Video Game Buyer’s Guide for the 2011 Holiday Season

It’s that time again. That magic season of red and green, elves and saints, trees and presents is, like the Polar Express, poised to drag us relentlessly on a rollercoaster of emotions and stress. It is never slowing, never breathing, and never stopping until we lay prostrate to our last penny at the altar of the nation’s thousands of retail outlets.

It’s at times like these that it’s awesome to be a gamer.

With Black Friday looming perhaps even more scrumptiously in the close future, reaching for our wallets the day after we finish engaging in a decadent ritual centered around a large, dead bird, the gaming industry has accordingly put its best foot forward. The GameStop and Nintendo holiday buyer’s guides are circulating (the former filled with terribly un-subtle “hint” stickers for the purpose of bludgeoning into our technologically illiterate parents’ heads repeatedly our electronic desires du jour), the holiday game lineup is all but settled, and those beautifully sterile, attractive demo stations are popping up all over the country in a mall near you. With the holiday game season thus ready to launch into full steam, I thought it only appropriate that I should toss in my two cents about the games one might be interested in buying (read: begging for) this year. I’ll make the following disclaimer before I start: I’m heavily biased (if my latest rant didn’t make that painfully obvious already) and although I shall try to maintain a professional frostiness throughout this process, I make no promises.

First: fans of first person shooters, rejoice. You’ll be given no lack of opportunities to exercise your unalienable right to freedom of choice this year, with no less than six major franchise sequels to choose from, not to mention the myriad of smaller indie titles that all use this particular control perspective. What you gain in free will, however, you’ll be apt to lose in the “spice of life” variety, as most of the holiday FPS offerings have shockingly similar premises. Resistance 3 and Gears of War 3 will give you ample opportunity to blow up squishy aliens while peeking over varying flavors of chest-high-walls (new this season: strawberry and grape)! If more old-fashioned homo sapiens strike you as better receptacles for your divine shotgun vengeance, you may, unfortunately, have to become partisan and pick a side in the ongoing square-off between Electronic Arts’ DICE and Activision’s Infinity Ward.

Yes, that’s right, it’s Battlefield vs. Modern Warfare again. Slap a three on the end of each, fill your Xbox with desert sand and grime, hang a nuclear Sword of Damocles in the distance, and you’ve got the general sense of both. If you want to laugh at the humans you kill, try the paradoxically titled Serious Sam 3. Or if you’re feeling punky and/or alternative this Christmas, Square Enix’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution can scratch your cyberpunk itch, while independently-developed Hard Reset engages in punkerey of a distinctly steamier kind. Throw id’s RAGE in there somewhere and the holiday shooter singularity achieves critical mass, ready to suck the money out of your wallets and into the black abyss that is Friday Nov. 25. All of these titles will come conveniently to a console near you, but if you’re still playing your titles on the now five-year-old PS3 then clearly you have no appreciation for modern graphics (Xbox Live addicts I’ll forgive…for now).

On the Nintendo side of things, most of the action this holiday will fit in the palm of your hand. Lovers of Wiimote flailing have no doubt already acquired a copy of Zelda: Skyward Sword, a game that has launched to nearly unanimous perfect 10s from all critical sources. It is one which will make a pleasant addition to the ensemble under the tree/menora/kwanzaa candelabra for those mature enough to actually heed the label and not open until x-mas, as will Kirby’s Return to Dreamland. However, the majority of Nintendo’s innovation will happen on the new reduced price 3DS, now in red, for those of you sapient enough to hold off on buying it. It will be graced by such titles as Mario Kart 7, Star Fox 64 3D, and Super Mario 3D Land, a spiritual successor to the NES classic Super Mario Bros. 3 (complete with iconic tanooki suit) that promises a new and impressive isometric platforming experience. If you’re a firm believer of that old adage “Sega does what Nintendon’t,” never fear: Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario will compete head-to-head again in the third Mario/Sonic Olympic Games crossover (this time set in London). Sonic Generations, the Sonic franchise’s latest attempt at renaissance, will also be coming to the 3DS, as well as PC…just PC. Don’t even bother getting it on 360 or PS3. I mean it.

No new consoles will grace the holiday scene, despite the announcement of both the WiiU and PS Vita at E3 this year. Those that wish to make the financial plunge on Sony’s latest front-back touchable handheld will have to wait until late February 2012, but they might also be well-advised to wait until Sony announces at least one good launch title for it. Or, for the insufferable early adopters/excessively wealthy ones among us, go to and pre-order the Japanese Vita, set to release in December. Do it. I dare you. I triple dog-dare you! As for you iOS/Android gamers out there, enjoy the next Angry Birds I guess. You’ll have no dearth of new phones and tablets to play it on. For the rest, enjoy your dead bird, and enjoy the season of giving…in true capitalist fashion!

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