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'Mass Effect 2' kicks off big 2010 for gamers

By Larry Frum, Special to CNN
"Battlefield: Bad Company 2" is one of many anticipated games coming in early 2010.
"Battlefield: Bad Company 2" is one of many anticipated games coming in early 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Early 2010 is shaping up to be a huge season for video games
  • The season kicks off Tuesday with the release of futuristic sequel "Mass Effect 2"
  • "Star Trek Online" lets PC gamers battle in the vast reaches of space
  • The most anticipated game in 2010 erupts in mid-March as Kratos returns in "God of War 3"
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(CNN) -- OK, so you've exhausted most of those video games you got for Christmas. And you've got a gift card or two burning a hole in your pocket.

You need some new games for the new year. And 2010 is only too happy to oblige.

Gaming companies are releasing enough popular titles in the first three months of the year to fill a shelf in your entertainment center. Between much-anticipated sequels and intriguing new titles, it's enough to make your controller quiver with anticipation.

Here's our preview:

The big title for January is the follow-up to a smash hit, but it isn't just an ordinary sequel. "Mass Effect 2" (BioWare, Electronic Arts) takes your character from the original futuristic game -- complete with all their experiences and relationships -- and puts them into the darker, second chapter of what is a planned trilogy.

The game's urgent mission to stop a deadly plague offers new challenges, different enemies and more realistic graphics than the first. The early trailers to "ME2" feel like scenes from a blockbuster movie. The dialogue choices are also improved to allow more flexibility when interacting with your team or other characters.

"Mass Effect 2" comes out January 26 for the Xbox 360 and PC. It is rated M for mature (blood, drug reference, sexual content, strong language, violence).

February offers a selection of original titles, a long-awaited online RPG and a major sequel.

"Star Trek" fans will get their opportunity to live out their Trekkie dreams -- virtually, at least -- with the release of "Star Trek Online" (Atari, Cryptic Studios). Players can choose or create their own race, pick a career path and start blasting away at Borg. Combat can take place during ground-based missions or in the cold, vast reaches of space.

"Star Trek Online" will be released on February 2 for the PC and is rated T for teens (fantasy violence, mildly suggestive themes).

The month then goes to hell with the release of "Dante's Inferno" (Visceral Games, Electronic Arts). Players follow Dante as he travels through the nine circles of Hell, faces off against the Seven Deadly Sins and generally creates havoc in the underworld.

An upgradable weapons system allows gamers to tailor Dante's abilities to holy or unholy gameplay. Each of the nine circles will have its own distinct look, taken directly from Dante Alighieri's epic poem.

"Dante's Inferno" is due out February 9 for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PSP. It is rated M for mature (blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual content).

"Aliens vs. Predator" keeps the monsters from the popular movies but ditches any story relationship by going 30 years into the future after "Aliens 3." This first-person shooter lets you play as a Marine, one of the aliens or as the Predator. Each has its own special combat advantages (the spiky tail of the Alien should be a sneaky, impaling-type weapon) and all are particularly vicious and gory.

Once you've mastered the game play, feel free to jump into the multiplayer action for bullet vs. fang vs. claw combat. "AvP" is set for release on February 16 for the PS3, PC and Xbox 360. It is rated (you guessed it) M for mature.

"Heavy Rain" (Sony, Quantic Dream) should be one of the more interesting games of early 2010. It looks like a film noir thriller with gritty visuals and moody atmospherics. The gameplay, however, is heavy on contextual actions by the gamer, allowing for more story flexibility and a greater sense of overall destiny control.

Developers say the story changes based on the player's actions and every decision will have a tangible effect on the characters and their destinies. You play as one of four characters throughout the game and can even kill off one of the others and still have a conclusion to the story. "Heavy Rain" is scheduled for release on February 23 as a PS3 exclusive.

Finally, "BioShock 2" (2K Games, 2K Marin) takes the player 10 years into the future after the first game, drops you into the role of a previous bad guy, then throws you into the ocean deep to fend off a new nemesis. The early gameplay looks as fabulous as the original, promising a continuation of the rich story and the chance to explore more of the underwater Rapture city. "BioShock 2" will be out on February 9 for the Xbox 360, PC and PS3.

Gaming in March is going to be bloody with a dash of godly rage being released in the middle of the month.

Gamers are always ready for the next good war game and "Battlefield: Bad Company 2" (DICE, Electronic Arts) is promising to deliver. With destructible environments, more than 15 vehicles and flying machines and an open-world perspective, "BF: BC2" gives gamers the chance to destroy and conquer just about everything on the map.

The game is designed to work best in squad form, so multiplayer will likely be the most enjoyable way to play (and online will be even better). An EA representative said that in a recent closed beta test, "BF: BC2" saw more than 300,000 players rack up 45 million kills, 9.4 million kills from vehicles, 3.43 million vehicles destroyed and over 380,000 buildings destroyed. That's a lot of mayhem. The game will be out on March 2 for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

The most anticipated game in 2010 erupts in mid-March as Kratos returns to battle the gods of Olympus in "God of War 3" (Sony). While the story might sound similar to the other releases in the ancient trilogy, Sony is promising a new game engine and updated visuals to give players the realistic feel of actually being in battle.

A recent demo showed Kratos slicing and dicing his way through harpies and zombies before carving up a chimera and taking down Helios, the Greek god of the Sun. Because this is the last of the trilogy, players should expect storylines to be finished up in glorious, bloody fashion. "God of War 3" is due on March 19 as a PS3 exclusive.

And that's not all. Plenty of other upcoming games, including "Final Fantasy XIII," "Army of Two: The 40th Day," and "Dark Void," will also be vying for your console and computer time in the next three months. More major releases are planned during the rest of what is expected to be a huge year for gaming.

Did we miss anything? What games are you most looking forward to? Tell us in the comments below.

Editor note: "Gran Turismo 5" and "Lego Harry Potter" were originally scheduled for release in early 2010 and previously mentioned in the article. Their release dates have been pushed back and references in the article removed.