VIDEO GAME NEWS: Activision creates a gamer’s wish list

The weather outside isn’t frightful (yet). And there shouldn’t be any delightful fires in your chimney. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start thinking about the holidays, when anticipated video games end up on wish lists and – hopefully – in stockings or under trees. Since you are so busy deciding who was naughty or nice this year, Activision made your shopping list easy by teasing seven titles sure to please any hardcore gamer. A few are out. Others are on the horizon. But all seven deserve a peek, and maybe a purchase.

Guitar Hero 5 (available now)

Man, it’s a good time to be a living room rock god. Our PS3 has seen a steady rotation of “GH5” and “The Beatles: Rock Band” ever since both titles arrived within a couple of days of one another.

The beauty of “GH5” is the social gameplay in the Party Play Mode, which allows fellow “rockers” the chance to jump into and out of songs mid-beat and with any instrument they want. Four guitarists, three bassists and two drummers? Bring it on.

But the real draw of “GH5” is the array of artists lending their songs to the ever-expanding set list (and the spectacular choice of songs). Nirvana, Tom Petty, Kings of Leon, The White Stripes, Stevie Wonder, Iron Maiden and Vampire Weekend are standouts. Plus, any game that digs a track off of Weezer’s uncelebrated “Pinkerton” album gets a high grade from me. “GH” fans don’t need to be told, but we’ll say it anyway. “GH5” is a winner.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (available now)

The role-playing sequel to the original “Ultimate Alliance” expands the roster of playable heroes (to 20) as it adopts storylines from the incredibly popular Marvel Civil War storyline. Old standbys Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk and Iron Man join Deadpool, Venom and Green Goblin in a co-operative multiplayer action adventure.

DJ Hero (In stores Oct. 27)

So you prefer turntable scratches to strumming and drumming. Activision’s got you covered. The much-anticipated “DJ Hero,” streeting in late October, replaces the axe and pads of the “Guitar Hero” world for a turntable controller players can use to replicate more than 100 individual songs, highlighted in 93 unique never-before-released mixes that blend genres of music, including hip-hop, pop, rock and dance. “DJ Hero” encourages scratching, blending, cross fading and sampling, while leaving room for creative expression with a variety of effects and player-chosen samples and scratches. Artists are still being announced, but we’ve learned you can expect tracks from David Bowie, Blondie, Justice, Marvin Gaye, KRS-1, Beastie Boys, Gorillaz, N.E.R.D, Beck and 50 Cent. Also, as with “GH,” there will be ample opportunity to battle against other DJs in head-to-head and virtual online contests. Put the needle on the record.

Blur (in stores Nov. 3)

Gearheads will want to circle Nov. 3 on the calendar, as that’s the day “Blur,” from the “Project Gotham Racing” team hits shelves. Activision says the game will drop drivers onto real-world track locations packed with fast curves, sneaky alternate routes and hair-raising jumps in over 60 licensed cars. Players race to collect power-ups (including the ability to blast other cars out of the way with huge bursts of energy). The game’s story unfolds through Bizarre Creations’ unique and innovative community-based interface, enabling players to build a network of allies, rivals, fans and personalized racing experiences with friends both inside and outside the game. One article claims that “Blur” will do for racing games what “Call of Duty” did for WWII shooters. We shall see.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Nov. 10)
Speaking of “Call of Duty,” we’re incredibly pumped for “Modern Warfare 2,” after the fifth “COD” brought people back to the Pacific Rim instead of on another modern mission – which fans devoured in “COD 4.” Details are a little hard to come by, though we know “Modern Warfare 2” is a direct sequel that takes place a few years after the original game and features a few returning characters. Activision and Infinity Ward are starting to take the games into the marketplace for test drives with gamers. We’ll let you know what we hear.

Tony Hawk: RIDE (Nov. 17)

Here’s something relatively new. “Tony Hawk: RIDE” requires a motion sensing skateboard controller, a wireless controller designed for this game that offers hands-free entertainment no matter your skill level. Gamers can literally step on the board to play. “RIDE” also will feature a diverse set of trick, vert, and speed challenges, and a robust multiplayer, online and create-a-skater modes. Skate or die, indeed.

Band Hero (Nov. 17)
More artists, more songs … “Band Hero” brings the “Guitar Hero” phenomenon back home. Listen for Maroon 5, Fall Out Boy, Go-Go’s, Janet Jackson, Culture Club and Snow Patrol as “Band Hero” elevates the social gameplay aspects of the “Hero” musical franchise. Of course, “Band Hero” will allow you to transfer all downloadable content from previous games. But it sounds like most of the fun will be had with the RockFest mode, a collection of challenges at varying difficulties designed for up to four players locally and up to eight players online. This November, the “Band” goes live …in your living room!
— By Sean O’Connell

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