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12 hot video games for a hot summer

"Tomb Raider" lets you explore, battle and solve puzzles in the company of friends like "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light."
"Tomb Raider" lets you explore, battle and solve puzzles in the company of friends like "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Madden NFL 11" streamlines decision-making for a faster virtual gridiron experience
  • Handheld gaming enthusiasts have it good thanks to titles like "Puzzle Quest 2"
  • Sci-fi fans should also have a look at "Transformers: War for Cybertron" on the PC
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Editor's note: Scott Steinberg is the head of technology and video game consulting firm TechSavvy Global, as well as the founder of GameExec magazine and Game Industry TV. He frequently appears as an on-air technology analyst for ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CNN. His most recent book is "Get Rich Playing Games."

(CNN) -- Summer is a great time to barbecue, hit the beach or get out and explore the town. But for gamers it's often a huge disappointment, as the flow of new releases generally slows to a trickle.

Mercifully, software publishers are beginning to wise up and use the slower months to issue an increasing number of promising but less high-profile releases that may otherwise have slipped beneath the radar.

The following are among my top picks for the season -- sure to keep you happy while others fret about trivialities like fresh air and exercise.

Xbox 360 owners can spare themselves the trouble of getting off the couch and download selections, like these three, from Xbox Live Arcade.

Due out July 28, Konami's "Castlevania: Harmony of Despair" is a classic, 2-D monster mash that combines elements of platform-hopping and adventure to atmospheric effect.

"Hydro Thunder Hurricane," is a sequel to the blistering arcade speedboat racer that sees multiple wheelmen competing to cross the finish line. It even allows multiple players to tag-team the adventure.

Completing a trifecta of notable, multiplayer-ready sequels, "Tomb Raider" spin-off "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light" (PC and PlayStation Network versions are available, too.) also lets you explore, do battle and solve puzzles in the company of friends -- no sleepovers required.

On the retail front, be sure to check out "Madden NFL 11" for PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox 360 and Wii. The latest installment in the football franchise streamlines decision-making and play-calling, making for a faster, more engaging virtual gridiron experience.

Spy thriller "Alpha Protocol" will also satisfy PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 fans' inner Jack Bauer, combining exotic settings, in-depth character customization and detailed stat-crunching with atmospheric espionage.

Sci-fi fans should also have a look at "Transformers: War for Cybertron" on the PC and all major console platforms. It's predictable, but delves deeper into the Autobots' and Decepticons' origins. Freeform blaster "Crackdown 2" for the Xbox 360 is sure to make you feel positively superhuman, too, leaping tall buildings and annihilating adversaries as a futuristic lawman.

Golden age mob yarn "Mafia II" for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 further makes an offer you can't refuse, offering open-ended adventures in the vein of underworld classics like "Goodfellas."

Handheld gaming enthusiasts also have it good thanks to titles like "Puzzle Quest 2" for the Nintendo DS and DSi, which blends fantasy role-playing and casual mindbenders together in a surprisingly addictive medieval epic.

Creepy DS first-person survival horror outing "Dementium II" will additionally have you on the edge of your car or plane seat as well. While the PlayStation Portable's lineup is noticeably more anemic, military-themed stealth action offering "Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker" successfully shoots to thrill. Demonic role-player "Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable" should be on every fan of Japanese imports' list to boot.

So, maybe summer can't compete with the holidays in terms of sheer volume of games. But never fear -- the gaming season is still bound to be hot.

[TECH: NEWSPULSE]

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