Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, WiiU, PC
Set in the futuristic, open-world of a Chicago where the whole city and its citizens are controlled by a central operating system, you are Aiden Pearce, grizzled hacker misfit, bent on finding the people responsible for turning your life upside down. It’s a solid premise that puts you on a path of gunfights, car chases, mystery, and hacking the world around you to itty bitty pieces. Watch Dogs follows the formula of open-world games like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row but injects its own unique brand of gameplay thanks to Aiden’s hacking skills. Don’t have enough cash to buy that gun you desperately need to get through the next mission? Steal the identity of the person you just walked past and clear out their account. Can’t shake the six police cars chasing you? Hack the drawbridge you just drove over and watch those coppers plummet to the lake below. The innovation of the game is marvelous and more than enough to make us forgive the fact that this game was supposed to come out back in 2013.
When it comes to racing video games, there are only two kinds that should be taken seriously. One is the beefy racing sims that let you buy and upgrade real-life cars, like Gran Turismo or Forza. The other is MarioKart. The legendary racer casts an astounding number of characters from the history of Super Mario games, tosses them into karts or bikes or gliders, and lets them loose in a series of tracks that draw their inspiration from levels you’ve seen in the platforming plumber’s past. From mountains to beaches to pulsating lava pits, there are a ton of tracks on which to practice honing your skills before inviting friends over (or challenging them online) and digging into the controller-throwing competition that inevitably breaks out around games in this series. MarioKart 8 is just as accessible to newcomers as it is to people who have been playing it since the SNES days 20 years ago, and it absolutely shines on the gamepad of the WiiU thanks to its implementation of a more standard control-style over the forced-motion-controls of its most recent predecessor (though you can still use Wii-Mote motion controllers if that’s your thing). MarioKart 8 actually drops this weekend so clear your schedule, save up some Dominos coupons and invite your friends over to race like it’s 1996.
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4
Billed as the ultimate in worm warfare and mindless mayhem, Worms: Battlegrounds is an indie darling of a turn-based strategy game and the latest addition to the Worms series. Best known for its wild arsenal of weird weapons and addictive gameplay, we’re happy to see a new version making its way into gamers’ hands. Battlegrounds is the first we’re seeing of the Worms on the next-gen consoles, and the game is taking full advantage of the graphical upgrades and online connectivity included in the new hardware. Thirty-five levels, 65 weapons, online play with clans, and a whole mess of console-specific bonuses (like smartglass integration on Xbox One and light-bar indicators for PS4), it’s also the first game to use Xbox One’s new ID@Xbox self-publishing system. Here’s hoping they set a good example so we all see some heroes with vertebrae make it through the ID system sometime soon.
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