Dream World, a game mode that is actually separate from the DS game itself, and is played on your PC. You can transfer your beloved monsters to the vastness of the internet, and play bonus minigames. Prizes include almost every Pokémon from the earlier games - so even in 2010, you can still have access to Charizard and Mewtwo. Praise be to Nintendo.
Pokémon Black & White have already been released in Japan. The EU release is slated for summer next year.