New Ways to Play

The biggest PC and video games of 2009

No matter which way your politics lean, PC and video game enthusiasts can universally agree with President Obama on one thing. The time for change is at hand.

And 2009 looks to be one of the industry’s most exciting years yet–even if release dates for potentially genre-redefining hits like Starcraft II, Diablo III, and BioShock 2 remain nebulous. Here’s a sneak peek at five of the most promising titles that already have our thumbs twitching.

Street Fighter IV

An old-school one-on-one martial arts showdown that shines for its depth and fluid bare-knuckle brawls. Skillfully blending 2D play with a 3D Japanese watercolor aesthetic, fresh tactical elements include block-breaking countermoves and game-changing flurries of blows delivered in punishing succession. Between a cast of characters both familiar (Ken, Ryu, Guile, Blanka, etc.) and fresh (Abel, Rufus, El Fuerte, Crimson Viper), it promises to be the truest successor to 1991 arcade sensation Street Fighter II yet. PC/PS3/Xbox 360,

The Sims 3

Overhauls the most popular PC game ever, giving the little computer people you control more personality traits, career options and room to evolve. Entire neighborhoods can now be populated with complex, quirky individuals who go about their daily routines beneath your watchful eye, pursuing personal relationships, jobs and social activities. PC,

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

This pocket-friendly handheld outing re-imagines the freeform underworld epic in the world of Asian triads, or criminal gangs. Catchy cartoon visuals accompany the 3D action, which sees you dealing drugs, absconding with innocent drivers’ vehicles, and engaging in shootouts on the bustling thoroughfares of Liberty City. A mature, if often tongue-in-cheek, take on criminal empire-building, Chinatown Wars even has a touch-sensitive mini-game that sees you tattooing new recruits. Nintendo DS,

Resident Evil 5

Set in the wilds of Africa and heavy on voodoo imagery, this terrifying battle against virus-infected zombie villagers aims to one-up its forerunner, which was the most-developed horror adventure yet. Esepcially frightening are the blinding shifts from shadow to sunlight that leave you dazzled and reeling as chainsaw-wielding maniacs with burlap sacks on their heads approach. Longtime fans will be struck by its dual-pronged play style, which lets two people connect online and control co-stars Chris Redfield and female sidekick Sheva.

God of War III

In a year of high-profile sequels, anticipation remains greatest for the next edition of this bestselling game series chronicling suicidal Spartan warrior Kratos’ battles against the Greek gods. Trailers indicate more on-screen enemies, high-definition graphics, and giant gauntlets that can pound adversaries into pulp. Old favorites include wrenching the wings off harpies, ripping out Cyclops’ eyes, and swinging chain-mounted daggers in hypnotic sprays of gore. PlayStation 3,