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Plugged In

The future is now: Ten must-haves you’ll be playing this year

Plugged In

Gaps Solitaire

The holiday shopping season might be a good six months away, but thanks to the E3 2011 extravaganza, video game Christmas lists are already taking shape.

While many of the biggest titles and hardware shown off at this year's game geekfest aren't coming until well into 2012 -- including the innovative Wii U, the gorgeous Tomb Raider reboot and the downright awesome Bioshock Infinite -- a wealth of top tier titles will be out in time for your holiday shopping sprees. Start balancing your checkbook, because it's going to
be a busy 2011. Here are ten you absolutely won't want to miss:

Batman: Arkham City
Release Date: October 18

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The follow-up to 2009's superhero spectacular Batman: Arkham
Asylum, the Dark Knight's next caper breaks out of the prison of linear gaming and into an open-world city run by Gotham's most vile villains.  You'll soar from the rooftops as the Caped Crusader, using a variety of awesome bat-gadgets as you tussle with The Joker, get stumped by The Riddler and duke it out with The Penguin. Even cooler?  You'll alternate between Batman and fellow misunderstood costume-wearer Catwoman, who lets you explore Gotham's underworld in search of shiny baubles.

Playstation Vita
Release
Date: Holiday 2011

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Plagued by one of the biggest online security breaches in U.S. history, Sony's had a rough go recently. But the winds of change are blowing, and they're bringing good tidings in the form of the company's next portable machine, the Vita. Not only does it pack loads of impressive tech - a brilliant OLED touch-screen, dual analog sticks and a rear touch panel - but at $250, it's actually reasonably priced. And with some terrific games already
demoed for the system, including a gorgeous take on their Uncharted franchise and an innovative music game called SoundShape, it's looking like a real contender.

Mario Kart 3DS
Release Date: Holiday 2011

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Got a 3DS but already bored with the launch games? You're not the only one. The good news, though, is that Nintendo is set to release a metric ton of cool games in the coming months, and having played through most of them, none got us excited as much as this stellar take on Mario's legendary racing series. Already a graphical treat, the racer adds new elements, such as a deployable glider to help your kart soar over big gaps and fully customizable karts.

Uncharted 3: Drake's
Deception
Release Date: November 1

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Poor Nathan Drake can't seem to keep himself out of tight spots, though after spending some time with his next adventure, it's clear that his trouble are our treats. The resilient star of Sony's hit franchise is in top form in Uncharted 3, which somehow manages to go even bigger than its award-winning forbear by pushing the boundaries of white-knuckle action-platforming. Placing Drake in perilous situation (tumbling about a sinking cruise ship, for instance) after perilous situation (leaping from a moving car to the slowly rising landing gear of a cargo plane, for another), it's as close to Indiana Jones as any of us will get.

Call of Duty: Modern
Warfare 3
Release Date: November 8

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Grumble away about how Call of Duty is an overexposed franchise, but there's a reason why it sells a bazillion copies ever year: it's really quite great at what it does. And what it does is provide some of the most intense, blistering, and downright fun first-person shooting in town. The
next installment takes the fight around the world, letting players fight
terrorist groups in cities like Paris, London and New York while all hell
breaks loose. Countless upgrades to the game's class-leading multiplayer will
likely keep you playing it for years...or at least until the next Call of Duty
comes out.

Battlefield 3
Release Date: October 25

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Of course, you might well be sick to death of Call of Duty.
We wouldn't blame you - and neither would EA, who's hoping to convert more than a few shooter fans with its jaw-dropping Battlefield 3.  A showpiece for the epic Frostbite 2 game engine, the war game is an absolute stunner, boasting some of the most impressive graphics you'll lay your eyes on all year. It's got the gameplay to back it up, too: revamped classes, compelling modes and brilliant details (shine a flashlight in someone's eyes and you'll temporarily blind them) make it a force to be reckoned with. Call of Duty, watch your six.

The Elder Scrolls V:
Skyrim

Release Date November 11

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Prefer swords and sorcery to guns and ammo? Bethesda's got you covered with the massive Skyrim,. Built by the same team behind Fallout 3, it's as big and beautiful as role-playing games get. But it's not just about scope - Skyrim also features fantastic design, including a streamlined
interface (no more time wasted digging through backpacks for potions), hundreds of abilities, over 80 spells that can be combined in a myriad of ways, and, well, dragons. Big ones. Lots of 'em.

Rage
Release Date: October 2011

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Speaking of Fallout, if you dig post-apocalyptic mayhem, Rage is your next buy. The big winner of last year's E3, this shooter/racer/role-playing hybrid can do it all, and it looks pretty incredible doing it. Behind its big, brash bluster lies what might be the smoothest shooter to ever appear on a console, though that's what we've come to expect from the shooter experts at developer id Software.

The Legend of Zelda:
Skyward Sword
Release Date: Holiday 2011

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Wii U this, Wii U that - you know, the regular, boring old Wii is still in the room. The least we could do is pay attention to it a little, which exactly what the next Legend of Zelda game will make us all do.  Link's latest boasts bundles of goodies for fans, from rock solid sword-swinging to a new flying system that sees the green-clad hero seamlessly transitioning between air and land.  Add traditional Zelda puzzles, items and enemies and you get an intriguing new entry in one of gaming's best-loved series.

Gears of War 3
Release Date:  September 20

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You've been itching for it for ages, but come this September the perpetually-postponed action romp finally stomps into stores. And we're betting the stores will be crushed, because it's got some serious firepower. Not only does Gears 3 wrap up the trilogy, but it's loaded with enhancements - including a rebuilt Horde multiplayer mode that critics are already insisting is one of the coolest multiplayer experiences around.

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