November is here and the holidays are just around the corner. And while most of this year's major blockbusters have already hit, as we gear up for the inevitable onslaught of the next generation, there are still some surprises left. Just look at all the eights we gave out!
Taking the poll position for this week's review's was F1 2013, the first of our 8.0s. We followed up with the quirky, tough as hell rougelike, The Guided Fate Paradox and rounded the week out with another pairing of formal rivals in Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. On a more somber note, we also bid farewell to our longtime reviews editor Mr. Jim Sterling, as he handed out a mediocre 5.0 to the latest in the Call of Duty series: Call of Duty: Ghosts.
F1 2013 (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PS3, PC)
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Somehow, even with some of the criticisms I had, I enjoyed F1 2013. For me, it was less about the technical side, like managing tire wear, or learning the kinetic energy return system, and more about just going really fast. That said, there were times that I was somehow able to hone in and sort of fall into the zone, which made it feel like I was going even faster. F1 2013 is rewarding in a way that an arcade racer could never be.
While I'd have a hard time recommending this game to casual fans of racing, those that like steep, technical challenges will be thrilled, as will fans of the sport. I want to be clear, though. You will have to have a lot of patience and time on your hands to make F1 2013 a rewarding experience. It's tough.
Read the full F1 2013 review
The Guided Fate Paradox (PS3)
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Released: November 5, 2013
The Guided Fate Paradox may not have the most engrossing story, and at times, it can roll at a snails pace when in full swing, but its overall attention to the little things is what makes it one of this year's surprises. You'll die, you'll cry, you may even reboot some saves ad nauseam, but that's the sadistic charm of a great roguelike -- a game that may not be for everyone, but one that offers enough addictive carnage for veterans and newcomers alike.
Call of Duty: Ghosts (PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Xbox One)
Developer: Infinity Ward
Released: November 5, 2013
Call of Duty may have picked up a reputation as one of the laziest, most callously developed cash cows in the business, but I've always believed that reputation was undeserved. Call of Duty: Ghosts, however, with its slapdash campaign and unambitious multiplayer, contains enough factory-standard cynicism to earn itself plenty of scorn. Nothing Ghosts does is especially bad, but nothing Ghosts does is worth paying any attention to. It exists to exist, a stopgap bit of filler spat out as the industry transitions from one generation of consoles to another.
Contrary to the old saying, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Black Ops II demonstrated that with style. Ghosts, however, is a dog that simply doesn't want to change. It knows what it is, and sticks with it. It would be a respectable endeavor, if it didn't lead to such an underwhelming and predictable little product. What a sleepy, sleepy dog.
Read the full Call of Duty: Ghosts review
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (Xbox 360 [reviewed], Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, 3DS, PC)
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Released: October 22, 2013
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is the Avengers game we've always wanted, and maybe even more than that -- the Marvel game we've always wanted, and I say that well-aware of the fact that Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 are out there. Sure, it's in LEGO form, but whether you're a casual super hero fan or take a trip to the local comic book store every Wednesday, there's no question there's something for everyone here.
Read the full LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Rayman Fiesta Run (Android, iOS [reviewed on an iPhone 5])
Release Date: November 7, 2013
Fiesta Run isn't really a difficult or deep game in any sense, unless you're going for a perfect 100 score on every level. At that point it becomes insanely difficult, as you go for run after run, missing that one tiny Lum up in the corner somewhere, forcing you to do the entire level over again until you get it right. It's an odd design for sure, especially since an increasing amount of games let you keep your progress after revising a level to encourage completion.
[...] Rayman Fiesta Run flirts with the concept of unacceptable microtransactions, but thankfully, there's still a ton of bang for your buck here if you can deal with the progression requirements. With a wonderful set of visuals and an even better control scheme, Rayman fans have a lot to be excited about.
Read the full Rayman Fiesta Run review
Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games (Wii U)
Developer: Sega Sports Japan
Release: November 8, 2013 (EU) November 15, 2013 (NA)
At it's core, Mario & Sonic 2014 is fairly competent at what it does, but never manages to be outstanding. There are some clever ideas hidden in there, amongst some shiny visuals and the occasional design headache, but it never pushes the boundaries far enough to be especially unique or interesting. And that's a shame because there isn't a lot of depth here to keep players engaged outside of the extrinsic sense of competition provided by playing with friends.
Mario & Sonic 2014 is a decent party game, but it isn't going to win any medals.
Read the full Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games review