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Digital Season 2012

For an addicted gamer like myself, this is a rough time of year. Typically, all the great, important games are released around the holidays, starting in late September or early October and not trickling to a full stop until March. So, for at least six months, I am faced with three options: (1) stop playing video games and do something important with my time; (2) play old games that I may have missed over the years or that I just want to play again; or (3) download DLC packs and arcade games. The first isn't really an option--it's just silly--and it's hard to fill six months with nothing but old games. So, once I finished Mass Effect 3 earlier this year, I put something like $70 on my XBLA account and have been slowly draining it ever since. What follows are ten games (or DLC packs) that I have played, in the order that I played them, often taking advantage of weekly sales to make my decisions.



Resident Evil Code Veronica X HD
RESIDENT EVIL CODE VERONICA X HD

For better or for worse, Code Veronica marks the end of an era for Resident Evil; it's the last game in the series that can be considered "survival horror." Amazingly, despite my strong opinions about the state of the franchise, before this summer, I had never played the game in which Chris and Claire Redfield encounter the frozen Umbrella Base. Getting back into old-school gaming mechanics took some time, but once I adjusted to static cameras and nonintuitive controls, it was like spending time with an old friend. An old, grotesque friend who wants to eat my brains, but an old friend nonetheless. Any fan of the franchise as it once was who, like me, missed this entry, owes it to himself or herself to download this title immediately. It has probably the most interesting and quirky story in the canon, and the combination of zombie mutant action and puzzles is at its highest point. I stand by my opinion that the Gamecube remake of the original Resident Evil is the greatest RE game of them all, but now Code Veronica has snuck into a close second. However, this port is hardly an upgrade; the graphics are still pretty dated and there has been absolutely nothing added to the previous release of the game, which prevents Resident Evil Code Veronica X HD from getting a perfect score.





Alan Wake's American Nightmare
ALAN WAKE'S AMERICAN NIGHTMARE

Alan Wake is a divisive game that enjoyed a great amount of hype and critical success, but didn't make a lot of money. It's a trippy horror game with a lot of potential, and despite its lukewarm reputation, the team behind the game are intent on making a sequel. When I first heard about American Nightmare, I was confused, because it's not the sequel we were promised; it's a downloadable arcade game. It's short--especially compared to Alan Wake--and the story only hints at where Wake's journey will take him next. It's also more intense in that it features waves and waves of shadowy bad guys (with far more variety) and very little exploration or problem solving. There are also arcade-style survival modes, but they are tiring and not terribly rewarding. Despite all this, though, Alan Wake's American Nightmare is a good little game and an interesting side project. It's hardly enough to keep fans of the original satiated, but it does demonstrate that the designers are busy thinking about the different places the next game can go.





Deus Ex: Human Revolution: The Missing Link
DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION: THE MISSING LINK

"The Missing Link" is the perfect expansion to Deus Ex: Human Revolution; it's set near the end of the main game's storyline--though you access it from the main menu and it doesn't spoil much for those who haven't gotten that far--and it involves you getting interrogated on an ocean base. You are reset to Factory Zero, meaning that you start the adventure without any augments, but the game is very generous with the Praxis Kits and experience, so it doesn't take long to rebuild. What's neat is that you can rebuild Adam however you like, opting to go in a completely different direction with each playthrough. "The Missing Link" is pretty long, as DLC goes, and though its story isn't mind-blowing, it does have a few good twists. $15 may seem like a lot to pay, but for any fan of the main game, it's a bargain.





Sonic 4 Episode I
SONIC 4 EPISODE I

There's no point in lamenting the horrible state Sonic the Hedgehog is in, because everybody knows this once great gaming icon--who competed with a certain Italian plumber in his heyday--has been in a very long slump. Taking cues from the success of Mega Man's recent DLC outings, however, Sonic has gone back to his roots with Sonic 4, an episodic duo of games that features fast-paced 2-D side-scrolling, a minimal plot, and plenty of hardcore challenge. I had honestly forgotten how much fun Sonic games can be, and this is, essentially, the ultimate 2-D Sonic game. It's a little on the short side, but the levels are big enough and have enough secrets to keep you coming back long after you defeat Dr. Eggman. The levels also honor past Sonic games, returning to some of the most beloved landscapes like a Casino multiplex and an ancient, watery tomb. Honestly, if modern 3-D Sonic games could capture just one-tenth of the awesomeness found in Sonic 4: Episode I (I haven't played Episode II yet), Sonic would once again find a place among the pantheon of gaming giants.





The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
THE SECRET OF MONKEY ISLAND: SPECIAL EDITION

Another awesome bit of remastered nostalgia on sale on Xbox Live Arcade is The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, a lovingly upgraded version of the 1990 classic point-and-click adventure game. The game features a huge graphical face-lift which, though a bit on the cartoony side compared to the original, is very colorful and polished. All the dialogue has been given voiceover work (done by the same voice actors who worked on later Monkey Island titles), the music has been rerecorded from scratch, and the interface has been retooled to work seamlessly with an Xbox controller. Fans of the original will be disappointed that nothing's been added, but newcomers need not be familiar with the franchise to fall in love with the game's humor. One really great touch that all remakes should do now is the inclusion of the original game, in all its SVGA glory, available with the click of a button. You can switch back and forth between the old and the new on the fly, to compare and contrast until the cows come home. Anybody who has ever loved an adventure game and wants to experience the roots of LucasArts as a video game company should really check this one out.




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-e. magill 9/4/2012










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