Batman: Arkham CityDeadlines are a cow. Take the deadline for this article: if it had been a couple of days later, I could be writing about Batman: Arkham City (Warner Bros, PC, Xbox 360, PS3) now. I could be sucking in my cheeks and pedalling my stumpy little feet around on the floor, telling you how I’ve been dealing non-fatal justice to the thugs and psychopaths of Gotham City.I could be telling you how Rocksteady have taken the intimate, claustrophobic brilliance of their first game and spread it into an open world. Instead, all I can do is relay the thrilled gurgles of my friend, who is playing it.
Sesame Street: Once Upon a MonsterWhat’ve I been playing? Let me see. Oh yes, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster (Warner Bros, Xbox Kinect, Emphasis Mine). My head’s full of it. I’m well into my 30s and I’m as far from having a baby as I am from being one. And yet, for reasons I’m forced to call professional, I’ve been suffering the revolting peeps of that bright red fucksore, Elmo.I’ll gladly pretend to love Sesame Street, just as cheerfully as the next guy who’s desperate to smooth-talk his way into a retard’s knickers. The truth is, I just like that clip on YouTube where they’ve bleeped out the words and it sounds like the Count is talking about sticking his dick into a cobweb. But even at my most meta, ironic and forgiving, I cannot stomach the hyper-optimism of that difference-noticing prick. So while your children will love this game—and they almost certainly will, it’s fucking adorable—don’t ask a fat bitter old puff to give you a sensible opinion about it.You want the polar opposite of Sesame Street? Dark Souls (Namco Bandai, PS3, Xbox 360) is the sequel to the PS3 exclusive, Demons Souls. Demons Souls got a reputation for being punishing, with meagre progress offered in return for a bloodied nose and crushed knuckles. It’s the kind of game that’ll phone you after a nasty split because it’s at a party and your song has come on. Then gesture to all its friends to sound like they’re really enjoying themselves.
You play a knight in a world where every footstep has been crafted to kill you, albeit never completely unfairly and always in a way that you can learn from. It’s ten kinds of genius how cruel this game can be and still make you love it. If you want, you can leave signs for other players—not in your own words, obviously, that’s a recipe for filth—using a set of semi-helpful instructions that actually make the game more tense. What does safe mean? What’s safe? Do I have to stand here forever because it’s the only safe place? Run? Run where? Shit!Best of all, it’s the game that would teach that squeaking upbeat dong from Sesame Street about life. Let’s see him keep a positive attitude in the face of relentless and repeated death. Let’s see how chipper he is after realising that half of the people who left signs for us actually wanted him to die. They wanted a stranger to die, Elmo. That’s what people are.RAGERAGE (Bethesda, Xbox 360, PS3, PC) is the new all-singing, all-caps title from the people who were the fathers, mothers and midwives of 3D shooters. They invented the genre with Wolfenstein, popularised it with Doom, then reinvented it—and this time properly— with Quake. It’s like they left their genre in the oven for 15 years to go to a party and have only just checked their watch.RAGE does a brilliant trick of filling your brain. The shooting stages are there, and while the range of guns and ammo is what you’d expect, it’s the personality of your victims that makes it all feel fresh. Each of the gangs of post-apocalypse bandits have a distinctive fighting style and character, from the running-zombie mutants to the foul-mouthed cockney brawlers. For a game that asks you to kill a lot of people, they’ve remembered to make that part of it fun. The end of the game comes apart slightly, but there’s still 12 hours of excellence going on, and a nice enough combat-racing multiplayer mode.Dead Rising 2: Off the Record (Capcom, Xbox 360, PS3, PC) is a surprising idea. What if people liked Dead Rising 2 so much they’d want to play through the same location again, but with the star of the first game? It’s odd for two reasons: first, it’s a pretty brazen way to increase your money-to-effort ratio. But that’s fine: it’s always seemed like a shame to create huge worlds, let people learn them, then never use them again. But Dead Rising is severely overestimating the appeal of its lead characters.Dead Rising 2’s Chuck Greene was the living embodiment of a frown, and Frank West—the star of the first game and Off the Record—just wasn’t much of a person at all. He’s clearly become iconic in Capcom’s eyes, but ask fans to describe his personality and they’d struggle to say more than, “He’s a grumpy photographer.” We didn’t like the man, we liked the tension, the story, the mall muzak and barrelling through a crowd of loose-limbed shamblers with a lawnmower. While Off the Record extends the excellence of DR2’s combo weapons, and combines it with Frank’s quest for drama, comedy and saucy snapshots, this is strictly for serious Dead Rising fans. The déjà vu is crippling.Dead Rising 2: Off the Record