The holiday/winter season speaks of good things to us gamers. In particular, new releases and additions to some of our most treasured and sought-after franchises and genres.
The next few months are looking to be a hindrance to my wallet and possible carpal tunnel due to quite a few releases, and honestly, I couldn't be more happy to be dishing out the $$$ just considering a few of these titles.
Some I have my eye on based on how great I know they'll be; others I must admit, I'm probably only buying due to a long-past love that seems to have fizzled out installments ago. A quick run-down of perhaps the top 3 I had to put reserves on:
Silent Hill: Downpour
Since Konami handed the SH franchise over to U.S. developers, there have been a few hits, and some major misses.
Origins and Homecoming (Climax and DoubleHelix Studios) stayed pretty true to the feel of the franchise, and even made good on some original storyline tie-ins old fans of the series could buy, even if we had to put up with some near-unacceptable bugs along the way.
But Shattered Memories (Climax), if nothing else, was a major bust, intruding where it had no place going in terms of... pretty much everything. Gameplay itself was a disaster. Side-quests pointless. Graphics horrible (they released it on PS2...). A nice example of why a legendary game company like Konami should NEVER hand any franchise to Americans again.
But unfortunately, the torch is still in the hands of the good ol' U.S., and die-hard fans of SH are gonna have to grin and bear it with the 8th installment of the Silent Hill series, Downpour.
This time being developed by Vatra Games, Downpour follows a con named Murphy Pendleton, incarcerated for a number of years and being transported to Wayside Maximum Security Penitentiary.
Along the way, an accident occurs, and Murphy finds himself in the woods by a wrecked bus, outside a small, strange town called Silent Hill.
Vatra exclaims Downpour will be the first in the series released in 3D - since they boast both 360 environments, along with 3rd person and fixed-cam views, I don't see how it would differ from all other games released, which have always worked the same way. I'd say it may have to do with the rumors on Downpour having the mechanics of a shooter, but if such rumors were true, it wouldn't be SH.
In reality, mechanics sound almost identical to those of later American-developed releases, in which Murphy will have both permanent and breakable items.
Like in SM (ugh...) side-quests are slated to "change" with the player based on how they traverse the game (but if you've played SM, that pretty much means making a choice between walking through a toy shop or alley without the chance to go back).
The best graphic resolution to date in the franchise is of course, promised here as well, and from the looks of it, I'm sure Vatra won't disappoint in that department.
One nice thing: Downpour will have no ties whatsoever to any previous installment or original dark plot. Although in terms of soundtrack, you may notice a major difference.
Regular composers and vocalists have all but nixed on the SH thing (maybe a good move), but in their stead, we'll get a nice overture by the band Korn! If that doesn't say SH.... oh wait, it actually doesn't. The producer states their tunes are not "an integral part" of the gameplay, and obviously, kiddies, it's meant as some kind of Americanized marketing ploy to get you interested.
... Damn you, Konami... why?
Furthermore, the idea that soundtrack actually means anything IN gameplay, will also be nixed. Music will be used to a "much lesser extent", and utilize "sounds produced by use of objects made of organic matter as instruments"...
What does this mean we should expect?
Let's pretend we're still in 10th grade and like Korn, and hope for the best.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
There's a LOT I could say about my whirlwind relationship with the FF franchise over the past 20+years, but as it stands now, I can exclaim my disdain at the looks of SquareEnix's latest.
Just when I thought the franchise couldn't get lower, out comes another mini-sequel to an already "meh" installment. Sure, I haven't much enjoyed FF at all since the release of Ps2, but XIII was at least kinda entertaining. Kinda.
Still, the kind of joy and pure excitement I got at playing a new release has all but plummeted to nothing, and unfortunately, XIII wasn't enough to bring me out of it. But that's loyalty for ya - I still had to buy it. And the titanium Collector's Edition of XII. And most likely, the same will go for XIII-2, as well.
Pretty much exactly the same in mechanics and whatnot to XIII, 2 takes place roughly three years after the events of its predecessor. Serra, now out of crystallized state, finds Lightning and her beloved Snow completely vanished. Teaming up with members of the old gang, along with a newcomer named Noel, who claims to have known something, they set off to find the whereabouts of her sister and old fiancee.
This whole Crystal Compendium thing was outlined years ago, although personally I'm taken aback by the introduction of (what I consider) a pointless sequel as opposed to a new (possibly more old school) route for them to spend their resources on. Certainly, a release like XIII VS. might just be that thread we're looking for, and one I've been anxiously awaiting for awhile, but alas.
What does this mean we should expect?
Probably another "meh" on the downward spiral of Square, although they certainly never disappoint on the "HOT" aspect of male heroes.... That Noel may be more incentive than you need to pay $60.
VERY pleased to meet you...
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
Yes, they said the old style of RE was forever gone. They weren't going back to standard zombie enemies and the hoopla surrounding the incidents at Raccoon City. Enough has taken place during those harrowing last days of Umbrella, and the franchise has more than enough storyline info on the early chapters for comfort....
Well, apparently not. Probably most anticipated by old school fans of the series, ORC goes right back to those fateful last days, taking place in the same time frame as 2, 3: Nemesis, and both Outbreaks.
Naturally, a piece of the puzzle is still missing, as players were never really fully informed of the events surrounding the actions of Umbrella's security force (Carlos worked for them), or that goddamned, muthafuckin' HUNK character who always seemed to be mentioned but you NEVER got any clear answers about.
Basically, ORC chronicles the actions of those USS members as they brave the streets of Raccoon City, tasked with destroying any and all evidence associated with the viral outbreak.
ORC will also feature a co-op game, which will involve members of the U.S. Spec. Ops. Task Force (the government, attempting to expose Umbrella).
Just like in the old days, you get to witness and engage murderous zombies, along with other deadly BOW's such as Lickers, Hunters, and even a Tyrant or two.
In a neat mix of viral gauge mechanics from previous games, you have the opportunity to run through completely uninfected - however, if attacked enough or in too violent a manner, the gauge begins. When time runs out, you can watch as you lose control of your character, attacking your teammates until you are taken down, when you can respawn once more.
One of the more seemingly exciting features they've added to the game will include major game-altering decisions, including one said to decide the life or death fate of Leon S. Kennedy.... Not that it would ultimately cause any kind of strife or uncertainty as to the progression of the series imo, since we're all well-aware of the fate of all our lead characters anyway.
Contrary to what some are saying based on simple screenshots and rumor, main characters in ORC are restricted to all-new USS personnel ONLY. The ability to play as Leon, Claire, Jill, Carlos, Ada, Nicholai, HUNK, and Lone Wolf is solely reserved for the online multiplayer "Heroes Mode" option.
What does this mean we should expect?
Some minor mechanics may be different, but this one looks like it may be a 10/10 for new and old players alike.