Today’s release of Rock Band: The Beatles signals more than just another interesting band specific release in the music game genre. The emergence of Harmonix’s potential behemoth signals the end of the summer drought and the beginning of the deluge in the long run up to Christmas. Looking back through the release schedule it seems that this is the first truly anticipated title since Resident Evil 5 hit the shelves way back in March; so long ago that I wasn’t even married when Capcom released it. During those intervening six months there has been the Summer of Arcade, which merrily tied us over, but full blown releases that have set the pulse racing have been scarce; a quick scan produces only Batman, Red Faction and Overlord II of note.
So from three quality releases in six months we then see the three month run up to the greatest consumer festival of the modern era. Many games, Splinter Cell and Alan Wake to name but two, have sensibly decided to push their release dates past the blood bath but that still leaves us with Mini Ninjas, Need for Speed: Shift, WET, Halo: ODST, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, FIFA 10, Brutal Legend, Forza 3, Borderlands, the latest WWE offering, Pro Evo 2010, Dragon Age, DJ Hero, The Ballad of Gay Tony and DJ Hero… and that enthusiastic list doesn’t even bring us into November.
Whilst the business benefits of loading all your products into such a small window is most definitely questionable, for the consumer there is a definite benefit to this release schedule. Whilst you may not be able to play through all the games that you wish during this hectic period, there is always something to take your fancy so you don’t face the lead up to Christmas with nothing. For me my interests are split between five games.
Being a Halo fanboy there is no way I cannot get excited by Halo: ODST. I may have worries about ODST and the forthcoming Reach being the point where the milking of my beloved sci-fi world begins in earnest, but my longing to see just what happens in New Mobasa once Master Chief leaves for the delta Halo outweighs all other concerns. Plus the Firefight mode has all the aspects I look for in a multiplayer [ mode. Although I have never enjoyed Gears of War and so therefore never played its Horde mode, people have spoken so highly over it with its team effort to stave off the increasing alien threat that just the thought of that set in a Halo sandbox has meant I’ve already booked the launch day off.
Although already out on the PS3, I stubbornly refuse to get Ghostbusters on anything other than the Xbox 360 because I have heard it is “shinier”. Even though the reviews have marked it down as an average game surfing on the back of nostalgia, I am quite happy with that. Not every game I play has to be the hardest or the newest or the most challenging, occasionally I want games that just make me feel good and make me smile and I’ve tagged this throw back from the 80s with just that task.
Another retro revival stems from my refound interest in all things Games Workshop games and my American Football. With that, Blood Bowl has secured its place in my Most Wanted Top 5. Some time ago there was a vague PC game paying homage to this tabletop recreation of pig skin hurling and whilst it lacked the polish and the official license it did bring home just how well Blood Bowl could be played as both a turn-based and a real-time game. While I’m sure its longevity may be questionable, at the right price I don’t think there’s going to be a way I’m going to pass this up.
The original Professor Layton proved a hit with every single member of the Thomas family. Siblings, parents and spouses all lapped it up and Professor Layton and Pandorra’s Box is a definite pre-order in the Thomas household. Ali and I have attempted many single-player DS games in co-op, passing the console between us in a bid to beat the game, but out of all of them we had the most fun with the Professor. From his wonderfully animated surroundings to the brain aching but enjoyable puzzles that he would set us along the way there was no way we weren’t going to return to his world.
My final entry is one that I have debated inwardly for some while. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 is one of my favourite games of all time and for a couple of years it actually got me into skateboarding proper. Since then, however, I have hung up my board and at the same time the quality of Mr Hawk’s games have steadily declined, to the point where I no longer cared to even try the franchise’s reinvention come Project 8. With the giant plastic, skateboarding peripheral that comes with Tony Hawk: Ride, that may change. Quite why the thought of a variation on the Wii Balance Board has grabbed me so readily when I treat the actual Wii Balance Board with such distain is hard to fathom but thought of going through such a game where I don’t just hammer a button combination is appealing; at times, even more so than all the other motion controllers combined. It’s the biggest gamble on my list but also potentially the biggest payoff.