New Game Releases for the Week of 5/15: Diabolical Payne

The return of the original bullet time hero, a dungeon crawler rises again, shmups never die, and a hedgehog will rise in this week's latest batch of releases.

Title: Diablo III

Platform(s): PC

Are you at work today? Look to your left. Look to your right. Anyone missing? Maybe called in sick with a very suspicious sounding cough (who gets "Black Lung" anymore)? While there are many possible reasons for your gamer friends and loved ones to be off the radar today, Diablo III is one of the most likely suspects. Some of you reading this are probably in the same category, having spent last night in line waiting for your copy.

The long-in-coming RPG from Blizzard has that Starcraft II thing going for it: Blizzard has remained faithful to the previous classic PC titles while updating all of the online bells and whistles for the current generation of gamers. And since Blizzard's never really done with their games, look for the final experience of Diablo III to be tweaked, massaged, and balanced for the months to come.

Title: Max Payne 3

Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Of course, if dark fantasy isn't your thing (or maybe you like both—that's great), Max Payne 3 is here to continue the story of the world's most emotionally tortured cop. The shift in action from the gritty nighttime streets of New York to the sun-drenched favelas of Brazil will, just by virtue of how it looks, tweak the tone of the game, but the big question is whether it will keep the nightmarish intensity of the first two games, which positively thrummed with tension.

Title: Game of Thrones

Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360

Developer Cyanide Studio (no, I didn't forget an "s") is something of an old hand with the land of Westeros, having produced an earlier Game of Thrones title. Now they're taking the novels' action and moving it into an action-RPG, featuring many of the familiar characters you've grown to know, love, despise, or lose track of in a sea of grimy beards in the cultural touchstone TV series. Game of Thrones promises to weave the action of the first novel in and around the stories of two new characters created for the game.

Title: Akai Katana

Platform(s): Xbox 360

The shoot-em-up may never die, and I'm completely okay with that. Akai Katana is a release from Rising Star Games, publishing the Cave-developed title here in the U.S. exclusively for the Xbox 360. Set in a parallel universe resembling feudal Japan, it brings the tried and true bullet hell formula from the arcades to some kind of mystical, magical setting. You don't have to go it alone, though, because the game includes local two-player co-op.

Title: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II

Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360

It's kind of a nostalgia trip today, isn't it? Diablo's back, Max Payne is back, bullet hell is back, and so's Sonic. Well, okay, arguably, the blue hedgehog never actually went away, but you get what I mean. This week sees the release of the second episode in the downloadable third sequel to the hyperspeed platformer. Tails joins Sonic this time out, and if you own both this and the first episode, you'll unlock "Episode Metal," featuring playable Metal Sonic who you can use through Episode I's maps.

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