Following the early releases of “Dead Space 2” and “Little Big Planet 2” and preceding the rush of summer and fall releases, the year’s first quarter is generally a downtime for video game sales.
Yet, as Boston game conference PAX East proved last week, this spring is not without worthwhile video games.
So while waiting for “Batman: Arkham City,” “Gears of War 3,” or “Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword,” check out some of the games that come out before the summer hits.
Crysis 2 – PC, PS3, Xbox 360
“Crysis 2,” out today, brings good news for gamers. Unlike its predecessor – which was unplayable on almost any computer – this sequel boasts gorgeous graphics and more accesible graphics requirements.
The first-person shooter takes place in an abandoned, alien-attacked New York City with a familiar Nanosuit-clad lead character. The suit’s ability to turn you invisible places an emphasis on stealth and provides a lot of appeal. Developer Crytek has promised more player freedom in general.
Beyond gameplay, “Crysis 2” also offers stellar visuals and a soundtrack by famed composer Hans Zimmer.
Child of Eden – Kinect, Playstation Move
“Child of Eden” is among the few original games this season and is shaping up to be a game that will finally put motion control to good use, already having won “Best of E3” from GamePro and “Best Motion Controlled Game” from IGN.
The rhythm-based shooter pans out like an excessively bright and colorful drug trip. Reviewers at PAX said the controls have been refined and that it is one of the first games to really display motion control’s potential.
Players are scored by timing their attacks to the music, and Kinect users can clap to change weapons or play by using their right arm to select a target and left to “rapid fire.” Players on Kinect can also kick to release a different attack.
Patapon 3 – PSP
With the exception of “Pokemon Black and White”, few releases for hand-held platforms have sparked interest on the Internet. Yet, perhaps due to its predecessors’ success or the interesting redesigns, “Patapon 3” has been among them.
Like previous versions, “Patapon 3” is rhythm-based and features a new competitive mode as well as a multiplayer mode like “Patapon 2.” The game is customizable with new weapons and characters – some even resembling Power Rangers.
Overall, the game appears darker and more action-oriented than the preview versions, but maintains the catchy chants and cute characters.
Portal 2 – PS3, PC, Xbox 360, Mac
Winner of “Most Anticipated Game of 2011” at the Video Game Awards, “Portal 2” has taken one of developer Valve’s most popular games – the Game of the Year in 2007 – and made it better.
After complaints that the first was too short, “Portal 2” is longer and adds a multiplayer mode. The story opens hundreds of years after the first, with possible expansions to include outdoor explorations.
While the protagonist is still jumpsuit-clad Chell – and the antagonist GlaDOS – this sequel also brings in new characters like Weatley, a shy, British robot companion, and Cave Johnson, the Aperture Science founder and CEO who communicates through video.
Portal 2 is also the first game to utilize Steamworks – a cross-platform project that allows users who purchase the game on the PS3 to access it on their PC or Mac steam accounts as well.
Duke Nukem Forever – Xbox 360, PS3
The beloved Duke Nukem series’ original developers 3D Realms announced “Duke Nukem: Forever” in 1997. Twelve years later, the company closed down and left brokenhearted fans mourning the loss of the iconic character. The game will now be available through Gearbox Software.
The game is as mature as ever with blood and gore, strong sexual content and alcohol and drug use cited in its mature ESRB rating. But fans tweeting from PAX have accepted the material with open arms, proclaiming things such as, “The king is back.”
While many are calling the first-person shooter outdated and even offensive – one of the four multiplayer modes “Capture the Babe” encourages players to kidnap each others’ “babes,” sometimes with a slap on the butt to stop their struggling – the game still boasts what players loved about the series: big weapons and opportunities to kill lots of things.
Indie Games – Battleblock Theater, The Witness, Journey
Independent games rarely announce their release dates early in the year, but several coming out in 2011 are worth noting.
From the creators of “Castle Crashers,” “Battleblock Theater” will be released on Xbox LIVE Arcade and is cute, dark and crowded. The game will have a story and arena mode, and co-op opportunities offer plenty of chances to help or destroy your partner.
“The Witness” is the newest release from Jonathan Blow, creator of the award-winning “Braid.” The first-person game will be full of puzzles and mazes with progressing difficulty.
“Journey” follows in the footsteps of independent games trying to inspire thoughts and rethink gameplay. The game is the third in a series from thatgamecompany, following “flOw” and “Flower,” and it follows a character’s trek across sand towards a mountain with only natural obstacles in his way.