Speaking of party games, Activision's next social music phenomenon will let you spin and mix records like a club DJ by following on-screen cues and listening to the beat. Bundled with a peripheral that resembles a turntable you must "mash-up" two different songs into one — such as Gorillaz' "Feel Good, Inc." with Marvin Gaye's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" or Nirvana's "All Apologies" with Rick James' "Give It To Me Baby" (DJ Shadow Mix) — and earn points by pressing the correct buttons at the right time, scratching and cross-fading between the tracks. Add a guitar or microphone peripheral for even more fun.
Brutal Legend (Electronic Arts; for Xbox 360, PS3)
From the ingenious mind of Tim Schafer ("Day of the Tentacle," "Psychonauts") comes a refreshingly unique and funny third-person action game that stars Jack Black as roadie Eddie Riggs. Our hapless hero gets zapped into a fantasy world, where heavy metal album covers come alive, and he must rally an army of head-bangers to save humanity from an oppressive emperor and his demonic army. Full of great rock tracks, voice talent (including Ozzy Osborne, Rob Halford and Lita Ford) and comedic action, Brutal Legend looks to be Shafer's best to date. Look for it Oct. 13.
Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft; for Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Ubisoft had one of the strongest booths at E3, with extraordinary third-person action games including Splinter Cell: Conviction, James Cameron's Avatar (playable in 3-D to mirror the upcoming feature film of the same name) and one of the hottest games of the show, Assassin's Creed II. Step into the Italian Renaissance period as the ultimate assassin and use stealth and cunning to roam about incredibly lifelike worlds (with authentic late 15th-century European architecture). The demo had players leaping silently from rooftops, blending in crowds or soaring the skies using one of Da Vinci's inventions.
God of War 3 (Sony Computer Entertainment America; for PS3)
Sony's PS3 lineup was solid, including titles such as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Heavy Rain, but the third and final game in the coveted God of War trilogy was one of the most fun games to play at this year's E3. Due out in March 2010, God of War 3 is a beautiful yet brutal mythological universe in which Kratos, a Spartan warrior, battles creatures with the aid of a pair of blades chained to his wrists. The stunning E3 demo had players fighting (and riding) hawk-like flying creatures, defeating minotaurs and tackling enormous boss characters including horned beasts and fire gods.
Honorable mentions: EA Sports' Fight Night Round 4, BioWare/LucasArts' Star Wars: The Old Republic, Microsoft Game Studios' Forza Motorsport 3, MTV Games' The Beatles' Rock Band, and BioWare's Mass Effect 2.
Contact Saltzman at firstname.lastname@example.org.