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WWE ’12

When it was announced that the SmackDown! vs. Raw series was going to continue on as simply “WWE,” it seemed like a natural evolution for the game series. While SvR had become quite the fall staple, the series was fast outgrowing the name, as it matured and developed into more of a proper sports game and less of a button-mash fest. However, it’s important to note that even though the name may have changed, you can still expect the same sort of gameplay: sharp simulation-style fighting, deep customization modes, and plenty of community features. So what’s new?

WWE '12 Screenshot

First up, the combat system has yet again been tweaked to better reflect the unique fighting experience that the WWE brings. Aside from small precision tweaks, the most notable change seems to be the addition of a comeback meter that you can use to pull off an 11th hour comeback move. And because the game features stackable finishers, you can pair one of these moves with a signature finisher and conquer the most overbearing of opponents. However, you’ll still have to look for openings and come at your opponent in the right way to make a comeback. Though the game provides plenty of opportunities for reversals, they aren’t just handed out; you’ll have to practice to nail the timing just right to execute a winning comeback.

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halo 4

Halo 4 is something of an enigma. Scratch that: the game is almost entirely an unknown entity, from even the very basics of its plot on up through its multiplayer, whether it will expand the franchise’s legendary combat to tremendous breadth or pare it back, distilling the game’s salient qualities into a condensed and powerful pill. There is one thing we know to be certain, however, and it may be the most influential force on the course of the game’s development: Halo 4 will not be made by Bungie.

After engineering five entries in the series that launched the Xbox brand, Bungie has stepped back and left Halo in the care of its long-time publishing partner, Microsoft Game Studios. As such, development duties of this newest title have become the purview of 343 Industries. Of note: 343i is not simply a conveniently named studio brought in by Microsoft to keep the brand aloft. The studio has been around, and involved in managing the Halo franchise in all its forms, from games and animations to comics and books, since Bungie split from Microsoft in 2007, and left the Halo brand in their publisher’s care. These are people who are heavily invested in the production—as well as the lore—of the Halo universe and its continued success going forward.

Halo 4 Screenshot

They’re being given the chance to have a direct hand in that success, too, and a lot of trust, with a second trilogy planned from Halo 4 onward. And 343 Industries has ideas. They have a new direction planned for the Master Chief. Spartan 117. John.

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Arguably, one of the great things about this current console generation is that we’ve seen a bit of a 2D platformer revolution. These “new retro” games reintroduce us to the sort of gameplay we would have seen in the NES and SNES eras, only current technology allows for much better visuals and some new twists on the genre that may not have been entirely possible back in the late 80s and early 90s. The latestgame in this trend is Sideway: New York.

Sideway tells the story of Nox, a graffiti artist from Brooklyn. His plight is one that harkens back to the game’s retro influences: he’s got to save the girl. However, she hasn’t been abducted by a fire-breathing turtle or a green-skinned master of evil; the antagonist in this story is Spray, a rival tagger who dwells in an alternate dimension called the Sideway.

Sideway: New York Screenshot

Though the 2D platforming gives the game a bit of an old school flavor, the graffiti element brings fresh life to the party. Instead of doing this platforming in a strictly 2D world, you must navigate the perilous 2D surfaces along the exteriors of 3D buildings. The playable surface wraps around these buildings and traverses L-train bridges, keeping Nox permanently planted in the 2D world while the camera swings around wildly, trying to keep up. And this actually leads to some incredibly cool-looking camera angles. But if the stylish angles are a hindrance to your visibility—they often are—you can use the right stick to temporarily adjust the camera, though it will snap back into place once you let go of the stick.

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It’s been a long wait, but at last, Might & Magic: Heroes VI is with us. Fans of the series—which is celebrating its 25th year—will be thrilled to know that developer Black Hole Entertainment has kept to the classic gameplay while adding just enough new features to keep everything fresh. While the game certainly has its flaws, players can look forward to an incredibly deep campaign that can last up to 80 hours including side quests, not to mention some serious multiplayer action.

For the uninitiated, Heroes of Might & Magic—that’s the order the words used to go in, which is why Heroes VI is sometimes referred to as HOMM VI—is like Total War in a sense. Your play time is divided between exploring a Civilization-style overworld (with resources, fog of war, and towns for you to capture and recruit soldiers from) and fighting tactical battles. But whereas Total War’s battles delve into the real-time strategy genre, the fights in Heroes of Might & Magic are a combination of chess and Dungeons & Dragons—they’re turn-based, on a grid, with you and your opponent trying desperately to outmaneuver each other using monsters with different abilities. Like D&D, Heroes VI uses a dice system to determine how much damage each attack deals.

Might & Magic: Heroes VI Screenshot

There’s a lot more to the battles than that, however. Each of your units is actually a stack of identical creatures (think the “stacks of doom” from Civilization IV), and they get weaker with every blow they take. Like many RPGs, Heroes VI places a great deal of emphasis on counterattacks; oftentimes, it does more harm than good to have a weaker unit use its turn to attack a stronger one. Further, the character that represents you, the “hero,” sits off to the side of the battle, and while he can’t be attacked directly, he can attack enemy pieces and cast helpful spells on your creatures once per turn. Each battle ends when one side or the other runs out of fighters.

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Crimson Alliance

Considered a brand new baby fresh out of the dungeon crawler womb, Crimson Alliance was announced just this past May. However, this fledgling title was up and running when E3 rolled around, strutting its stuff with higher profile downloadable titles like Bastion. Considered one of the sleeper successes of the expo, heads have stayed turned its way with word that it would be launching on September 7th.

Surprisingly, the retail version of Crimson Alliance is a complete package, not looking rushed or having corners cut. Depending on your style of play, this game may or may not suit you; it has a simple design, a compact set of gear, and controls easy enough for anyone to pick up. Despite the unpretentious offering, there are many layers to be discovered and a solid incentive for replayability. Yet not every element works in tandem, with a few loopholes begging to be exploited, causing the game to suffer from a lack of fluidity.

Crimson Alliance Screenshot

The game’s story is thrust upon you from the get-go, telling a tale of a once thriving port city called Byzan, Harbor to the World. The princess Asturi was propelled into power after the death of her father, where she soon learned the definition of the phrase, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Wreaking her dominance upon the citizens, sapping the magical power of her advisor, and disintegrating any who displeased her, Asturi became the Soul Siren, with an army of cultists at her beck and call.

Now, many years later, a trio of characters brought together by happenstance have entered the city. Some are looking for profit, and one is looking for retribution. Along with the main plot, the back story of each character—a mercenary, an assassin, and a wizard—is presented before beginning the adventure, but surprisingly little is told afterwards. Considering the scripted blend of sarcasm and seriousness between the characters, it would have been nice to see a more rotund tale. But after diving into the action, you’ll find the storyline easily forgettable.

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