World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
EU: September 25
Nearly eight years after its launch, World of Warcraft is still a phenomenon, and you needn't look further than the much-anticipated release of another expansion pack – Mists of Pandaria – to seen that point proven. The MMORPG's fourth expansion introduces the mystical land of Pandaria, which offers a variety of terrain that we explored in a video preview, as well as delivers the new Pandaran race, a level cap bump from 85 to 90, and various other additions and enhancements. In addition to the base $40 version, a $60 digital deluxe release adds an in-game mount and pet plus other content, while an $80 retail version bundles the game with a hardcover art book, soundtrack, and behind-the-scenes DVD/Blu-ray. Oh, and a mouse pad.
Dead or Alive 5
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
EU: September 28
It's hard to believe that the last core numbered Dead or Alive entry launched just after the Xbox 360 itself, but nearly seven years later, we're only now scoping out a sequel in the form of Dead or Alive 5. Coming to PlayStation 3 as well, the latest entry aims to make the characters every so slightly more realistic in nature while enhancing the fighting mechanics and adding cinematic stages. It's also playing nice with some iconic competitors from another franchise, as Akira and Sarah from Virtua Fighter are included as playable fighters. With the fighting genre on a considerable upswing in recent years, we're intrigued to see if Dead or Alive can still hang with the best after all this time.
Platform: PlayStation Vita
EU: September 21
LittleBigPlanet has delivered its ample charms to PlayStation 3 and PSP in recent years, and now it's finally the Vita's turn to experience the whimsical platformer and creation suite. This original iteration is set on the planet of Carnivalia, where an evil puppeteer is pulling the strings, and while the game looks and sounds (with narration from Steven Fry) like its predecessors, it'll definitely have a distinct feel to it. That's because of the myriad unique Vita control inputs, which let you touch and tilt to interact with the game – and they're sure to lead to even more inventive created experiences, which can still be shared freely over PSN.
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, Vita, 3DS, PSP
EU: September 28
Last year's FIFA release was touted as "revolutionary," so what can we expect from the next go-round of EA Sports' annual franchise? Delivering a gritty battle for ball possession is the goal this year, and FIFA Soccer 13 is doing it with "refinements to player first-touch, tweaks to defense, newly adjusted AI, revamped dribbling, and a new approach to free kicks," says our preview; and when we got our hands on the game, we found those changes delivered ample finesse and strategy as we aimed to dominate the pitch. Add in an overhauled career mode, new skill games, and Kinect support for voice commands (and swearing at refs – seriously), and it sounds like this huge release has some serious selling points.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2013
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
Of course, FIFA isn't the only player in town, though it's certainly been the star pick in recent years. Pro Evolution Soccer has its die-hard fans, though, and Konami seems intent on finally recapturing its PS2 glory days with some welcome changes. We recently dug into a preview copy of the game and found fantastically improved first touch response to the ball, as well as a much more physical game overall. On the flip side, while the A.I. is definitely improved, it wasn't all the way there in the version we played, plus the tutorial didn't seem super friendly. But change is afoot, and with luck, this'll be the big boost the series needs to take on the FIFA juggernaut. Versions on other platforms are due later this fall.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
Platform: PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade (9/26)
EU: September 25 (XBLA: 9/26)
If the name itself doesn't tell you that Sega and Arkedo's downloadable side-scroller has a very unique style and tone, then perhaps the above trailer will. Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit stars the titular creature, a cute white bunny named Ash that also happens to be the prince of Hell and a merciless killer, leaving trails of blood and guts in his wake. You'll experience this first-hand in the gorgeously animated action affair, wherein Ash seeks revenge when lewd pictures of him leak onto the Internet. It's monstrously violent, but offers more than just adorable murder and humor, as the adventure has Metroid-like level design and progression that should lend it considerable depth.