Aliens: Colonial Marines
(360, PS3, $60, Mature)
Developers spent six years working on a game that makes players wish they had their six hours back.
Designed by the studio and developer as a pseudo- sequel in the Aliens franchise, Colonial Marines places fan service above all else, nailing the look, feel and sounds of the classic film setting. It’s too bad they didn’t spend a few of those years taking the monotony out of the thing.
As dull as a shooter in which you tangle with scary aliens could possibly be, the campaign is stymied by dull, lifeless level design, clunky mechanics and a treadmill-like story that somehow makes getting chased down and impaled by xenomorphs boring.
Competitive multiplayer is an option for those bored with the main quest, but a non-existent community makes quick action tough to come by.
Assassin’s Creed III – The Tyranny of King Washington: The Infamy
(PS3, 360, $10, Mature)
What if George Washington hadn’t been a happy, mushroom-headed president, but an absolute dick who named himself king and burned down villages for fun? Yup, you’d have to smack him around a bit to show him what was what.
This DLC gives you the chance to do just that. The first of three downloadable, alternate-history episodes pitting your hatchet-wielding hero against a power-mad Washington, The Infamy sets up some giddy, action-packed missions that extend the thrills of the game proper and get you thirsty for more.
In the story, Washington has dubbed himself monarch of the newly-formed United States, and it’s up to you to derail his regime of oppression while seeking out the reasons behind his abrupt residence in Crazyville.
Too often downloadable content is restricted to multiplayer maps, characters and weapons, but this crazy, fun story is more reminiscent of episodic add-ons to Grand
Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption.
The Infamy will be followed by The Betrayal March 19 and The Redemption April 23. They all come with a $30 season pass.
(360, PS3, $60, Mature)
How do you feel about hot airheads? If you’d like to marry the FPS version of one, buy Crysis 3 to simulate the experience. Dazzling looks outshine solid gameplay for the third time in as many outings for the franchise.
Once again, you don a superpowered nanosuit that lets you make incredible jumps, run at insanely fast speeds, become invisible and become a veritable killing machine.
A barely intelligible story sets you lose in a domed New York City, which is engaged in a losing battle with nature. That serves as your playground to complete objectives however you see fit, choosing to go in guns blazing, sneak and snipe or use some combination thereof.
Frequent checkpoints take the tedium out of somewhat repetitive gameplay, and there’s a robust multiplayer mode for those tired of the Halo 4/Black Ops II routine.
Pinball FX 2: Star Wars Pinball
(360, PS3, $10, Everyone 10+)
Pinball ain’t dead, baby. It’s just gone digital.
The three-table add-on to Pinball FX 2 should bring smiles to the faces of any Star Wars fan. The choice in material alone is a sign that the developers know their good Lucas from their lame Lucas. One table is devoted to the franchise’s biggest badass, Boba Fett, another to the series’ best movie, Return of the Jedi, and another to the excellent animated series The Clone Wars.
What I love about these tables, as well as the other Pinball FX offerings, is that they don’t use technology to cheat. Seemingly all the power-ups and visuals could have been replicated on actual tables. Authentic voice acting and sound effects give the game a sense of authenticity. It’s fun to bang away at the games and chase your friends’ and enemies scores on the leaderboards.
Game of Thrones: Season 2
($40 on Blu-ray, $35 on DVD)
HBO’s mesmerizing George R.R. Martin adaptation only picks up momentum in its second frame, whisking you through a fantasy saga of rival nobles, mystical warriors and bloody conflicts. The season follows the plotlines of Martin’s novel A Clash of Kings, eliciting fantastic performances from the likes of a conniving dwarf (Peter Dinklage), a renegade king (Richard Madden) and dragon-raising, mystical wanderer (Emilia Clarke). The show’s most impressive feat is its ability to enthrall those who aren’t normally fans of its type of geeky material, proving to be one of the most compelling dramas on TV today. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes audio commentaries on all 12 epsisodes, extensive background and making-of featurettes, as well as character profiles.
($34 Blu-ray, $15 DVD)
Beware of this one. It’s one of those strange-for-the-sake-of-quirk slices of experimental nonsense that snooty critics fall all over themselves praising. Denis Lavant stars as a man who journeys through Paris, playing various characters as he meets different sets of people to engage in dream-like pantomimes. Nothing in the movie makes sense, and although scenes in and of themselves can be enjoyable, the charade becomes tiresome. Along for the ride are featurettes on the making of the film and the songs provided by Kylie Minogue.
($20 Blu-ray, $15 DVD)
Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson probes and subtly mocks the origins of Scientology with this fictional tale of a troubled World War II veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in with an insular cult with a charismatic leader (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Phoenix and Hoffman both put on clinics, and Anderson’s story, though meandering, never stalls. Amy Adams and Laura Dern both make meorable impressions in one of the most memorable films of 2012. The Blu-ray/digital copy combo includes outtakes and an hourlong documentary about World War II vets.
Screeners were provided by the publishers for review.