8 special editions that are actually special

A quick look at the coolest swag-packed bundles of holiday 2011

Long before unboxing a “Special” edition meant netting anything from a Master Chief helmet to an Altair action figure, the act usually consisted of cracking the shrink wrap on a tin case to discover a miniature art book or making-of DVD. While scooping up these limited releases has gotten more exciting – and expensive – in recent years, this season’s offerings seem to be scaling back. Some publishers seem to think downloadable extras are an acceptable substitute for cool swag, and Activision’s even shelving their annual Call of Duty Prestige Edition – you know, the one that previously gave us working night-vision goggles – for an all-digital Modern Warfare 3 Hardened Edition.

Above: Avatar items are not the same as getting an action figure, no matter how much they might look like one

While we appreciate the trend towards giving consumers more playable bang for their buck, our inner fanboys still crave those tangible toys. Extra maps, exclusive weapons and character skins are all well and good, but we really can’t display those things on our bookshelves, now can we? Thankfully, some publishers continue to embrace excess over practicality (read: boring), packing their SEs with molded-plastic playthings, concept art books and other goodies that, while not for everyone, can’t help but get the most faithful fans’ pulses racing. So, in the grand tradition of impulse-buying stuff we don’t need but must have, here’s a peek at the season’s best special editions.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Collector’s Edition

This one’s not called a “Collector’s” edition for nothing. In addition to kicking it old school with a steel case, Drake’s third outing comes with a relic-y looking box, a drenched-in-detail statue of the globe-trotting hero, and replicas of his belt buckle and that mysterious ring he wears around his neck (pity this set arrives the day after Halloween). At $99, it’s not for casual adventurers, but Drake’s most dedicated followers – like anyone who’s waited in line for a Nolan North autograph – will want to clear a spot near their Phurba dagger for this treasure chest full of goodies.

Gears of War 3: Epic Edition

Containing more collectibles than you can shake a chainsaw bayonet at, Gears 3’s $149.99 Epic Edition ups the universe-expanding ante. Forgoing the usual pamphlet-like art book, this baby includes a beefy 96-page hardcover that dives deep into the series’ art and design. The real prize, though, is the towering (well, 11-inch) Marcus Fenix statue; sporting down-to-the-dimple details such as the Locust Horde-hater’s signature scars and tattoos, nothing says “stay away from my cubicle” like this scowling super-soldier. If you really want to freak out your co-workers, however, be sure to also display the included COG flag and Octus Service medal.

Batman: Arkham City Collector’s Edition

Containing a utility belt full of wonderful toys, this super-heroic set seems to be making up for the lame plastic Batarang bundled with Arkham Asylum’s Collector’s Edition. On top of an art book, soundtrack, and Batman: Gotham Knight – an original DC Universe animated movie – the $99 edition comes in a glossy cardboard case that doubles as a display diorama for the included Dark Knight statue. Crafted by acclaimed toymaker Kotobukiya, the sculpt displays a menacing pose that could effectively make your Kratos action figure crap his loin cloth. Some in-game extras and collectible cards round out this Bat-tastic bundle. The one drawback? The game disc’s “case” is the art book (which fits snugly into the back of the display case) making it difficult to properly shelve Arkham City alongside your other games without clearing some substantial space first.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition

Bethesda’s special editions never disappoint (we still proudly display our Vault Boy bobblehead from Fallout 3’s Survival Edition), and this year’s no exception. Laughing – or perhaps dragon-shouting – in the face of all other so-called collectible art books, Skyrim’s SE packs a 200-page, coffee-table-consuming tome brimming with color sketches, illustrations, and concepts. If that’s not enough to get Elder Scrolls fans to shell out 149 gold pieces, then the 12-inch Alduin statue should do the trick; you’ll need to display your Drake, Fenix and Batman statues close to this bad boy just to balance out its evil karma. When not frightening small children with the “World Eater,” though, you’ll want to check out the included making-of DVD.

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