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Preview: Fall Gaming Lineup 2012 (Part 1)

Rob talks you through some of the biggest gaming blockbusters of September and October.

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Preview: Fall Gaming Lineup 2012 (Part 1)

The weather is growing colder, the leaves are turning brown and the days are getting shorter. Sure, you can’t necessarily walk around in a crop top in this climate, (especially if you’re a pale doughy bloke like me) but it is a great time for a bustling crowd of new and exciting games. The last few months of the year are always jam-packed with new releases and 2012 is no exception. So sit back in your favourite dressing gown and fluffy pink slippers, grab yourself a nice cup of cocoa and warm yourself by the fire as you check out this ultimate Christmas list of awesome upcoming titles. After all, ’tis the season!

Borderlands 2:
Gearbox Studios’ gun toting, cel shaded loot-fest, Borderlands hit shop shelves in 2009 and was somewhat of a surprise hit. With a unique graphic novel aesthetic and a host of wacky characters this game managed to stand out amongst it’s competition. After a whole lot of questing and a host of off-the-wall DLC the planet of Pandora returns in the form of the mighty Borderlands 2. Almost everything from the original has been updated and overhauled to make the game bigger and better than ever before.

4 new character classes have been introduced including the duel-wielding Gunzerker, the mobile turret deploying Commando, the katana brandishing, sniper Assassin and the powerful psychic temptress known as the Siren. Each character has their own unique skill trees and abilities which can be levelled up as you gain XP by eliminating enemies and completing missions. A myriad of crazy new guns have also been added… 87 Bazillion according to Gearbox CEO and snappy dresser, Randy Pitchford. Each manufacturer in the Borderlands instills their own exclusive properties into their products. For example Vladof firearms have an extremely high rate of fire, Maliwan’s focus on elemental damage and Tediore’s output is predominantly one-use-only disposable blasters that can be chucked at your adversaries when they run out of ammo.

The procedurally-generated loot system is back, rewarding players with weapons, equipment and cash for their hard-earned kills and exploration and 4 seater vehicles have been added, allowing your party of up to 4 players to cruise through the landscapes of Pandora together in style. Speaking of landscapes, the environments of Borderlands 2 are much more varied than it’s predecessor with frozen vistas, fertile savannahs and vast urban jungles complimenting the traditional barren wastelands of the first game. The assortment of enemy classes are also far more diverse ranging from Threshers, a tentacled creature that ambushes it’s victims by burrowing up from the ground to Loaders, hulking robotic monstrosities that make up the bulk of Hyperion’s sovereign military force. Foes in the game also utilise new and improved AI that allows for more complex interactions, encouraging teamwork and tactics in order to prevail in the heat of battle. Finally a much stronger emphasis has been placed on the narrative which centres around a new group of vault hunters searching for another hidden treasure trove as they battle the planet’s ruthless dictator, Handsome Jack.

I don’t know about you guys but when I have looted sufficient funds I will definitely be purchasing myself a copy of Borderlands 2. From what I’ve seen it seems better than the first in every conceivable way and I can’t wait to get a party together, pick a class and see what treasures the new and improved Pandora has to offer.

Borderlands 2 is released on September 21st, 2012 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

Resident Evil 6:
The next instalment in the Resident Evil series is interesting in that it contains 4 different campaigns that intersect to form one overarching storyline. Each scenario follows one of four main protagonists – Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield Jake Muller and Ada Wong and their respective partners (except for the latter who works alone) as they investigate yet another bioterrorism outbreak… these guys really don’t have much luck do they? Each separate storyline has it’s own distinctive atmosphere and consequent gameplay style. Leon’s is an action horror affair reminiscent of RE4 while Chris’ is more of a cover-based shooter. Jake’s is almost an amalgamation of the two and Ada’s captures the lonely, disquieting ambience of Resident Evil’s earlier titles.

Once again a third person over-the-shoulder perspective is employed but compared to even RE5 this experience is much more action-focused, making use of huge cinematic set pieces, drivable vehicles and frequent frantic quick-time events. Just like the previous game in the series there is a heavy emphasis on co-operative play although if you choose to go it alone your sidekicks will be controlled by the new and improved computer AI. The game also features a couple of multiplayer options, namely Mercenaries Mode which pits you against hordes of oncoming fiends and Agent Hunt which allows the player to take control of enemy forces in other people’s games.

Resident Evil 6 is the first game in the franchise to allow you to move and shoot simultaneously and the items, healing and weapons systems have been revamped, making for faster, more seamless in-game transitions without the need for obtrusive menus. Also an upgrade system has been implemented allowing you to level up your character by spending skill points which are attained by eradicating your assailants. Lastly the game features more types of monsters than ever before introducing new creatures such as the multiple-eyed J’avo, intelligent humanoid creatures with the ability to wield firearms that mutate upon taking damage as well as the lumbering zombies and the monolithic bosses we’ve come to expect from this much revered, often polarising action/horror franchise.

After the critically acclaimed RE4, Resident Evil 5 split fans of the franchise down the middle. Some thought the series has veered off in the wrong direction and others appreciated it’s more co-operative driven directed approach, even if it was different to what they were used to. Personally I really enjoyed it! I played the whole game in co-op and had a blast. Sure, it wasn’t the classic Survival Horror we all know and love but it was a lot of fun, and that’s the important thing. If you feel the same way then I’d recommend Resident Evil 6 to you no problem, but if you were hoping for this instalment to take the series back to it’s roots I’m afraid you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Resident Evil 6 comes out on 2nd October 2012 for PS3 and Xbox 360 and will make it’s way to PC at some point in 2013.

Dishonored is a brand spanking new IP. Hoorah! A first-person stealth action title from developer Arkhane Studios, the game’s setting is the fictional industrial city of Dunwall. Set in the midst of a horrific plague, the winding, cobbled streets are reminiscent of Victorian London, albeit with a Steampunk twist. The plot follows protagonist Corvo Attano who is framed for the murder of the Empress and is forced into hiding. Aided by a mysterious outsider who bestows supernatural powers upon him he vows to become a master assassin in order to exact his revenge upon those who ruined his life. The art style is comparable to that of Bioshock or Fable and looks almost like something out of a beautiful portrait painting.

Missions can be undertaken in multiple ways with a heavy emphasis on player choice. You could decide to sneak through your environments using stealth and cunning to reach your target or simply cut your way through crowds of guards, utilising devastating abilities to obliterate all in your path. Your powers in the game are split into two categories, active and passive. Active skills allow you to teleport short distances, stop time for brief periods and possess people or even animals. On the other hand passive moves let you fall from great heights without injury, move faster, jump further and reduce your victims to dust upon their death. There’s also an abundance of weapons and gadgets to implement the use of throughout the game that will aid you both in navigation and in the assassinations of your targets.

Dishonored makes use of a hub-world set mainly around a local pub in-between missions where you can talk to the citizens of Dunwall, meet with your supporters and pick up side quests. Exploration rewards players with new means of achieving your goals and all missions can be completed non-lethally if you so desire, provided you have the skills. Lastly the game features a “Chaos System” that manipulates the state of the world based on your actions. Raising alarms, harming civilians and leaving a trail of destruction in your wake can have dire consequences such as more guards being on patrol, a higher presence of disease infested rodents in the area and even NPCs refusing to interact with you if they disagree with your barbaric methods.

For me Dishonored is definitely one of the most fascinating games of the year. It’s increasingly rare that we’re presented with new IPs, especially this late in the console cycle and this one looks like something special. I love stealth games! Unfortunately the genre seems to have all but disappeared over the last few years so this game being released at this stage is practically a miracle. If you only buy one title this Autumn I urge you to consider Dishonored. Not only is it a beautiful and engaging experience in it’s own right but it’s a daring new undertaking that deserves gamer’s support. Not to be too preachy, but if we don’t back exciting new projects like these we have little right to complain about the increasingly stale state of our games industry, with it’s multitude of sequels and never ending money-spinning franchises.

Dishonored is available in stores on 12th October 2012 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown:
A re-imagining of the 1994 sci-fi PC classic UFO: Enemy Unknown, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based strategy game developed by Firaxis Games, the famed developer behind the hugely successful Civilization series. Set in the near future following an alien invasion of Earth the game puts you in charge on an elite multinational organisation known as XCOM and tasks you with controlling the fate of humanity through researching alien technologies, constructing and maintaining a fully operational base and planning and executing combat missions against an enemy with overwhelming technological superiority.

Enemy Unknown’s turn-based combat utilises an isometric 3D perspective. Players control a small force of between four and six human soldiers or robotic units to hunt down aliens on the map and attempt to complete their mission objectives. Like a lot of strategy games each level is shrouded by a “fog of war” which hides the creatures and their activities from view until the player’s troops are in range and have them in their line of sight. Soldiers can learn new abilities as they gain XP from combat, such as waiting for enemies to appear and firing on them automatically, launching explosives and healing allies. Taking cover behind walls and environmental objects offers protection for your units and suppressing fire and active camouflage can be used to pin down and outmanoeuvre your foes. Cutscenes and dynamic camera movements emphasise particularly exciting moments in gameplay such as kills and the use of special abilities. If a soldier survives a certain number of battles they can gain powerful psychic abilities, however the game employs permadeath so if one of your team is KIA he’s gone for good and you’ll have to start over with a new recruit.

Between missions XCOM’s underground headquarters is presented in a view dubbed as “the ant farm”. From here the player manages construction, manufacturing and research projects and decides how the scientists and engineers make use of the resources recovered from missions and received from sponsors. A holographic view of the earth known as “The Geoscape” allows the player to keep track of the situation around the globe, dispatch aircraft to intercept UFOs and deploy troops to engage alien ground forces. From your base you can also observe your soldiers in their downtime, exercising or hanging out at the bar and check the memorial wall featuring the names of all those who’ve lost their lives under your command. A multiplayer mode is also available for one-on-one tactical confrontations. Players spend a predefined budget on assembling a squad of up to six humans, aliens or a mixture of both. Human units are customisable in terms of weaponry armour and gadgets and a simplified version of the single-player perk system is available to employ. Alien units cannot be customised but posses unique abilities based on their class type.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge strategy gamer, although I think that may be because they tend to be exclusively on PC and I’m more of a console guy. Nevertheless XCOM: Enemy Unknown definitely intrigues me. The fact that the console versions haven’t been dumbed down in any way and run just as smoothly and efficiently as their Windows counterpart leads me to think that I’ll definitely give it a try, even if it is somewhat out of my wheelhouse. However for the strategists amongst the gaming community this title is a must purchase… if it can live up to it’s prestigious heritage that is.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown hits shop shelves on 12th October 2012 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

Closing Thoughts:
So, which if any of these games will you chaps be spending your hard-earned cash on this year? Please let us know by leaving a comment down below. Join us again soon where Rob will explore four more titles in the sea of great releases that is this year’s Fall Lineup.

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