New quarter, new games

The end of March and start of April mark the deadlines for taxes, the start of spring and the start of the second quarter for the video game industry. Developers and publishers begin building to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June and the fourth quarter in the fall, where consumers are bombarded with games. One company looking to dominate from now until the end of the year is Take-Two Interactive. With a string of games from Rockstar Games, 2K Games, Gearbox Software and Irrational Games, Take-Two is looking to steal the spotlight both critically and financially.

The first major release coming is “Max Payne 3” from Rockstar Games, the third in the franchise started by Remedy Entertainment in the early 2000s. The game sees the title character, Max Payne, ditch the New York City and his detective badge for a private security job in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This is the first new game centered on Max since 2003’s “Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne.” In early footage shown, Rockstar has worked to keep the dark, gritty tone of the original Max Payne games, despite a more vibrant looking city for Max to fight in with a wide assortment of gang members and weapons. A multiplayer component has also been announced for the game, centered on the formation of gangs to fit in with the story. It will also be the fourth retail release to use Rockstar’s RAGE engine, which the developer has been refining since the release of Grand Theft Auto IV back in 2008. With a release date of May 15, it is a perfect way to usher in summer for any Oswego student looking for a gritty, action packed game to sink their teeth into.

In June, we see the release of “Spec Ops: The Line” from 2K Games, another franchise not seen since the early 2000s. While on the surface this game may appear to be another military shooter, it is much more than that. The game takes place in Dubai after a catastrophic sandstorm destroys the city. The player then takes the role of Capt. Martin Walker of Delta Force, who goes in with his squad to find out what happened to Army Col. John Konrad, a Delta Force founder, and report the colonel’s fate to his superiors. From there, the story follows a narrative style similar to Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness,” with Walker and his squad having to deal with the physical and psychological ramifications of the sandstorm and Col. Konrad’s actions, as it is implied that he has slipped further from reality following the destruction of Dubai. While gameplay will have typical controls and commands seen in squad-based shooters, the game has an emphasis on dynamically changing environments to fit with the sand covering Dubai, and making moral choices that are not so black and white. For example, the player faces a scenario such as giving a captured murderer to trapped soldiers who will execute him, or letting the man go because he was trying to help his family.That kind of gray moral ground along with the story and environment make “Spec Ops: The Line” a game to watch for at the end of June.

From there, we head to September and the release of “Borderlands 2,” Gearbox’s follow up to 2009’s surprise hit, “Borderlands.” In fitting with the previous game, “Borderlands 2” centers on four vault hunters on the planet Pandora that has been overtaken by the Hyperion Corporation led by Handsome Jack, who claims responsibility for the actions of the previous vault hunters from the first game. The four characters that players will have to choose from are Salvador, the “gunzerker,” a hulking man capable of dual wielding any of the game’s weapons, Maya, the “siren,” who possesses superhuman powers, Axton, the “commando,” who relies on gear like turrets to help win a fight and Zero, the “assassin,” who is the stealthiest of the bunch. The game retains the first’s cell-shaded art style, giving it a unique look similar to comic books, along with the “87 bazillion” guns that can be collected and modified as players travel the badlands of Pandora in search of riches, guns and the truth behind Handsome Jack and the fates of the previous vault hunters. If this game is on your radar, make sure to mark down Sept. 18 on your calendars and return to Pandora for a new adventure, this time with 96.5 percent more Wub-Wub.

In October, gamers will see the release of “BioShock Inifinite” from Irrational Games and master storyteller, Ken Levine. This new entry in the series leaves the underwater dystopia of 1960s Rapture for the city of Columbia, a city suspended in the sky by blimps and balloons in 1912 that has become a battleground of turn of the century ideologies. The player fills the shoes of Booker Dewitt, a disgraced former member of the U.S. Pinkerton Detective Agency, who is hired to go to Columbia to find a young woman named Elizabeth who has been held captive in the sky-city for most of her life. When Booker arrives, the city is already in a state of chaos due to years of civil war between The Founders, Columbia’s original ruling class that carries old ideas of 19th century U.S. nativist groups, and the Vox Populi, a resistance movement made up of workers and immigrants that fight for their rights as citizens, with Booker caught right in the middle.

Booker will also have to contend with the Songbird, a massive mechanical creature that has been both friend and jailer to Elizabeth during her life in Columbia. The game combines elements of the original games, such as plasmids from the original game, now called tonics, that include new powers, along with ideas befitting of the world, such as a rail system that can be used for transportation with the aid of a tool similar to a hook. The enemies of the game also combine the unique setting and ideals of the two groups with the dark twists of the BioShock universe, such as the Handyman, a mechanical monster with the head and heart of a human that is this game’s replacement for the Big Daddies from the original BioShock. Elizabeth is also valuable because of her superhuman powers to bend time and space, allowing for new equipment or cover, while also causing brief glimpses into the past or future. This potential game of the year contender can be picked up when it hits store shelves on Oct. 16.

Overall, Take-Two has four major titles that may steal the limelight from any other contenders that they face this year. The only question that one has left at this point is, which is worth saving up for?