There's something for everyone

Posted: September 06, 2007

The video game industry is like most other consumer industries in that it tends to cheat the calendar a bit when it comes to "fall" products. Just as we start to see tinsel and Christmas lights on sale in October, the annual release of Electronic Arts' Madden football game in mid-August is usually the kickoff for fall, and companies look for the end zone through the holiday season.

In case there are still a couple of naysayers out there thinking these tricks are only for kids, the typical game-player is about 33 years old (and 38 percent are women), according to the Entertainment Software Association. And 36 percent of parents say they play games. Once you add in the kids, video gaming has a vast target audience - and video game revenue ($13.5 billion last year) surpassed flicks' annual box-office revenue ($9.5 billion last year) a couple of years ago.

One of the most-anticipated games, Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV, has been pushed back until next year. But here are some of the other games that we can say, with relative certainty, will score big - with everyone.

Halo 3 (Xbox 360)

Bungie (developer), Microsoft (publisher)

The story of humanity's super-soldier savior, the Master Chief, as he battles Covenant forces and "others" made Microsoft's Xbox an instant player in the video game business. With the almost 3-year-old Halo 2 still among the most played games on the system's online gaming portal, Xbox Live, and with more than a million preorders for Halo 3, sheer madness will descend upon the Earth when this baby launches.

Extras: New features include a larger color palette (Halo has never been a stunner), better graphics, and enhanced multiplayer features. (Sept. 25)

Crysis (PC)

Crytek, Electronic Arts

Since consoles began to resemble mini-PCs, countless debates have centered on whether the keyboard-and-mouse-centric style of gaming was in unrecoverable decline. After laying your eyes on this game, the answer is undoubtedly "Heck, no!" Crytek's shooter, which puts gamers in the middle of a dustup with the North Koreans and possibly extraterrestrials, is quite simply one of those PC games that comes along every couple of years: It compels people to invest in new graphics cards, if not completely new computers.

Since consoles began to resemble mini-PCs, countless debates have centered on whether the keyboard-and-mouse-centric style of gaming was in unrecoverable decline. After laying your eyes on this game, the answer is undoubtedly "Heck, no!" Crytek's shooter, which puts gamers in the middle of a dustup with the North Koreans and possibly extraterrestrials, is quite simply one of those PC games that comes along every couple of years: It compels people to invest in new graphics cards, if not completely new computers.

Extras: Realistic lighting and shadows, an incredible physics engine, and an ultracool "nano suit" one gets to wear. (Nov. 16)

 Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC)

Infinity Ward, Activision

This may be called COD 4 but it bears little relation to the previous three, besides the name. Like Electronic Arts' Battlefield series, Infinity Ward has chosen to forgo the M1 Garands and potato mashers in favor of M-16s and SAW machine guns - in other words, World War II is, well, history. This sucker didn't win Best Looking Game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) for nothing. It's fantastically photogenic.

This may be called but it bears little relation to the previous three, besides the name. Like Electronic Arts' series, Infinity Ward has chosen to forgo the M1 Garands and potato mashers in favor of M-16s and SAW machine guns - in other words, World War II is, well, history. This sucker didn't win Best Looking Game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) for nothing. It's fantastically photogenic.

Extras: For the first time, one can actually customize online skill sets when playing against live foes. Faster reload, upgraded sniper capabilities, and the potential to squeeze off one last shot before you succumb to wounds. (Nov. 16) 

Rock Band (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2)

Harmonix, Electronic Arts

Special controllers for games used to be met with skepticism, as their uses were severely limited. Then came Guitar Hero, a rhythmic music game with a guitar simulator that had monster success. Rock Band turns up the volume even louder with not just one guitar controller but a bass, drum pads, and a microphone. Twenty-six well-known tunes are confirmed so far for the game. Good luck banging out those Rush songs.

Special controllers for games used to be met with skepticism, as their uses were severely limited. Then came , a rhythmic music game with a guitar simulator that had monster success. turns up the volume even louder with not just one guitar controller but a bass, drum pads, and a microphone. Twenty-six well-known tunes are confirmed so far for the game. Good luck banging out those Rush songs.

Extras: You create the look of your band from scratch - '80s skinny ties and high-water pants, or gla-rock hair and leopard skin? Go for it, dude. (Nov. 20) 

Super Smash Brothers Brawl (Wii)

Sora, Nintendo

While most of the Mario characters have been with us since the '80s, SSBB takes those cute figures, and others like Pokemon and Link from Zelda, and puts them into the pit of a toonish fighting game. Voila: instant Nintendo cult status. Of course, motion-sensing fisticuffs will be in the game (with rumors of Gamecube controller compatibility), not to mention new characters, including Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid. Gasp!

Extras: The big rumor is that SSBB will allow you to compete as your own Mii characters. This time, it's personal. (Dec. 3)

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