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The Month Ahead: July 2011's videogame releases
by Andrew Testerman

Andrew Testerman makes a valiant atttempt to save gamers from the summer drought with this look at some of the games releasing in July 2011. All dates are North American releases, unless otherwise stated.

June has ended and July is upon us, dear readers, which means only one thing: the summer game drought is finally come. Yes, even though June was a trove of reasonably big releases, July is rather more picked over. Let’s try to make the best of it, shall we, and see what’s coming down the pipe this month.

5th July

July’s first big release is the sequel to Sandlot’s 2007 cult classic, Earth Defense Force 2017. Developed this time by Vicious Cycle, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon brings a fresh round of invading oversized insects for players to squash. Vicious Cycle is making several new additions as well, including the ability to build turrets, over three-hundred unique weapons, and a Horde-style survival mode. Co-op makes a return, both as split-screen and as a new online mode, along with the first game’s fast, arcade-inspired shooting mechanics and fully-destructible environments. Whether or not it will be able to capture 2017’s cheap, low-budget monster-movie feel remains to be seen. Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon is expected to launch in Europe on 22nd July.

12th July

Whether or not you’re a fan of college football, the NCAA Football franchise generally merits attention for being a taste of what’s to come from this year’s Madden NFL game (unless you’re not a fan of American football, in which case you can safely give this week a pass). Aside from more polished college football action, NCAA has a few new tricks up its sleeve this year, including a revamped Road to Glory mode and numerous changes to the defensive game.

For gamers who would prefer the Quaffle to the football, EA has you covered with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. Like its forbearer, Deathly Hallows: Part II is a cover-based shooter (spell-caster?) based on the movie of the same name. EA has promised an overhaul of the spell system from the first game, which is good, because the critical consensus on the initial title was rubbish. Deathly Hallows: Part II also sports eight different playable characters throughout the single player portion of the game, as well as PlayStation Move support (no Kinect, though).

19th July

In what is surely the most counter-intuitive release decision this month, Sega is choosing to launch Next Level Games' Captain America: Super Soldier in Europe on the 15th, before it makes its way to the States on the 19th. Hey, how are we meant to know the way publishers think? At any rate, Captain America: Super Soldier is a brawler/platformer based on the upcoming film from Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures. Super Soldier’s fighting mechanics look reasonably competent so far, and its platforming aspects add some needed variety to the game. Could Captain America: Super Soldier join Transformers: Dark of the Moon in the upper echelon of licensed summer movie games, or will it descend to the bottom of the pile with Thor? Only time will tell.

Arguably one of the biggest releases of this month is Call of Juarez: The Cartel, the newest installment in Ubisoft's western FPS franchise. This time, developer Tech Land is giving Juarez a modern day setting, casting players as three law enforcement officials aiming to take down a Mexican drug cartel. Players can expect Juarez’s familiar western flavour despite its modern setting, as well as the franchise’s open environments and vistas. The shooting mechanics look a little loose thus far, but the promise of three-player, drop-in, drop-out co-op could help gamers everywhere hear the Call.

Also releasing on the 19th is Otomedius Excellent, a 2D shoot-em-up that can best be described as Gradius with animé babes. I'm not sure what brought it on either, but shmup fans can expect Konami’s brand of tight shooting action to be complemented by three-player online play and local co-op. Otomedius Excellent sports nine playable characters, as well as a gallery of unlockable character stills. The game doesn’t have a European release date yet, so gamers on the Eastern side of the Atlantic will have to make do with import impressions for now.

Oh yeah, there's also Smurfs Dance Party. Que sera sera.

26th July

Speaking of quirky Japanese titles, July closes with one of the most bizarre titles to come from Atlus yet, Atlus Persona Team's Catherine. Labelled an 'erotic horror puzzle-platforming adventure title', Catherine is more of an experience than a game, as players will spend an equal amount of time watching the story play out in animated cutscenes as they will working through Catherine’s tower-climbing box puzzles. Added to the mix is a morality system, brought about by answering questions posed by non-playable characters throughout the world. Similar to Atlus’ Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series, Catherine needs to be seen to be believed, and will offer a unique experience to gamers willing to sweat out some truly non-traditional game design.

On a more hack-y-slash-y note comes Ignition Entertainment’s El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. Whilst the title sounds like a sequel to both Call of Juarez and Zone of the Enders, it’s actually a stylish action title in the vein of Devil May Cry and God of War. And what style! El Shaddai’s art direction is rife with beautiful backdrops, weird colour filters, and an angel with God on his cellphone speed dial. Combat is simple, with just one button controlling attacks, but is given depth through the player's ability to steal weapons from enemies. El Shaddai features the sort of quasi-biblical, semi-religious story that the Japanese media is so into these days (the main character, Enoch, is tasked with hunting down seven fallen angels in order to prevent God from causing the Great Flood), adding to the faux-epic scale the game is shooting for. European gamers will have to wait until September, but look for continued coverage of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron on Gamer’s Guide to

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- Andrew Testerman

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