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The games of August 2012

August 24

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

Platform: PC
EU: August 24

If pain is your pleasure, PC gamers, allow us to introduce you to Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition. The subtitle is a bit silly, but the game inside certainly is not: it's a grueling, but hugely rewarding spiritual successor to 2009's Demon's Souls, and the brutally tough open-world action RPG is finally coming to PC with some fresh content – which will be released later on consoles as DLC. We caught up with producer Daisuke Uchiyama at E3 this year, who told us about the new stages, bosses, items, and more, so be sure to check out that interview for additional details. And if you need a refresher on the game itself, check out our glowing console review – or the list of the 19 most rage-inducing games that fill us with hate.

August 28

Guild Wars 2

Platform: PC
EU: August 28

We've been covering Guild Wars 2 in one form or another for more than five years now, so it's fair to say that anticipation is surely at a fever pitch following that exhausting road to release. Thankfully, the sequel to the celebrated fantasy MMO is finally right around the corner, offering a much larger, persistent experience, but what has us really excited is its focus on playing with friends. You can hop between servers with ease, play with lower-level pals sans penalties, and the lack of traditional factions means nearly anyone can quest together. And it's all done without monthly subscription fees – one of the aspects of the original that we're quite pleased to see carried over.

Madden NFL 13

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, Vita, Wii
EU: August 31

Another year, another Madden – right? While that bears out in many respects each season, Madden NFL 13 aims to implement a couple of very significant additions to the typical pigskin sim formula. Perhaps most notable is the RPG-tinged Connected Careers, a new catch-all mode that pulls together Franchise, Online Franchise, and Superstar modes with the ability to play as a coach or player – created, current, or classic – and even retire and swap roles as desired. Plus, the game introduces the Infinity Engine, which aims to kill the canned on-field animations we're used to and instead offer a wide array of interactions. We're interested to see how these seemingly big enhancements fly with the series' voracious and quite vocal fans.

Rock Band Blitz

Platform: PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade (8/29)
EU: August 28 (XBLA: 8/29)

There's one downloadable game out this month that utilizes plastic guitars, but this isn't it. Rock Band Blitz breaks from series tradition with a bite-sized affair that takes after Harmonix's past greats like Frequency and Amplitude, all while introducing some new features of its own. Using a standard controller, you'll bop back and forth between instrument note charts, aiming to bump up your score multiplier as the track moves through animated urban environments. Quick-hit mini-games and other hijinks emerge while you play, and Blitz comes with 20+ tracks – and thankfully accepts all previous Rock Band DLC and transferrable on-disc songs. Plus, these new tracks can be transferred back to Rock Band 3. More Rock Band for all!

Ratchet & Clank Collection

Platform: PlayStation 3
EU: Out

Our favorite Lombax-and-robot duo has had an impressive run this generation, but what of their formative PlayStation 2 adventures? Luckily, Sony has seen fit to bump the series' first three entries into high definition with the Ratchet & Clank Collection, which includes 2002's Ratchet & Clank, 2003's Going Commando, and 2004's Up Your Arsenal. All three titles are given the HD treatment along with optional 3D support, plus Up Your Arsenal still includes the eight-player online mode of the original over PlayStation Network. It's not a complete last-gen set, with Deadlocked curiously MIA, but the price is dead-on at $30 – and it comes with early access to the Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time demo, as well.

Journey: Collector's Edition

Platform: PlayStation 3

We love digital distribution for the ability to quickly buy and download entire games without leaving the couch, but sometimes you just want to own something. Sony and thatgamecompany have heard your calls, and will thusly release a retail disc version of Journey – our pick for the absolute best PSN title, and one of this year's top games on any platform – later this month. And it's not just Journey on a disc: your measly $30 also earns you the studio's amazing Flower and stellar Flow, along with there exclusive mini-games not seen anywhere else. Plus, the disc includes a making-of documentary on Journey, creator commentary on all three titles, and other bonuses. It's the rare special edition worth buying even if you have the PSN version.

Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron

Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
EU: August 28

We don't typically think of MadCatz as a publisher of games – though it did re-release Rock Band 3 with its own peripherals last fall – but Damage Inc. Pacific Squadron hopes to change that mentality. The World War II fighter pilot game spans more than 20 campaign missions set throughout the conflict, and in what should be an alluring twist, you can tackle missions online with three comrades in the sky. Additionally, the game includes eight-player online competitive play, plus there's a special $100 edition that includes a slick Pacific AV8R (subtle) flight stick alongside the game. Be sure to hit our hands-on preview for more on this arcade dogfighter.