Game Room: April Roundup
Megatron vs. The Cover Curse
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson will grace the cover of Madden NFL 13 after winning Electronic Arts' fan poll. But can he survive the Madden cover curse that has plagued previous winners? Johnson is coming off a stellar season in which he caught 96 passes for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns, but we're already a little nervous about his ability to repeat the feat following recent comments that indicate he'd rather see fewer balls thrown his way as the Lions move toward a more balanced rushing-passing attack. Less Megatron? Megabummer. Madden NFL 13 is scheduled for an August 28 release on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Following another EA fan poll, running back Barry Sanders joins Robert Griffin III on the cover of NCAA Football 13. Many fans remember Sanders' Hall of Fame career in the NFL with the Detroit Lions but he was also inducted into the college football Hall of Fame behind an impressive career at Oklahoma State. NCAA Football 13 is scheduled for a July 10 release on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Ridge Racer Unbounded
Ridge Racer Unbounded is set in the fictional city of Shatter Bay where you're left to race your way through nine urban districts consisting of seven races in each. The game features five different race types: domination, drift, time attack, frag attack and standard racing. Domination is the most compelling as it incorporates the best elements of the other modes. To advance and unlock more events you have to finish in the top three of each race. To do that you need master drifting which is used to fill up your power meter, which in turn is used for speed boosts, crashing out other cars, and to blast through targeted structures on the tracks. There are plenty of destructible items scattered around the tracks, so racing is frenetic and entertaining. The multiplayer modes are robust and the inclusion of a track builder adds a lot of replay value. The graphics are clean and crisp and the sound effects and music work well together to make Ridge Racer Unbounded a worthy game for racing fans. Score: 9 out of 10
Sneak Peek: Halo 4
The Halo franchise is one of Microsoft's crown jewels on the Xbox. When Bungie, the original developer of Halo, left to work on other projects, Microsoft handed the keys to in-house developer 343 Industries. Fortunately, Halo 4 will immediately be familiar to fans with the inclusion of campaign (solo and co-op) and multiplayer modes. A new mode, Spartan OPS, offers some fresh thinking. Over a limited rollout Spartan OPS will feature weekly story-based missions that can be completed alone or co-op. You don't have to complete the campaign to play these levels, but familiarity with the storyline will make them more relevant. 343 promises new armor abilities and weapons, as well as more customization for mission-launch load outs. For the first time in a Halo game players will need to score points in solo and co-op modes to unlock weapons and armor abilities in multiplayer modes. The game will reward points for a wider array of actions. For instance if you're playing capture the flag you'll get points for carrying a flag even if you don't score it. Halo 4 will sound different as well. The game is getting a brand new soundtrack and sound effects. Halo 4 is scheduled for a November 6 release on the Xbox 360.
Kinect Star Wars
Neither as great as it should be or as awful as it's reputed to be, Kinect Star Wars takes players through a deeply kiddified adventure across various Star Wars worlds using the Kinect sensor for control. Lightsaber fighting is a huge part of the gameplay and, unfortunately, it's too unresponsive to be engaging and too easy to be much of a challenge. The gameplay picks up substantially during the much more entertaining speeder bike and podrace sequences, which could, by themselves, sell a Kinect sensor to any Star Wars fan. Like many Kinect games, the fun picks up with a second co-op player, who can drop in or out at any time. It's not a total train wreck, but kids and hard-core Star Wars fans will probably find Kinect Star Wars an enjoyable diversion. Score: 6 out of 10
Japanese role-playing games have had it tough this console generation, but Xenoblade Chronicles avoids most of the worst elements of the genre to deliver a standout experience. The main character, Shulk, wields a gigantic blade called the Monado against an enemy out to destroy the world. The game's open world is home to hundreds of quests, ranging from the standard FedEx fetch to a robust main storyline. There's an astounding amount of gameplay here and, if anything, the game suffers from too much to do and not always enough guidance for mastering the variety of options that it offers. The presentation and voice work is strong for a Wii game, but it's hard not to wish that it appeared on a console with more juice under the hood. JRPG fans, however, will love it.Score: 8 out of 10
The Witcher 2: Assasins of Kings
CDProjektRed's acclaimed PC role-playing game has finally made the jump to consoles, and the result is a dark, violent experience that delivers the goods. The story is told from the perspective of monster hunter Geralt -- the titular Witcher -- and his effort to save a king, and a kingdom, from conspiracy and war. The content is seriously adult, with a volume of sex and violence that wouldn't be out of place on HBO, and the decisions that the player is called upon to make take the story in fascinating directions. Effort was clearly poured into ensuring that the game played well with a console controller and, for the most part, the level of polish shows through. Unlike an open-world RPG like Skyrim, the environments are fairly static, and the inability to jump is frustrating, but the overall experience and story are top-notch. Score: 9 out of 10