For the rest of the year, pop culture is all about the galaxy far, far away. Star Wars: Battlefront kicks off the mayhem leading up to next month’s release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Unleashed, transporting you into a dizzying array of land and air battles from the original trilogy. If you can peel yourself away from the multiplayer mayhem, there’s also the opportunity to revisit the slower, creepier side of classic sci-fi in the form of Alien: Isolation The Collection. Another 2014 game making a comeback is Ubisoft’s racer, The Crew, which is back with a major expansion and rerelease. There’s also a spectacular JRPG in Stella Glow to vie for your attention.
Publishers provided review copies.
Alien: Isolation The Collection
(Xbox One, PS4, $40, Mature)
One of last year’s best stealth games creeps back onto the scene in its most formidable form yet. In the year and change since the game came out, numerous updates have smoothed out some of the game’s rough edges, and there has also been a steady helping of downloadable content. All that is included in this package, which is going for $20 less than the game cost when it first came out. Designed to look like a playable version of the film series in the 1970s, the game lets you control Ripley’s daughter, who is stuck on a doomed space station, scampering for her life as an alien lurks in the air vents and corridors to stalk and slay her and crew members clip out, die off and turn on one another.
The game has lost nothing since released, and has evolved into a much stronger product that what gamers first took on. Controls have been tightened, glitches have been worked out and the add-ons make the story deeper and more engaging The Last Survivor and Crew Expendable expansions — the latter of which rounds up the original movie cast for a thrilling side story that works well as fan service — are included. You also get all five Survivor mode packs, which give you reason to come back after you’ve completed the story. Alien: Isolation thrives on minimalism and suspense, and stealth fans who have yet to play it are in for a sadistic treat.
The Crew: Wild Run Edition
(Xbox One, PS4, $60, Teen)
There’s no shortage of excellent racers available, and The Crew got lost in the shuffle last year, buried by multiple Forza releases, Project CARS and Drive Club. It’s back for a second lap with the Wild Run expansion, which revitalizes the original concept of giving you a map of the United States to race through. A Fast and Furious-like motif has you take control of a racing faction, working with and against law enforcement as you seek out vengeance following a devastating personal loss.
The expansion rolls out a slew of paradigm-changing vehicles, including monster trucks, motorcycles, dragsters and drift cars. Developers also went under the hood to tweak everything from graphics to handling and the way the weather system effects the way your tires feel on the road. There are also new head-to-head multiplayer modes and 20 more single-player missions, with the promise of more to come in free updates. If you’ve tired of your daily driver and are looking for a new racer, the tricked-out Wild Run is worth taking for a spin.
Star Wars: Battlefront
(Xbox One, PS4, $40, Teen)
When Disney purchased Star Wars in 2012, fans started to clamor for the return of the Star Wars: Battlefront games, which throw you into movie scenarios, letting you play as grunts and heroes alike to turn the tide of battle. The reboot takes full advantage of the graphical capabilities and sound of the Xbox One and PS4, rolling in staggering visuals and sound that not only match what you’ve seen on film, but what’s been gestating in your imagination since you were in elementary school. You can take down Imperial Walkers on Hoth, take part in speed bike chases on Endor and mow down crowds of Rebel scum with light saber swings as Darth Vader. Characters look, sound and control faithfully, with every corner of every map brimming with authentic-feeling Star Wars nerdery.
Like all Battlefront games, this Star Wars entry exists mostly for multiplayer. There are tutorial and single-player missions, but those are just warmups for the real deal. That would be easier to handle if there were more maps and modes available, but what’s there feels like nothing more than a starter set, doubtlessly to be filled out by multiple expansions you’ll be expected to pay for. Despite the impeccable presentation, some of the maps are easy to exploit and cursed with nonsensical respawns that put you directly in line of fire, with no chance to survive. The upgrade system also leaves much to be desired. Most of the useful weapons come at the beginning, giving you little reason to strive for higher levels and the unlocks that come with them. The shortcomings lump Star Wars: Battlefront in with other multiplayer-heavy games such as Titanfall and Evolve, which impress initially but fade quickly. It will be up to developers to crank out enough fresh material to maintain the initial impressiveness and fix up the glitches to right the ship.
(3DS, $50, Teen)
Atlus is one of the few third-party publishers that treat the 3DS as more than an afterthought. Instead, Atlus gives Nintendo’s handheld most of its best work. Stella Glow caps off an incredible year of Atlus 3DS games, which ranged from multiple Etrian Odyssey mainline entries and spinoffs to new entries and remasters of its Japanese culture-parodying Shin Megami Tensei titles. You control a party of witches who battle evil forces with music-based magic. Japanese voice actors fill out the sound track with more than 20 songs.
Combat is of the traditional turn-based variety that works so well on the 3DS, which lets you manage your resources and attacks with the touch screen while keeping track of the layout on the top screen. You work your way through a preset calendar, with time set aside to pursue upgrades for your attacks and attributes, work the social system to your advantage by gaining allies and forging bonds and racking up experience points and levels. The price is high for a handheld game, but there is enough content to back it up. The rich, vibrant story can stretch dozens of hours, and there are enough twists in the story to keep things fresh and engaging.