Game Room: June Roundup
NBA 2K13 has tabbed a trio of basketball's rising superstars to share cover honors: L.A. Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose. NBA 2K13 is scheduled for an October 2 release on the Xbox 360 and PS3. A Wii U version is also slated for the fall.
Giroux Gets It
Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux will grace the cover of NHL 13. The 2012 All-Star right wing netted 28 goals and dished 65 assists this season. Giroux defeated Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne in the final vote to become the first NHL player voted onto the cover of EA's NHL game. NHL 13 is scheduled for a September 11 release on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
NBA, NHL Coming to Xbox Live
For those who'd rather watch games than play them: This fall both NBA League Pass and NHL GameCenter will be available on Xbox Live as streaming apps. Both will require a separate subscription purchased from the respective leagues and both will feature out-of-market games with standard blackout rules. This is the first time NBA League Pass will be available on any console (NHL GameCenter has been available on the PS3 for several years). Microsoft hasn't announced if a Gold (paid) membership will be required to access the apps. For Xbox owners the only thing missing is the NFL, so here's hoping Roger Goodell and Co. get on it.
Shout It Out
Kinect was clearly launched in response to the success of the Wii's motion controls, but Microsoft's controller-free gaming has been a mixed bag. Fortunately, the Kinect can also process audio commands, which is a concept gaining traction with game developers. EA has jumped on that train and plans to offer voice commands to FIFA 13 and Madden 13. In FIFA 13 you'll be able to change formations on the fly by calling out specific commands. In Madden you'll be able to call out pre-snap audibles on both sides of the ball, command player substitutions, get players to hurry to the line and snap the ball. Madden 13 is scheduled for an August 28 release with FIFA 13 following later in the fall.
Dirt Showdown isn't really a true sequel to the storied dirt racing series; it's something different, more aimed at the casual player. Where Dirt can sometimes be overwhelming with tuning options and race mechanics, Showdown is much more of a plug-and-play racer, more Burnout than Forza. That doesn't mean that it's inferior, but it sometimes doesn't exactly feel like a fully-fledged retail title. The premise of the game is extremely simple. You have a pot of money, you buy a car, you win races, demolition derbies and stunt tracks, you buy upgrades and more cars, you continue to progress. Most of the game types are fun, with the demolition and elimination options as standouts. Multiplayer is pervasive and worked very well, with no lag or, worst of all, car teleportation. From the menus to the sound effects, the game feels solid. So what's wrong? After you've played for an hour, you start to feel like you've seen all the game has to offer. The tracks repeat with annoying frequency and the Poochie-cool commentary will make your brain ache. The game is undeniably addictive, but it lacks the richness and depth that the Dirt franchise has come to represent. Dirt Showdown is a mostly competent racer, but race enthusiasts waiting for Dirt 4 will probably find little here to thrill. Younger players will probably eat it up. Score: 7 out of 10
Inversion is made up of elements that are, in nearly every way, familiar to other popular titles: the gravity weapon call to mind Half Life 2, the enemies dress like extras from Rage. But the game calls nothing to mind so much as the Gears of War series, which clearly served as a design template for this third-person shooter. Cover-based shooting? Check. Macho partners with family issues? Check. A peaceful city invaded by creatures building underground tunnels. Uh-huh. A signature gun with an unlikely melee weapon glommed onto the barrel? Yep, only this time it's a scimitar blade instead of a chainsaw. Truth be told, there's not an original idea in Inversion and, unfortunately, what was imitated was not exactly improved upon. The enemy AI is brain dead, the levels are completely linear and the targeting for the gravity weapon is awkward. Remember the first time you tried to use Force Throw in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed? It's worse. It's not all bad. The war-torn environments look nicely lived-in and there's actually an enjoyable, if overwrought, story holding it all together. There are copious multiplayer options -- both campaign and competitive -- if you can find anyone to play with. Inversion is a playable, inoffensive experience, but there's just really not much reason to play this game when you can play the other titles it tirelessly borrows from. Score: 6 out of 10
LEGO Batman 2: <br> DC Super Heroes
Another Lego game?!? At first blush, Lego Batman 2 seems like the retread that you're almost certain that it is, again borrowing Danny Elfman's unforgettable soundtrack from the Tim Burton movie. It all feels like the same thing all over again until... the characters talk! Not mumbling and gesturing (though they occasionally do that as well for comic effect), but full voice acting. The decision to bring the series into, well, the '90s actually gives the entire Lego brand a new charge. The storytelling is more substantive, the blocks seem more realized and the whole experience feels freshened. The core gameplay is the same: play through a campaign mode to unlock characters, suits and free play levels, then play them again and again as you develop the ability to get to new areas in the map and unlock yet more characters and suits and acquire endless numbers of Lego studs, which always function as the in-game currency in these games. There are vehicle levels, new DC heroes, lots of villains, awesome local multiplayer and the familiar, non-violent Lego fun that has carried this series for this long. The inevitable Lego Lord of the Rings should be awesome. Score: 8 out of 10