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THE BIG PICK
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)
Release Date: Oct. 13
The Game Critics Awards (along with a dozen other game publications) named developer Naughty Dog's absolutely gorgeous PS3 exclusive the best game of E3. This action-adventure sequel takes ordinary Nathan Drake, slowly unveils his dark past, and then teams him up with that nice blond girl from the first game and a cutting brunette who's kind of a sexy bitch. And the fireworks go boom.
Seriously, this game had us from the first moment we saw the Himalayan valley of Shambhala in all its detail, fidelity, and color. What's that? You're not a graphics whore? Fine. This sequel takes the rather familiar Tomb Raider-esque jungles and cliffsides and replaces them with dilapidated villages, thereby changing the scenery, the perception, and the terms of play. Terms of play? When was the last time an action-adventure game brought you a potential three-way and killer multiplayer action?
Brutal Legend (PS3, 360)
Release Date: Oct. 13
Tim Schafer has a way with games. You could absolutely hate heavy metal and everything it stood for, and still fall in love with this elegy to head-banging, long-haired rock 'n roll.
At first, this single-player action-adventure game seems familiar, kind of like 2000’s Giants: Citizen Kabuto. "Oh," you say. "I've seen this before." But then Jack Black's character Eddie Riggs grows demon wings and takes to the air. "Hm," you say. The multiplayer game, however, is the straw that breaks the camel's back. It's crazy real-time strategy made up of illuminated stages, fan geysers, and lawnmower hot rods. "WTF?!!" you blurt out before recomposing yourself.
We have just one warning: Play with caution, or you too will become a fan of videogame comic genius Tim Schafer.
Borderlands (PC, PS3, 360)
Release Date: Oct. 20
Take one part Diablo, one part Halo, add a little Mad Max and a touch of geek, and you've got Gearbox's latest cross-genre invention. The long-awaited action-adventure-RPG-shooter-ma-jig aims to blend role-playing and FPS sensibilities with an endless mission and weapon generation system, and then adds four-player co-op to it.
The newly implemented art style is counter-photorealistic. It's full of heavy comic-book lines, simple textures and characters that all seem just a little off the deep end. It's a tad strange at first, but after a moment or two watching the game in action, it's hard not to warm up to the new look. The gameplay leaves a quicker impression: it's love at first headshot.
DJ Hero (360, PS3, PS2, Wii)
Release Date: Oct. 27
Not too long ago, Guitar Hero was a risky, naive idea. Game publishers clung to the notion that consumers wouldn't spend extra on hardware peripherals, and they were right, until Guitar Hero's plastic guitar changed everything.
Now, Activision wants to take a similar risk with DJ Hero, a hip-hop take on the rhythm genre. Based on a custom deck and the ability to spontaneously mix tracks, DJ Hero is potentially huge for both Activision and the genre. After seeing the demo, we came away wanting it very badly. The trick for Activision will be to make it accessible to the mass public and fill it deep with gameplay – not an easy task. Even though Activision has milked the Guitar Hero series beyond forgiveness, DJ Hero is the only real new, original game from Activision in years, so we'd love to see it succeed.
Alpha Protocol (PS3, 360, PC)
Release Date: Oct. 27
One of the hardest games to accurately describe is also, we predict, going to be one of the year's biggest sleeper hits. Alpha Protocol is an action-RPG built around a multi-branch story system that reaches deep into the later levels of the narrative and never cheaps out.
Pick your character, give him a haircut and some glasses, and then dive into the endless plot twists and story permutations. This 25-to-35-hour game takes place in the Middle East, Rome, Moscow and Taiwan, and is sure to attract action and RPG fans alike with its customizable gadgetry, weapons, and armor kits. Plus, it sets you up with at least two hot chicks (neither of which are aliens).
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (DS)
Release Date: October (exact date TBD)
Another cautious but lovable Nintendo offering that will probably sell a gajillion units. Following the friendly approach of The Phantom Hourglass, Nintendo's Spirit Tracks continues the broad DS theme, adding Western flavors such as banjo-playing, train riding, and the DS' microphone (to sing campfire songs, of course). Using the dual screen’s map, you'll travel by train, packing a nice little cannon on your side to repel enemies. You'll control a second character, the Phantom Knight, to access areas Link can't get to, and by blowing into the microphone you'll combat bosses. Zelda fans will feel like this DS version is a touch lighter than the console approach, but the adventuring is still well-balanced and expertly presented, and the unique DS interface keeps things clever and fun.
Release Date: Oct. 1
Surprise! The PSPgo isn't just a slimmer, more economical version of the old PSP. Sony is aiming to capture some of that iPhone gaming glory with inexpensive games with smaller file sizes that are downloadable for a fraction of the old PSP game prices with its Minis program.
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City (360)
Release Date: October 5
This is basically a package for gaming Luddites, but it's smart marketing just the same. Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City is a retail disc giving gamers who lack online capabilities the chance to buy the two GTA IV DLC episodes in one shot. It contains The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and Damned, costs $39.99, and does not require previous purchase of GTA IV.
Tekken 6 (PS3, PSP, 360)
Release Date: Oct. 27
The rival to Sega's Virtua Fighter series sees its sixth iteration and a new system to call home, Xbox 360. Tallying the most characters the franchise has ever seen (42), eight new fighters join the roster to fight in larger, more destructible environments, and demonstrate even more of the tappity-tap-tap juggling goodness that has made the series famous since its 1994 arcade debut.
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