Well we’ve certainly hit a gold vein this week, as there is a veritable smorgasbord of big, diverse titles coming out. I think almost every genre is represented this week, third person action, first person shooter, fighting, RPG, simulation, sports, visual novel, vertical AND horizontal shooter, and VR. If you’ve been on the sidelines in 2019, then now might be the time to finally drop some dough on something and join the conversation.
Crackdown 3 (Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 15th
Xbox One fans are a patient bunch. It’s not like the system is totally void of games, they get all of the biggest third party titles, from Assassin’s Creed to Red Dead Redemption, and even the biggest Japanese games, like Kingdom Hearts III. While this is all well and nice, it’s not really a compelling reason to own the machine. The PS4 is dominating the landscape with major exclusives, and I can’t help but feel that Xbox One owners must feel slightly left behind. That’s why this week is so crucial for those fans, as one of the very rare Xbox One exclusives drops this week with the release of Crackdown 3. The game hasn’t been without its problems, being delayed three times, so it almost feels like this is a fever dream. Is the game even coming out? Of course it is, right? The series has been no stranger to delays, with the first game in the series developed in the era when everyone wanted their own Grand Theft Auto, but of course it was delayed and didn’t come out until 2007, six years after GTA III. The series has always been much more hyper stylized than GTA, opting for a more futuristic, sci-fi setting than the realism that GTA operates in (well, real to a degree). In this latest entry, you play as a member of The Agency, a group of super-powered agents that are akin to a kind of private army/police force. A terrorist organization has attacked the entire world, and it is up to you, your fellow agents, and Terry Crews (as Commander Jaxon) to save humanity. Big guns, big explosions, and one of the few games to feature a predominantly African-American cast of characters, Xbox One owners would (probably) be foolish to pass up this one.
The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince (PS4/Switch)
I get Ico vibes from this, but mostly because of the “leading someone by the hand” mechanic. This interesting little title comes from Japanese developer Nippon Ichi Software, and was created by an internal web developer through a contest, that seems not unlike Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight. In The Liar Princess and the Blind Price, you take on the role of the liar princess, who in her human form must guide a blind prince through various obstacles, while also transforming into a large wolf in order to keep the prince safe from monsters and other dangers. It looks really pretty.
Far Cry: New Dawn (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 15th
Well, I hope you finished Far Cry 5, because this game is just one big spoiler for that title. Taking place in the same location at Far Cry 5, you find yourself as a survivor of a nuclear war, living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is being terrorized by a group of raiders, led by, as usual for the series, a charismatic leader; this time it is two identical twin sisters who call themselves, obviously, The Twins. I really disliked Far Cry 5 to the point that I found it highly off-putting, but I’m obviously an anomaly, as the game was so successful and beloved that Ubisoft felt the need to immediately release a sequel. Expect to do many of the same things you did in the previous title; take over outposts, rescue civilians, and disrupt enemy caravans, as well as the return of the Guns and Fangs For Hire system, which sees you hiring various humans and animals to fight at your side.
Jump Force (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 15th
Do you like anime? Do you like Shonen Jump? Congratulations, there’s a game for you! This crossover fighting game uses a 3v3 system, similar to Dissidia Final Fantasy NT and the recent 4v4 game Naruto To Boruto: Shinobi Striker. The story is kind of typical for these crossover games, an ultimate power is unleashed on the universe and it takes the combined effort of a group of heroes from multiple dimensions to put a stop to it. Nothing groundbreaking here, although anime legend Akira Toriyama did design some brand new characters for the game, so there is that. To give your inner fanboy/fangirl a chance to squeal with delight, here is a list of the shows/manga that you can expect to see characters from:
- Black Clover
- City Hunter
- Dragon Ball
- Dragon Quest
- Fist of the North Star
- Hunter x Hunter
- JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
- My Hero Academia
- One Piece
- Rurouni Kenshin
- Saint Seiya
- Yu Yu Hakusho
Metro Exodus (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 15th
There’s been a lot of ink spilled over this game in the last month or so, mostly to do with the developer’s controversial decision to remove the game from Steam (and G.O.G., among others) and release it exclusively through the Epic Games Store for PC owners (the game will still come out on PS4 and XBone). That decision shouldn’t be a factor in the merits of the game, but whatever excitement and hype behind it has been almost completely overshadowed by this business decision. I’m sure that Koch Media (no relation to the politically active brothers) and 4A Games had very good reasons to switch over to Epic, not least of which is their policy of giving more revenue to the developer than Steam does. What feels off about it to so many is that this feels like a company turning its back on a group of players as well as a bully tactic by Epic Games in order to force PC players to migrate over to their software and digital storefront. On its face, this is no big deal. You can still launch any game through Steam if you know how to do it, and even if you don’t, it’s just one new thing you need to click on to play the game. 4A Games isn’t turning its back on anyone either, you can still play the game on PC, you just can’t launch it directly through Steam. I see both sides, 4A wants the extra money and Epic wants people to use their store, but some players can be incredibly territorial, to the point of tribalism. Heck, it’s one of the reasons Steve Bannon went so hard after their votes when he worked for the Trump campaign. If you look past these territorial jag-off’s for a second, you can see a broader point about consumer choice being stifled at the hands of a company with deep pockets who is forcing players to come to their walled garden if they want to play with their toys. After all this text you might be wondering what the game is about, zombies I think. Something about a train, and a post-apocalyptic Russia, but you know what, I have no clue. All I can think about when you bring up this game is the controversy about leaving Steam. That can’t be good for 4A Games, even if the money they made from the deal is.
Ports and Re-releases:
The Caligula Effect: Overdose (PS4/Switch) – Releases Feb. 15th
If I’ve never heard of the game, is it really a re-make/port? These are the questions that keep me up at night (not really). Before seeing any artwork I 100% believed this was a game about the Roman emperor Caligula, so imagine my surprise when I found out it was a JRPG with anime art. You appear to be someone who enters a simulation of a high school in a kind of virtual reality, not sure if you’re an adult pretending to be in high school for fun, or an actual high school student going to school in VR. In any case, it looks bizarre in that fun anime sort of way.
OlliOlli: Switch Stance (Switch) – Releases Feb. 15th
The BAFTA award winning sports game is making its way to Switch, featuring both titles in the OlliOlli series. Skateboard through various obstacle courses and do sick tricks. Pretty tight, right?
Civilization VI: The Gathering Storm (PC) – Releases Feb. 14th
Notorious time sink Civilization VI gets a new expansion on Valentine’s Day, just in time for you to completely ignore your special someone. Titled The Gathering Storm, this expansion is all about how the natural environment affects your civilization, specifically through disasters like volcanic eruptions, floods and storms. Along with this new challenge to game play, you will also find eight new civilizations to play as, new scenarios to play through, new units, new wonders, new buildings, shit, just about something new in every category. Sorry honey, I know you wanted to go see that Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper movie, but I’m busy trying to lead the Aztecs to a religious victory before global warming dooms the planet. Love you!
Anthem: Origin Access Premier Subscribers (PC) – Releases Feb. 15th
EA’s answer to Destiny is finally coming out on the 15th, for PC, if you pre-ordered it, and you’re an Origin Access Premier Subscriber. Hey, if you’re an Origin Access Subscriber on PS4 or Xbox One you can play the game for a 10 hour trial starting on the 15th as well, aren’t you lucky? I’ll have more to say about this game next week, but for now, enjoy your early access before the other 45 of us start playing on the 22nd.
Arcade Spirits (PC)
This is a visual novel, dating sim that takes place in a future that is dominated by 1980’s arcades. If you need more info than this then you weren’t meant to play this game.
Hyper Jam (PC/PS4/Xbox One)
Continuing the 80’s aesthetic, Hyper Jam is an arena brawler for you and up to three of your friends to take part in. Quickly maneuver your way around a multitude of locations, grabbing weapons and perks along the way as you shoot, blast and stab your way to victory.
Eastshade (PC) – Releases Feb. 13th
This first person adventure game has you exploring a beautiful open world, creating paintings that you then sell to townsfolk in order to uncover secrets and stories about the various locations you will visit. It seems rather ambitious for an indie studio to tackle, but the visuals are gorgeous and the premise is intriguing.
Intruders: Hide and Seek (PSVR) – Releases Feb. 13th
It’s a dark and stormy night in your parent’s vacation house. Wishing you were at home, you must instead endure the horrors of spending quality time with your family. Thank goodness three strangers break into the house and take your family hostage, holding them prisoner until they inevitably kill them. VR and horror seem to go hand in hand, and Intruders seems like one of those “hands over my eyes” kind of games. As young Ben, you must sneak around the vast vacation home that your parents own, in an attempt to find and free them before the strangers catch you.
Code: Realize Wintertide Miracles (PS4/PS Vita) – Releases Feb. 14th
Okay, so maybe Civilization VI isn’t the best game to play on Valentine’s Day, how about an anime visual novel instead? This is the third title in the Code: Realize series, following the events of Guardian of Rebirth and Future Blessings. Laugh a little, love a lot, and cherish the time you have with your virtual friends; Code: Realize Wintertide Miracles.
Degrees of Separation (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 14th
Continuing the romantic games theme, we have Degrees of Separation releasing on all major platforms. In this platforming puzzle game, two souls of opposite design, Ember and Rime, must work together to move forward. Will their contrasting powers be a hindrance, or can they find common ground with their differences in order to flourish? I don’t know!
Love Hero (3DS) – Releases Feb. 14th
Here’s the synopsis from the Nintendo eShop, “Hospital recovery begins. She will be treated soon”. This is a vertical shooter.
Space War Arena (Switch) – Releases Feb. 14th
This two player shooter comes from the designer of Ecco The Dolphin. You must build and develop a fleet of ships in real time in order to defeat your opponent, which can either be the computer AI or your significant other, on Valentine’s Day, instead of, you know…
The Textorcist: The Story of Ray Bibbia (PC) – Releases Feb. 14th
Mixing elements of vertical shooters, and Mavis Beacon typing software, comes The Textorcist. I’m not sure what the fascination is with horror and typing, but this is the third game to feature some kind of horrific monster and typing, from Typing of the Dead to Mario Teaches Typing. Oh, I’m sorry, Mario Teaches Typing isn’t a horror game. Yeah, okay, sure; you try to play that without running out of the room screaming.
DreamWorks Dragons Dawn of New Riders (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 15th
In case you were wondering, yes, DreamWorks did release the film series How To Train Your Dragon, and they are behind this latest video game release Dragons Dawn of New Riders, a game release meant to be a tie-in with their new film, DreamWorks How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. This comes out on Friday the 15th, Jason’s second least favorite day of the month, tied with Friday the 11th. Get it?
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Game companies of the past didn’t spend nearly as much time releasing games about love as they did this year, unless you think golf, stealth kills and Grand Theft Auto are romantic. Hey, who am I to judge, eh?
Flower (PS3) – Released Feb. 12th, 2009: Wiki Link
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned (Xbox 360) – Released Feb. 17th, 2009: Wiki Link
Street Fighter IV (PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Feb. 17th, 2009: Wiki Link
I couldn’t help but talk about all three of these games released this week ten years ago. You’ve got two games that are probably the polar opposite of one another, with another game in the middle of the two. On the one end you have Flower, a game that many would probably describe as a “game”, due mostly to the fact that you aren’t doing much aside from following the wind as it moves flower petals through the air. Yeah, there’s a system to it all, and you can explore various areas with the flower petals to unlock secrets and advance the vague plot, but it’s not much more than a relaxation simulator. The game was lauded by critics, however, winning numerous awards from outlets such as the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, the Game Audio Network Guild, Playboy, and of course the coveted “Best Independent Game Fueled By (Mountain) Dew” at the Spike VGA’s. The game was also listed in Time Magazine’s “All-Time 100 Greatest Games” list in 2012; it’s unclear which soda sponsored that one.
On the other end of the spectrum you had Rockstar Games follow-up to the massively successful Grand Theft Auto IV, and their first piece of DLC since 1999’s GTA: London expansion. With The Lost and Damned, Rockstar took us to the back alleys, open roads and biker bars of Liberty City, as we followed the story of Johnny, a member of the Lost MC, a motorcycle club that (surprise!) also dabbled in criminal activity. Together with this game, the original release of GTA IV and The Ballad of Gay Tony, Rockstar were able to tell three unique stories about three different men in the same city. They would later use this format to tell a more intertwined story with Grand Theft Auto V, a game where we even get to see the outcome of poor Johnny.
Finally, if the vagueness of Flower and the brashness of The Lost and Damned didn’t appeal to the players of 2009, they had one of the most middle of the road, mainstream titles I can think of, Street Fighter IV. Released after what seemed like years in stagnation (despite the Alpha series and multiple spin-offs featuring Street Fighter characters) the popular fighting game series returned in 2009 with its first numbered entry since 1997’s Street Fighter III. I think what made this game so special was that it felt like a true sequel to Street Fighter II (even though III is a direct sequel), with all of those characters once again playable in the same game, with a bevy of new ones joining the roster. Despite the 3D models, the game still retained the 3D view of the original titles, but these new 3D models allowed for some great looking super specials, as well as unique move sets, like Super Street Fighter IV’s Hakan, with his grease attacks. With three unique titles all coming out in the same week it must have been both a blessing and a curse for players back then. I guess doing this column has shown me just how painful some weeks can be on your wallet, or your FOMO.
Syphon Filter (PlayStation) – Released Feb. 17th, 1999: Wiki Link
I don’t have much personal experience with this game, so I’ll just kind of summarize the Wikipedia page, sorry. Originally conceived as just a name, the game didn’t really start to materialize until someone at 989 Studios decided that they wanted to make a GoldenEye style game for the PlayStation. Of course the previous year had seen the release of Metal Gear Solid, which, heh, solidly, put the action stealth genre at the forefront of player’s minds. The game was made by a relatively small and inexperienced team that kind of bit off more than they could chew. The game was so bad in early builds that it was almost cancelled several times, with the game failing to meet milestones, and having its story and game play constantly changed. Once art director John Garvin took over as creative director, did the game finally have someone steering the proverbial ship in the right direction. When released, the game was very well received by both critics and the public. Players were especially impressed with the game’s AI and selection of weapons. Most negative criticism were due to the game’s perceived low quality in graphics, and while still having a decent story, couldn’t shake the comparison to the more artistically driven Metal Gear Solid. Syphon Filter was a big success for 989 Studios, leading to two sequels on the PlayStation, and two spin-off’s for the PSP (a PS2 port of one of those spin-off’s was released in 2010). The series has been quietly forgotten with no new titles since 2007, leaving a generation of fans to wonder if it’ll ever come back.
Bandai Golf: Challenge Pebble Beach (NES) – Released Feb. 1989: Wiki Link
Imagine this scenario on Valentine’s Day, 1989: You come home from your 12 hour shift over at the DOW Chemical offices, getting ready to try and explain why your company poisoned a bunch of people in India in 1984, and your wife says “How’d you like to go play golf at Pebble Beach?” “Oh wow, honey! Are you serious? I would love to spend some time at Pebble Beach, when do we leave?” “How about right now stud muffin; here you go!” she pulls out a copy of Bandai Golf: Challenge Pebble Beach for the Nintendo Entertainment System from behind her back. Clearly she did this as a token of warmth and affection, even though you work for a company that poisoned an entire town, leading to what many refer to as the worst industrial disaster in history. There’s a part of you that wants to react with utter outrage and throw her to the ground in a fit of disgust, but then you remember your hero, Dr. Bill Cosby, and the relationship he has with his wife Camilla. Dr. Cosby would never treat women this way. With your feelings of anger slowly subsiding you let out a smile, “Thanks honey, this is really something special. I can’t wait to visit Pebble Beach”, giving her a soft kiss on the forehead. You retreat to your den, pour out three fingers of Jack, unwrap the new NES game your wife bought you and walk over to your video game console…the Sega Master System, “MOTHER FUCKER”!