50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

The sequel to the game that should never have been made. This time out, Fiddy is shooting up the criminal denizens of a war-torn country to retrieve a blingin’ diamond skull – the dowry for a sold-out concert. The perfect Christmas present for anyone who still can’t put their cap on straight. (our score: 7.5/10)

Aion

NCSoft’s Western-friendly swords and sorcery MMO ticks the all same selling points as a feminine hygiene product: Absorbency, padding and the inclusion of wings. But pretty packaging can’t disguise the fact that there’s still lots of uncomfortable grinding going on. (our score: 9.0/10)

Anno 1404

The nation’s community of historical military trading, action and economy simulation gamers rate this one highly. All three of them. (our score: 9.0/10)

ArmA II

A tactical first and third person shooter wherein you command a squad of US soldiers performing their default function: spreading democracy at gunpoint in countries that have oil. ArmA II is great way to experience being shot in the head without becoming a jock at an American high school.

Assassin’s Creed II

An indulgent stealth killer sequel set in a beautifully-crafted renaissance sandbox, even if the game’s controls are a little too enthusiastic. Assisted by Leonardo Da Vinci, protagonist Ezio slowly uncovers a regrettable gutter-fiction plot that reads like it was written by Dan Brown’s poor cousin, Reggie Brown. (our score: 9.0/10)

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Arkham Asylum has received more positive press than can reasonably be displayed in any one spinning newspaper. A grim and gritty action title with stealth elements, Arkham Asylum replaces WHAM! and POW! with more sickening bone-snapping sounds. The game batman fans have waited patiently for – now who looks ridiculous for wearing a replica utility belt to your family function, Hannah? (our score: 8.5/10)

Battlefield 1943

DICE’s revered WW2 team shooter receives an update and is transplanted to consoles. “As close as you’ll get” to World War 2, we brazenly suggested. We’ve since had to retract that statement after the veterans at the local RSA assured us that there was no one called BongMonkey69 on Wake Island. (our score: 9.0/10)

The Beatles: Rock Band

Another format to own the White Album on. Also an entertaining way to re-live the phenomenon – unless you play with friends who force you to be George. (our score: 9.0/10)

Borderlands

Even Andy Warhol would have to blush at the volume of replicated art assets in Borderlands. By the time you’ve reached this FPS loot crawler’s “vault”, negotiated the fleshy lump that guards it and cracked a bad joke about “paging Dr. Freud” it’s all so much Campbell’s Soup. (our score: 8.5/10)

Brütal Legend

Like a girl called Lola on K Road, Tim Schafer’s latest has a surprise waiting for you when you get it home. Schafer assures us it’s an action adventure set in a heavy metal fantasy land, but to us, it’s a real-time strategy that tastes just like cherry cola. All said, a great soundtrack not loud enough to drown out Jack Black. (our score: 9.0/10)

Call of Jaurez: Bound in Blood

This Wild West shooter’s singleplayer has all the charm and technical dexterity of a brimming tobacco spittoon. One can only salute Techland’s self-deprecating effort to code tumbleweeds into the multiplayer. (our score: 8.0/10)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Bobby can’t read the tiny print on your boycott petitions from the top of Mount Kotick – a lofty summit composed of the monetary likeness of Benjamin Franklin. Of course you could climb up there and give him a closer look at it, but you’re probably too busy playing his game. (our score: 9.5/10 console 7/10 PC)

DJ Hero

The first David Guetta simulation. Will it be the last? We can but hope. Of all the games that set out to emulate tasks we’ve never actually wanted to do, DJ Hero is one of the best. (our score: 8.5/10)

Dragon Age: Origins

An expansive RPG from past masters BioWare, the game also happens to feature more outdoor sex in bizarre costumes than a Burning Man festival. (our score: 9.0/10)

Empire: Total War

The Creative Assembly’s latest Total War instalment winds the clock forward to a time when rebellion and dysentery swept the world in equal measure. In keeping with that theme, the jury is still out as to whether this game is the most revolutionary of the series, or just the crappiest. (our score: 9.5/10)

EyePet

Sony’s camera-operated virtual pet simulator ships in a cardboard box, something that will come in handy when you need to discreetly deposit the remains in your neighbour’s garbage bin before the kids wake up.

Farmville

The browser game with the name that sounds like something your rustic cousin just deleted from his internet history. Even the game’s recent pilfering of players’ money is unlikely to stop the wearisome torrent of facebook status updates from people you haven’t spoken with since High School informing you they’ve just found a lonely cow.

FIFA 10

The proverbial ginger stepchild of every Kiwi gamer’s catalogue: You try not to talk about it and you hide it when your friends come over. But after the sun has gone down and you’ve pulled the curtains, locked the doors and opened its evening can of cat food, you’ll struggle not to be charmed by its technical improvements. (our score: 9.0/10)

Forza Motorsport 3

Microsoft’s latest appeal to the same curious demographic that will slap skirts, a spoiler and a fusion audio sticker on their mother’s Toyota Emina. Forza motorsport is a multi-million dollar tour-de-force that currently claims the top of the podium in the racing game stakes. Your move, Sony. (our score: 9.5/10)

FUEL

A post-apocalyptic racer to coincide with the release of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 2009 album, God & Guns. Be sure to prepare a plate of mayonnaise sandwiches before you sit down to play: FUEL boasts the largest virtual world yet created. Unfortunately, you’ll soon discover its collection of vehicles all handle just like your double-wide trailer. (our score: 5.0/10)

Ghostbusters: The Video Game

The video game addition to the iconic ‘80s franchise was widely hoped to leave ectoplasmic residue in the seat of many a gamer’s pants. Instead, they received a slimer: Terminal Reality and Threewave Software crossed the streams and not even the comedic stylings of Bill Murray can save them. (our score: 7.0/10)

The Godfather II

Sequels have been a central theme in gaming in 2009. So have adaptations, for that matter. For those reasons, The Godfather II must have looked great on paper. Unfortunately, Visceral Games’ reimagining of Coppola’s mafia epic is anything but. This trivial title suffers from poor AI and numerous bugs. Bada-bing, bada-boom, bada-bargain bin. (our score: 6.5/10)

Grand Theft Auto: Tales From Liberty City

Being “The Lost and Damned” and “The Ballad of Gay Tony”. Buyer beware: The latter is more Tony Veitch than Elton John. A nod to Rockstar who have finally realised that when we purchase an ultra-violent sandbox game, we don’t care to spend hours entertaining our annoying relatives by participating in a series of trivial social activities. We have summer holidays for that. (our score: 9.0/10)

Guitar Hero 5

Guitar Hero 5 sits at the top of the band genre. Guitar Hero 6 should see Activision replacing the drum kit with a dead horse. (our score: 8.5/10)

Halo: ODST

The series that took FPS LANs out of the AV Club and into the Frat house is back again. If you know more than nine synonyms for male genitalia, you’ll love this. Players assume the role of an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper as the alien Covenant invade earth. ODST is more of the same, and for fans of the series that seems to be enough. But the day that Bungie has to take the Walk of Shame from Keg-Master Brad’s dorm room may be fast approaching. (our score: 8.5/10)

InFamous

An action title set in a citywide sandbox. You play as Cole, a lightning-infused courier boy out to exact revenge on the very people who made him more than human. Where Cole can jump across town with electricity at his fingertips, us mortals must continue to use cattle prods to negotiate the city’s unwashed greenpeace petitioners. (our score: 8.5/10)

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