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Looking for the hot new video game for a holiday gift? Think sequel.

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By Mike Musgrove
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, November 27, 2010; 7:26 PM

For holiday shoppers who feel out of place in a video game store but need to shop for the gamer in their life, there's a simple enough solution: Figure out which title got the most attention from that loved one in recent months, then go out and buy this year's version.

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Seriously. The video game industry is sequel-driven, and so it goes again this year. Say hello to "Rock Band 3" or "Fable III," for example. In "Super Mario Galaxy 2," Princess Peach has been kidnapped, again, and is in need of rescue by an Italian plumber. Mario has been at this for 25 years.

Few titles that seem destined for the bestseller lists this year are entirely new. (If it's innovation you're after, try the Microsoft Kinect or the PlayStation's new Move controllers. See sidebar.) But if the gamers in your life liked last year's versions, they are unlikely to complain about receiving the next installment.

Here's a sampling of the video game console titles likely to make the gamer's wish list this season:

'Call of Duty: Black Ops'This shoot-'em-up offers a Cold War story with missions ranging from an attempt on Fidel Castro's life to one in Vietnam, where the protagonist is sent to look for evidence of a Soviet presence. Or something like that. Many of this game's biggest fans will ignore that solo-player story line in favor of going online and blowing up friends and strangers with its exhaustive arsenal of virtual shotguns and sniper rifles. (Rated M; Xbox 360, PS3, Wii.)

'Halo: Reach'The latest installment of this famous sci-fi franchise pits a group of space marines against an alien force known as the Covenant. Chronologically speaking, the story told in this entry takes place before the events of the original hit Xbox game, released in 2001. To the casual fan, the opponents and the weapons featured here might seem familiar, but there's no doubt that this title's visual elements got an extra coat of polish this year. (Rated M; Xbox 360.)

'Fallout: New Vegas'Last year, "Fallout" players explored a radioactive and bombed-out version of Washington; this year's release tells a tale set in the Las Vegas area. There are nearly endless ways to unravel the stories offered in this gloomy world, which is filled with violent gangs and irradiated ghouls. Fun fact: A Rockville-based game company publishes this title. (Rated M; Xbox 360, PS3)

'Fable III'In this generally lighthearted adventure story, it's the player's job to unite rival factions to take down a king who has turned tyrannical. Once that mission is accomplished, a powerful enemy draws near and it's the player's turn to decide how to run the realm of Albion. Do you keep your campaign promises, or do you break them to build the kingdom's army? (Rated M; Xbox 360)

'Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood' The thrills offered in this historical adventure come, largely, from scaling walls and hiding out on the rooftops of 16th-century Rome between assassination missions. The main protagonist, a fellow named Ezio, is on a mission to take down a pesky group of Templars in the Eternal City. Fortunately, Ezio has Leonardo da Vinci on his side, and the inventor provides nifty gadgets and toys. (Rated M; Xbox 360, PS3)

'Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit'Even the police officers drive Lamborghinis in virtual Seacrest County, where illegal street racing appears to be the main pastime. This is a game spent behind the wheel: Players get to take on roles as cops or, alternately, as the racers trying to evade the law. (Rated E10+; Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)

'Rock Band 3'The most notable addition to this year's installment of the popular rhythm game: a keyboard! Designed to be played on a lap or slung over a fake rocker's shoulder, the new controller features two octaves' worth of keys, good for playing along on songs like Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." (Rated T; Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)

'Super Mario Galaxy 2'Mario explores the cosmos again, jumping from one colorful planetoid to the next and landing on the noggins of a familiar group of foes. This title was released earlier this year, but if the kids were in summer camp, now might be the time to circle back and grab a copy. (Rated E; Wii)

'Kirby's Epic Yarn' An evil wizard has transformed a classic Nintendo character into yarn, in a game title that looks like it was designed in an arts and crafts store. Things could be worse for Kirby, however; his new status in the material world grants him the ability to turn into race cars or a parachute, also made of yarn. This cute and family-friendly title has won thumbs-ups from critics young and not-so-young. (Rated E; Wii)

'Epic Mickey'Mickey Mouse is pulled into a dark world known as the Wasteland in this upcoming adventure title, which reportedly showcases a slightly edgier version of the iconic character. Armed with a magical paintbrush that can bring color into this dark world, Mickey's job is to defeat a vintage Disney bad guy known as the Blot. This game is scheduled for release Tuesday and has already won buzz as a hot title for the Wii this holiday season. (Rated E; Wii)


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