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Plugged In

Tips for top holiday games and consoles

Plugged In

Now that the last gift has been unwrapped, the eggnog's depleted, and the obligatory family day is over, it's time to play with your presents.

If you’re a gamer, that means tearing open some shrink wrap and losing a few hours (or days, possibly weeks) to a huge new game or three. After all, you hopefully have a little time off now to enjoy them.

But even if you do, that blissful post-Xmas gaming marathon can be ruined if you hit a puzzle or mission that you just can't get past.

There's no reason to be a late-blooming Grinch, though. Here's some advice on how to find answers to your gaming questions on the year's biggest titles -- and get you back on track.

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Grand Theft Auto V

There's no shortage of help out there for Rockstar Games' monster hit, and considering how much content it's packing, chances are you could use a tip or two.

If you're just getting started in the game and want some pointers, Prima, the publisher of most industry tip books, has some basic advice that will help you ease into life in Los Santos.

Stuck in a particular mission deeper in the game? IGN's GTA V Wiki Guide offers not only a walkthrough, but a guide to collectables, side-missions and GTA Online. And if you want to learn the best way to make money semi-legally via the in-game stock market, IGN has you covered there, too.

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Call of Duty: Ghosts

Given how big the Call of Duty franchise is these days, you won't have a lot of trouble finding help with Ghosts. If anything, you'll probably be overloaded. But the best way to get better -- especially if you’re playing multiplayer – is with Call of Duty: Elite.

This free service, included with the game, lets you review your own game stats and lets you know which weapons are optimal to improve your gameplay. Call of Duty Elite TV features developer tips and strategy as well as custom class overviews. Not near a computer, but still want to access Elite? Activision launched an app earlier this year to help you out.

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Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

There's a lot of ground to cover in Ubisoft's stab-happy pirate game, so sometimes it helps to have more than one walkthrough at your fingertips. Long-running cheat site GameFaqs encourages users to submit their own FAQs and guides, so if one description of how to get through a problem doesn't click, another person's wording might.

Want more? GameSpot has a detailed dive into the game, letting you know how to get trophies and achievements and unlock hidden features and cheats.

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Super Mario 3D World

There are a lot of hidden features in Mario's latest adventure, some of which can only be unlocked using the Wii U's GamePad. If you're the obsessive type who wants to find every green star and discover every power-up, VG247 has an exhaustive walkthrough of the game.

If, on the other hand, you just need a little help and don't want to deal with spoilers, why not ask the community? The Wii U's Miiverse connects players from around the world. Pop in and you're bound to find someone who has a solution to your problem -- and you might make a new friend in the process.

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

This 3DS game is one of the most addictive Zelda titles in years, but it's not a simple one. Prima tries to upsell its guide for the game, but offers plenty of free tips as well.

There are a plethora of Zelda fan sites online as well, many of which have walkthroughs. Zelda Dungeon presents its solution to the game in a straightforward way that's fairly helpful. Sometimes, though, the best help comes from watching someone else solve the problem. YouTube is chock full of walkthroughs, like this one.

The next generation consoles do a lot more than play games, and it takes a while to fully discover the capabilities of them both.

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PlayStation 4

If you're the lucky new owner of a PS4, it's worth a few minutes to swing by Official PlayStation Magazine, which will walk you through helpful tips including how to set up streaming, turn down the Dualshock 4's speaker, and change your friends' online aliases to their real names.

Destructoid also has a list of useful PS4 tips, filling you in on ways to log in without touching a button and how to jump between apps.

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Xbox One

If the PS4 is full of mysteries, the Xbox One is a Gordian knot. With so many functions, it's easy to miss some of the less trumpeted ones. Microsoft's Major Nelson posted a video showing off what the system can do as well as a handy guide to Kinect's voice and gesture commands.

TechRadar, meanwhile, will show you where to find a free game and help you learn more about SmartGlass. And Game Informer's early look at the system still has some valuable information that will come in handy as you get used to the console.

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