XCOM: ENEMY UNKNOWN
A couple of weeks ago, I gave this “third-person turn-based action strategy RPG shooter” a glowing review and a 5/5 rating. I think I may have undersold it. The more time I spend with it, the more I love it.
Against the backdrop of an alien invasion of Earth, Enemy Unknown takes a host of wildly different game genres, which absolutely shouldn’t work together, and welds them into the best gaming experience I’ve had in years.
In the strategy sections, you have to build and expand your secret base, manage your finances, choose which parts of the world to protect with satellite overwatch and interceptor jets, research equipment upgrades from captured alien tech, and recruit and train troops.
When the aliens do land, it’s time to send in your multinational infantry teams into action. Here the turn-based combat not only makes it possible to play on a console (RTS and consoles do not work nicely together), but make the game a little like chess or a tabletop wargame.
Surviving troops gain experience, skills and – most addictive of all – nicknames. As a player, you become genuinely attached to them; losing a veteran can be emotionally tough.
Enemy Unknown is different from any other game on the market right now. And, in my opinion, it’s the best as well.
In fact, I’ll go further: I think Enemy Unknown is going to become a classic. We’ll be talking of it in awed terms five years from now.
If you only buy one game this month, this is the one to buy.
I’m not partial to basketball – but I know a fine sports game when I play one, and NBA 2K13 is a very good one.
Game play is extremely smooth – a crucial element in any sports game – and moving and passing is fluid.
Playing against the computer can be pretty tough, but the only real test of a sports game is playing against mates, and we’ve had smiles, laughs, dejection and jubilation as we pwn or are pwned by each other.
What we’ve never had is a complaint that the game let us down. There are no glitches, no jerkiness, no hesitation.
As we’ve learnt new moves, games have become fast, furious and even thrilling. Three-pointers, slam dunks and alley oops are pulled off regularly as the game moves from end-to-end.
The addition of the dunk-o-meter to measure the coolness of slam dunks offers only bragging rights – but bragging rights are crucial when you’re playing mates. Only winning is better (and with the dunk-o-meter, you can lose but still brag about having the best dunk).
In campaign mode, your chosen player starts in a college game under the eyes of talent spotters. How well you play will determine which teams are interested in your for the NBA draft – but before they even make a bid, you’ll have to be interviewed by their spotter to make sure your attitude fits their roster – that’s a rare touch in any sports game, and the only way it’d get more realistic is if your agent was sitting in with you.
All the NBA teams are represented, and all their current stars. Classic teams of the past are there as well – want to play the 70/71 Lakers against the current Miami Heat? Go ahead!
Basketball may not be your thing, but NBA 2K13 is one of the best sports games on the shelves. You won’t be disappointed.
Thatgamecompany has been making a series of offbeat and very cool PS3 download games. Flow featured microbes eating each other, Flower let you create your own music as you helped a wasteland bloom.
Journey continues the offbeat tradition. You play a robed figured travelling towards a mountain. You can encounter other players travelling with you, but you cannot talk to them, only play a little music for them. Power up your scarf to fly, and enjoy the scenery.
The game is completely non-competitive, being more an experience designed to provoke a range of emotions in players, and it largely succeeds in that.
Journey isn’t a long game – you can finish it in two to three hours – but neither is it expensive. And it’s pushing the boundaries of gaming into whole new areas.
I’ve made no secret of my admiration for the original Skylanders game. It’s everything a family action game should be, and if its use of figurines as playable characters is a gimmick, it’s a pretty good gimmick.
My five-year-old and I spent a good deal of time on a Skylanders: Giants demo at Games12, and I’m glad to say they haven’t changed much. There’s a new story and new levels, but all the action is familiar. There are new figurines to collect, but your old ones will work as well, so you won’t lose much-loved characters.
One of the reasons I like the game so much is that it’s deliberately set out to include a bit of adult appeal as well, much as the Pixar animations do. There are some gags and cultural references which will sail right over a child’s head, but raise a chuckle from adults.
Skylanders: Giants will be out on November 20.
LEGO LORD OF THE RINGS
I’ve a soft spot for the LEGO games. There’s just something appealing about playing little LEGO men who take themselves so terribly seriously – to say nothing of the impish sense of humour which pervades the whole line.
At their heart, the LEGO games are puzzle solvers with lots of coins and items to collect, so they appeal to sweepers as well. There’s usually a fair amount of fighting, but nothing worse than kids’ cartoons.
The Games12 demo featured the Battle of Helm’s Deep, and it’s extraordinary how epic thousands of LEGO orcs can seem. It’s certainly more than enough to whet the appetite for more – this is well worth a look.
LEGO Lord of the Rings is out on November 23.