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A 2007 gaming season wrap-up

Throwdown!

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If there's one thing the talking heads on cable news networks do with almost alarming grace, it's this: Sell the drama.Yep, nothing puts a story over quite like a melodramatic narrative. Especially if that narrative incorporates lots of boxing and sporting metaphors, sex, and exclamation points. (And CNN's Kiran Chetry!)

So cue the soundtrack, graphics, and baleful stare.

The Best. Game Season. Ever!

The Big Three: Cage Match!

The video game industry this year unleashed the three biggest blasts in August, September, and October.

In one corner, you've got Bioshock (PC, Xbox 360), Irrational Games' amazing shooter set in an underwater utopia gone gruesomely wrong. In another sits gaming's reigning champ — Master Chief, wielding his copy of Halo 3 Legendary Edition (Xbox 360) and a big-ass gravity hammer. In Corner 3 sits the hero of Half-Life 2, geeky Gordon Freeman, holding his big Orange Box (PC, Xbox 360), packed with five — five! — different games.

While I'm tempted to give Gordo the nod based on the strength of Portal, one of the coolest gameplay tech advances in years, I can't get past the way Bioshock meshes white-knuckle gameplay with truly great storytelling. Assuming they don't already have it, you owe it to the gamer in your life to slip a game with horribly mutated beautiful people under your holiday tree.

Seriously. It's a lot more thoughtful than it sounds.

Mascot melee!

Every developer has a cartoon mascot in this season's fight.

Seems like the gang's truly all here: You've got Sonic (Sonic Rivals, PSP), Spyro the Dragon (The Legend of Spyro: Eternal Night, PlayStation 2), Crash Bandicoot (Crash of the Titans, Xbox 360, Wii) and Ratchet and Clank (Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, PlayStation 3). Hovering miles above them all? Nintendo's mustachioed plumber, making like Jerry Seinfeld in a bee suit. With its Disney-esque presentation and easy-to-grasp gameplay, Super Mario Galaxy isn't just the Wii's first gotta-have-it game. It's also the last 'toon standing when the brightly colored dust settles.

Don't mess with Mario.

Believe the Hype!

Rarely have so many high-profile games actually lived up to their pre-release hype. If someone ends up gifting you a dog like Carnival Games for the Wii, they're just not paying attention.

From Crysis, a PC shooter with enough graphical prowess to bring even the toughest machine to its knees, to Mass Effect, (Xbox 360), the latest sci-fi space opera from the role-playing geniuses at Bioware, and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, the DS masterpiece in which the stylus finally controls everything — There's quality everywhere you look.

Monsters of metal!

Meanwhile, the major shredfest between Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and its upstart challenger, Rock Band, has already a fever pitch normally reserved for a Hannah Montana concert.

Both games are strutting the size and breadth of their decade-spanning setlists like Derek Smalls at a sorority rush party, but I say victory comes down to this: How many gamers will be willing (and able) to shell out nearly 200 bucks for the total Rock Band experience, with guitar controller, drum set, and microphone? Electronic Arts is already squawking about supplies of the game being short this holiday season, creating their own Tickle Me Elmo vibe.

Meanwhile, a nation of would-be air-Metallica clones weeps.

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