This week in gaming: The holiday season begins with Madden, Walking Dead, and more

There’s always one clear sign that the holiday release season is about to begin for video games: The annual coming of Madden NFL. It happens every August, usually with just a week or two before the latest NFL season kicks off in early September. Madden NFL 15 is hardly alone this week, and we’re left with our first blockbuster release week lineup of late 2014.

There’s plenty more to come, but let’s see what this week has in store …

Madden NFL 15

PS3/PS4/Xbox 360/Xbox One (August 26)
EA Tiburon’s latest entry in the 26-year-old Madden NFL series is the first one that has launched for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One before the NFL season begins (2013’s “next-gen” edition of Madden NFL 25 arrived alongside the consoles in November). The game changes an assortment of rules and adds some new features, same as always, though the biggest focus appears to be on making Madden’s defensive game more fun.

Other changes include tweaks to the way Connected Franchise (basically, career mode) works, the end of reserve decks in Madden Ultimate Team, and a deep revision of the Skills Trainer mode, complete with tutorials that teach football strategies and concepts. Find out more on EA Sports’ official website.

Infamous: First Light

PS4 (August 26)
Infamous: First Light returns to the near-future Seattle that we last visited around the launch of the PlayStation 4 in developer Sucker Punch’s superb Infamous: Second Son. The new story, which will be released as a standalone game, explores the back story of one of the key supporting character Conduits (super-powered beings in the Infamous universe) in Second Son. The set of powers that you get should be familiar to fans of the earlier game, but they’re tweaked and built on in First Light.

While you’re not required to own a copy of Second Son if you want to play Infamous: First Light, you can unlock a handful of extra game modes if you’ve got both. Learn more on Sony’s official website.

The Walking Dead: Season Two – Episode 5

Mac/PC/PS3 (August 26), Xbox 360 (August 27), iOS (August 28)
It’s been a long, grueling journey for fans of The Walking Dead, and the fifth and final episode of Telltale Games’ second season — titled “No Going Back” — puts a cap on things this week. There’s practically nothing we can say here about the episode or the season that wouldn’t fall into spoiler territory. All you really need to know heading into Season Two is that the world is still a dark, terrible post-apocalyptic nightmare where everyone is terrible and just fighting to stay alive.

If you haven’t played any of the series yet, do not start here. Go back to Season One, learn who Lee and Clementine are, take the journey that Telltale’s writing wizards have carefully plotted out. And if you have been keeping up, play the new episode as soon as you can, before reading any reviews. Thank us later.

Metro Redux

PC/PS4/Xbox One (August 26)
Two great games in one package! Metro Redux gathers together the post-apocalyptic shooters Metro 2033 and follow-up Metro: Last Light into a newly remastered package for the latest Microsoft and Sony consoles (and PC). In addition to across-the-board visual improvements — much more noticeable in the older 2033 — Metro Redux also gives players the option to run through the earlier game using Last Light‘s more shooter-oriented gameplay, or run through Last Light using 2033‘s survival-driven systems.

Whatever you choose, you get two exceedingly solid games for the price of a standard new release ($60), complete with touched-up graphics and tweaked play. Check out the official website for more details.

What else is coming:

  • Super Time Force Ultra (PC / August 25): Capy Games’ wonderful retro-styled side-scroller is much easier to get the hang of than its description suggests. You have to navigate a level full of enemies — bosses and all — in only 60 seconds. That’s not nearly enough time, but you can turn back the clock as much as you like, up to 30 times, with all past versions of yourself appearing and doing whatever they did during their timeline. The “Ultra” edition on Steam adds new characters from Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2.
  • Lichdom: Battlemage (PC / August 26): Newcomer studio Xaviant applies AAA development values and processes to an indie project. Lichdom is a fantasy-infused first-person shooter (of sorts) in which you play as a badass mage. Not only is the CryEngine 3-powered game a looker, it also offers a fresh take on playing as a fantasy-world wizard, and a stat-driven spellcrafting system that hearkens back to the likes of Diablo.
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 (PS Vita / August 26)Hyperdimension Neptunia is a JRPG with a story that amounts to a reinterpretation of the seventh-generation console “war” waged by Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Nintendo’s Wii, and Sony’s PlayStation 3. Totally bananas, but in an entertaining way. It launched for PS3 in 2010 (in Japan); Re;Birth 1 was a revival of the game, first released in Japan for the PS Vita in 2013. It’s now headed to North America with all of the Vita version’s enhanced features intact.
  • Appointment With F.E.A.R. (PC / August 26): This superhero adventure from Tin Man Games is described as an interactive motion comic. The story is set in the fictional Titan City during the 1980s, with players fighting to bring the Titanium Cyborg and his henchmen to justice. The game is actually based on a pen-and-paper RPG that Steve Jackson created and released in 1985.
  • Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (3DS / August 29): Two great tastes taste great together. Or that’s what Capcom and Level-5 hope, at any rate. PLvsPW:AA (holy crap, that acronym) takes the gameplay from each of the two series’ referenced in its title and swaps back and forth between them as it tells a story that ventures to the mysterious land of Labyrinthia. Puzzles and court cases. We’ve come a long way since the days of shooting space aliens as they descend from the heavens.

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