By Jared Cornelius
Welcome back to Sweet Release! Bleeding Cool's run down of the new games hitting store shelves and digital platforms. With October 2015 in the books, we're three quarters of the way though 2015's prime games season, and what a season it has been. After a fall that gave us a long list of huge games, the first week in November is poised to be one of the last big pushes at retail. That's not to say that there's nothing else out this month, but this week marks a time of year that most other publishers dread, the coming of Call of Duty. And while the Juggernaut of games retail looms over all others this week, we still have a robust month to look forward to and long list of quality titles before the holiday season truly arrives. A new month also means the new free games is you subscribe to a premium service.
Call of Duty has been pretty amazing. I don't actually mean the quality of the games which has been up and down depending on the year and developer, but I mean the cultural significance and the fact it's stayed relevant these past nine years. From it's humble roots as a Metal of Honor competitor, to it's incredible rise to prominence, the series is a bit of a phenomenon. This year Activision and developer Treyarch bring forward another entry into their Black Ops universe with Call of Duty Black Ops III.
The first person shooter is taking cues from last years Advanced Warfare and setting the title in the not so distant future of 2065, where scientific advancements in combat and robotics have made super-soldiers and robots the preferred weapon of the day. Apparently also lifting some cues from Deus Ex, there's mistrust and speculation about the uprising of cybernetic soldiers and there place in society. The story line has direct ties to the previous Black Ops games and features an interesting voice cast including OZ and Law & Order star Christopher Meloni and Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch. Following in the footsteps of games like Halo 5, up to four player co-op gameplay is supported through the single player campaign with a focus on more open space for larger scale combat. Treyarch have also added a "realistic" one hit kill mode where taking fire will be an instant death.
This being Call of Duty, most will be coming to it for the multiplayer which features the traditional slate of game modes and adds a new "Specialist" class system with the characters having specific traits and weapons. Black Ops III also brings back it's popular Zombie Mode. With an actual story to the Zombie Mode as well level rewards and character experience, it gives you a little Left 4 Dead in the package too.
Call of Duty Black Ops III eleases Friday across PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC. But fair warning to last generation players, the story has been completely striped out of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions leaving only the multiplayer modes. To take some of the sting away, Activision has agreed to give last generation buyers a free digital copy of the original Call of Duty Black Ops. However if you're buying Call of Duty Black Ops III, I'm hard pressed to believe you didn't buy the original. Better than nothing I suppose.
I've talked to death about Yacht Club Games fantastic retro inspired 2D platformer Shovel Knight. The plucky Kickstarter success story was a lesson in how to make a fantastic game, but also in how to do a crowd funded campaign right (take some notes Comcept). With a terrific mix of mechanics inspired by 8-bit gems like Super Mario Bros. 3, Ducktales, Mega Man, and Castlevania, Shovel Knight was a masterclass in modern gameplay with classic roots.
Having made it's way to every console under the sun, Shovel Knight takes a bold new step this week by entering the retail space. PlayStation 4, Wii U, and 3DS owners can pick up the game for the low price of $24.99 at finer retailers everywhere. If you haven't played it yet, this is a great time to try as Yacht Club Games have added a ton of free downloadable content, including the recently released Plague of Shadows expansion with new playable character, Plague Knight. With more content on the way and with no additional cost, buying a physical copy of Shovel Knight is a great way to support an indie studio and help fund whatever their next endeavor might be.
Another curiosity from the past comes back this week in the form of EA's classic racing series Need For Speed. Developed by the relatively new, Ghost Games, a studio comprised of racing game veterans from other Need For Speed titles as well as the Forza and Project Gotham series. This year's version is looking to reboot the franchise and add popular elements from a wide range of the long running racing game series. The big focus is on different styles of driving including Drift, Speed, Outlaw ect.
The other big bullet point for the game is a heavy emphasis on customization, with players able to build and tune cars with aftermarket parts for "enhanced performance". They also seem to be taking a page out of perennial racing favorite Burnout Paradise's book by using an open world city modelled after Los Angeles. Like some of EA's other "popular" games, Need For Speed will unfortunately be an always online game with the developers citing the social elements of the game playing into it's progression. It's a dumb reason and I'm going to go ahead and say this won't sit well with people. Need For Speed released Tuesday on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and EA's proprietary Origin platform.
A little while back I talked about how I thought developer Level 5's robot battle sim LbX: Little Battlers Experience might be the next big thing for kids out of Japan. While that still may hold true, Level 5 is taking another shot at the international kids market with Yo-Kai Watch. A role playing game not unlike Pokémon, players befriend spirits or "Yo-Kai" who can be summoned for battle with other Yo-Kai. The ghosts can also be evolved into more powerful forms with over 100 different specters to catch. Apparently this is already really popular in Japan and is making it's way to the US via an absurdly long 92 episode anime series airing on Disney XD. There's also toys, manga, I0S apps, and even a version of Just Dance with the characters! Level 5 is a quality development house so I'm curious to see how this holds up against Game Freak's long running cock fighting simulator. Yo-Kai Watch releases Friday exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS.
I've professed my love for isometric strategy games before. Just last week I talked about Divinity Original Sin, as well as X-Com and Chroma Squad to name a few. I'm always pleased to see the genre so well represented with unique settings and mechanics. But with the fantasy, cyberpunk, and even super-sentai represented in the genre, it's surprising that no one has done a western, at least until now.
If you want some cowboy with your strategy you might be in luck with developer Creative Forge Game's Hard West. The isometric strategy game purports to be a tale of supernatural revenge in the old west with players controlling Warren, a man who'll do anything to find those who wronged him. The game is touting 8 unique scenarios with over 40 missions. Using similar mechanics as recent favorites like X-Com, players use luck, cover, and statistics to gunfight in the old west. Control up to four squad members and use special abilities to conquer foes and dark forces. Hard West release on PC and Steam on Wednesday.
It's not just a big week for games, as it's time for another round of brand new "Toys To Life" figures. Disney Infinity has reportedly hit the ground running this year, showing up at the number 7 spot on September's NPD sales charts. I'm sure this is in part due to the general positive attitudes surrounding Star Wars as well as the release of figures people want like Darth Vader and Han Solo but Disney hasn't forgotten about last year's 2.0 Marvel entry. This week sees the release of Hulkbuster Iron Man and Ultron figures which keep with the style and feel of the series mix of real life and animated characters. Both figures will can be used in the Toybox Mode and will be compatible with the upcoming Battleground expansion for 3.0.
Star Wars does get some love in this weeks releases as well with a Darth Maul figure that's compatible with the Twilight of The Republic playset.
Lego Dimensions also sees the release of several expansions this week including one tremendous franchise finally realized in Lego, Doctor Who. The Lego Dimensions Doctor Who Level pack releases this Tuesday and contains a Lego Peter Capaldi Doctor, Tardis, and K-9 and grants access to the games Doctor Who levels. There's also a Ninjago Team Pack and a number of single character Fun Packs including Uni-Kitty Fun Pack, Bart Simpson Fun Pack, Krusty The Clown Fun Pack, and Chima Lavel Fun Pack.
A new month means new games if you subscribe to the PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold.
I've made no bones about Microsoft dropping the ball with their Games With Gold service and I'm starting to feel like a broken record. With all of the content they had on Xbox 360 I'd think that somewhere along the line they'd pick up the slack and try to compete with Sony on the premium games. Yet again this month we have some truly lackluster titles with a racing game from 2011 looking like the highlight.
Finally Sony's handheld gets Invisimals, a weird mix of altered reality game and Pokémon.
That's an awful lot of games and that's all for this week. If you loved boxed copies of games why not give my new column, The Collector's Edition, a look. It runs down some of the latest news and some musings about retail releases.
Jared Cornelius is some guy from the Jersey coast who already spent too much money on games this year. Let him know what you still have to buy on Twitter @John_Laryngitis.