October’s Video Game New Releases: Far Cry, Metroid, GROOT
October’s here, and while many associate the month with watching horror movies while gobbling down Halloween candy or sipping on pumpkin spice something or another, those involved with video game culture know that things are ramping up in preparation for the holiday season. The newest generation of consoles are becoming ever-so-slightly more available to buy, even though getting them remains a bit of a nightmare, and the rush of attention-grabbing games leading into the holiday season has officially begun. Chiefly, this is a huge month for the Switch as they get geared up early for a holiday season where supply may be tricky for their competitors, reaffirming that they’ll have a slew of quality games – both new and significant ports — ready to buy alongside their now actively available, innovative system. Let’s take a closer look at what October has to offer.
Alan Wake: Remastered (PS4,5; Xbox O/S/X; PC) — October 5
The story behind the development of Alan Wake is a bit of a frustrating one, where developer Remedy Entertainment got caught in a whirlwind of console releases, hesitant publisher commitments, and a wealth of ambition behind what they wanted their post-Max Payne game to be. Initially, the tale of Alan Wake was designed with an open-world landscape and a consistent survival-horror attitude in mind, influenced by the surrealism of David Lynch and Stephen King in how a struggling author a small coastal city and the violent shadows that come out when the sun’s down. Armed with a flashlight used to ward off the supernatural threats, Alan Wake eventually released as an Xbox exclusive, but in a fashion that can only be described as stripped-down from the expectations, more linear and structured.
Thing is, once any remaining feelings of disappointment over “what could’ve been” have subsided, you’re left with an Alan Wake that’s incredibly atmospheric, clever in its control scheme and weapon usage, and engaging in terms of where the story ends up going. A slow launch transformed into under-the-radar popularity driven by word-of-mouth recommendations, and it has developed something a bit larger than cult status over the years, but roughly on the same level of enthusiasm. Now, Alan Wake has been remastered and, through Epic Games as publisher, makes it debut on PlayStation consoles alongside Xbox Series X and PC. Changes, tweaks, and spit-polish have been added – product placement is gone; licensed music remains — but Remedy sticks to the gameplay and narrative structure that established the game’s reputation over a decade ago, instead of trying to restore old ideas.
Far Cry 6 (PS4,5; Xbox O/S/X; PC) — October 7
While some franchises benefit from switching things up and keeping the gameplay ideas fresh, others are less interested in doing that because part of their appeal comes from comfort-zone gameplay. With certain franchises, you kind of know what to expect with each following installment, and Far Cry has developed that reputation over the course of the last 2-3 releases from Ubisoft. If anything, one would come to expect innovation from their spinoff series, like Blood Dragon and Primal, that deliberately go in other directions while using the most recent base game’s engine as a foundation. Some entries, like Far Cry 5 and its brushes with current political concerns, may generate controversy with narrative choices, but the core gameplay itself makes sure to still provide heaps of familiarity for those playing through it.
Far Cry 6 takes a step back from immediate controversy and instead places the visage of film and TV star Giancarlo Esposito firmly at the front, casting him as a dictatorial leader of a fictional island in the Caribbean who’s grooming his child to become the next ruler. The player, naturally, takes control of a freedom fighter out to dismantle his nepotistic government ambitions, and with that the game draws the player into the familiar environment of freedom to do essentially whatever they want to accomplish that goal. Far Cry 6 hopes to smooth out some of the wrinkles created by the previous release with star power and a clear return to the status quo, though it runs the risk of doing too much of that and not getting the franchise up to the level of this next generation of gaming.
Metroid Dread (Switch) — October 8
It’s been a while since a Metroid game has rolled onto home consoles, the last of which being Other M on the original Wii over a decade ago. Some hesitation seems to have developed since that one received less than stellar reviews, which always tends to spook out Nintendo, resulting in only portable releases of non-primary games over the past decade and an entire console generation from the company without a new adventure featuring Samus Aran; luckily, she comes back to kick butt throughout the Super Smash Bros. series. The time seems to have finally arrived for the legendary character to make their return to new content, and while another entry in the Metroid Prime first-person series remains in development, Nintendo has decided to first return Samus back to her roots with the 2.5D action-platformer Metroid Dread.
Originally in development as a DS game over 15 years ago, it makes sense that Dread follows the events of the Gameboy Advance title Metroid Fusion, in which Samus delves into an alien world known as ZDR. The devs at MercurySteam and Nintendo may have added new stealth mechanics, but those with a grasp on MetroidVania style of gameplay know what the action’s all about, preventing the character from moving forward in certain areas of the interconnected level design until they’ve earned certain powers, weapons or tools that get them beyond obstacles. With the surge in popularity of “modernized” retro platformers over the past several years, it’s a great time for Metroid’s gameplay designs to show back up on a Nintendo console.
Back 4 Blood (PS4,5; Xbox O/S/X; PC) — October 12
Turtle Rock Studios has had a pretty complicated history, with its legacy largely hinged on the work it accomplished under another name, Valve South, on the wildly popular Left 4 Dead cooperative zombie-horror shooter. They were responsible for developing the core original game that everyone knows and loves, and while they separated from Valve to once again be known as Turtle Rock Studios, they still came back and completed work on the DLC for the Valve-developed sequel, Left 4 Dead 2. Sure, it can be argued that improvements were made to the sequel, but it’s hard to argue with the idea that Turtle Rock is responsible for Left 4 Dead’s successful creation and longevity, and that it’s fully within their scope to craft a spiritual successor utilizing many of the same concepts for a new gen of game consoles.
That’s where Back 4 Blood enters the picture. From the name to the premise, it walks and talks like an extension of Turtle Rock’s first foray into survival horror multiplayer shooting, though they’ve made sure to make the tone less grim and deepen the storytelling underneath what’s going on. Back 4 Blood isn’t as heavily influenced by the likes of The Walking Dead as their previous creation, instead crafting the post-apocalyptic conditions and zombie-like infected monsters roaming the area into the doings of an alien source. The squad coordination, shooting, and dynamics are quite similar, though, to such a degree that early impressions have essentially labeled it as “Left 4 Dead 3”, only marginally updated to get it up to current gaming standards.
Guardians of the Galaxy (PS4,5; Xbox O/S/X; PC) — October 26
Last year, there was a significant amount of hype that followed behind the release of Marvel’s The Avengers, where players would be able to control versions of their favorite characters from the comic-book universe in a new, exciting setting. Unfortunately, those expectations weren’t met, as the AAA game from Square, Crystal and Eidos ended up being heavy on character substance and light on campaign longevity and gameplay refinement, hampered by an underwhelming loot system and other design issues. Eidos Montreal hopes to not make the same mistakes with their attempt to take on Guardians of the Galaxy.
Inherently, due to the sorts of capabilities that the Guardians have above those of the Avengers, the scale of the action will skew a bit smaller in this game, which has been tailored into a fast-paced combination of superpowers and shooting through futuristic level designs. As players gain control of Star Lord for a wild adventure, they also become the commander of the squad and their ship, which translates to the gameplay style in which they issue commands to their squad members instead of directly controlling them in third-person combat situations … and they get involved in dialogue trees and in-game decisions with some impacts. Everything here feels more like Eidos has drawn more inspiration from Mass Effect, Deus Ex, and Saints Row IV in how it’s handling these rogues and their galactic antics.
Some other new, reliable family-friendly goodies rolling out this month are the latest iteration of the Super Monkey Ball franchise, Banana Mania, and the very clear Smash Bros. replica Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl that are both releasing on practically all major platforms on October 5, as well as Mario Party Superstars – a collection of 5 older Mario Party boards and over 100 rebuilt minigames from the 64 era — coming to the Switch on October 29. A remastered edition of the full Crysis Trilogy will be out on Switch, PC, and last-gen consoles on October 15, while strategy fans will be able to enjoy Age of Empires IV on October 28. Switch and Xbox users will finally be able to play Disco Elysium with the port coming on October 12, and of course soccer fans have FIFA 22 to kick around this month if they so desire. And finally, spooky season’s here, so it’s pretty awesome to see the Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water making its way worldwide by the end of the month (October 28).