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Harvest a top crop of games

This fall will be the seventh for the current generation of video game consoles, which began with Microsoft's introduction of the Xbox 360 in 2005. That means artists, designers and programmers have had a long time to master the intricacies of the 360, as well as two Japanese consoles that arrived in 2006, Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii.

That experience is evident in the top crop of games arriving this fall.

Sadly, we are not yet seeing creative new entries based on the controllerless Kinect technology for the Xbox 360. For every brilliant Kinect game like "Child of Eden" there seem to be eight superficially identical dance and exercise programs.

'Gears of War 3'

There are many games about space marines, but none have embraced cheesy buddy humor and ludicrously imagined interplanetary monstrosities as eagerly as "Gears of War." What's great about it is that beneath the window-dressing mayhem lies a taut, responsive and coherent combat system.

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Created by Microsoft for Xbox 360. Released Tuesday.

'Rage'

Lots of folks make shooters these days. But only one developer invented the shooter genre: id Software, makers of "Wolfenstein 3D," "Doom" and "Quake."

''Rage," set in a postapocalyptic wasteland, is id's chance to prove that it can still compete in an industry dominated by quasi-realistic military shooters like "Call of Duty."

Created by Bethesda Softworks for Windows, Xbox 360 and PS3. Release date: Oct. 4.

'Batman: Arkham City'

Two years ago Warner Brothers stunned players with "Batman: Arkham Asylum," the best comic-book game yet. In "Arkham City," Batman is no longer confined to the asylum's island, and the bad guys are on the loose in Gotham as well.

But remember that Batman is ultimately a detective, not a soldier. Stealth and trickery are your strengths.

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Created by Warner Brothers for Windows, Xbox 360 and PS3. Release date: Oct. 18.

'Battlefield 3'

The biggest showdown will unfold between "Battlefield 3" and the new "Call of Duty," rival military shooters with their aims set squarely on the hearts of hard-core gamers. "Call of Duty" will almost certainly sell more copies, but "Battlefield 3" has an excellent chance to make a dent in "Call of Duty's" dominance.

Created by Electronic Arts for Windows, Xbox 360 and PS3. Release date: Oct. 25.

'Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception'

The Uncharted series has revitalized the action-adventure genre with its Indiana Jonesian treasure-hunting hero, Nathan Drake. Many scenes will feel vaguely familiar, and that's because they're basically pulled from a highlight reel of summer Hollywood blockbusters. Not that that's a bad thing.

Created by Sony for PS3. Release date: Nov. 1.

'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3'

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In recent years, this commando fantasy has been the undisputed heavyweight champion of the console galaxy. But Activision is trying to manage multiple internal teams on the franchise even as the company's rival, Electronic Arts, is about to put up a real contender with "Battlefield 3." Millions of players will be waiting to find out how these two measure up.

Created by Activision for Windows, Xbox 360 and PS3. Release date: Nov. 8.

'The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim'

There aren't a lot of single-player fantasy epics anymore. Luckily, Bethesda doesn't seem to be taking the market for granted with the latest installment in the Elder Scrolls series. If you like swords and spells, goblins, demons and trolls, you could be checked into "Skyrim" for 100 hours or more.

Created by Bethesda for Windows, Xbox 360 and PS3. Release date: Nov. 11.

'Assassin's Creed: Revelations'

 

With "Assassin's Creed," Ubisoft has proved itself adept at adapting Grand Theft Auto-style open world play to ancient settings. From the 12th-century Levant and Renaissance Italy the series now proceeds to Ottoman Istanbul (or rather, Constantinople). More eons-old, world-threatening conspiracies await your unraveling.

Created by Ubisoft for Windows, Xbox 360 and PS3. Release date: Nov. 15.

'The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword'

This is the prequel to one of the most beloved video games, "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time." Along with Mario and Donkey Kong, Link, the hero of the Zelda series, is one of Nintendo's most important characters. But will his popularity be sufficient to resuscitate interest in the Wii?

Created by Nintendo for Wii. Release date: Nov. 20.

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