WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 ■■■■□
Slather on the tanning oil, hike up your Spandex, and get ready to rage-the alpha male fantasy is back. Among its welcome additions: more convoluted plot twists, an improved grappling system, and dynamically evolving story lines with outcomes you freely control. Strike up rivalries and alliances at whim, or pop up backstage at the oddest times and razzle-dazzle opponents with gravity-defying assaults. Despite obvious similarities to past releases, with over 100 match types and extensive character customization options, it's still the undisputed virtual wrestling champ.
THQ / www.thq.com / PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood ■■■■□
Crank up the body count as a medieval hit man stalking ancient Rome's lavishly rendered alleyways, casing joints, and shadowing targets before swooping in for the kill. While new weapons (poison darts, concealable guns, spring-mounted blades, etc.) and options to seek fellow assassins' aid impress, it's its fresh, character-based multiplayer options that really go straight for the jugular. Whether scampering up walls and leaping between rooftops or hobnobbing with the likes of Machiavelli and da Vinci, it's a bloody good time for all.
UbiSoft / www.ubisoft.com / PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Missed the cult-classic '88 arcade original, which also wowed TurboGrafx-16 and Sega Genesis owners with its gore-drenched aesthetic? Fear not . . . just as flush with straight-to-DVD clichés, yet way less linear, this surprise series reboot makes a decent series introduction. Control skull-mask-sporting hero Rick, out to save his girlfriend (Oscar-level material, we know), as he smacks the internal organs out of grotesque creepy-crawlies using wooden boards and meat cleavers. Despite few surprises, gruesome finishers and spine-tingling atmosphere make for occasional chills.
Namco Bandai / www.namcobandaigames.com / PS3, Xbox 360
James Bond: GoldenEye 007 ■■■■□
Half of America's male population nearly failed out of school when the eponymous, bar-raising first-person blaster first dropped on Nintendo 64 back in '97. Amusingly, this unexpected retread-which updates the story line, expands existing levels, and makes four-man split-screen multiplayer a grab bag of all-star Bond characters, weapons and gadgets-presents far less danger. Letting you pit Oddjob vs. Scaramanga, or blow Jaws a new orifice, it's less gaming classic than curiosity, although one that's well-worth revisiting for all you onetime addicts.
Activision / www.activision.com / Nintendo DS, Wii
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm ■■■■◧
The world's leading online fantasy role-playing epic gets a double shot of health and experience with said long-awaited expansion. Adding two new races (worgen and goblins), introducing fresh areas to explore, and upping heroes' level cap to 85 (hello, greater powers), it also adds original character classes (hooray, blood elf warrior) and player-vs-player challenges. Existing players will welcome its weeks' worth of original questing with open arms even as their soon-to-be-deprived significant others officially begin mourning.
Blizzard Entertainment / www.blizzard.com / PC