‘GRAND THEFT AUTO V’ (M)
If “Grand Theft Auto IV” was a satirical deconstruction of the American dream, then “GTA V” broadens its scope by skewering America altogether. Set in the vapid wasteland of San Andreas (a stand-in for southern California), “GTA V” fashions a world where extraordinary wealth exists side-by-side with unimaginable poverty, and both are frequently caught in the background of your smartphone selfies. The game highlights social and economic inequities by offering three vastly different perspectives. The main characters are Michael, an affluent but terminally disillusioned career criminal, Franklin, an urban gangbanger, and Trevor, a short-tempered psychopath. You can switch between these three characters on the fly, instantaneously jumping from one cross-section of the cultural landscape to another while experiencing the sheer limitlessness of all there is to do in San Andreas. One minute you’ll be playing tennis, and the next you’ll be assisting the paparazzi before finally settling back into the game’s story missions and executing a brazen heist.
The heists are the game’s major set pieces, and with three points-of-view, you get to participate in every aspect of these complicated schemes. So while one of you nabs the goods, another of you lends cover with a sniper rifle, while yet another of you swings by with the getaway helicopter. How you choose to tackle each job is entirely at your discretion, so you can opt for an intelligent, stealthy approach or you can exit guns-a-blazin’ and make an impromptu escape via the titular crime. Appropriating disguises, getaway vehicles, safecrackers and anything else you might need for a successful heist leads to the kind of oddball errands that have defined “GTA,” but these tasks feel more essential now that they all build to pulling off the ultimate score. Additionally, “GTA V” improves on the mechanics of all of its predecessors. Car handling, shooting, cover mechanics and character animations are all better than ever. And as with previous entries in the series, “GTA V” is a shoe-in for best game of the year.
‘KILLZONE: MERCENARY’ (M)
Sony Computer Entertainment
Rather than forwarding the overall “Killzone” narrative, “Mercenary” casts you as a Helghast-blasting gun-for-hire, presenting you with a series of bite-sized first-person shooter missions that are perfect for gaming on the go. The campaign is only five hours long, but you’re enticed to replay several missions in pursuit of different monetary rewards, the spoils of which can be used for upgraded weapons and equipment. The atmosphere is that of a fairly generic sci-fi shooter, albeit an absolutely gorgeous one that pushes the Vita hardware to its full potential.
‘FOUL PLAY’ (E10+)
Xbox Live Arcade
All the world is, indeed, a stage in “Foul Play” — a side-scrolling brawler set in a ridiculously large theater, comprised almost entirely of front row seats. The evening’s decidedly off-off-Broadway presentation is a chronicle of the exploits of famed daemonologist, Baron Dashforth, who spends the entirety of the play pummeling actors in chintzy creature costumes. Since it’s all a performance, the good Baron is never in danger of dying. However, if he takes too many hits, he can find himself booed offstage. It puts a frequently amusing spin on the tried and true 2D beat ’em-up formula. CV