July 2: wallet threat level premature

, | Games

This week sees the release of two games arguably not ready for release. Funcom’s X-Files meets Lovecraft meets Stephen King MMO Secret World is suffering the usual teething pains you’d unfortunately expect from an MMO launch. And the sexycool, superdumb, weirdly clunky/weirdly sleek sci-fi strategy game Endless Space has moved up from its August 24th release date, apparently for financial reasons. I like each game — a lot — but I’m also keenly aware that they both need work, and that it’s a sad state of affairs when games this potentially good are pushed out the door untimely with promises of patches to follow. On the same note, world peace remains elusive.

Spelunky might be old news to some folks, since it’s been out for more than three years as a freeware game on the PC. But how good can a free game be? Right? If it was any good, it would cost a few bucks. So I’ve held out for the $10 downloadable version, available this week on Xbox Live Arcade. Holy cats, I had no idea such a seriously punishing, side-scrolling, dynamically generated dungeonplumb existed. With multiplayer! Spelunky may very well be the 8-bit equivalent of Demon’s Souls, but harder. It hates me. I think I love it. So far, we’ve got a very dysfunctional thing going.

The real wallet threat for me is mostly an unknown. You’d think Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legend is just another cash-in for a set of fancypants supercars licensed by Atari. I can’t tell one fancypants supercar from another, so why should I care that this game is specifically about fancypants supercars from Spanish car-maker Ferrari? But the developers at Slightly Mad Studios made two of the best racing games I’ve ever played, Need for Speed: Shift and Need for Speed: Shift II. If they can bring to Ferrari Racing Legends just half of the attention to physics, graphics, gameplay progression, and just plain energy level that make the Shift games great, I don’t care if it’s a game based on driving Hyundais.

Finally, Max Payne 3 is getting three new maps for multiplayer, which is the hands-down best part of the game. I’d be tempted to get three news map, but it looks like these are two smaller deathmatch maps, with only one that supports the superlative far-ranging gang wars mode. After the awesome DLC for Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption, it’s a shame to see Rockstar taking a page from the Call of Duty playbook.