Dead Space 2
Iíll keep this one simple: itís more Dead Space. The controls are the same, the look is the same (despite player character Isaac having a more advanced suit), the feel is the same. Iím sure that will satisfy many people, but Iím hoping there will be more to it than that Ė and a fun but ultimately ignored multiplayer, of course.
The section I played through was the stationís cryo-containment area, basically a big walk-in freezer with plenty of twisty corridors and pods to hide behind. As you can guess, it was filled with Necromorphs. The only new one I noticed was a variation on Left 4 Deadís puking Boomer, except thin. After a brief creepy respite I was suddenly swarmed from all angles (including the ceiling), and it was often difficult to tell whether an enemy was dead or just playing dead.
Iím confident Dead Space 2 will be fun for anyone (like myself) who loved the first game, but Visceral have a lot to do if they want to convince the Bioshock 2 haters who donít just want more of the same.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Iíll admit that I was never a massive fan of the original Donkey Kong Country series, nor was I that impressed by Rareís Nintendo 64 attempt. After they left Nintendo the series kind of petered out, with only a few rhythm or puzzle games using the Donkey Kong name. Instead of attempting a massive Super Mario Galaxy-style 3D adventure, Metroid Prime developer Retro have gone and done the half-assed approach and just made a 2D DKC4.
Is that a bad thing though? No, no itís not. 2D platformers are still superb (and are more timeless than 3D), and itís been over a decade since DKC3. And it still works. For sheer well-designed platforming fun with a lot of challenge, Donkey Kong Country Returns is a lot better than New Super Mario Bros Wii. The graphics are all vibrant and colorful, and while they donít have the how-the-heck-did-they-do-that-ness of the original on SNES thereís always some crazy stuff going on that kept me glued to the screen even with GoldenEye on my left.
Playing solo feels utterly natural, with all the necessary button moves present and correct alongside a few motion controlled extras (shake the Wiimote to roll, both to fist pound). I was relieved to see that you donít hold the Wiimote like a NES pad in that horrible uncomfortable fashion used in Metroid: Other M and Kirbyís Epic Yarn. Analogue sticks for the win, baby.
Co-op is welcome too, with one player as Donkey and the other as Diddy (with his jetpack), but earns a big negative for forcing players to stick together at all times Ė the screen only follows Player One, so if Player Two hangs back or gets stuck they die. Itís not too bad Ė as usual in DKC games you can find barrels to restore your partner Ė but itís still a huge frustration for the second player. I hope this part gets some extra attention before the game comes out next month.
Crysis 2 may possibly take the prize for best FPS at the beginning of next year, but Bulletstorm could be the most fun. It plays really well, with plenty of humor and the always fun laser pull and kick combo, but the short stage I played was rather generic and lacking in much personality. Typical gang member enemies, feisty female partner, linear levels, only the quite cool weapons and funny score combos made the demo stand out. It faded to black before a fight with a gigantic plant boss, and even thatís been seen before in Batman: Arkham Asylum and, er, Super Mario Galaxy.
Later levels seem to offer more variety from what Iíve seen, with a wonderful-looking train level and a Godzilla-size monster battle shown off in recent videos. If People Can Fly can keep the variety flowing while offering a wild and wide array of ways to off foes and gain points, Bulletstorm will be a lot of laughs. I just hope it doesnít clash with Duke Nukem Forever.