After footage of an ultra-violent game called "Close Range" went viral a few years ago, it turned out that the video, which featured an endless procession of people getting shot in the face at point-blank range, was a parody by The Onion. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case with BULLETSTORM (February 22; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC). Players are rewarded not only for mowing down mutant baddies with ludicrously large guns, but for doing so in style. Headshot bonuses are a staple of the genre, but Bulletstorm may be the first game to give extra credit for ass shots. Finally, the game that will convince Roger Ebert that games are art!
Say this for KILLZONE 3 (February 22; PlayStation 3): at least Sony didn't go the easy route and call it Killzone 3D. Even so, this game is the tip of the spear for Sony's campaign to sell three-dimensional television sets, and as such, will likely be judged by whether it can pull off newfangled visuals, not whether its gameplay can stand out in the crowded shooter market. Not that the developers, Guerrilla Games, aren't giving it the old college try: Killzone 3 includes a revamped melee system, which promises to let players get up close and personal with the Helghast army. But one question remains: do you really want to see a bashed-in alien face in 3D?
For good and bad, nobody makes games like BioWare. Crafters of intricate fantasy worlds and complex, nuanced characters, they are also incapable of designing an interface that meets the most basic standards of usability. Enjoying a BioWare game is like breaking into a bank vault: it takes months of effort and planning to get to the goods inside, and even then, there's no guarantee you'll succeed. So will it be worth it to try to penetrate the carapace of DRAGON AGE II (March 18; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)? It'll help if you played the first game, since the sequel will import your old save data to shape the trajectory of the story line. Me, I just want to be able to navigate the inventory menus without needing a compass.
Given recent events on the Korean peninsula, THQ's HOMEFRONT (March 8; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC) might be more timely than anyone could have predicted. Set in the year 2027, Homefront portrays a depleted United States facing invasion by a formidable North Korean army. As a soldier in occupied Colorado, the player must resort to guerrilla tactics against a vastly superior foreign military. Sound familiar? It should. That's because Homefront was written by John Milius, the noted right-wing paranoiac who brought us Red Dawn. Wolverines!
Besides having the most confusing title in history, SHIFT 2 UNLEASHED: NEED FOR SPEED (March 8; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC) is also the game that appeared in an unskippable advertisement at the beginning of last fall's otherwise spotless Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. That's two strikes against it. But Shift 2 does make use of Hot Pursuit's addictive Autolog feature, which updates your friends' high scores in real time, and if nothing else, promises sim-style racing with your choice of sexy sports cars. Without police helicopters, though, it's hard to imagine another Need for Speed game getting the job done.