Editor's Note: Rob counts down why this October kicks off the holiday gaming season a month early. His list of games coming out in the next few weeks makes my mouth water — and he doesn't even mention other heavy hitters like Brütal Legend or Ratchet and Clank! -Brett
Move over, winter holidays: October is set to release a truckload of great games that I'm genuinely excited about. I’m usually a picky player, so it's rare for me to have so many anticipated releases in one month outside of the holiday season.
Below are five games that remind me of what it was like to tremble with anticipation when reading about upcoming holiday titles in the likes of Nintendo Power, Computer Games Magazine, and (of course!) Electronic Gaming Monthly during my most impressionable years.
5. Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition (PC, PS3, X360: October 13)
Alright, so the first title in my list is a bit of a cheat — it's not really a "new" game. But since I purchased Fallout 3 for PS3 when it was first released, I missed out on all the new content Bethesda has put out.
The GOTY edition will include Operation: Anchorage, The Pitt, Broken Steel, Point Lookout, and Mothership Zeta, which is reason enough. Although I could download the additional content in the coming weeks, I’d still much rather have it all on disc.
Being a long time Fallout aficionado, the game of the year edition should hold me out until Obsidian (founded by members of Black Isle Studios, who developed the original PC Fallout games) releases Fallout: New Vegas sometime next year.
4. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3: October 13)
This game is just plain gorgeous. You can watch the E3 gameplay demo on Game Trailers; the game runs smoothly and flawlessly while drawing vast city landscapes. Developer Naughty Dog claims to be taking advantage of 100 percent of the PS3 architecture. That's quite a statement to make, but the visuals do back up the boast.
The gameplay demo and reviews I've seen emphasize that Uncharted 2 plays a lot like the exciting action sequences we're accustomed to in films. The game features levels on moving trains, fast-paced car chases, and harrowing firefights in abandoned office buildings, where players must evade helicopter gunfire.
In addition to the single-player campaign, Uncharted 2 packs in both co-op and competitive multiplayer. The game's multiplayer offerings aren't running second-string to the single-player campaign, either. Competitive matches feature the full range of maneuvers and abilities available in single-player — including the ways the player can interact with the environment — and co-op offers its own unique levels for up to three players to tackle together.
High-adrenaline action with interesting puzzles — all in a beautiful package. What more could an action player want?
3. Torchlight (PC: October 27)
I recently wrote about Runic Games' Torchlight, an action-RPG in the same vein as Diablo. From developers with a lot of experience in this genre, Torchlight is shaping up to be a heavyweight.
Two of the most interesting innovations in Torchlight are a retirement system for high-level characters, which will allow players to bestow certain benefits to new characters, and the ability for characters to have a pet. In addition to assisting in combat and leveling with the player, the pet functions as a mule to cart unwanted loot back to town to be sold while the player continues to fight through a dungeon.
We haven’t had a solid title in this genre for many years now, so Torchlight could be just what we need to appease our appetites.
2. Borderlands (PS3, X360: October 20; PC: October 26)
I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptical games, so I've been naturally drawn to Gearbox's Borderlands. And while controversial in some quarters, the new art direction really caught my attention. Not to mention that Borderlands has possibly one of the best looking box covers in video game history.
Dubbed a "role-playing shooter," Borderlands layers first-person shooter gameplay on top of staple RPG mechanics like leveling, skill-trees, and loot. The game also makes use of procedurally-generated weapons (claimed to be in the millions), which should keep loot fresh throughout the game. It's basically Diablo meets Doom.
Borderlands will also feature co-op, which will allow up to three players to drop in and out of your single-player campaign at any time.
With an eye-catching art style and RPG-influenced addictive gameplay, Borderlands is shaping up to be a title with a lot of potential.
1. Demon's Souls (PS3: October 6)
I've been pushing this game in front of the ears and eyes of any player who will give me the opportunity, because Demon's Souls is the best console game I've played in a long time. (As some of you may remember, I've been playing the Asian import version since April, before Atlus announced their plans to bring From Software's game to North America.)
At its most basic, Demon's Souls is an action-RPG tactical dungeon-crawler from a third-person perspective. It takes the best elements of the Zelda games and simply executes them more effectively in every way imaginable — as has been said more eloquently elsewhere. Level design, combat, boss battles, ambient atmosphere, and sound — to name but a few — are just head and shoulders above anything Zelda could ever hope to achieve.
Gamasutra recently published a game design analysis of Demon’s Souls, going into more detail about what the game does right in the genre. I encourage you to read it.
Add to this formula a multiplayer twist that has other players invading your game as either friends or foes and you have a truly unique experience in your hands. They can leave hints or false messages, and the bloodstains detailing their final moments appear in your game.
The five stages in the game are also all open from the near beginning, which gives players the opportunity to visit a different locale if one area proves too difficult. The ability to transition between different stages keeps the game feeling fresh, even after putting in dozens of hours.
Finally, I have to address the difficulty. Many game sites like to emphasize that Demon's Souls is a metaphorical kick in the groin, but that's only half the story. The game may seem difficult at first, but that's only because you don't know how to play Demon's Souls yet.
Once you begin to understand how combat flows and approach engagements with a tactical eye, you realize that you've grown as a player during your time with Demon's Souls. Few games ever offer a player such a reward, and the ones that do are with your time.