They say that when springtime hits, it’s time to head outdoors. For us, it means that it’s time to play some new video games. Every year, spring brings a haul of hotly anticipated titles for gamers of all tastes. This year is no different, guaranteeing that the couch will see its fair share of use on even the sunniest of days – that is, unless you’re using the Kinect. Here are 8 video game titles launching this spring that we’re especially excited for.
Mass Effect 3
The most highly anticipated springtime arrival was probably the Reapers, and in case you missed it, they’ve already kicked off their invasion. Mass Effect 3 is the final installment of BioWare’s incredibly popular science-fiction trilogy, and is mandatory playing for any fan of the first two games. Commander Shepard and all of his or her friends (and enemies) return in the most action-heavy entry to the series. Some might not like the decrease in the dialogue options that helped to make the series popular, but there’s enough humor and moral quandaries around to keep most satisfied. And, for the first time in the series, there’s a multiplayer mode, where up to four players can join up online and fight the Reaper invasion in co-operative missions.
Of course, if you’ve been on the Internet lately (guessing you have), you might know the game didn’t make it out of the gate without controversy. The DLC available for sale on day one drew the ire of fans everywhere, many of whom interpreted the move as BioWare and parent company EA deliberately cutting out game content with the intention of selling it separately. Complaints about that fell to the wayside a few days after Mass Effect 3 dropped on March 6th, though, as – SPOILER ALERT -
fans hit the forums apoplectic with rage over the game’s ending. I don’t have enough room here to cover all the complaints, but suffice to say they were numerous. If you’ve been with the good (or bad) Shepard since the beginning, you might want to gird yourself for disappointment when you hit the denouement. Don’t feel too down, though – no matter what you think of the ending, the game itself is a triumph in nearly every way. For fans of the series, it’ll likely be remembered as one of the best games of the year (despite feelings about the ending). For those who haven’t played the first two, don’t expect to get much out of the deal.
The snow’s melting away, as snowboarding and skiing season comes to a close. What to do while you’re waiting for the slopes to reopen next winter? Might as well start by carving up the virtual slopes in SSX, a reboot of the long-standing snowboarding sim franchise. SSX is a departure from previous SSX titles, throwing out the cartoonish fictional slopes in favor of real-world locations and an emphasis on open-world gameplay. Many of the same familiar SSX characters return to hit mountains on all seven continents (yes, even Antarctica).
The developer team at EA Canada wasn’t messing around when they decided to take the franchise in a new direction. The mountains in-game are made to mirror the real world, thanks to the use of geotagging data borrowed from NASA. Combine that with the fresh, eclectic kind of soundtrack that fans have come to love, and you have a winner this spring.
If you haven’t already, get carving – SSX hit stores on February 28th, to generally favorable reviews. SSX is out for Xbox 360 and PS3.
Gamers of the ’90s might remember a tactical shooter series by the name of Syndicate, which threw you into a future where mega-corporations battle it out for global domination with their own private super-soldier armies. Well, Syndicate is back, but you might not recognize it under the new coat of paint.
Third-person shooter gameplay is out, as the reboot of Syndicate is a first-person shooter mixing gun-fighting and hacking in a futuristic world that stays true to the series’ roots. The new version of Syndicate was developed by Starbreeze Studios, the same people behind the surprisingly good video game adaptation of The Chronicles of Riddick. Players control Miles Kilo, a prototype agent of one of the story’s mega-corporations, following a fairly recognizable dystopian future story that doesn’t offer up too much in the way of surprises, but manages to impress with fast-paced, quality gameplay. The major downside? At about six hours, the single-player campaign is unsatisfyingly short, though there is co-op multiplayer online.
Syndicate was released on February 21st for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, to mixed-to-favorable reviews.
Kinect Star Wars
Possibly the coolest thing about the release of Kinect Star Wars on April 3rd is the bundle – if you’re a Star Wars fan and don’t yet have an Xbox 360, you might want to take a look. The bundle includes an R2-D2-fied Xbox 360 console, a silver Kinect, and a gold controller (the C-3PO to the Xbox 360′s R2-D2). The bundle comes with the Kinect Star Wars game, as well as Kinect Adventures.
As for the game itself, it’s the kind of deal that most Star Wars fans salivated over way back when the Wii was first announced. Using motion control to administer force powers against your enemies and engage in epic lightsaber battles in-game? What fan wouldn’t want to get in on that? A few years later, and many found their collective heels cooled on the idea, after seeing one too many failed attempts. Will Kinect Star Wars be any different? I’ll tell you what – just watch this video from Kotaku, and you can decide for yourself.
Kinect Star Wars hits stores on April 3rd, only for the Xbox 360 with Kinect.
The Sims 3 Showtime
If any gamer-hater (an ever-shrinking group) tells you to get a life this spring, do just that – the Sims franchise is still going strong, receiving a couple of new expansion packs for the latest full game in the series, The Sims 3. The Sims 3 Showtime expansion pack opens the doors of stardom to Sims everywhere, showcasing all kinds of talents, from being a rock star to practicing show-stopping magic. The Sims 3 Showtime has the life sim thing down pat – new acts will have to hack it through small-time gigs to make it big.
The Sims 3 Showtime Katy Perry Collector’s Edition Expansion Pack is – well, I guess that title doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation, does it? It’s The Sims 3 Showtime stocked with Katy Perry gear and music, for those who need a blue wig to accompany their Sim on their rocket ride to fame and fortune. Just don’t make a Russell Brand sim and you’ll do just fine in this expansion pack.
The Sims 3 and its expansion packs are available now for Mac and PC.
Kinect Rush is sure to be a hit with the kids this spring (you know, when they’re taking a break from playing outside for so long). You might not be able to tell from the title, but Kinect Rush brings together five Disney-Pixar movie universes into one big adventure that players can easily join or leave, simply by walking out of Kinect’s range. That makes it a great game for busy parents to get in on and enjoy some quality time with the kids while still having the flexibility to run off and attend to other matters.
Kids will enjoy interacting with their favorite characters from Ratatouille, Up, Cars, Toy Story, and The Incredibles in locations taken right from the movies. It’s a safe, standard-issue kid-friendly Kinect game that should make video gaming at least a little more active for youngsters.
Kinect Rush is out now for the Xbox 360 with Kinect.
Zumba Fitness Rush
No spring video game list would be complete without the obligatory fitness game. Zumba Fitness Rush is a follow-up to Zumba Fitness, a dance-based workout routine for the Kinect that saw over six million people shaking it and shedding the pounds (hopefully). If you’ve been lagging on your New Year’s Resolutions thus far, here’s a good way to kickstart them for springtime.
There isn’t too much new in Zumba Fitness Rush, besides more of the same with a cleaner, leaner presentation. Of course, when you can boast six million served, chances are you don’t need to change too much. Just remember, as with any fitness game, if you buy it, commit to it. Otherwise, at the end of spring – SPOILER ALERT -
you probably won’t be in much better shape than you are right now.
Zumba Fitness Rush is available now for the Xbox 360 with Kinect.
You’ll still have to wait a while for this one – Diablo 3 doesn’t drop until May 15th. But hey, what’s another month and a half when you’ve been waiting since 2000? Diablo 2 came into our lives before smartphones rewrote the book on mobile technology. That’s not just before Facebook – that’s even before MySpace. It’s fair to say that anticipation among fans of the series is pretty high right now.
The hack-and-slash dungeon crawl gameplay familiar to fans of the series will return, as a not-so-heavenly object crashes into the world of Sanctuary, unleashing the armies of the Burning Hells once again. Players will be able to choose one of five character classes – witch doctor, barbarian, wizard, monk, and demon hunter – to battle back hordes of undead, demons, monsters, and/or some ungodly combination of the three.
Online co-operative gameplay will be handled through Blizzard’s own Battle.net service, which a whole lot of people are going to need. Early indications say that Blizzard is making good on its promise of retaining the series’ notoriously hellish levels of difficulty, so you’ll probably want a little help from your friends from time to time. That also means the beloved Hardcore mode is back – your character dies once, and that’s it. No resurrections, just a cold corpse and a trip back to the beginning of the game.
The devil comes to take your PC or Mac come May 15th, after sleeping for more than a decade. Here’s hoping he’s well rested.