Ah September. The month of football. The pre-season to the holiday season. The slight lull before the deluge of new gaming titles that arrive just in time for the holidays. Yup. I love this time of year. However, this month, like many of the past ones, is a bit of an exception to that rule. I don’t know why it is, but I’m very glad that the gaming industry has finally realized the people will buy video games at times other than Christmas and the Madden-oliday. We’ve had top quality titles released every month of 2008 so far, and September is no exception. In fact, two of the most hotly anticipated titles of the year release this month, as well as some very cool sleeper hits that I want to make sure you know about.
Arguably the biggest title releasing this month is a PC title. That means you won’t see a lot of coverage of it on the Playbox (hey, I’m only one man!), but I thought I should mention it nonetheless. Spore, from creator Will Wright, has generated plenty of buzz in the preceding months. It’s an ambitious game that follows the evolution of a species from a single cell to a far reaching space empire. Ambitious? You bet. Ground breaking? Maybe. The gameplay overall is fairly simple, but EA thinks this game will really appeal to the “casual” crowd and they believe it will sell over two million copies this month alone—more than the other big release of the month, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. What I’ve found so fascinating with Spore is the presumption that evolution is a fact, and yet the game also incorporates elements of Intelligent Design. I’ve already blogged about the implications of all this on the Playbox.
Now, the other big release is one Star Wars fans have been drooling for ever since they saw the first teaser trailer. Promising to show us the Force like we’ve never seen it before—more powerful, more extreme, and more explosive than ever before—the demo for The Force Unleashed is one of my favorite demos of the year (I’m still playing it), and I just can’t wait to get my mitts on this game. Making the game even bigger, this is the next official entry into the Star Wars canon. The story follows the first time Vader takes up his own secret apprentice as a part of a plot to overthrow the Emperor (something Vader proposes to Luke in Episode V, aka The Empire Strikes Back, to you non-geeks). You play as Vader’s apprentice as you hunt down the remaining Jedi and follow the orders of your Master as his plans to rule the galaxy unfold. Lucasarts is using some new, cutting-edge technology both in the physics and the AI, so this could truly be a benchmark game for the industry if this new technology performs as promised. I don’t know if Spore really will outsell The Force Unleashed, but between the two games (assuming they’re any good), this is going to be a huge September. We’ll have reviews and previews of both the Xbox 360 version and the Nintendo Wii version of the game, so be sure to check out our coverage later this month.
Star Wars and Spore are hogging all the limelight this month, but they’re by no means the only games worthy of your attention. Coming to the Wii this month is one of the most unique games of the year, de Blob. The action follows an animated paint blob (that’s you) as you bring color to a monochromatic world. This platformer is full of charm and challenges and looks like it makes the most of the Wii’s graphical power and unique controls. Don’t let this one fly under your radar.
Other games worth noting this month include Lego Batman, which is another new twist on a familiar formula. Considering the close proximity of this release and Lego Indiana Jones, it’ll be interesting to see if Lego Batman is different enough to lure gamers back, or if this third time may be one too many times for the Lego video game formula. And finally, Gearbox is finally releasing the next Brothers In Arms game, Hell’s Highway. This WWII shooter takes you through one of the key operations of the war in the first next-gen version of this franchise. Early looks at the game show that it looks fantastic, is more realistic and gritty than ever, and adds some new twists to the successful BIA formula. This is my favorite WWII franchise, so I’m very excited that this game is finally releasing.
Well, as you can see, September may be typically a “slow” month, but there really hasn’t been anything slow about any of the months in 2008, and as always, we here at the Playbox will bring you reviews and spiritual perspectives on all the gaming action this month.