The Summer Drought 2012
Flood warnings, winter coats worn over shorts and t-shirt, depressed England football fans and a shortage of new and interesting video games - summer is here at last! Each and every year, the British rainy season (June - August) is accompanied by an uninspired smattering of new video games that has most of us reaching for the backlog or just going straight to bed after dinner, every day for three months.
With the comparative riches of autumn and winter still months away, here are the games that I hope will provide sustenance through the most barren season in the gaming calendar.
Last year's summer drought can be found here.
1. The Last of the Must-plays
I started Final Fantasy Theatrhythm earlier this week and am greatly enjoying it. It has reminded me of how much I once loved the series, a fondness that has lessened over recent years, showering me with nostalgia and some of the finest music to grace a video game. The gameplay isn't up to much - it's basically Elite Beat Agents - but all those extras and unlockables should keep me going well into the summer.
I had mixed feelings about Max Payne 3. On the one hand it tells a brutal and riveting story, filled with interesting characters and bursting with Rockstar style and panache. On the other, it is a hugely repetitive game with combat mechanics that have hardly changed in ten years. Despite its issues, no sooner had I finished it than I found myself drawn back in, this time playing it on hard. It continues to grow on me and is the ideal companion for Cinebeat, offering some exit wounds and head trauma to balance out all the rhythmical saccharine.
I still don't own a copy of Dragon's Dogma, as it continues to stubbornly stick to a £35 ($55) price point, despite being nearly two months old. If there is a reduction in price – about a tenner should do it - then I can definitely see myself spending a lot of time with it this summer, whoring off pawns, avoiding wolves and scaling ogre chins.
2. Catching up with 2012
I have already indulged in the majority of the games from the first half that interested me, so there isn't much left to catch up on. The Witcher 2 is the only reason I can find to dust off my 360 in an uninspired year of Halo More and Bing, though if I get my dose of medieval fantasy via Dragon's Dogma then I may be putting this off for a few more months. Lollipop Chainsaw looks juvenile, unpolished and clumsy but then so were No More Heroes and Shadows of the Damned, two titles I thoroughly enjoyed. I find that Suda 51 games lack refinement and feature 90% too many cock jokes, but they always entertain. I just wish Lollipop Chainsaw were a bit more Grange Hill and less Saved by the Vampire Slayer.
I still enjoy trophies but their importance has certainly diminished. I'm happy to report that I didn't vomit after finishing Maximum Payne 3 with only half a dozen cups and I won't panic if I go the whole year without adding a Platinum to my tally. That being said, I can guarantee that the just-announced trophy patch for Metal Gear Solid 4 will have me returning to Old Snake in a hurry, having not touched it since 2008. War has changed, and it now comes with trophies.
4. Pon the Replay
I moved on from Batman Arkham City quicker than I would've liked. I beat it in a rush, with Uncharted 3, Modern Warfare 3 and Skyrim breathing down its neck, twatting bad guys hard and fast, ignoring side missions and abandoning the combat rooms just as I was starting to get the hang of their brutal ballet. If time permits, I'll consider replaying it this summer, perhaps downloading the Harley Quinn DLC for extra impetus, and re-introduce the scum of Gotham City to Bruce Wayne's ample forearms.
Having revisited Burnout Paradise for a day last week, my craving for the games I played in 2009 continues as I contemplate a trip back to Mars with Red Faction Guerrilla. Chances are it won't last very long, as three years is likely to have made those rough edges appear even rougher, but I'm sure the demolition will keep me entertained for a couple of hours, at least until I figure out the most efficient way of making a pylon collapse onto a space goat.
5. Finding a use for my VITA
In my house, the VITA is fighting an uphill battle to stay relevant. The one thing I’m most looking forward to in this, the first year of Vita, is PSone classic support, so that I may play Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX. When fifteen year old games are the best thing going for your new hardware, then you are probably in trouble. Sound Shapes looks interesting and will be a guaranteed purchase, but it's not exactly a compelling reason to go Vita. Jet Set Radio lends itself to the platform but is a ten year old game from a company that has a reputation for putting little love into its retro re-releases, so I won’t be getting too excited.
|I'm sure Lightning is about to say something priceless|
6. The Backlog
My pile of unplayeds includes a number of games from the last three years but only four of them have a realistic chance of getting un-unplayed within the next two or three months. Metal Gear Solid 2 is the last game standing of the MGS HD triumvirate and I'm likely to give it a spin sooner rather than later, getting it out of the way in advance of the aforementioned MGS4 trophy patch. I tried playing Castlevania: Lords of Shadow last weekend but Belmont's head is far too small for his body and the whole thing was a bit lacklustre, even if I did appreciate the setting. I really should crack on with Deus Ex Human Revolution which I've been putting off for nine months, though if it’s a time sink that I'm after then I'm more likely to plump for Final Fantasy XIII-2. My expectations are pretty low so hopefully I should be able to avoid disappointment, even if I'm already cringing at the god awful characters and dialogue that I know is waiting for me.
7. On the DL
This summer, I shall be chasing bright lights down an electronica tube and solving puzzles in a Favela in order to stop a monster from getting off his tits, on frogs. PSN will be home to both Dyad (lights) and Papo & Yo (off tits) over the next few weeks, with the latter being featured as part of the PSN Play summer campaign. They both look fascinating and I intend on downloading the pair. I've been avidly following Papo & Yo since earlier this year but Dyad is more of a mystery to me, having only stumbled upon it in the last few weeks thanks to a couple of trailers. Once Bethesda decides to stop punishing PS3 owners, I'll also be downloading Skyrim: Dawnguard but I reckon we'll be nearing the end of the year before Live stops hogging all the fun.