“Mass Effect 2” (rated M, $60 on PC or Xbox 360): For someone like me, who loves a good story, well-written characters and believable dialogue, this is the huge game this week. If you’re at all interested in sci-fi role-playing games and own a gaming PC or an Xbox 360, this is a no-brainer pickup. It works like past BioWare games. You start out alone, recruit squad members and work to take down something evil. In this case, you’re trying to figure out why entire human colonies are vanishing without a trace. I think about six to eight hours in (I’m a notorious idler when I play, which means my play time totals are always inflated), and am enjoying myself so far.
“MAG” (rated T, $60 on PlayStation 3): If you own a PS3 and are a fan of first-person shooters, this is your no-brainer pick-up of the week, as this game’s big selling point is its 256-player online matches. Obviously, just going 128 on 128 is a little on the chaotic side, so you’ll spend the bulk of the game in smaller squads, working together with teammates to achieve an objective. The emphasis here is really on working as a team, so if you’re an elite, lone-wolf style player in games like “Modern Warfare 2” or “Halo 3,” this might not be your game. From what I’ve read so far (I’ve yet to try out my review copy, thanks to “Mass Effect 2”), you’ll want to make sure you have a headset for this one.
“No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle” (rated M, $50 on Wii): The first “No More Heroes” was one of those well-reviewed Wii games that no one bought. While I didn’t finish the first one, I loved its Tarrantino-esque take on the action genre and frequent references to the era of eight-bit gaming. You play as Travis Touchdown, a wrestling-obsessed nerd who has to, once again, fight his way to the top of the international assassin leaderboard.
“Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars” (rated T, $50 on Wii): It’s a fighting game, pitting classic Capcom video game characters (Viewtiful Joe, “Dead Rising’s” Frank West and a few Street Fighters, to name a few) against classic Tatsunoko anime characters. Anime’s a bit outside of my fairly large nerdiness wheelhouse, but according to Wikipedia, included characters are Ken the Eagle, Taras and Tekkaman Blade.
“Dead Rising” (rated M, $20 game on demand via Xbox Live): Journalist Frank West tries to figure out why an entire Colorado town has been transformed into zombies in what might have been my 2006 Game of the Year were I writing this blog back then. The entire game is set in a shopping mall and takes place on a rigid timeline, which advances whether you’re ready for it to advance or not. That’s right, for the first (and perhaps only) time in gaming, you actually have to hurry to accomplish whatever it is you set out to do. The timeline and unforgiving save structure (you only have one save slot) turned off a lot of gamers, but I found it refreshing. It’s been added to the 360’s generally overpriced Games on Demand service. $20 is still a bit steep compared to what you’d pay at GameStop, but it’s not laughably overpriced. “Halo Wars” was also added to the mix, but at $30. Even though I liked that game, I’d recommend picking up a disc-based copy for roughly the same price.
“Battlefield: Bad Company 2” demo (rated M, free via Xbox Live): EA is positioning this game as a “Modern Warfare 2” killer, and the free demo on XBL is a great opportunity for first-person shooter buffs to try it out before the game launches in February.
“Portal: Still Alive” (rated M, discounted to $10 on Xbox Live Arcade): This downloadable title features a few extra bells and whistles when compared with the original “Portal” that was included in Valve’s “The Orange Box.” Still, I’m guessing you could find “The Orange Box,” which includes “Portal,” “Team Fortress 2,” “Half-Life 2” and the two episodic sequels to “Half-Life 2,” for not much more than the $10 you’d pay for this game. On the other hand, if you just want to play “Portal,” this is a pretty good deal.
“Sam & Max,” season 1 (rated , $5 on PC): San Rafael-based Telltale Games has discounted their six-episode, zany adventure game series featuring a dog and rabbit to a paltry $5 if you pick it up before midnight on Sunday. Follow this link to do so.
“Dragon Age: Origins” (rated M, $60 on Xbox 360): “Return to Ostagar,” the first pieces of downloadable content for my 2009 Game of the Year, hit the Xbox 360 on Friday. PC and PS3 gamers apparently have to wait a little bit. For $5, you can return to the scene of the game’s first really big battle.
What I’ll be playing this weekend: I’m working my way through “Mass Effect 2” for an upcoming review, with “MAG” and next month’s “Heavy Rain” waiting in the wings. Supposed to jump online later tonight for some “Borderlands” with a buddy and might end up playing some “Halo 3: ODST” or “Left 4 Dead 2,” as well. My wife’s been hooked on the “Scrabble” part of “Hasbro Family Game Night,” so that’s always a possibility.