Game Room: June Roundup
NHL 12: Stamkos Strikes
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos is the latest star to grace the cover of EA's NHL franchise game. The prolific 21-year-old netted 45 goals to finish second in the league in scoring, and finished fifth with 91 points. NHL 12 is scheduled for a September 13 release on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
UFC Personal Trainer
UFC Personal Trainer pushes the video game genre further away from its couch potato origins with yet another workout title that implores you to get up and move. Start by setting your vitals with traditional exercises like sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks, then get ready for a pounding. Muay Thai, kickboxing and wrestling are all incorporated into over 70 exercises and the mixed martial arts distinguish Personal Trainer from standard workout titles. If you need proof that all of these crazy new exercises are actually working, you can track your progress during 30- and 60-day workout plans that chart categories like calories burned and weight lost. The exercises are all great, but the most unique experience in the game is when you step into the ring for agility drills with real UFC fighters like Rashad Evans. Master punch and kick combos to unlock new drills and rewards. It's here where you can also set personal bests to challenge friends in both multiplayer and online. While sparring in the ring with fighters provides a legit workout, this game could really take it to the next level by adding actual fights to the next build. UFC Personal Trainer is available for the Kinect, the Move and the Wii. Score: 8 out of 10
A Wii U Education
At June's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, Nintendo unveiled its' next generation console, the Wii U. The Wii U's most striking feature is a cordless 6.2 inch touch-screen controller. The screen is able to show what's on your TV, but it can also show different views that work with the TV-screen view. In addition to a full array of standard buttons, a d-pad and two analog sticks, the controller also has a gyroscope, accelerometer, front-facing camera, a mic and speakers, and rumble support. Nintendo hasn't confirmed if the unit will support two of the new controllers for local multiplayer gaming, but they have said up to four current Wii motion controllers will work with the Wii U. The new Wii U controller isn't a standalone handheld, but it can function with the Wii U console on, and your TV off. Nintendo says the Wii U console is capable of equal or potentially better HD graphics than the Xbox 360 and PS3. If true, that bodes well for expanded third party game support as companies don't have to suffer graphical limitations with multiplatform titles. Nintendo has not announced an official release date, and haven't set the cost of the hardware or what additional Wii U controllers will cost.
Sony's big E3 reveal was PS Vita, the successor to the PlayStation Portable (PSP). Vita features an impressive looking 5-inch OLED (960x544) touch-screen. The unit features dual analog sticks, a rear touch pad, front and rear facing cameras, a mic and speakers, and a sixais motion sensor and GPS. The sensor and cameras will allow the Vita to feature augmented reality games where you typically point the unit in the real world to reveal and interact with on-screen elements. Sony hasn't revealed the final launch lineup, but it is already promoting the following noteworthy PS Vita titles: Uncharted: Golden Abyss (pictured), HotShots Golf, Wipeout, Sound Shapes, Little Big Planet, ModNation Racers and Super Stardust Delta. Games will be available as digital downloads and on flash memory cards. No prices have been released for software or memory storage. Sony hasn't set an official release date for PS Vita, but the device could ship before the end of the year. The Vita will be available in two models, Wi-Fi ($249) and 3G ($299) via AT&T.
Kinect the Dots
Microsoft has already sold over 10 million Kinect units worldwide, so it wasn't a big surprise that the gaming company is lining up to support it with A-titles this year. In case you missed the release last year, Kinect is an Xbox 360 add-on sensor that allows for hands-free gaming, though it can also be used with a controller to accept voice and hand/arm motion commands. Upcoming noteworthy titles that will utilize the Kinect sensor include: Dance Central 2, FIFA 13, Forza 4, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Kinect Disneyland Adventures, Kinect: Star Wars (pictured), Madden NFL 12 and Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
Longtime fans of this series have a special place in their hearts for the best Zelda ever made: Ocarina of Time for the late-1990s glory era of the Nintendo 64. Arguably one of the best video games ever made on any platform, Ocarina returns in complete form to the handheld with a few enhancements: 3D, improved graphics, an added Master Quest after finishing the game, as well as a Boss Gauntlet Mode. The Z-control targeting that made the original battle system so addictive has been transported to the 3DS with surprising effectiveness; like the original, once you get the feel for it you will be mowing down enemies. It's a stroll down memory lane for old school gamers and a wonderful discovery for the younger crowd that never even heard of the N64. Score: 8.5 of 10
In the sequel to one of the PS3's better exclusive titles, InFAMOUS 2 resumes the adventures of Cole MacGrath. MacGrath, a man mysteriously granted super powers, is trying to collect even more powers as he prepares for a showdown with the all-powerful Beast. The game is set in an open-world town called New Marais, which looks a lot like a beat-up version of New Orleans. The campaign has a solid story and characters driving you through primary and side missions, so there's always something to do, but the path you take is very flexible. As you interact with the people in New Marais, and in picking your missions, you can choose to take good or evil actions. The outcome of your decisions gives you access to different missions and a different ending to the game, which adds great replay. MacGrath's powers ramp up nicely as the game progresses, and you get a solid feel for the damage he inflicts on enemies. Jumping, gliding and climbing around New Marais is very entertaining. InFAMOUS 2 has impressive sound effects and graphics. There are some minor camera issues, especially in melee and up close combat, but you can work around them. Score: 9 out of 10
Tranformers: Dark of the Moon
The plot of the Transformers: Dark of the Moon serves as a prequel to Michael Bay's movie. In each chapter of the game you play as a different Transformer or Decepticon. Most of the playable Transformers and Deceptions have three modes: robot, vehicle and stealth. Robot is the best looking, utilizing the same style as the movie. Vehicle is used mostly when you are racing against the clock. The majority of the time is spent in stealth mode, which is really vehicle mode with weapons. One of the big flaws in the game is that in stealth mode you can fire without reloading and take more damage without sacrificing any maneuverability over robot form. Tactically you spend most of the game in stealth mode, but over time Dark of the Moon feels more like a generic car shooter game and less like a Transformers game. The graphics and sound effects in the game are decent, and credit is deserved for an interesting array of gaming environments, but ultimately too much of the game consists of fighting through repetitive waves of enemies within contained spaces. Multiplayer is also a step down from the last successful Transformers game, War for Cybertron , which is unfortunate as it further reduces the replay value. Score: 6.5 out of 10
RedBox: Game On
Kiosk distributor RedBox is the latest entrant into the video game rental marketplace. The company started carrying video game rentals this month at its' 21,000-plus locations nationwide. Consumers will be able to rent Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii games for $2 a day. RedBox has an iphone app that allows you to reserve titles (they also carry DVDs and Blu-Rays), before you pick them at their self-service kiosks.
Operation Flashpoint: Red River
Operation Flashpoint Red River occupies a peculiar place in the world of military shooters. It's doesn't try to emulate Hollywood action movies like its Call of Duty brethren, opting for a more realistic view of war where one shot can kill and rushing directly into the fray is almost always a bad idea. Also straying from the Call of Duty formula is the multiplayer, which is entirely co-op with no competitive multiplayer whatsoever. The problem is, if a game is that dependent on its campaign mode, it better be solid, and Red River's gameplay is a decidedly mixed experience. Aside from some annoying texture pop-in, the game looks great, with realistic weapons, vehicles and chatter, and a presentation experience that's second-to-none, but the AI is, at time laughable. It's true that players have to play tactically -- this definitely isn't a run-and-gun experience -- but the enemies follow predictable patterns and often pop out of cover in a rhythm that players will quickly pick up. Squad AI is no better, with friendlies often running around confused and rarely contributing to the fight. Animations, too, are often problematic, as enemies often appear to vault through the air when shot, and friendly squad players will sometimes appear to teleport from one place to another. Red River is a bit of a hodgepodge of good ideas and sketchy execution, somewhere in between previous, more "hardcore" games in the series and the wham-bang ridiculousness of Call of Duty. Player of the latter may enjoy a slower, more tactical experience, but aficionados of more realistic shooters will probably find themselves a little let down. Score: 6 out of 10
F.E.A.R. 3 is a typical first person shooter, but its' real strength is solid influx of horror survival and a unique co-op spin that adds a lot of replay value. The first time through each mission in campaign mode you play as Point Man, a genetically enhanced solider who's tracking to track down his evil mommy, Alma. Point Man uses standard weapons, grenades and cover mechanics, but he can also briefly slow down time, which is very handy when surrounded by enemies. After completing each mission, F.E.A.R. 3 allows you to play it again as Point Man's brother, Paxton Fettel. Fettel has telekinetic powers and can temporarily possess enemy combatants, so it's a completely different vibe playing each level again. The best experience in the game is playing co-op with one person controlling Point Man and the other Fettel. Each mission is scored, so you can choose to help or hinder each other. How you play it also affects the outcome of the game. The sound effects in F.E.A.R. 3 are well done, but the graphics when compared to current generation games are underwhelming. The AI in the game is average, though it doesn't deter from the experience. There's also a handful of very entertaining multiplayer modes that also enhance the longevity of the game. Score: 7.5 out of 10