By Jared Cornelius
Welcome back to Sweet Release! Bleeding Cool's look at the new games hitting store shelves and digital platforms. With Black Friday behind us and the end of the year steadily creeping forward the release of big games is starting to come to a halt. I used the word "starting" because we're not quite done yet. Even though the biggest shopping day of the year has come and gone, that didn't stop a hand full of publishers from saving a few games for real late in the year. One of those titles is a sequel to one of my favorite games from last generation and is dripping with over the top action goodness. On top of that we have an ambitious shooter, a Wii U role playing game, and finish out with the last free games of the year.
A few years back when Square merged with Eidos they got some downright monolithic franchises with big name recognition. Tomb Raider, Hitman, Deus Ex, but they also got a few surprises in that deal too. Take Eidos's Just Cause franchise, originally an open world third person shooter released late in the PlayStation 2/Xbox generation, when the consoles were lousy with open world games. While the original never set the world on fire, a leap in technology on the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 helped it morphed from another 'me too' open world game, into a genre defining sleeper hit. It's been some time since we've seen the franchise, but series protagonist Rico Rodriguez is ready to grapple onto your heart, (then blow it up) in Just Cause 3. The third person open world action adventure game takes Rodriguez to the Mediterranean where he's returned to depose the dictator occupying his homeland. But generic narrative aside, you shouldn't be going to Just Cause 3 for the story, it's the over the top action that defines this game. With a huge emphasis on destructible buildings, structures, and the like, Just Cause 3 encourages you free your homeland by blowing up large sections of it.
But it's not just about blowing things up, one of the mechanics that made Just Cause 2 so special was the traversal, with Rico having access to a parachute and a grappling hook that could attach to anything in the game, including vehicles and moving fighter jets. The grappling hook when integrated into combat made for some hilarious moments, while the parachute made level traversal a downright joy. The developers over at Avalanche knew this was a great combo and made it even better with the addition of a wingsuit. Pile all that on top of a great looking game engine with top notch explosions and you've got a recipe for chaos, mayhem, and a good time. Just Cause 3 releases Tuesday on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. FYI, Just Cause 2 is backwards compatible on Xbox One.
For folks of a certain generation, the name Tom Clancy holds a lot of weight. If you're my parent's age, it's likely that you know him from a hit series of military themed novels. If you're younger than that you probably know that name from the long running series of Ubisoft video games with his name on the box. Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, H.A.W.X., and Endwar are all under the Tom Clancy brand. Arguably the most popular in the Clancy series is his long running Rainbow Six franchise dating back to 1998! This week the series continues with Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege.
The tactical first person shooter pits you and a team of four other players against another team of five in different online matches. Let's get the bad news out of the way first, Rainbow Six has no single player experience to speak of. Much like the recently released Star Wars: Battlefront, Siege is strictly multiplayer only, leaving anti-social gamers like me out in the cold. The good news is the multiplayer seems really robust with modes like Infiltrate and Fortify as well as an emphasis on customizing your own counter terrorism operative. The big hook of the game is the realistic take on firefights with large sections of the map being destructible. That's right, drywall doesn't stop bullets from assault rifles and Siege takes that idea and runs with it, asking players to rely on teamwork and real life tools like riot shields to protect themselves. I'm not sure Siege is going to do great, one because it was released so late in the holiday season it could to get lost, and two anyone who wants a game like this already bought Battlefront. Good luck Ubisoft, you'll need it. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege released Tuesday for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Back when the Wii was the bestselling system on the market, Nintendo started a little firestorm with their most loyal fans by doing what they do best, sitting on their properties. Back in 2011 a group of fans started an online petition calling themselves, Operation Rainfall. The movement came about because Nintendo had published three well received roleplaying games in European, Japanese and Australian markets, but announced that despite the English translation being done, those games wouldn't be available in the United States. Time went on and those games did eventually make it to the United States though, but the legacy of Operation Rainfall would leave a lasting effect on both Nintendo and the US fan base. Case in point, the lead title from Operation Rainfall's movement not only received a upgraded port on the New Nintendo 3DS, it's also getting a sequel on the Wii U with Xenoblade Chronicles X.
If the name sounds familiar, it's because Xenoblade was developed my Monolith Soft, the developers behind the PlayStation role playing game Xenogears, and the PlayStation 2 era Xenosaga games. The third person role playing game is similar in style and tone to the cult classic Phantasy Star Online series, with players queuing up actions is semi real time battles. The story is a slightly more grounded than some of Monolith Soft's previous games, (that includes lady-robot-gun Jesus, so stick with me) and deals with one of humanity's last cities surviving on an alien world. Xenoblade Chronicles has been out for a bit in Japan and the buzz has been largely positive, so if you want what might end up being one of the only role playing games for the system go get this now! Xenoblade Chronicles X releases Friday exclusively on the Wii U.
If you subscribe to either of the premium services a new month means new games. It seems like month after month I've been railing on Microsoft's lack of quality in their Games With Gold service, and while I'm not over the moon about some of these titles, we do get one stand out.
That being the isometric hack and slash The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing free for the entire month. It's a great hack and slash, is free the whole month and its brand new! Good job Microsoft!
But Microsoft does get some jeers with its second pick, Square Enix's lackluster Thief reboot, which has already been pushed on premium subscribers via PlayStation Plus this year. Thief releases for free on the 16th.
The Xbox 360 releases aren't much better with Castlestorm, a tower defence game that was also released on Xbox One as a free game this year. Castlestorm will be available until the 16th when it's replaced by another generic fantasy hack and slash, Sacred 3, which will be free from the 16th through the 31st.
Now this is irritating for two reasons, one you have a much better hack and slash in Van Helsing on the Xbox One. Two you released Dungeon Siege III last month, which is an equally, if not worse, hack n slash. Who is scheduling these? How about putting slightly more thought into the releases? In addition to these two punch-bowl turds, Microsoft will kindly be giving you Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, a tactical military shooter that was OK by all accounts, free from the 16th through the 31st.
Over in Sony's camp, PlayStation Plus users will be getting Activision's attempt at an adventure game revival, King's Quest Chapter One: A Knight To Remember. In addition they'll also be getting the isometric co-op dungeon crawler, Gauntlet: Slayer Edition.
PlayStation 3 fans will be treated to Ubisoft's first person shooter and 80's neon nightmare in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. They'll also be getting EA's underrated revival of their snowboarding franchise SSX.
Finally PlayStation Vita users get the super weird co-op role playing game Freedom Wars along with 2D action platformer Rocketbirds Hardboiled Chickens.
That's all for this week folks! Check out my semi regular column, The Collector's Edition, where I run down some news and thoughts on retail games.
Jared Cornelius is some guy from the Jersey coast whose war on Christmas includes thumb and water. Tell him your holiday battle tactics on Twitter @John_Laryngitis.