Bioshock Infinite, Devil May Cry, SimCity
The latest videogame releases reviewed... and more
Guaranteed to be less divisive is SimCity, Maxis’ reboot of the classic town builder. It’s shaping up very nicely if the recent closed beta was anything to go by.
Macroscopic and microscopic in its detail, as mayor you can survey the whole region from a god-like height, or else follow your individual sim citizens around to spy on their habits and follow them home. Waste management, powerflow stats, education, road networks, sewerage flow and the daily commute of your town's residents - all are within your control.
You can even trade commodities with other mayors from your region, buying in extra coal or else sharing resources such as garbage trucks and fire service coverage. Then there are the so-called “regional works” - airports and the like - which can be built alongside nearby cities to benefit the whole area.
SimCity: as safe as houses?
Sadly, the beta was set to time out after a solitary hour of play, but still afforded a tantalising glance into a deceptively deep interface designed for intricate levels of management. Whether you're looking to build the all-singing, all-dancing future city of mankind, or a dingy, dusty one horse town.
However you decide to do it, expect to sit and stare at the constant thrum of the city as your people work, rest, play and get blown to smithereens by invading UFOs when the PC-only title hits on 8 March 2013.
Far East feast: Ni no Kuni
Aside from tempting us with games to come, the last month or so has also seen its share of releases, many of them no doubt pulled back from a pre-Christmas rush with designs on capitalising on all that money sent by relatives who don't know you enough to risk buying anything beyond a pair of socks or a shaving kit.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is precisely one such title, a beautiful work of art designed in tandem by Japanese animation experts Studio Gibli and Level-5, and released by Namco Bandai. The tale of a boy looking to bring back his recently departed mother, by crossing into the world of fairy folk, is at once one of the most affecting and engrossing RPGs to originate from the Land of the Rising Sun for some time.
What's more, the localisation treatment applied is a rare treat, as translations and voice work combine to elevate the work still further. I mean, where else are you going to get led about a gorgeous, living fantasy tale by a stocky creature with a lantern for a nose and a thick Welsh accent? Ni no Kuni is truly a mesmerising affair and one that leaves you crossing everything that Studio Ghibli decide to test themselves further in game design. Any RPG aficionados looking for something to do with their PS3 – for this is a PlayStation exclusive – need idle no longer. Recommended.
Devil of a reboot
And so we come to DmC: Devil May Cry, a game that has courted controversy ever since it was announced: the series has been transplanted from its Japanese studio to Cambridge-based Ninja Theory.
Fans have supposedly been united in the condemnation of this decision, and are equally upset at Dante's shift from middle-aged silver-haired hero to cocksure angsty twentysomething brunette. Why? I have to wonder.
You see, for me the series has never quite lived up to the promise of the short sample supplied on the demo disc - remember those? - which came packaged with the first wave of PS2s. Sure, the original had its moments, but DMC 2 was abysmal, DMC 3 good but no world beater, and the fourth - the first current-generation entry - largely forgettable. Why then be precious about Capcom trying something different?
Kiss my axe
Presumably Platinum Games was too busy working with Konami and Nintendo on, respectively, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Bayonetta 2 to collaborate on another project. But in Ninja Theory, Capcom has found a studio entirely capable of delivering the series’ high-octane action fundamentals, while re-jigging the engine and platform sections to suit the tastes and expectations of the modern gamer.
Fans of the action-adventure will be reminded of Platinum's Bayonetta at every turn, regardless of that studio's lack of involvement – enough to conjure the image of Capcom turning up at Ninja Theory with a copy of Bayonetta in one hand and a wad of cash in the other. But channeling Platinum's stiletto-heeled witch is undoubtedly a smart choice, and Ninja Theory has certainly done it right.
Relentless combos, a stack of angelic and demonic weapons and a vampy, if somewhat generic plot, combine to create an arena in which flawless execution of your enemies is within your grasp. All that's required is swift assessment of any given situation and lightning-fast reflexes.
No vest for the wicked
There’s even the addition of some genuinely interesting boss fights that use the environment nicely, as well as some stand-out backdrops to do battle in as Dante flips in and out of the real world and the twisted Limbo City which the forces of evil are intent on dragging him into.
A little on the short side perhaps, but there’s no denying the compulsive combat with a depth that more than makes up for the comparatively superficial plot. DmC: Devil May Cry is out now on Xbox, PS3 and PC.