Game On: I Am Alive
Bouncing around development hell since 2008, I Am Alive was in danger of death before birth. Finally, this modest survival tale has morphed into a digital download instead of a big-budget thriller as originally envisaged.
Feeding on the same post-apocalyptic nihilism as Cormac MacCarthy's The Road, the story places you as a survivor of a nuclear "event" that has destroyed cities and wiped out most of humanity.
It confronts you with grim scenes, desperate men and violent threats. Resources such as ammo and food are scarce, forcing you to bluff your way through hostile encounters before killing, if necessary.
Sometimes you feel like saving your last bullet for yourself so evocative is its fiction. The storyline hangs loosely around the usual gamey stuff - climbing, fighting, fetching objects -- but it's the powerful depiction of a world of despair that keeps drawing you back to I Am Alive.
Mothballed for half a decade, the SSX snowboard brand has been revived with the inevitable reboot.
Happily, it's like an old friend who never went away, the familiar mix of outrageous tricks, eyeball-melting speeds and throbbing soundtrack all present and correct.
Modelled on real-world locations such as the Rockies and Mt Everest -- albeit tweaked for fun -- the tracks teem with jumps, rails and hazards, not to mention rather lovely scenery.
With so much going on, the new rewind function becomes your saving grace, enabling you to correct that horrific spill that would have ruined an otherwise perfect run.
Oddly, though, SSX lacks full multiplayer, relying instead on "ghosts" of rival players to provide the challenge.
It's different, certainly, but not as thrilling in my book as live players racing shoulder to shoulder.
Alan Wake's Nightmare
Many people felt the storyline from last year's supernatural thriller Alan Wake was its strong suit. But its makers decided to spin a digital download out of its monster-blasting.
Now the game leans toward tongue-in-cheek Twilight Zone rather than po-faced Stephen King -- and it's all the better for it. Shooting ghosts in the face with a flare-gun is immensely satisfying, freed from the shackles of a pretentious plot.
Another retro revival, this one has little in common except name with the isometric strategic shooter from the 1990s. Instead it steals mostly the genetically enhanced gunplay of Deus Ex.
While Syndicate has a few novel notions (quickly hacking enemies to force them to self-destruct), the gameplay never evolves beyond a simple if enjoyable FPS.