It seems the theme of the summer has been game delays. While this holiday season looked like being jam packed with quality releases, in recent weeks the schedule has been thinning. With a sense of disappointment in the air we're here to ease your concerns with our Top 10: Games to save 2009. We aren't going to be playing BioShock 2, Heavy Rain or Splinter Cell Conviction on Christmas Day, but there's still a lot to look forward to. Oh, and before anyone moans, we've classed GTA4 DLC The Ballad of Gay Tony as an add-on, so it's not included here.
Batman: Arkham Asylum - Xbox 360, PS3 and PC - August 28
If you've ever played a Batman game, it's highly likely that you've played a crap Batman game. There have been one or two decent outings for The Dark Knight over the years (The Adventures of Batman & Robin on the SNES, for one), but there's also been dross by the truckload. Arkham Asylum is the quality product we've been waiting for: it's slick, it's got Mark Hamill doing The Joker, and it actually makes you feel like The Caped Crusader. The first time you spread your cape and glide down onto the head of an unsuspecting thug, you may pass out from the overwhelming rush of endorphins.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks - DS - Christmas
Has there ever been a bad Zelda game? Okay, so Link's Crossbow Training has all the depth and fun of a shelf-stacking simulator, but aside from that hiccup the series has maintained a fairly consistent gold standard. Spirit Tracks has a drivable train in it, and for some reason this has driven some fans a bit loco (ha!). Provided you're not among this minority, Link's latest adventure should offer plenty to tickle your fancy. Alongside the usual dungeon-and-boss goodness, you'll also gain the services of a friendly phantom - a stomping suit of armour that you can order about with your stylus. "....", as Link would say.
Halo 3: ODST - Xbox 360 - September 22
No, it's not Halo 4, and no, Master Chief's not (allegedly) in it, but spin-off ODST is still a Halo game and therefore it demands attention. We've already played co-op multiplayer mode Firefight, and can confirm it's a blast, but it's the night time open world campaign, complete with flashback missions, we're most interested in. This marks a major change in direction for the series, one that's held on to the foundations the original Halo game established way back in 2001 with stubborn determination. Once you've finished the opening New Mombasa mission, the city becomes yours to explore and you're able to hunt down clues to your squad's disappearance in whatever order you see fit. Bungie's remained quiet on what kind of side missions will be available, new enemy types and the inclusion of the Flood, but we expect some surprises. Halo 3.5? Perhaps, but that's good enough for us.
Borderlands - Xbox 360, PS3 and PC - October 23
Four-player co-op FPS action complete with RPG-style levelling and looting, all wrapped up with comic book-style visuals. If that doesn't sound exciting to you maybe it's time to get a new hobby. Borderlands has been a long time coming, but this October it'll finally land on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, and we can't wait. We've seen it at various stages throughout development and never has it not looked like being a winner. After the solid but ultimately rather uninspired Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway some might think this might end up going to same way, but we've got high hopes that Gearbox and enthusiastic CEO Randy Pitchford will pull this one off.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - PS3 - October
Dare we say it? Uncharted was a good game but not nearly as incredible as many made it out to be. We really enjoyed it though, and it still stands head and shoulders above most titles visually - we expect the sequel to be far, far better though. All of what we've seen so far looks great, although the key will be how the cover-based combat mixes with the Lara Croft-like exploration and climbing. There's no question it's going to be one of the most impressive looking games ever, though, so be prepared for another round of "my console is better than yours" on the popular internet forums.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Xbox 360, PS3 and PC - November 10
Does Modern Warfare 2 really need explaining? As the direct sequel to CoD4 (one of the best multiplayer games ever created and a rollercoaster ride of a single-player campaign) our excitement couldn't be any greater. It's largely going to be more of the same, but the recently released multiplayer trailer, combined with what we saw at E3, has quelled any sense of unease over how Infinity Ward would follow such a great game. Sadly there's no campaign co-op, but if this isn't the most popular game on Xbox LIVE and PSN until at least next November we'll eat the night vision goggles included in the Prestige edition.
Need for Speed: Shift - Xbox 360, PS3 and PC - September 17
Need for Speed has had a chequered recent history, with a couple of duds in a row, but Shift looks set to right those wrongs. For one thing, it's in development at Slightly Mad Studios, a team made almost entirely of staff who previously worked on the superb GTR games. Secondly, it's not an open-world racing game, but a sim racer with stunning HD visuals and the best in-car cam we've ever seen. We've played the game numerous times during its development and always left wanting more, which can only be a good thing. There are a few high profile racers out this year, but Shift will make its mark before the others.
Gran Turismo - PSP - October 1
To some this might just seem like another Gran Turismo title, but the importance of the game can't be overstated. This will be the first title in the series to arrive on the PSP and the first full release game to carry the name since GT4 on the PS2 in 2005. We might have had filler titles, such as Prologue on the PS3, but fans are clamouring for a proper entry in the legendary driving sim series. Thankfully it looks like being a stunner too, and Sony's decision to release it day and date with the new PSPgo is a masterstroke. Our money's on this being the most successful PSP game yet.
Forza 3 - Xbox 360 - October 23
PlayStation fans laughed when Microsoft entered the sim racing market with Forza Motorsport. It was thought that nothing could touch the mighty Sony series, but two games later and with a strong fan base, Forza 3 will take some beating. The game's E3 debut was impressive, showcasing the sublime new visuals and incredible driving model, but they key here is that the team at Turn 10 hasn't disappointed us yet. On the back of Forza 2 (which ranks as one of the best sim racers ever made for consoles) this is easily one of our most anticipated games of 2009. With the team's focus on community we expect there'll be content here that'll keep us playing well into 2010 and beyond.
Assassin's Creed 2 - Xbox 360, PS3 and PC - November 20
Yes, the first game wasn't nearly as incredible as we wanted it to be, and had numerous problems that turned a lot of players away, but if Ubisoft gets it right, this sequel could be the game of 2009. The original had the right idea, with a huge world to explore, people to assassinate and some great parkour-style movement for main man Altair. This time around you're in Florence, Italy, in 1486, playing as Ezio, who happens to dress quite similarly to Altair and is also an ancestor of Desmond Miles - the man who is in the machine during the original game. You can take to the skies too, which looked quite incredible when we saw the game at E3.
What do you make of this autumn/winter release schedule? Still got a lot to look forward to? Let us know in the comments section below.