107 games: GamePro's 2008 fall preview guide!
- 20 October, 2008 15:23
Fall is finally here, meaning there are a heaping ton of great games to talk about, 107 to be exact! GamePro has got you covered with our second annual Fall Preview Guide which is bursting with exiting new titles. Read on to find out what's hot in 2008 and beyond!
#107: 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
Fall 2008: PS3, Xbox 360 In 10 words: Murderholic rapper kills the Middle East. So bad it's good?
#106: Afro Samurai
Fall 2008: PS3, Xbox 360 Much disinformation has been passed about the life of samurai, namely that they spend most of it with their feet up, delicately sipping at tea and reading the London Times literary supplement. The hack-and-slash action of Afro Samurai attempts to present a more rounded view of these misunderstood men who, in all honesty, prefer a good disemboweling to a discussion of, say, 19th century bone china. As anime hero Afro Samurai, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, you'll set off to become the most powerful samurai in the world. The hip-hop soundtrack, produced by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, may be the standout feature here, but the ultra-stylized visuals and bloody Ninja Gaiden-style action are certainly appealing.
#105: The Agency
TBA 2009 Create a stylish super-spy or a brawny meat-head mercenary in Sony's upcoming massively multiplayer online shooter. The Agency emphasizes tongue-in-cheek humor and fast-paced action over suffocating realism and experience grinding. You can infiltrate enemy organizations with up to three friends, trail ne'er-do-wells in disguise, blow up strategic targets, snap photos of covert dealings, or just chill out at headquarters with a quick game of Q-bert. Play need never stop, either: you can even receive interactive e-mail or text message status updates when you're stuck in the real world.
#104: Alan Wake
2009: PC, Xbox 360 Insomniac writer Alan Wake travels to the town of Bright Falls where darkness reigns and psychological horror ensues. Wake's nightmares leap to life and the horror author must battle his demons while trying to stay within the protective radius of nearby light sources. Using a flashlight and handgun to identify and damage the otherworldly creatures, Wake must explore Bright Falls and piece together its deepest mysteries. Oft-delayed, Wake was celebrated as one of the best and most exciting games at the Electronic Entertainment Expo-in 2005. The Max Payne guys are behind this one, though, so we're willing to wait it out.
#103: Aliens: Colonial Marines
2009: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 Picking up shortly after the events of Alien 3, Colonial Marines straps you in the boots of a search-and-rescue squad hunting for the Sulaco and the missing Lt. Ellen Ripley. In this first-person shooter, you'll control one of four marines, each of who packs a different four-piece weapon set (flamethrowers, smart guns, pulse rifles, sharp sticks). You can swap marines at any time, but choose the wrong man for the mission, and the acid-bleeding xenomorphs will make you scream "Game over, man!"
POINT 1: Xeno classes. The alien xenomorphs are said to come in varied classes, such as the infamous facehugger that attaches itself to its victim's face and impregnates an embryo within the host. And that's how aliens are born, boys and girls! Full-grown aliens come in drone, warrior, scout, and Queen classes, each with their own insidious abilities. POINT 2: Multiplayer. Drop in/out cooperative play has been confirmed for Aliens: Colonial Marines, as well as multiplayer deathmatch. No modes have been confirmed at this time, but we're hoping for a fleshed-out online mode. POINT 3: Intelligent hunters. The aliens in Colonial Marines are much like Velociraptor dinosaurs, seldom attacking from the front, utilizing the environment and flanking maneuvers to attack you. Due to these vicious hit-and-run attacks, Colonial Marines requires more tactical shooting than traditional run-and-gun first-person shooters.
2009: PS3, Xbox 360 Violent ground-acquisition games get a kick in the pants with the delightfully named Backbreaker. Here, the cutting-edge Euphoria physics engine ensures all movements in the game are rendered in real-time, which means that no two in-game tackles or dislocated knees will appear the same. Euphoria technology has seen action in Grand Theft Auto IV, where the protagonist Niko has rocketed through many a windshield and then skidded, rolled, or bounced off the concrete, and will also be seen in the Stormtrooper-tossing simulation Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
Backbreaker, for now, rides on the strength of its gimmick. But it's an admittedly good gimmick: recently released film of Backbreaker's "Tackle Alley" minigame, showed a lone runner dashing upfield past a horde of enemy defenders. It remains to be seen, too, if Backbreaker will live up to its name in terms of injuries. But it's hoped the game will include them-as well as these five football staples:
• 1) Some kind of draft mode. Please!
• 2) Online play, with the inclusion of Tackle Alley playable as either the rusher or one of the defenders.
• 3) A disabled list to emphasize the game's bone-crunching tackles.
• 4) Real-world teams...even if they have to be from the CFL.
• 5) Create a character mode.
#101: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
November: Xbox 360 Nuts & Bolts reunites the goofy and beloved bear-and-bird combo Banjo and Kazooie on the Xbox 360 for a different kind of adventure. Unlike the duo's previous Nintendo 64 adventures, Bolts focuses not on Mario-style platforming, but rather on building wacky vehicles. Now, the sky really is the limit; Banjo may be dumber than your average bear, but with the right doo-dads, he can cobble up cars, planes, monster trucks, boats, tanks, helicopters, and jets. You can use vehicles to explore the game worlds, smite enemies (both in the game's story mode and its multiplayer challenges), and solve in-game puzzles.
#100: MotorStorm: Pacific Rift
Fall 2008: PS3 By far the arcade racer of these twin speed demons, Pacific Rift's claim to fame isn't its damage model or its realistic vehicle suspension; it's the big air you get off jumps, the destruction you rain down on opponents, and the jaw-dropping jungle circuits. Evolution Studios' MotorStorm made superb use of the PS3's graphical prowess, and in Pacific Rift, the visuals are getting a big bump with races moving out of the desert and into the lush tropics.
The in-game competition is getting diversified, too, with the usual lineup of trucks and bikes welcoming a new addition: monster trucks. Though a little slow for their size, monster trucks can handily crush the competition, punch through vegetation to uncover new race routes, and shatter track elements such as motorcycle ramps. If you're hankering for a racer with eye candy, explosives, and split-screen multiplayer, then Pacific Rift will be your new best friend.
September: PS3, Xbox 360 Pacific Rift might get the big trucks, but Baja gets the real ones. Its graphics engine can't hold a candle to MotorStorm's dazzling visuals, but what it lacks in bling, it makes up for in authenticity. Its tracks are based on the raceways of the Baja 1000, a Mexican off-road endurance race that's all about rough running, big suspension, vehicle sponsorship, and hundreds of miles of adventure.
Unlike MotorStorm's high-flying acrobatics, the key to Baja's racing is staying low and close to the rocky ground. Getting air is easy enough, but not having all four wheels churning the horsepower tends to slow you. What goes up must come down, too, and with the game's incredibly realistic damage model, coming down means busting up your shocks and scraping more than a little paint off your body. With personality-driven A.I. and a physics engine based on the real thing, Baja is the off-road game for the realist racers of the world.
#98: Bionic Commando
2008: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 Another vintage NES game gets a second lease on life, new-gen style. Players control a dreadlock-sporting super-soldier equipped with a mechanical arm. His attachment projects a sticky grappling hook that can latch onto any surface within range, grab onto enemies, and enables him to perform special moves such as the zip-kick and the barrel toss. Online play is a go, too: Bionic Commando will support up to 10 players online. Best of all, according to producer Ben Judd, you'll be able to "get online and join the Swinger's Club," which includes online stats and leaderboards. Really? Because, for a second there, we thought "Swinger's Club" might mean something else.
2009: PS3, Xbox 360 In the history of footwear, we may point to secret agent Maxwell Smart's shoe phone as revolutionary. We can hail Disco Stu's platform shoes with the goldfish in them as inspired. And both Smart and Stu would die horribly when shot in the face with guns mounted on video game heroine Bayonetta's shoes. Bayonetta, a witch who not only possesses magical abilities and fearsome martial arts skills but also fatal footwear, will be waging war in the third-person perspective against angels aplenty next year. Hideki Kamiya, the man who created the Devil May Cry series for Capcom, serves as Bayonetta's director, so this one definitely has potential.
#96: Beyond Good & Evil 2
TBA: PS3, Xbox 360 The touching story of a plucky young photographer and her porcine pal continues with Beyond Good & Evil 2. For those who missed the first game, Beyond Good & Evil offered a sweeping conspiracy, plenty of stealth action, and some good-natured humor for what was, essentially, a feel-good adventure that a lot of people missed out on. No plot details have emerged yet, but Ubisoft president Yves Guillemot recently went on record, saying "Beyond Good & Evil was probably a little too difficult...we're going to make it more accessible for the new generation that's come into videogames."
November: PlayStation 3 Travel back to the undersea city of Rapture, where creepy little sisters will remind you, "Angels are waiting for their kisses," meaning it's time for them to stick the needle in a corpse and collect its-uh-stuff. And, rest assured, there will be plenty of twisted enemies for you to shoot, or burn, or freeze, or sting with bees from your hands. This first-person shooter was awesome on Xbox 360 and with new content surely in the works, it will be suitably titanic on PlayStation 3.
September: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 In video games, no explorers ever visit the planet of tea and earthly delights. On the world of Pandora, colonists have found nothing but misery and famine. Borderlands, a first-person shooter with role-playing game elements, drops players on Pandora, giving them the opportunity to loot an alien archive or drop dead trying.
Borderlands offers three playable characters, and each has a special skill or talent. The psionically inclined Lilith can alter time; Soldier Roland can use his leadership abilities to augment the fighting prowess of his allies; and Mordecai can call upon a powerful alien ally. The gameplay blends first-person shooting with vehicle-based mayhem, and players will be offered lots of quests. Along the way, they'll have access to a great wealth of weapons; Here are six reasons we're excited to visit this hellhole.
• 1) Over one million weapons. The game promises a random weapon generator with countless variations. A pistol that fires shotgun shells? Yeah, you'll find it somewhere.
• 2) Mad Max-style vehicular combat. In the online cooperative play mode, up to four players can hop into dune buggies and tanks to take on enemy pirates or loot alien ruins.
• 3) No loading screens. Borderlands streams all of its data straight from the disc, meaning you'll be free to roam as you please without interruption.
• 4) Mutants, aliens, and alien mutants. We saw one creature that was roughly the size of the death star, and its skin lesions were home to flocks of screeching alien pterodactyls.
#93: Blitz: The League II
October: PS3, Xbox 360 The original Blitz: The League offered strategic football action, presenting players with the opportunity to, say, defend against the zone defense by hiring hookers to wear out the opposing team's players before the big game. Blitz redefined the rules of traditional American football by ignoring them, and who could forget injured players writhing in pain as the "juice" (a needle roughly the size of Rhode Island) was applied to their knees in a cut-scene that defined the phrase "too much information"? Expect more ultraviolent, bone-breaking, adult-themed football when the League returns for its second season.
#92: BioShock 2
2009: TBA Don't call it a sequel: BioShock 2 is in development and the most persistent rumor says the game will serve as a prequel, telling the story of a genetic war raging under the seas in crazed entrepreneur Andrew Ryan's dystopian city of Rapture. Details on the game's plot and protagonist are nonexistent at this point, but 2K Games has stated development will be done by the company's new Marin, California-based studios and that Ken Levine, the original game's director, will be returning for an as-yet-unspecified supervisory role.
#91: Brutal Legend
Fall 2008: PS3, Xbox 360 In 10 words: Dimensions cross; roadie Jack Black shreds to save the babes.
#90: Call of Duty: World at War
Fall 2008: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC Call of Duty returns to the blood-soaked battlefields of World War II one last time with World at War. Instead of fancy red dot scopes and precision bombings, you'll make do with old-school M1 Garands and M2-2 Flamethrowers as your team of American troops battle the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. The core first-person shooter gameplay will feel familiar to Call of Duty veterans, but you'll now be able to swim to avoid enemy fire and torch your surroundings with the new flamethrower.
The Japanese forces fight using crafty new guerilla tactics, a major change over Call of Duty 4. Enemy soldiers will play dead or hide in treetops, waiting for you to draw close before striking. In a nod to historical accuracy, these were both real-life tactics employed by Japanese forces during World War II.
World at War's graphics technology has improved since Call of Duty 4, and it's most apparent in the use of the realistic fire and water effects. You'll see billowing flames spread around the environments, and you can even burn down patches of jungle to forge a new path.
Fire! World at War could have been titled World on Fire based on the new fire tech that enables you to set fire to your surroundings using flamethrowers and Molotov cocktails. Once it's burning away, fire is affected by factors like fuel, material, and even wind velocity.
In World at War, Japanese soldiers will set elaborate traps that jack up the brutality factor. You'll see suspended logs rigged with ropes - if triggered, the ensuing carnage can wipe out a whole squad of American troops.
#89: Castlevania Judgment
Fall 2008: Wii The Castlevania franchise stakes its claim in the one-on-one fighting game genre. A plethora of famous 'vania villains and heroes fill the roster, and the Wii-exclusive title also promises Wi-Fi connectivity with Order of Ecclesia on the DS to unlock extra features. Rabid Castlevania fans may scream "sellout," but longtime series producer Koji "Iga" Igarashi's involvement gives us (cautious) hope.
#88: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
Fall 2008: DS Dracula bites. Dracula sucks. He is also the Road Runner of historical/fictional monsters, with a plucky, never-say-die attitude. It's time to stake Dracula once again, this time with the female protagonist Shinoa, a woman who can combine magical glyphs to create special attacks. The glyphs come in different flavors (sword, fire, light, dark) and can be attached to Shinoa's back and arms, or combined to create a delightful symphony of destruction. The glyphs will also help her explore the game's 2D worlds, creating rings that have magnetic effects and can slingshot her about. More classic 2D Castlevania action.
#87: The Conduit
First Quarter 2009: Wii The Wii isn't exactly a graphical powerhouse, but if The Conduit has its way, you'll be seeing visuals that are nearly on-par with the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. In this futuristic first-person shooter, you'll play a secret agent charged with fending off an impending alien invasion by a mysterious race called "The Drudge." Conduit is set in a post-apocalyptic/alien invasion-type of world, which sounds like a mash up of FPS clich?s, but works well for gameplay purposes. You've got Killzone-esque army dudes and Resistance-style crawlies to kill with alien guns reminiscent of Halo. And like all those games, Conduit should have a robust suite of online modes. Well, robust for the Wii anyway.
#86: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
September: DS One of the greatest 2D role-playing games of all-time writes a new chapter on the DS with re-imagined visuals and modernized gameplay. Dragon Quest IV retains the essence of its original release on the DS, but with welcome changes including a new Japanese-to-English translation, tweaks to bring the battle system in line with the remake of Final Fantasy III, and some bonus content. Any serious RPG fan must have this in their collection.
#85: Darksiders: Wrath of War
TBA 2009: PS3, Xbox 360, PC In 10 words: Four horsemen mistakenly trigger apocalypse, go all God of War.
#84: Dead Space
October: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 For years, man has yearned to travel into space, to break free of the bonds of Mother Earth and be killed horribly, preferably by some hideous alien species. Now you can live this dream with Dead Space, EA's third-person horror adventure that takes cues from Resident Evil 4 and The Thing.
Taking the role of space engineer Isaac Clarke (an homage to sci-fi authors Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke), you get to explore a derelict spaceship; manipulate objects with a handy tool that simulates telekinesis; jump from wall to ceiling in antigravity; and most likely, die a terrible, grotesque death within the jaws of a necromorph, the game's abominable enemies. Necromorphs take a variety of two-, four-, and eight-legged forms, and simply pumping bullets into them isn't a smart strategy-you'll have to target weak spots, blasting off legs, arms, and pincers. And, since no space omelet has ever been made without breaking a few eggs, you can expect liberal use of blood sprays and viscera in the game's gruesome, multipart dismemberments that serve as icing on an already gore-soaked cake. This one's not for the faint of heart.
#83: Duke Nukem Forever
TBA: PC Loyal fans have waited over 10 years, but The Duke's next adventure is night... we think. During a recent episode of The Jace Hall Show, eagle-eyed gamers caught quick glimpses of in-game footage from Duke Nukem Forever, Including Duke's unique breed of awesome guns (including the Shrink Ray), and memorable puns ("Duke's in a bad, bad modd"). Jace loved the game, and he's not just your everyday internet talk show dude-he helped develop F.E.A.R., Condemned, and Project Origin. In this case, "when it's done" chat come soon enough.
#82: Dark Void
2008: PS3, Xbox 360, PC Gears of War with jetpacks. Rocky mountain high (and higher).
#81: Doom 4
TBA: PC When CEO Todd Hollenshead confirmed that id Software was working to bring "the next installment of our flagship franchise to Earth," Doom fanatics took the hint. Though details on Doom 4 are non-existent, we're expecting to see a "Hell of Earth" scenario a la Doom II, as well as a simultaneous PS3, Xbox 360, and PC release. And because id Software wiz kid John Carmack is on the case, dazzling graphics are practically guaranteed. Other challenges remain: we're hoping that Doom 4 adds vastly more depth to the demon-blasting action, and also supports a proper online deathmatch mode. The granddaddy of the first-person shooter genre deserves no less.
#80: Destroy All Humans: Path of The Furon
September: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Humanity takes it in the ear once again, as feisty alien Cryptosporidium returns for more killing, probing, and social satire. In The Path of the Furon, Crypto takes on the 1970s with its Watergate, disco music, bell-bottomed jeans, and other stuff mankind has since worked hard to repress. Puny humans can be transformed into super-bouncy balls with the Superballer, or manipulated into lethal situations with the time-altering Temporal Fist.
#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.
#75: Far Cry 2
October: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Far Cry 2 is a far cry from Far Cry. This first-person shooter takes place in Africa, and players assume the role of a malaria-stricken mercenary. You'll choose to play as one of 12 mercenaries; the mercenaries not chosen then become non-player characters in the game' story. The idea here is simple: Kill, stay alive, and hunt down the terrorist leader known as the Jackal. The protagonist's illness complicates matters: players will have to take medicine on a regular basis to stay healthy. Fail to take this medicine, and the main character becomes sickly and grotesque. Free-roaming environments allow a player to explore at their discretion, and you'll be able to burn savannas or cut down trees with gunfire.
#74: Fatal Frame IV
2008: Wii They say a camera adds 10 pounds. But in Fatal Frame IV, your camera will also save your life from a host of creepy Japanese ghosts. Fatal Frame IV has been subtitled Mask of the Lunar Eclipse and promises first-person horror with an as-yet-unnamed female protagonist who battles vengeful spirits using a supernatural camera. But aside from these details, information on the game is thus far nonexistent. As this is a Wii-specific game, it's perfectly natural to assume the Wii Remote will be used to, say, shake off ghost attacks and the like. We're expecting it to his the States late this year.
#73: Final Fantasy XIII
2009: PlayStation 3 Ridiculous superstition be damned. Square Enix is moving ahead with the thirteenth installment of the role-playing juggernaut, the first on the PlayStation 3. Despite being announced over two years ago, Final Fantasy XIII is still a mystery shrouded in an enigma. Its plot revolves around a female protagonist, Lightning, who's been sent on a quest by intelligent crystalline beings. Lightning wields one of the Fantasy universe's handy gun-swords, although hers has been shown to be able to manipulate gravity.
Hard details are, sadly, lacking. The developers have said that the active-battle system, a turn-based play style with real-time elements, will return. But combat will be modified so as to reduce waiting time and dramatically speed up the fighting. Early footage shows Lightning smashing opponents into walls and objects to score more damage, adding a bit more intensity to the action.
Thirteen, traditionally, has been considered unlucky. Yet these 13 elements, included (or omitted) from the latest Final Fantasy, would be a wondrous bout of luck indeed.
• 1. More Chocobo breeding.
• 2. Wandering on-screen monsters-thus eliminating random battles-as seen in FFXII.
• 3. Considerably less dance numbers than Final Fantasy X-2.
• 4. Tie-ins with Final Fantasy XIII Agito and Final Fantasy XIII Versus.
• 5. Less angst, more sassiness.
• 6. Motion controls that don't feel tacked on.
• 7. Cut-scenes that adhere to the philosophy "brevity is the soul of wit"
• 8. Trophies that can be carried over to the PS3's Home
• 9. Online play in any format.
• 10. Expanded monster summoning.
• 11. Player control over all party members, especially in combat.
• 12. Unreal Technology to complement the game's already beautiful graphics.
• 13. A scene as touching as Aeris's death in Final Fantasy VII.
#72: Final Fantasy XIII Agito
TBA: Mobile phones Final Fantasy XIII Agito offers handheld role-playing action, but Square Enix has said current cell phones aren't sophisticated enough to handle this game. As a result, Agito is being planned for the next-generation of cell phones and -- go figure! -- a release date has yet to surface. Agito begins in a magic school, and players can play as one of 12 characters, each of whom wields a different weapon. Some of these characters have yet to properly grasp the definition of weaponry, however; two of the 12 have been seen wielding a deck of cards and a flute.
#71: Final Fantasy XIII Versus
TBA: PS3 Conflicting reports out of Japan have alternately stated Square Enix has put development of the PlayStation 3-exclusive Final Fantasy XIII Versus on hold and that reports of the game's development cessation are, in fact, bunk. The game is one-third of the Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy XIII series (along with Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII Agito), and Square Enix representatives have stated Versus is very dark in tone. The game's director says Versus will be more action oriented in its role-playing, with elements of third-person shooting. Its mysterious main character will have access to a variety of weapons and, oddly enough, his eyes and hair color will change as he fights.
October: PS3, Xbox 360 In 10 words: special grenades build barriers, dig holes. Destructible environments FTW...kablooie!
#69: Fable 2
Octomber: Xbox 360 Peter Molyneux wants to teach you about love. So he's giving you a dog, a faithful companion who will crawl to be at your side even after you've left it in the dust to go hit on barmaids. An action role-playing game, Fable 2 lets you choose a male or female protagonist and then wholly customize him. Your deeds will determine if he's thought of as a hero or heel, but be warned: In Fable 2, heroes are going to have make real sacrifices, such as suffering deformities or going without gold and prestige. The game will also have pregnancies (and venereal disease!); one-button combat for magic, shooting, and swords; choices that impact the game world (do you help the town sheriff or the thieves' den?); interactive cut-scenes; the option to purchase every building in the game; and cooperative play.
#68: Gears of War 2
November 2008: Xbox 360 Gears of War 2 is going to be the must-own Xbox 360 game of 2008. Why? Because Gears 2 still feels like the good 'ol original third-person shooter but much improved, and it's awesome! You run around, tactically seeking cover and shooting the crap out anything that moves. The biggest difference in Gears 2 lies in the notion of "stopping power," which impacts your speed as you continue to take bullets. This impedes your ability to rush an opponent hoping for a last second grenade stick or shotgun smattering. Along the same lines is the new grenade "concussive force," which stuns you for a period of time depending on your proximity to detonated grenades. Standing on top of a grenade will still blow you to bloody bits, but most of the time you will find yourself lying face down in the dirt, struggling to stand back up before an attacker rushes to chainsaw you. And speaking of sawing chains of death, if you smack into another player with chainsaws raised and ready, you will lock into a chainsaw duel. You'll want to immediately mash the B-button as quickly as you can, and to the fastest masher goes the bloody spoils.
There are also more ways to embarrass and harass "downed" opponents. Downed players crawl around on all fours, unable to shoot and spill blood in their wake. But just because you're down does not mean you're out. Press the A-button rapidly to crawl away to safety in hopes a nearby teammate will revive you before... well, you know. For instance, Gears 2 features multiple forms of executions, or fatalities as I like to call them. There are weapon-specific fatalities, a brutal brain-bashing melee fatality, and the infamous curb stomp returns. But that's not all you can do with downed opponents; pick them up to use them as a human meat shield for as long as want. When you're done, a simple neck snap will finish them off.
Many returning weapons from Gears 1 have been fine tuned for optimal balance, and the introduction of such weapons as the 5-round burst Gorgan Pistol and Scorcher flamethrower are welcome additions. Active Reloading has been tweaked too, not only increasing damage but accuracy and range as well. Active Reload is a reloading mini-game featured in the first Gears of War that rewarded the player with more powerful bullet damage if timed correctly.
And finally, three new multiplayer modes have been thrown into the mix: Guardian, Submission, and Wingman. Guardian is the new Assassination from Gears 1 where you are broken up into two teams and one player is assigned the role of team leader. As long as the team leader is alive, you will continue to respawn in waves. The goal is to take out the other team's leader, while protecting yours, and then eliminate the rest. Submission, formerly known as Meat Flag, challenges you to take hostage a feisty non-playable character and carry him to a secure zone. The challenging parts of Meat-Flag Submission are that the hostage totes a shotgun and his own kill count on the leaderboard and the secure zone is surrounded by lasers that must be turned off by your teammates. Wingman is a simple team deathmatch mode where teams are broken up into two-player attack squads. For instance, a ten-player lobby would consist of five teams of two. You and your teammate sport the same character model and the goal is to kill anyone that doesn't look like you.
#67: Guitar Hero World Tour
October: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, PC All hail the musician methos: "We play together." That means your entire band is hopping on the tour bus this year for Guitar Hero World Tour - guitar, bass, vocals, and drums. And guess who's in the spotlight? Shred masters step aside, because drummers are the new hotness. So without further adieu, we introduce you to the new Guitar Hero drum set.
POINT 1: Look and feel. There is an extra pad on the World Tour drum kit compared to Rock Band's setup. The high hat and crash cymbals are elevated directly above the snare and two tom pads, which looks and feels more authentic. The bass kicker is located on the floor underneath the drum pads.
POINT 2: Shhhh... Synthetic rubber cushioning makes the GH drum kit quieter than the competition and allows for fast-action drum rolls. From the snare and tom pads to the cymbals, rubber is better than plastic.
POINT 3: Bands and tracks. World Tour leaves the cover songs behind and jam packs over 80 master tracks into this year's set list. Confirmed bands and songs include Linkin Park, The Eagles, Van Halen, Sublime's "Santeria," Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell," and Foo Fighter's "Everlong."
POINT 4: Music Creator. Finally! No more 12-step computer hacks to tab out your own custom tracks. In World Tour you can record and release your own songs using a full-featured, in-game recording studio and mixing program. And that's not all! GH Tunes allows you to share your music with other Guitar Hero players online.
POINT 5: Wired or Wireless? It has been confirmed that the drum set will be wireless. There will, however, likely be a cord that connects the bass kicker pedal to the rest of the drum kit, but how can you complain about that?
#66: Guitar Hero: Metallica
Q1 2009: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2 Guitar Hero fans have surely heard of or played the recent Aerosmith band expansion pack for GHIII, but no amount of shredding can prepare you for a Metallica add-on. Guitar Hero: Metallica was first referenced in an Activision security filing alongside GH: Aerosmith, On Tour, and World Tour; then was later confirmed on Metallica's official website. "An all Metallica Guitar Hero game . . . fact or fiction?" read the news update. "Idle Internet gossip, wishful thinking, or the real deal? Let's just say that perhaps, just maybe, if you've already mastered "One" on GHIII there might be a pile of 'Tallica songs in your future." Another post was made on the website a couple weeks later apologizing for the lateness of some audio and video postings, stating that "The audio guys are a little tied up prepping for that not-so-top secret GH thing."
Considering that GH: Metallica won't be hitting your living room until early 2009, after the release of World Tour, it's highly probable the game will incorporate the new drum set and microphone that will ship with World Tour. And if the Metallica expansion is anything like the Aerosmith release, it's safe to assume you will be playing through the band's entire career. We're excited, and you should be too. Here is senior editor Sid Shuman's GH: Metallica track wish list for a start:
• Enter Sandman
• Eye of Beholder
• Fade to Black
• For Whom the Bell Tolls
• Harvester of Sorrow
• Master of Puppets
• Ride the Lightning
• Sad but True
#65: Golden Axe: Beast Rider
September: PS3, Xbox 360 Golden Axe: Beast Rider reworks an arcade classic, adding a free-roaming play style, a variety of beasts of burden, and plenty of gore. As the female warrior Tyris Flare, players will have access to a host of weapons (including the fabled Golden Axe) and magic, as well as rideable creatures such as the gorilla-like Miragars who, in a furious state, can rip and tear nearby foes into bloody shreds. There will also be the opportunity to ride a huge raptor that must constantly be fed or else it will buck Tyris off and attempt to eat her. It's essentially more God of War-stye hack-and-slay play, but the shimmering production values give us hope.
#64: Ghostbusters: The Video Game
September: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, PC There were seven Police Academy films and only two Ghostbusters movies. On any planet, including Bizarro World, this would be considered a crime against humanity. Now, however, there is a cause for jubilation: the third Ghostbusters film won't be made, but rather played. Original writers Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis have returned to helm the game. Players will control rookie Ghostbusters and hunt down spooks, specters, and poltergeists in delightfully comic fashion. The PS3 and Xbox 360 visuals look stunning, and the gameplay style forces players to zap ghosts before sucking them into the 'busters' signature ectoplastmic traps. Expect appearances by Slimer (as a weapon, no less0, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, and Gozer the Gozerian. Joy has returned.
#63: Halo Wars
2008: Xbox 360 PC strategy specialist Ensembles Studios takes the reigns on Halo Wars, and with it, a host of gameplay challenges. This strategy spin on the Halo shooters had some special requirements: Ensemble had to flesh out the human's UNSC vehicle fleet to make it better-equipped to handle the Convenant armada in a strategy setting. Here are the new stars of the UNSC fleet.
• 1. Cyclops: A sly homage to the Cyclops unit in Age of Mythology, this prototype UNSC unit is a powered exoskeleton capable of pulverizing enemy buildings with its smashing blows. It's surprisingly nimble and can race across the map faster than most vehicles.
• 2. Wolverine: A new anti-aircraft vehicle that can shred through Banshees and Hornets with fast-moving rockets. Unfortunately, the Wolverine is nearly helpless against ground attacks, so you've got to protect it.
• 3. Cobra: The Cobra excels at piercing enemy armor. Their high-powered rockets can drive back enemy tanks. In a pinch, you can deploy it for artillery strikes on nearby buildings.
• 4. Vulture: When the UNSC needs some heavy firepower, it calls in these bad boys. The slow-moving Vultures take time to position, but can harass enemy troops with devastating rocket volleys.
#62: Halo Chronicles
2009: Xbox 360 Microsoft and film developer Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) will be collaborating on Halo Chronicles, a mystery project that promises to blur the lines between film and video game. The title was announced in 2006 and, since then, precious little information has filtered out. Microsoft recently confirmed that Halo Chronicles will be delivered episodically, although there's no indication as to whether new episodes will be delivered on discs or via the Xbox 360 Live online service.
#61: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
November: PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, PS2, PSP, DS EA is taking a huge risk in translating this obscure fantasy book into a video game. It features a small, pallid English boy named Harry Potter who, as a magician, has all sorts of fanciful adventures. In this third-person adventure, players get to take the role of Harry and his magician pals Ron and Hermione as they cast spells, brew potions, explore the grounds of a magic school, duel with other wizards, battle fantastic monsters, and play a broom-based game called Quidditch. Oh, and someone gets killed in the book, so it's expected that this game will contain the same tragedy.
#60: Indiana Jones
2009: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, DS, PSP In 10 words: Dr. Jones punches Nazis in San Francisco; Indy 4 sucked.
#59: James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace
Fall 2008: PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, PS2, DS Agent 007 returns in what looks to be the best James Bond game since Goldeneye - seriously. GamePro was first to see the new Quantum of Solace game, which combines action sequences from both Casino Royale and the upcoming Bond movie. Part Goldeneye, part Rainbow Six Vegas, Quantum of Solace is a "hybrid of first-person and third-person," executive producer Garrett Young explains. You play primarily in first-person, shooting enemies with Bond's favorite guns used in the movies, and the camera will switch to third-person when you take cover against objects. Quantum of Solace is the first 007 game to feature the more "physical, cunning, and dangerous" Daniel Craig as James Bond.
2009: PS3 For those who've always yearned to put on a spandex bodysuit and perform either great or dastardly deeds, Infamous won't be able to help with what's obviously a serious psychological problem. It will, however, provide an interesting comic book-style adventure set in a Grand Theft Auto-style open world. You are a metahuman, able to access incredible strength, manipulate lightning, move objects via telekinesis, fly, and so forth. In-game scenarios enable the character to gradually shift into a hero or villain, and a sprawling interactive city presents plenty of opportunities for exploration, salvation, and destruction.
#57: Infinite Undiscovery
September: Xbox 360 A case of mistaken identity sees reluctant hero Capell thrown into jail, thus setting the stage for Square Enix's Infinite Undiscovery, a blend of action and role-playing. Although players only control Capell, they can form four-man adventuring parties and choose from a pool of 18 heroes, including spell-wielding twins, the requisite busty sorceress, and Sigmund, the man for whom Capell is mistaken. Undiscovery promises a seamless world with no breaks between gameplay and new "situational battles," which require either special tactics or brains to resolve. Some, simply, cannot be resolved with force at all...
#56: Just Cause 2
September: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 Improvements are the order of the day with Just Cause 2. Why? Just 'cause. The developers promise the third-person adventure will see improved combat and smarter enemies. Drivable vehicles, a core part of any open-world action game, will now be influenced by various terrain types and surfaces. Upgradeable weapons will also be included, as well as a new mission structure that de-emphasizes optional side-quests. Just Cause 2 will also encourage the player to create chaos to empower the game's factions, thus weakening the country's corrupt government. All this bodes very well for the action-heavy adventure.
#55: Killzone 2
February 2009: PS3 Killzone 2 promises to be the most intense and ultimate first-person shooter on the PlayStation 3 when it deploys early next year. Initial trailers and gameplay demonstrations reveal that Killzone 2 is set to take place entirely on planet Helghan, the home-world of the bug-eyed Helghast who invaded ISA colonies in previous Killzone games. You play as ISA special ops member Sev, when your squad lands behind enemy lines to lead the main invasion force.
Killzone 2 features a new "lean and peak" cover mechanic that, unlike Rainbow Six Vegas, remains in the first-person view at all times. Multiplayer has been confirmed, unfortunately cooperative play has not, and there is a high possibility of a public beta in fall 2008. If Killzone 2 plays half as good as it looks, shooter fans are in for one wild ride in February 2009.
#54: Lego Batman
OUT NOW! Traveller's Tales is a development house with a simple recipe for success: Take a hugely popular franchise, stir in every recognizable character and location from its canon, and build an action-platformer out of digitized Danish bricks. It worked for Star Wars, it worked for Indiana Jones, and unless extremely portly women decide it's time to sing falsetto, it'll work for Batman.
This time around, though, things will be a little darker. The various characters in Lego Batman will be portrayed in their classic, 1960s TV-show garb, but environments and color schemes will reflect more Tim Burton than Adam West. There will also be two separate cooperative campaigns: one for the Dark Knight and sidekick Robin, and another for Batman's numerous nemeses. With a lot of extra effort being put into emotive animations and a fresh combat style, this one promises to satisfy.
#53: Left 4 Dead
November 2008: Xbox 360, PC One part survival horror, one part co-op shooter, and two parts Valve, Left 4 Dead is a smash hit in the making. The game pits two teams against each other in a cooperative campaign where up to four player-controlled survivors blast their way through hordes of A.I. "infected." As the survivors desperately dash between safe zones, up to four more players can assume the roles of the "boss" infected, using their night vision and an array of gory abilities like kamikaze explosions and 50-foot lasso tongues to try and kill off the living. Valve's got this one in the (ammo) bag.
#52: Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon
October 2008: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, DS Ten years after the youthful gamers of the world united over the good, clean fun of Spyro the Dragon, French developer ?tranges Libellules is aiming high with its series revival-literally. Earlier games in the action-platformer trilogy restricted Spyro's flight, but Dawn of the Dragon is being designed for complete freedom of movement, letting players take to the skies whenever they please.
You'll also be able to switch dynamically between Spyro and his former nemesis, Cynder, during gameplay, or bring in a friend and fight cooperatively against enemies. The cooperative play won't be online-enabled, but the star-studded voice cast and polished gameplay will make Spyro a go-to title for gamer families.
September: PS3, Xbox 360 In 10 words: Pandora's Box opens; monsters spill out. Protip: Monsters hate bullets!
October 2008: PS3 If you're a PlayStation 3 follower, then you already know about LittleBigPlanet, the online-centric, physics-based, side-scrolling platformer/puzzler that's taken PS3 fandom by storm. But do you really know what to expect? Here's a look at the subtler features in the game.
• 1. You can make your own stickers. Little Big Planet will allow players to pin up pictures of anything they like, whenever and wherever they want. You'll even be able to use photos taken with the Playstation Eye! We sense an impending influx of genitalia graffiti.
• 2. You can go emo. Using the directional pad, players can switch between four different emotions for their characters at any time: happy, sad, angry, or worried. It's a fascinating and consequence-free device that should give gamers a unique way to express themselves. But with a 3:1 ratio of negative to positive emotions, don't be surprised if your friends go emo.
• 3. You can slap your buddies. Another consequence-free device in Little Big Planet is the ability to slap your fellow players across the face on a whim (in-game, of course; what you do on your own time is your business). All it takes is a quick flick of the thumbstick, only the harder you flick, the harder the slap. Go ahead. You know they deserve it.
• 4. You can build limitless levels. We're probably most excited about Little Big Planet's built-in map editor, which enables you to quickly build levels as big (or as high) as you want. We're looking at it as a physics-driven gaming death machine. The tools and traps are there; all we need now are folks with sordid imaginations. Any gamers in the house?
#49: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest
Fall 2008: PS3, Xbox 360, DS, PC Like a hack-and-slash remix of Star Wars: Battlefront, Lord of the Rings: Conquest excels at epic team battles. In the campaign, you'll choose from several character classes - archers, wizards, warriors, and more - and complete team objectives, such as protecting Helms' Deep from Orc bombers. Once you finish the campaign, you can scour the Shire as Saruman's Orc army in a new, separate campaign.
But massive online battles are the real draw. You can play as legendary LOTR characters such as Aragorn, the Ring Wraiths, and even the man-stomping demon Sauron. The game's scale is impressive: battles include dozens of characters onscreen, and catapults rain fiery death on the teeming battlefield. A stampede of 150-foot Oliphants couldn't keep us away from this geeky gem.
Q1 2009: Wii In 10 words: Okami team makes an ultraviolent arcade brawler. Wii love fatalities!
#47: Mario Super Sluggers
OUT NOW ON Wii! Continuing the tradition of Mario-branded sports games, Nintendo is wrapping up its sequel to Mario Superstar Baseball. Like Wii Sports and Mario Strikers Charged, Super Mario Sluggers will make great use of the Wii Remote, but this time around there's an extra level of complexity. Batting, for instance, is still a matter of flailing the Wii Remote around, but now you'll be able to bunt a pitch or charge up your swing. You still wind up and "throw" a pitch with the Remote, but in Sluggers you can curve the ball, or use button combinations to hurl character-specific pitches like Mario's flame-wreathed fastball. You can even man the outfield or steal bases. If you've been waiting for Mario to storm a baseball diamond on the Wii, Sluggers should be a welcome addition to your collection.
#46: Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
OUT NOW ON PS3, Xbox 360, PC! Having built up a reputation for delivering ridiculous explosions and wanton devastation, Pandemic Studios is pushing the boundaries of sanity with World in Flames, their sequel to 2005's cult hit Mercenaries. Maps and level loads have been ditched in favor of a seamless, sprawling world covering the wide expanse of Venezuela. And in this world, you can level anything and everything with the press of a button. Forests will burn, bridges will crumble, and you'll drop tanker trucks onto oil rigs from the safety of your helicopter. Is anybody not ready for this?
#45: Mirror's Edge
Fall: PS3, Xbox 360, PC Crackdown let us soar from rooftop to rooftop like the Hulk on a rampage; Assassin's Creed let us tumble and sprint and climb with a mastery of free running. But while both games let us control the movement, neither let us experience it. Not like this. Mirror's Edge is one of those games that changes something you thought was unchangeable. It's not about combat, although you'll shoot, punch, and kick your way out of trouble with the authorities. It's not about stealth, either, although you'll be doing your fair share of hiding from the totalitarian government, ferrying messages between resistance fighters. It's not even about freedom, despite the staggering sprawl of the chrome-white cityscape slipping away beneath your feet.
No, this is a game about speed; about looking through the eyes of an acrobatic parkour artisan as she leaps, falls, sprints, and slides across the highest girders and longest cables in the city. There's no over-the-shoulder cam, there's just you: your arms, your legs, your balance, and your ability to traverse any obstacle, so long as you can keep moving. If you thought that the first-person experience couldn't be rewritten, think again. There's a reason why we're so excited about Mirror's Edge. This is something we've never seen before.
#44: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
Fall: PS3, Xbox 360 In 10 words: Less blood, no fatalities? No thanks. Wait, Batman? We're there.
#43: Midnight Club: Los Angeles
September: PS3, Xbox 360 This isn't the Midnight Club you remember. The cult racing series has been re-imagined and re-located to SoCal, bringing the famously night-owl racing series into the sunlight for the first time. Midnight Club: LA blends the fast-paced Burnout Paradise with the more cerebral Gran Turismo 5, adding noteworthy features such as a nifty GPS-based overhead map and a go-anywhere, do-anything gameplay philosophy.
Because Midnight Club: LA's development team also worked on Grand Theft Auto IV, you'll see some similarities in the checkpoint-based races. For starters, it doesn't matter how you get to the next checkpoint, so shortcuts are encouraged (and denoted on the map). You can also gain four special driver abilities, such as the slow-mo "Zone" mode. But our favorite feature is the insane visual detail on the cars, down to the glittering paint jobs. Check out those screens!
#42: Neopets Puzzle Adventure
Fall 2008: Wii, DS, PC Neopets is bigger than you think - over 12 million monthly visitors visit Neopets.com, spending hours designing Neopets and interacting with the Neopet community. Puzzle Adventure, though, is more akin to handheld favorite Puzzle Quest. Each player builds a Neopet character with basic stats, magic spells, and clothing. The chief difference between Neopets Puzzle Adventure and Puzzle Quest, however, is the game objective. In Puzzle Quest, you win by matching three like icons in a row. Neopets Puzzle Adventure is based on the strategy board game of Reversi, (or Othello). The end goal is to dominate the board with your colored gems.
#41: Prince of Persia
Holiday 2008: PS3, Xbox 360, PC The mysterious figure slides down the embankment with rugged grace, strands of his turban trailing behind him, his sandals surfing the currents of sand that flow across the sun-baked rock. His path leads directly and unavoidably to a thousand-foot column of empty space, and the cliff on the opposite side seems miles out of reach. The rogue leaps out without hesitation, hangs in the air for a moment, and all seems lost-until a feminine form materializes in the air above him, her arm outstretched, to swing our hero to safety.
Unlike his predecessor, this new Prince holds no sway over the flow of time, but he's every bit as acrobatic. Running across multiple walls in sequence, clutching ledges, and scrambling up sheer surfaces has never looked better than in this new-generation reinvention of Prince of Persia. A shiny new "grip glove" comes in handy as well: as it grinds against rock or cuts into soft sandstone, you'll descend sheer surfaces with full directional control, dodging troublemakers on the way down. The acrobatics are comfortingly familiar in concept and control, but breathtaking in their showmanship.
The fresh start afforded Prince of Persia's corrupted regions is a fitting metaphor for the game as a whole. Where the existing trilogy emphasized rewinding time and the unwieldy consequences, this new adventure springs from the more powerful and transformative notion of rebirth. From what we've seen so far, it could be one hell of a fresh start.
#40: Project Origin
October 2008: PS3, Xbox 360, PC "Project Origin": a deranged experiment on a hapless child, cursed with psychic ability and imprisoned for it, forced to give birth to at least two of her own children over the course of a lifetime of shackled suffering. Monolith Studios' F.E.A.R. told the tale of one of those children and the search for his mother, Alma. Now, F.E.A.R.'s sequel will continue to unravel Alma's story, this time through the eyes of a Delta Force agent named Michael Becket.
Horrific as Project Origin's experimental namesake was, Monolith is looking to boost the blood, tighten the story, and further the fear-factor in its return to the cursed Armacham facility. The graphics have gotten a much-needed HD boost, and the combat features some sweet new weaponry and the return of F.E.A.R.'s much-celebrated slow-mo Focus mode. The already impressive enemy intelligence has also gotten a makeover, with enemy behaviors now completely unscripted and unpredictable. In other words, play the same section of the game twice and you'll get two different experiences.
Those experiences should be plenty scary, too, since Monolith is trying to work your senses during gameplay. Focus down your gun's iron sights and your vision will sharpen while your hearing dulls; blow away a target at close range and your visor will be splattered with blood, forcing you to listen for enemies while taking the time to wipe the gore away. F.E.A.R. wasn't perfect, but Monolith is sure trying to put out the perfect sequel.
February 2009: PS3, Xbox 360, PC A hooded hero, a guiltless conscience, a barren memory, and trans-human abilities both awesome and bewildering together define Prototype, a sandbox action game set in a modern-day, open-world, shockingly authentic New York City. As the city falls to the ravages of a viral mutation and the government charges the streets to fight back the infected populace, Alex Mercer seeks only to learn who (and why) he is. As for the what, that's easy: Alex is a shapeshifter. He can absorb, consume, and take on the properties of anything-objects, creatures, enemies, and innocents alike. It will take all his abilities to beat back the city, and all of our patience to wait until 2009 when Prototype finally hits store shelves.
#38: Puzzle Quest: Galactrix
Fall 2008: XBLA, DS, PC Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords was a fiendishly addictive puzzle/RPG that used Bejeweled-like gameplay to simulate combat. Despite its outrageously enjoyable gameplay (it's still a favorite in the GamePro offices), Warlords had two problems: it looked awful, and its puzzle board was ho-hum. Like a good sequel should, Galactrix is evolving its take on puzzling with these three gameplay enhancements.
• 1. Complete graphical and environmental overhaul. As its name implies, Galactrix is going solidly sci-fi. The move into space has meant transforming the cartoony look of Warlords to a cleaner, more futuristic style that puts the cutesy fantasy setting to shame. The RPG elements of combat have also changed, and instead of managing the spells and health of a Warlord, you'll be watching the weapons and armor of your spaceship.
• 2. Pegboards are out; hexes are in. Perhaps the most important change coming in Galactrix is the puzzle board revamp. No longer is the playing field a square board with circular, peg-like tiles; now, both the board and tiles are hexagons. Tile-swaps can be made in any of six directions instead of four, multiplying the game's complexity.
• 3. Gravity is no longer on your side. Now that matches take place in space, new tiles no longer fall from the top of the screen every time you clear a set of three or more; instead, tiles will "fall" into play from any of the six directions, based on which way you're flipping pairs. That means you can create different chain combos by switching the same two tiles different ways, making strategy absolutely vital to success.
OUT NOW ON PS3, Xbox 360, PC! In 10 words: Extreme off-road racing with amazing graphics. Prettiest game ever?
#36: Resident Evil 5
2009: PS3, Xbox 360, PC Set in a small African village, former special ops agent Chris Redfield finds again himself in a sticky situation. Strapped with bulging biceps and a machete, Chris is outnumbered by more onscreen zombies than any other game in the series. They're more relentless, too, charging Chris with blades, pipes, and wrenches, grabbing and biting at his shoulders if they can get close enough. Constantly wrestling with his vile adversaries (which are Las Plagas victims a la RE4), Resident Evil 5 looks to be the most intense and uncomfortably graphic Resident Evil yet.
POINT 1: No Place to Survive There is literally no place to survive the horror in Resident Evil 5. You're able to barricade Chris indoors just like in RE4, pushing cabinets and tables in front of doorways to stall the weaker "infected," but bigger "boss zombies" will demolish your efforts in a single blow. For instance, one hulking foe in particular is a girthy executioner who wields a massive mace-axe capable of killing Chris in one swipe.
POINT 2: Real Fire and Electricity On a visual level, the fire effects in Resident Evil 5 are a striking feature. If you're a fan of the incendiary grenades from RE4, you're going to pyro your pants when you see zombies light up in RE5. The same goes for the electricity effects. You can shoot telephone pole conductors, which fall to the ground and emit an electric-shock wave. Incendiary or electricity, either way you're going to end up with burnt zombie toast.
POINT 3: Unsolved Mysteries "There are lots of elements and enemies you haven't seen yet," teases co-producer Jun Takeuchi. For instance, co-op was merely a rumor up until the E3 confirmation. You and a friend will now be able to romp through the infected villages of Africa together as Chris and new partner Shiva. Of course, there's still the looming suspicion surrounding Sherry Birkin last seen in RE2.
#35: Resistance 2
November: PlayStation 3 Resistance 2 hits the PlayStation 3 this November, and with it, one of the biggest, most ambitious first-person shooters ever devised. Here is Resistance 2 -- by the numbers.
• 1) Two campaign modes. Resistance 2 includes two separate Campaign modes, each with its own storyline. The Campaign mode is an epic single-player experience based around the exploits of half-Chimera, half-human Lt. Nathan Hale as he seeks to liberate Chicago and San Francisco from the Chimera invaders. But there's a second campaign, too, in the...
• 2) 8-player online Cooperative mode. This entirely separate storyline allows you and seven buddies to play as Medics, Soldiers, and Special Ops in massive online battles. Each character class has special powers, such as the Soldier's energy shield or the Medic's healing rays, which can help protect your team from the...
• 3) Scores of enemies. Resistance 2's Cooperative mode overwhelms eight players with Starship Trooper-style Chimera onslaughts, and you'll have to work as a team to thin the crowds. As you vanquish boss monsters, you'll earn Chimera artifacts that will unlock new equipment and outfits. But to earn all the secret upgrades, you've got to play the...
• 4) 60-player online Competitive mode. Surprisingly, 60-player online matches aren't as chaotic as they sound. To keep big matches manageable, Resistance 2 splits each team into a handful of smaller squads; these squads them go off to accomplish team objectives. But these numbers are nothing compared to the biggest surprise in Resistance 2...
• 5) A 300-foot boss monster. The Leviathan lurks in Chimera-occupied Chicago, and it's so big it blocks out the sun. To overcome this titan, you'll need to fire LAARK rockets down its gullet as it prepares to devour you. But even that might not be enough.
#34: Saints Row 2
October: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 In 10 words: open-world gang carnage continues in Volition's answer to GTA.
#33: Red Faction: Guerrilla
2009: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 In 2001, Red Faction's GeoMod technology promised the complete destruction of everything in the game, from metal walls to Martian terrain. Unfortunately, that promise was waylaid by ugly graphics and unimaginative level design, making GeoMod little more than a gimmick. Enter Guerrilla, the evolution of Red Faction that has, like so many games, gone open-world. Armed with a Halo 3-inspired mining hammer and a bevy of explosives and roving vehicles, you can destroy anything and everything in the world-except the terrain. This restriction is for the better, according to developer Volition. In Guerrilla, they're going with gameplay over gimmicks.
#32: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels
Winter 2008: Wii Sporting the same visual style of this summer's Clone Wars CG movie (and this fall's TV show), Lightsaber Duels is a one-on-one fighting game featuring prequel characters such as Obi-Wan, Anakin, General Grievous, and Count Dooku, plus new faces like Anakin's padawan Ahsoka Tano and Dooku henchwoman Asajj Ventress. We're still not sure if this game can support precise lightsaber motions but, either way, it's got to be better than the last Star Wars fighting game, the ill-concieved Masters of Teras Kasi (ugh).
#31: Shaun White Snowboarding
Fall 2008: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii Peaks, powder, and heart-pumping speed may introduce Shaun White Snowboarding, but it's authenticity that defines the game. Shaun "Flying Tomato" White, with an Olympic gold medal around his neck, has partnered up with Ubisoft to help create the most fun, realistic, seamless snowboarding game ever made. It's not just a licensing arrangement, either. White makes regular trips to Ubisoft's offices to nail down what works and what doesn't.
You'll start at the top of mile-high mountains and literally board anywhere, in any direction, all the way down. It's an ambitious, yet utterly natural approach. You can view the snow cascades from any angle, thanks to customizable camera angles. You can even snowboard in a first-person perspective-a feature White himself insisted on. The slope terrain gradually changes on the way down, simulating the vegetation growth of a real mountain. And the courses themselves will be mind-numbingly massive, with ten-minute runs commonplace. Sports games that appeal to the masses are few and far between (see 1080), but Shaun White Snowboarding could very well bridge the gap.
#30: Skate 2
Fall 2008: PS3, Xbox 360 After the original Skate outsold Tony Hawk 2:1, it was no surprise when EA announced Skate 2, a promise that already has fans flexing with anticipation. Returning to the city of San Vanelona five years after the events of the first game, players will find that skateboarding has become an outlawed phenomenon. City-erected obstacles will make tricks harder to pull off, and getting caught is no longer just a ticketable offense; it's grounds for the kinds of severe penalties that make grinding the law that much more appealing. A tight-lipped EA hasn't said much beyond the faintest hints of a harsher, more immediate skating paradise, but we're crossing our fingers for this tricked-out sequel.
#29: SOCOM: Confrontation
September 16, 2008: PS3 While Zipper Interactive works on re-imagining SOCOM 4, they've passed the reigns for an online-only SOCOM sequel over to Slant Six. Confrontation stays true to the classic gameplay of SOCOM in virtually every way-customizable weapons, realistic player damage, an authentic armory, and over-the-shoulder, squad-based shooting-and then takes things one step further by bringing it all to the PlayStation 3. You'll see a variety of multiplayer maps, both new and classic, as well as a Sixaxis tilt-enhanced cover system and some very pretty graphics. Fans of Counterstrike, Rainbow Six, and Metal Gear Online will want to check out this puppy.
#28: Silent Hill 5: Homecoming
October: PS3, Xbox 360 In 10 words: US devs tackle horror, add dodging and better combat. Boo!
#27: Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
Fall 2008: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS, PC The alien symbiote, best known for turning our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man into a dark emo prick in Spider-Man 3, has spread its gooey vine-like grip throughout the streets of New York City. In Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, you have ultimate control over the fate of the city and over Spider-Man's path. Here are three ways Web of Shadows is building a better Spidey.
• 1. Red and black suit Spideys. For the first time in a Spider-Man game, you will be able to control both the acrobatic red suit Spider-Man and the savage, Venom-esque black suit Spider-Man. You can switch between the suits, even in mid-attack, to create new, devastating combos and finishing moves.
• 2. An overhauled combat system. You can now lock on to enemies - it's about time! - to help you better exploit Spidey's agility and strength. A context-sensitive camera system makes combat hyper responsive, allowing you to take on multiple enemies at once.
• 3. Choose your destiny. The choices you make will reflect the outcome of the game. Web of Shadows showcases many classic heroes and villains, and the missions you choose to accept will influence who will aid you in the fight to save New York from the impending symbiote takeover.
#26: Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Fall 2008: DS Hold up, now. Sonic the Hedgehog, in a role-playing game? For the Nintendo DS? Stop scratching your head -- it's true. This is a true RPG, too. You'll lead Sonic and his friends through classic locales like Green Hill Zone on a journey to rescue Knuckles and find the location of the disappearing Chaos Emeralds. You'll control everything using the DS stylus, from point-and-click movement across the world to the turn-based combat and mini-games. We're holding out a lot of hope for this unusual pairing.
#25: Sonic Unleashed
Fall 2008: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2 Finally! A 3D, high-def envisioning of Sonic the Hedgehog that captures it all-the ridiculous speed, the bouncing puzzles, the breakneck twists and turns and loops that bring us back to our Genesis days. Sonic Unleashed will fluidly tie together both classic 2D levels and short, full-3D speed stints in a drop-dead gorgeous 3D world. By day, he'll collect golden rings, blast through enemies, and traverse a shattered Earth on his quest to find the ever-elusive Chaos Emeralds. But when night falls, Sonic's inner werewolf comes out to play.
2009: PS3, Xbox 360 Twenty years after bursting onto the arcade scene as a gore-infused beat-em-up and survival-horror prototype, Splatterhouse reawakens as a sleek new-gen brawler. It's a full-3D re-imagining more brutal and bloody than anything else in gaming. We're talking about Hulk-style thunderclaps popping brains and two-by-fours separating muscle and sinew from bone. This game will not be getting a Teen rating.
Splatterhouse tells the story of Rick Taylor, a college student whose girlfriend has vanished into the depths of West Mansion. As monsters and demons claw through the house, Rick happens across the Terror Mask, an ancient relic that transforms him into a primal beast with otherworldly strength and regenerative power. Rick's journey will take him to the furthest corners of the world to track down his beloved Jennifer. It's a simple story from a simpler time in gaming, but Splatterhouse's complex combat system should shine through the blood fountains. If you're looking for God of War-style carnage, look no further.
2009: Wii Spyborgs combines violence and hilarity into one Saturday-morning cartoon package. This action-adventure game brings together five quirky super-spies. The gameplay switches between combat and puzzle-solving/platforming, and the goal is to work cooperatively, using different characters to engage in team-based challenges. But here's the genius twist: Spyborgs follows a Saturday morning cartoon structure, complete with commercials (some of which are playable mini-games). We're so there.
OUT NOW ON PC AND MAC! So you've downloaded the Spore Creature Creator. Good for you! If you haven't, now's the time to get in on the fun (psst...it's free!). Here are a few tips on how to start playing a wacko Mother Nature; mad scientist-grade white jacket not included.
Step 1: Add a body: Start out with a strong body shape. Use your mouse's scrollwheel on the various spine pieces to enlarge or shrink body areas.
Step 2: Arms and legs: If you want your creature to move about in a timely fashion, you may want to think about adding arms and legs. Than again, anything is possible -- you can have a creepy crawler if you so desire.
Step 3: Eyes and mouth:Your creation is going to need to be able to see and eat if it's going to survive in the big bad world. You can also decide whether your creation eats plants, meat, or both.
Step 4: Wings, horns and more: Time to decorate! Everything you need to customize your creature is included in this extensive section of accessories.
Step 5: Paint shop: Now you can choose colors and textures to your creature, or even add stripes, polka dots and other textures.
Step 6: Finalize!: You can now drop your creation into a basic environment to watch its behavior. You can experiment with movement, fighting, and breeding practices. A new life is born!
#20: The Sims 3
2009: PC In 10 words: realer models, better aging, more community interaction. Still speaking Simlish.
#19: StarCraft II
2009: PC, Mac StarCraft is widely considered to be the best real-time strategy game ever made. Even ten years after its initial release in 1998, professional gamers still compete in StarCraft matches for big money. With StarCraft II, developer Blizzard plans to carry on the tradition by creating the "ultimate competitive real-time strategy game." In StarCraft II, you choose from one of three playable races: the mechanically adept and mobile Terrans, the technologically advanced Protoss, or the bestial alien Zerg. Although each race plays radically different, StarCraft's hallmark is balance. We're not expecting to see StarCraft II until 2009 at the earliest, and the wait won't be easy, but you can get up-to-date information on the game's many details by visiting starcraft2.com.
#18: Street Fighter IV
2009: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 The first true Street Fighter sequel in over a decade hits the PS3 and Xbox 360 early next year. Street Fighter IV keeps the retro feel by sticking to a 2D fighting style, using 3D character models and backgrounds to spice up the visuals. Street Fighter IV plays refreshingly similar to Street Fighter games of past (you still remember all the moves, don't you?), so anyone who has an affinity for old-school fighters will love it. Adding to the nostalgia, Capcom is bringing back 12 classic characters-Ken, Ryu, Guile, and the rest of the gang-but also adds five new brawlers including the lighting-fast Crimson Viper, the burly El Fuerte, and a sinister final boss known only as "Seth." Street Fighter IV is already up and running in Japanese arcades, so we'll see if Tekken 6 can keep up come later this year.
#17: Tekken 6
2009: PlayStation 3 Tekken 5 was one of the most balanced, fierce, and replayable fighters ever created, and Tekken 6 is following closely in its footsteps. Early hands-on experiences have highlighted the game's magnificent HD visuals - seriously, folks, this is one beautiful brawler - plus countless new costumes and accessories. But Tekken 6 makes a controversial addition in its new "bound" moves, which are smashing attacks that send your opponent bouncing off the ground...and right back into your fists for more punishment. Frustratingly, these new moves emphasize massive mid-air juggle combos instead of the more nuanced back-and-forth sniping of Tekken 5. Still, Tekken 6 is upping the ante with its enormous 40-man fighter roster, which the morbidly obese Bob, the Spanish hothead Miguel, and a contortionist named Zafina. The release date remains a mystery, but we're betting on early 2009.
#16: Star Ocean: The Last Hope
2009: Xbox 360 After a third World War leaves Earth an inhospitable husk, humanity turns its gaze to the heavens. First contact with an alien race and early warp drives follow, ushering in a new era of exploration. Edge Maverick and Reimi Saionji acquire a ship of their own in this universe of possibility, and set out on the breed of epic RPG adventure that only Square Enix can pull off.
The Last Hope is actually a prequel to the 1996 original. So far, gameplay details remain elusive, with early reports indicating that the real-time combat will feature four party members working together. More than anything, we want to see the latest evolution of the series' famous item creation system, which enables characters to craft powerful items by hand. Why face tantalizing mysteries with anything less than the best gear?
#15: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
OUT NOW ON PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, PS2, DS, PSP! Forget Obi-wan Kenobi's subtle mind tricks; Darth Vader's secret apprentice is the Sith equivalent of an abused pit-bull. The opening level lets you tear the Wookiee home world apart as Mr. Heavy Breathing himself, but the rest of the game mines the eighteen tumultuous years between Episodes III and IV, and tells the saga of a tortured soul who might be the most powerful force-wielder in history.
Toss dozens of objects around simultaneously, scour a gorgeous and imaginative universe of strange planets for Jedi, and cut them down with incredible over-the-top renditions of classic powers like force push and lightning. What better excuse could there be to leave a trail of death and demolition in your wake than the guarded secret of Starkiller's very existence? This is Star Wars for Dark Side devotees.
#15: Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World
Winter 2008: Wii Tales of Symphonia was one of the GameCube's most popular RPGs, so this Wii sequel makes perfect sense. But this sequel is seeing some surprising changes. Unlike the original game, which offered a more traditional RPG experience, Dawn of the New World will let you capture, customize, and breed over 200 different varieties of monsters. These monsters can join you on the battlefield or aid you in other ways. We wish there were more motion control outside of point-and-click movement, but the new four-player combat zones and the stellar storyline -- featuring the original game's protagonist as the villain -- will have us eagerly awaiting this Dawn.
#14: This is Vegas
November: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 Don't have the scratch to put together a Lost Wages run this year? GamePro offers up five reasons why you're better off staying home and playing This is Vegas instead.
• 5. Racing Tear up the strip in hot rides you'd never get permission to photograph, let alone drive, and without wrapping yourself around a telephone pole in the process.
• 4. Gambling Yeah, sure, you're the mathematical genius with a card-playing system that'll burn the house down. Right. Throw away your fake money at the simulated tables, and save the real cash for paying off your credit cards.
• 3. Glamour This is Vegas is full of celebrities, big wheels, and exaggerated beauty; Nevada's desert jewel is rife with lowlifes, wannabes and blowhards. Who would you rather hang out with?
• 2. Romance Those unattainable beauties won't give you the time of day if you don't look like Brad Pitt or have a stack of hundreds parked next to your drink. Luckily, your alter ego actually has a shot.
• 1. Clear Conscience Don't believe the tourist board: what happens in Vegas might just follow you around for the rest of your life. Raise hell in the virtual world, and you'll still be able to look at yourself in the mirror.
Fall 2008: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 Tiberium doesn't mark the Command & Conquer series' first foray into first-person shooter territory, but the devastation of 2002's Renegade can't compare to the high-fidelity world of war that stretches out into the distance here. Walking armored hulks will support your quest to claim important objectives, but a great leader commands from the front. Lucky for you, Ricardo Vega's exoskeleton enables unnaturally high jumps to clear obstacles, and new weapons-such as shell that splinters in mid-air to launch homing missiles-will improve your chances for survival.
#12: Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins
2009: PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360 The involvement of Charlie's Angels director Joseph "McG" McGinty Nichol makes us cringe, but there must be something special here to lure Christian Bale to the new Terminator trilogy. Let's hope that special sauce carries over to consoles. The game's been in development for only a year, so details are scarce, but we do know it'll track humanity's final battle against Skynet's formidable forces in 2018, and we can't wait to see what new challenges await John Connor and the mysterious Marcus Wright.
#11: WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009
Fall: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, DS, PSP Lest you think the lack of competition led it to complacency, this year's entry in the long-running WWE series will ship with new goodies like a create-a-finisher system, a more intimate ringside camera, less distracting intersection of wrestlers' bodies, and a revamped career mode that supports co-op for the first time. The deepest new content lies in the realm of tag team matches, where partners can hot tag for ring-clearing rampages, execute fifty different double team moves, and finish off an opponent together. Wii owners can even waggle their Wiimotes and Nunchuks during entrances to hype up the crowd and build momentum.
#10: TNA iMPACT!
September: PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, PS2 Don't count out the challenger just yet. TNA will rock eight different arenas with a full roster of 25 combatants, some of whom are actually WWE alumni. A six-sided ring mixes up the geography, and you won't find the Ultimate X match, where wrestlers must climb cables strung over the ring to claim their prize, anywhere else. TNA iMPACT! is unlikely to ship with a comparable number of match types, and we expect a certain amount of awkwardness as players come to terms with the quirks of a new approach, but its obvious emphasis on fast-paced action over constant grappling and powerful submission holds could well make it the most frantic wrestling game on the market.
#9: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction
TBA: PC, Xbox 360 Sam Fisher might be a fugitive after the climactic events of Double Agent, but he's received a lot of support from Anna Grimsd?ttir over the years, so he doesn't hesitate to come out of hiding when he learns she's in trouble. Third Echelon is a hamstrung shadow of its former glory, so Sam's on his own this time. The newly bearded operative won't spend much time hiding in the shadows, though. When you're a fugitive stalking the grounds of painfully public locations like the Korean War Memorial, sneaky subtlety requires hiding in the most dangerous place of all -- plain sight. Improvisation is the order of these dark days: a dropped cell phone's incessant beeping could distract a troublesome sentry, and food court chairs can double as projectile weapons in a pinch.
The crowds of ordinary people and expansive environments give the impression of a sort of Tom Clancy's Assassin's Creed, and the development delays make us wonder if even a top-flight developer like Ubisoft Montreal can pull off such monumental gameplay shift. Sam Fisher's no stranger to high stakes, though, so we're confident he'll find a way to work through his current growing pains.
#8: Tom Clancy's EndWar
October: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, DS, PSP When Russia surges into Europe in 2020 in an imperialistic frenzy financed by oil profits, World War III ceases to be hypothetical and starts becoming very, very real. EndWar's near-future apocalypse puts advanced assets at your disposal, from nimble next-generation tanks to unmanned sacrificial drones and ludicrously powerful orbiting weapons platforms. Couch commanders roll into co-op and competitive matches as the United States, Russia, or European forces, and a persistent online theater of war will offer a new dynamic conflict every few weeks. Even cooler is the optional all-inclusive voice command system. After all, when was the last time you pictured a General mashing buttons and twiddling analog sticks?
#7: Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
Fall 2008: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 Flight simulations are often either absurdly complicated or shallow arcade novelties, but H.A.W.X. will explore the sweet spot between both extremes. Over fifty licensed planes offer variety and authenticity, from Lockheed Martin's pending F-35 Lightning II to older workhorses like the Russian MiG-29. You can take assignments all over the world, including scenic locales like Rio de Janeiro, and contend with plentiful hostile gunfire. The computer can draw a trajectory to intercept an enemy or evade a locked-on missile, or you can nail high-risk stunts like drifts and flips with a standard controller or flight stick.
#6: Tomb Raider: Underworld
November: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, DS, PC Lara Croft is still the most recognizable female protagonist in video games, and new developer Crystal Dynamics has helped restore a bit of the old girl's luster. Lara returns in Underworld, and she feels nimbler than ever. Lara also comes equipped with some clever new tricks, such as deployable bombs, a grappling hook for rappelling, and a new camera item that allows you upload and share your favorite pics (or lurid Lara poses).
#5: Too Human
OUT NOW ON Xbox 360! I 10 words: Nietzche, Norse mythology, and laser guns: a Diablo III killer?
#4: Twisted Metal (Working Title)
Late 2009: PlayStation 3 About all we know about the new chapter in the long-running Twisted Metal series is that it's definitely on the way, and that original designer (and God of War creator) David Jaffe is back at the helm. Hell, the developer won't even reveal whether it'll be a full-fledged retail game or a PlayStation Store download, but just the thought of seeing Sweet Tooth's ice cream truck unleash napalm and homing missiles across brand new cutting edge arenas has us honking our horns in excitement. Eat Sleep Play announced the game in a most unusual way, too. Rather than simply issue a press release, they challenged players of the PlayStation 2's Twisted Metal: Head On: Extra Twisted Edition to find a hidden coded message that revealed the exciting new project. It got our attention, that's for sure.
#3: Velvet Assassin
October: Xbox 360, PC Set in World War II, Velvet Assassin is a stealth-action game with gameplay nods to Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell. You play as real-life Allied secret agent Violette Summer, who stealthily goes behind German lines to sabotage the war machine. As the game name implies, Velvet Assassin is more about sneaking up on enemies and dragging them into the shadows rather than ballistic shootouts. Much like other stealth action games, you creep around and grab enemies from behind, but here you can perform over 50 different assassination variations.
#2: World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
November: PC The second expansion for World of Warcraft marks the long-awaited introduction of the first hero class: the undead Death Knight. Here are five reasons why these spectral savages will be your new best friend in the world's biggest online role-playing game.
• 5. Rarity If you're sick of running into your long-lost identical twin every time you hit a major city, you'll appreciate that Death Knights will be less common than any other class. You can only create one of these creeps per realm, and you have to have hit level 55 to unlock the privilege, so there's a certain cachet that comes with playing as one.
• 4. Deathcharger Mount Death Knights will get their own mount. There's a fair amount of controversy at the moment over what's most likely a placeholder version in a recent patch, but it seems safe to assume that Blizzard's fantastic art crew will whip up something special for these bruisers to ride around.
• 3. Runes Rather than use mana, energy, or rage, as other classes do, the Death Knight slide runes into six slots on a blade underneath the health bar. How you arrange your unholy, blood, or frost runes helps determine your role in combat, from shieldless tank to melee damage dealer.
• 2. Playing with the Dead Create your own undead minions with the Army of the Dead ability, or raise fallen enemies and allies alike from the ground to do your bidding. Risen allies even get the option to control their reanimated carcass, and its new abilities, in service to your dark will. Suddenly all those corpses are actually good for something.
• 1. Spread Disease Turn your toon into a Typhoid Mary and spread pestilence wherever you go. As your illnesses take root in the target host, he or she will grow weak, and you'll do ever greater amounts of damage to the poor sod. Think of the Death Knight as your very own anti-Priest.
#1: Valkyria Chronicles
Fall 2008: PlayStation 3 Sega's quirky strategy RPG is already out in Japan, but Western audiences will have to wait until later this year to defend the fictional 1930 European nation of Gallia from the invading Empire. The gameplay jumps between command mode, an aerial map view of forces positioned on city streets and ravaged fields, and action mode, where you take direct control of the individuals under your command. You'll take cover, provide medical support, gain experience for improved gear, and manually line up each attack with rifles, grenades, and anti-tank weapons. Valkyria Chronicles' striking cel-shaded aesthetics set it apart from the gritty realism of most current war games, and its offbeat old world spirit could reinvigorate players who have tired of unrelentingly grim modern battlefields.