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Which console will win Fall 2009?

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (November)

Easily Sony’s biggest bet for success this fall, Uncharted 2 has since become one of E3’s most praised titles thanks to a bone-shattering gameplay demo that showed off its drastically improved visuals, animations and lighting effects. We expected the game to look and play good, but the kick-in-the-nuts segment we saw, complete with a helicopter shootout and a building collapsing with you inside, energized an audience more than any other announcement that day.

Above: Thanks, Sony, for not providing screens of anything we just talked about

Those who bought inFamous are part of Uncharted 2’s multiplayer beta, a testing ground for what will hopefully blossom into a “one more round” exclusive for the PlayStation Network. It’ll be landing right around the time the whole world embraces Modern Warfare 2, so it’ll have to be a damn addictive concept to pry people away from what’s sure to be the biggest multiplayer hit of the year.

Will it make a difference? The first game went up against Call of Duty 4, Halo 3 and The Orange Box and still racked up sales of 2.6 million. Makes sense then that the sequel, already galvanized by positive buzz, could carve a success story against ODST, Modern Warfare 2 and L4D2 (which sounds more and more like a Star Wars droid every time we type it).

MAG (Fall window)

Zipper Interactive has been riding the SOCOM gravy train for seven years now, and it looks like they’ll implement every last ounce of their strategic-shooter talent pool into this 256-player bullet ballet. We’ll readily admit the SOCOM franchise has lost its appeal to the GR staff in general, but holy crap, seeing the demo during Sony’s press conferenceperked our weary ears right back up.

Above: There are more playable characters in this one screen than most other FPSes have total

Will it make a difference? The promise of two 128-man teams battling over an expansive, ever-changing warfield is something no other console can offer. Combine its technical feats with a “from the team that brought you SOCOM” tagline and MAG has a nearly 100% likelihood of becoming a system-seller. The only blemish in this strategy is SOCOM’s dwindling sales… it could be that the once-bustling community has moved on.

Gran Turismo PSP (October 1)

The Madden of racing games, each and every entry in this 50-million-strong series earns Sony a heaping pile of gearhead money. Some may think its incessant tweaking gets in the way of actual racing, but for millions upon millions of vicarious drivers, this is the end-all be-all of simulators. This is its first appearance on PSP, and the series first game in two years, so we have to assume there’s a whole grip of gamers waiting to take a test lap.

Above: Manage to your heart’s content

Will it make a difference? We’re not sure. Even though it’s Gran Turismo and a pseudo launch title for the PSP Go, there’s a nagging feeling that people stuck to the series for its painstakingly recreated autos. Consoles can make any car look impressive (especially in HD), but will people want to fiddle with pistons and transmission on a small screen, or will they wait for the inevitable PS3 sequel?

Last year’s Quest for Booty was download-only in the US, and as such didn’t excite the fanbase as much as 2007’s Tools of Destruction. As a result, the latest Ratchet & Clank entry (a retail unit again) may or may not sway potential PS3 buyers even though it’ll likely be another outstanding entry. Meanwhile, the PSP Go plans to reach out to the non-GT racing fan with Motorstorm: Arctic Edge.

So now we’ve got Microsoft’s two leading FPSes and one action game going up against Sony’s FPS (MAG), action game (Uncharted) and racer (Gran Turismo). Where does Nintendo fit into all of this?