LOS ANGELES _ If you play video games, forget about getting much done this holiday season and beyond.
Companies here at E3 are showing intoxicating, alluring new titles that will make it nearly impossible for a generation of players to pull themselves away from their consoles and big-screen TVs.
It’s a modern version of the land of the Lotus Eaters. Here’s some of the magic nectar that I’ve sampled over the last few days:
Ryse: Son of Rome – This flagship game for Microsoft’s Xbox One launch was built by Crytek, the German studio known for realistic, sci-fi shooters that test the skills of players and the limits of game hardware. “Ryse” delivers on the awesome graphics and thrilling play but there’s a notable learning curve. You play as a gladiator leading a Roman army through a realistic landscape, switching between individual battles and leading a legion. Shields are key – to defend from arrows, spears and slashes from opponents, and to punch back and stun an enemy before delivering a blow. I may have offended a Crytek developer by saying the shield moves reminded me of swordfighting on Nintendo’s Wii. Press a button at the right time and you’re rewarded with an extra-gory move that impales, slashes or flips the enemy. Stare too long at the breathtaking scenery and Roman warships and you’ll be pummeled into the Dark Ages.
Killzone: Shadow Fall: Sony’s ultra-realistic shooting franchise shows off the PlayStation 4 graphics, rendering pine needles, leaves blowing in the wind and mist rising over the streams that you leap across in pursuit of heavily armed bad guys. The signature addition to PS4 launch exclusive are drones called Owls that you control using the touchpad on the PS4 controller. These drones can stun or distract enemies as you approach but their most fun use is to string ziplines around the landscape – point to a tree or outcropping, press a trigger and the drones place a line that you zip across. I had so much fun zipping around the forest canopy and ogling the foliage, I kept forgetting to use the gun.
Fantasia: Music Evolved: There weren’t a lot of Kinect motion games but Disney and Harmonix have a standout in “Fantasia,” which is coming to the Xbox One in 2014. Inspired by the 1940 movie, the game lets players conduct, modify and create music with arm gestures, like an interactive version of Laserium. As in the “Dance Central” games created by Harmonix, you advance by following on-screen prompts, which took me a few tries to start following accurately. An underwater level lets you create an orchestra by assembling a group of fish, each of which plays a different instrument.
Super Mario 3D World: If you’re a fan of Super Mario and cats you’ll have a hard time resisting this version that adds a kitty mode, even if the game still feels like last year’s Super Mario Bros U for the Wii U. All four characters in the game – Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad – can don the cat suit, giving them different powers and an extra level of cuteness. They leap and claw up walls and rotating turf obstacles and pounce on the flag at the end of a course. Nintendo also added clear pipes to the game, so you can see characters move through the plumbing, and improved the multiplayer capability, so additional players can jump in and join a game in progress. It’s out in December.
Mad Max: For those who love “Mad Max” movies, this game may be enough reason to buy a console. Warner Bros. is building a vast, dusty world in which you roar around in customized hot rods, scavenging for food and material and battling creepy thugs using fists, knives and of course Max’s sawed-off shotgun. More than 50 “authentic” vehicles from the movie are available though players are expected to modify them with different wheels, engines and accessories. Many will opt for the car used in the E3 demo: A gutted ‘71 Mustang with a supercharger rising through the hood. The game’s coming to Xbox 360 and One, PCs and PlayStation 3 and 4 next year.