Originally Posted by NY Times
There is no way to sugarcoat it: the 2009 holiday season (which in the video game business begins in September) appears to have the weakest lineup of big-budget titles in the last several years.
But that is not necessarily a bad thing. In recent years many game publishers have been far too enamored of the idea that a big game can succeed only if released after Labor Day. The problem has been that so many major games were being released within weeks of one another that excellent games sometimes went unnoticed.
Now publishers are wising up, realizing that a top game can generate word-of-mouth buzz and sustainable sales over many months, if not years. That makes the holiday season a bit less important, which is why publishers have been content to let a raft of major titles originally slated for late 2009 slip into 2010. And besides, it is going to be difficult for any game this holiday season to compete in popularity with the commercial monster known as The Beatles: Rock Band.
(By the way, the scheduled lineup for next year, beginning in January, is stellar, and 2010 may well go down as the best year ever in gaming.)
That said, dozens of top-notch games are scheduled for release this fall, with titles aimed at children, adults and players of all skill levels. They range from casual diversions to ultra-immersion virtual realities that can easily occupy hundreds or thousands of hours.
Here, then, in alphabetical order, are 10 games to watch for this fall.
AION World of Warcraft has been dominant in online role-playing for so many years (coming up on five) that it may be difficult to imagine that another game could steal a significant number of WOW players. Certainly the contenders have come and, mostly, gone. Aion has the best chance yet; its fantasy environments look far better than WOW’s, and the gameplay is solid. To be released Sept. 22 by NCsoft for Microsoft Windows.
ASSASSIN’S CREED II The first Assassin’s Creed set the player as a killer in the Middle East during the Crusades. The sequel is set in Renaissance Italy. Entire cities, including Venice and Florence, will be at players’ disposal to explore and exploit as they wish, hiding and sneaking before striking from the shadows. To be released Nov. 17 by Ubisoft for PS3, Windows and 360.
BORDERLANDS It can be hard to trust a game that goes through a major redesign midway through its development, as Borderlands did. But I’m a sucker for any postapocalyptic combat simulation that gives me millions of possible gun configurations to play with. To be released Oct. 20 by 2K Games for Sony’s PlayStation 3, Windows and Microsoft’s Xbox 360.
BRüTAL LEGEND The Beatles are nice, but sometimes you want to rock out to something a bit harder. Brütal Legend is the story of a heavy-metal roadie (voiced by Jack Black) who winds up in a hair-band fantasy land. Unlike Rock Band or Guitar Hero, this is not actually a music game but an action-adventure romp with a hard-rock theme (including more than 100 heavy-metal songs in the soundtrack). To be released Oct. 13 by Electronic Arts for PS3 and 360.
CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 Without question the most anticipated title of the fall for core gamers, Modern Warfare 2 is expected to succeed its predecessor as the most sophisticated and intense yet accessible digital rendition of today’s battlefields. Of course it’s still a game, but Modern Warfare 2, set largely in Central Asia, is meant to get players as close to the action as possible without actually strapping on a flak jacket. To be released Nov. 10 by Activision for PS3, Windows and 360.
DEAD SPACE: EXTRACTION This prequel to last year’s gory, bile-inducing survival-horror hit Dead Space is coming only to Nintendo’s usually family-oriented Wii console. That is a bold, impressive choice for Electronic Arts, the game’s publisher; the Wii needs more games for adults, and Extraction is quite welcome in that vein, so to speak. To be released Sept. 29.
DJ HERO With all the attention being paid to The Beatles: Rock Band, DJ Hero is set to hit store shelves under the radar. It won’t stay there for long. There are millions of music fans out there who happen to prefer hip-hop and dance music to classic guitar rock. Activision has brought in big-time talent like Eminem, Jay-Z and DJ AM, who died last month, to consult on the game, which features a mock turntable controller. To be released Oct. 27 for PlayStation 2, PS3, Wii and 360.
DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS There aren’t a lot of old-school single-player fantasy role-playing games around anymore. Anyone who hankers for the days of Ultima, Bard’s Tale, Might & Magic and Baldur’s Gate will almost certainly have to play Dragon Age, which is being developed by the role-playing royalty at BioWare. Get ready to hack, slash and start throwing magical fireballs around. To be released by Electronic Arts on Nov. 3 for Windows and 360 and later that month for PS3.
NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. WII Few games require less introduction than Super Mario Bros. This version, however, will be the first to allow multiple players at the same time. That alone should make the game worth buying. After all, how could you own a Wii and ignore Mario? To be released sometime between October and year’s end by Nintendo for the Wii.
PROFESSOR LAYTON AND THE DIABOLICAL BOX Perhaps the most cerebral game on this list, the new Professor Layton is the sequel to one of last year’s sleeper hits, Professor Layton and the Curious Village. At their core the Professor Layton games are simply a collection of dozens of brainteasers, riddles and puzzles. But their charm stems from their woodblock-style art direction and quirky storytelling. Released last month by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS hand-held console.