Summer Gaming Preview, For A Season That No Longer Stinks

Summer is a month old, but we like to think of the year's warmest season as two-thirds incomplete. With that, plan your new game purchases with our (belated) Summer Gaming Preview.

June - A Month For Shooting

Summer started in June, sources say, and before America could even celebrate its independence, Activision was releasing Raven Software's Singularity (PC, PS3, Xbox 360 — reviewed by Kotaku) , a first-person shooter that lets you shoot things and bad guys in ways that age or de-age them.

Summer Gaming Preview, For A Season That No Longer Stinks

Nintendo sent Sin & Punishment: Star Successor to store shelves (Wii - reviewed by Kotaku), letting us choose between playing an ugly boy or an ugly girl in Treasure's wonderful bullet-filled point-and-shoot-a-million-things game. If you wanted a different take on bullet hell you could have tried late June's DeathSmiles from Cave and Aksys Games (Xbox 360 - reviewed by Kotaku.)

June also included the release of Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 (DS, PC, PS3, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii - reviewed by Kotaku) another comedic one or two-player romp through a Lego-ized version of fiction, in this case the first half — give or take — of J.K. Rowling's wizard hit. We dubbed this the best Lego game ever.

July - A Month Of Rareities

The early part of July included a lot of fireworks displayed, which did not compare favorably to Sin & Punishments skyline of explosions. The early part of the month's other challenging comparison was the original Crackdown to the new Crackdown 2 (Xbox 360 - reviewed by Kotaku). You're a super-cop in a big city, able to now play with three friends in online co-op but you might not be playing a game that's any better than the good first edition. Seasonal traditions continued with the release of EA's latest college football game, NCAA 11 (PS3, Xbox 360 - reviewed by Kotaku.)

We expect a football game or two every year but a new King's Quest in 2010? That arrived in July as the fan-made and fully-authorized The Silver Lining (PC - reviewed by Kotaku). We wanted to give it a more positive review, but, hey, if you're in it for the nostalgia, you might like it. Plus, it's free.

Odd enough to get a new King's Quest, we also got a new download-only game from the mind of adventure game creator Ron Gilbert. That was comedic Diablo-inspired DeathSpank (PS3, Xbox 360 - reviewed by Kotaku). Gilbert also did some commentary on the re-release of The Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (iPhone, iPod, PC, Xbox 360).

More oddness came the week of this guide's writing when Limbo, a black-and-white downloadable game became a viable Game of The Year contender (Xbox 360 - reviewed by Kotaku). The spooky side-scroller is a must-play; our reviewer pretty much demands it.

Summer Gaming Preview, For A Season That No Longer Stinks

What's more rare than all of the above? How about a new StarCraft game? July 27 is the date for Blizzard's StarCraft II (Mac, PC).

What's more rare than a new StarCraft? How about a new Hydro Thunder? OK, that's not quite as unexpected. Hydro Thunder Hurricane is out on July 28, download only (Xbox 360).

Also in July, Nintendo released the summer's portable time-suck, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Sky (DS). The traditional role-playing game has devoured 100 hours or more playing time from many of the people who bought the game in Japan last year. Valve released a free four-player tactical shooter, Alien Swarm (PC) and Zombie Studios dropped downloadable "hyper-visor" first-person-shooter Blacklight Tango Down (PC, PS3, Xbox 360). Fighting game fans get BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, out on July 27 (PS3, Xbox 360).

August - A Month That Begins And Ends With M

What starts with Madden and ends with Metroid? A good month. Madden NFL 11, a Madden game so streamlined it has an option — in most versions — for a voice in your headset to tell you what plays to play, is out on August 10 (iPad, iPhone, PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360). Metroid: Other M, a Metroid game so complex it is both a side-scroller and sometimes first-person, made by Nintendo and Ninja Gaiden studio Team Ninja, is out on August 31 (Wii).

Summer Gaming Preview, For A Season That No Longer Stinks

In between the Ms comes a the first new side-scrolling Castlevania on a home console in ages, one that supports mutiplayer. It's called Castlevania: Harmony of Despair and is out download-only on August 4 (Xbox 360). Later in the month we get a Tomb Raider game that isn't called Tomb Raider but is a top-down two-player co-op game. That's the downloadable Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, out on August 18 (Xbox 360; a downloadable PS3 version will follow possibly in September).

If the oddest game of the month isn't Metroid, it'll be Monday Night Combat, a third-person shooter with tactical Defense of the Ancients-style competitive class-based, minion-support play presented in an NFL-of-the-future science fiction sport. Oh, and it's a comedy. It's out August 11, download-only (Xbox 360). Note the first letter of this game's name.

We don't know if you were trying to get through the summer without playing any video games based on summer movies. It can be done easily this season, unless you have a hankering for a love letter to River City Ransom based on the Scott Pilgrim comic-turned-movie. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game is out in August 10 and 25 (PS3, Xbox 360, respectively), download only.

The two letters before M are K and L. So if Eidos/Square-Enix couldn't release an M game, let's give them a hand for at least planning to put out the gritty, looks-like-it-was-shot-on-bad-video-tale (on purpose) co-op third-person-shooter (enough-hyphens-already!) Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days on August 17 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360).

Good thing the people at Take Two know what the deal is. August. 2010. Mafia II. It's out on the 24th, a crime game that will look like a more constrained Grand Theft Auto at a glance but that is supposed to tell a strong character-based story across a decade of mid-20th-century life, tracking one man's experience in the mob. (PC, PS3, Xbox 360).

Looks like Valkyria Chronicles 2 is coming to PSPs on August 31. Noted here because PSP owners need something new this summer, why not this sequel to the acclaimed war strategy game with a sketched art style?

September - Summer For Some People

Is September still summer? The calendar says so, even if the white-pants-rule ends really early. If we believe summer goes until the 21st or so, then these are also games of summer [note that dates this far out can and often do change]: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, a September 7 game with four Spider-Men in it (DS, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii), R.U.S.E., Ubisoft's September 7-or-so real-time strategy game that encourages deceit (PC, PS3, XBox 360); EA's September 7 NHL 11 (PS3, Xbox 360), September 7's Tom Clancy's HAWX 2 (PS3, Xbox 360), September 7's Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep (PSP), September 14's Professor Layton and the Unbound Future (DS), September 14's Phantasy Star Portable 2 (PSP), September 14's Lord of the Ring's Aragorn's Quest (DS, PSP, PS3, Wii), and September 14's Halo: Reach.

Then the motion controller for PS3, PlayStation Move, hits on September 14 with EyePet, Start the Party and Sports Champions.

Will the Summer ever end? Not before September 21, when Test Drive Unlimited 2 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) is released along with the game sure to suck up more time than most of the previous games combined, Civilization V (PC).

Those are your video games for the summer. Most of them. Enjoy.