Locked and loaded

By MITCH KRPATA  |  September 12, 2007

After suffering through a year of broken promises and much-hyped new properties that fell flat, PlayStation 3 owners may have reason to celebrate on October 23, when Sony’s most lovable heroes make the leap to the next generation. RATCHET AND CLANK FUTURE: TOOLS OF DESTRUCTION doesn’t aim to reinvent the franchise, and that’s a good thing. Ratchet and Clank may be just what the beleaguered PS3 needs: a fast, funny platformer that’s easy to pick up and play. What’s more, it’ll appeal to more than Sony’s core 18-34 male demographic.

The fall’s most mature title is dropping on, yes, the family-friendly Wii. MANHUNT 2 ignited a controversy earlier this year when the ESRB tagged it with the dreaded “Adults Only” rating. Leading retailers like Wal-Mart and Target refused to carry the title, only to be trumped when Nintendo decided that nobody could sell it. Publisher Rockstar Games made the changes necessary to obtain the acceptable “Mature” rating, and Manhunt 2 will see the light of day on October 31 for both the Wii and the PlayStation 2. Of course, if you can no longer use the motion-sensitive Wii controller to rip off a man’s testicles with a pair of pliers, what’s the point?

And is anything better than dueling guitar solos? How about dueling guitar video games? The arrival of GUITAR HERO III: LEGENDS OF ROCK on October 30 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, and Wii) comes as no surprise, but Legends of Rock adds a bevy of unexpected new features. A reimagined head-to-head mode incorporates wacky power-ups and attacks that seem inspired by Nintendo’s Mario Kart series. You’ll fight boss battles against six-string samurais like Tom Morello and Slash. Most important, Guitar Hero III has the best tracklist in the series to date: Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast,” Metallica’s “One,” and Slayer’s “Raining Blood” are all necessary additions. And the bulk of the new songs are master tracks instead of the usual covers.

But Guitar Hero III faces some stiff competition. Local developer Harmonix, which was behind the first two Guitar Hero games, has set its sights even higher this year. ROCK BAND is like Guitar Hero writ large, incorporating two guitars, a microphone, and a five-piece drum kit. It has mostly master tracks by canonical bands like Faith No More, the Pixies, and Radiohead; it will also support downloads of full albums to the hard drive of your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Who’s Next and Nevermind have already been announced, with more to come in the months following the game’s November 20 release. Both of these music games will rock your socks off, but Rock Band might also melt your face.

It took the Nintendo GameCube years to deliver fresh adventures for some of Nintendo’s best-loved characters. The Wii suffers from no such problem: launch title TheLegend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was followed shortly by Super Paper Mario and Metroid Prime 3. Before the year is out, we’ll be spending even more time with some old favorites. First comes SUPER MARIO GALAXY, on November 12. This time around, Mario explores the far reaches of space, leaping from one planetoid to another, each with its own gravitational pull. The possibilities are thrilling — this is a use of three-dimensional gamespace that we haven’t seen before. In keeping with the Wii’s emphasis on gaming as a social experience, a second player will be able to participate while not directly controlling Mario.

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