The pile-up

By MITCH KRPATA  |  December 31, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV came out more than eight months ago, and it's possible that by now you might even have played everything it has to offer: Never fear: THE LOST AND DAMNED (February 17; Xbox 360), the first of two downloadable expansions available exclusively to Xbox 360 owners, is coming to fill the void. In the new episode, players take control of Johnny Klebitz, a member of a biker gang called the Lost. At $20, The Lost and Damned probably won't offer the same hours-to-dollars ratio as the full game, but if you've been looking for an excuse to revisit Liberty City, this is it.

The question on the minds of fighting fans is whether the wait was worth it for STREET FIGHTER IV (February 17; PS3, Xbox 360, PC). Capcom has historically brought their "A" game to the true sequels in the venerable series. The fourth installment retains the two-dimensional gameplay the franchise is known for, although the characters and backgrounds are three-dimensionally rendered in a stunning, hand-drawn style. Most of the popular warriors return from past games, along with four brand-new ones, including a masked luchador. By now, Capcom has earned the benefit of the doubt, but surely Super Street Fighter IV Turbo Hyper Fighting Champion Edition can't be far behind.

Just because the first video game to star the rapper 50 Cent, Bulletproof, was a flop (earning an ungodly Metacritic score of 47), that's no reason not to try again. And you'd have to take yourself really seriously not at least to chuckle at the very existence of 50 CENT: BLOOD ON THE SAND (February 24; PS3, Xbox 360). After a promoter bilks 50 and G-Unit out of their fee for playing a show in the Middle East, the crew decides to get revenge by blowing up half the region. No, I am not making this up. If it succeeds, Blood on the Sand could be the guiltiest pleasure since Postal. If it fails, well, I think 50 has some other things to fall back on.

For the increasingly beleaguered PlayStation 3, every new exclusive game is a chance to turn things around. The latest potential savior is KILLZONE 2 (February 27; PS3), the sequel to a much-hyped PlayStation 2 game that was not warmly received in its time. Previews for the new game have proven just as divisive on blogs and fan sites, thanks in large part to a recent closed beta test. At issue seems to be the play control, which detractors call sluggish and supporters call realistic. As usual, the best policy is to wait and see for yourself.

Over a year has passed since the release of Halo 3, and though it's still the most popular game on Xbox Live, gamers jonesing for a new adventure in that universe will have their wish granted thanks to HALO WARS (March 3; Xbox 360). Unlike the well-known Halo trilogy, which is a first-person shooter, Halo Wars is a real-time strategy game. Players will take control of the entire army, which includes many character classes and vehicles familiar from past games. But there's some bad news, too: Master Chief is nowhere to be found. Please try to stifle your tears.

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