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The 25 best games coming before Christmas 2012 - 360, PS3, PC, Wii U

Shooters! Online worlds! Zombies! Football! Cars!

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16. NEED FOR SPEED MOST WANTED (2012)

Play it on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC Out: November 2

Developers Criterion are never happy making a good racing game - they want to make a great one. And Need for Speed Most Wanted (2012) is might be their best yet. The brains behind Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit have cherry-picked features like the Autolog, drop-in multiplayer, deep car customisation and open-world racing from their own back catalogue, but this time there's one key difference - you won't always be going forward. Evading fleets of pissed off cop cars down alleys, side streets and shortcuts ranks among the game's highlights, as does the ability to mod your car on the fly with Kinect. BG


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17. HALO 4

Play it on: Xbox 360 Out: November 6

343 Industries, who have taken over development of the main Halo series from creators Bungie, have described Halo 4 as being darker and more story-driven than other games in the series. It sees Master Chief and Cortana crashing on a mysterious Forerunner planet and battling against mechanical enemies known as the Prometheans. These guys can toss back plasma grenades, protect themselves with hardlight shields, and deploy turrets. After years of fighting the Covenant, it'll be good to test our Halo skills against a new foe. Much of the story is shrouded in mystery, but the antagonist is rumoured to be Didact, a great Forerunner general that fans of Halo's expanded universe may remember from Halo Legends. AK


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18. CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS 2

Play it on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U Out: November 13, (November 30 on Wii U)

For once, the extras bundled in with special editions of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 might eclipse the game itself. Those who pre-order the £85 Prestige version will receive a ludicrous remote-controlled, flying, MQ-27 Dragonfire Drone. It's enough to make you forget about everything else this is packing: a new zombie campaign for up to eight players; branching storylines; Strike Force missions which let you command unmanned aerial vehicles, jets and robots; an explosive plot where World War III kicks off in L.A., Yemen and Singapore; and that same, tight multiplayer, now with score streaks that don't reward for kills alone, and multi-team matches. BG


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19. HITMAN ABSOLUTION

Play it on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC Out: November 20

Hitman games are not played, completed and discarded, but played, played and played again. If you needed any indication of that, think back to Hitman Absolution's May pre-order incentive (and insanely generous giveaway) Hitman: Sniper Challenge, a five-minute level you could quite feasibly wring weeks out of. (And an insane-o-score. Witness CVG's Iain Wilson blamming his way to a mentally huge 4,748,625 points.) Imagine this spread over a dozen open environments, with people to interact with and impromptu weapons with which to stab, smash and shoot. Each level is a sandbox on a microcosm, a sequence you can stir and subvert, each tiny variation drastically altering the outcome. Or you could just Uzi-up and shoot everyone in the head. BG


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20. STARCRAFT 2: HEART OF THE SWARM

Play it on: PC Out: Autumn (TBA)

If you needed any proof Blizzard are crazy perfectionists, look no further than Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm. Starcraft 2 launched in 2010, and only now, two years later, are they ready to drop the first expansion. It will, however, be worth every penny, spanning 20 missions, a new storyline centred around Zerg leader Sarah Kerrigan, seven new multiplayer units (including mobile spider mines and the dragonfly-like Viper), and a variety of tweaks designed to maintain Starcraft 2's position on top of the competitive circuit. The 'Autumn (TBA)' date above is the only fly in the ointment: while the game's in Beta right now, Blizzard still haven't locked down a date - and analysts reckons that means a non-appearance pre-Christmas. Cross those fingers. BG

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