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Gaming Reviews: NBA 2K12, RAGE, Spiderman: Edge of Time and Dark Souls

NBA 2K12 (Xbox, PS3, Wii, PC, PSP, PS2)
Price: $59.99

What’s it about?
The only realistic basketball sim might be the only basketball you’re getting this year. With the lockout stretching on and on it literally might come down to playing this or watching the Harlem Globetrotters on ESPN2 at 3am. Luckily, NBA 2K12 has gone to great lengths to recreate the truest hardwood experience you can have on a console and this year there are even more legends, game modes and controller tweaks than ever before.

How does it look?
Graphically, NBA 2K12 delivers in a big way. You’ll find more detail around the court, but it’s on the court that really proves to be impressive, as current and classic character models are eerily accurate doppelgangers to their real-life inspirations. Being able to take screenshots and highlight videos is an added bonus: We wouldn’t be surprised if ESPN uses the game for highlight filler when the post-super bowl lull leaves the country with nothing but the NHL to watch.

Is it any good?
The gameplay is tight and the control schemes have been tweaked to allow for even more precise movement on the court. NBA 2K12 comes with a serious arsenal of online backend goodies like live rosters, stats, ratings and schedules. Unfortunately, all of that is moot if there’s not a real-life season on which to base those updates, but 2K Sports smartly included the widest choice of legends (Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabar and many others now join #23) so even if the NBA shits the bed this year, there’ll still be legendary careers that are chock full of historic moments for you to play through.

Out of ten?
7.5. At its core, NBA 2K12 continues in the tradition of 2K Sports pumping out excellent NBA games every year but, with so many aspects of the game hinging on the NBA season actually happening, we worry that an otherwise great game is gonna wind up gimped before it even gets to the gate.

If I like this, what else will I like?
NBA Jam, Madden 12, the WNBA.....just kidding. No one likes the WNBA.

 

Rage (Xbox, PS3, PC)
Price: $59.99

What’s it about?
If Bruce Willis hadn’t gone all martyr at the end of Armageddon and that nasty-ass rock slammed into Earth, the events that would follow might look a little like Rage. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, you’ve been cryogenically frozen as a member of the ARK program, stored safely like a can of sardines while the rest of humankind was supposed to be wiped out. Only, nothing went according to plan (gasp!) and now you’re thawed and finding out a few things. 1- people survived. 2- some of them turned into mutants. 3 – sadly, this isn’t an episode of Futurama, and some of the others are really pissed that you got to chill like an ice cube while they faced Armageddon head on.

How does it look?
Like Crysis and Fallout: New Vegas spliced their genes. This is id software’s new baby and they’ve taken painstaking care to create a world out of a wasteland that’s as vast and treacherous, as it is sweeping and gorgeous. Beyond the hugely impressive landscapes, characters have an extraordinary amount of detail and your conversations with them benefit from expressive faces and dialogue that didn’t make us want to mash buttons to skip. Enemies are agile and quick and, though they’re manageable, taking them out with any of the weapons in your considerable arsenal really feels like an accomplishment.

Is it any good?
Rage has some excellent qualities and wandering the wasteland on an ATV, speaking to people and earning upgrades makes for a really good time, but that’s not to say Rage is without flaws. While the interactions stay sort of fresh, missions get repetitive and start feeling like chores, because sometimes you’re tempted to decline accepting a mundane task or have to worry that your next mission won’t net you any worthwhile upgrade. Most glaring of all the flaws is the piss-poor autosave function, which kicks in so rarely that the game has an early screen that reminds you to manually save your progress. Here’s an idea, spend less time making screens that remind us to save and put that effort towards creating a useful autosave system. Sheesh, do we have to think of everything?

Out of ten?
7. Rage offers up a beautifully-crafted world to play in and fun characters to talk to, but repetitive missions and an ever-dulling plot create shortcomings for what would otherwise be a great game.

If I like this, what else will I like?
Fallout: New Vegas, Crysis 2, forgetting to save

 

Spider-Man: Edge of Time (Xbox, PS3, Wii, 3DS)
Price: $59.99

What’s it about?
Bringing together The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 through the cunning use of time travel. Though the game isn’t exactly a sequel to Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, it does have elements that carry over, though we credit that with Beenox’s continued involvement with the Spidey franchise. Plot wise, the two Spideys have to team up to stop a mad scientist from using his ability to change the past as a way to eradicate Peter Parker. Actions taking in the past affect the future, meaning the game changes as you play.

How does it look?
Spidey games have gotten better and better since the first movie came out, and Edge of Time might be the best looking Spider-Man game yet. Levels are designed to make the most of both webslingers’ skill sets and challenges found within those levels become something of a minigame once you access them, so you won’t have to replay a whole level just to get to the challenge found within it. Most important is the differentiation between the Amazing and 2099 iterations, with the former opting for a more agile, acrobatic fighting style and the latter being a brute force brawler. Each have their own, unique strengths and weaknesses, but both kick a lot of ass.

Is it any good?
Fans of Spider-Man games are going to want to add Edge of Time to their ever-growing collection of webhead games, but outsiders who have been peeking in and biding their time to throw down as the friendly neighborhood hero should take this opportunity to pull the trigger. Great challenges, ingeniously crafted levels that cash in on the time travel paradox and a slew of Spidey-centric abilities give Edge of Time eight legs up on any of comic book games that’ve been tossed out this year.

Out of ten?
8. A good story and a unique method of telling it, thanks to the temporal shifting device, make Edge of Time a game worthy of picking up and playing through.

If I like this, what else will I like?
X-Men Destiny, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, a sammich

 

Dark Souls (Xbox, PS3)
Price: $59.99

What’s it about?
The ‘spiritual successor’ to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls takes many cues from its predecessor to create a mysterious world of phantom souls, knights, beasts and all other category of wildling. Just as with Demon’s Souls, the game’s open world is not just locally populated: Online players will both actively and passively invade your realm, cooperatively or combatively. Fight minions, fight bosses, fight players, win.

How does it look?
The world of Lordran is a hazy, eerie patchwork of forests, dungeons, mountains and other treacherous environments where you’ll be slaying baddies on your way to massive, terrifying boss battles. The game’s somber mood infiltrates almost every aspect of the world and the way it evokes feelings of terror, frustration and, eventually, victory, is unlikely to be found in many other games. Keep that in mind the first time another gamer invades your universe - the idea of a real person stalking you in your own world is enough to keep you on your toes, watching for any sign of their presence or listening for their footsteps as they creep behind you.

Is it any good?
The game is as good as it is difficult, and that’s a definitive VERY on both counts. Luckily, the combat system of the game is second to none and attacks feel weighty, precise and realistic, not an easy combination to achieve and one that could have been the demise of a great game had it not been executed properly. Of course, this is not the case and, even though you’ll be dying constantly, you’ll always want to get back up and polish off the next boss.

Out of ten?
9. We loved Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls feels like an even more badass version of it, especially with the gameplay and online dynamics carrying over but getting improved. This is hardly a one-and-done game, so plan on spending some serious time hunkering down with it. If you were planning to have a messy break up, you might wanna do it as you’re firing this up.

If I like this, what else will I like?
Demon’s Souls, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, stealing souls