Yet again, March is madness.
With fiscal quarters closing, holiday seasons coming and going, and our E3′s, GDC’s and Penny Arcade Expos making their typical appearances, it’s no wonder we’re treated to a familiar annual pace of news, releases and reveals. This March is no exception. Always ripe with an influx of news and releases to pile on what is usually a reasonably quiet post-holiday hangover, March 2015 is going to be bursting and I’d like to share with you what I have my eyes on, what’s striking my curiosity, and when it’s landing.
Helldivers PlayStation 3 ,PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Out of everything on this collection of releases, I think my most anticipated is right out in front. After getting a taste at PAX Prime 2014, I’m very excited to get my hands back on Helldivers, brought to us by Arrowhead Games. Helldivers is an isometric shooter with a heavy focus on team-play and verbal co-operation to overcome extreme difficulty. As a Helldiver, you’ll work with a team of up to four players online, local or cross-play (PS3, PS4, Vita) to fight an invading alien threat using gear, weapons and strikes, all the meanwhile not friendly firing or drop podding your co-op partners into dust.
The online community must also work together in a Galactic Campaign where the efforts of the many will decide the overall outcome of month-long events that give double xp and other benefits. The spectrum of planets seems wide and the tone and aesthetic of enemies will seem familiar to fans of Starship Troopers. The day we dive in, I’ll be sure to quote the movie: “The only good bug, is a dead bug!”
Screamride Xbox 360, Xbox One
The creators of Roller Coaster Tycoon are trying something different. Well, it’s still a coaster game, but this time there’s a bit of a ‘spin’ on things. Although it’s set in a clean ”Mirror’s Edge” looking future, this is not a dystopian sci-fi roller coaster game and your job isn’t solely to build the ultimate scream machine — That’s in there through playing ‘Engineer’ mode.
From what I’ve gathered, the real rub in Screamride is the other two modes, ‘Screamrider’ and ‘Demolition Expert’. ‘Screamrider’ has you actually piloting the coaster, trying to vie for fastest run without derailing. You’ll be awarded bonus points for stunts, destruction and filling a turbo meter that’ll help you get a higher score. “Demolition Expert” is exactly what it sounds like. Equipped with a variety of coaster cars, your goal is to destroy things to your satisfaction in order to climb the leaderboard. To me it sounds like elements of what I loved of the Burnout series, mixed without those oldschool VR coasters in Disney World. At a lower than full retail launch price of 39.99 USD and sans waiting on long theme park lines, Screamride has me wondering.
Far Cry 4: Valley of the Yetis Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC
And speaking of roller-coasters, it was an up and down year for Ubisoft with some notable freefalls, but also a bit of climbing that are worth noting in 2014. Without deviating much from the mechanics of Far Cry 3, Far Cry 4 was one of the greats of 2014 and more of what we love from the franchise’s re-invigoration. This along with the imagination birthing Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon between the two major titles, we see that creativity moving forward as we step back into the shoes of Ajay Ghale and go face to face with abominable hulking beasts in Far Cry 4‘s latest add-on Valley of The Yetis.
Playable alone, or online co-op, you’ll be hunted by a cult in the snowy Himalayas that have ties to a mysterious secret. Whether the secret is the very angry looking Yetis or if there’s something more, recently I can trust the Far Cry series to make fun creative choices, even if the gameplay systems stay mostly the same.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC, Mac, Linux
Hotline Miami, the violent top down arcade shooter with the killer soundtrack is finally getting its long anticipated sequel. Bringing back the uneasy animal masks, tunes, and Tarantino-esque gratuitous gore factor, Hotline Miam 2: Wrong Number is varnished with a few minor changes. You can now choose a character from one of thirteen, each with their own specific perks and abilities such as dodge-rolling or dual-wielding. The decision to only opt in for a minor deviation is a smart move and a safe way to follow up to the original Hotline Miami, which became a beloved name in the indie scene.
Twitch shooting coupled with a lot of deaths and a very standout color-palette, I highly recommend giving this sequel a go. If you decide not to roll with Hotline Miami 2 and the soundtrack is anything like the original, be sure to at least afford your ears that pleasure.
GTA V Online: Heists Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Over a year in wait for this one, fans of GTAV are finally getting the heists they were promised long ago. When GTA Online was announced, we salivated in excitement for the promise of a persistent online world where your success and progress would win youfast cars, beautiful homes and a notorious reputation. When we finally got our hands on it, and midst a very problematic launch, we soon came to realize once again our eyes were far bigger than our guts and the game we’d dreamed about was no better than a lobby disguised as Los Santos. Variable competitive events, such as races, deathmatches and survival modes were bland, and did not offer enough co-operation to feel as though you’re part of a ‘crew’ taking over a city one block at a time. This is where I hope Heists fills the gaps.
Rockstar tells us that this four player co-operative mode will feel like exciting “raid” scenarios that involve multi-sectional PvE content. Among various robberies, there is a slew of new content including weapons, clothing and vehicles to go along with your co-criminal activities. After a wait this long and a lot of folks ‘waiting’ on message boards, there’s a lot of pressure on Rockstar to get this right, and I for one hope they do.
Ori And The Blind Forest Xbox One, PC
Microsoft’s next indie darling comes in the form of a platformer with deep influences from the Rayman and Metroid series. Boasting a charming visual style using the Unity engine and an emotional mood, Ori and the Blind Forest developer Moon Studios say they’ve also garnered tonal influence from animated classics such as “The Lion King”, and “Iron Giant”, using grandiose terms like “coming-of-age story” to describe the adventure. As Ori, a young guardian spirit, you are estranged from your foster mother and are set forth into the forest on a great journey while leveling up, choosing abilities and facing the dangers of the wilderness.
From a technical standpoint, it’s been said the game runs butter smooth at 1080p and 60fps, and you won’t be running into repetitive assets as you go from frame to frame without any loading. I had the chance to play Ori and the Blind Forest a few months ago, but it was dealing with some heavy framerate drops which undoubtedly will be addressed for the final game. With a unique and expressive visual style, be sure to keep this one on your radar.
Battlefield Hardline Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC
I think plenty of us agree that Battlefield is in a bit of a rough patch. Offering ham-fisted premium packages while being mostly broken at launch, Battlefield 4 was somewhat of a curtain call on the franchise for some folks, including myself. The campaign was disjointed and, I think above all else, Battlefield 4 was a product of an identity crisis. And now, Battlefield Hardline brings a new identity to their latest title moving away from warzone warfare and pitting tough-justice police against greedy criminals. The multiplayer offers up a handful of new modes following up with the cops and robbers theme such as Heist, where yes you guessed it, the bad guys rob a bank. Blood Money is where there is a neutral stash of cash on the map and each team has to claim it by running back to their armored car. Hotwire is where vehicles act as flags in a domination style hold the point. There is also a self-explanatory a hostage rescue mode and finally a VIP mode where the criminals try to take out a former bad-guy turned witness.
They sound fun, but this time, honestly, I’m excited to see where Battlefield Hardline goes with its campaign. Leaning hard into the tropes of a action cop drama television show, you’re a newly donned detective ready to clean up the streets. And when I say Hardline leans hard into the TV thing, they’re scripting it and it’s treated exactly like a television show. Let’s hope for Battlefield, we want to skip through the commercials.
Mario Party 10 Wii U
If I could count the amount of blisters the Mario Party series has left me with, I’d probably have the grounds for a decent lawsuit. Making its Wii U debut, Mario Party 10 is bringing us back into the living room to compete with one another in a colorful virtual game board and with of dozens of mini-games. Now with a bunch of new hardware, it’s as though Nintendo’s innovations have rolled out a red carpet for the Mario Party Series.
With the Wii U gamepad, we now have a Bowser Party mode, where a player wields the handheld screen and does board-game battle against four other players. Players race and work together to get to the end of the game before Bowser catches up to them and forces a mini-game to decide their fate. A new line of Amiibo are also planned to release with Mario Party 10 and have seemingly more interaction than that of their Smash Brothers counterparts with special game boards and an Amiibo Party gametype. I see another home-run for Nintendo with this one, even if they didn’t swing at the opportunity to call it ‘Mario Party X’.
Bloodborne PlayStation 4
If you’ve played From Software’s other titles, you may already know the deathwish you so desire. Bloodborne, from the pioneers of the ‘Souls’ series, bring us another macabre title for the masochist in all of us. Don’t be fooled by the bleak visual style and lack of color in Bloodborne‘s beautiful environments, for they’ll soon be painted red. Did I mention the game is challenging? Using an action RPG and a risk/reward system, you’ll have to be frame perfect to dodge, dive, roll and sometimes shoot your way through the gothic city of Yharnam. Towering boss fights with titanic and unbelievable weapons will leave you in awe as you die again and again. From what I’ve played, the controls felt more responsive than Dark Souls, and all hyperbole aside, From Software had said they haven’t made this any more difficult that the ‘Souls Series’ for sake of losing an audience.
The fun in past ‘Souls’ games is the sense of community they establish both online and offline. You’ll find yourself reaching out to others for help on a particularly frustrating boss and shout victory after achieving so on your fiftieth try. If Bloodborne manages to ring true as the bells in the first Dark Souls, be ready for a hellacious good time.
White Lace and Promises
After all these titles, I still haven’t mentioned others slated for this month. March also means Codename S.T.E.A.M., more episodes of Resident Evil Revelations 2, White Night, Mario & Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, Pillars of Eternity, Axiom Verge, Olli Olli 2, Shiftlings and Borderlands: The Handsome collection. If that wasn’t enough, surely GDC and Pax East 2015 will leave us doubled over with plenty of news to keep us busy. Madness? We’ve only just begun.