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Sunday, Nov 9, 2008
New releases for the week of 2008-11-10...

On Tuesday, November 11, many educational institutions and places of employment in the United States will give their students and employees a day off for Veterans Day, as the day is set aside for the recognizing of the contributions and sacrifices that our armed forces make for the sake of the rest of us.  A pair of releases this week will have an awful lot of people wishing they could take the entire week.


First up is the release most associated with Veterans Day, a game whose Tuesday release is obviously no accident: Call of Duty: World at War.  Honestly, I think it’s a risky move for Activision to be releasing a fifth Call of Duty game even as the fourth in the series remains the top Xbox Live draw.  The release of a new edition of the game, while it will undoubtedly sell gobs of copies based solely on the success of its predecessor, will likely split the Call of Duty online audience, which may well generate some confusion as to which game is the “must-have” of the online shooter group.  This isn’t even to mention that Activision has gone back to Treyarch—if you’ll remember, they developed the oft-maligned Call of Duty 3—for this one, and Treyarch has gone back to World War II for their source material.  Despite all of the caveats, however, there’s simply no way that any online shooter fan will be without this game come Tuesday.


Wait a couple of days, though, and you may notice that the streets will be a little quieter, the traffic a little lighter…as Wrath of the Lich King finally (finally!) arrives on Thursday.  The latest World of Warcraft expansion has been hyped and anticipated for so long, it’s actually something of a wonder it’s been able to maintain the sort of anticipation that’ll lead to the millions of sales come Thursday, but it has and then some.  I don’t need to sell this one—it’ll fly off the shelves no matter what I tell you.


Past those two utterly tremendous releases, the DS has a few releases that might just be enough to pique your interest.  Populous DS is probably something I’ll end up with, simply because the thought of randomly popping hills up underneath people I don’t like while on the subway is terribly appealing.  My Stop Smoking Coach with Allen Carr is an incredibly intriguing release, in that I’ll be curious to see a) whether it sells, and b) whether any testimonials start coming out saying that it actually works.  It sounds utterly ridiculous, but for a nicotine-addicted gamer, it may be the ticket to sticking to a plan.  And there’s Tecmo BowlTecmo Bowl!  It’s almost enough to make you forget that there’s another DS Guitar Hero on its way too.


Oh jeez, I just realized I went four paragraphs without mentioning Mirror’s Edge.  Good Lord.  This is truly a great year.


What are you playing this week?  Or are you just broke from buying all of the other stuff that’s come out?  Let us know, and while you’re thinking, check out the list of releases and the pair of trailers after the jump!


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Sunday, Nov 2, 2008
New releases for the week of 2008-11-03...

In a holiday week where it appears that most publishers are treading water and waiting for the final holiday push to year’s end, two titles stand out as the ones that are going to be fighting for gamers’ shelf space by the time the week ends.  In an interesting twist of scheduling, however, the fight won’t be fought based on quality, necessarily, but on the basis of which players have which consoles.


First only by virtue of its release date is Resistance 2 the sequel to the game that all but single-handedly saved the PS3’s launch lineup.  When the PS3 was released, the one inescapable criticism that it couldn’t shake off was the mere fact that there were almost no games worth playing in the launch catalog; in that lineup, Resistance was a beacon of exclusively-licensed hope.  It has since stood the test of time as one of the PS3’s most celebrated shooters, and Resistance 2 stands an awfully good shot of continuing that legacy as it introduces the prospect of a simultaneous 60-person competitive multiplayer mode.  60 people.  I’m a programmer by day, and that just sounds like a nightmare of network programming to me, but more power to Insomniac for deciding to tackle such a beast.


Of course, later this week comes Gears of War 2, and having spent a little bit of time with this one myself, let me tell you (in case you hadn’t already heard), it’s really an incredible gaming experience.  The first Gears of War was a success almost entirely on its technical merits; its unse of Unreal Engine 3 was unparalleled, its cover ‘n shoot gameplay was revolutionary for its time, and its enemy design was properly scary and awe-inspiring (and need I even mention the fantastic marketing push?).  The second game, while no great departure, lives up to Epic Games’ president Mike Capps’ proclamation that Gears 2 would be “bigger, better, and more badass”.  The technical marvels are at least doubled, while a renewed focus on the story is made plainly obvious by the second part of the very first act.  Epic obviously took notes on the few gripes that players had with the first game, taking steps to correct them for the second.


Elsewhere, it seems that licensed product is commanding most of the attention.  James Bond: Quantum of Solace is being released for a whole pile of consoles this week, and despite the fact that no Bond game since Goldeneye has lived up to the way that game captivated us back in the days of the Nintendo 64, we still continue to expect just a little more of Bond than of other licensed properties; hopefully Quantum of Solace can give us some of the fun escapism that so many other more serious games are lacking of late.  WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 is also coming out for pretty much everything this week, and you probably already know if you’re buying it, but Lord knows there’s an audience for it.


As for lesser-known titles?  I’m not sure how you can turn down a game with a title like Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ, but maybe that’s just me.


What are you picking up this week?  Is it back to work against the Locusts?  Up for another go-‘round with The Undertaker?  Or maybe that Tom Clancy game that’s sneaking quietly into the picture is more your speed?  Let us know, and remember—slow down.  Enjoy your time with your games.  There’ll be a good nine months starting in January to catch up.


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Sunday, Oct 26, 2008
New releases for the week of 2008-10-27...

I have to admit, there aren’t all that many weeks that I can say this, but this week simply belongs to the PlayStation 3.  By my count, there are two possible contenders for Game of the Year, one new edition of a casual success story, and a sequel to one of the most well-received of the PS3’s launch titles.


I can’t help but start with Fallout 3, which will of course also be appearing on the Xbox 360 and PC this week.  I simply cannot remember when the anticipation for an RPG of any sort was as high as it is for Fallout 3.  Perhaps this is a lesson in how withholding a sequel can heighten the anticipation for it.  Specifically, we haven’t seen a new Fallout game since 1998, and the first two games in the series are held in such high regard that it will be nigh-impossible for the third to even approach the expectations that have been set for it.  That said, the thing looks incredible—the sheer amount of detail in the environments has to be seen to be believed, and who doesn’t like Vault Boy?


The other one, the game that’s kept me on YouTube for hours on end looking for any footage that I haven’t yet seen, is Little Big Planet.  Sackboy is destined to be an icon.  It’s a brilliant step of marketing to make what may be the most recognizable character on the most high tech of the platforms a low-tech, burlap…thing called Sackboy.  This is like the presidential candidate with nine houses across the United States convincing a good portion of the American population that he’s one of us!  This is the sort of bold move that could fix the PS3’s image, the one that says that it’s a system that we want; it’s not an overloaded behemoth two or three years away from a true public embrace, it’s the only system taking advantage of the here and now.  Or, maybe I’m just putting too much stock in a simple, charming platformer.  Regardless, this may be the game that finally convinces me to drop the cash for a PS3.


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f course, the new SingStar game and the new MotorStorm game (gosh, Sony certainly enjoys capital letters in the middle of their words, don’t they?) are going to get run over by those big ticket items, but there’s plenty going for both.


Elsewhere?  The PC has Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, which continues the long-running strategy franchise with some big names adding cinema-style pizzazz.  The DS has a little something coming out called Ninjatown that looks like it has no shortage in quirky, fun style.  And those who like to download (and who doesn’t?) get the second edition of the Penny Arcade RPG this week as well.


What are you playing this week?  Are you going to have to pull yourself away from Fallout to play SingStar?  Are you going to have to pull yourself away from The Wonder Pets! to play Go, Diego, Go!?  Let us know, and enjoy your Halloween!


(p.s…there’s a whole list of releases and a trailer for Fallout 3 after the jump!)


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Sunday, Oct 19, 2008
New releases for the week of 2008-10-20...
Eternal Sonata on the PS3

Eternal Sonata on the PS3


The more you look at this week’s group of releases, the more a sense of déjà vu takes over.  So many of the big new releases this week are either sequels or rehashes that you really have to look deep—no, like seriously deep—to find anything resembling a new idea.


This is not necessarily a bad thing.  PlayStation 3 owners are finally getting a chance to play a couple of games that Xbox 360 owners have been enjoying for a while, and each with some bonus stuff to make the experience unique enough to keep PS3 owners from being slighted.  Eternal Sonata has received the biggest makeover, with new characters, outfits, and events enhancing one of the best current generation RPGs out there.  Bioshock, for its part, is basically the same game as the one on the Xbox, but with interactive loading screens and a few new challenge rooms (not to mention the Bioshock 2 trailer that’s recently hit the web).  A re-release of Portal is showing up on the Xbox 360, for those who’ve been waiting for a version of the game to be released without the rest of The Orange Box (for whatever reason), and new releases in the Spyro and Spider-Man franchises are all over the various platforms.


Guitar Hero World Tour

Guitar Hero World Tour


The one retread that simply can’t be ignored or underestimated, however, is Guitar Hero World Tour.  Out on Sunday, it’s a rehash in two separate ways: one, it’s obviously a sequel to the other three Guitar Hero games out there, and two, it’s Activision’s acknowledgement of the game-changing Rock Band, in that its approach to the rhythm game genre is almost exactly that of Rock Band‘s.  Guitar, drums, bass, and vocals—they’re all here, and they’re going to present a serious challenge to Rock Band 2‘s popularity given the sheer recognizability of the name.  Despite the fact that so much of the new iteration of Guitar Hero is simply the following of Rock Band‘s lead, the mere fact that the new Guitar Hero totally revamps the franchise while the new Rock Band simply continues it may lead people in the direction of Activision/Neversoft’s version of the band setup for the holiday stretch.


Me, I’m looking forward to playing the Death Magnetic tracks I’ve been toying with on the guitar for the last two weeks on all of those other instruments.  Hetfield’s vocals on “All Nightmare Long” should be an especially good time.  I haven’t had a good grunting ‘n growling session in a while.


Wii Music

Wii Music


The running theme for the Wii and the DS is kids’ games.  All manner of branded whatnot is showing up this week, from various Nickelodeon and Disney brands to less recognizable IPs like Ener GBuild-a-Bear is here, High School Musical is here, and even Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? gets a couple of releases.  Of course, the sore thumb here is Wii Music, a release that’s had to endure some awfully loud mocking in the gaming community since its reveal at this year’s E3.  The thing is, it can hardly be evaluated as a game.  It is a toy.  Not only that, but it’s largely a toy for kids, with very loose definitions of success via gameplay.  I can also say that, having been able to share it with my family, it absolutely is one of those magical little games that can bring the family together for an hour of light entertainment, no matter the ages of those involved.  Heck, I had my 1-year-old wailing away on drums for a couple of minutes after she got a load of the rest of us.  I don’t think it’s a classic in the making, but it certainly shouldn’t be disparaged the way it has been over the last couple of months.


All right, having jumped off of my tiny little soapbox, and acknowledging that there are about a billion things being released this week, I must ask: What are you playing?  Are you going to spring for Midnight Club, or is Barbie Horse Adventures more your speed?  Pore over the list—and a Guitar Hero World Tour vid that never fails to fascinate me—after the jump.


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Monday, Oct 13, 2008
New releases for the week of 2008-10-13...

Sure, I play a lot of games.  I edit the Multimedia section here at PopMatters, I write this blog, I review things, and when I’m not producing PopMatters content, chances are I’m playing (or, heck, thinking about) some sort of game.  I call it a hobby, others call it an obsession, and that’s fine.  Still, there’s a genre of game that I’ve simply never come around to: the sandbox game.  That’s why despite the fact that I think Saints Row 2 is the biggest release of the week, there’s a good chance I’m simply not going to play it—I’m basing my assumption based almost entirely upon the interests of my writers and what seems to be the gaming press at large.


It’s not that Saints Row 2 doesn’t look any fun; on the contrary, it looks like it takes the gloss, the unrepentantly crass sense of humor, and the wreak-as-much-havok-as-possible gameplay stye of the original and doubles all of it.  It’s more a matter of simply not finding the idea of driving around another huge game-generated world shooting up people who are considered your enemy at any given moment, fulfilling whatever missions happen to come up over the course of a tremendous, sprawling storyline all that appealing.  I played GTA IV, and I liked it well enough, but not so much that I was ever motivated to chase achievements or venture into its online component.  Maybe it’s a matter of simply not having large enough blocks of free time available to truly allow these game worlds to seep into me.  Maybe it’s a matter of the gritty “realism” being a little too caustic for my attempts at escapist entertainment.  Whatever it is, I’m sure plenty of you will have fun with Saints Row 2, but without even playing it, I can almost guarantee that it just ain’t for me.


Anyone who’s read this blog has probably already figured out that I’ll be too busy playing Sam & Max on the Wii this week anyway.  That’s right, Season One finally gets the console treatment, and anyone averse to PC games who’s been even the remotest bit curious about the canine detective and his rabbityish sidekick had better buy it.


Frustrated with this football season’s unpredictability?  Did your favorite team just unexpectedly lose to…ARIZONA (this being one of the few times Buffalo can empathize with Dallas)?  Maybe you can take out your frustrations with Blitz: The League II, the sequel to the EXTREME football action game from Midway.  Didn’t you hear me?  It’s EXTREME!  There are a host of Littlest Pet Shop games coming out this week for the DS, at least one of which is almost guaranteed to end up in my house right next to Sam & Max on my shelf, and if confusing game titles is your thing, you’re sure to get a kick out of Rock University Presents: The Naked Brothers Band The Game, a title that surely means something to tweens getting their kicks on Nick, but means absolutely nothing to me.


So there you go!  What releases are you looking for at the store this week?  Are there any genres out there that you have a blind spot to?  Can Spongebob possibly be slapped on any more products?  Leave a message in the comments and let me know, after you check out the Saints Row 2 trailer and the full release list after…the jump.


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