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Gears of War II

The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 go head-to-head this week with a pair of blockbuster, M-rated exclusives. “Gears of War 2,” the follow-up to the 360’s first megahit, features burly, hypermasculine dudes battling hordes of aliens that emerge from underground on a distant, Earth-like world. In a lot of ways, the feeling of letdown some experienced with “Halo 3” resulted from the excellence of the first “Gears.”

While I loved “Gears'” single-player and co-op play, I never got into the multiplayer. Matches were all team-based, and there was no way to practice with the computer before taking on live opponents. I hate letting my team down, so rather than playing online, dying a lot and having people mock my ineptitude, I beat campaign mode on “insane” difficultly and moved on. If you’re like me, there’s some good news: “Gears of War II” will feature bots programmed by the same people who handled them in “Gears” developer Epic’s last game, “Unreal Tournament III.”

Resistance 2

Over on the PS3, “Resistance 2” follows up the console’s top launch title. The sequel continues its predecessor’s plot, in which an alien race called the Chimera attack Earth, swarming World War II-era Europe. (In “Resistance’s” alternate history, though, Hitler, the Great Depression and many other historical events never took place.)

The second game opens with Chimeran forces attacking the United States. What’s cool is that the game has two separate campaign modes. A single-player co-op mode picks up the story of Nathan Hale, the main character from the first game. Meanwhile, a second story mode allows for a group of eight people to play together through related events concurrent with Hale’s missions.

Both games are priced at $60, with special editions costing more.

“Tom Clancy’s EndWar” ($60, PS3 and 360, rated T) is a World War III strategy game with blockbuster aspirations, but it could get lost amid “Gears” and “Resistance” hype. Its standout feature lets players with headsets issue voice commands to their troops doing battle. Ubisoft, the game’s publisher, claims you can “wage war without picking up a controller,” but surely nobody perfects a feature on the first go-round. PlayStation Portable ($40) and DS ($30) versions lack the voice feature.

In another lackluster week for the console, the best-looking Wii game this week is XS Games’ “PopStar Guitar,” a T-rated, $60 music game aimed squarely at the Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers set and maybe their slightly older siblings.
The catch: It doesn’t use regular music-game peripherals, instead coming with a couple of little plastic doodads that snap onto the Wii remote. Your mileage may vary.