#79: Diablo III
PC: 2009/2010 If you've never played a Diablo game before, the premise is simple: it's essentially a big gory slot machine. You fight through swarms of demons and monsters, compulsively picking up dropped items and gold. Diablo's simplicity was always its greatest strength, and Diablo III wisely sticks to its hugely popular point-and-click formula.
Diablo III is set in a fully 3d world, a series first, which enables several new gameplay features. Physics now play a major role, so fireballs and hammer swings send zombies flying into walls and each other. You can also smash down walls and traps to wipe out dozens of enemies at a time. Overall, though, the look of Diablo III is familiar: dark, grim, and brooding, with a high camera angle to accommodate the teeming hordes of enemies. And what hordes they are. We saw dozens of undead descend on a Barbarian, dropping from ledges and crawling up walls to reach him. The Barbarian smashed through them with a huge mallet, picking up loot and experience as he went. Item collection has always played a pivotal role in Diablo games, and Diablo III's streamlined inventory screen makes swapping weapons easier. Healing is easy, too; some enemies drop red health orbs that instantly heal you. No more fumbling for the potion hotkeys!
So far, Blizzard has only released information on two character classes (out of five total). Barbarians are a carryover from Diablo III, and excel at smashing through enemies with brute force and big, scary-looking weapons. The Witchdoctor, on the other hand, raises zombie dogs and other minions to do his bidding. An improved version of Diablo II's Necromancer, the Witchdoctor also throws zesty fireballs and locust swarms to dissolve nearby enemies. The gameplay featured in Blizzard's early videos looks very satisfying and addictive, but it's far too soon to get worked into a lather over a game that is, in all likelihood, years away. Still, out of the 106-some games included in this year's Fall Preview Guide, Diablo III may be the game we're most excited to play.
September: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii Facebreaker is an exaggerated, over-the-top boxer that harkens back to games such as Nintendo's Punch-Out!. In Facebreaker, players pummel each other senseless in button-mashing brawls that can be ended with a powerful "Facebreaker" attack. Boxers such as the fat ninja Steve can perform a host of wacky attacks, such as a kick to the groin or a double-fisted thunderclap to the ears that stuns an opponent for a few seconds. For those looking for an authentic boxing experience, Facebreaker is most certainly not it. However, its interesting trophy system (you win your opponent's busted mugs as an award) and goofy roster should provide some giggles.
#77: Fight Night Round 4
2009: PS3, Xbox 360 With Fight Night Round 4, EA is trying to accurately recreate the sweet science that is boxing. Round 4 will introduce a new physics system, which will enable pugilists to hit their opponents with glancing strikes or to perform a series of short, clubbing blows while fighting toe-to-toe. Electronic Arts promises a roster of more than 40 real-world boxers such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Lennox Lewis and, oddly enough, the ear-chomping, bewildering-statement-making ("I want to rip their stomachs out and eat their children!") Mike Tyson. We expect Round 4 will also deliver some powerful graphical upgrades, making it the most realistic-looking boxer yet.
#76: Fallout 3
October: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 It's the end of the world as we know it, but we feel fine because Bethesda has resurrected the cult-favorite role-playing series Fallout. Like their earlier Oblivion, players will be able to enjoy the post-apocalyptic action in the first-person perspective as well as the third. Here, players can customize their character before taking him or her out into the wastelands of Washington, D.C. to search for dear old dad, opting to become either a hero to millions or public enemy number one. Adventurers will also be able to form two-man parties and be accompanied by the ever-faithful hound Dogmeat. If you dug Oblivion or BioShock, Fallout 3 is your next fix.