This article was originally published as a user blog post on Game Informer.

Does anyone else think that releasing games during the fall is one of the worst ideas ever contrived by the video game industry? I’m sure there are reasons for this, but each year, multiple titles of high caliber speckle the months when most people are working and studying incessantly. Yet gamers across the globe still take time to at least buy one or two of the biggest hits and play them when possible. This situation is my case, but I had the fortunate opportunity to practically pre-order every game I set my eyes on this fall. Darksiders II, Assassin’s Creed III, Medal of Honor: Warfighter…you name it.

Now that I have about eight new games to play, I’ve managed to sink some hours into them, but just haven’t had the time to review or blog about them due to my schoolwork (managing A’s in five classes at my community college isn’t easy). However, I want to take some time to write down my thoughts on the games I’ve bought in the past couple of months. Shall we?

~Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
~Developer: Square Enix
~Release Date: July 31, 2012
 ~Time Spent Playing: 7+ Hours

Impressions: KH has been mulling along with spin-offs delaying the much-anticipated release of KH3. However, many of the games that have come out sense KH2 have been absolutely amazing. I personally love Birth by Sleep and 358/2 Days, which have only enhanced the depth and emotion to the story and improved upon the RPG elements and action-based gameplay. DDD is no exception because everything been refined and tweaked to where KH is reaching its highest pinnacle. New additions are keeping it fresh and exiting, such as the new “flowmotion” and party members called “Dream Eaters” that you can level up and interact with (almost like pets). Although I find the new drop mechanic a bit annoying at times (being forced to interchange from Riku to Sora on a constant basis), DDD is shaping up to be another excellent line-up in the already renown KH franchise.

~Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
~Developer: High Moon Studios
~Release Date: August 21, 2012
~Time Spent Playing: 15+ Hours (Complete)

Short Verdict: I was a person that fell in love with War for Cybertron. It was a vastly underrated game, even though it has creative (yet bland at times) environments, great level design, solid TPS gameplay, and an overall proper take on how a Transformer game should be. With FoC, everything that I loved about the first game has been slightly ramped up to improve on what made WfC so special. The graphics are more polished with bigger and diverse levels; the sound effects are beefier and the voice acting is memorable; the campaign is paced well with lots of variety, and the additional modes (Escalation and multiplayer) have been tightened to make them even more entertaining. I could write on this game for a long time, but it’ll suffice to say it met my expectations and then some.

~Darksiders II
~Developer: Vigil Games
~Relase Date: August 14, 2012
~Time Spent Playing: 9+ Hours

Impressions: The first Darksiders was met with negative criticism due to its similarities to the Legend of Zelda’s and God of War’s gameplay elements. However, many people thought this was a great combination that was executed well on Vigil Games’ part. Fast forward a couple of years and we got a sequel, and boy, it’s an improvement over the original. The world of DS2 is absolutely breathtaking at times with its stylistic art style and scope. I’ve stopped several times to take a look around at how beautiful and creative the environment and level design are in this game. The gameplay has been tightened and topped off with new RPG elements in the form of stats for your weapons and armor. You also have a skill tree where you can determine what abilities you want to unlock or improve. The voice acting and music are excellent as well. Death is an awesome protagonist and Jeremy Kyd’s soundtrack is a treat to listen to, respectively.

Overall, DS2 reminds me of Fall of Cybertron. Vigil Games took everything good about the last game and improved upon it, in addition to adding in some fresh new ideas. Once I’m on Christmas break, I can’t wait to delve into this game even more.

~Resident Evil 6
~Developer: Capcom
~Release Date: October 2, 2012
~Time Spent Playing: 7+ Hours

Impressions: The controversial reviews around this game frightened me before I picked it up. However, since I happened to think RE5 was a pretty good game in its own right, I ignored the naysayers and was encouraged by the positive reviews (such as by our very own Tim Turi, who gave it an 8.75).

After my short time with the game, I must say that I’m torn in some ways. The graphics are beautiful, the story is intriguing, and the redesigned in-game interface is appealing and works well. The gameplay, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. I like options such as being able fall backwards and roll around on the ground to avoid enemies, but the camera is a bit wonky, the cover system is useless, and the QTEs…well, they occur more frequently than they have to. It’s like Capcom had a hard time deciding whether they wanted to make RE6 more of a TPS style game or return to the roots of their hit game: RE4. I honestly like the game, but I can’t help but be bothered by some of the poor choices made to appeal to the mass market.

~Developer: Arkane Studios
~Release Date: October 9, 2012
~Time Spent Playing: 10+ Hours

Impressions: It’s an exciting time when a new IP drops in between a slew of sequels, prequels, and spin-offs of established game series. Arkane Studies is a fairly unknown developer that have come out of nowhere with a first person stealth action-adventure game (that’s a mouthful!) with an intriguing setting, story, characters, and a hodgepodge of different styles of gameplay and mechanics thrown together. Does it stick? Is Dishonored a success? In my eyes, the answer is a resounding yes. Everything about the world is captivating, especially with its art style (someone described it as “a painting come to life”). From its architecture and history to its people and culture, I’ve been given a vast boost in confidence by seeing how creative people still are in the cluttering ideas of the video game industry. Dishonored obviously has it’s influences, but it manages to feel like a new experience unlike any other game right now. The main attributing factor to this is the amount of freedom the player is given for the missions within the game. Although I’m confined to some linearity, I feel like I’m in a open-world game due to the immense amounts of ways I can complete an objective, take down an enemy, complete side-missions, find secrets, and change the fate of the city. It’s a bit overwhelming to figure out what to do with all the powers, weaponry, and flexibility at my disposal, but that’s the beauty of Dishonored. It’s a game you could play through more than once and have a polar opposite playthrough the second time. It easily warrants exploration, which is why I’ve fallen in love with this unique title that everyone should give a go-around.

~Medal of Honor: Warfighter
~Developer: Danger Close
~Release Date: October 23, 2012
~Time Spent Playing: 5+ Hours

Impressions: I happened to think the reboot for MoH was a really decent shot (no pun intended) at trying to get back into the FPS craze. I thought the story and characters were terribly uninteresting, but the audio, graphics, and gameplay of the game were solid. With Warfighter, I’m just having a hard time figuring out what I think about it. I’ll get it out of the way and say the graphics are mind-bogglingly better, the story has more emotional depth, and the audio is just as great as the last game. However, I’m having a hard time connecting to what the developer wants people to walk away with: a realistic portrayal of the effects of war within the confinement of an equally unrealistic portrayal of combat (the game has to be fun for what it’s going for). From what I’ve played, they’ve met this to some extent, but the game jumps all over the place and I don’t have a decent idea of what’s going on. Except for the fact that I have to shoot people. As for the multiplayer…eh. When I played the first game, I enjoyed what DICE had done with the multiplayer. But it was a poor man’s Battlefield; I wanted to see what Danger Close could do. I guess I got that with Warfighter, and I’m not sure if that was a good thing after all. The menus are a mess to navigate, some of the maps are abysmal (graphics and design-wise), and it just isn’t that fun compared to FPS games like Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

The game is decently good so far (around a score of 7.5 or so). However, I’ve only scratched the surface and know there’s more to dig into. My impressions are likely to change by then, but I’d consider Warfighter noticeably inferior to the big names of the FPS genre.

~Assassin’s Creed III
~Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
~Release Date: October 30, 2012
~Time Spent Playing: 4+ Hours

Impressions: I’m sadly still in the introduction to this game. In other words, I haven’t even gotten to play as Conner yet. Despite this, I do have some premature praise and qualms for AC3, so let’s start with the positive stuff.

AC3 is massively larger in scope and diversity compared to its predecessors. With the new AnvilNext engine, these things are possible along with improved face motion capture, AI, and graphics (some of the best water simulation I’ve seen). The combat seems to have been noticeably amped up as well with more fluidity and elegance, which is how an assassin should fight in the first place. I don’t feel confined to the simple concept of attack and defend and attack and defend. Although I was okay with this in the past AC games, the combat just feels more natural and fleshed out; I have more at my disposal this time around.

In addition to some technical hiccups (which aren’t worth putting here), the constant shifting from gameplay to cutscenes is quite annoying. It’s like at almost every corner I’m blasted with one after the other. It’s actually distracting and detached me from the game at times, especially because of the blaring white loading screen. The intro is also really drawn out, and I’m wondering why the developers decided to do this instead of make it more concise. One last complaint are the missions I’ve had to complete. They’re pretty awkward and out of place at times, such as this one.

I assume they will improve over time once I take control of Conner, but for now, it doesn’t feel like AC3 is capitalizing on what should make the game fun. Overall, the point is that I think I’m on a low point in the game right now, so I think I’ll get most of these bad tastes out as I make progress. After all, I’m a huge fan of AC.

~Halo 4
~Developer: 343 Industries
~Release Date: November 6, 2012
~Time Spent Playing: 9+ Hours (Campaign Complete)

Impressions: I have nothing but praise for Halo 4. 343i has managed to take everything Bungie succeeded on with their run on the series and refine it with great precision and their own creative ideas. The gameplay feels perfect and fresh with new weapons, environments, and enemies; the controls are tightened to perfection for the ideal FPS experience; the graphics are darn near perfect with unbelievable lighting, sharp detail, and motion capture; the pace and diversity of the campaign’s levels are perfect with never a dull moment; the audio – goodness – is perfect because of its attention to the sound effects of combat, weaponry, and ambiance (and yes, I know I’m overusing the word “perfect” :P). And finally, the voice acting is splendid along with the techno/orchestral soundtrack. It compliments the atmosphere of the game while retaining the distinct influence of Marty O’Donnell’s work. I mean, I could go on, and I haven’t even touched the multiplayer or Spartan Ops yet! It’ll suffice to say that 343i have outdone themselves with Halo 4…and maybe even Bungie.

~Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
~Developer: Treyarch
~Release Date: November 13, 2012
~Time Spent Playing: 8+ Hours

Impressions: I’ve been playing CoD for over 8 years. I know the insides and outsides of almost all the games, so now you know I’m in my element when I’m talking about it.

The series has been getting stale over the past three years. The games are starting to feel (emphasis on feel) the same and enough isn’t being done to make CoD a yearly release that’s worth playing in such a short time-span. So, I wasn’t expecting much from BO2 except for another fun campaign, zombies to occasionally play with friends, and a multiplayer mode I’d hope on just as a “background drop,” if you will, to our conversations (once we got bored of zombies).

Well, I’ve got to be honest and tell the truth, even if everyone is getting tired of CoD. BO2 is a high-quality game with a ton of worthy replay value. I specifically want to address the multiplayer, which I’m about to say something wonderfully scary about. I think it might be better than CoD4. Hear me out: the Pick 10 Create-a-Class system is the best one in the series. The ability to pick and choose whatever you want (within the confines of a certain amount of things) is overwhelming and fun to experiment with. The setting of the game is awesome as well because it gave Treyarch the chance to have some freedom with what combat will be like in the near future. Some of the weapons (along with their attachments) look and feel great, some of the killstreaks are really fun to use, and the maps are creatively designed. The game also feels extremely balanced; I never feel like I’m being cheated (besides for the average lag encounter every now and then). I mean, I truly wasn’t expecting this to be fun because I wasn’t fond of MW3. It became boring within a couple months of release. However, BO2 seems special. I feel like some of my old love for CoD4 and Word at War has been rekindled with this game. It’s too early to tell if this is authentic or not, but I got a hunch that Treyarch may have finally answered the call to bring enough new content to the table to excite old-time fans, while not completely changing it for new fans of the series. I hope I’m right.

That’s all for today, folks. It’s been too long since I’ve been active, but I’m aiming to write some reviews and a blog or two during my upcoming Christmas break. Just know that I’m always here on GIO, roaming around every now and then when I’m caught up to the neck in studying and reading for school. Anyway, I’m looking forward to telling you all my final impressions of the games listed above (and I apologize if this blog seems a bit rushed). Until then, farewell!

What games have you purchased this season? Did you manage to get everything you wanted, or are you holding off on some games? What is your favorite and least favorite game this fall?

Dr. J