Civilization V ■■■■□
The latest installment in the engrossing strategy series takes familiar concepts you know and love (e.g. shepherding a civilization through the ages via diplomacy, trade, and warfare) and adds even deeper play elements. Ditching square-based map tiles for hexagonal ones, plus streamlining combat and other in-game functions, it offers even more strategic options and replay value for fans old and new alike. Alas, the title's depth can still prove overwhelming, making it a potentially massive time sink for armchair despots.
2K Games / www.2kgames.com / PC
Def Jam Rapstar ■■■◧□
Wielding a wireless mic, do your best impression of today's top MCs. An urban karaoke challenge, it lets even balding, middle-aged suburbanites bust a move to old-school and modern classics like Slick Rick's Children's Story and Drake's Best I Ever Had. Social elements truly shine, letting you record short videos of freestyles and battles, edit custom mini music videos, and then upload for ridicule by friends and family online. All told, pretty fly for a game designed by white guys . . .
4mm Games / www.4mmgames.com / PS3, Wii, Xbox 360
DJ Hero 2 ■■■■□
Although a strong entry into the music category with its custom turntable controller and genre-blending approach, the original disc jockey simulator failed to induce rave-level excitement amongst techno-loving audiences. Thankfully, house fans can take heart here, as a more cohesive career mode, additional head-to-head multiplayer features, built-in support for microphones, and instant jump in/out play options keep the party going strong. Featuring 70+ mash-ups from dozens of artists (e.g. Nelly and Warren G), it's guaranteed to have glowsticks waving.
Activision / www.activision.com / PS3, Wii, Xbox 360
Fallout: New Vegas ■■■■◧
The latest Fallout installation takes a cue from its critically-acclaimed predecessor, offering even more intricate and gritty role-playing thrills in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by sadistic bandits and slavering mutants. New features like a reputation system tied to your actions, detailed factions to interact with, and atmospheric desert wasteland backdrops combine with fresh melee combat moves and weapons to add even more impact. An incremental, not revolutionary step forward for the franchise, it's still one hell of a joyride down what remains of the Sin City strip.
Bethesda Softworks / www.bethsoft.com / PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Halo Reach ■■■■◧
Reach cranks up the sci-fi run-n-gun action to thumb-blistering levels with enhanced multiplayer matchmaking features, temporary superpowers, and more game variants (collect skulls, defend bases, capture flags, etc.) than you can shake a plasma rifle at. Vast, multi-tiered stages combine with arresting visual backdrops to provide an experience that-while mostly more of the same-feels fresh, yet comfortably familiar. Buy once, enjoy for weeks on end: Its joyously homicidal thrills may get repetitive, but you'll never play the same game twice.
Microsoft / www.xbox.com / Xbox 360