GOD OF WAR: ASCENSION
Format: PS3 | Developer: Sony Santa Monica | Publisher: Sony | Out: 15 March
Prequel God of War: Ascension promises to be another bloody and uncompromising outing for Kratos. The first gameplay footage revealed at E3 showed the perennially angry Spartan tearing the heads off goatmen, stabbing the tentacles of massive sea creature Charybdis, before ultimately slicing open an Elephantaur's scalp to reveal the fleshy walnut brain within. Eek.
New this time around is multiplayer, but don't make that face just yet. 'Domination' mode, for example, looks pretty good: two teams battle to take control of various areas, while delivering brutal finishers to opposing players, rivalling anything seen in the single player campaign. With one team firmly in control, attention turns to the huge Cyclops chained up in the background - which can then be taken down in a sequence worthy of God of War's epic boss fights. SCEE has recently been signing up players for a multiplayer beta and PlayStation Plus subscribers have also been promised access, so there should be plenty of opportunities to try it out. IW
GEARS OF WAR: JUDGMENT
Format: 360 | Developer: People Can Fly | Publisher: Microsoft | Out: 22 March
Gears of War: Judgment is the fourth game in Epic's series, but the first on its timeline. Set just weeks after Emergence Day (when the Locusts first came up through the ground to wage war with the Sera populace), you'll control a slightly younger, slightly healthier-looking Baird and take command of Kilo Squad (which also features fan-favourite Augustus Cole), a group that, when you first meet them, are standing trial for treason after stealing experimental weaponry.
Some, though, might be more interested in the two new multiplayer modes. OverRun builds on Gears of War 3's Beast mode, letting players pick either COG soldiers or Locust forces (Corpsers, Grinders, Reavers and more, all with their own unique abilities) to wage war. Essences of Horde mode are thrown in, with the ability to build and repair barricades and sentries.
Free-for-all mode, meanwhile, pits all players against each other in levels both old (Gondola, Island, Library) and new. Don't expect wholesale change - Epic are saving that for the next gen - but do expect a polished and balanced experience. BG
Format: 360, PS3, PC | Developer: Irrational | Publisher: 2K | Out: 26 March
After upsetting some fans with its understandably generic box art (hard man + shotgun + American flag = sales), its latest trailer presents Bioshock: Infinite as some sort of all-out blasting frenzy. (Albeit, a blasting frenzy where skylines turn the shooting into something approaching rollercoaster combat.) It's perhaps to be expected, given that the game is designed to rope in what Creative Director Ken Levine calls the "frat boy" demographic, gamers who wouldn't otherwise go for a 1912-set tale centred on a floating megacity where you have to rescue a damsel in distress from a giant robotic bird. Oh, and a man with giant hands.
The truth is, Infinite is just as fiction-rich and wonderfully intertextual as you'd expect from the designer of shocks Bio and System, with details hinting at a wider conspiracy. Early on, for instance, a beachfront band can be heard playing a cover of Cyndi Lauper's 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". This, don't forget, is the early twentieth century. Elsewhere, protagonist Booker DeWitt has flashbacks - one sees him cower behind a door while people hammer on it demanding debt money. Infinite has a big, gripping mystery to unravel, where everything is not as it seems.
Don't judge a game by its cover art. BG
ARMY OF TWO: THE DEVIL'S CARTEL
Format: 360, PS3 | Developer: Visceral | Publisher: EA | Out: 29 March
A series criticised for its blandness has somehow contrived to be even less remarkable - the characters from the first two games have been replaced in Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel by the faceless "Alpha" and "Bravo", literally A and B, who are strapping down for some cover-based shooting against Mexican drug cartels.
So what's there to be excited about? For one thing, the game is now in the hands of Visceral Games, the studio responsible for the Dead Space trilogy. And, in replacing former protagonists Salem and Rios with two blank slates, there's a much wider range of character customisation available. The Devil's Cartel also aims to distinguish itself with Frostbite 2-powered destructible environments, physical barriers proving no obstacle to your gunfire as bullets chew through scenery. High-fives all round, then? Nope. They've been removed in the aim of a 'gritter' tone. JH
Format: 360, PS3 | Developer: Insomniac | Publisher: EA | Out: March
Fuse is a co-op shooter defined by its arsenal, with your squad of agents utilising alien technology to create some dynamic combat options; you'll be cutting throats under the cover of invisibility as stealth-orientated Naya, before switching across to Jacob to tear through enemies using his devastating electric crossbow. "Subtlety" is not part of the Fuse lexicon - Insomniac are really willing players to take the alien weaponry and do as much damage as possible.
The decision to rebrand the previously colourful game with a more conventional aesthetic style was received negatively by those enthused by the original reveal, but the developers hope a focus on outlandish gunplay will be enough to distinguish Fuse from the competition. JH