Namco Bandai's games line-up preview

Namco Bandai has a pretty explosive gaming lineup set for the coming months. Titles like the highly anticipated Dark Souls are set to fill the latter months of 2011, with games like Soul Calibur 5 and Ace Combat Assault Horizon arriving in 2012. 

Plenty to look forward to then on the Namco Bandai gaming front, so much so that we thought we would do you a nice little release round up to get all the juicy facts straight on each piece of software. There is of course lots of other games on show from the publisher, but we have decided to focus on the tier one titles that have gotten us really excited. 

Ace Combat Assault Horizon

Us lucky 'linters were given a hands-on with the new Ace Combat title at an event this week. Developed by Project Aces and set for release on 14 October, it could mean a return to form for the console flight series, from our brief play through it definitely seems that way.

The game itself is totally manic, with constant beeping and buzzing hurled at you as you spin (and crash...a lot) your plane about the screen. There is also a brilliant dogfight mode which is a novel take on air to air gaming combat. Once you have a plane locked, the camera will zoom in and you can begin hurling bullets and missiles at the aircraft in your sights. It is pretty impressive, particularly the machine-gun sound effects and oil and debris flying at the screen. 

Unfortunately we didn't get a go on any of the new helicopter combat set to feature in the full version of the game, nor did we get to try out multiple aircraft. Shame really as the demo definitely got us excited.

Story-wise things have been penned by best selling military author Jim DeFelice. Set in 2015, it sees the game's characters attempting to deal with a guerrilla insurgency in Africa. Problem is a new weapon has been developed and the owners aren't afraid to use it. This then gives rise to a global aircraft-based race to secure the weapon, with your character Bishop playing the lead role. 

Expect more on Ace Combat Assault Horizon as details emerge, but from what we played it is definitely looking tempting. 

Inversion

Inversion was the second title that Namco Bandai let us have a go at. The game is essentially Gears of War with a twist, adding gravity and vertical, as well as horizontal, gameplay. 

Lead character David Russel has lost his daughter in a city invaded by evil gravity controlling aliens. He sets out with his partner (Russel is a cop) Leo to try and find her, on the way he picks up the GravLink, which allows him to control gravity as well as push and pull objects. Think of a combination of Half Life 2's gravity gun and the grappling hook from Just Cause 2.

From what we played, the graphics were definitely the highlight (check out the screenshots). During out time the actual gravity gameplay element was placed to one side as we blasted through waves of enemies. There are so many bullets flying about on screen and enemies to destroy that it is difficult to actually take advantage of the GravLink. This may just be because we weren't particularly good at the game, but things right now didn't feel like they pushed us to use the leads gravity powers. This is a shame because when it worked it was truly awesome, flinging enemies into the air, dragging them towards you and then popping their heads with high gravity mode. 

One gameplay element we particularly liked was the idea of using gravity to create a sort of gecko-like gameplay where you could stick to walls and shoot down on enemies below. Walls were transitioned via blue gravity pads that allowed us to jump between the vertical and the horizontal. The developers clearly have some innovative level design ideas and while we barely scratched the surface of this part of Inversion, it is definitely something we want to play more of. 

Expect Inversion to hit shops on 10 February 2012.

Dark Souls

Dark Souls is the new game to come from developer From Software who penned sleeper hit Demon's Souls, a tough yet incredibly innovative RPG game. The original was an incredible challenge to complete, requiring an online cross-player effort of both versus and cooperative battling. 

Dark Souls looks to build on everything the original laid out while making it more accessible for new players. This doesn't mean things are going to be any easier, just don't expect quite the frustration factor of Demon's Souls.

In Dark Souls players are battling to save the lost souls of those stricken by the curse of the undead. You take on plentiful demons of all shapes and sizes in order to get your mits on the Eternal Flame of Life. Keeping up the series' dark approach to design, the world is gradually being enveloped in an eternal night, which the player must fight to keep at bay. 

Castles, catacombs and general nastiness are all typical of the game design. Graphically things have also taken a jump with what looks like a less washed-out colour palette than the original, as well as a better lighting engine. 

The Beacon Fire is a particular bonus, allowing you to place a recovery, restart and save point anywhere in the world. Unlike the original, this should in theory make progression a lot easier and death a lot less irritating.

A limited edition version of the game will also ship on 7 October and will include things like a making of DVD, soundtrack and artwork.

Ridge Racer Unbounded

Ridge Racer is a game series with a serious fan base, many of whom will be upset to see the change of direction taken with Unbounded. It is, however, not a total successor to Ridge Racer 7, instead more an offshoot or attempt at trying something different by developer Bugbear. 

The game is focussed solely on extremely aggressive driving and sees you smashing through the streets of Shatter Bay, the in-game city. 

The game is also heavily reliant on a clever physics engine that, not unlike things like Battlefield's Frostbite, allows you to carve a path through the race track. Cars can smash through solid concrete, parts of buildings and even bridges and statues to try and hinder other racers or speed themselves up via shortcuts. Things like jumps, drifting and ramming will cause your boost meter to fill which can then be transformed into destruction of either environment or cars.

Ridge Racer Unbounded doesn't feature any true to life vehicles, instead things like the series classic Angel and Devil cars are included. Tracks are to range from things like downtown inner city environments to docklands and constructions sites.

Expect Ridge Racer Unbounded to arrive some time in 2012. 

That's it...Why, no Soul Calibur you ask? That's because it's so special we have gone and given it its very own separate hands-on



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