Giftamania 2016 (Updated)
Update: Added Dead Rising 4 and LEGO Dimensions expansion packs.
With apologies to Maffew, as well as everyone else for not getting this up a little sooner as I’d have liked.
Following is a quick list of titles and things good for grabbing as gifts for the gamer in your life this holiday season. Mind, these come as my own personal recommendations, and don’t account for everything, including some “obvious” picks (such as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Final Fantasy XV, and Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon). Everything here has been released in some form or fashion since Christmas 2015.
Xbox One S – Your mileage may vary on this one; if you or the intended recipient don’t own an Xbox One already, then this is the way to go. If you/they are planning on getting a 4K TV in the next year, however, then you might want to wait for Microsoft’s Project Scorpio — or at least more details about it — to emerge.
Killer Instinct: Definitive Edition – Originally introduced in 2013, the revival of Killer Instinct has finally reached completion after three “seasons” of releases. While I only reviewed the first season, much more content has been made available since then, including new guest stars from Halo, Gears of War, and Battletoads! What’s more, you can now get everything in one complete package at retail with the Definitive Edition, which also includes a soundtrack CD and code for a gold Gargos skin. Now that’s what I call an Ultra Combo! (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)
Forza Horizon 3 – This open-world driving game is great for relaxing, but also provides plenty of excitement as you partake in various races, challenges, and even hunts for classic vehicles. Sync up your own custom soundtrack (or use one of the stations in the game) and hit the road — as well as the plains, beaches, and anywhere else you can think to drive! (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)
Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition (Review Pending) – Alongside Killer Instinct, this was one of the games which made me want an Xbox One in the first place, and I haven’t been disappointed. This Metroidvania-styled platformer has a beautifully eerie presence a surprising degree of emotion as well. I was saving this to say in my already long-overdue review, but to me, Ori feels like the perfect mascot for the Xbox One, and deserves to be adopted as one. Plus, for the price, how can you afford not to try it? (Also available for Windows via Steam)
ReCore (Review Pending) – From some of the creative minds who brought you Mega Man and Metroid Prime comes this mysterious tale from another world. As Joule Adams, you’re tasked with exploring the planet of Far Eden and finding out what happened to those who were supposed to colonize it for mankind’s survival. But while you seem to be the only human around, you’re not alone — a group of Corebots use the special abilities granted by their customizable frames (such as the “dog,” Mack) to assist you throughout this third-person adventure that feels in some ways like a mix of Mega Man Legends and Metroid Prime, coupled with its own unique elements as well. (Also available on Windows 10 via Play Anywhere with Xbox One)
Quantum Break (Review Pending) – Yeah, I know — I’m juggling a lot of balls in the air here (and yes, it’s driving me nuts). This is an extremely story-oriented third-person shooter with some interesting characters and some content that’s set up like an actual television serial interspersed with the game’s chapters. If you’re cool with a game you watch as or more often than you play, then this one’s definitely worth a look. (Also available on Windows 10)
Xbox Design Lab – The Xbox One Wireless Controller is one of my favorite controllers to come around in some time, with a comfortable feel and a Dpad that’s not only finally worth a damn, but pretty dang good in its own right! So what could make it better? How about your own choice of color scheme, and maybe a laser-engraved message as well? This holiday season, you can give a custom Xbox Design Lab controller as a gift by purchasing a code which the recipient can then redeem to make the controller of their dreams (and 14-day shipping is free!).
Dead Rising 4 – This late arrival to stores and this list alike is a must-own this holiday season for its Yuletide setting alone, but for fans of beat ’em up-styled gameplay, the latest adventure of Frank West really hits home.
Paper Mario: Color Splash – After Paper Mario: Sticker Star, I thought that the magic of the series I loved might never return. Imagine my surprise when Nintendo took such great strides towards a return to form just one installment later! While still not quite on the level of the masterpiece that is Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, this lite-RPG adventure is a great choice for all ages.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD – Nintendo’s next console, the Switch, isn’t destined to join us until March of next year, and the Zelda title designed to bridge it and the Wii U, Breath of the Wild, may take even longer still. In the meantime, they’ve updated the game which bridged the GameCube and the Wii with improved visuals and other features, including amiibo support! Get the game with the Wolf Link w/Midna amiibo, and you can begin prepping it to join you in the next Zelda adventure, whenever it may come!
Kirby: Planet Robobot – Simply put, this is a must-have for any Nintendo 3DS owner. To say anything more would simply diminish it; if you or someone you know hasn’t played it, then rectify that immediately (or at least come the holidays).
Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack – This spiritual successor to games such as Mega Man Zero really brings the thunder — or the lightning, at least! And with the recent release of Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 in the Nintendo eShop, you can now get both chapters together on a single game card at retail!
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam – It’s a crossover no one knew they wanted — or was even possible! Establishing the Paper Mario series as a separate entity (well, even more so), Nintendo’s two long-running Mario role playing game series collide as denizens of the Paper world are released into the regular Mario world, and chaos ensues! This one is definitely a “cut” above!
Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice – While the original Sonic Boom games did little to endear the world to this iteration of the franchise, Fire & Ice is a much better second go. With humorous writing and voice acting that’s in keeping with the Sonic Boom cartoon and the addition of Amy Rose to the playable character roster, Fire & Ice doesn’t excel, but it is comfort gaming at its finest.
Project X Zone 2 – Let’s get crazy! This turn-based strategy game brings together characters from several of SEGA, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and Nintendo’s top titles for a fan service smorgasbord! Even if you don’t know all the characters involved (and the odds are pretty good that you won’t know everyone), don’t worry — you’ll probably find yourself wanting to check out some new games by the end of it. Heck, I never had any interest in SEGA’s Yakuza before, but now I can’t wait for Yakuza 0 to arrive on PlayStation 4 early next year!
PlayStation 4 Pro – Speaking of PlayStation 4, if you’re interested in 4K gaming or virtual reality with PlayStation VR, then this is the model to look into. Just know that while it can stream 4K video, it won’t play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.
Dragon Quest Builders – Part of Minecraft‘s strength is its go anywhere, do anything you want freedom. However, if you’re interested in a game which captures the building and resource mechanics while providing you with a bit more of a purpose, then this alternate timeline sequel to the original Dragon Quest ought to be right up your alley.
Ratchet & Clank – This latest release in the long-running PlayStation-exclusive franchise combines what made the original game great with a bit of added flair from the motion picture release, turns it on its head, sprinkles in some elements from other installments, and provides an experience great for longtime fans of the series and newcomers alike. And given that the film (which is based on the original game, with this being based on that) didn’t quite set hearts aflutter while the game was a number-one bestseller, it’s probably safe to say that if you have to choose between the two, going with the game is probably the best choice.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Review Pending) – The Canadian Video Game Awards 2016 winner for Best Console Game, Best Game Design, Best Narrative, Best Performance, and oh yeah, Game of the Year. As Adam Jensen, you’re a cybernetically-enhanced human (though you didn’t ask for this) who is putting his myriad tools to good use as you make the decisions you think will best see you through to victory. Lethal or non-lethal weapons? Employ stealth, or go in guns blazing? These choices and many more are yours.
Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration (Review Pending) – For as iconic a figure as Lara Croft has been for the industry over the years, this installment follows in the footsteps of its predecessor by being decidedly not for children — or the faint of heart. It’s definitely an intense game that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and some parts can be pretty gruesome as well. That said, the original version came to Xbox One last year, but 20 Year Celebration throws in all the extra content that has been released since then, including some additional skins (such as a Retro Lara for a nostalgic kick), a co-op mode, and an Extreme Difficulty mode. On PlayStation 4, it’s also one of the first games to take advantage of the HDR features and 4K resolution provided by the Pro version, as well as a chapter playable in PlayStation VR.
WWE 2K17 – The latest installment in 2K Games’ long-running sports entertainment adaptation is opting for a little more of a sim flavor this year. Create your own Superstars and events, alter others, and have the full run of Raw, Smackdown, and the rest of the shows WWE brings to a worldwide audience every week.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan – On the half-shell, they’re the heroes four; in this day and age, who could ask for more? This IDW Comics-styled game is all about teamwork, whether you’re working with friends or strangers in online multiplayer, or managing all four green teens yourself.
Skylanders Imaginators – Continuing the ever-growing theme of player-created content, this year’s Skylanders title allows you to create your very own Skylander called an Imaginator. They come in all different types, and become more powerful when one of the new Senseis shows them their moves. Plus, if you get the PlayStation 4 version (though it should come to the others next year), you can also get Skylanders of Spyro’s old pal, Crash Bandicoot and his rival Dr. Neo Cortex.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens – “Chewie… we’re home.” These words from Han Solo reflect the feeling of this LEGO title as the series gets back to its roots, but with some new tricks as well. And it just feels so right.
Mega Man Legacy Collection – Released as a digital download for Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 late last year, this collection of the Blue Bomber’s six Nintendo Entertainment System adventures (and all the gobs of additional related content included) not only arrived on the Nintendo 3DS earlier this year, but at retail for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as well. Plus, if you go for the physical Nintendo 3DS version, you can also add an exclusive gold Mega Man amiibo figure to your collection!
Mighty No. 9 – This spiritual successor to Mega Man comes with a pretty severe caveat, as the game has been very divisive: If you or someone you know wants a challenge, then this one may deliver. That said, it’s best to look around and see if you can find a good bargain on it to keep your bets safe. Think of this one as “stocking stuffer” material, or consider trying the free demo first. Oh, and be careful about getting the Wii U version — that one apparently suffered from some pretty nasty hardware crashing issues, and I’m not sure if they ever got all those fixed.
LEGO Dimensions Sonic the Hedgehog Level Pack – The toys alone are cool enough, but getting to use them in a game which does a pretty good job of marrying the LEGO and Sonic styles of gameplay is even better.
LEGO Dimensions Gremlins Team Pack – Based on one of my favorite holiday movies, exploring the town of Kingston Falls during the snowy holiday season makes this a perfect holiday gift for anyone who owns (or will soon own) LEGO Dimensions.
Super Mario Run – Though this game is available now, you won’t be able to buy it in stores. However, as it commands a $13.99 price tag, an iTunes gift card or two for the intended recipient may not be the worst idea. Just remember that it launches as an iOS exclusive, while the Android version comes sometime later.
Super Mario Adventures – This recently republished collection of the comic which originally ran in Nintendo Power magazine 25 years ago is, for many, one of the definitive pieces of Mario fiction (outside of the games, that is). A loose adaptation of Super Mario World, this also includes an additional chapter which loosely adapts Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins and gives us the origin of Wario. Sadly, the 14th and final installment was not included; thankfully, it was a standalone story, so the rest of the book holds up quite well on its own otherwise.
NES Classic Edition and NES Controllers – Good luck finding either of these! Even if you’re not interested in this plug ‘n play collection of 30 classic games for yourself, you’re almost guaranteed to know someone who is, so if you see one in the wild — grab it! And if you happen to come across the even rarer controller, a replica of the original NES input device, consider that it also works with some games (pretty much anything a sideways Wii Remote would) on the Wii and Wii U!
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.
Written by Jonathan Armour, edited by David Oxford
A new year beckons and new sporting challenges with it, as men and women strive for glory in feats of athletic prowess. But what about those of us who can’t be bothered to go outside, let alone do all that training and running around? Never fear, we can play some games that are a bit like those sports we’re not good enough to do in real life.
Let’s go through our best options.
The kicking of a ball, so popular in Europe and South America, has some fine video game adaptations. But when it comes down to it, you have two choices:
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is the purists’ choice. With fluid football and pleasing complexity, it rewards people who are willing to master its intricacies.
FIFA 16 on the other hand is glossy, exciting and wonderfully presented. The football is arguably a little more shallow and for some reason, despite the introduction of women’s soccer this year, several members of the Canadian national team were removed from the game.
Football is the turn-based strategists’ sport of choice, with its carefully executed plays and defensive counters. In gaming form, there’s one title that has always stood tall — Madden NFL 16.
With its air battles and precision passing, Madden is looking as good as ever, while building a franchise offers you hours of play. Whether you play with the New England Patriots (4/1 in the betting odds to win the Super Bowl when this article was produced) or the less successful Tennessee Titans, it promises non-stop thrills.
And what is there for those who prefer bouncing a ball on the floor instead of kicking or throwing or running around with it tucked in underneath our arm? Fear not! Basketball simulations are not in short supply. NBA 2K16 is particularly wonderful and, because there are less players on the court than inhabit football or soccer games, it looks fantastic, too, with players individually sweating.
Fighting refers to actual fighting like the UFC where you can see people pummeling each other into the ground, or wrestling where people pretend to pummel each other into the ground while also acting out a sort of spandex soap opera.
If UFC and brutal violence are you preferred spectacle, look no further than EA Sports UFC series. With dozens of fighters on offer, it is a comprehensive package that any UFC fan owes themselves to purchase. Bear in mind the next edition is just around the corner, with a March release in mind.
If it is wrestling you’re after, WWE 2K16 is a definite return to form for the series, combining great fighting with a sense of theatrics. Sadly there is no video game ready to tackle the awesome of Olympic Wrestling, which is a shame, cos Canadians are kinda good at it.
Now we’re talking: skating, fighting, smashing things with a big stick. This is a real sport.
NHL 16 captures ice hockey perfectly, with a variety of modes returning from previous installments that were sorely missed. Be a Pro mode returns along with the EASHL mode that was sorely missing from NHL 15, where you can join an online team as a single player and show those (other) nerds how to (theoretically) play hockey (without having to move).
Quite a bit has happened since the last time we talked about WWE 2K15.
First up is the announcement of WWE 2K15‘s Downloadable Content program: “The content offering will include three new storylines playable in 2K Showcase, the game’s story-driven, single-player campaign, as well as access to new moves and a wealth of playable WWE, WCW, and NXT Superstars. In addition, WWE Diva Paige will be available as an exclusive playable character for those who purchase the game’s Season Pass.” The individual content packages will start being released in 2014 with others coming in 2015.
“Having grown up playing WWE games, it’s an honor to be included in WWE 2K15,” said Paige. “Fans will not want to miss out on my debut, as well as the new stories featured through 2K Showcase.”
So, what’s on offer? Glad you asked:
The WWE 2K15 downloadable content program is scheduled to include the following items and be available for purchase on the PlayStation®Network for the PlayStation®4 and PlayStation®3 systems, as well as Xbox Live online entertainment network from Microsoft for Xbox One and Xbox 360:
- Players will gain instant access to all unlockable content available in the game (excluding downloadable content);
- The Accelerator will be available for a suggested price of $1.99.
2K Showcase: One More Match
- Story focused on the rivalry between WWE Superstars Randy Orton and Christian in 2011;
- Playable WWE Superstars: Christian, Randy Orton, Edge, Mark Henry and Sheamus;
- Playable arenas from 2011: SmackDown®, Extreme Rules®, Over the Limit® and Capitol Punishment®;
- 2K Showcase: One More Match will be available for a suggested price of $9.99.
2K Showcase: Hall of Pain
- Story focused on top matches for WWE Superstar Mark Henry;
- Playable WWE Superstars: Mark Henry, Big Show, Kane, Jey Uso, Jimmy Uso, Sheamus, The Great Khali, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan and Ryback;
- Playable arenas: SmackDown (2011), Vengeance® (2011) and WrestleMania® 29;
- 2K Showcase: Hall of Pain will be available for a suggested price of $9.99.
2K Showcase: Path of the Warrior
- Story focused on the career of WWE Hall of Famer Ultimate Warrior;
- Playable WWE Hall of Famers: Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and Sgt. Slaughter;
- Playable WWE Legends: Honky Tonk Man, Rick Rude, Macho King and Colonel Mustafa;
- Playable WWE Superstars: Undertaker and Hunter Hearst Helmsley;
- Access to WWE Hall of Fame ring announcer Howard Finkel and WWE managers Jimmy Hart, Bobby Heenan, Paul Bearer, Sherri, Sid Justice and General Adnan;
- Playable arenas: WrestleMania VI, VII and XII; SummerSlam® (1988, 1990 and 1991); Saturday Night’s Main Event XXIV and Madison Square Garden®;
- 2K Showcase: Path of the Warrior will be available for a suggested price of $9.99.
- Playable WCW Superstars: Fit Finlay, Lord Steven Regal, Bam Bam Bigelow, Diamond Dallas Page and Lex Luger;
- The WCW Pack will be available for a suggested price of $7.99.
- Playable NXT Superstars: JBL, Adam Rose and The Ascension (Konnor and Victor);
- Playable NXT Diva: Emma;
- NXT Arrival will be available for a suggested price of $6.99.
New Moves Pack
- Moves Pack: More than 30 new moves, including an alternate version of Sister Abigail (performed from the ring corner and made popular by Bray Wyatt) and Multiple Gut Wrenches (made popular by Cesaro);
- The New Moves Pack will be available for a suggested price of $3.99.
As for the Season Pass…
Players may purchase select WWE 2K15 downloadable content at a reduced price point through the game’s Season Pass program. For a one-time suggested purchase price of $24.99, a savings of more than 20 percent versus individual content purchases, players will receive the following items as they become available:
- Access to exclusive playable WWE Diva Paige;
- Accelerator (access to all unlockable content available in the game);
- Access to all three 2K Showcase stories (One More Match, Hall of Pain and Path of the Warrior).
In other WWE 2K15 news, 2K has announced that none other than John Cena has personally curated the soundtrack for the game, with the “companion soundtrack” available for pre-order on iTunes before its release at all digital retailers on Tuesday, October 21st. “Personally curated by cover Superstar and music enthusiast, John Cena, the soundtrack will feature 12 unique tracks from established and rising artists that transcend several music genres, including hip-hop, rock and country.”
“The WWE 2K15 companion soundtrack album also features two exclusive bonus tracks – “All Day” and “Breaks” – from Cena in collaboration with hip-hop magnate Wiz Khalifa,” and all pre-orders of the companion soundtrack album receive an instant download of both songs.
“As the WWE 2K15 cover Superstar, curating the in-game soundtrack and working with Wiz Khalifa were great opportunities to further the musical brand as we do across all WWE programming,” said John Cena. “Reaching across many genres of music to some of my friends and those who have worked with WWE, I truly believe that gamers will become avid listeners of these songs.”
“I have been a WWE fan since I was a kid, and getting to work with John Cena was an awesome experience,” said Wiz Khalifa. “I’m proud of this collaboration.”
The companion soundtrack contains the following tracks:
- Wiz Khalifa & John Cena – “All Day”**
- B.o.B – “Ready” (Feat. Future)
- Rudimental – “Free” (Feat. Emeli Sandé & Nas)
- Wiz Khalifa – “We Dem Boyz”
- Flo Rida – “Wild Ones” (Feat. Sia) [WrestleMania 28 Version]
- Knife Party – “Bonfire”
- Big Smo – “Workin’” (Feat. Alexander King)
- Mystery Skulls – “Ghost”
- Royal Blood – “Come On Over”
- Wiz Khalifa & John Cena – “Breaks”**** Companion soundtrack exclusive
Additionally, the WWE 2K15 in-game soundtrack includes:
- Avenged Sevenfold – “This Means War”
- Dizzee Rascal – “Heart Of A Warrior” (Feat. Teddy Sky)
- Florida Georgia Line – “This Is How We Roll” (Feat. Luke Bryan)
- Rise Against – “Zero Visibility”
Finally, 2K has released the second episode of “The Making of WWE 2K15,” (I guess I missed the announcement of the first part) which– as the name implies– goes behind the scenes of the game’s development. “The second installment in the series, titled “The Game Has Changed,” features WWE Superstar Cesaro, along with NXT Superstars Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn, performing their signature moves in the motion capture ring. Complementing their efforts, Executive Producer Mark Little, Art Director Lynell Jinks and Senior Designer Bryan Williams discuss their vision for key gameplay changes, including controls, match pacing and camera positions.”
You can check both parts out here:
The ESRB has rated WWE 2K15 T for Teen, and the game is scheduled to be released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 28th, 2014 in North America and October 31st, 2014 internationally. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions are currently scheduled for release on November 18th, 2014 in North America and November 21st, 2014 internationally. Fans who pre-order WWE 2K15 at any participating retailer will receive two playable Sting characters (classic and Crow) for free when the game launches.
Following last night’s airing of the roster reveal on WWE Network (it was recorded at SummerSlam, but still fun to watch if you missed the Twitch stream), 2K has released the first gameplay trailer for WWE 2K15.
For those wondering, that picture of Bray Wyatt above? Yes, that’s from the trailer.
Check it out here:
Incidentally, it’s never specified whether this is from the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 version (coming October 28th) or the recently-delayed Xbox One/PlayStation 4 version (coming November 18th).
The second part of the roster reveal will air next Monday, September 29th, presumably after Monday Night Raw once again. 2K would also like to remind everyone that those who pre-order get an extra character in the form of the icon Sting, both in his classic neon and black-and-white Crow colors. That seems like a pretty good incentive to me, but then I find it hard to dislike Sting.
If you’re dying to step into the ring and electrify the millions (and millions) of WWE fans in the latest iteration of the long-running hit video game series… well, you just might have to wait a little bit longer.
2K recently announced that while the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of WWE 2K15, the first WWE game to be fully designed under the company’s watch after acquiring the brand from THQ, then the good news is that release is still on track for an October 28th, 2014 release in North America (with international releases coming on the 31st, for those interested). The next generation console versions for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, however, have been pushed back a few weeks until November 18th, 2014 (November 21st internationally).
“Visual Concepts and Yuke’s are committed to delivering the most authentic and action-packed WWE experience to date, including release for the very first time on next-generation consoles,” said Visual Concepts president Greg Thomas. “The additional development time enables our talented teams to ensure the WWE 2K15 next-gen experience fully meets our expectations.”
Interestingly enough, be it by intentional design or because they feel they can’t wait any longer than that, November 18th places the next-gen release square in the “big release” timeframe for video games, just ten days before the infamous “Black Friday” shopping day following Thanksgiving in the United States. So Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Sting are going to be throwing down directly against some of the holidays’ biggest hitters, such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Super Smash Bros., and more.
On a related note, 2K and WWE joined together to present a panel back in August to reveal the roster for the new title. Hosted by WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Canada’s own WWE broadcaster Renee Young (nee Paquette), the candid discussion was joined by WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan, WWE 2K15 cover Superstar John Cena, WWE Superstars Roman Reigns, Cesaro, and Sheamus, and the iconic competitor, Sting.
“In addition to the WWE 2K15 roster reveal,” says the press release, “panelists opened up to discuss a variety of topics, ranging from their thoughts on their likenesses in WWE 2K15 to comments on their career with WWE.”
Tonight, the panel will be presented immediately after WWE Monday Night Raw in the first of two 30-minute parts, with the second to air on Monday, September 29th, both on the WWE Network.