Autumn with Xbox

FALL ARTS PREVIEW: Legend (and other games) of the fall
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Brütal Legend, dude

GAMER The fall release schedule lacks the marquee names and rabid hype that defined the previous year in gaming, but thumb-callused consumers everywhere should have much to look forward to following a summer of ho-hum titles.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward/Activision), PS3, Xbox360, PC After farming out a by-the-numbers semi-sequel, Call of Duty: World at War, to developers Treyarch, Infinity Ward has redeployed. Bridging the treacherous divide between immaculately choreographed single-player campaigns and frenetic, repayable multiplayer, Modern Warfare the first was a smash hit and remains an XBox Live staple. Activision will count on its tent pole FPS to hit another one out of the park, with the help of snowmobile chase firefights and all manner of shit that goes "boom!" (Nov. 10)

The Beatles: Rock Band (Harmonix/MTV Games/EA), PS3, Xbox360, Wii Not just another rhythm game; more like a labor of love. Unlike, say, "Guitar Hero: Aerosmith" (Activision), the Fab Four's name comes first for this title. Early reviewers have heaped praise on Harmonix, honing in on the attention paid to visual detail. Beyond recreating the band's distinctive instruments and best-known gigs, the developers worked closely with Apple Corps. to animate "dreamscape" sequences that will set the scene for the group's late-period, psychedelic tunes. Three-part harmonies and the ability to download the Liverpudlian quartet's entire catalog (which is still not possible on iTunes) are just gravy. (Sept. 9)

Borderlands (Gearbox/2K Games), PS3, Xbox360, PC Gearbox's twitch-based postapocalpytic RPG made early headlines by effecting a complete change in art direction, resulting in its idiosyncratic, cel-shaded look. More important is the promise of a huge open world, four-player co-op, and the Diablo (Blizzard)-baiting siren call of procedurally generated loot. (Oct. 20)

Brütal Legend (Double Fine/Electronic Arts), PS3, Xbox360 The long-awaited masterpiece from San Francisco's resident game royalty, Tim Schafer. The Grim Fandango (Lucasarts) creator and his team at Double Fine have ridden a rollercoaster to get this game in stores, but a bevy of celebrity voice talent, a head-banging soundtrack, and Schafer's boundless imagination are sure to make it worth the wait. Also enticing are Ocarina of Time (Nintendo)-style spellcasting via electric guitar, a so-crazy-it-just-might-work RTS option for multiplayer, and enough heavy metal-themed mayhem to fill a few hundred macabre record sleeves. If you can only slay $60 worth of bloodthirsty demon between now and the holiday game glut, this is your surefire pick. (Oct. 13)

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