On The Radar: November 2009Shawn Drotar

Posted on November 2nd, 2009 in Gaming, Xbox 360, PC Gaming, Playstation 3, News, Opinion, Wii, Nintendo DS by Shawn Drotar

It’s going to be a busy-but-slow month in 5WGaming-land. I’m moving in November and I’ll also be traveling for much of the month, so unfortunately, the content flow here is likely to slow down to a drip until December. But that might not be an entirely bad thing, because there’s so much to play!

In October, one of the very best games of the year debuted in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, while top-notch sequels like Forza Motorsport 3 and FIFA Soccer 10 returned for another go-round and were joined by innovative titles like the wildly adventurous Borderlands and surprisingly fresh DJ Hero.

If you’re anything like me, you may still be only scratching the surface of these titles, but November’s got even more in store. Let’s take a quick look at some of the more interesting games of November, in order of their release.

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Dragon Age: Origins (Electronic Arts): November 3 (PS3, X360, PC)

OK, let’s break this down. It’s a role-playing game. From BioWare (Mass Effect, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Baldur’s Gate). The game’s developers have stated that the fantasy world’s more than double the size and scope of Mass Effect’s. Feel free to read that sentence again. They’ve reportedly improved upon Mass Effect’s combat system and the game allows for more robust character creation. And like virtually every BioWare RPG, it’s expected to be a rollicking tale full of moral ambiguity, allowing you to play the game however you want want to. Expect to once again lose yourself in another astoundingly rich universe from the development studio that’s more or less become the final word in the genre.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Activision): November 10 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

It’s rumored that dozens of games had their release dates either pushed up or moved back to get out of the way of this title, which may very well become one of the best-selling in history. The first Modern Warfare was a revelation in the first-person shooter genre; not only in its absolutely pitch-perfect multiplayer gameplay, but in it’s brave story, which - given the genre - deserves a great deal of credit for taking bold steps in both narrative and character development. There were genuine moments of sadness and uneasiness in that game, something essentially unheard of in a first-person shooter before, and Modern Warfare 2 looks to push the genre forward, including a controversial scene of terrorist activity that’s been leaked onto the Internet. Now, it’s my belief that it’s incredibly unfair to judge any title from leaked footage, unattached by context to it’s original source, and this is no different (Which is why I won’t link to the footage). But ask yourself this: in games in which the player takes part as the “criminal”, say Grand Theft Auto, The Godfather or even Facebook’s Mafia Wars, do you feel any guilt, remorse or the slightest hesitation about what you’re doing, even if it is purely a mental exercise? And if you did, wouldn’t that really be a good thing? The fact that this game - which to many uneducated people’s minds is simply another brainless-thug shooter - brings these topics to the fore proves that it’s anything but. Whether you’re a fan of FPS games or not, Modern Warfare 2 demands - and deserves - your attention.

NCAA Basketball 2010 (Electronic Arts): November 17 (X360, PS3)

NCAA Basketball 2009 flew under the radar upon it’s release last year, which is a shame, because it was the most fun basketball game on the market, exceeding NBA 2K9 and NBA Live 09. That’s right, I said what you thought I said. And I mean it. The game’s innovative tempo system, combined with a terrific crowd environment, brought much of the excitement and passion of college basketball home. This year, the development team added a videogaming first - television broadcast teams and full presentation from two different networks will be present and accounted for in the same game. Both ESPN and CBS will be represented in full, with all their specific graphics, overlays, music, camera angles and announcers, depending on the games you’re playing. In a Tuesday game, you may find yourself on ESPN, while on a weekend tilt, the CBS crew may pick up your game. Go to the “March Madness” tournament, and expect the full CBS flair. Yes, it’s fluff, but it’s innovative fluff added to a highly underrated basketball package. If you’re as sick as I am about the pathetic and childish grade-school sniping going back and forth between 2K Sports and EA Sports regarding their competing pro titles, perhaps a little collegiate action might cleanse your palate.

Assassin’s Creed 2 (Ubisoft): November 17 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)

It’s a bit of a shame that there’s so many sequels on this list, but as long as they’re quality ones, I suppose we’re on the right track. Next on the list is Assassin’s Creed 2, the follow-up to the innovative and successful 2007 release. That release was promoted heavily - and somewhat misleadingly - by featuring the pretty face of then-producer Jade Raymond, but the game is essentially the brainchild of designer Patrice Desilets, who understands that as terrific as the first few hours of Assassin’s Creed was, the repetitive gameplay turned finishing the game into a mind-numbing slog, only to punish the gamer with an almost uniformly reviled and unsatisfying cliffhanger ending. Desilets has set out to right those wrongs by completely revamping the game’s AI and varying the missions, which, along with a change of venue - in this case, trading the Holy Land of the 1100s for Renaissance Italy - should provide for a fresh and interesting experience, even if more than few liberties with the history of flight and the laws of physics have been taken.

Left 4 Dead 2 (Electronic Arts): November 17 (X360, PS3)

Boy, that box is icky. Really unpleasant. Between the Left 4 Dead series boxes and Dead Space’s, dismemberment’s apparently gone mainstream. Even Borderlands‘ box art is pushing it. I’m a little surprised it’s OK to display them openly in stores, frankly. But that’s a topic for another day. Anyway, Valve returns - many would say far, far too soon - with a sequel to last year’s multiplayer hit. The zombie craze is hopefully well on its way to being played out, but in Left 4 Dead’s case, it’s still welcome. The hardest part of online gaming - especially in the first-person-shooter genre - is to get players to work in teams. This game’s predecessor hammered home the necessity for teamwork in smashing, bloody fashion, and the sequel looks to do the same. With generally refined gameplay in almost every area, Left 4 Dead 2 stands to improve upon last year’s title with a spookier down-south setting and another foursome of colorful characters. It’s set to become another heart-fluttering thrill ride that makes staying together the only way to win. Don’t let the kiddies anywhere near this one, though - holy smokes, is it gory. Although, if you didn’t figure that out when you saw the box, perhaps you’re getting what you deserve.

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All release dates are accurate as of November 2, 2009 and are subject to change.

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