Video Game Releases for the Week of 11/15: The ‘Is November Over’ Edition

I’m the guy who’s going to complain that it was just Halloween and now Christmas is on the way. Retailers are running early Black Friday sales. Early. Black Friday. Sales.

November continues to be the month clogged with so many major releases by the publishers trying to get your attention and remind you that “Hey, we’ve got some games, you guys. Would you like to try them?”

Title: Saints Row: The Third
Platform(s): PC, PS3 Xbox 360

I have no head for this kind of thing, so I’m wondering if the GTA V announcement was auspicious or problematic for THQ and their Saints Row sequel. There was a time when saying this game was a GTA clone might have meant something, but GTA as it was seen in 2006 (the year of the first Saints Row game) and the perception of the franchise now are very different. For better or worse, Rockstar has attempted to add gravitas to GTA and greater veracity to its world. Saints Row wants you to pick up a sex toy and bludgeon an enemy with it.

And that’s the essential difference: after the first game, THQ realized that they should simply let Rockstar do the sprawling crime drama thing while they invested in being the alternate universe version of GTA where everything just kept getting crazier after San Andreas. So instead of focusing on flawed heroes and reluctant criminals, Saints Row puts you in the shoes of an exuberant madman (or woman), a truly vile and manipulative criminal looking to expand his or her empire.

And I return to my initial question at the top: will the announcement of another GTA turn people on to the second Saints Row sequel and how very unlike GTA it is, or will that same quality actually turn them off?

Saints Row: The Third Music Video Trailer

Title: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360

The first Assassin’s Creed convinced me that I didn’t want anything to do with the world of those games ever again. From the terrible voice acting of the lead playing Altair/Desmond to the cut and paste missions in and admittedly beautifully-rendered Jerusalem, I was pretty much done with the franchise after its first outing. But I kept hearing from other gamers that AC 2 was a better experience–Ezio was a richer, more compelling lead that Altair, and there were fewer segments set in the sci-fi future than in the first game. After a little of my usual grumbling, I gave it a try and what do you know, I about 80% loved Assassin’s Creed 2.

My love of the game would be unqualified if the ending wasn’t so clunky with a bunch of characters showing up to explain the plot near the finale and my continued inability to care about the framing sequence in the future. I skipped Brotherhood solely because I had other games on my radar and was a little burned out by playing so much Assassin’s Creed 2 (something similar happened when I tried playing Dead Space and Dead Space 2 back-to-back), and now I feel like there’s been just enough time between games for me to want to see what else Ubisoft has in store here in the game that’s supposed to wrap up Ezio, Altair, and Desmond’s arc before the series returns in 2012.

I’m genuinely curious about (and a little suspicious of) the quasi-mystical sci-fi stuff going on with this game but what I’m most interested in is the designers’ and writers’ interest in the passage of time and how that affects characters and their world. I was wild about that in the previous game and really hope that’s something that continues to be explored in Revelations.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Preview

Title: Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary
Platform(s): Xbox 360

I have to recuse myself from any opinion here: I’m actually credited in the game (honest!) and worked at developer 343 Industries. Just consider this notice that Halo Anniversary is out and if Master Chief is your thing, if you want more maps using the Reach engine, and a revamped CE experience, this guy right here is being upfront: I think this might be relevant to your interests and you might like it.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Video Review

Title: Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3

Nothing clever or pithy to say here. I’m still terrible at this game and I still really like it in spite of itself. Fighting game developers don’t seem interested in teaching you how to play their games–I’m not talking about the Mission mode included here–that has less with how to play than with how to execute moves if you already know how to play. I’ll be reviewing this game soon but suffice it to say, there’s a lot to love here, but it comes with an unforgiving learning curve.

Title: Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword
Platform(s): Wii

Embarrassing fact: I’ve only finished one Zelda game and that was the second one on the NES. Please feel free to revoke my gamer license and stop reading now.

Still here? Skyward Sword, in effect, represents the last gasp for the Wii before we’re all talking about the Wii U. I don’t mean exactly the last gasp, there are more titles in the pipe, but this is probably one of the last, big first-party efforts for Nintendo here. They’re moving on and shedding the old as Wii’s prices are slashed nationwide and they’re probably hoping to get some people on board throughout the holidays with the lowest priced game console on the market. I think using Link and Zelda might be a smart way to do that, but then, Nintendo is nothing if not savvy about trotting out the mascots.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Exclusive Origins Trailer

Title: Need for Speed: The Run
Platform(s): Wii, PS3, 3DS, Xbox 360, PC

It’s racing, but with story. Last year’s Criterion-developed Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit took the speed and gleeful recklessness of the Burnout franchise and applied it to NFS. It captured the sales EA was looking for, beating Gran Turismo 5 at retail. Okay, that’s an apples and oranges comparison since one game was crazy multiplatform was the other was a PS3-exclusive. Still, I hope that gave EA more faith in Criterion, enough so that they’ll let those lunatics make another true Burnout sequel sometime in the future.

With brings us to EA Blackbox’s entry into the narrative-based line of NFS racing games, The Run. I’ll be checking this one out over the course of the week, but it’s always nuts to me when the alternate year, plot-heavy NFS games come out because their whole pitch is that they involve chunks of time where you’re not in your car, and being in your car is kind of Need For Speed’s thing, right?

As with previous story-based NFS titles, The Run has a bit of added star wattage with Christina Hendricks (Mad Men, Drive) as presumably the tough but sympathetic rep for the shady syndicate holding the cross-country race your character Jackson “Jack” Harper needs to win if he wants the $25 million that will get him out of trouble. Odds on there being a hot lady racer who you compete against but fall for?

Need for Speed: The Run Video Review

Title: Rayman Origins
Platform(s): Wii, PS3, Xbox 360

It’s 2011 and there’s a full-priced, retail Rayman platformer on store shelves. With the exception of the price, I’m kind of okay with that. The original Rayman was one of my favorite PS1-era titles–a gorgeously-produced 2D platformer with beautiful levels and terrific music. The Dreamcast 3D platformer was very good as well, but I’ll always be fond of the first game. In the years since, Ubisoft has been in the Raving Rabbids business, and there hasn’t been a proper title featuring the limbless hero as the lead in a while.

The big addition here: drop-in/drop-out co-op for up to four players. Why not, it worked wonders for reinvigorating New Super Mario Brothers Wii. And Ubisoft is hoping to use the game as a reintroduction of the character of Rayman to audiences, although I don’t think there’s a population out there clamoring for the secrets of what happened between the first and second games. I’d love for Origins to do well, but that price is… optimistic? Well, someone has confidence in the brand and someone is looking to make that little bean-shaped guy a part of the international gaming scene in a big way, so Ubisoft, here’s to you guys.

Rayman Origins Video Review

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