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New Release Roundup: Assassins and Dragons and Ghost Rider, Oh My!

I don’t know how else to say this. There are too many goddamn video games out right now. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim dropped on Friday. Yesterday, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Saints Row: The Third all released. I genuinely don’t know what to do with myself. I’m seriously considering being that guy who calls in sick from work just to sit at home and play video games. It’s not like it would be the first time or anything…

Since I don’t have much free time during the week, I wanted to just throw out some first thoughts on what recently released. I’m just glad I was able to finish Batman: Arkham City and get a review up. It may be the last one for a few weeks, as I power my way through this week’s crop of new games.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: This is going to be the game of the year. I know I just said that Arkham City was a serious contender in my review, and I hate that now it sounds like hyperbole, but holy fucking shit is this game the most amazing thing I’ve ever played. I can conservatively say that I’ve put about 10 hours into it since it came out. I killed a dragon, stole its soul to learn how to breathe fire, and then spent a good hour at the fucking Skyforge just making daggers. There’s no doubt about it. Falkrunn Angrybeard is shaping up to be the finest blacksmith in all of Tamriel. Skyrim is going to take up most of my spare time for the next several weeks. There’s no way to explain just how massive and immersive this game is. Despite the accomplishments I’ve actually made so far, it genuinely feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this game is.

When this happens in your game, it's not awesome like this. It sucks. A lot. Then you die.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations: I played this for a couple of hours tonight and have a few thoughts on the beginning portion of the game. So far, the story has been a bit underwhelming. I’m not sure why. It almost feels like the law of diminishing returns. I instantly fell in love (no homo) with Ezio Auditore da Firenze in Assassin’s Creed II. In Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, it was unfortunately more of the same. I really enjoyed Ezio’s character arc, so it was nice to see him again. The problem was that his arc was essentially finished in AC2. For Brotherhood, it was basically “the princess is in another castle” and you’re stripped of all your gear and powers and have to start from scratch. Now that I’ve finished the first DNA sequence in Revelations, I’m sad to say that it’s the same thing again.

I know it’s not fair to judge the game solely on the first few hours, but this one just isn’t grabbing me as much as the last two entries have. I’m positive things will pick up, and this is in no way a condemnation of the game. It’s merely an observation.

One legitimate complaint I have is with the new hook-blade. All throughout the development cycle, people from UbiSoft have been telling us how the hook-blade is going to revolutionize Assassin’s Creed’s gameplay. It’s supposed to be a new and unique offensive weapon, as well as an additional tool for platforming. The problem I have, at least with the platforming portion, is that using the hook-blade as it’s intended is extremely counter-intuitive to the core free-running and climbing mechanics of the franchise.

For example, the hook-blade can be used to let Ezio jump further than before. During the apex of his jump, Ezio will extend his hook-blade and reach out with it to catch an otherwise out-of-reach ledge. To run in Assassin’s Creed (on Xbox 360) you hold right trigger while moving. To run and jump from a ledge you hold right trigger and tap A. Now, to use the hook-blade, you have to tap B in mid-jump. If you let go of A too soon, you won’t make the jump. If you hit B too late, you miss the hook-blade. Essentially, you wind up having to hold R+A+B to make the jump, which is an awkward button combination and is sort of annoying to deal with.

It honestly might be easier to do this in real life than with an Xbox controller these days.

But other than that shit, I actually really have been enjoying the game. I have faith in the story. Especially since I do like the whole “Old Man Ezio” vibe that’s already popping up.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: I only ran through arcade mode twice, but this is a ton of fun. I played the ever-loving shit out of  MvC3 – so much so that I have the achievement for the 100% gallery unlock. Ultimate MvC3 is exactly like its predecessor. Depending on how you look at it, that’s either a good thing or a bad thing.

Here’s what I’ve noticed. First, all the characters now have at least 6 color palettes. That’s probably not the biggest deal to most people. For me, at least with the Marvel characters, that shit is amazing. It’s just the little things, like being able to play as Iron Patriot or Bucky Barnes’ version of Captain America, that get me to geek out huge.

Whatever skills I had with MvC3 have translated over perfectly to the new game, which shouldn’t really be surprising. Again, this is almost EXACTLY THE SAME GAME. Some of the characters have a few new moves, some of the characters have been balanced out, and of course there are the new characters as well. I haven’t had a chance to really test any of them out yet, but I’m especially excited to try out the Marvel guys. I can’t help it. It’s kind of like an acceptable, adult version of playing with action figures.

And you do not understand the amount of shit I will talk after beating you with Rocket Raccoon.

Saints Row: The Third: I swear to god I’m going to get around to playing this eventually. Probably sometime in 2012. Seriously.

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