This week’s new releases include an 80′s retro first person shooter, a surprisingly great PS Vita game, and unexpectedly funny road trip flick.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
(360, PS3, $15, Mature)
Cramming every bit of 1980s and 1990s nostalgia possible into a downloadable package, the shooter – which is not DLC, but its own separate game – only vaguely resembles the action of the serious, somber Far Cry 3. You’re a cyborg soldier rampaging through an island, set way off in the 1980s-vision of a “future” of 2007, filled with robotic warriors and massive, destructive dragons that you can manipulate.
Oddball references to Stallone and Schwarzenegger movies are a tantalizing distraction, and funny writing – including your character cursing through a nonsensical tutorial – helps distract you from the bland, repetitive action that lacks the inventive, diverse thrills of the actual Far Cry 3. Still, the game will slap smiles on the faces of those who can relate to the nonstop assault of silly references.
Gears of War Judgment: Call to Arms Map Pack
(360, $12.50, Mature)
Multiplayer has always been the main draw of the Gears series, but the maps that came with Judgment were a bit dull and uninspired. This map pack, which is free for those who bought a $20 season pass, includes three inventive maps, a new game mode and a slew of throwaway character and weapon customization tweaks. There are also 10 new achievements.
The maps include a train terminal, hospital and boneyard, all of which include intriguing combat options that help add to the variety during all-night play sessions.
The new mode, dubbed “Master at Arms,” is an insane free-for-all that tasks you to murder opponents with specific weapons, moving you up the chain from one to the next with each massacre.
(Vita, $40, Mature)
The Vita may not be the most popular handheld, but it’s at the top of the heap when it comes to attracting oddball Japanese adventures.
The star of Soul Sacrifice is a smack-talking magic book, that grudgingly allows you to turn its pages and hop inside its chapters to take on missions that score you loot, new spells and fill you in on a story seemingly concocted by a drunken lunatic.
An element of choice and strategy often comes into play, as you get to choose to save or sacrifice souls of downed enemies. Going the evil sacrifice route gives you increased bonuses, at the price of your character’s virtue. Sizzling visuals and a haunting soundtrack pace you through the head-scratching journey.
Star Trek: The Video Game
(360, PS3, $60, Teen)
Just about all games based on movies play like cut-rate rush jobs, and this one, a prequel of sorts to the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness, is no different. Still, it’s not quite as awful as it could have been. The authentic voice cast, emphasis on co-op between Kirk and Spock and a ton of gameplay variety help the game’s failures lively.
You’re best off plugging through the treadmill-like story with a live human being, because letting the A.I. control your partner is something like letting your dog mash his paws on the controller to help out. At least there’s a summon button that lets you summon your idiotic partner in crime to your side to help you pry open a door or enter a portal to the next section.
Although hacking, ledge-jumping, stealth and rudimentary puzzle-solving help vary things up, the game violates the show’s premise by turning so much of the proceedings into stop-and-pop shooting affairs. Set your phasers to “high tolerance for boredom” and you’ll be able to plod through the harmless, usually entertaining affair to warm up for the film.
Thomas Was Alone
(PS3, Vita $10, Everyone)
The indie puzzle/platform darling makes its way onto Sony’s ecosystem, netting gamers both the PS3 and Vita versions – and allowing save-file swapping between the two – for a single price.
An exercise in extreme minimalism, Thomas stars a squad of geometric shapes blessed with various abilities. You switch among the characters, which are given personalities thanks to witty narration, to help each reach specific exits. Occasionally maddening difficulty may stick you in your tracks, but YouTube is filled with walkthroughs that make you feel like an idiot for failing to see solutions that were already in front of your face. It feels much better to try and fail for hours before finally stumbling onto the right path.
If you’re thirsty for more after plowing through the game proper, there’s also a $3 expansion pack available that adds 20 levels.
($23 Blu-ray, $15 DVD)
Mark Wahlberg plays a fallen NYPD officer who has turned private eye and is out to expose corruption on the local political scene. His frenemy is a manipulative thug of a mayor (Russell Crowe), who assigns him to track his possibly philandering wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). All-too obvious twists and dopey dialogue detract from the hard-nosed tone, and it takes more than typical tough-guy turns from Wahlberg and Crowe to save the lackluster affair. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes deleted scenes, a making-of documentary and an eye-roll-inducing alternate ending.
The Guilt Trip
($20 Blu-ray, $16 DVD)
Poor Seth Rogen is stuck on the road with Barbra Streisand for a cross-country mother-son trek that replicates the comedic notes of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Rogen is an up-and-coming businessman trying to get his career going, and Streisand is his nagging, clingy mom who exists solely to make his life as difficult and awkward as possible. Rogen’s deadpan misery meshes well with Streisand’s oblivious idiocy, making the laughs roll in. Deleted scenes, an alternate opening and ending and spotlights on the leads and making of the movie fill out the Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo.
Not Fade Away
($20 Blu-ray, $21 DVD)
David Chase, who created The Sopranos and brought James Gandolfini along with him to the movie world, can’t recreate his HBO magic with this downbeat tribute to 1960s rock. The tale focuses on three teen pals who form a rock band and try to escape drab New Jersey suburbia. Gandolfini is one-dimensional, trash-talking dad who just doesn’t get it, but I tended to side with him because the characters are such self-absorbed punks. The Blu-ray/digital copy set rounds up deleted scenes and a trio of background trinkets dubbed “The Basement Tapes.”
Screeners were provided by the publishers for review.