We’re already into February 2012, but chances are most of you are still putting in the hours on some of 2011’s hottest releases – after all, games like Skyrim are mammoth romps that aren’t going to finish themselves. But alas, like a well-oiled machine the games industry keeps on turning, and as we enter a new year the triple-A treats are steadily being rolled out like a box of sweeties on a conveyer belt. Okay, so it wasn’t the awesome smorgasbord that 2011 offered from the get-go, but the back half of the month in particular was pretty strong, at least if you reside in the U.S.
Sequels were once again the order of the month, with Square’s awkwardly-titled Final Fantasy XIII-2 arriving at the tail end of the month. After the divisive FFXIII, the sequel aims to remedy many of its predecessor’s faults by offering more exploration, side-quests and tweaked battle system. Joining the RPG is Soul Calibur V, the next entry in Namco Bandai’s venerable weapons-based brawler, which features Assassin’s Creed II hero Ezio Auditore as a playable character. Plus, did you check out its U.K. marketing campaign? Those graffiti artists sure know how to turn heads.
Sadly that’s about it as far as heavy hitters go, though if nothing else NeverDead raised a few eyebrows for its idiosyncratic hero Bryce, who can literally have all his limbs blown off before rolling around on the floor to reattach them. A disappointment in the end, and as highlighted in our review this interesting concept simply wasn’t enough to carry a whole game. Amy also proved a massive let down, which in its attempt to return to the classic survival horror games of old proved a frustrating mess of a game plagued by fiddly combat, plodding gameplay and a terrible script.
So, it was really a toss between FFXIII-2 and Soul Calibur V, with the PSU team ultimately plumping for the latter. While not exactly shaking things up in terms of fundamental gameplay mechanics, this fifth instalment in the venerable beat-‘em-up series nonetheless offers up a stellar cocktail of vibrant visuals, intense brawling and extensive online component. The appearance of Ezio Auditore offers a nice twist on things, and the Italian Stallion’s move-set is recreated for Soul Calibur’s universe in typically stylish fashion, even if he’s a bit naff when it comes to fighting long-range combatants. It does exactly what it says on the tin, basically; fans will instantly lap it up, and you’d be hard pressed to find something to complain about if you’re a series regular. Just don’t expect any radial innovations.
Our U.S. wordsmith, Timothy Nunes, elucidates on the matter in his review:
“Soul Calibur V doesn't take many chances, which is both good and bad. The gaming market is slow at present, so it doesn't have much competition. Still, even though this game looks and plays superb, it will probably be put back on the shelf when the Next Big Thing comes along, which is unfortunate. The story is short and sweet, spanning 20 episodes, and the Global Colosseo is a very inviting way to meet up with fellow gamers and beat the tar out of each other. Outside of that, it only gives gamers another Trophy set and another polished fighting game to play. However, this thought shouldn't be taken as a hindrance to pick up this game, on account of it being so beautiful, so invigorating, and so challenging; challenging, as SC is much more a defensive game than a button-mashing offensive one. To counteract my statement a few sentences back, one could easily dedicate hours and hours into perfecting each character and making any opponent look like a complete tool without even hitting triangle, square, or circle.”
Don’t agree with our choice? Let us know what you think deserves the accolade for Game of the Month – January 2012 in the comments section below.