Brunettes are fine, blonds are fun...
But Springsteen was right when he sang that when it comes to getting a dirty job done, you need a red-headed woman. Heavenly Sword (Playstation 3) presents the the baddest firebrand since Red Sonja. A sword-swinging fantasy right out of Robert E. Howard's imagination (think Conan The Barbarian), you play Nariko, the cursed chosen one of a tribal clan, who's forced to take on a lethal weapon that drains the life of its wielder. Staggeringly realistic expressions grace the characters courtesy of motion-capture guru and Golum geek Andy Serkis, who is credited for directing the actors. Will you enjoy it? Only if you enjoy eviscerating relentless hordes of Mongols with an immortal's blade. Translation: Fuck, yeah! And did we mention that it's pretty?
Edmonton-based developers Bioware (Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic) deliver Mass Effect, the first in a planned trilogy of galaxy-exploring RPGs coming out for the Xbox 360 in early November. You play Commander Sheppard, whose universe is threatened by the return of the Geth, a machine race who enjoy impaling people on spikes and turning them into space zombies, or Husks. The faces are astounding, allowing you to detect hesitation or resolve in the most freakish of alien species. Looking for story from your shooter? This is definitely the one to pick up.
Killer crowd control
Set during the Third Crusade in the crowded city of Jerusalem and beyond, Assassin's Creed, developed by Montreal's Ubisoft, lets you play hooded assassin Altair. You get to choose your own fortune, taking your lethal assignments as you please. What makes Assassin's Creed unique is its use of crowds. Altair can easily scramble up walls onto rooftops - but that draws the attention of the vendors below. Instead, mimic their manner and blend in to sneak past the guards.
For pure value alone, the Orange Box mega-pack of five games for the PC, PS3 and 360 by Valve Software is unbeatable. It starts with Half-Life 2, the award-winning first-person shooter chronicling the adventures of scientist Morgan Freeman in the alternate Earth of City 17. Two full sequels are included, Episode One and the just released Episode Two, taking you further into this rich, dystopian world. Then there's Portal, an FPS puzzle game in which you use a gun that shoots portable holes at nearby walls. Like the painted tunnels from Looney Toons, the player uses these holes to navigate past tricky obstacles like fire traps and compacting ceilings. But what's really knocking socks off in the Orange Box is Team Fortress 2, the multiplayer first-person shooter that forgoes photorealism in favour of smooth cartoony silliness.