Video Games Plus

Hey, you might have heard of this new shooter game coming out next week called Gears of War 3. You have? That’s great, because Microsoft certainly seems to think it’s a big deal. They are giving Gears the special treatment for launch day and we'll tell you all about it in this week's edition of "Video Games Plus."

We'll also delve into news on release dates for two new Mario games, gameplay videos of Elder Scrolls V: Skryim and we'll review the Xbox Live Arcade game Crimson Alliance.

Gears 3 Gets Big Midnight Launch

The big fall video game season starts with next week with the 800-pound gorilla of a shooter in the form of Gears of War 3 which has already surpassed 1.3 million pre-orders worldwide, making it the fastest pre-selling Xbox exclusive in the history of the platform.

Microsoft has lined up plenty of big events and shindigs for the launch of the latest adventure of Marcus Fenix's crew on September 20.

The party of all “Gears” parties is in Times Square at the Best Buy Theater, where a special episode of GameTrailers TV will be broadcast on Spike TV from 11:30 pm to 12:01 am. Gamers who attend will be some of the first to play Gears 3 before it hits retail stores, compete in tournaments, participate in a scavenger hunt, meet the game’s developers and see a concert featuring Big Sean.

But even if you can’t swing the road trip to NYC, there’s going to be thousands of retailers across the country, including 13 Microsoft Stores that will be hosting
midnight launch events, some with special giveaways for the first 100 people in line.

Microsoft is also launching a promotion this week sponsored by the U.S. Air Force called “Gears of War 3 Golden Wings Week.” It’s pretty simple -- gamers who play the multiplayer online on launch week (September 20 to 26) will unlock the Golden Lancer and Golden Hammerburst weapon skins. You know, for those who want their tools of murder to be especially shiny.

A Double Dose Of Mario This Fall

Mario might be the hardest working man in America. Not only does he have his old plumbing gig but he’s been starring in nearly every game released by Nintendo in the last 26 years. Well, add two more games to that long list.

Nintendo announced at the Tokyo Game Show that is releasing Super Mario 3D Land on November 13 and Mario Kart 7 on December 4.

We got some hands-on time with both games at E3 and came away impressed. Super Mario 3D Land”contains both 2D and 3D sequences and the gameplay often feels like a mashup of the Super Mario Galaxy series on the Wii and the old-school side scrolling games of yore.

Mario Kart 7 meanwhile, features brand new additions like being able to use air gliders for navigating through the air and propellers so you can drive underwater. Players will also be able to assemble their own karts instead of getting stuck with pre-set vehicles.

Nintendo also announced the dates that a free downloadable version of Legend of Zelda: Four Swords would be available for the DS and 3DS. Gamers can grab it from the eShop store from September 28 through February 20 of 2012.

Skyrim Gameplay Demo Hits Youtube

For a game named after a bunch of old things that you read, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim sure has some pretty pictures.

Bethesda has been kind enough to release twenty minutes of gameplay footage from Skyrim in three parts, featuring narration from the game’s director Todd Howard. All of it is basically what E3 2011, QuakeCon and Penny Arcade Expo attendees saw at the Bethesda booth and caused their eyes to widen in amazement.

What should you expect to see from the demo? A look at the new navigation system and fancy magic spells like “Clairvoyance” which gives you a glowing path to the next objective (Think Fable) in case you get lose in Skyrim’s expansive world. You’ll also see new weapons which can be dual wielded (Yes, even staffs!) and dragons. Pretty, pretty dragons who are also very dangerous.

Warning: after seeing these videos, you’re probably going to want to jump through your computer screen live in the game world. Although, considering how many dozens of hours it takes to play through a normal Elder Scrolls game, it kind of is a bit like living in a game.

Skyrim lands in stores November 11 for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Crimson Alliance -- A Fun Dungeon Crawling Romp

There are plenty of fantasy based action-RPG’s on the market that get it wrong one or another. Dungeon Siege III forces feeds a super tedious narrative and Dungeon Hunters: Alliance just feels uninspired.

But while we patiently await Diablo 3, action-RPG fans should check out the new Xbox Live Arcade game Crimson Alliance. Like one of the best dungeon crawlers of all time, Gauntlet Legends, Crimson Alliance succeeds because it works really hard to entertain you, doesn’t take itself seriously and best of all -- features four player co-op play.

The game looks great with colorful cartoonish graphics and there’s plenty of cool looking loot to collect. You can choose between the tough guy mercenary, the Gandalf-like wizard and the quick-with-a-blade assassin. Unlike other gamers in the genre, the devil isn’t in the details. You don’t have to get bogged down in stats and upgrades and perfecting your gear. Instead, each piece of equipment is given a one-to-five star rating and is easily changed without having to go to a special equipment menu.

We wish there was another character or two, and the campaign feels very short at about four or five hours, but considering the low cost of entry ($8 to play as one character, $15 for all three), Crimson Alliance is a minor steal. 

Follow Ryan Smith on Twitter: @RyanSmithWriter

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