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New Console Games: Drama, Wrecks & Demon Mafia

This could be the last year gamers get to really enjoy their old consoles, with Nintendo releasing the successor to the Wii - the Wii U - and new models of the XBox and Playstation set for release at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles.

Perhaps as a kind of grand farewell, developers are releasing one last set of games for the old platforms, covering the whole range of possible tastes. If you like basic racing and sports games, there's Ridge Racer Unbounded and Grand Slam Tennis 2. If you're more interested in intrigues, there's Catherine, a mix of psycho thriller and puzzle game focusing on fidelity and cheating.

The next installment of the popular racing game Ridge Racer is set for a March 2 release. This time the title is expanded with the word Unbounded.

Previous versions of the Namco Bandai game were smooth and fairly polished. But, this time, Finnish developers are sending racing enthusiasts into the underground world of illegal street racing. As such, the game is about more than clean driving: points are scored here for the most daring racing.

The game's spectacular races are set in the fictional city of Shatter Bay, crafted by the programmers with all manner of destructible scenery. The game allows players to seek all manner of short cuts, even if it's through a house or a shopping centre.

A variety of difficulty levels should provide challenges for all. Ridge Racer: Unbounded will be released for the Playstation 3 and XBox 360 and cost about 70 euros (92.50 dollars).

Electronic Arts' Grand Slam Tennis 2 takes things down several notches. Unlike Ridge Racer, characters are at the core of this game.

Indeed, the precise control players have over their tennis racket is supposed to create a very authentic playing experience. To achieve the proper stroke, whether a slice or a top spin, players have to be sure to move the right analog stick properly. Playstation gamers can opt to use the Move motion sensor control, but Microsoft owners won't have that option, since Kinect controls aren't supported by the game.

Nostalgic tennis fans can even use the game to stage historical matches in their original settings, like Wimbledon. Tennis legends who can be summoned up include Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker and John McEnroe.

Whereas the first version of the game had graphics that could seem cartoonish, this version has realistic HD graphics, which lend a sense of reality to the animation. Grand Slam Tennis 2 is set to be released February 9 for the Playstation 3 and XBox 360 and will cost about 60 euros.

Catherine mixes genres together in unexpected ways, leaving the protagonist, Vincent, to carry out a doomed affair with the game's namesake. While this is going on, a series of young men turn up dead under mysterious circumstances in the neighbourhood.

The game is a mix of psycho thriller and relationship drama. Gameplay includes puzzles and jump-n-run elements: Every night Vincent has to climb and jump to escape his nightmares. The bizarre game was developed by the Japanese company Atlus. Catherine is set for a February 10 release for the Playstation 3 and XBox 360, and will cost about 50 euros.

On the same day, shooter game The Darkness II from 2k Games is also set for release. Two years after the events of the first installment, Jackie Estacado has become the boss of a New York Mafia gang. He's managed to banish thoughts about the demonic powers of the Darkness from his mind. However, an unexpected attack from the mystical brotherhood quickly reawakens the evil inside him.

As in the previous version, The Darkness II focuses on the balance between light and darkness. That means, for example, players can destroy lamps to lure opponents out of the protection of darkness. There are also new role-playing elements that allow players to have some influence on the linear storyline of the game.

A dark and oppressive atmosphere makes The Darkness II a game only for horror fans with strong nerves. Lots of violence means that some countries are only making edited versions available for the Playstation 3 and XBox 360, with the price set at about 65 euros.

For the fantasy fans out there, Electronic Arts has Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning on tap. The world of the game is a creation of best-selling author Robert Anthony Salvatore. Freshly raised from the dead, the role-playing game's hero starts his mission to reveal the secret of immortality. But that mission leads him into the middle of wars between various races and peoples.

True to the genre, the game allows players to decide if they want their character to be more of a fighter or more of a magician. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning will be released for the XBox 360 and the Playstation 3 and will cost about 65 euros. A PC version has also been announced.

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