The summer gaming drought is over as Gears of War 3, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Resistance 3 hit store shelves, and gamers are bracing their wallets for a jam-packed holiday season. It’s all sequels all the time this year, and things are getting personal as Electronic Arts is openly taking on Activision in the two categories the publisher dominates: first-person shooters and massively-multiplayer online games. But what are the top ten games to watch, and more importantly, to buy? We’ve got your list right here.
October 4th for PS3, 360, PC, iOS
Considering its pedigree, it’s been flying under the radar somewhat, but the latest major title from first-person shooter inventor id Software should not be ignored. Taking inspiration from Fallout 3, Borderlands, Motorstorm, Burnout, and id’s own Doom and Quake, Rage combines open-world gameplay, first-person shooting, off-road combat driving, and even role-playing elements for a truly unique post-apocalyptic experience. Rage also features some of the most dynamic, adaptable, and varied AI to date, sending enemies at the player that realistically navigate their environments and respond tactically to the situation and player’s position. The game’s multiplayer also features a mission-based co-op mode, and an additional six-player mode that makes use of the game’s vehicles. That’s to say nothing of some of the best graphics we’ve ever seen. Welcome back to the wasteland.
9. Dark Souls
October 4th for PS3, 360
2009’s Demon’s Souls is arguably the only true sleeper hit of this generation of consoles. From Software’s series is back with Dark Souls, and it’s bringing with it all the polarizing, deep gameplay and incredibly difficult trappings and traps of the first game: Littered with old school challenge and brimming with style, Dark Souls will undoubtedly be as frustrating as it is rewarding and immersive. The Souls series also takes a unique approach to multiplayer - while you can still stab each other to death, or help each other stab something else to death, more interesting are the blood spots left by other players who died at a given location, and the ability to leave other players messages, warning them of traps or leading them into them.
8. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
November 20th for Wii
The Zelda series headlined the release line-up for the Wii, and now it’s about to be the console’s swan song. It’s also setting itself up to be the only serious title remembered for using the Wii Motion Plus, an attachment to the Wii’s controller that makes it much more accurate. Skyward Sword uses this attachment for highly-precise sword fighting, with enemies requiring strikes in specific places or from specific directions to dispatch them. The game features a hybrid of the graphics from previous Zelda titles The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, and is intended by series creator Shigeru Miyamoto to resemble a watercolor painting come to life. Nintendo’s hallmark series seldom ceases to amaze, so get ready to dust off that Wii one last time.
7. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
November 15th for PS3, 360, PC
Ezio and Altair’s stories are coming to an end, and this time they’re bringing bombs with them. The Assassin’s Creed games have gotten significantly better and more varied with each iteration, and Revelations is looking to be the biggest jump in quality yet. Players will get to play both assassin protagonists in this game, along with their current-day ancestor Desmond Miles, and three playable characters and time periods can only be a good thing. The multiplayer mode introduced in Brotherhood is also returning and being expanded, adding story-oriented quests. The Creed franchise has been one of the best and most successful of the past 5 years, and done so without being a first-person shooter. Here’s hoping this blade only continues to sharpen.
6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
November 8th for PS3, 360, PC, Wii, DS, iOS
The follow-up to the best-selling video game of all time in the U.S., the next entry in the multi-billion dollar franchise, Modern Warfare 3 barely needs an introduction. Where does this series go after the prior games’ controversial scenes of shooting up an airport and assassinating Fidel Castro? World War 3, obviously. The standard faire of kinetic, cinematic campaign and addictive, multi-faceted competitive multiplayer are a given, but Modern Warfare 3 also boasts a new co-op Spec Ops survival mode. This mode combines elements of the Zombie Modes and Spec Ops modes from previous Call of Duty games, with endless waves of enemies spawning at tactical locations relative to the players, rather than fixed points. November can only mean it’s time to climb behind the red dot sight once again.
5. Star Wars: The Old Republic
TBA 2011 for PC
For seven years, World of Warcraft (WOW) has completely dominated the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) genre, but Electronic Arts isn’t taking that lying down. The biggest game publisher in the world is hoping the perfect storm of the Star Wars brand, Mass Effect creator Bioware’s talent, and a whole lot of its own money is enough to topple the Activision Blizzard giant. But this isn’t just WOW in space: Bioware is promising more context for missions than any previous MMO, a conversation system similar to that of their Mass Effect series, and the implementation of a cover system for the second time in MMO history. The cinematic trailers for The Old Republic are better than the combined films in Lucas’ prequel trilogy, and whether you’re going to play a Jedi, a Sith, or a Bounty Hunter, the only thing that still seems far, far away is a solid release date.
4. Battlefield 3
October 25th for PS3, 360, PC, iOS, Wii U
The Battlefield series is back, it’s coming to consoles, and it has Activision’s Modern Warfare franchise centered squarely in its crosshairs. With destructible environments, huge maps, vehicles, realistic gameplay, and the best graphics ever, publisher Electronic Arts is throwing everything they have at gaming’s biggest and most profitable genre. The series continues to set itself apart with tactical, class-based gameplay that thrives on teamwork. Tired of the cramped corridors and waist-high walls that permeate other shooters today? How about the ability to fly jets in competitive multiplayer? Battlefield 3 may be taking on one of the biggest franchises is gaming history, but it’s doing so with a very big, very pretty gun.
3. Batman: Arkham City
October 18th for PS3, 360, PC, OnLive, Wii U
Arkham Asylum, like the caped crusader himself, came out of nowhere in 2009 to become one of the best games on the current set of consoles, and the best superhero game ever made. Studio Rocksteady returns this year with Batman: Arkham City, loosing the dark knight and his cavalcade of villains into an open-world Gotham City. The Metroid-inspired exploration the first game did so well is back, the excellent counter-based combat is even better, and the art style is gorgeous. The talent from Batman: The Animated Series are returning, and additional characters like Catwoman and Robin are now playable. The only thing missing is the Batmobile.
2. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
November 11th for PS3, 360, PC
Two words: unlimited dragons. Bethesda’s previous game, Fallout 3, was so well-received that players made their way through it in spite of crashes and glitches, but Skyrim features a brand new engine that promises to change all that. The fantasy setting and lush, vibrant graphics make this one stand out in a sea of gray first-person shooters, while 10 playable races, hundreds of character customization options, and dynamic AI and story promise challenge, variety, and replayability. With the freedom to go anywhere in Skyrim from the moment you press start, we can’t wait to dual-wield a mace and a fireball spell.
1. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
November 1st for PS3
The Uncharted series has been the de facto set of games not only to prove the power of the Playstation 3, but also to show off your new HDTV to your friends. The second game was a quantum leap forward from the first, and a leap forward in cinematic gameplay for the whole gaming industry. Uncharted 2 was supposed to be the total package, but now Drake’s Deception is making that package look puny, with studio Naughty Dog being fully committed to an overhauled competitive multiplayer, and the addition of a standalone co-op mode. Characters realistically emote, the player’s view focuses like a real camera, and the physics are awe-inspiring, with sections of levels moving independently of one another and Drake himself. If Uncharted 3 embodies the same jump in quality that Uncharted 2 did from the first, we won’t just be looking at a frontrunner for Game of the Year, we’ll be looking at one of the best games ever.
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