Another good thing about Christmas is that you can kiss people by holding a twig with leaves above their heads, made all the more likely by the enormous vat of incredibly pungent mulled wine stewing in the kitchen. Similarly smile-worthy is that yes there are games on PS3 to buy this year, despite what James with his rival console says in the comments section while picking his nose and flicking it at his equally spotty friend.
It may be largely thanks to a very alluring cross-platform Christmas line-up, but Sony is not without its exclusives, especially now it has finally clamped SingStar PS3 down for release this side of 2008. There is also the gorgeous-looking Ratchet & Clank to shout about, unique Eye of Judgement to, er, look at, and those timed star-players Unreal Tournament III and Haze.
We will also be telling you about a couple of sumptuous and frankly unmissable PlayStation Network games, too, because we feel we ought to and not because we are trying to make the numbers up a bit, promise. Look out for our unprecedented and enormously enjoyable facts, too.
Eye of Judgement
- Out now!
Novelty is something Eye of Judgement very recognisably has, but underneath it all is a deep, statistical and compelling game that shows why card battling games have stood the test of time.
Each intricately illustrated card brings with it countless advantages and disadvantages you will have to carefully consider for a wide variety of situations. Think of it as a little like chess, only where you scan your lifeless pieces in and watch them come to life majestically on your telly. Options should only increase with time, too, as collecting booster packs and additional decks vastly expands your army.
Another reason to fork out GBP 60 on Eye of Judgement is because it comes bundled with the PlayStation Eye, a freshly created piece of hardware four times more powerful than its predecessor and more keenly supported by Sony. Or is it? Our review should be up soon, at which point you'll know whether it's 12 or really 11.
Dead pixels: Sony claims the Eye has four times the resolution and twice the frame-rate of the original EyeToy. It also looks like the head of a pigeon conjoined with a hair straightener.
- Release date: 23rd November
Drugs can do all sorts of things, like give make you run faster than everyone else in the Olympics and resign from tennis. But bad things also happen - Ben Johnson had to give back his Gold Medal and was publicly disgraced. Free Radical liked this concept and built a game around it.
You are an ex-soldier of global military company Mantle, who pumps its troops full of Nectar so they are stronger, faster and tougher than anyone else. But, as you know, it also leaves them vulnerable, and you and your rebel forces will have to use your brains to exploit this. While high, a Mantle soldier will let you approach because your audacity confuses them - providing you with an opportunity to steal their weapon and smash it back in their chops. Or you can play dead and they will simply assume that is what you are, until you pop up behind them and shoot their face. Think them dead.
It is an interesting prospect with a strong team behind it, and this self-described "thinking man's game" also has four-player co-operative mode. And it is exclusive. For a while.
Shouting: When we were at UbiDays, Rob Yescombe, Haze's "quite loud" writer man, was blatantly chatting up one of the UbiDays booth girls right in front of us, and seemed to be doing quite well but then had to stop to show off the game.
- Release date: 16th November
Here we are, perched on a rooftop surveying a crowd of grubby and toothless mongrels ambling about their daily Jerusalem-in-the-middle-ages business, scouring their faces for the person we have to kill. There. Off we go, integrated with the crowd, moving inconspicuously closer. Our blade slips silently into the open, then we spring, muscles exploding familiarly as we brutally and efficiently destroy our target.
Now the real test begins. Our legs pound breathlessly as we plough through unforgiving crowds still numb with the lack of DualShock. Pursuing guards are gaining ground so we turn and face them, anticipating their heavy lunges before replying with a deft and fatal riposte. More appear, so we leap up to beams connecting buildings and launch ourselves like gymnasts further and further skywards. Finally, back where birds make their nests, we relax, preparing ourselves to do it all over again.
Kill me now: The big old secret underpinning Assassin's Creed is that Altair, hay bounding assassin, is actually a 40-something American scientist, trapped in the past, leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.
- Out now!
Rolling singing blobs around around a level was so fresh, charming and original on PSP that we told you about it with gay abandon while smiling. But none of that stopped us being a little lost for words when the PS3 version was unveiled as an Interactive Screensaver. How very silly (and untrue) that was.
Cocoreccho only has one map and that is all it needs. For all the reasons the original hit the right notes so does this, as you use your Sixaxis to tilt your singing LocoRoco to the end of the beautifully drawn level, avoiding all sorts of obstacles as you go. Even on your fourth go you will discover hidden treats and rarely feel bored, highlighting why this is worth every penny of its GBP 1.99 price tag. Which is so ludicrously little anyway that only a complete miser would turn it down.
Up above, you're in love: Mui Muis can be found in certain areas of the level, and appear to be completely unreachable. But they're not!
Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction
- Release date: 9th November
This could be the first game to deliver the "you are playing a Pixar movie experience", boasted developer Insomniac in September, and it does look bloody lovely, never grinding to a halt despite ladles of activity being poured into every scene. But nothing much has changed - Ratchet & Clank are still Ratchet & Clank, just with all sorts of next-generation plastic surgery.
But the wheel is still the wheel and it works well because it does what it does. Ratchet & Clank was fun and still is; you can make your enemies disco-dance or turn them into penguins, before smashing them to pieces with your wrench and collecting all the nuts and bolts littered around. Games like LEGO Star Wars took hefty doses of inspiration from Ratchet & Clank, but now Insomniac is ready to show us, once again, how platforming should be done.
Cattish: Ratchet is a fictional animal called a Lombax, which is a bit like a bobcat. Except he can fire guns and talk. And go in space.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
- Release date: 9th November
Style can be learnt, but you know when something effortlessly oozes charm that it had it by the bucket-load to begin with. Call of Duty 4 has it; you will notice it when you cower behind cover that your hungry and fearless enemies are blown away bullet-by-bullet, or when you are stalking through believable Middle-Eastern streets amid destroyed buildings and rubble from you most recent negotiations.
You will believe it when you get sucked into a story the designers want to feel like "an entire series of 24", one not afraid to tackle contemporary politics and make each set-piece and action sequence feel like its big-screen counterpart would. Finally you will accept it when you venture online and take on your friends in tactical or free-for-all battles, eventually moving up ranks and being rewarded for your hard work.
Although: You'll probably be rubbish at it.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
- Release date: 23rd November
Being addicted to something can land you in a lot of trouble, in this case with your neighbours. From the first moment I cradled an Xplorer guitar and thundered away to a rock song I never even knew existed I was hooked - not only did I believe I could actually play the instrument, but I had my leg perched on the sofa arm and axe upright as I rung out a pedestrian solo on easy. I was unbelievable, although Jane from next-door didn't agree. Witch.
There is something so instantly enjoyable about Guitar Hero it is hard to put it into words, its ingredients so fresh and unique you want more before you even know what you are tasting. Although this is the third game in the series and original developer Harmonix has toddled off, Activision knows it has a gig to deliver, and to silence Rock Band fans it will have to give the performance of its life.
Any is good: A downloadable demo version of Guitar Hero III that you could burn to CDR ended up on the Internet just before it appeared on Xbox Live Marketplace. Which got them more publicity than otherwise. No wonder Activision didn't seem all that bothered.
The Orange Box
- Release date: November (hopefully)
Although not handled directly by Valve, the PlayStation 3 version of this year's biggest FPS bargain is thought to be in good hands at Electronic Arts' UK studio - with Valve marketing director Doug Lombardi expressing great confidence in it to anyone who asks.
If true, that would mean that PlayStation 3 is in line for five of the best console FPS games released this year. PS3 ports of Half-Life 2 and its first episodic companion are exciting prospects, and Episode Two, Portal and Team Fortress 2 can only build on that. The latter, in particular, is more good news for PlayStation Network fans, who up to now have been limited to relatively few games - like MotorStorm, Resistance: Fall of Man and WarHawk.
Assuming it all works out - and the PS3 has had, er, difficulties in this area in the past - this should leapfrog its genre stable-mates into PS3 stockings up and down the country.
Cheaply does it: Valve has previously said that it will never charge for downloadable content. PlayStation Network is a free online game service. Put these things together, and the PS3 Orange Box SKU is actually the second cheapest way to enjoy the top-scoring package after buying it on Steam...
Unreal Tournament III
- Release date: Late 2007
The PC demo may have a menu system that doesn't support the British keyboard's @ symbol, but it's certainly very shiny - and with new additions like the "slow bubble" and refined gameplay modes, Epic Games is hoping for a Christmas smash hit on the PC to rival Gears of War's huge opening on Xbox 360 last year when multiplayer FPS Unreal Tournament III launches.
Whether it will achieve that is hard to say, but arguably more interesting is the game's fate on PS3, where it is a console exclusive - and due out before the end of the year. User-designed levels will be downloadable, and it will support keyboard and mouse controls - putting it at odds with a lot of its FPS rivals over on Microsoft's competing hardware, many of which could have done with them. Server admins will be able to specify whether their games support one or other or both control options. Oh, and it supports DualShock 3, even if we can't buy the fancy new rumble pad until spring 2008.
Well done: Nearly all the weapons in UT3 hand out killing awards when you accumulate 15 frags with the same weapon. The Bio-Gun calls you Bio Hazard. Not that you'll ever get it because the Bio-Gun's rubbish.
- Release date: December
We've sung songs from every neck of the woods on PS2, because Sony knows how popular its karaoke series is. And when it sold us on the sharing dream of the PS3 version we hummed eagerly in anticipation as we pegged our eyes open and stared at the release schedule. Finally, now, after months of waiting, we will be able to warble our throats-out this side of Christmas. Probably.
Of course you will also be able to download new songs to enlarge your collection and share videos of you singing them with people around the world - also known as The Dream, the big void in the series to date. It is a very special trump card for Sony (crucially not being offered anywhere else) and is ideally positioned to get us into real trouble for wasting loads of money on downloads when we get home from The Cricketer's Ballbags too sozzled to control ourselves.
Do you believe in life after love? I can feel something inside me say I really don't think we're strong enough no.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
- Release date: 7th December
Uncharted is more like Indiana Jones than Tomb Raider if you ask us. Nathan Drake can't do somersaults and fight like Jackie can, Chan, whatever, but he can swing a meaty right hook like that bloke down the pub, point a gun in the right direction, and call on some almighty luck when he needs it. Like you and us he is also a normal chap you can empathize with, and as Naughty Dog put it, "Nate is extraordinary because he is ordinary".
We are ordinary, too, but we don't get to gallivant around ancient temples in the jungle with lovely sunlight, solve puzzles and find unheard-of treasures. But then we also don't get shot at by mean people with AK-47s who came up with the same idea. Everything looks to be coming together lovingly, and hopefully the Naughty Dog magic from its Jak & Daxter days will be here in abundance.
Ouch: Nathan Drake is supposedly descended from Sir Francis Drake, who died from dysentery, which sounds horrible. Don't drink the water.
- Out now!
WarHawk managed to confuse us all on more than one occasion. First it looked a bit ropey because no one really knew what was going on and what it was trying to do. Then it was a PSN-only game before being back to a full Blu-Ray offering. Finally, now, we know it is available online and in shops and that it is superb.
Taking the guts of a game like Battlefield and rearranging them to create its own Frankenstein, Incognito has managed to make that rare breed of experience that is different and equally enjoyable each and every time, in a way only online gaming provides. For just GBP 19.99 and with continuous updates and content rolling in, it is a forerunner and golden example to others of how a PSN multiplayer experience should be done.
Obvious question: Why not PeacePigeon?
Look out for more games to buy for Christmas next week. Or in the shops.