After the all-important holiday season, January is always a dead zone for video games. The year in games really starts in February, when the first trickle of high-quality new releases hits store shelves. Here’s what we think you should consider dropping your next $60 on this month.
The Darkness 2 2K Games, Xbox 360, PS3
A rare comic book spin-off that was actually good, the original Darkness game was an urban mob story with a supernatural twist, and plenty of blood and violence. The sequel has even more of a graphic-novel vibe, with a new animation-inspired art style, and fans will be pleased to know that Faith No More’s Mike Patton reprises his role as the titular malevolent force powering the game’s anti-hero. It’s high-impact, gruesome fun, up to and including the point where you remove and devour your enemies’ still-beating hearts.
Syndicate Electronic Arts, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Huge international conglomerates rule the world, acting as de facto governments, controlling commerce, science, and the military. No it’s not Ron Paul’s dream journal, it’s the near-future of this quasi-sequel to a cult-favorite 1993 game. Dystopian themes are nothing new to genre fiction, and the visual contrast between the urban slums and gleaming corporate skyscrapers recalls everything from Blade Runner to William Gibson. In fact, the game feels more like a reboot of last year’s excellent Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but more linear, with the emphasis on running and shooting rather than sneaking and hacking.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning EA Games, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
A classic case of a good game with a terrible name. But before you run screaming, know that the crew behind this open-ended sword-and-sorcery role-playing game is star-studded, at least in nerd circles: Comic book artist Todd McFarlane worked on this, as did sci-fi author R.A. Salvatore, along with the head designer of much-loved role-playing games such as Morrowind and Oblivion. Leading the charge: the game company founded by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and his bloody sock. But be warned: Elves, swordsmen and magic abound, plus many hours of exploring dangerous forests and dungeons. If that kind of thing isn’t your bag, Amalur will do nothing to change your mind.
Resident Evil: Revelations Capcom, Nintendo 3DS
One of the longest-running series, Resident Evil seems perfectly poised to capitalize on our current cultural moment of zombie chic. Adding the third dimension of the stereoscopic Nintendo 3DS (one of the device’s two screens offers a glasses-free 3D view) might sound gimmicky, but here, amid the tight and creepy corridors populated with the living dead, the added depth makes for an immersive experience, even with the clunky controls and corny voice acting that have haunted Resident Evil games from the very beginning.