Just like last year, I am going to post a four part guide to help you decide what to ask your friends and family for this festive season, or maybe what you should be buying the gamer in your family. This first section covers 10 games that I consider "must haves" - some are new releases, some are coming out soon others came out earlier in the year. Part 2 will feature 10 games that I have my doubts about but are nevertheless worth keeping an eye on and perhaps picking up in the sales, then part 3 will cover gaming on a budget (more important than ever in these harsh times) and finally part 4 will have a round up of downloadable titles should you be on the receiving end of some points cards. Let's get things underway...
Fable II - Xbox 360 - Out Now
The original Fable didn't quite deliver in the way it was supposed to but nevertheless it was still a great game in my opinion. Peter Molyneux has been a bit quieter during the development of Fable II, but what has been shown off is quite promising - the way you make use of your doggy partner to help you spot things of interest for example, or the promised co-op play which will let you drop into a friends game and then drop out again at will, and take any experience and items earned back to your own game (there was a rumour that this wouldn't make it in time for launch, but now a patch is promised on day of release which will fix whatever issues they were having with it.
Fallout 3 - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - Out Now
The Fallout games are still held in incredibly high regard even today and there has been constant demand for a sequel for many years. Finally Bethesda (developers of the Elder Scrolls series) have given the fans what they want, and the third game in the series (not counting spin-offs Fallout Tactics or Brotherhood of Steel) promises to reel in new players as well with it's enticing mix of turn based RPG goodness, real time shooting and limb targeting, as well as its wicked sense of humour and post-apocalyptic setting. Here's hoping the Bloody Mess talent makes a comeback too!
Little Big Planet - PS3 - Out 05/11/08
Old school 2D platforming meets the power of the PS3 and the best community features that Web 2.0 has to offer in what is possibly the biggest exclusive Sony has for their platform this Christmas. Create your own levels using the incredibly intuitive built in designer and then share them with your friends, either alone or at the same time! I can't wait to finally try this having heard so much about it over the last year or so, but initial reports from the US indicate that Media Molecule have managed to deliver on all the promise that has been shown.
de Blob - Wii - Out Now
The idea of this game is extremely appealing to me - bounce around a greyscale world and paint the colour back in, while creating your own soundtrack based on which colour you use (each colour produces a different musical instrument). I love games that fuse visuals/audio in this way such as Rez or Lumines and this promises to give the same type of satisfaction. I can see how the game could start to get a bit repetitive but there are some other types of gameplay included (such as races which hopefully break up the action of the main time enough so that it stays fresh.
Motorstorm: Pacific Rift - PS3 - Out Now
The original Motorstorm was arguably the best of the PS3 launch titles, but it was far from perfect with a lack of track variety and gameplay modes. Now that Evolution Studios have had all the time that they need to work on the sequel there is a much wider range of environments to race around, from jungles to beaches, to volcanoes via swamps. Monster trucks have been added to the mix of vehicles and you can expect the same multi tiered tracks that branch of in every direction, only with much more polish than last time! The first game also lacked a split screen multiplayer mode much to my disappointment - this time it's in there for up to four players!
Valkyria Chronicles - PS3 - Out Now
I've been looking forward to this game since I saw the trailer back in the spring, and the more I see of it the more I can't wait to get my hands on it. It features beautiful cell shaded graphics, gameplay which is a combination of tactical turn based RPG (ala Fire Emblem) and real time action, and features cameos from Vyse and Aika from Skies of Arcadia! What's not to like? Easily the most interesting thing that Sega has done in almost a decade. The demo is out now on PlayStation Network - check it out!
Dragon Quest: Chapters of the Chosen - DS - Out Now
The DS is fast becoming the console of choice for RPG fans, not least because of the output of genre behemoth Square-Enix. If you have yet to experience the Dragon Quest series I really recommend it, and this entry in the series is perfect for handheld play as it is divided up into several chapters as the title suggests. The gameplay may be a little old school for some, but if the thought of battling blue slimes and one eyed monsters called "winkys" interests you, take the plunge!
Left 4 Dead - Xbox 360 & PC - Out 21/11/08
Zombie fans, Valve has a brain flavoured treat in store for you this winter! Take on legions of the undead before facing off against powerful boss zombies, with each encounter based upon your skill level. Doing well? Then you may come across an entire room of bosses to take you down a peg or two as the AI Director analyses your progress and adjusts the experience accordingly. The multiplayer modes also promise to be superb, with survivors taking on the infected. I'm not really a big fan of First Person Shooters, but this one sounds absolutely brilliant!
Final Fantasy IV - DS - Out Now
DS owners who prefer Final Fantasy to Dragon Quest, Square-Enix has you covered too in this stunning remake of the classic SNES game (which was never released in Europe originally). The game has been brought up to date with the same 3D engine that was used for last years Final Fantasy III, but there have been a few tweaks so now it is even better. This is one of the best games in the series, along with VI, VIII and XII and if you haven't experienced it before it's well worth a look!
Star Ocean: First Departure - PSP - Out Now
PSP owners needn't feel left out as Squeenix also has a classic RPG freshly updated for your gaming pleasure. Again, it never reached these shores when it was first released on the SNES, but the huge popularity of Star Ocean 3 made Squeenix reconsider things and has already released the game in Europe. The visuals have been given a considerable overhaul with new anime cutscenes by Production I.G. and the gameplay has also been tweaked, helping you become fully immersed in the Star Trek inspired universe that Tri-Ace have created.
See you again very soon for 10 more games that may be worth picking up, if funds permit!