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.