As long-running franchises go, Battlefield and Mario Party couldn’t be more different, representing the hardest and softest cores of gamedom. But one quality fans and critics alike agreed both series shared is that they’d grown tired from repetition and were badly in need of refreshing. That’s just what both get this week, with Battlefield Hardline shifting the scene from the frontlines to cops vs. criminals drama.
Mario Party 10, meanwhile, shakes off the board game-replicating boredom for unique multiplayer that lets the main player take control of Bowser, forcing the other players to scheme together to take him down. Also, yet another last-generation classic gets an impressive reinvention, with DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition reintroducing the rapid-paced supernatural action game for current systems.
(Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, $60, Mature)
Bailing on spread-out landscapes featuring battles between warring nations, Battlefield Hardline shifts the focus to intimate building interiors and run-down cityscapes. The factions at war are organized criminals and rule-breaking cops bent on taking down their large-scale heists. Both sides are heavily armed and equipped with momentum-shifting gadgets that can be strategically deployed to turn the tide. The single-player campaign, which has been so often ignored by the series in favor of its sprawling multiplayer, can arguably hang with the sizable online offerings. The game plays out episodically, like a hardboiled cop show, featuring well-written characters and gripping suspense.
The campaign feels like an unexpected bonus for true Battlefield fanatics who will buy the game mainly to slug it out online,. The nine included maps run the gamut from tight bank vault corridors to urban jungles thick with traps, sniper perches and hideouts usable for ambushes. There are seven game modes to mix things up from the standard death match and king of the hill derivatives. Spontaneous car chases can break out, with 27 vehicles to choose from. Ziplines, grappling hooks and weapon upgrades abound, rewarding movement and exploration while discouraging game-slowing campers. While it’s tough to get a read on whether Battlefield Hardline will maintain the momentum of the online communities from previous games, I’m expecting rejuvenated enthusiasm to swell around the fresh, fast-paced take on the old mechanics.
DMC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition
(Xbox One, PS4, $40, Mature)
Capcom’s 2013 reboot of the stylish, demon-slaying shoot-and-slashfest gets reinvented once again, for current-gen consoles. Updated graphics, which includes a streamlined targeting system, new costumes and all previously released DLC, makes this marginally the better version. You play as Dante, a sarcastic demon hunter who teams up with a psychic girl to free the world from its demonic stranglehold. You switch back and forth between two fighting styles, accumulating points and unlockable moves along branching paths. Fast-moving levels, snappy dialogue and colossal boss fights make the experience a nonstop freeze from beginning to end.
Changes from the previous games, such as the ditching of the old, white-haired character model, that drew howls of protest when the game was originally released are now much easier to swallow, seeming like fitting advancements rather than strange change for the sake of change. Going back to old Devil May Cry games after playing DMC seems like going from color movies to black and white. While there may not be as many additions to the core game as in other current-gen remasters, there’s still enough here to make this one of the best action experiences on current systems. The $40 price tag makes the stay-the-course rehash easier to stomach.
Mario Party 10
(Wii U, $50, Everyone)
Mario Party games have been stuck in a rut for years, but the latest entry freshens things up by adding new modes and integrating Nintendo’s popular Amiibo figures — Skylanders-like toys that add to the game via NFC interactivity. The most impressive addition is the way the GamePad user in multiplayer matches becomes Bowser, with the Wiimote-wielding other players working together to take him down in a series of minigames. The multiple Davids vs. Goliath effect echoes that of Titanfall and Evolve, and will surely start fights among siblings who don’t want to wait their turn to play as a the hefty, firebreathing behemoth.
For $10, you can get a bundle that includes a Mario Amiibo. That unlocks the new Amiibo Party mode, which lets you use characters to collect coins and bonus-unlocking tokens you can carry over from your own game to that of a friend. There’s also a photo mode, more than 70 minigames and a slew of single-player challenges that keep you coming back for more. The sore lacking, as with too many Nintendo multiplayer offerings, is a lack of online play. A token online multiplayer mode would have greatly expanded the game’s reach and replayability.