Shippin' Out October 28-November 2: Guitar Hero III, Hellgate, Manhunt 2, Simpsons

Tabula Rasa, PS3 Stranglehold, 360 Virtua Fighter 5, Battalion Wars 2, and many others fill up the US Halloween week release slate.

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Though Tuesdays are traditionally prime time for game releases, one of the week's biggest titles got a jump on the competition by hitting retail at 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning. That's when more than 3,000 US stores began selling Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, the fourth installment in Activision's rhythm game franchise. Though no initial sales figures are yet available, the game is a preordained hit, given the fact its forbears Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II, and Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s sold nearly 5 million copies in the US, generating over $360 million in sales (according to the NPD group).

In addition to its pedigree, Guitar Hero III also has two major factors working it its favor. First, besides being released for the Xbox 360 and PS2, the game marks the series' debut on the PlayStation 3 and Wii--two untapped markets of eager gamers. (The game will ship for the PC and Macintosh next month.) Second, the game has three weeks' head start on its soon-to-be archrival Rock Band from MTV Games and Electronic Arts. The new PS3, PS2, and 360 game is being developed by Harmonix, developer of the first 3 Guitar Hero games, with Tony Hawk studio Neversoft taking over back-end duties for Guitar Hero III.

Gamers not interested in being a virtual Steve Vai also have plenty of options this week, which boasts some big guns in publishers' ongoing onslaught on consumers' wallets. Two major massively multiplayer online role-playing games--Hellgate: London and Tabula Rasa--both launch for the PC. The most venerable gaming platform will also get the offline RPG The Witcher and ports of two console games: NBA Live 08 and Sega Rally Revo.

New to both the PC and the 360 this week is the sci-fi shooter TimeShift, which was picked up by Sierra Entertainment after Atari sold it off. (A PS3 version is due out in later November.) Microsoft's console will add Naruto: Rise of a Ninja, Viva Piñata: Party Animals, and the Xbox Live Arcade game Mutant Storm Empire to its library. Also, just over eight months after it received solid reviews on the PS3, Virtua Fighter 5 will beat down 360 owners both on and offline.

Two animation-inspired multiplatform games also arrive on the 360--and myriad other platforms--this week. EA's controversy-plagued game parody compendium The Simpsons Game (X360, PS2, Wii, DS, PS3) arrives alongside Cars Mater-National (PS2, X360, PS3, PC, DS), THQ's sequel to its first game tie-in to the Pixar film Cars.

Two days before Halloween, Wii owners will receive a trio of spooky classics via the platform's Virtual Console: Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, (1988, NES), Samurai Ghost (1992, TurboGrafx-16), and Magician Lord (1990, NeoGeo). Nintendo's ever-popular console will also get cold-cocked by Showtime Championship Boxing and overrun by comic war game Battalion Wars 2.

Last but certainly not least, two delayed titles will finally see the light of retail this week. Months after it was banned in the UK and Australia and given the dreaded AO for Adults Only rating in the US, Manhunt 2 arrives on the Wii, PS2, and PlayStation Portable--albeit in a slightly watered-down, M-rated form. Carnage of a different sort strikes the PS3 in the form of Stranglehold, the game sequel to the Hong Kong action classic Hard Boiled.

This week's new releases are listed below (list taken from retailer information--actual dates may vary).

OCTOBER 28, 2007
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (X360, WII, PS2, PS3)

OCTOBER 29, 2007
Battalion Wars 2 (WII)
Cars Mater-National (PS2, X360, PS3, PC, DS)
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (WII VC)
El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera (DS)
Magician Lord (WII VC)
Manhunt 2 (WII, PS2, PSP)
Ratatouille Food Frenzy (DS)
Samurai Ghost (WII VC)
Stranglehold (PS3)

OCTOBER 30, 2007
Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness (PSP)
Ben 10: Protector of Earth (PS2, DS, PSP, WII)
Barbie as The Island Princess (DS, PC, PS2, GBA, WII)
Fashion Designer (PC)
Hooked! Real Motion Fishing (WII)
Napoleon Dynamite (PSP, DS)
Naruto: Rise of a Ninja (X360)
NBA Live 08 (PC)
The Office (PC, PSP, DS)
O.M.G. 26 - Our Mini Games (DS)
Sega Rally Revo (PC)
Showtime Championship Boxing (WII)
The Simpsons Game (X360, PS2, WII, DS, PS3)
Super Collapse 3 (DS)
Tabula Rasa (PC)
TimeShift (X360, PC)
Virtua Fighter 5 (X360)
Viva Pinata: Party Animals (X360)
The Witcher (PC)

OCTOBER 31, 2007
Dementium: The Ward (DS)
Hellgate: London (PC)
Mutant Storm Empire (Xbox 360/XBLA)

NOVEMBER 1, 2007
The Lost Crown: A Ghost-hunting Adventure

NOVEMBER 2, 2007
SunAge (PC)
Culpa Innata (PC)

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