EW's videogame preview -- A look at nine games coming out during the 2004 holiday season

By Gary Eng Walk
November 05, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Don’t take an abundance of sequels to mean there’s an originality vacuum in the videogame industry: The holiday-season lineup always packs more than enough surprises — and offers something for everyone, so long as that something involves breakneck speed, trigger-happy mayhem, and an occasional detour into the dark side.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Once again, gamers adopt a life of ill repute in the sixth installment of the megaselling series. This time, instead of rampaging through one city, they get to explore three crime-plagued burgs — and all the miles in between. Also new is an increased level of interactivity in which pedestrians can offer more than 50,000 comments. Hey, you talkin’ to me? (PS2, Oct. 26)

The Incredibles

Cramming the humor and action of a Pixar movie into a videogame is never easy. Neither is making one that appeals to an older audience. But these ‘toons in tights are clearly up to the challenge. (All consoles, Nov. 2)

Half-Life 2

Six years have passed since the first Half-Life, which is six years longer than its huge fan base would’ve preferred. But its developers used that time to hammer out an improved graphics engine while preserving the original Half‘s main strength — namely its strong and engaging story line. (PC, Nov. 16)

GoldenEye: Rogue Agent

It’s a James Bond game . . . not starring James Bond. Here, you’re an MI6 turncoat in this shoot-’em-up that also features a rogues’ gallery of Bond villains including Oddjob and Scaramanga, voiced by the original man with the golden gun, Christopher Lee. (All consoles, Nov. 17)

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

In a departure from his previous Metal Gear masterpieces, creator Hideo Kojima sets his latest espionage thriller in a lush tropical jungle, which will force players to adopt new stealth tactics (green is the new black in spy garb) and a diet right out of Fear Factor (get used to snacking on bugs and snakes, since growling stomachs might alert guards to your presence). (PS2, Nov. 17)

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within

For an encore to last year’s critical hit, the developers gave their sequel (1) a darker tone, (2) new uses for the Prince’s time-traveling powers, and (3) a fighting system that will remove much of the repetition usually associated with hack ‘n’ slash games. (All consoles, Nov. 30)

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords

Look for more lightsaber swashbuckling in the follow-up to last year’s hit RPG (Knights II takes place five years later than the first game, but 4,000 years before the movies). Plus: X2: X-Men United femme fatale Kelly Hu supplies the voice for Sith apprentice Visas Marr. (Xbox, Dec. 6)

The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth

Bored of the Rings? Try taking command of Sauron’s bad guys for a change and see what happens when his marauding hordes go medieval on hobbit ass. (PC, Dec. 6)