Roadies spend the majority of their time hauling equipment and tuning instruments. Not Eddie Riggs. After he spills blood on his badass belt buckle in a backstage mishap, the world’s best roadie is transported to an alternate universe ripped straight from a heavy metal album cover. Under the reign of evil Lord Doviculus and his glam rockin’ minion General Lionwhyte, demons have enslaved humanity. Armed with two axes (a dual-bladed weapon and a guitar), Riggs, voiced by Jack Black, must rally the oppressed headbangers and restore rock. With an outlandish script and an amazing cast of rock legends (including Lemmy Kilmister, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford, and Lita Ford), Brütal Legend is the best homage to rock ‘n’ roll since This Is Spinal Tap.
With Master Chief elsewhere in the universe, ODST follows an elite group of soldiers known as Orbital Shock Drop Troopers. As the team descends into New Mombasa amidst the heavy Covenant onslaught, they get separated, and a new recruit known as The Rookie must traverse the war zone and piece together what happened. As The Rookie uncovers information, players are launched into flashbacks that put them in control of the missing squad members as they fight for their lives. Once the mystery is solved, take the fight online with the new Firefight mode (think Gears of War 2’s Horde mode), then cash in your invitation to check out the Halo: Reach multiplayer beta that is set to launch in 2010. You’re gonna need more sick days to finish it all.
With record TV ratings, raucous fistfights, and the dazzling skill of young stars Patrick Kane and Sidney Crosby, hockey is back. The NHL’s newfound success injects new life into this award-winning series. Players now scrum along the boards while fighting for possession, score from their knees, and bat pucks out of the air for goals worthy of the highlight reel. In the front office, a revamped franchise mode features a new trade system that makes it easier to build a Cup contender, and the retooled EA Sports six-on-six online hockey league now features monthly seasons to keep the competition fierce throughout the winter. Our favorite: a new first-person fighting mode that lets you drop the gloves and send someone to the dental ward.
Picking up a couple of years after Sony’s blockbuster title Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, this sequel finds Abercrombie & Fitch adventurer Nathan Drake searching for the treasures of Marco Polo’s lost fleet. When Drake recovers historical documents indicating that Polo was searching for the mythical city of Shangri-La, he retraces the famed merchant’s footsteps into a hail of gunfire. Landing the fabled plunder isn’t easy—in each mission Drake must navigate explosive action, such as dodging helicopter fire along the rooftops of a Nepalese city and braving the treacherous weather of the Himalayas. Think you’re a world-class archaeologist? Prove it against other Indiana Jones wannabes in the new cooperative and competitive multiplayer treasure hunts.
Finally, a shooter that drops the half-baked sci-fi story and lets the bullets fly. The mission in Borderlands is self-explanatory: The barren world of Pandora holds untold alien treasures, and your job is to find them. Choose one of four characters, take the safety off your weapon, and start shooting your way through baddies in the barren Mad Max–like setting. Your reward? Loot. Tons of it, including more than 3 million weapon combinations, such as shotguns with sniper scopes and rifles that shoot homing darts. With four-player drop-in/drop-out co-op, you can grind through 160 quests in randomly generated levels to collect the biggest arsenal of futuristic weaponry this side of Comic-Con.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is the superpower of shooter games. This sequel takes the first-person-shooter genre to new heights with a thrilling story that picks up from the last game and features frantic co-op challenges and the best multiplayer around. The explosive single-player campaign includes dangerous new war scenarios that find you scaling icy mountains to infiltrate a top-secret base, racing a snowmobile down a mountainside while dodging a hail of enemy fire, and tailing terrorist suspects through the crowded Brazilian slums. Multiplayer ups the ante with new customizable kill streaks that let you unleash the fury of an AC-130 gunship upon those suckers sitting in broad daylight.
With gamers suffering from a Guitar Hero overdose, it’s time for turntables to take center stage. With consulting help from legendary artists Jay-Z and Eminem, this hip-hop take on Guitar Hero’s addictive gameplay wins over wannabe mix masters with its turntable controller that features a sample button, cross-fader, and a record platform for scratching. Playing as characters such as DJ Jazzy Jeff, Grandmaster Flash, and even the late DJ AM, you’ll combine over 100 iconic songs from a diverse group of genres to create unique mash-ups—like M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” and Eric B. & Rakim’s “Eric B. Is President”—you won’t hear anywhere else. Plug in a Guitar Hero guitar for some multi-instrument co-op, or fuel your party with an automated playlist when you’re spinning.
Spend more time with your cars than with your girlfriend? Look into counseling and clear your schedule. With 400 road burners from 50 manufacturers, Forza 3’s garage makes Jay Leno’s car collection look like a used car lot. The second Forza title in three years delivers even more grease monkey realism with a new physics system that includes tire deformation, car flips, and a cockpit view, while the career mode boasts over 200 different events. Drivers who can’t tell a stick shift from an automatic can still get into the race with new features aimed at making the experience more accessible, like an auto-braking system to help on those nasty hairpin turns and new race-rewind controls that let you erase the fatal mistake that sent you spinning into the stands.