With the New Year well and truly underway and everyone finally out of the habit of writing 2013 on important paperwork, it’s time to examine the next month in electronic entertainment.
While January boasted some impressive morsels of news from the gaming world, it’s February where things really start to kick up a gear. First and foremost for me, the release of first-person stealth title Thief is almost childishly exciting. One of the things I loved about the original series (and something that feels sorely lacking from recent games) is the ability to choose your own playstyle. Want to slip in and out unnoticed like a kleptomaniac ghost? Go ahead. Want to throat-slit all the unlucky saps between you and your untold riches? That’s fine too. The non-linear missions provided a level of freedom that, when successfully completed, gave you a huge sense of achievement. It really does make you feel like Robin Hood, tricking the greedy baron and making off with his ill-gotten wealth.
This new version, happily, promises to live up to this, offering a vast array of customisation options and modifiers, such as extra points for not using upgrades, options for tweaking the HUD and even an ‘Iron Man’ mode. For fans of roguelikes or the more punishing titles such as Dark Souls, this will be a welcome addition: it means no restarts. At all. Wrong turn led to a shishkebabing by angry guards? Too bad. Set off one too many alarms and failed the mission? Tough. Back to the start. Of the whole game. While I don’t think I’ll personally be using this setting (the original was more than brutal enough for me without it, thanks), permadeath will excite a lot of people, and it’s gratifying to see Eidos Montreal isn’t dumbing down to pander to the lowest common denominator.
Speaking of pandering, Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall will doubtless be the focus of a lot of scrutiny next month. While not actually released until March, the steady flow of information about the shooter will go a long way to seeing if it can distinguish itself from its big brother, or if it will just be ‘Call of Duty, but with mechs’. Developer promises of including “scale, verticality, and story” in the matches are encouraging, but its multiplayer-only focus may prove a little off-putting for some. However, initial gameplay footage inarguably looks balls-tighteningly exciting.
February also sees the release of Fable: Anniversary and Fable: Trilogy for the Xbox 360. A remaster of the first game and a collection of the first three titles respectively, it seems like a nice way to bookend the 360’s lifespan. Well worth picking up if you feel like a little Princess Bride-style swashbuckling, or if you’re trying to get one of the little tykes into gaming, as kid-friendly properties seem to be awfully thin on the ground these days. While far from the best games around, the Fable series has soul in spades, and is pretty funny to boot, which earns it a pass in my book. Plus, cinephiles will have insane amounts of fun playing ‘name that voice’ with the sheer avalanche of famous British actors in the cast.
Continuing in a theme of nostalgia-baiting, this month will see the return of an absent champion of Nintendo’s roster. You know it, you love it… it’s only Donkey Kong Country! Yes, this February, the giant, tie-wearing ape will return to the WiiU in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. I have many fond memories of the Donkey Kong franchise, and I don’t doubt that many of my generation have a similar soft spot for it. Whether it will prove a big enough soft spot to justify shelling out for the craptastic WiiU, however, remains to be seen. Still, if you happen to have one for the benefit of the small child or old person in your life, it’ll be nice to finally have a decent game to play for it.
Also due for release are a compilation of Far Cry 1,2 and 3, a spinoff to Final Fantasy XIII and a tie-in game for the upcoming LEGO movie (a game of a movie of a game, try and get your head round that). Honourable mention also has to go to the Rambo game, covering the events of First Blood I and II, and Rambo III, which is likely to be garbage, but has an outside chance of being insane 80’s mayhem. Fingers crossed.
Another interesting spinoff in recent weeks is the mobile gaming tie-in to Deus Ex: Human Revolutions. While still in its infancy, the increasing ubiquity of smartphone gaming provides an exciting avenue for developers to expand the gameplay experience with companion apps, such as Rockstar’s iFruit app for GTA V. While the game itself looks a little average, it’s kind of cool to see triple-A titles exploring the possibilities of mobile platforms.
In other news, Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea recently revealed a trailer for the second episode. The first episode of DLC, set in the iconic underwater city of Rapture from the first Bioshock, received positive overall reviews, and the new (spoiler-riffic) trailer promises the return of a familiar face from the original. If, like me, you haven’t quite found time to play the first episode yet, I’m sensing now might be the time to do so.
With the flood of Christmas releases over, February looks to be something of a lean month for new titles. For now, it’s all about gearing up for spring when Titanfall, Watchdogs and other big-ticket games will hit shelves. Until then, catch up on the stuff you haven’t got round to, take the time for some smaller titles, and relax, because in the next few months, it is going to go OFF.