I know I normally try to get the preorder breakdown a little sooner into the quarter, but you haven't missed much in January anyway. The year is definitely off to a slow start, but that's normal. Things slowly start picking up as we lead in to Spring, really culminating for me with my most anticipated title of the year, Mass Effect 3. The last game completely blew me away with nice mix of RPG and cover heavy gunplay. The third entry will be introducing online co-op to the series for the first time. While I am leery of the addition, I'm keeping an open mind and will definitely give it a try. What I don't think I'll try is another Insanity difficulty run. I did it on ME2 but I'm not sure a platinum trophy is worth the labor intensive frustration I experienced. But I digress, you just want to know more about what games are coming this season and where to buy them to get the most bang for your buck.

As usual, the included link will take you straight to Amazon. Their deals aren't always the best, but they're usually pretty competitive. In the case of universal incentives I encourage you to order from locally owned shops. I've decided to add alternates where applicable. Not all weeks have multiple great games, but I don't want to bump a worthy title just because one I'm more excited to play comes the same week. Other times it might be a stretch to find one game worth buying a particular week. And, as a further disclaimer, all of this information is accurate only to the extent that I'm not perfect and cannot guarantee I found every possible deal. Also, preorder bonuses, as well as release dates, are subject to change.

January 31, 2012
The big pick-up early in the year is Final Fantasy XIII-2. That link will take you to the collector's edition, which is only worth the extra $20 if you really love the music, which is very good. It includes special packaging, with the mandatory art book bound directly into the package, and a four disc soundtrack. Preordering from GameStop will get you an alternate (bikini) costume for Serah. If you're a PowerUp Rewards member they'll also get you the Genji Bow for Sara. Amazon's bonus is a unique coliseum battle against Omega. If you can beat Omega, he'll join your party. Best Buy is also offering a hardcover book tying the two XIII games together. That's a pretty good range of incentives. Ultimately, if you want everything, I'd suggest Best Buy's book. It's the only physical item and I expect the others will be paid DLC options eventually.

This week's alternate pick:
NeverDead, a new IP that looks quirky as hell. Your immortal protagonist can throw his arms at people and roll around as only a head picking up body parts.

February 7, 2012
This week is a tough pick and I don't necessarily want to pimp two fantasy RPGs in a row, especially after the 2000 hours you've put into Skyrim, but this is a nerdy website and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning seems to be the big recommendation for nerds. This is a new IP with a pretty strong creative pedigree: Ken Rolston, Todd McFarlane, and R.A. Salvatore. It looks like a preorder at all major retailers nets the Fate Touched Weapons Pack (nine special weapons in a variety of classes). Amazon will save you four whole cents and includes the Ultimate Hunter Treasure Pack (using a dowsing rod you can see potion-making ingredients on the map instead of hunting for individual mushrooms). GameStop's Destinies Choice Pack includes three unique armor sets, the Compass of Fate, and a Twist of Fate card. I don't actually know what all that stuff means in the game's context, but it sounds like you'll have a little more control over your character's ultimate build earlier in the game.

February 14, 2012
Which game should you have preordered for your Valentine? Hopefully that special someone is a sadistic freak with a love for car combat, because you'll be wrecking up a storm in Twisted Metal. I found no retailer specific incentives so you should be getting the in-game Axel vehicle for free (he'll be available as paid DLC 30 days later) and a PSN voucher code to download the PS2 classic, Twisted Metal Black, anywhere you buy.

This week's alternate:
PlayStation Vita First Edition Bundle if you really can't wait a week. This early buy includes a 4GB proprietary memory stick ($24.99), limited edition case ($19.99), and Little Deviants ($29.99). If you want thaose add-ons and the 3G version, save yourself $25 and buy it a week early. Then tell me if it's awesome.

February 22, 2012
If you didn't want the 3G version, the add-ons, and early access this will be the day to pick up your PlayStation Vita. Our resident gadget freak, Zombietron, has already declared his excitement for this little toy. I'm excited but I have some doubts. Proprietary memory is kind of pricey and lackluster sales in Japan have me concerned about its future. Is that just my pessimist programming? Hopefully. I actually want to be sold on this one. It definitely addresses some, but not all, of the issues I have with my current PSP. If you pick this up on day one there are several good games coming at launch. Definitely try out Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Little Deviants, and ModNation Racers: Road Trip. Then let me know what you think. My wife won't like you very much, but please sell me.

This week's alternate:
Asura's Wrath is another quirky Japanese title. A disgraced six-armed god fights deities the size of planets. There's a sword that stretches from the earth to the moon. Kind of got to like this one.

February 28, 2012
Like Twisted Metal a couple weeks before it, SSX is a reboot from the PS2 generation. The first two games in the franchise were excellent, with subsequent iterations slowly losing the quality. I have high hopes for invigorating this series for this generation. Where to buy is determined by which classic character's level 6 board and other boosts you want. GameStop has Eddie Wachowski, Best Buy has Zoe Payne, and Amazon has Mac. If you could care less about bonus boards and boosts you may as well go Amazon as they're giving you a $10 credit.

March 6, 2012
This is it! Oh, so excited!!! Mass Effect 3 is going to have to be incredibly huge to meet my expectations but I think it will make it. Preorders at major retailers get the M55 Argus Assault Rifle. I've got mine at GameStop where you'll also get the N7 Valkyrie Rifle and Defender Armor. I'm actually trying to decide whether to upgrade to the Collector's Edition for an extra $20. It comes with the special case and art book you would expect, Dark Horse comic, lithograph, N7 patch, soundtrack, extra in-game content (N7 arsenal pack, alternate companion attire, robotic dog on the Normandy, and casual hoodie for Shepard while aboard Normandy), and avatar props (360 only). The patch and the extra in-game stuff are all I want, and I'm not sure they're worth $20. I can live without the patch, and I think the other stuff will only be $10 later as DLC.

This week's alternate:
Seriously, you know ME3 is going to be huge when I have to put Rockstar's Max Payne 3 as an honorable mention.

March 13, 2012
Silent Hill: Downpour looks to be a nice refresh to a somewhat stagnant franchise. The series really can be survival horror at its best when it's hitting its perfect stride. There are no bonuses currently listed, except Amazon's $10 credit, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changes soon. If you've missed the earlier games or want to replay them, the HD Collection comes out the week before, but we've already established that week could be expensive.

March 20, 2012
It may also be in a survival horror franchise, but Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is actually a team-based strategy shooter. I've heard it compared to SOCOM, Left 4 Dead, and several other titles. To be honest, nothing about this game sounds appealing to me except a slight trace of retro-nostalgia for Resident Evil 2. But I believe I'm in the minority and plenty of gamers are excited to hunt Leon Kennedy in the undead-infested streets of Raccoon City. The Limited Edition is only $10 more and comes in the fancy case with two fabric patches and eight bonus weapons. Retailer specific incentives include the Elite Weapon Pack (two guns) and one alternate costume for each playable character (six total) at Best Buy, or the Power Weapon Pack (two other guns) and the U.S.S. Costume Pack (6x1=6 again) at GameStop.

I've got several other games floating around the radar for "Spring 2012" window. Most of them haven't been tied to firm dates yet so keep an eye open as we get closer. You'll see more information about Dragon's Dogma, Yakuza: Dead Souls, and many others in my twice weekly Video Game Quick Hits as well as the weekly releases that I'll get back to publishing once we start having major retail weeks again. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go ponder my relationships with a certain asari and an emotionally wrecked bald woman.

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Tags: Editorial , Video Games