Launch Day Line-ups – Weekly Recommendations 07/03 – 13/03
Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own. Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.
It’s a little known fact that all console and portable launch day line-ups are required, by law, to include a new Ridge Racer. The 3DS was no exception, being released a few days ago in Japan alongside eight titles, one of which was Ridge Racer 3D. Nintendo will be pleased with early reports showing that initial stock of the portable sold-out within hours, despite gamers complaining of 3D induced dizziness.
Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle was by far the most popular launch title (sorry Ridge Racer), being the most interesting of a typically vanilla bunch. By and large launch titles are rather forgettable, developed by teams not yet fully acquainted with the hardware, rushed to meet the release deadline and soon to be eclipsed by superior games. Rare is the launch title that remains popular and playable throughout the console’s shelf-life and beyond, able to shed its status as a launch title to become one of the platforms best. Here are three games that have done just that.
1. Wii Sports - Nintendo Wii (2006)
Four and a half years on and you would be hard-pressed to find a game that better utilizes the Wii’s motion controls than Wii Sports. With the exception of Wii Sports Resort, nothing has really come close to using the wii-mote in a way that is as intuitive, accessible to even the greenest of gamers, and most importantly, fun as Wii Sports.
It is the game that sold 100 million Wiis, appealing to seasoned gamers and newcomers alike. Played alone or with friends, it is one of scant few titles where motion controls are an intrinsic part of the experience, the starting point from which everything else falls into place, as opposed to being tacked-on as an after-thought.
Tennis and golf remain the stand-outs of a five sport roster, a leaner but better rounded collection than that of its successor, Resort. The training and fitness modes add some depth, though they don’t offer the longevity of the simple joys of the two, three and four player events. Like most people, Wii Sports was my first game for Nintendo’s little white box, and four years later I still consider it the best reason to fire-up my Wii.
2. Resistance: Fall of Man - PS3 (2006)
Resistance: Fall of Man is the opening chapter of what is still, in my opinion, the best PS3-exclusive FPS series. Following US soldier Sgt. Nathan Hale, it is set in an alternative past which deviates from our history sometime after the First World War. Man has fallen victim to a hideous parasitic chimera; a marauding alien species which has reached British shores after laying waste to the European mainland. Hale is the lone survivor of a US force sent to aid the British in their final stand, and as we come to discover, he is not your average grunt.
Part of the appeal of Resistance is the marriage of very different time periods. Fifties Britain plays host to futuristic alien technology, as bog-standard rifles and mustachioed gentlemen of war co-exist with pulse-rifles and space-crafts. You can count on one hand the number of shooters with levels based in 1950s York, Grimsby and Bristol, but it works perfectly and has enabled Resistance to stand out from its more competitors.
Not shy of utilizing the brand new PSN network, it offered online play for up to 40 players. Spread across a number of game modes, it ran surprisingly smoothly, setting the bar for other online titles that were to follow.
Resistance spawned a superior sequel in 2008 which continued the story arc, adding a highly entertaining co-op mode separate from the main campaign and multiplayer. Later this year we will be treated to a third entry which, if the live-action teaser trailers are anything to go on, will be a stylish and welcome return to the world of Resistance.
3. Wipeout - PlayStation (1995)
Wipeout encapsulated the new demographic that Sony hoped to win-over when it released the PlayStation in European back in 1995. It combined the speed and sound of the Club with a time-tested gaming genre, transplanting the classic racer into the future and making it clear that the PlayStation would not be just another console for “kids”.
As it turns out, electronica is the perfect partner for futuristic anti-gravity racing, and fifteen years on it is the soundtrack that I recall first, not the impressive and addictive gameplay. Most of the OST was composed in-house, but Orbital, Leftfield and the Chemical Brothers provided additional tracks along with a significant dose of credibility, doing its part to propel video games into popular culture.
Music aside, Wipeout was notable for its cutting-edge looks and adrenaline fueled racing which made what came before look pedestrian. Power-ups and weapons make the 3D crafts that much more interesting, and there is no shortage of colourful tracks to race them around. The series continues to this day, though none of the subsequent entries have duplicated the impact of the original.