Last year’s Dead Rising 3 was and still is the best argument for owning a next-gen console, so PC owners are in for a treat with the release of Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse Edition, a game-of-the-year-type compilation of the main game with its four downloadable content packs. Set across several days in an open world overrun by the undead, the story introduces survivor Nick Ramos, a mechanic who can conveniently strap together nearly any two objects to make a lethal zombie-killing weapon, racing to escape the fictional Californian city of Los Perdidos alongside other B-movie stereotypes before the entire area is nuked. While each previous Dead Rising has been notorious for its crazy level of difficulty and tricky time-restricted gameplay, Dead Rising 3 is a sequel that builds on the series’s strengths and narrative while refining core mechanics to render it accessible to newcomers as well as fans. Playing the game’s campaign on the standard settings frees up timed events to allow a more casual and manageable playthrough, wherein everything the game has to offer can be experienced without restriction, retaining its infamous difficulty in a separate Nightmare mode, featuring the demanding time limits and cutthroat RPG elements for series veterans.
Capcom (#1–10 of 5)
Consider Resident Evil 4: Ultimate HD Edition to be the video-game equivalent of a Criterion Collection release, the definitive version of the celebrated survival-horror classic from 2005. The polar opposite of that recent, scattershot travesty, Resident Evil 6, the game remains taunt in its pursuit of series vet Leon Kennedy, stranded in a rural village in Europe while investigating the disappearance of the president of the United States’s daughter, into the horrifying unknown. All but abandoning the series’s contrived and overcomplicated narrative involving corporate behemoth and nutbag evildoers the Umbrella Corporation, Resident Evil 4 reforged the series with a new perspective, both narratively and figuratively, replacing the still backgrounds of the first three titles with a free-moving, third-person, and over-the-shoulder perspective that is now the norm for modern action games.
The zeitgeist behind the Monster Hunter series in Japan is very apparent, even to those that don’t live there. Many of us have heard secondhand accounts of perfect strangers hunting prized beasts on their commute to work or seeing bookstores having whole sections dedicated to guides and manuals to the various Monster Hunter games. If these secondhand accounts are not evidence enough, all you have to look at is the sales figures that the series generates overseas. (Monster Hunter Freedom United for the Sony PSP has sold over 3.5 million copies since late 2008.) So with the latest installment of the Monster Hunter series showcased on the Nintendo Wii, Capcom hopes that Monster Hunter Tri can reach a wider audience in the West and become as big of a success as it has across the Pacific.
With the release of Monster Hunter Tri over here, Capcom has packaged a special bundle pack which includes the Classic Controller Pro. While the game does support the usual Wii setup of a numchuck and Wii-mote, having played the game for the past three weeks now, I can attest that a classic controller of some kind (whether it is a Pro or the original) is needed to play the game properly. With that said, a classic controller is not the only prerequisite needed to fully appreciate Monster Hunter Tri. If you decide to dive into the world of Monster Hunter Tri, expect to invest a lot of time into the game; though I have played it for over 50 hours now, I still haven’t seen everything that the game has to offer. So I am confident in saying that Monster Hunter Tri is the deepest gaming experience available on the Nintendo Wii.
I played Lost Planet 2 wrong. That is, I put the disc in my console, picked up my controller, pressed start, and tried to play the game. But that’s not what Lost Planet 2 wants you to do at all. What it wants is for you to convince four friends to buy the game, so you can all play it via online co-op. I can certainly understand why Capcom thinks making you buy four copies of a game in order to play it is a good idea, but it’s harder to see why you should bother.
Lost Planet 2 is so desperate to be regarded as a kind of action MMO that even when you play in single-player, your AI allies get phony online handles, complete with gangsta “a"s for “er"s. There isn’t even a “Start Game” option, just “Open Session,” and you have to specify that you want to be offline if you want to play without online intervention. That would merely be cute/annoying, but what makes it truly obnoxious is that mission after mission doesn’t just encourage teamwork, it absolutely depends on it—many chapters require coordinating players at far-distant points on the map. And of course, brain-dead ally AI can’t do that, and you don’t have the control over your allies that other squad shooters offer, much less the ability to hop between characters provided by smarter team games like the original Xbox’s Brute Force. So in single-player, you have a game that’s flatly unplayable.
The two downloadable chapters for Resident Evil 5, Lost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape, are pretty much perfect gaming experiences. They’re compact, precisely assembled little machines of delight, built with the loving craft that makes for real art. Each chapter’s campaign runs about 100 minutes, and it’s worth praising them just for that. Freed from the obligation to provide an extended tutorial or an epic backstory setup, each chapter delivers a movie-length experience, the perfect block of time for one great co-op session—and for half the price!
Both chapters expand on RE5’s emphasis on the co-op experience. The game constantly forces you to synchronize actions with your partner, communicate remotely across a level, cover each other from different vantages, and otherwise divide up duties at a moment’s notice. Played solo, the levels are fun (though the AI player is as semi-competent as you’d expect), but play them with someone else and you have the rare campaign mode that creates the social narratives that usually only happen in intense multiplayer guilds.