Sept 27, 2007
If you're a fan of Halo, it must be like Christmas rolled in Easter at the moment. Halo 3's out, smashing sales records and earning review scores that put even Bioshock into the shade. But if you can't stand Master Chief's macho missions, things might feel a little more like being forced to sit through someone's terrifyingly dull holiday snaps collection. So what's your alternative?
Since Christmas 2007 is the first bumper holiday period that PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii can all go at it like knives in a cut-throat competition, you won't be surprised to discover that, yes, there is life outside Bungie's megapiece. So here's what's on offer - no dross, no toss, just blockbuster sized AAA entertainment. And not a Spartan in sight...
Pro Evolution Soccer 2008
Out Oct | Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PC
The King is back, and finally we have a proper next-gen instalment of PES. The settling in period is, as always, tough going, but the benefits are enormous - from deeper animation to even better shot control. Meanwhile, on PSP and PS2, it's business as usual, but when business is this good who wants that much to change?
Project Gotham Racing 4
Out Oct | Xbox 360
Gran Turismo 5? It can wait. PGR4's ludicrously detailed and gorgeous visuals are married to one of the greatest racing games ever made, with nippy and accurate handling, sublime sound direction and something GT can't boast - ruthlessly fast motorbikes! Petrolheads, your saviour is here.
Half Life 2: The Orange Box
Out Oct | Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Like Halo, it's an FPS, but unlike Halo, Half-Life has always been much more than just a shooter. And, when combined with Episodes One and Two, the fantastically cartoon Team Fortress 2 and excitingly new game Portal, The Orange Box is a brighter prospect than just about anything else you can buy.
Out Sept/Oct | Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
After years of Tony Hawk dominance, skateboard fans get the first game that really feels like skateboarding - with all the difficulty, obsession with technique, cultural-resonance and sky-high level of satisfaction that suggests. It's not just for skaters, though. Skate is one of the best games of 2007.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Out Oct | Nintendo DS
Link returns, with a whole new approach. Melding the cel-shaded beauty of Wind Waker (and the seafearing adventure) with the touch-screen dynamics of Nintendo DS, this is a fantastically realised and eye-caressingly pleasing outing for our favourite pointy-eared hero. An absolute must for all DS owners.