It’s Valentine’s release week and what better way to spend some time with that special someone than with a great video game! Let’s see, great game…great game…hmmm, well, I guess you could just have sex instead. Do people still do that?
OlliOlli World (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Feb. 8th
Developed by: Roll7
Published by: Private Division
OlliOlli World is this week’s top game by default because, well, nothing really looks that great. However, every top game this week does look interesting, and in honor of Valentine’s Day we should celebrate those games with great personalities, not just the ones that get all gussied up and injected with silicone. I will say, though, that OlliOlli World is a pretty highly anticipated game, with the series moving out of the 2D realm and entering the 3D space. I am going to predict that OlliOlli World will be one of those games from 2022 that shows up on a lot of end of year lists, probably in the final spot on people’s Top 10’s or Top 20’s.
CrossfireX (Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Feb. 10th
Developed by: Remedy Entertainment/Smilegate Entertainment
Published by: Smilegate
Originally released in South Korea in 2007, Crossfire is a free-to-play online first person shooter that has taken Asia by storm and is currently the most played video game in the entire world (by player count). With a massive player base, a successful television drama in China, and an upcoming film in the U.S., developer Smilegate wanted to bring CrossFire to consoles but they wanted to make it more than just another online shooter, so a single player campaign was added. Again, not wanting to just slap together an offline version of the game, Smilegate reached out to Finnish game developer Remedy (Max Payne, Alan Wake, Control) to develop and craft a compelling single player story, with the team putting together something they felt was like a cross between Metal Gear and Resident Evil. I’m not a huge online shooter fan (though I’ve recently fallen in love with Rainbow Six: Extraction), but the promise of a single player narrative from Remedy has my attention, and it should have yours too.
Kingdom of the Dead (PC) – Releases Feb. 10th
Developed by: Dirigo Games
Published by: Hook
The second of three first person shooters this week, Kingdom of the Dead is notable for its unique art style which brings pen & ink drawings to life. In this game, players must take on Death and his army of minions, closing gates to the underworld in eight heart pounding levels. Kingdom of the Dead takes heavy inspiration from the FPS games of the 90’s and looks like a nice throwback to that edgy era.
PowerSlave: Exhumed (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 10th
Developed by: Nigthdive Studios
Published by: Nigthdive Studios
Speaking of 90’s throwbacks, developer Nightdive Studios, well known for their ports of classic 90’s games like System Shock, Quake, Turok, and many more, are set to release their latest classic port, our third and final FPS of the week, PowerSlave: Exhumed. Originally released on the PC, Sega Saturn, and Sony PlayStation in 1996/97, this first person shooter is another in a long line of Doom clones that littered the video game landscape at the end of the 20th century. Inspired by the Iron Maiden album of the same name (but with zero ties to the band or album itself), PowerSlave: Exhumed takes place in the Egyptian city of Karnak which has been invaded by aliens (of course). It is up to the player to wipe out this threat and, just maybe, blow up some ancient relics and shit along the way. The original game was incredibly divisive among critics, gaining perfect scores in some outlets and middling to poor reviews in others. Has 26 years and modern controls/graphics done anything to change the minds of those who hated it? I guess we’ll find out.
Lost Ark (PC) – Releases Feb. 11th
Developed by: Tripod Studio/Smilegate Entertainment
Published by: Amazon Games
Our second Smilegate game of the week, Lost Ark is a free-to-play isometric MMORPG that has been a hit in South Korea since its release in 2019. The game is, basically, a PVE hack & slash where you search for treasure and fortune, with the best stuff likely behind a pay wall. The game is apparently rife with loot boxes and has been outright banned in Belgium and the Netherlands due to their predatory and pervasive use. Sounds like fun!
Infernax (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Feb. 14th
Developed by: Berzerk Studio
Published by: The Arcade Crew
Our last big game of the week is another retro-inspired title, taking cues from Zelda II and Castlevania, it’s Berzerk Studio’s Infernax. This vast, 2D open world ARPG features a deep single-player narrative, as well as a surprisingly high amount of violence and gore. Your choices will effect the game and its ending, so be sure to make the right decision. Here’s your first choice, do you pick door A or door B? Aw man, you should have chosen the other one, bummer.
Ports and Re-releases:
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix, HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, and 3 + Re:mind (Switch) – Releases Feb. 10th
A lot of people were very excited when Kingdom Hearts was announced for Switch, but then that excitement was cut short once it was revealed that the games would only be playable through the Switch cloud service. I mean, the games will look great, and I’m sure the connection will be stable enough, until you’re fighting the last boss and your Wi-Fi goes out because it always does when you’re in the middle something important and I’m not angry or anything and this has never happened to me! Stop looking at me like that!!
Crusader Kings III: Royal Court (PC) – Releases Feb. 8th
I’m going to tell my kids this is The Smashing Pumpkins.
Far Cry 6 – Joseph: Collapse (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Feb. 8th
The third and final DLC for Far Cry 6 drops this week, with players taking on the role of Far Cry 5 antagonist, Joseph Seed. I’m sure a lot of gamers have been dying to play a game as a religious zealot who is (probably) also a white nationalist. Today is their lucky day!
The rest of this week’s titles all look fairly interesting as well, like the kung-fu brawler Sifu, the modern remake of Atari’s Breakout, and the Paper’s Please-esque, ultra woke, political game Not Tonight 2. Cupid hath pulled back his sweetheart’s bow to cast divine arrows into your loved one’s soul, so maybe treat them to one of these titles.
- Sifu (PC/PS4/PS5) – Releases Feb. 8th
- Breakout: Recharged (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Feb. 10th
- Grapple Dog (PC/Switch) – Releases Feb. 10th
- Rise of the Third Power (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 10th
- Not Tonight 2 (PC) – Releases Feb. 11th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Crusader Kings II (PC) – Released Feb. 14th, 2012: Wiki Link
After the dissolution of their parent company in 1999, Swedish developer Paradox Development Studio went independent and started developing and releasing their own games with most, if not all, in the strategy genre. They found modest success, but their American distributor would fall into financial trouble and close shop, prompting the team at Paradox to scramble. Seeing the success of Steam, Paradox experimented with digital sales on their own website, offering DLC for the game Victoria, and it proved to be a major revenue generator for the company. They would eventually turn this into the digital store front GamersGate (unfortunate name), but with few games of their own to sell, Paradox would go on to acquire distribution rights to several other titles. The notoriety of their store would continue to grow, allowing them time to fully realize, play test, and fund a well made product; Crusader Kings II.
Released on PC in February of 2012, Crusader Kings II was Paradox’s first major hit around the world and is almost single-handedly the reason they still exist as a company today. For those who aren’t familiar with the game, Crusader Kings II is a grand strategy game in which players control one of several medieval dynasties. You start the game as one member of a family, marry them off, have children, and then continue the game as that descendent, followed by their descendent, and then their descendent, and so on. At the start of the game, players can choose a year to start in that ranges from Jan. 1st, 1066 and Dec. 31st, 1337 (Leet?), and the game will allow them to play up to the year 1453, unless they lose all of their territories or do not produce any heirs. Really, though, Crusader Kings II has no end goal, no real objective to reach, leaving it up to the player to decide their own measure of success.
How, then, can you find success? Well, you basically try to make your dynasty the greatest in the world through various means. This can be through war & conquest, marrying into an already successful dynasty, assassinating your rivals, and much, much more that would be far too boring to go over in this column. Suffice to say, if staring at spreadsheets and seeing raw data gets you in the mood, then Crusader Kings II is the perfect Valentine’s Day treat. Critics were mostly positive towards CKII, praising the game for its complex systems and great use of treachery and espionage, but they did note that the game was incredibly difficult to learn, saying that the tutorials were basically useless. There is so much going on in Crusader Kings II that it can be incredibly intimidating to play, giving a real sense of information overload. Thankfully, though, you can play the game for free, with Paradox switching to an F2P model. Granted, Crusader Kings III is now available, but if you want to see what helped put Paradox on the map then it’s well worth your time.
State of Emergency (PS2) – Released Feb. 12th, 2002: Wiki Link
After the runaway success of Grand Theft Auto III, critics and players were waiting with great anticipation for the next game from Rockstar. Their PS2 port of Max Payne, which came out in late 2001, was well received, but it had already released on PC earlier in the year. It wouldn’t be much longer, though, for the next game to come out sporting that iconic black & yellow logo, the “riot simulator” State of Emergency. However, while the game may have been published by Rockstar, State of Emergency was actually developed by a third-party, a company called VIS Entertainment who had previously released Earthworm Jim 3D, as well as two other games based on Tom & Jerry and The Powerpuff Girls. I scoured the internet to see if I could find any information about how State of Emergency came to be, but it just wasn’t there. A lot of VIS Entertainment’s staff were former DMA Design employees, with some of them having previously worked on the original Grand Theft Auto, so that really appears to be the only connection I can make between Rockstar and VIS. Alright, what’s this game all about?
State of Emergency is, like I said above, a “riot simulator”, but underneath that, it’s really just a 3D beat ’em up. Set in the futuristic year of 2023, major corporations control just about every aspect of society, even the police, and it is up to a group of revolutionaries to stop them by any means necessary. You play as a new recruit into an underground resistance group called “Freedom”, heading into various zones to take on missions that help further the cause. There are 175 missions spread out over four levels, and just about all of them are the same variation on “kill some people”. Sometimes you have to escort someone and kill their attackers, sometimes you have to kill a guy carrying important documents, sometimes you have to blow up a store and kill people, and sometimes you just have…well…kill people. Each stage is impressive enough, I guess, with up to 200 or so 3D models on screen at one time without any kind of slow down. Technically, State of Emergency is impressive…and that’s about it.
State of Emergency fucking sucks; I guess. You know what it isn’t? Grand Theft Auto III with mass riots going on, which is kind of how they portrayed it in the marketing. They made it seem like you’d be in a big open world sandbox, taking on missions from your rebel group, all while avoiding the mass hysteria going on around you; nope. State of Emergency is far from open world, it’s four small stages that has you running back and forth between, usually, the same two or three locations on the map. The melee combat is decent enough, and does sort of feel like a 3D Final Fight, but the gun combat is horrible, being somehow worse than it was in GTA3 (again, not the same developer). I remember pre-ordering this back in 2002 and being so fucking excited to play it, thinking I’d found my next big obsession; wrong. I hated State of Emergency back in 2002, and I hated it even more in 2022 when I played it again for the first time in twenty years.
Critically, State of Emergency was seen as just okay, but critics did go apeshit over the large crowds of people on screen. Like I mentioned above, most critics said there wasn’t much of a game to play, but the fact that it could have so many people on screen at once was so cool that you didn’t care about how bad the game was. Back in 2002, this game was seen as a technological marvel that made you look past the barebones gameplay, today, however, State of Emergency is no longer technologically impressive. Unlike Rockstar’s GTA3 which is technologically inferior but contains great gameplay, SoE features nothing worthwhile to a modern audience and, frankly, it didn’t offer much to its audience in 2002 either. There is currently no legal way to play State of Emergency without a disc and a PS2, so your best bet is through emulation or by pirating the early 2000’s PC version, but you really shouldn’t.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project (NES) – Released Feb. 1st, 1992: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Medicine Man – Starring Sean Connery and Lorraine Bracco
Notable Album Release: Social Distortion – Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell
Finally, this week, we’re highlighting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project. Following closely to the game play of Turtles II: The Arcade Game for the NES, Turtles III is a decent beat ’em up for the NES, a system that was still going strong even as the SNES was coming up on its 6 month in the market. While Turtles III was similar to Turtles II, the game was not an arcade port, instead being an original game, like the first Turtles. It was refreshing playing this today, I never had this growing up, was kind of put off by it for some reason, but seeing a wholly original Turtles game done in the same style as the arcade game was kind of neat. The graphics aren’t all that great compared to the 16-bit games that were coming out, but for a late era NES title it looked pretty good. The controls are tight and the levels are frustrating, but not impossible. The game did well with critics and even more so with players, who put it on their short list for best NES game in the 1992 Nintendo Power awards (the top prize went to Mega Man 4). Like State of Emergency above, there is no legal way whatsoever to play this game as Konami no longer has the rights to the TMNT license, and I doubt they’d let the current rights holder re-release their game. Your only choice here is illegal emulation and, unlike SoE, you should absolutely play this game.