Final Fantasy XIII
(Square Enix; PS3, Xbox 360)
As the first core Final Fantasy game to surface in nearly four years, and the first on the
PS3 and Xbox 360, Final Fantasy XIII's anticipation among RPG heads is at a fever
pitch. And it does not disappoint. Following the series' proclivity for creating stories in
which magic and technology not only coexist but often work in tandem, FFXIII contains
more characters, plot twists, and high-minded storytelling than a Tolstoy tome. Visually,
FFXIII never fails to impress as every bit of the six years it took to make is evident on
screen. FFXIII places players in the dangerous world of Pulse, above which a floating
utopia known as Cocoon has separated itself from the threats below. Of course, things
don’t always go as planned for the folks of Cocoon, and the two worlds soon become
intertwined once again. Initially taking on the role of Lightning, a young female soldier
in Cocoon's military, you soon join up with a motley crew of adventurers to ensure
harmony between the two worlds. Well worth the long wait.
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
As wacked-out a plot as you are likely to come across, even by videogame standards, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle ups both the awesome and weirdness quotients this month as you take the reins of a once top-ranked assassin named Travis Touchdown. Travis’ numbers have slipped as of late, forcing you to work your way back up the list by offing the competition—including a teenage girl with a crush on you and a boombox-wielding thug who uses women as projectile weapons
—with a combo of lightsabers and pro-wrestling moves. Impressively out there.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
(EA; PS3, Xbox 360)
Perhaps there should be an addendum to the old adage "nothing is certain in life but death and taxes" that reads "...and first-person shooters" as Battlefield: Bad Company 2 proves that people may never get sick of virtual firefights with their buddies. Billed as a "Modern Warfare-killer," Bad Company 2 takes Call of Duty head-on with realistic visuals, ear-pleasing/splitting sound design, and, with dedicated servers, online play that even CoD can’t match in terms of speed and availability. From the rocky, snow-covered crags of the Russian border to the malaria-filled jungles of South America, your team hunts enemies amid chaotic firefights and destructible environments in a way few titles have been able to capture. With the inclusion of vehicles like Black Hawk helicopters, ATVs, and patrol boats at your command, Bad Company 2 could very well claim Modern Warfare 2’s throne as the king of online shooters.
(EA; PS3, Xbox 360)
Based, albeit very loosely, on the 14th Century poem, The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri, Dante’s Inferno sees a grizzled veteran of the Third Crusade chasing his ladylove through the Nine Circles of Hell after Lucifer himself steals her soul. The ultimate cock-block! With huge environments soaked in the twisted imagery of the classic tale, Dante battles against the agents of Greed, Lust, and Anger with the Grim Reaper’s own scythe. Throughout, you can either choose to punish or absolve the souls of the damned that you come across, and ultimately must face the sins of your own past in hopes of achieving ultimate redemption.
God of War III
God of War III follows the angry undead Spartan, Kratos, betrayed by the Gods of Mt. Olympus, as he leads his final assault on Zeus’ domain with the aid of the furious, though potentially duplicitous, titans. With the power of the PS3, the series finally realizes its full potential as the visuals, while always magnificent, are now much more fluid, realistic, and grand in scale, with at times over 50 enemies on screen and set pieces that are both lofty in scope and detail. Gameplay is faster, bloodier, and more intuitive than ever, as Kratos mercilessly punishes the unholy creatures set against him. While the visceral, gory combat the series is known for remains intact—rip out a cyclops’ eye! Gut a centaur! Remove the jaw of a water-horse-crab-thingy!—new weapons, such as the brutish Cestus, gauntlets that can bust through stone, make taking out foes all the more satisfying. However, the meat of combat lies rooted in the lightning-fast combos you are able to whip out with your go-to tools of evisceration, the chained Blades of Athena. Other items, such as Icarus’ Wings, the Golden Fleece, and the head of Helios himself, are also available to you in your campaign against this godly treachery. Epic in all senses of the word with its sweeping, cinematic visuals, nonstop action, and unmatched brutality, God of War III has clawed its way to the top of every gamer’s must-have list.
Red Steel 2
With hopes of erasing the failed promise of the original, Red Steel 2 literally comes swinging out of the gate as the recent WiiMotion Plus peripheral sees one of its first real tests. The attachment, meant to make your wild Wii-mote swings feel even more realistic by decreasing the lag between your actions and what happens on-screen, works perfectly in RS2 as your Man-With-No-Name hero hunts down a gang of power-hungry thugs who nearly killed off his clan with katana in hand and guns blazing. Somewhat of a futuristic samurai western, RS2 delivers a unrivaled experience that is both sophisticated and outright fun for those Wii owners looking for more than Mario and mini-games.
With perhaps some of the darkest, headiest material of any title in recent memory, including rape, suicide, and murder most foul, Heavy Rain isn’t so much a game as it is an interactive mindfuck. Following four very distinct characters, from an FBI agent to an architect, Heavy Rain operates on the notion that we all see the same thing in very different ways and that when normal people are placed in extraordinary circumstances, perception and morality can go right out the window. With no real wrong way to play and thus, no way to really fail, Heavy Rain ultimately relies on the choices you make throughout to tell the character’s stories, all of which revolve around a murderer known as the Origami Killer. Uniquely, no matter what you do in Heavy Rain, the world will persist. If one of your characters somehow dies, for instance, you then move onto the next story with the choices you made previously affecting that person’s experience. With perhaps the most interesting approach to mature themes to date, Heavy Rain is a landmark title that will certainly leave its mark on all who experience it.
(2K; Xbox 360, PS3)
The sequel to one of 2007’s most innovative shooters, Bioshock 2 places you in the moist, heavy boots of the original’s intimidating nemesis, the Big Daddy, as you awaken in the undersea utopia called Rapture, 10 years later, in search of your diminutive, energy-sucking muse, the Little Sister. Unfortunately, time has not been kind to Rapture as, at the behest of the city’s new cult-like leader, the number of bloodthirsty mutants who roam the art-deco halls has increased, in addition to an even more diabolically threatening presence than yourself, the nimble and deadly Big Sister. With online multiplayer and even more weapons and bio-engineered powers like drills, tornadoes, and invisibility available to your meaty paws, Bioshock 2 raises the intensity of the original in almost every way.