Upcoming video game releases: button mashing action hits a stylish high in Bayonetta, the accidental end of the world as seen by an apocalyptic horseman in Darksiders, and fantasy adventure in Divinity II: Ego Draconis.
Bayonetta (360, PS3)
Release: North America, January 5. Europe, January 8. Japan, released October 2009.
Designed by Hideki Kamiya, who also helmed the frantic beat 'em ups in the Viewtiful Joe series, the adventure-painting cult hit Okami, the extremely influential acrobatic and challenging hack'n'slash Devil May Cry, and a handful of games in the groundbreaking Resident Evil series. Bayonetta itself is suitably bizarre, action-packed, and praiseworthy: the title's main character is a mesmeric shapeshifting witch with four robust handguns (two strapped to her feet) and magical hair, with action set in a fictional European city as portrayed by the Japanese genius. It's unusual to have a contender for Game of The Year awards released so early on but Bayonetta looks like it could well be a candidate. Unfortunately the PS3 version has suffered a little in conversion but despite its various technical issues has still garnered a selection of good reviews and previews.
Price: $59.95 / €69.99 / ?7,999
Special Edition, inc. art book and 6-track CD: €74.99
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, on discovering that the end of the world has started early, sets out to right the wrong of a premature Armageddon - all through the wielding of swords, guns, and his trusty steed Ruin as hordes of horrid creatures swarm through both a caricatured New York and otherworldly planes whilst War's current mission means that both angels and demons are out to get him. The art style is strongly reminiscent of World of Warcraft, for the very reason that WoW's visual direction was heavily influenced by the work of graphic artist Joe Madureira who went on to found Vigil Games, the development studio behind Darksiders. Gameplay-wise, the combo-heavy nature of combat means that Darksiders comes across as a mix between the mythological fighter God of War and the recent Brütal Legend, and the exploratory quest-based nature of the game harks back to the classic Legend of Zelda titles. 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 and t-shirts.
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. Though set in the same gameworld, the story this time is of a main character who is part of a group that has set out to eliminate an oppressive horde of dragons controlled by an evil overlord, and there's a twist in the tale, as the player's character seeks to master a curse that enables him to become one of those dragons. Divinity II changes camera angles from its predecessors by switching to full 3D, using the same game engine that powered fantasy role-player Oblivion, whilst distinguishing itself from fellow recent fantasy adventure Dragon Age by the introduction of flight. There is a Collector's Edition available in Germany which, as well as the game, includes a figurine with detatchable sword / letter opener, a CD of the game's sountrack, and a cloth map of Rivellon, Divinity's fantasy world.
Price: $59.99 / €59.99 (360), $49.99 / €49.99 (PC), €59.99 (PC - Collector's Edition)