By Lou Kesten
Real news from the virtual world:
Most gamers spend the early part of the year catching up on software they couldn’t get around to during the holiday glut. Maybe you’ve been meaning to check out “Fallout 3” or “Fable II,” or dig in and finish up that “LittleBigPlanet” level you’ve been working on.
Take your time. You still have more than a month until the first major game of 2009 — Warner’s “F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin” — drops. After that, the deluge. Here are the games I’m waiting for this year.
“Resident Evil 5” (Capcom, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3): Chris Redfield, hero of the original “RE,” goes to Africa to find the source of an infection that has wiped out most of the human race.
“Brutal Legend” (Electronic Arts, 360, PS3): Jack Black provides the voice of Eddie Riggs, a roadie who dreams of being a rock god, in this adventure from “Psychonauts” mastermind Tim Schafer.
Harmonix’s Beatles game (MTV, systems unknown): The creators of “Rock Band” are building this rhythm game based on the Fab Four’s career. Meanwhile, “Guitar Hero” fans will learn how much abuse their fingers can take with a Metallica edition (most systems).
“Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars” (Rockstar, DS): Return to Liberty City in the first “GTA” title for Nintendo’s handheld. Also due soon: “The Lost and Damned,” a downloadable new chapter for last year’s “GTA IV.”
“Infamous” (Sony, PS3): Sucker Punch, the studio behind the delightful “Sly Cooper” series, lets you try on the leotard of an electricity-powered superhero — or is he a supervillain?
“Prototype” (Sierra, 360, PS3): Alex, the amnesiac protagonist here, not only has superpowers, but can also change shapes and take on his enemies’ powers. Will he use them for good or eee-vil?
“Champions Online” (Cryptic, 360) and “DC Universe Online” (Sony, PS3): Speaking of superheroes, you’ll be able to build one from scratch in either of these massively multiplayer virtual worlds.
“Alpha Protocol” (Sega, 360, PS3): “Neverwinter Nights 2” developer Obsidian updates the role-playing game, substituting sword-and-sorcery with the cloak-and-dagger of modern-day espionage.
“Heavy Rain” (Sony, PS3): Fans of the disturbing “Indigo Prophecy” can look forward to being creeped out again by this thriller from France’s Quantic Dream.
“MadWorld” (Sega, Wii) and “Bayonetta” (Sega, 360, PS3): Platinum Games, the studio behind this pair, was formed by veterans of the cult classic “Okami.” So you know they’ll be stylish, and “MadWorld” promises to be the goriest Wii game yet.
Of course, there are plenty more sequels in the pipeline, including “Killzone 2” and “God of War III” (Sony, PS3), “Halo Wars” and “Halo 3: ODST” (Microsoft, 360), “Street Fighter IV” (Capcom, 360, PS3) and “Pokemon Platinum” (Nintendo, DS).
And this may be the year we finally see long-awaited games such as Square Enix’s “Final Fantasy XIII,” Rockstar’s detective drama “L.A. Noire” or Microsoft’s psychological thriller “Alan Wake.” Even without them, the competition for your entertainment dollar will be intense.