Scouting Report – The Games of May

After sitting through far too many rounds of the NFL Draft over the weekend, I got to thinking: If sports reporters can analyze players that haven’t gone pro yet, why not try to make an assessment of games that haven’t gone live yet?  So here is my scouting report on some big releases of May, including just how I think they will fare when they hit the big time.

Max Payne 3


Scouting Report

The wait for this game has had many fans feel what it’s like to be stuck in Max’s signature slowdown bullet time mode. Original developer Remedy did an amazing job with the first “Max Payne” when it came to capturing that particular brand of Hong Kong cinema gunplay, popularized by the likes of “Hard Boiled” and “The Killer“, while infusing it with some old fashioned American film noir style. It resulted in one of the most revolutionary and unique shooters ever made. For the sequel, “Max Payne 2“, they managed to blow nearly everyone’s expectations away by retaining the essentially the same gameplay of the first, but then smothering the entire experience with unbelievable amount of style, emphasized by some of the best level design ever in a game and some perfect ragdoll physics, to create what is one of my personal favorite games of all time.

But now it’s Rockstar’s turn to take the reins (and why not as that iconic R logo on the first two led many to believe it was one of their developments anyway), as they attempt to bring Max back into the limelight. So far, from the numerous preview trailers, it looks like the emphasis is on refinement of the system and not starting a revolution….as least in the single player. Yes for the first time ever, Max is going multiplayer in what Rockstar is hoping is going to be a unique attempt at that eternal question. How do you make bullet time work in multiplayer?

Prospects

I have zero doubt this game is going to be good. I have some questions though on whether or not it will be great.

It’s obvious from everything we’ve seen so far that Rockstar is not looking to stray from the established gameplay of the first two, and merely tweak it with some very welcome additions (mostly cosmetic). But at this point, many fans want the game to be more than “just fun”, and to pull that off, Rockstar is going to have to match the numerous little X-factors that Remedy populated the first two games with. As this installment is moving away from its previous Noir style roots, they’re going to have to find a way to make the new “Man on Fire”-style world and plot shine as bright and feel as unique. Failing that, it’s going to come down to the multiplayer to be what makes this game stand out in a busy market (even for a returning legend).

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GAME REVIEW: Bloodforge

It’s pretty depressing to see a game as visually striking as “Bloodforge” turn out to be so terrible, especially when you consider all the hard work that was put into making it. But that’s exactly the case with this “God of War” wannabe, which is completely undone by some simple gameplay mechanics. You play as Crom, a Celtic warrior who’s given up his life of violence to live peacefully with his wife. When he returns home from hunting one day to find his village being attacked by savages, however, Crom is tricked by some cruel gods into murdering her during the ensuing battle, and now he’s exacting revenge.

For as weak as the story may be, though, it’s nothing compared to the myriad of other problems that plague the game. Though developer Climax tries to disguise these issues by wowing players with ultraviolent deaths and gratuitous amounts of blood (which serves a dual role in the game as a combat amplifier and form of currency), it doesn’t work. The hack-and-slash combat is repetitive; the variety of enemies is shockingly poor; and the jerky camera is so bad that you might want to pop a few Dramamine if you plan on playing for more than a few minutes. Those that can handle the throbbing headaches you’re bound to suffer along the way might find “Bloodforge” a little more bearable, but in an industry flooded with new games vying for your attention every week, I’d much rather spend my time on something that doesn’t actually hurt to look at.

Five Potential Wreck-It Ralph Cameos

If you haven’t heard already, Disney has a movie coming out this November called “Wreck-It Ralph.” It follows the journey of fictional video game villain (the aforementioned Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly) who becomes jealous of the fame and love his hero nemesis Felix (Jack McBrayer) receives, and decides to try to turn over a new leaf and become good.

While not an entirely original idea, the video game setting definitely makes it somewhat novel. What makes the whole project genuinely exciting, though, is the news coming out of CinemaCon that the film will contain cameos from famous video game characters from various developers. Already the footage has shown Zangief and M. Bison, Clyde the “Pac-Man” ghost, Bowser, Kano from “Mortal Kombat”, Dr. Robotnik and others all pleading with Ralph, via a villian support group, that he should be proud to be a villain and not be ashamed of it. (Think the “fish are friends, not food” sharks from “Finding Nemo.”)

While that’s a pretty cool start, I hope they’ve only scratched the surface of what we can expect to see appearance wise. So in anticipation of the movie’s November opening, here are five video game characters that I hope make it to the big screen.
 

Dirk The Daring – The hero of the arcade hit “Dragon’s Lair” would fit right into this world. As “Dragon’s Lair” was essentially a movie that’s only interaction was some simple “choose your path” moments, I somehow always pictured Dirk to be a bit…dim. It’d be great if he were portrayed as a vacant movie star type, who’s all show and no daring. After all, this is the villain’s story.

 

Guybrush Threepwood – In a fair world, the awesome protagonist of the “Monkey Island “series would have had his own movie or TV series by now. In lieu of that, a cameo in “Wreck-It Ralph” would be incredible. Maybe he could appear as a trainer to Ralph as he learns the ways of good. It doesn’t really matter as long as we get some of that great Monty Python-style dialog like, “You fight like a dairy farmer!” (Followed by the classic retort, “How appropriate. You fight like a cow.”)

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Calvin Johnson wins vote to be on Madden NFL 13 cover

Calvin Johnson. UPI/A.J. Sisco

Will the Madden cover jinx hit again? Last year, Peyton Hillis was the surprise winner of the fan voting for the Madden NFL cover, and he suffered through injuries and a miserable season.

This year Megatron, Calvin Johnson, gets the nod, and Detroit Lions fans are holding their breath.

Video games can help with depression

Here’s an interesting tidbit you might want to keep in mind the next time your parents or girlfriend gives you grief about playing video games. A new study finds that playing video games can be helpful with treating depression.

“Video games are more often regarded as causes of mental illness than as cures, but in a new study, a specially designed fantasy game helped teens conquer depression just as well as — if not better than — usual counseling.

Depression can be devastating among youths, yet fewer than 1 in 5 depressed teens are treated, in part because they are reluctant to seek a therapist’s help. So researchers in New Zealand created the SPARX videogame as a way to deliver cognitive behavioral therapy, packaged in a fun and appealing way. The acronym stands for “smart, positive, active, realistic and x-factor thoughts,” strategies designed to fight depression.”

This is great news for teens, but it’s also great ammunition for die-hard gamers. Now, it won’t help you justify playing games online for 18 hours per day. Don’t get greedy, and if you do that you won’t have a girlfriend anyways. But if you enjoy a healthy dose of video games, or you like to search around to see sites that have the best online casino games, or you just love fantasy football, this new study can help you deal with all those people who love to criticize your game obsession. It’s healthy!

Also, for parents, you should read about this study to help you craft a responsible approach towards your kids and games. If done in moderation, gaming can be the best option sometimes, assuming of course you also get them outside to run around a bit!

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