It’s almost August. That means that gamers can finally go inside again. No doubt burned by the sun and feeling unrecognizably better about themselves after fresh intakes of oxygen. The summer drought is done, and all of that disposable income we saved up is about to get [un]wisely spent on the usual overflow of August-December release titles. Of course, if you’re anything like me, the Steam Summer Getaway sale has bled you dry already. But as I cry myself to sleep every night, here is what’s coming in the forthcoming release window. Part I.
This is usually the risk month. The month where gamers try the water in the pool with one toe before diving in. Normally, a lot of developers will push their titles out in hope that we’re thirsty enough to drink just about everything after the last three months. Interestingly enough, there are still some very solid releases on deck for August 2013, all of them with developers trying to reach out to the current gen before PS4 and Xbox One inevitably take over the fall window.
The good thing about August, is that it’s not entirely overpopulated by FPS games, and that seems to still be the case. One of the more interesting titles, at least for me (and what do I know), looks to be The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. It’s an interesting outing, especially considering the success of XCOM last year. And while XCOMhad a tactical turn-based strategy feel to it, The Bureau jumps right in with what looks like a tactical third-person adventure game.
The first thoughts that come to mind are Mass Effect in the 50s, with aliens (wait, Mass Effect had aliens too). Luckily, all of the previews indicate that the complex tactical system from last year’s game is still in place and you will have to approach each encounter differently. A number of videos show of pretty cool and innovative abilities that will all contribute to combat efficiency. You will still get to customize your squad to fit your combat play style as you move forward.
The tactical element seems great. The AI responds like a real life form would. Retreating, taking cover, flanking and advancing on your position intelligently. This could create an interesting hybrid, keeping with the spirit of XCOMwhile adding a way for the players to feel more emerged in the action. The game has a developed story full with dialogue choices and decisions.
So far, The Bureau seems to be on track to become the surprise summer hit, especially if all of the elements mesh well. The developers had the benefit of playing with an already established universe which could be a huge advantage.
To keep up with the theme of aliens coming to earth with the goal of enslaving or eradicating the whole of human life,Saint’s Row IV is also coming this August and at this point the developers have thrown away all of the pretence of rationality. Instead, they decided that the best way to unlock the sandbox is to develop a plot where aliens come to Earth and enslave people in a digital reality forcing you to fight through countless hordes using your superpowers… I will just stop there, because at this point I’m already buying the newest Saint’s Row. It has the kind of premise that pretty much gives developers free roam to introduce ANYTHING they wish.
As the series progressed, the Saint’s Row games have gotten progressively more ridiculous with each installment. Quite honestly, I thought III was a culmination of everything that could happen, clearly, I was wrong. The series displays the same sense of juvenile wonder and joy that we’re used to. Some games don’t take themselves seriously, with Saint’s Row IV that is an understatement of gargantuan proportions.
Let’s be honest, the humour in these games can be a hit or miss situation for many. Some love it, others will readily turn away. But at its best, the series has been come a fantastic satire, at its worst it’s still pretty good, filled with juvenile impact humour.
What makes the game worth playing though is that no matter what you may think of the premise, the writing or the ridiculousness, the mechanics for gameplay have always been solid. Sure, the AI is wonky, but this is not the game that’s about methodical challenge, it’s more about cranking it up and seeing what happens.
If you do want a more tactical experience, you might want to consider Splinter Cell: Blacklist, although, “tactical” may be a stretch when it comes to this long running series. Splinter Cell used to be more about tactical espionage than anything else. Conviction was the furthest departure for the series, turning more into a third-person action adventure than the stealth game it was known for.
Set after Conviction, Sam Fisher is back in action and working for the government yet again, hunting down a terrorist group known as The Engineers. The plot, as always can be lifted straight out of a Tom Clancy novel (d’uh). UbiSoft Toronto, this being the studio’s first game, were brave enough to introduce a few extra elements to the series. A new gameplay mechanic – Killing in Motion – will allow players to mark and execute targets on the move. In many ways, it is a natural extension of the Mark & Execute mechanic introduced in the previous game.
The exciting thing here is that the Mercs vs. Spies mode is back in multiplayer. In the previous games, it has been one of the more exciting and different multiplayer modes. Pitting two fundamentally different classes against each other in multiplayer is always an exciting premise and switching between the two adds an excitement and diversity to gameplay that has made the multiplayer a standout for the series before. Can it do it again?
If that’s not enough sequel for you, you can get your fill of the “I thought this series was dead a long time ago installment” with this summer’s Lost Planet 3. That being said, the previous two Lost Planet entries were fun in a silly, “I guess if there is nothing else to play” kind of way. The co-op mechanics were great diversions to play with friends and the game offered just enough entertainment value to pop it in every now and again. It even had some hardcore fans, which as you can probably tell, I am not.
The big change right away is that there is no more co-op, or at least no co-op focus. This is strange, but also impressive, as more games tack multiplayer elements on like it’s going out of style, it seems that it takes a special kind of bravery to focus on just the single player (or as Last of Us proves a special kind of talent).
Where the third installment helps separate itself is that it’s a prequel (what a novelty, I know /sarcasm). The game takes place long before the first game and deals with the first colonists of the planet E.D.N. III, effectively going back to the snow setting of the first game. From what I’ve seen in demo’s the pacing seems to mirror Dead Space as well as the previous Lost Planet series. It is story driven, but you do have an openness to how you approach the main plot. There are side quests and upgrades, making it effectively part-RPG (like everything is these days).
There will also be mech sections, to keep in tune with what made the previous games fun. You will be able to dispatch bigger foes and feel a whole lot more powerful as you progress. Similarly, the weather conditions will factor into the game just as much. Overall, the revamp seems to be doing the series a whole lot of good, and having a third-party developer work on this instead of Capcom may give the game some much missed love.
Your sports game of the month entry comes in the form of Madden 25, celebrating another anniversary of people paying full-price to play basically the same game year after year. What makes Madden unique this year is that it will also be coming out for PS4 and Xbox One come November.
One would have to assume that the next gen version of the game will be miles ahead, new hardware better equipped to handle all of the additional changes such as the new Ignite engine. While the current gen will probably feature minor updates. With Ignite engine, the next gen Madden will be able to track almost all movements on the field to better simulate player contact and collisions, making for a more interesting game. At the end of the day however, unless they change the NFL playbook, it’s still football no matter how you spin it.
The August game that not a lot of people will play (but a whole lot more should) is Killer is Dead, from the depth of the mind of Suda 51. The game takes on similar themes as No More Heroes and Killer7 (although despite the name, it is maintained that this is not a sequel), serving a much darker side to the silliness of Lollipop Chainsawfrom last year.
If it’s anything like other Suda 51 games, you can expect a headscratching story line, that somehow ends up making sense. A whole lot of really cool looking action and other sequences. Of course, the cell-shaded visual style that Suda games perfect is back again for another spin.
The game looks great and seems to be lots of fun. The arsenal takes the swords from No More Heroes and throws guns, and wrestling into the mix. If nothing else, this title will be a visual treat for fans of this kind of stuff. And if you’re not a fan, you should probably rethink some of your major life choices.