Winter wonderland

By MITCH KRPATA  |  January 4, 2010

Then there's DANTE'S INFERNO (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation Portable), which you might call literary porn, or maybe just porn porn. A very, very loose adaptation of the classic poem, this game is a God of War clone in which a scythe-wielding Dante descends into Hell to decapitate demons and rescue Beatrice. With blood, guts, and boobs galore, it will be making a whole lot of us embarrassed to be gamers on February 9.

Maybe we'll have better luck that same day with BIOSHOCK 2 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC). The original was a triumph, one of the best of the decade, thoughtful and thrilling in equal measure. The sequel adds the obligatory multi-player modes and a freakish new enemy type, the Big Sister. Warning signs: development duties shifted from 2K Boston to 2K Marin, and a last-second delay before the game's intended release date last summer seemed fishy.

Then again, what games haven't been delayed recently? HEAVY RAIN (PlayStation 3) has had more tentative release dates than some people have birthdays. The latest is February 16, at which time we should finally see what this noirish detective story is all about. Heavy Rain is said to be a game where character and story, rather than complex control machinations, take center stage. A branching story means that several distinct playthroughs are possible. Will this finally be the fabled game that makes players cry?

On February 23, eager gamers are hoping that SPLINTER CELL: CONVICTION (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) makes them cry tears of joy. After a protracted development cycle, the current incarnation of Conviction turned heads at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, winning several best-of-show awards. Then it was promptly delayed again, allegedly for more polish, but more likely so it wouldn't have to compete against Call of Duty. Sam Fisher's latest adventure has him going rogue, taking out his enemies in the most realistic Splinter Cell setting yet.

The setting of LOST PLANET 2 (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, February 23) will be pleasantly unrealistic. The original took place on an arctic ice planet — which terraforming has now turned into a sweltering jungle for the sequel. Massive bosses and foes in mechanized armor still stalk the land, however, so at least returning players won't feel completely out of place. More-fleshed-out multi-player modes could also help this sequel shine.

Speaking of fleshed-out multi-player: BATTLEFIELD: BAD COMPANY 2 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC) will be as meaty as they come when it ships on March 2. Battlefield includes robust leveling and customization options, seamless vehicle controls, and distinct character classes for team-based play. It's also taken dead aim at disgruntled Modern Warfare 2 players, offering dedicated server support for PC players and party chat for Xbox Live players.

Every new Final Fantasy game is an event, and the arrival on March 9 of FINAL FANTASY XIII (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) will be no different. The latest installment takes a step back from some of the less user-friendly innovations of its predecessor, returning to more familiar active-time battling, with a few new wrinkles like a chain combo system. You can also bet the storyline will feature a rag-tag group of adventurers brought together by circumstance to confront an epic evil. Just guessing.

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