Look Ahead: May 2009 Games
EA Sports Active Wii 21st May
EA are fast becoming Nintendo's new best friend with their ongoing, wide-ranging support for the Wii. Next month we'll see the arrival of their MotionPlus sports titles Tiger Woods 10 and Grand Slam Tennis. EA Sports Active gives us a chance to shape up in May and ensure we are in tip top condition when the proper sports games arrive.
EA Sports Active: Personal Trainer, to give it its full name, is an exercise game based around the Wii's motion controllers. A combination of Wiimote, Nunchuck and optional Balance Board are used to track a player's progress through an array of health and exercise routines. The game comes with a packed-in pouch to strap the Nunchuck to their legs in order to track their lower body movements. The Wii Balance Board will also be supported but is not required for play.
Workouts include running, boxing, softball, dance and tennis mini-games and can be completed to a customised playlist drawn from previous EA Trax soundtrack games. Add to this the supervision of a virtual personal trainer to persuade you through a 30 day challenge and you have the makings of a comprehensive addition to anyone's healthy diet regime.
Pokémon Platinum DS May 22nd
Pokémon is a game that splits the gaming audience. Those that love it simply can't get enough and will lap up this month's Platinum release. Those that can't stand the kiddie visuals and simplistic gameplay will pass by uninterested. This time around, the DS version of one of the biggest selling video game franchises brings a few new treats to the table. That a host of new characters occur in the game's story is unlikely to cause much of a stir, although the new Pokémon forms are more interesting. The new Wi-Fi Plaza also sounds worthwhile. This provides social connectivity sounds a lot more interesting. Here, up to 20 players can chat, play minigames and post battle videos for each other to watch.
Either way there is no getting around the fact that this role play game has seen more investment, development and extension that any other DS game. For that reason alone, we can't help feeling a little fizz of excitement for Pocket Monsters this month.
Fuel PS3/360/PC May 29th
Racing games have recently trended toward more restrained track experiences than wide open tundra; EA's recent showing of Need for Speed: Shift a case in point. Fuel however looks to buck this trend, and in some style. It's a racing game development by Asobo Studio that offers an impressive open world experience. Picking up the common post-apocalyptic theme, the game is set after global warming has ravaged our poorly planet. For players this means a variety of extreme weather effects from tornadoes to sandstorms. Add to this the full day-night cycles and some 5,000 miles of road to explore and you have a game that is knocking on Burnout Paradise's door - in terms of environment at least.
While turning its back on the closed track simulation of Grid, Dirt and Need for Speed, Fuel is taking a trick or two from the MotorStorm playbook. Accordingly, players can choose from a variety of two, three and four wheeled vehicles, as well as a hovercraft. If the game delivers all this, as well as the promised minimal loading times and impressive visuals, it will have little trouble wooing the hearts of racing fans whether on the PC or consoles.
Virtua Tennis 2009 PS3/360/Wii May 19th
Virtua Tennis is still one of the most respected names in video game tennis. The 2009 game comes back to the table again from Sumo Digital and follows up the previous Virtua Tennis 3 title. With the move from haphazard to yearly releases for the franchise also comes a more comprehensive offering.
The World Tour mode offers a full online ranking system, whilst the new create-a-player feature is promised to be flexible enough to create anyone from Ivo Karlovic to Olivier Rochus. With 40 different courts including exotic locations such as Dubai and Shanghai the breadth of coverage promises to match the new toys. Gameplay wise there is a great emphasis on court positioning. Line up correctly for a shot and you can generate even more power and angle. This is balanced by the removal of the shot saving dives that players used to execute. That goes in favour of a stumble that leaves you on your feet and more chance of staying in the shot.
Interestingly, Virtua Tennis beats EA to the punch of first MotionPlus controlled tennis game. The Wii version supports this feature and enables players to play as they would in real life. As well as direction the Wii controls promise to enable players to slice or top spin with a simple twist of the wrist. With or without the waggle we're looking forward to giving the prestigious series a serious run out.