Out This Week

Darksiders II

Give In To The Darkside

Darksiders II headlines a week of menacing releases.

By Steve Heisler • August 14, 2012

Out This Week is a roundup of new games that are out this week. These listings don’t constitute an endorsement or a review of any sort. We also don’t pretend that this is an exhaustive list. If there’s a game on the horizon that interests you, share it in the comments.

Darksiders II
PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360—August 14

War, one of the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, was the hero of the last Darksiders iteration—a combination of God Of War and The Legend Of Zelda, with a whole lot of good ol’ fashioned [insert name of a game where the main character wears a hood the entire time]. This time, Death is on the war path, traveling to a place called the “Nether Realms.” Hmm…death in the nethers…this is starting to sound an awful lot like my first marriage! (I’ve never been married; I’m just trying to perfect my Woody Allen impression.)

Sleeping Dogs
PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360—August 14

Were this the title of a Nintendo Wii game, you can be sure it would involve plenty of literal sleeping dogs, and likely involve some sort of stylus-petting. Instead, you subject yourselves to depressing gang violence as a cop attempting to infiltrate an illicit organization, all the while questioning the notion of an absolute evil while lamenting the loss of our collective innocence as a society that allows for horrible people to be born every day. Actually, gimme the dogs game.

The Last Story
Wii—August 14

Combining third-person swashbucklery with cover-based rapid-fire crossbowery, The Last Story is poised to be an RPG that’s lots of things to lots of people. There’s deep mythology and an expansive world if you’re into that, lots of badass weapons to play with, and one character who doesn’t talk much, yet is afraid of ghosts. Someone’s been hanging out with seven-year-old me!

Tower Wars
PC—August 14

Look, I don’t know much about Toy Story-level-of-whimsical tower defense game. But I do know that this is the actual marketing blurb for the game, at least according to Steam:

“Hello there, good sir! Or is it madam, perhaps? Well, that’s neither here, nor there! Matters of far greater importance are at hand! It would appear that, through the peculiar optical contraption that you’re staring into, you have managed to find yourself here! Where is here, you ask? Why, in the midst of Tower Wars, of course! I must say, it’s jolly good to have you on board! We need all of the fodder…. ERRR… HELP… yes, yes… all of the help we can get.”

He…he can see us…

Dust: An Elysian Tail
Xbox 360—August 15

So apparently this is an action RPG that was designed by a single person and won a Microsoft gaming award in 2009—not a story about my friend Dustin, a lean gentile.

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  • GaryX

    So supposedly the PS3 version of Darksiders II is riddled with bugs which is super disappointing. It’s great that stuff can get patched these days, but I wish the Q&A could step it up too.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      To be fair, Q&A isn’t always to blame. They often identify bugs that the devs can’t fix in time, especially if the devs are prioritizing fixing the XBox version over the PS3 version.

      • GaryX

        Very true. I mean less Q&A the department and more Q&A generally then, I suppose. I realize the PS3 is reportedly harder to code for, but it’s still damn depressing that we apparently ship game-breaking bugs this late into generation (and poor Bethesda can’t seem to ever get the PS3 to work).

        • ShitMcFuckensteinAVC

          Oh, Bethesda. They can’t ship anything bug free for any platform. Good games but you do have to meet them half-way on that. Save early and save often.

    • http://twitter.com/HttpLovecraft Http Lovecraft

      I think you both mean ‘QA’. :)

      I used to work in game dev QA, and yes, a lot of caught bugs go unfixed or marked ‘nice to have’ or ‘for later’ when they shouldn’t (and then never ever get fixed).  

      Generally though, unfixed bugs in released games have less to do with being caught late, and more to do with a discussion along the lines of ‘is the cost of the developers salary for X number of hours worth putting into fixing this vs. implementing something we know our bosses will notice/can be listed on the box as a hot feature?’.

      • GaryX

        You’re right! I don’t know why I always want to put that & in there. It’s a tick, I guess. I had a friend who did some basic level QA (see! I’m doing it!) for awhile, and he gave generally the same impression.

        Also, your name is great.

        • http://twitter.com/HttpLovecraft Http Lovecraft

          Hey thanks!

      • Electric Dragon

        It’s a likelihood in any IT project that the development phase ends up lasting considerably longer than planned, while the client insists that the go-live/ship date is not to be moved. What ends up getting squeezed? Testing.

        • http://twitter.com/HttpLovecraft Http Lovecraft

          I don’t entirely mind that the public points fingers at QA, it’s to be expected, but it blows when that becomes the attitude internally at the company as well.

          The game company I worked for (I now do QA at a non-game development company) made the bottom-most middle managers in QA sign waivers that they were the ‘product owner’ for the titles they worked on and could be held FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE for any game-sales-ruining bugs.  These were people only a hair above the test leads, most of whom gained the position mainly out of seniority (and certainly not training), making around 30k (Canadian) per year, and not exactly ‘QA managers’.

          Game get a bad metacritic score, damaging sales? You’re fired, and maybe sued!

        • doyourealize

          @twitter-495079299:disqus I don’t know if I’m understanding this right. Are you saying that some glitches get found by QA but ignored by upper management (or someone higher on the ladder, anyway) due to cost and time, but if one of those glitches turns out to be game breaking or hurts sales, the guy who found it can still be fired?

        • caspiancomic

           @doyourealize:disqus apparently that’s the case. QA in the games industry is famously cutthroat, and the people doing the thankless monotonous work rarely get the credit but often get the blame. There’s a new comic called The Trenches by the Penny Arcade and PVP teams, which features anonymously submitted horror stories from various QA flunkies, and they’re pretty chilling.

    • pitts

      nice one. 
      t shirts

  • doyourealize

    It’s been a while since I’ve been excited for a Wii title, but I’m really looking forward to The Last Story.

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph

       I remember being somewhat excited for Skyward Sword, and then feeling a sense of disappointment.

      And I honestly can’t remember any excitement for a Wii game before that. I have games for the system I’m honestly glad I own, but it’s been years since I’ve felt any attachment.

      • doyourealize

        The same. I’ve spent plenty time with games like RE4, No More Heroes 1 & 2, and Twilight Princess. Monster Hunter Tri took up about 150 hours of my time, and I followed a website’s instructions on how to hack my Wii so I could order Xenoblade Chronicles from England. Hopefully The Last Story will have me keeping it on again.

        While it’s certainly not my favorite system, the Wii gets a bad (but deserved) rap as being a toy rather than a video game system. This might be true, but there have also been some epic games that make me glad I have one.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          My Wii is mostly a Mario delivery system, and that gives it more than enough reason to exist. I feel a little weird enjoying Nintendo’s first-party products so much (sometimes it makes me feel like those pitiable people who list “Disney ANYTHING!” under their favorite movies), but they are so, so good.

        • feisto

          Hey @doyourealize:disqus , did you play Xenoblade on a hi-res screen? I really want to get a Wii for the few games on the system that interest me, but I’m worried about how it all looks on a hi-res screen. As long as it’s no worse than how the PS Archives games look, it’s not a problem with me. Any insights?

        • doyourealize

          @feisto:disqus Yeah, I played on a hi-res screen, so of course it’s noticeable. Like any Wii game, the picture seems a bit dulled out, but it’s still a pretty game.

          No More Heroes wasn’t a problem, but games like Xenoblade Chronicles and Monster Hunter Tri really made me wish these games were released on PS3 or Xbox 360.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      Please be sure to report back here with your impressions.  I’m not going to buy anything new until I whittle away at my now formidable backlog, but the possibility of a true spiritual successor to Final Fantasy is a pretty significant temptation.

      • doyourealize

        I will, but don’t hold your breath (or do if you’re into suffocating). I probably won’t pick it for a couple months at least.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          I will be holding my breath, but I’d be doing that anyway, as I’m a porpoise.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus: A porpoise that looks suspiciously like a duck with a Brussels sprout on its head. WHAT ARE YOU HIDING FROM US?

      • dreadguacamole

         I personally didn’t like it much, but wouldn’t really say it’s a bad game – just don’t expect it to be a spiritual successor to the classic FF games. It’s an attempt to modernize them and ends up being an interesting, but not successful hybrid of old school RPGs and more modern ARPGs.

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

    Two hours in, Sleeping Dogs is pretty awesome, as you would expect of any game that allows the player character to urinate. I’m still getting used to driving on the left side of the road, but vehicular travel is the best way to experience the sights and sounds of virtual Hong Kong; the game has an amazing sense of place.

    • GaryX

      I saw some PC screenshots of the game and now definitely want to give it a try. They were just dripping with atmosphere.

      • http://twitter.com/HttpLovecraft Http Lovecraft

        I played an hour last night after Steam unlocked the game for me, (and love it so far), but how soon does the game go into open-world mode?

        (side question, I’m playing on Mouse + Keyboard and the controls when walking feel kind of ‘floaty’…  is it better on a controller?  I’ve never been so tempted to buy a controller)

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          As soon as you complete the initial few triad missions, the game goes into open-world mode – just under an hour, I think, so you should be there very soon, if not already.

          The mouse & keyboard controls work fine for me, but I’m saying that as someone who is absolutely hopeless with a gamepad. My one complaint about the controls is how much the camera swings while driving if you move the mouse. But the default camera position for vehicles is pretty much ideal – not too far or close, not too high or low – so it hasn’t been a major issue so far.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Yeah, the screenshots do a good job of evoking the atmosphere, but it’s even better when you play the game. When you walk through a bustling Hong Kong market, it’s actually like walking through a bustling Hong Kong Market. There are dozens of NPCs going about their business at any given moment and location; the game’s version of Hong Kong is a far cry from LA Noire’s empty streets. <Insert obligatory Cole Phelps joke here.>

        It seems as if most of the trailers used in-game footage from the console version of the game. I wonder why. I guess it’s honesty in advertising, since most people will buy the game on console; the PC version isn’t even receiving a boxed release in North America. But I’m running the game on a mid-range PC with only medium anti-aliasing, and it looks vastly superior to the trailers. It’s a pleasant surprise.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           I semi-recently picked up LA Noire. I fell in love with the awfulness of Mr. Phelps the time I hopped in my car and pulled out without my partner. Later, I rear-ended a guy, and initially expected my partner’s irritated chiding, but instead, with no one to put him in his place, Phelps exclaimed “You people!” with palpable contempt in his voice. Like, how dare you allow yourself to be rear-ended by me while I crazily careen toward my next destination, you worthless peasant!

        • http://twitter.com/HttpLovecraft Http Lovecraft

          Still playing Sleeping Dogs?  Wanna add me up on Steam?  Whenever I drive longer than 10 consecutive seconds without hitting something, the game congratulates me on being the number 1 ranked driver, I assume because have no other Steam friends playing.  I could use actual Social Hub connections.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @twitter-495079299:disqus: Lol, same here. Apparently, Sleeping Dogs thinks it’s impressive that I can drive for 40 seconds accident-free. My Steam name is the same as my username here but with a 3 on the end.

      • GaryX

        @Merve2:disqus That’s actually kind of nice as I find the use of PC in advertising (both in trailers and at conventions such as written here: 
        http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/06/07/pc-gaming-e3s-dirty-little-secret/ ) fairly dishonest.

        I need to get on building my gaming rig.

    • RidleyFGJ

      Yeah, I’ve been really impressed with the attention to detail that the game has.

      Also, I may or may not have totally scored with Emma Stone’s character, so there’s also that.

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph

       Agreed. Some minor control issues aside, which are making me consider hooking up a controller, it seems pretty fun. I expect to be playing this for a while.

      By which I mean I’ll play it until tomorrow, when TF2′s Mann vs. Machine update comes out, but I still consider that a substantial amount of time.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      Is Sleeping Dogs approximate to GTA or Saints Row, or is it a bit more of a guided experience than that?

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I think it’s GTA meets Arkham City, more than anything. It starts off quite guided, but then it opens up a lot.

    • Fixda Fernback

      Shit. Shit, shit, shit. I didn’t realize this came out this week, and I still have to finish Dead Island and Deus Ex, both of which I bought a few months ago, before I go buying new games… but I’ve been looking forward to Sleeping Dogs for months and months. Shit. I really don’t need to spend money on a game right now either, considering I’m putting money toward going to Chicago in a few weeks, but damn. Why’d you have to go and say such positive things, jerk?!?

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        To be fair, one of my selling points was urination. :P

  • Cloks

    Did anybody else confuse Sleeping Dogs for Watch_Dogs? I got a little excited the first time I saw it before I realized that it wasn’t the Ubi game. It looks pretty interesting though and I’ll probably pick it up when it has the massive price reduction I’ve come to expect on SQenix titles.

    • fieldafar

      You’re not alone.

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    I read a snippet of interview with Maduriera asking him about his approach to game design and his response was:
    “one thing [the characters] absolutely need is a loincloth. I put one on the back so that I don’t have to see a guy’s butt while I’m running in the game.”
      I was marveled by that gormless, pubescent response until I remembered this is the guy who designed ‘Red Monika’.
       I did enjoy Darksiders, but I never felt like I was embodying the very essence of man’s destructive nature.  Everything about the protagonist felt like the game would be better served having him as some supernatural soldier or mercenary who was somehow tasked with unraveling the mystery of the apocalypse.  The character design was just fine for what it was, but certainly nothing along the lines of being an archetypal mythological representation of willful mass murder.  Maybe an 8th level fighter.

    • Maudib

      Staring at men’s butts is how many innocently hetero video game nerds are put on the path to homosexuality.  Someone’s got to turn the tide.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Heh.  Fair enough.  Though draping a character in a loincloth is almost literally putting a tea towel over the elephant of sublimated homoeroticism that permeates video games.

      • Effigy_Power

        Well, that’s one way to improve. :P

      • ShitMcFuckensteinAVC

        Metal Gear Solid is doing its part.

      • Necrogem

         I’m still hetero, and I spent a good deal of time manipulating the camera in Skyrim specifically so that I could see my male character’s ass as he ran! …But I’m also a chick, so… ymmv, I guess?

        • Maudib

           Be careful.  You are prone to impulsively getting sexual reassignment surgery so you can have a penis to cleft those mesmerizing butt cheeks.  Which is what video game makers want you to do.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       I had forgotten that Joe Mad was involved in those games. That’s why they give me that kind of queasy feeling I used to get as a kid in the comic shop aisles in the 90s. Someone should let Rob Liefield go wild on the art design of a game. They’d need some masterful camera programming to ensure that no character was seen below the ankles.

      • Effigy_Power

         There would definitely be a lot of conveniently placed rocks to obscure people’s feet.

        • dreadguacamole

           I always wondered why he didn’t just cover the feet with pouches.

  • rvb1023

    Actually a pretty good week for releases, almost perfect except for I’m not a fan of Darksiders.  Wish I had the cash to afford The Last Story right now, I need to convince Nintendo that they actually do have worthwhile games if they only brought them over.

  • The_Misanthrope

    I’m actually a little stoked about Dust:  an Elysian Tale, mostly because it has been so long since anyone but Mario or Sonic ruled the 2D-platformer roost.  Between this and last year’s Rayman and Fez, I’d like to think these sorts of platformers are starting to come back into the public consciousness.  I’d *like to* think that, but I have a feeling that Restrepo:  the Video Game (or whatever that game was in yesterday’s lead article) will still outperform it in sales by the millions (and still be considered a net loss by EA).

    Then again, I suppose I don’t especially want to go back to the platformer glut of the 90′s, either.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      I’d actually love to see the 3D platformer make a comeback. The aughts yielded the Prince of Persia games and Psychonauts, but that’s about it for multiplatform entries in the genre. (Yeah, there were a bunch of Sonic games too, but they don’t count, because: a) they sucked; b) they had awful mouse & keyboard controls.) In an ideal world, Sly Cooper and Mario games would also be multiplatform, but alas, that’s not the world we live in. I just love the wonderful, whimsical imaginativeness that these games display. More of that, please.

      On a related note, Mirror’s Edge proved that contrary to conventional wisdom, first-person platforming is possible. More of that too, please.

      • caspiancomic

         They didn’t all suck and the console controls were just fine =(  =(  =(  =(

        Aggh, sorry, there’s still a big part of me stuck in “SNES vs. Genesis petty schoolyard name calling” mode.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          For me, a. is because of b. But that’s just because I can’t use a controller to save my life. Maybe they were fantastic for people who are good with gamepads.

        • caspiancomic

           I think they were mostly fantastic for people who are incapable of admitting to themselves that a Sonic game can be bad.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      Thinking of the Mario Galaxy series in particular, I feel like Nintendo has take on the role of some old world watchmaker, still hand cutting and grinding all these tiny gears to construct something so hermetically perfect and lovingly made after the rest of the world has long since moved on.
         Galaxy and Galaxy 2 just keep on perfecting the platforming genre.  I was amazed in a way flashier, current-gen games fail to make an impact by the simple craft of those games.
         But yeah, the return of the big-budget platformer seems like a still-distant possibility, though I’d be happy to be proven wrong. 

    • sirslud

      Dust: an Elysian Tale actually looks a lot more like it’s inspired by Muramasa (or Odin Sphere.) I’ll be following the reviews closely, it looks awfully purrrdy to me.

      • The_Misanthrope

        Yeah, now that I’ve actually seen extensive gameplay footage, I suppose it is more of a 2D side-scrolling action-RPG, a genre that has never really taken off in a big way in the states. Still, I guess the larger point I am trying to get to is that I don’t understand why more AAA studios don’t make 2D games. In the gameplay footage I watched, the creator talked about how smoothly these types of games can run on the 360′s hardware. It just seems short-sighted to ignore to ignore a whole style of game. Imagine if drawing and painting was abandoned once sculpture was invented. Sure, I understand that early launch titles are always going to be flashy, whiz-bang affairs, but we’re at the end of a console generation (Why? Because they said so.) so it seems an ideal time to roll the dice.

        I suppose part of my rant is leftover ire about the bone-headed “photorealism in games” comment by Christoph Hartmann:
        http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-08-01-games-must-achieve-photorealism-in-order-to-open-up-new-genres-says-2k

        • sirslud

          Answer: Because not enough of you people bought Viewtiful Joe, damnit. :P (For the sake of our discussion, fighting games are excluded since there are plenty triple AAA 2D titles in that genre.)

          Yes, all of us at my studiomates did a collective face-palm about that quote. I wouldn’t worry, hardly any actual developers I’ve worked with, myself included, feel that way.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          Dragon Crown will hopefully be out for the Vita within the year.  And given Sony’s ability to push the system, you’ll likely be able to pick one up just for opening a checking account by the time the game releases.

    • caspiancomic

       Dust looked seriously excellent in all those gameplay clips, but every time it cut to a cutscene it looked like something a twelve year old would put on his deviantART account. It’s all for naught, anyway, I haven’t got a 360.

  • Effigy_Power

    I’d be more into Darksiders if the design wasn’t so WoW-ee, with the huge shoulder-pads and the “Look, I look like the Darkness”-oh-so-cool facemask. I would have loved for the “protagonist” to look horrific and deadly, instead he just seems a little “evil WWE dude” like.
    I find that’s a wasted opportunity… game-designers are too keen on making player-characters look cool and ubermensch-like… a haggard, spindly, lich-like death would have been more interesting.

    • Swadian Knight

      Oh, you mean reverse dual-wielding short scythes isn’t deathy enough for you? See, he even wears a skull mask that he never takes off because of THE ANGST of being so powerful and so alone.

      This game’s design department sounds like a bunch of 13 year old kids from the descriptions on the game’s website.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      The only one I can think of that approximates is Raziel from Soul Reaver.  The game did a great job portraying a character who was so wretched and broken.
         At the risk of repeating myself from above, I did enjoy Darksiders art style while playing the game.  The visual weight and strong outline of every object gave the world a very tactile, heavy feel.
         But Maduriera’s work in general does little for me.  I know from a technical standpoint he is supremely talented, but his designs just look like the work of a preternaturally gifted 13-year-old.

      • ShitMcFuckensteinAVC

        The art and character design from the Soul Reaver games was fantastic.  I miss those crazy games and their convoluted story. Amy Hennig is kind of wasted writing for Uncharted. Not that those games are bad I just kind of feel like the more fantastical stuff was more interesting.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          Wow.  I had no idea she wrote for both, that’s pretty interesting.
             It does rather seem like Uncharted would kind of write itself, doesn’t it?

        • ShitMcFuckensteinAVC

          @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus It is a much more straight forward genre piece. Clever dialogue and all but yeah doesn’t really stray far from the Indiana Jones formula.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          Nolan North gets a little hell of due to his ubiquity, but he is a great voice actor. My favorite lines in Uncharted were less the caliber of the writing, (which is good) and more his delivery.

        • ShitMcFuckensteinAVC

          @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus I agree. I really like his performance. It can be a bit distracting that every game in the world has him in it but he’s clearly a top notch professional so why wouldn’t you hire him?

        • Necrogem

           I agree wholeheartedly about the look of that series, it really was different from most anything else. Overall though, I’d have to say the overwrought dialogue was my favorite part, and Michael Bell, Simon Templeman, and Tony Jay just hammed it all up so beautifully.  Some of my favorite quotes in any media come from those games.

      • Necrogem

         Raziel was wretched and broken, yes, but still well formed enough to accomplish his objectives in total badass fashion :D  The animations for things like pulling his wingflaps for gliding and stabbing his claws into blocks imply that he’s quite capable and even powerful despite his ruined state.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       That’s Joe Madureira for you. Just be lucky there aren’t any prominent female characters in the game (isn’t that a horrible sentence to have to say?), as the boobage on display would trump even the most lecherous Japanese fighting game designs.

      • Effigy_Power

         That’s okay. I’ll happily indulge in Dark Souls next week, that should take the edge off.

        • Fixda Fernback

          First time? PC player, getting the new release, or… ?

    • Necrogem

      I was just watching the commercial the other day and thinking the exact same thing, “This game would almost be worth a shot if Death looked at all skeletal, which is his main mythological trait!” Also, he rides a muscular dead horse? Riiiiight.

  • Swadian Knight

    The Last Story feels like it was supposed to have been launched ages ago, but I’ll gladly get it just to dust off my Wii.

    And although my gaming budget is pretty much done this month, I’m actually looking favorably on Sleeping Dogs since it’s cheaper on Nuuvem than it is on Steam for me.

  • Electric Dragon

    Caption: Iron Man designed his new suit during an all-night Black Sabbath marathon.

  • Lord Autumn-Bottom

    Dust looks pretty boss, I hope it comes to PC eventually.  Tower Wars looks cute too — I laughed when I saw one of those towers go up with a giant mallet on top of it, and was greatly disappointed that I never saw that tower actually whack any enemies.

    • Effigy_Power

      The tower-defense genre is (hopefully) on its way out, but Tower Wars looks like it might make an excellent swan-song.
      I hope so anyways (in both instances).

      • Lord Autumn-Bottom

        Indeed.  That genre got way too popular way too fast.  Probably because of smartphones.