SAN FRANCISCO – Microsoft's (MSFT) "Halo 3" has dominated video game headlines this week, but if blasting aliens isn't appealing there is more on offer in other games, including role-playing the composer Frederic Chopin.
"Halo 3" is also only available on Microsoft's Xbox 360, so owners of Sony's (SNE) PlayStation 3 or Nintendo's (NTDOY) Wii have to look elsewhere.
The good news is that there are a number of games that have garnered high marks from reviewers and don't involve plasma rifles or parasitic alien life forms.
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"'Halo' is sucking up a lot of the publicity right now but that will calm down," said Billy Pidgeon, a video game analyst with market research firm IDC.
"There are a number of things you don't hear about because 'Halo' is out there," Pidgeon said. "A lot of the more family stuff and alternative-type stuff still does really well."
Here are some titles from major publishers that have been released recently or will hit the market in the coming weeks:
"Eternal Sonata" (Xbox 360, from Namco Bandai):
What it is: Certainly one of the quirkiest games this year, "Eternal Sonata" is a Japanese-style role-playing game set in the fantastical fevered dreams of a dying Chopin, who fights to save a young girl from evil.
Why you'll want it: Interesting combat system combines turn-based and real-time elements. Explore Chopin's music through side quests and historical asides.
Reality check: May be too easy for role-playing die-hards.
"Medal of Honor: Airborne" (Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, Electronic Arts (ERTS)):
What it is: Drop into the European theater of World War II as part of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division. Fight in Italy, France, Belgium and Germany.
Why you'll want it: Pick your landing site at the start of a battle instead of starting at a fixed point like in most shooting games. Authentic visuals and sound will appeal to fans of historic military games.
Reality check: Yet another entrant in the crowded World War II genre.
"MySims" (Wii, Electronic Arts):
What it is: The latest attempt to put the "Sims" franchise on a console. EA hopes the widespread appeal of the "Sims" brand will be a natural fit for the Wii, which is winning over mainstream and casual gamers.
Why you'll want it: Create your own Sim, then build and decorate a home and help neighbors fix up their own abodes. There are seemingly endless ways to customize your Sim, and there is lots to explore in the colorful world.
Reality check: Scrapped the social dynamic aspects of the PC-based versions of "The Sims." Cutesy visual style may not appeal to everyone.
"Skate" (Xbox 360 and PS3, Electronic Arts):
What it is: Electronic Arts takes on a sport dominated in the gaming world by Activision's (ATVI) "Tony Hawk" series. An all-new control scheme has you work a gamepad's thumbsticks to pull off tricks rather than mashing buttons.
Why you'll want it: Stellar graphics make rich urban areas a treat to explore. Build fame as a mainstream star or infamy as a renegade street skater.
Reality check: Control scheme makes it tough to master some tricks and challenges. Also, reviewers have noted that online multiplayer games can be laggy and crowded.
"Stuntman: Ignition" (Xbox 360 and PS3, THQ (THQ)):
What it is: The second installment of a driving series with a twist — play an aspiring Hollywood stuntman who has to pull off death-defying tricks to impress directors.
Why you'll want it: Jump over lava flows, blow into burning buildings and speed into oncoming traffic. Good replay value as you shoot for higher scores by cutting things close and stringing together extra moves.
Reality check: Hard to know what is expected for a given course, leading to some frustrating trial-and-error. Jerky motion during some action-packed sequences.
"World in Conflict" (PC, Vivendi Games (VIV)):
What it is: A real-time strategy game that rolls back the calendar to 1989 and imagines a Soviet invasion of Europe and the United States, igniting World War III.
Why you'll want it: Stunning visuals, especially if you have powerful new graphics chips. Developer Sierra touts the game's "complete destructibility" and the ability to use nuclear weapons. Slick interface makes game accessible to novices, and it also ditches resource collecting, one of the more tedious aspects of the genre.
Reality check: Requires a pretty powerful computer to get all the graphical bells and whistles.