published Friday, March 29th, 2013

Titles to tide gamers over in barren seasons

"Injustice: Gods Among Us"
"Injustice: Gods Among Us"

For video gamers, spring and summer can be a difficult season. After the glut of AAA games released during the holiday months and in the first of the new year, the middle months of the calendar are typically used as a dumping ground for publisher's second- and third-tier releases or movie tie-ins.

This year, the prospects of new titles may seem especially bleak with the recent announcement that the Playstation 4 is set to release by year's end and similar news of Microsoft's next console expected in the next few months. With this console generation entering its twilight, publishers have announced many marquee titles that will send it off in style, but most are slated for the fall and holiday season.

Gamers needn't fear, though. There are a few bright spots to look forward to this summer, including a handful of fresh, new intellectual properties to offset the usual flood of blockbuster franchise sequels coming this fall.

'DEFIANCE'

* Release date: Tuesday.

* Summary: A futuristic open-world shooter based on a Syfy TV series by the same name set on Earth years after an alien invasion.

* Why it's hot: "Defiance" combines third-person, on-foot action with vehicular combat across massive maps for a multiplayer experience that falls somewhere between a futuristic "Battlefield" and "World of Warcraft." Random events called "arkfalls" will provide dynamic content to keep things fresh, and the world will change to reflect the plot of the TV series.

* Age rating: Mature.

* Price: $60 for PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360.

'INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US'

* Release date: April 16.

* Summary: A fighting game featuring DC Comics universe heroes and villains such as Green Lantern, The Joker, The Flash, Lex Luthor and Superman.

* Why it's hot: "Injustice" is being developed by NetherRealm Studios, the company responsible for 2011's "Mortal Kombat," a hugely popular reboot of the classic fighting game franchise. "Injustice" pays careful homage to its source material with interactive stages that show off instantly recognizable locations from the comics and a storyline that is penned in consultation with DC.

* Age rating: Teen.

* Price: $60 for Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360.

'DEAD ISLAND RIPTIDE'

* Release date: April 23.

* Summary: A direct sequel to 2011's "Dead Island" that picks up after the ship carrying the original characters away from a zombie-infested island capsizes, thrusting them once more into an undead nightmare.

* Why it's hot: When it released in 2011, the original "Dead Island" was praised for its massive open world, weapons-crafting system and popular four-player cooperative multiplayer ability. The sequel adds new playable classes, base defense missions, new vehicles and dynamic weather conditions.

* Age rating: Mature.

* Price: $50 for PS3 and Xbox 360; $40 for PC.

'FUSE'

* Release date: April 30.

* Summary: A third-person action game emphasizing cooperative gameplay among a four-person squad controlled by either the computer or human players wielding futuristic weapons powered by a mysterious energy source.

* Why it's hot: "Fuse" blends action and tactics, allowing players to switch on the fly between squad members to fulfill distinct combat roles such as gunner, sniper, medic or assassin. The game is being developed by Playstation flagship developers Insomniac Games, makers of the popular "Ratchet & Clank" and "Resistance" series, and is the studio's first title not exclusive to a Sony console.

* Age rating: Mature.

* Price: $60 for PS3 and Xbox 360.

'METRO: LAST LIGHT'

* Release date: May 14.

* Summary: Based in the world of Russian science fiction author Dmitry Glukhovsky, the residents of 2034-era Moscow survive a post-apocalyptic event by retreating into the city's massive network of subway lines and stations. There they eke out an existence under constant threat from mutated beasts and each other.

* Why it's hot: This sequel to the 2010 cult favorite "Metro 2033" brings back the original's claustrophobic, oppressive atmosphere and desperate gunplay with substantially improved graphics and a new tale of infighting among the survivors seeking control of a doomsday device.

* Age rating: Mature.

* Price: $60 for PS3 and Xbox 360; $50 for PC.

'THE LAST OF US'

* Release date: June 14.

* Summary: An action-adventure title following two survivors on a cross-country trek after a fungal outbreak kills millions and leaves nature to reclaim most of America.

* Why it's hot: Developer Naughty Dog has a proven track record as the creators of the highly acclaimed "Uncharted" series. This newest adventure is the studio's first original title since 2007 and blends action and survival elements while emphasizing the personal relationship between grizzled survivalist Joel and his computer-controlled, 14-year-old companion Ellie.

* Age rating: Rating pending.

* Price: $60 for PS3.

'COMPANY OF HEROES 2'

* Release date: June 25.

* Summary: A real-time strategy title emphasizing squad tactics and set in the Eastern theater of World War II as the Soviet Red Army fights to oust the invading Nazis.

* Why it's hot: When it released in 2006, the original "Company of Heroes" was lauded for its cinematic combat, destructible environments and impressive graphics. The sequel switches to a new front of the war and features an improved engine that features better line-of-sight technology and a dynamic weather engine that accurately reflects fighting during harsh Soviet winters.

* Age rating: Rating pending.

* Price: $60 for PC.

'DRAGON'S CROWN'

* Release date: Aug. 6.

* Summary: A 2-D action roleplaying game based on Norse mythology and following the exploits of a fighter, Amazon, elf, sorceress, wizard and dwarf as they seek out a legendary treasure.

* Why it's hot: This is the latest release by Vanillaware, a studio that became cult favorites through stylish, quirky titles such as "GrimGrimoire" and "Odin Sphere," and whose hand-drawn, storybook-style animation closely resembles that of "Dragon Crown." The game is designed to be highly replayable and emphasizes player cooperation during epic boss fights.

* Age rating: Rating pending.

* Price: $50 for PS3; $40 for Playstation Vita.

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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