The year of 2009 is already set for some of the best gaming titles to be released in a long time. There will be high octane gun blazing action, brand new immersive RPG universes, and everything in between for the Xbox 360 this year. Popular franchises will be making a return with stand alone titles and even the comic genre may reach a never before seen standard in the video game industry.

Here are the top 5 upcoming Xbox 360 games of 2009.

Halo 3: ODST (aka Halo: Recon) – Release Date: Q3 2009

Halo 3: ODST will be the latest addition to the Halo series, offering a different perspective to the gameplay in the science fiction universe. You will no longer control Master Chief. Instead, you are a lone Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, one of Earth’s most elite soldiers of the UNSC (they are known as the “Hell Jumpers”). Although you don’t have Master Chief’s reflexes, super strength, and combat awareness, you must battle the Covenant in the city of New Mombasa with all the skills you have – stealth included (but it is not strictly a stealth game). The setting takes place during the events of Halo 2, after the devastating invasion of the city. Although the gameplay resembles the previous Halo games, it will be a completely new perspective. Through the eyes of an average Joe elite solider trying to save the Earth from certain destruction.

Halo 3 ODST

No Halo title is complete without a solid online multiplayer mode. Players can save films and screenshots, compete in Campaign scoring, and even play the game on four-player co-op mode. Maps can be created with the Forge editor, in addition to the 24 maps already in the game. This Xbox 360 game is not to be missed – it will be released in the autumn of 2009.

Batman: Arkham Asylum – Release Date: June 9th, 2009 (also on PC and PS3)

Batman: Arkham Asylum is an upcoming action-adventure game coming this summer, taking the DC Universe to platforms like never before. Despite the terrible reputation video games have in their quest to become movies, this Xbox 360 title may break the trend and emerge as the ultimate Batman game. After the critically acclaimed blockbuster The Dark Knight hit theaters in late 2008, there are heavy expectations for this game, regardless of the story and setting.

Batman: Arkham Asylum will be based on the long-time ‘comic mythos’ of the infamous Arkham Asylum, an iconic prison in the DC Universe. The story begins after Batman captures The Joker, following an attack he made on the Gotham prison. This leads to many sane convicts being sent to Arkham Asylum – enemies of the comic hero. The Joker then sets a trap for Batman within the prison, leaving him trapped and vulnerable to Gotham’s worst supervillains, all seeking cold vengeance against the caped crusader.

The script is written by Emmy-award winning Batman writer Paul Dini and the game will feature other high profile villains, such as Mr. Freeze, The Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Bane, Killer Moth, and The Riddler. Unlike Batman games in the past, Arkham Asylum is going to revolve around most of the 70 year old series instead of being restricted to a particular adaptation. To escape death, you will have to use Batman’s combat prowess and all of his legendary detective skills. Don’t miss it.

Dragon Age: Origins – Release Date: Q4 2009 (also on PC and PS3)

There is much expected of this upcoming RPG game by Bioware. This company’s last stand alone RPG title was Mass Effect, which played like a third-person shooter RPG hybrid (with the ability to pause the screen, give commands to your squad teammates, and unleash biotic abilities on enemies). Bioware has never released a game set in a medieval fantasy universe – yet. Dragon Age: Origins will be their latest release and the expectations are set high.

Players will be able to choose from three base classes – Rogue, Warrior, or Mage, but you will have an individual ‘origin’ story that will affect the story of the entire game. Gameplay is in real time, similar to Mass Effect, and you will have the ability to pause and issue tactical commands to your party members, who are all major characters to the storyline. Your decisions in quests matter because a simple moral choice (which is more complicated than the beaten to death ‘good and evil’) can influence the way NPCs react to you. Certain rewards can only be attained if you make the right choices. And by right, I don’t mean morally.

Your character’s origin and character background is chosen by you and every action you take affects the dynamic environment. The dialogue continues to be integral, like in all Bioware games. What you say to world NPCs and party members you meet can make them friends or enemies. Dragon Age: Origins will be released late in 2009. All dates are not yet official and are subject to change.

Mafia II – Release Date: 2nd Half of 2009

The Grand Theft Auto series defined the sand-box style crime action genre for a long time but there have been critically acclaimed Xbox 360 titles that showed the industry that there’s room for more. Like all video games, developers know that the bar must always be raised. Mafia II is the upcoming sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, which has been rated at 9.3/10 and called one of the best games of the year in 2002 by GameSpot when it was released.

The setting of Mafia II takes place in the 1940s and 1950s, in Empire City (based on New York City and San Francisco). Hand to hand combat will be smoother, the car chases and gun fights will be bigger, and the story will feel like a Hollywood crime drama epic. You assume the role of Vito Scaletta, an Italian American (born to Sicilian family) with his ambitions set on rising through the ranks of organized crime with his childhood friend, Joe Barbaro, and propelling his family dynasty to true wealth and power. Vito returns from World War II and the epic begins as he reunites with old friends and acquaintances, including enemies such as the Falconi, Vinci, and Clemente crime families. There are different endings to the story and how you finish your saga depends on you and your choices.

Mafia II will contain two hours of in-game cut scenes and 700 pages of script, nearly twice as much as the original game. The writer of the first game has declared it as a tribute to old-time gangster movies, and that the premise will be darker and grittier – based on reality.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – Release Date: Q4 2009 (also on PC and PS3)

The Call of Duty series has dominated the WWII first-person shooter genre with great emphasis on realism of history, events, and weapons of the 1940s. Even though the WWII market has been saturated for years, there are a few titles that excel, especially online, where thousands of players all across the world can use all their skills and tactical abilities to survive in the true realism of war. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is one of the greatest best-sellers of all time for PC, appealing to this generation. Featuring an engaging story, memorable characters (such as the legendary Captain Price), and highly dynamic war environments, there was no surprise it became the top selling game in the world in 2007.

Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will continue the modern setting and possibly follow up on the thrilling conclusion of the first game. Does it have what it takes to live up to the original and re-revolutionize the first person shooter genre? The online multiplayer mode itself cannot be missed. Be ready for it this holiday season of 2009. Remember, all dates are subject to change.

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