LUIGI'S MANSION: DARK MOON
Format: 3DS | Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo | Out: March
With Paper Mario: Sticker Star doing poorly, the 3DS' only big release this Christmas, what hope does gangly brother Luigi have, both as a game and a chance to turn around the fortunes of Nintendo's flailing handheld?
Well, first off it looks phenomenal, even better than its Gamecube predecessor. Dust particles float through haunted rooms, light rays pierce crooked windows, and Pixar-level animations bring spooks and spectres to life. so to speak. Like before, you'll freeze them with your stroboscope (a bit like a flashbang) and suck them into your hoover, collecting keys to progress to new rooms. Unlike before, however, the gyroscope presents an optional alternative to the analogue stick, and 3D visuals bring depth to previously flat scenery.
The best part of Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, though, is the level of interaction. Carpets and curtains flail in the whirlwind of your vacuum, chandeliers shake, and suits of armour jangle. Everything reacts. The first could be completed in an afternoon; if Nintendo fix the length, this will be a March must-buy. BG
INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US
Format: 360, PS3 | Developer: NetherRealm | Publisher: Warner Bros. | Out: April
A fast paced, over-the-top fighter from Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon, Injustice: Gods Among Us lines up iconic characters from the DC Universe and sets them upon each other in a spandex-clad cockfight. The roster is divided into power and gadget-based characters - Superman is a power fighter, for instance, while Batman utilises his signature tech. Signature villains such as the Joker will be playable, so why are the heroes fighting each other? According to the devs, all will be explained in the story mode.
Environments are interactive, allowing power characters to send opponents through walls and wield vehicles as weapons - the Batcave stage even provided a nifty little use for the Batmobile. Considering the creative talent involved, Injustice should find a successful balance between depth and spectacle. JH
DEAD ISLAND: RIPTIDE
Format: 360, PS3, PC | Developer: Techland | Publisher: Deep Silver | Out: 26 April
Forget the first game's 'emotional' reveal trailer - the original Dead Island really made us cry with its game-ruining bugs and tedious level design. We're hoping for much better things with Dead Island: Riptide, which sees the survivors from the first game stranded on the tropical island of Palanai. The promise of Palanai being ravaged by storms and then flooding certainly sounds intriguing - here's hoping the sewers are rendered inaccessible in the process, lest developers Techland make us trudge through those again.
There'll be a new character, skills, and weapons available to combat the undead masses, and although the game isn't a proper sequel, it incorporates plenty of new changes, including a Gears of War-style Horde mode. But with The Walking Dead proving a particularly strong refreshing of the zombie game in 2012, Dead Island: Riptide will have to work hard to engage players in a similar way. JH
COMPANY OF HEROES 2
Format: PC | Developer: Relic | Publisher: THQ | Out: Spring
The first Company of Heroes is one of the best modern PC real-time strategy games. Company of Heroes 2 builds on its tactics with a sophisticated new line-of-sight system designed to realistically emulate battlefield conditions, as well as enhanced visuals and physics, thanks to Relic's own in-house Essence 3.0 engine. This time we get to control the Soviet Red Army as they battle through the Eastern Front.
Missions will take place during Operation Barbarossa, Germany's doomed invasion of the Soviet Union, and eventually the Battle of Berlin. Like the original game, Relic are planning to support the game long after its release with DLC, and it'll support Direct X 11 if you have the hardware for it. AK
SPLINTER CELL: BLACKLIST
Format: 360, PS3, PC | Developer: Ubisoft | Publisher: Ubisoft | Out: Spring
Often, there was only one way to play 2010's divisive series reboot, Splinter Cell Conviction: loud. In Splinter Cell: Blacklist there are three. 'Assault' is for fans of, well, loud; 'Panther' will appeal to those who love striking from shadows; and 'Ghost' is named for silent, non-lethal playthroughs. The latter, in other words, is proper Splinter Cell.
Ghost is most challenging and, thanks to over 90 new animations and kill moves, most impressive. There's the peaceful (leg-sweep into sleeper hold or dashing clothesline) and the dramatically violent (fireman's carry into a neck-breaking suplex, or head-drag into a neck-breaking leg scissors, or leg-sweep into a neck-breaking punch - are you seeing a theme?). Contextual too, animations put walls and corners to face-smashing effect.
Whatever approach you go for, new mechanics help. 'Killing in motion' incorporates instant kills into frantic cover-crossing dashes, while Kinect voice control allows you to distract guards with a yell. With the much-loved Spies vs Mercs multiplayer mode returning as well, Blacklist should be everything new fans love about the 'Cell, and everything old fans love too. BG
Format: 360, PS3, PC | Developer: 2K Marin | Publisher: 2K | Out: Spring
October's XCOM: Enemy Unknown was a purist reimagining of MicroProse's 90's alien invasion strategy; next year's XCOM takes things in an entirely different direction. Well, that's if it even comes out next year. In development since 2006, chewing up and spitting out three separate developers in that time, the story of XCOM's journey to shop shelves might be as interesting as the plot itself, which sees you playing FBI special agent William Carter in a 60's America besieged by extraterrestrial forces. Like the PC classic you'll investigate aliens, harvest and develop fearsome new weaponry, and finally fight back.
First unveiled as a straight shooter at E3 2010, rumours abound its morphed into a third-person squad shooter third-person squad shooter in the vein of Ghost Recon or Republic Commando. While the direction is in keeping with tradition, changes so late in the day don't bode well. Still, we have faith in the Bioshock 2 team, 2K Marin, to deliver. BG