The games of 2008

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GHOSTBUSTERS

PUBLISHER: Vivendi/Sierra

RELEASED: Autumn

FORMAT: DS/Wii/PS2/PC/PS3/360

Gamers have long dreamed of having the chance to destroy the StayPuft Marshmallow man, or tear after Slimer in a hushed hotel ever since the release of Ivan Reitman's classic action comedy back in 1984.

Now, thanks to the chaps and chapesses at Vivendi, they finally have it – and a whole lot more besides.

Original cast geniuses Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis have returned, both to re-enact parts of the first two outings – and, more excitingly, to lend their talents to all-new sections of plot.

Arriving under the Sierra label, Ghostbusters is the jewel in the crown of Vivendi's big releases this year, which also include The Spiderwick Chronicles, Chronicles Of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena and Prototype.

Ghostbusters will be released on six formats – PS2, PS3, Wii, PC, DS and Xbox 360 – and development duties have been shared by Terminal Reality and Red Fly Studios.

Sierra is extremely excited to not only deliver fans, old and new, this next chapter in the Ghostbusters universe, but to allow them inside the universe for the first time,” said president of Sierra's worldwide studios Martin Tremblay.

Us and our developers have worked closely with the team at Sony Pictures Consumer Products. Together we will create the ultimate Ghostbusters experience, full of the characters, ghosts and other paranormal creatures so many have come to adore over the years.”

ROCK BAND

PUBLISHER: EA

RELEASED: 2008 TBC

FORMAT: PS3/360

Now that Guitar Hero has made us feel like rock stars for just twiddling with plastic, EA is ready to come in and turn the fun up to 11.

Rock Band allows gamers to perform tracks from some of the biggest names in music with friends as a virtual band – using drum, bass guitar, lead guitar and microphones.

Record labels EMI and Warner have allowed EA access to their back catalogues, whilst other big names such as Sony BMG and Universal have also supplied master recordings.

The thrill of setting up an entire ‘virtual band' has certainly sent the US specialist press into a Motley Crue-like frenzy. The accolades go on and on: The fun you'll have with friends – and even alone – is truly priceless,” reckoned the US version of OPM; This is a recipe for one of the year's best games, bar none,” said GameSpy; Consider the bar raised,” harked IGN.

MTV-owned Harmonix – the developer behind Guitar Hero – created the title, using the expertise gained when working on Activision's original game. And now that genre-defining franchise has a genuine rival.

Our vision for Rock Band is to completely change the way people interact with and enjoy the music they love,” explains MTV Program Enterprises' EVP Jeff Yapp.

By joining forces with EA and the music industry's largest record labels and publishers, we are striving to create a groundbreaking new platform that allows people to connect with their favourite music and artists in ways that they never have before.”

ALAN WAKE

PUBLISHER: Microsoft

RELEASED: 2008 TBC

FORMAT: 360/PC

It's been widely reported that the immersive nature of gaming storylines are set to hit new heights in 2008, and Microsoft's narrative-driven Alan Wake looks to be leading the way. Pitched somewhere between a David Lynch nightmare and a Jerry Bruckheimer action classic, the title's plot concerns the struggles of a novelist who suffers horrific, chilling dreams – and subsequently sleepless nights, following the death of his wife.

As time goes by, these horrendous visions begin to creep into his waking life – as gamers are asked to carry him through his psychological disruption. Is he caught in a psychosomatic-fiction-meets-reality dystopia? Has losing his spouse made him hugely paranoid – to the point of coincidence ruining his everyday life? Is he plainly mad? There are no easy answers – but 360 owners will have the chance to help ‘our Alan' realise his true fate.

Developed by Remedy, the game has won plenty of plaudits for its ultra-realistic graphics already – but it may end up being its intriguingly fresh approach to action/adventure gaming that really sets this one apart.

The specialist press have already been whipped up into a frenzy over Alan Wake, despite having only been given very few glimpses of the title since E3 2006. Designed to take the free-roaming psychological thriller genre by the scruff of the neck, it'll certainly be causing a stir at retail – just keep an eye on MCV for that all-important release date...

GRAND THEFT AUTO IV

PUBLISHER: Rockstar

RELEASED: April 29

FORMATS: PS3/360

Many of us have forgotten how to successfully maim gang members and what the correct etiquette is in the presence of a ‘ho. So it's just as well Rockstar is back to remind us – with one of the most hotly anticipated games of the decade.

The publisher has remained pretty tight-lipped on what treats GTA fans can expect, but the meagre number of sneaky videos the firm has released have at least given away a fair few clues.

It certainly looks as though the setting is eerily New York-esque, with a redesigned Liberty City consisting of five boroughs, including Brooklyn-like Broker, Bronx-like Bohan, Manhattan-like Algonquin and the New Jersey-like Alderney. Some have even ruminated that there's a slice of Ol' Blighty in there, with the ‘Hove' area of the game looking the spit of Brighton Beach.

After months of speculation – and a delayed release from the original launch date in 2007 – Rockstar last week confirmed it would go with an April 29th release date.

We are so excited to be releasing Grand Theft Auto IV,” says Rockstar founder Sam Houser. We've pushed ourselves very hard to make something incredible and hope the games sets a new benchmark for interactive entertainment.”

The title shouldn't struggle to get the hype machine whirring. Forget the many hundreds of games journos raving about this – it's already got perennial censorship-lover Jack Thompson in an apoplectic tailspin. The omens look very good indeed.


Wii FIT

PUBLISHER: Nintendo

RELEASED: Q1 2008

FORMAT: Wii

Despite sterling efforts from the likes of Sega's Mario and Sonic, much of the gaming fraternity is still struggling to get rid of those post-Christmas bingo wings and wobbly abs. The arrival of Nintendo's Wii Fit – and its forward-thinking Balance Board – should help to rectify the general porkiness of our industry's audience when it arrives. And Nintendo is pretty confident it will pull in yet more non-gamers to the beauty of Wii.

As users stand on the Balance Board, they have to learn to block virtual footballs, swivel their hips or balance to hold dextrous yoga poses. The gadget also measures things that even disgraced ‘doctor' Gillian McKeith would struggle to find in your excrement – such as an accurate reading of your Body Mass Index (BMI) and ‘Wii Fitness Age'.

In total, there are more than 40 types of training activities included, which fall into four heart-boosting categories: aerobic exercise, muscle conditioning, yoga poses and balance games.

The whole concept of the game – which was the brainchild of Shigeru Miyamoto – is to ‘get families exercising together'.

And it's obviously worked in Japan, where the title has sold over a million copies since going on sale in December 2007. Imp

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