Video Games Plus is a weekly update on all things gaming. Check it out every Thursday.
This week's Video Games Plus is packed full of gaming goodness, including a big reveal of "Assassin's Creed 3," a first look at "Halo 4," a new contest to vote for your favorite player for "Madden NFL '13" and a review of the epic snowboarding game "SSX."
ASSASSIN'S CREED III COMES TO AMERICA
Are you ready for a Yankee Doodle Assassin? Ubisoft has just announced that “Assassin’s Creed III,” coming this fall, will abandon the world of Renassiance Europe for the American Revolutionary War. And Ezio will be replaced by a new hero of Native American and English heritage named Ratohnhaké:ton (Don’t ask how to pronounce that) who adopts the more Anglo-friendly nickname “Connor.”
According to Ubisoft, Connor becomes the new voice for justice in the ancient war between the Assassins and Templars. Players become an Assassin in the war for liberty against ruthless tyranny in the most stylized and fluid combat experiences in the franchise to date. “Assassin’s Creed III” spans the Revolutionary War, taking gamers from the vibrant, untamed frontier to bustling colonial towns and the intense, chaotic battlefields where the Continental Army clashed with the imposing British Army. In other words, it sounds like Connor will be doing more than chopping down George Washington’s cherry trees.
“Assassin’s Creed III features the franchise’s most expansive setting so far, along with an exciting new hero and exponentially more gameplay,” said Yves Guillemot, chief executive officer at Ubisoft. “Whether you’re a longtime fan of Assassin’s Creed or if you’re new to the franchise, you’re going to be blown away by the scale and marvel of Assassin’s Creed III.”
In the premiere trailer, we see the new assassin hero wearing the familiar robes of Altair and Ezio but using a tomahawk instead of a secret blade to battle several British “redcoats” followed by an impassioned speech from Washington to Colonial troops. It’s cool enough to almost make you go back to your junior high history class to bone up on all things Founding Fathers. Almost. Assassin’s Creed III is set to release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on Oct. 30 and is also in development for Wii U.
FANS VOTE ON MADDEN '13 COVER ATHLETE
Which athlete will be next victim, err, winner of the cover of “Madden NFL 13?” EA Sports and ESPN are teaming up again for a Madden NFL Cover Vote campaign where fans can cast their vote for their candidate to appear on the cover of this year’s Madden game. Last year, nearly 13 million votes were cast and Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis won the competition. Of course, Hillis seemingly was another beneficiary of the so-called “Madden Curse” last season.
He had a nagging hamstring injury that caused him to miss five games and ended up rushing for less than half of his 1,177 yards of his 2010 total. "Things didn't work in my favor this year," Hillis told the Associated Press. "There's a few things that happened this year that made me believe in curses. Ain't no doubt about it." This year’s contest will expand the field to an NCAA Tourney style 64 NFL players, two from each team. Through March 21, fans can visit the SportsNation Facebook page to choose among the 64 candidates in a play-in round to advance to the official 32-player seeded tournament.
The The winners of the play-in round will be unveiled with the official seeded, 32-player bracket on March 21 on ESPN’s “Madden Cover Vote Special” from 5-6p.m. EST. The star-studded list of candidates participating in the play-in round features past Super Bowl winners, perennial Pro Bowlers and some of the most popular players in the NFL including Drew Brees, Arian Foster and Rob Gronkowski.
FIRST LOOK AT "HALO 4"
Master Chief and some of the tools of his trade are getting a bit of a makeover for the upcoming “Halo 4.” Studio 343 Industries recently posted a first behind-the-scenes video of the game, and it includes some details about the first Halo game made by someone other than Bungie.
In the video, the “Halo 4” creators show visuals of Master Chief’s updated armored suit, the return of the burst-fire Battle Rifle, a slightly altered heads-up display (HUD) and two multiplayer maps “built from scratch” called Warhouse and Wraparound. There’s also an interesting look at how the team is creating more realistic sound effects using real weapons and recording a new orchestrated score. “Halo 4” is scheduled for release on the Xbox 360 sometime during the holiday season later this year.
PS3, Xbox 360
Pulling tricks that would even make Travis Rice jealous is part of the experience of “SSX” – a modern day reinvention of the classic snowboarding game. Realistic simulations of sports in gaming can be great fun, but it’s nice to see that EA didn’t try to turn "SSX" into the Madden Football of snowboarding.
The exaggerated, over-the-top action that lets gamers pull off multiple, body-contorting 1080 flips while launching off ice-packed ramps lends itself well to the sport. Using NASA topographical satellite data, “SSX” boasts a massive world to explore that includes nine expansive regions such as the Rocky Mountains and Siberia.
There’s three basic ways to play as the game lets players Race, Trick, and Survive as they descend huge open mountains. In addition, Explore, Global Events and RiderNet -- the SSX recommendation engine -- headline an online feature set that make it easy to compete with friends online with no lobbies or wait times. Sometimes the courses can be too chaotic and difficult to navigate and it lacks true multiplayer but overall, SSX is worth the price of admission.
For more from Ryan Smith, follow him on Twitter: @RyanSmithWriter