CHARLESTON, W.Va. - With the recent launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it's understandable that many have turned their attention to the next generation of gaming. But for those holding off on making the leap to next-gen, this fall saw the release of several very good games for all of the current-gen platforms.
Here's a look at some of the highlights:
"Battlefield 4" (EA, $59.99, multiplatform)/"Call of Duty: Ghosts" (Activision, $59.99, multiplatform) - Like it or not, these two first-person shooters continue to be linked. And to borrow a phrase from former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green, these latest iterations are what we thought they were. Each offers a concise, action-packed campaign and an insanely deep, highly customizable multiplayer experience. Neither game breaks new ground in the genre, but both offer more of the same addictive game play we've come to expect. As such, I found it impossible to give one any real edge over the other. Go with your favorite franchise and you won't be disappointed. ... 8.6/10
"BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 1" (2K, $15, multiplatform) - The first piece of story-driven downloadable content for one of the year's best games, "Burial at Sea - Episode One" revisits what has become one of gaming's most iconic locales - the underwater utopia of Rapture. Unlike in the original "BioShock," here we see Rapture before it was left in ruin. You again assume the role of Booker DeWitt, the protagonist of "BioShock Infinite," only this time you're a private detective working in Rapture and it's Elizabeth, here portrayed as a 1950s-era leading lady-type, who leads you around as you search for a missing girl. It's an interesting reversal of roles from the main campaign, and I enjoyed seeing these familiar characters portrayed in a new way. I also enjoyed using the combat mechanics from "BioShock Infinite" to battle the splicers from the original "BioShock," although sadly those encounters were confined to the second half of what is a rather short episode. Lasting only a couple of hours (at most), Episode 1 closes with a decidedly BioShock-esque twist that should whet the appetite of gamers anxious for Episode 2. ... 8.3/10
"How to Survive" (505 Games, $15, multiplatform) - Imagine playing "Dead Island" from an isometric view, and without the compelling characters or story, and you have a pretty good idea what to expect from "How to Survive," a game that tasks you with escaping from a zombie-infested island chain. Don't get me wrong, "How to Survive" can be fun at times, but it's just as likely to frustrate as it is entertain. I liked the notion of having to manage my characters basic needs - sleep, food and water - but rarely did I ever feel in danger of dying because I neglected one (or all) of these elements. And finding shelter often led to one of the game's most annoying requirements - clearing out a safe house. Entering a safe house triggers an alarm that draws all undead creatures within earshot to your location, and they must be disposed of before you can rest. That's all well and good, but on top of that a seemingly endless string of zombies mysteriously spawns FROM INSIDE THE LOCKED SAFE HOUSE, making it doubly dangerous to survive. Couple the zombie horde with the inconsistent aiming and hit detection found during combat and you have a recipe for disaster. "How to Survive" brings some interesting ideas to the zombie genre, but ultimately fails to see them through to the end. ... 6.2/10
"LEGO Marvel Super Heroes" (Warner Bros., $49.99, multiplatform) - The developers at Travellers Tales have finally created their masterpiece. "LEGO Marvel Super Heroes" takes everything gamers have come to love about the LEGO video game franchise and adds a heaping helping of the Marvel Universe. The end result is not only the best LEGO game available, but arguably the best Marvel game to date, too. Featuring hundreds of heroes and villains, ranging from icons such as Iron Man, Thor and Spider-Man to lesser-known characters such as Squirrel Girl and Howard the Duck, an original story that ultimately unites the entire Universe against Galactus, and some fresh takes on the familiar game play formula that give the game a decidedly Marvel feel, "LEGO Marvel Super Heroes" is truly a gem. Even after completing the story mode, my kids and I continue to play regularly in order to unlock every character and costume and collect those 250 gold bricks. And once that's done, we'll probably start over and do it all again. This game is just that much fun. I can't wait to see what the developers have in store for a sequel. ... 9.6/10
"WWE 2K14" (2K, $59.99, multiplatform) - Anyone concerned about how the WWE brand would fare under its new caretakers at 2K can breathe a little easier now - "WWE 2K14," the first WWE release since 2K purchased the federation's rights from THQ, is easily the best WWE game I've ever played. Granted, much of the heavy lifting was again done by long-time developer Yukes, but 2K's influence is apparent, from the sleek, stylish menus to the improved motion capture (something especially noticeable during entrances and cut scenes). "WWE 2K14" lets gamers recreate some of the most memorable matches in history in the 30 Years of WrestleMania mode, attempt to end - or better - the Undertaker's unbeaten WrestleMania run in The Streak, or create and manage your own WWE world in a deeper Universe mode using the largest roster ever featured in a WWE game. Most important, though, the in-ring action has never felt better. "WWE 2K14" builds upon the game play improvements of recent years, offering the most polished, fluid experience since the Nintendo 64 days. Plenty of new moves have been added, including catch finishers and character-specific OMG moments such as John Cena's double Attitude Adjustment. I've always looked forward to the annual WWE video game, but if "2K14" is any indication of what the future holds, "WWE 2K15" can't get here soon enough. ... 9.2/10
Reach Jeff Rider at 304-348-5122 or jri...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/gazette_gamer.