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Release date: April 29, 2008 (one year, three months ago)
Why we’re all still playing it: People are still playing the five-year-old San Andreas, so it’s no surprise thousands of gamers are still tooling around IV’s vastly improved version of Liberty City. There’s a crapton of missions to accomplish, intertwining storylines to resolve and Achievements/Trophies to acquire, and that’s saying nothing of the game’s myriad side missions, time-devouring collectibles and omg-is-that-real Easter eggs.
Xbox 360 players have even more reasons to keep playing – two exclusive episodes of lengthy (and pricey) DLC. The Lost and Damned landed in February, and the newly announced Ballad of Gay Tony hits sometime this fall, both of which extend the main game by 5-10 hours. Still no word if they’ll ever make it to PlayStation 3, but even without ‘em there’s tons of excellent multiplayer to chew up your afternoons. Cops and Crooks, anyone?
Release date: November 7, 2008 (eight months ago)
Why we’re all still playing it: Co-op goes a long way. Beating the game by yourself is no way to play Gears, so you practically have to try it twice. Then, the only way to truly experience the series is by playing on Insane, so that tends to lead to another blood-splattered journey through the Locust’s home turf. But, while the campaign is certainly replay-friendly, it’s not going to last months upon months – that’s where the Horde mode comes in.
Gears 2’s Horde Mode is so compelling, so addicting that “Horde Mode” has become the generic term applied to any competitive co-op involving waves of increasingly stronger enemies. Left 4 Dead aped it with “Survival,” World at War has Nazi Zombies, even Halo 3: ODST has a new “Firefight” mode that plays just like Horde. The standard versus modes are still popular, but working together, back to back while the enemy continuously returns faster, tougher and stronger than before, is a one-upping adrenaline rush that simple deathmatch can’t beat.