The question is%26hellip; who has the best games on the shelf at the most critical time of the year %26ndash; the fall holiday season? Who%26rsquo;s going to sell the most? Let%26rsquo;s take a look at the top three exclusive titles for each company.
Halo 3: ODST (September 22)
Microsoft continues its Gears-Halo-Gears-Halo schedule with ODST, a spin-off that revolves around a wayward Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. The ODSTs are lighter and stealthier than Spartans, so you won%26rsquo;t be saving the day single-handedly. That means no dual wielding weapons, no supercharged life meter, no overt %26ldquo;shoot your way out of trouble%26rdquo; situations (allegedly). Instead, you have a set health meter than can be filled with health packs, as well as access to classic Halo weapons and a trio of handy visors that let you see various spectrums of light.
Above: The enemy-outlining visor helps keep baddies in sight
We definitely need more time to decide how the single player game will affect Microsoft%26rsquo;s chances this fall, but we already feel the multiplayer is a strong, if derivative offering. It%26rsquo;s essentially a %26ldquo;Halo Horde%26rdquo; that sends waves of Covenant troops your way, with each wave becoming progressively stronger, tougher and more aggressive.
Above: At a glance, it sure looks like Halo 3
Will it make a difference? March%26rsquo;s Halo Wars went on to sell nearly one million copies despite being a console RTS. Consider then that ODST will be released in the fall, is an FPS and says %26ldquo;Halo%26rdquo; on the box. Yeah, this will move 360%26rsquo;s regardless of quality. The fact it comes packed with all of the existing Halo 3 multiplayer maps won%26rsquo;t hurt either, even if they are separate from the Firefight horde mode.
Splinter Cell: Conviction (October)
Sam %26ldquo;Solid Snake%26rdquo; Fisher has been notably absent from Ubisoft%26rsquo;s lineup for two years now. Conviction was originally set for a 2007 release, then delayed for retooling and finally revealed last week as a drastically different game. The devs say they grew tired of stealth gameplay being associated with weakness, and instead want you to use stealth as a vicious predator, snatching up foes and scaring the crap out of them.
Above: Each area is said to be a %26ldquo;small sandbox,%26rdquo; offering multiple ways in and out
Will it make a difference? Splinter Cell used to be one of the most popular franchises on the market, so it%26rsquo;ll be interesting to see what a 24-month break does to its public perception. There%26rsquo;s a strong chance the Splinter Cell name still carries weight with the masses, and the one-two punch of a new entry and a total makeover could reinvigorate this wandering series (hey, it worked for Prince of Persia).
Left 4 Dead 2 (November 17)
More zombies, more special infected, new weapons, new techniques%26hellip; Left 4 Dead%26rsquo;s super-quick follow-up is much more than downloadable content passed off as a sequel. We only spent 45 minutes with it and are already ticking the days off our calendars. Just knowing that our tried-and-true battle plans won%26rsquo;t work in the second game (thanks to wandering witches and the new Charger infected) has us dying to leap into the zombified South.
Plus, Valve is still sitting on further details (including a new mode) that%26rsquo;ll no doubt make this even more desirable.
Will it make a difference? Absolutely. The original sold more than two million units since November 2008. There%26rsquo;s a vocal group of haterswho think L4D2 is an uncharacteristically bad ripoff, but don%26rsquo;t expect them to hold on to their boycott once the servers go live. It%26rsquo;s one thing to click a box on the internet claiming you hate something, and quite another to actually ignore a million people having fun without you.
AND DON%26rsquo;T FORGET%26hellip;
Forza 3 and the DLC-combining GTA: Episodes of Liberty City probably won%26rsquo;t move a lot of hardware on their own, but when viewed in tandem with the top three games, the 360%26rsquo;s lineup is a powerful set of games.
But how does it stand up against Sony and Nintendo?