The first-quarter siege on gamers' wallets continues this week with an array of high-profile releases, but none is bigger than Halo Wars for the Xbox 360. Set for a March 3 release, the real-time strategy take on Microsoft's sci-fi first-person shooter franchise marks a bittersweet milestone for developer Ensemble. Halo Wars will be the Texas-based studio's first foray onto consoles, but also its final finished game, given that Microsoft shut down the developer in January.
Although that sad news could assure Halo Wars a place in gaming history, Sega's new real-time and turn-based hybrid strategy game is guaranteed to be historic. Developed by The Creative Assembly and set for release on the same day as Halo Wars, Empire: Total War for the PC is set in the 18th century. Beyond allowing would-be world conquerors to muck around with the history books, Empire also introduces naval combat to the studio's trademark Total War franchise.
Empire: Total War isn't the only game that Sega has up its sleeve this week. The publisher is also shipping Phantasy Star Portable for the PSP and Sonic and the Black Knight for the Wii, both with a March 3 release. The latter game adds sword-based combat to the Sonic franchise, whereas the former tells a new story in the Phantasy Star Universe series, nestled between the events of the original and the Ambition of the Illuminus expansion.
Those aren't the only games on deck this week; Major League Baseball releases are stepping to the plate on every major system. 2K Sports has MLB 2K9 headed for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PC, and PlayStation 2, and DS owners are getting a swing at MLB 2K9 Fantasy All-Stars. Sony is also swinging for the fences with MLB 09: The Show on the PS3, PS2, and PSP. All of the baseball games are set to charge the retail mound on March 3.
Also taking off on that packed launch day is Tom Clancy's HAWX for the Xbox 360 and PS3, the first installment of the author's Ubisoft games to take on air combat. Set in the near future, HAWX lets players fly the unfriendly skies in a variety of high-tech jet fighters. The PC edition of the game is expected next week.
For a full list of the week's game debuts, check out GameSpot's New Releases page.