I haven't really taken the time to talk about the games I'm actually playing and enjoying, and recently there's been a fairly eclectic mix. Even though it's been a season for new releases (Portal 2, Mortal Kombat) I've pretty much avoided these in favor of some older games. Still, that's not to say I haven't sampled some choice new games coming up.
Definitely worth noting of recent gaming is the time-limited Gears of War 3 beta, which I secured with a reserve at Gamestop. It's a standard multiplayer beta offering: traditional multiplayer modes, a small selection of maps, new and classic weapons, and some nice bonuses for participation. I've already unlocked some flame-skinned lancers and shotguns for the retail release, and there are still a few more exclusive to shoot for by the time the beta ends on Sunday May 15. For the $5 reserve, it's a nice package considering the amount of unlockables, but by this point, it'd be one hell of a weekend trying to knock these all out before it ends.
I spent some time with some random demos in the past few weeks, but all were pretty much as I expected (Red Faction: Armageddon is looking nice, though. Magnet gun, anyone?) The real surprise was Outland for the Xbox Live Arcade. This game has an absolutely gorgeous style, with the main character and foreground in dark silhouette and bright colors added to the background. The gameplay is very familiar to a Metroidvania adventure game, with some hidden secrets and powerups, but the combat has elements of hardcore shmups like Ikaruga. It's actually difficult to really describe, you just have to see it to believe. At the very least the demo is worth a play, but for 800pts ($10) this looks like a great deal.
Going back into my collection I decided to tackle some older Xbox 360 games (notice a theme, here?) that I sadly never gave a chance. Cracking open my collector's edition of Lost Planet definitely provided some solid fun, but is not without its faults. The third-person action is tight if not a little too sluggish at times. It may not be as bad as the Resident Evil "tank" controls, but this certainly is a Capcom title. Regardless, it's good challenge and doesn't pull any punches with the oversized bosses. Luckily, you are usually not without a solid mech which come in a nice variety with fairly customizable weapon options. Don't like the machinegun? OK, swap it for two rocket launchers. It's a simple but welcome feature. Still plugging away at this one, but not ready to give up yet.
Finally, I just started The Darkness, based on the Top Cow comic, this past weekend. For the record I'm also a huge comic fan; as I'm typing away, I glance over at my black metal comic spinner rack with my favorite reads on display. I had heard some pretty glowing reviews of the game when it originally released in 2007 and so far it has not disappointed. It is hardly a stereotypical FPS, and doesn't waste anytime introducing even some basic Darkness powers. And I have to say, the first 20 minutes of the game are unlike any other shooter I've played. After tackling the first few checkpoints, I restarted the game from scratch just to show my wife. The story presentation is phenomenal and refreshingly original. I'm very excited to crack through this, and can't wait to see what else is thrown at me.