Upcoming video game releases: button-mashing fever hits a high in the stylish Bayonetta, the accidental end of the world as seen by an apocalyptic horseman in Darksiders, and tough-guy trials in Army of Two: The 40th Day.
Bayonetta (360 PS3)
Release: North America, January 5. Europe, January 8. Japan, released October 2009.
Designed by Hideki Kamiya, who helmed the frantic Viewtiful Joe beat 'em ups, adventure-painting cult hit Okami, the acrobatic and challenging hack'n'slash Devil May Cry, and groundbreaking games in the Resident Evil series. Bayonetta itself is similarly bizarre, action-packed, and significant: a shapeshifting witch with four handguns (two of which are strapped to her feet) and magical hair attacks battles her way past beasts and warriors to reclaim her missing memories and find out what she is fighting for. Unusual though it is to have a contender for Game of The Year awards released so early on, Bayonetta looks like it could well be a candidate. Despite the PS3 version suffering in conversion, it too has garnered a selection of decent reviews and previews.
Price: $59.95 / €69.99 / ¥7,999
Special Edition, inc. art book and 6-track CD: €74.99, unannounced elsewhere.
Darksiders (360 PS3)
Release: North America, January 5. Europe, January 8. Japan, January 5.
This single player action-adventure tells the story of War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, who sets out to right the wrong of a premature Armageddon - naturally all by means of swords, guns, and a trusty steed named Ruin, as both angels and demons try to obstruct his secret mission that traverses a caricatured New York and various otherworldly planes. Influential graphic artist Joe Madureira is one of the founders of Vigil Games, the development studio behind Darksiders, and his art style comes through strongly here. The combo-heavy nature of combat has drawn favorable comparisons with visceral fighter God of War, the recent Brütal Legend, while exploratory quests hark back to The Legend of Zelda. There are a number of pre-order bonuses available from selected retailers, such as an extra costume to use in conjunction with certain aspects of the PS3 and Xbox 360 online services, an extra in-game weapon, t-shirts, and so on.
Price: $59.99 / €69.99 / ¥7,999
Divinity II: Ego Draconis (360 PC)
Release: North America, January 5. Europe, January 8.
Following on from the PC role-playing games Divine Divinity and its stand-alone expansion Beyond Divinity, the Ego Draconis game is actually the third entry in the Divinity series. This time, the player's character is part of a group that is hunting an oppressive horde of dragons controlled by an evil overlord. There's a twist in the tale: the main character is touched by a curse that enables him to become a dragon himself. In a change from previous Divinity games, Divinity II is presented in 3D rather than isometrically, and distinguishes itself from fellow fantasy adventure Dragon Age with the introduction of flight. There is a Collector's Edition available in Germany which includes a figurine with detatchable sword / letter opener, a soundtrack CD, and a cloth map.
Price: $59.99 / €59.99 (360), $49.99 / €49.99 (PC), €59.99 (PC - Collector's Edition)
Army of Two: The 40th Day (360 PS3 PSP)
Release: Europe, January 8. North America, January 12.
Private-hire militia men Rios and Salem return in what's felt to be a vast improvement on 2008's buddy shooter which, though far from terrible, was generally best experienced when played two-player in co-operative mode. This sequel both takes itself less seriously and seeks to improve on elements in the first that could propel it to greatness: planning ahead is well rewarded, drawing fire so that your pal can get the jump on a troublesome attacker, and moral choices come into play as the character's handler issues instructions that force some uncomfortable choices, bringing a whiff of the cerebral to what is essentially a gung-ho, gruff and brawny bromance.
Price: €69.99 / $59.99 (360 PS3), €39.99 / $39.99 (PSP)
Vancouver 2010: The Official Videogame of the Winter Olympic Games (360 PS3 PSP)
Release: North America, January 12. Europe, January 15.
Eurocom had a hand in two 2009 games that turned out much, much better than expected - their film tie-in G-Force was nominated for GameSpot's Most Surprisingly Good Game award, while they had a hand in Dead Space: Extraction, GameSpot's Best Wii Game. They took the reins for the official summer Olympic games in 2004 and 2008 and now have the license for the 2010 Winter title. Vancouver 2010 boasts 14 events spanning the disciplines of ski, skate, snowboard, luge, bobsleigh and skeleton. Though their previous Olympic efforts have been met by middling scores, the recent upturn in fortunes at Eurocom bodes well for the 2010 title.
Price: €59.99 / $49.99 (360 PS3), €49.99 / $39.99 (PC)
Dark Void (360 PC PS3)
Release: North America, January 12. Europe, January 12.
Dark Void will be the first game from Airtight Games, and that's part of the reason it's been generating a buzz: core team members have a strong background with Microsoft Corp and Microsoft Game Studios, particularly in the realm of both realistic and arcade flight simulators. The futuristic Dark Void is itself in the main a flying game, though not in a traditional manner as the main character's imperfect rocket pack puts him up against a malevolent alien force. There are also slightly more standard ground-based shooting sequences, though with the addition of a hover-pack the player's jumping ability is greatly enhanced, and a novel approach to action adventure with vertical combat sections. Imagine The Rocketeer crossed with Star Wars and Avatar to get an impression of the cinematic feel that Airtight is aiming for. There's also a retro-style DS companion game doing the rounds called Dark Void Zero.
Price: €59.99 / $59.99 (360 PS3), €39.99 / $39.99 (PC)
Winter Sports 2010: The Great Tournament (360 PS3 Wii)
Release: Europe, January 15.
German games developers 49games were responsible for the official videogame accompanying the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino and have teamed up with the German media group RTL every year since with a new release for the RTL Sports label, as well as stand-alone games devoted to ski-jumping, biathlon, and alpine skiing. The fourth Winter Sports game features eight winter sports, all of which are official Winter Olympic events: alpine and freeride skiing, ski jumping, speed and figure skating, bobsleigh, and biathlon are the more famous ones. Boardercross (snowboard racing) is also included for good measure.
Price: €39.99 (360 PS3), €29.99 (Wii)