Video Game Holiday Guide 2012: Six must-haves for the Action Gamer

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Traditional video games have focused on a lot of action and adventure games, and 2012 delivered those with gusto. Our favorite games this holiday season bring classic characters to the forefront, although you may be surprised at some of the settings. Here are our top picks for the action gamer in your home.

Halo 4 (Xbox 360)

Master Chief is one of gaming's most iconic figures. Having debuted on the original Xbox over a decade ago, the space marine returns in Halo 4 and he proves he's not too old for this stuff.

At first glance, it may look like Master Chief is fighting the same old baddies from the previous games (the Covenant), but Halo 4 brings with it a new race of enemies known as the Forerunners. Halo fans familiar to the series' backstory will know of the Forerunners from the game's companion novels, but Halo 4 is the first time we get to meet them face-to-face. We're surprised at how scary these enemies are.

The good news is you can use their ammo against them, and just when you thought you've seen it all, developer 343 Industries provides a number of really creative weapons that will make your inner geek's jaw drop. Xbox Live support for matches with your friends and the most stunning visuals we've seen yet make Halo 4 the best Xbox 360 exclusive you can pick up for any action gamer.

> Buy Halo 4 for Xbox 360 Now

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PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PlayStation 3)

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale brings together all of your favorite PlayStation characters (and a bunch you've probably never heard of) into a fun, action-packed fighter for up to four players. Imagine suave Uncharted star Nathan Drake battling against world-weary Tekken expert Heihachi. Add Kratos (God of War) and SackBoy (LittleBigPlanet) to the mix and now you know what to expect from All-Stars.

us gamer logoControls are as simple as pressing a direction and one of the action buttons to unleash a variety of moves specific to that character. You also unlock special moves that have the ability to clear the entire stage of enemies. Our favorite? Hip-hop dog Parappa the Rapper interrupting a rollicking match with an impromptu dance concert. We found ourselves playing again and again just to see all of the different moves from all of the characters.

Once you've mastered a few of your favorite characters, take them online via the PlayStation Network for competitive matches against gamers from around the world, or keep it local with up to four players battling it out on the same TV. We weren't sure what to make of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale at first, but it quickly grew on us to become one of our top holiday picks for the action gamer.

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ZombiU (Wii U)

Confession: we love zombies. Give us a good TV show, book, or video game full of the walking dead and we're in heaven. We're happy to say ZombiU helps us attain our undead nirvana with one of the scariest games we've ever played.

Available for the new Nintendo Wii U, ZombiU places you in the middle of London during the zombie apocalypse. You're equipped with a backpack, a flashlight and a tablet (convenient!), and you start the game with guidance from Mr. Prepper. Is he trustworthy? Frankly, you have no choice. The game's controls are familiar to anyone who's played a first-person shooter, but the environment is what makes ZombiU amazing.

While you could try to go in blasting zombies with your limited ammo, ZombiU forces you to really think about the best way to approach survival. Avoid zombies when you can, try to use flares to distract them as you make an escape, and use your in-game tablet (reflected in the Wii U GamePad controller) to scan the area, paying special attention to the radar. If you know an action gamer who shares our love of zombies, ZombiU is this year's must-have game.

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Killzone Trilogy (PlayStation 3)

Think of Killzone Trilogy as one of those highly-anticipated, special effects-driven summer spectacles that are best experienced on an IMAX screen. The action is non-stop, the graphics are out of this world, and the story isn't too shabby. Killzone tells the tale of totalitarianism run amok in a bleak future landscape decimated by war.

And things go boom. Big bada boom.

The game is instantly familiar to gamers who know their first-person shooters, and the online options are robust as you try and take out your friends on the PlayStation Network in a variety of modes. Killzone Trilogy also marks the first time the original Killzone comes to the PlayStation 3, remastered to take advantage of Sony's high-def hardware. If your action gamer already plowed through games like Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed, Killzone Trilogy packs a surprising punch.

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Assassin's Creed III (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U)

Assassin's Creed is one of the most popular video game series to come out in the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 generation, and for good reason. Stealth skills combined with parkour elements and a variety of offensive makes for a game that rarely disappoints. After a few games set in Italy during the Renaissance, Assassin's Creed III moves across the Atlantic during the Revolutionary War, and we love the familiar American backdrop.

You play as Connor, an assassin with a Native American background thrust into the middle of the ongoing Templar war that is the common thread throughout the Assassin's Creed series. Connor must use his skills to uncover the people behind a tragedy that befalls his village at the start of the game. Like the other games in the series, you also learn more about Desmond, the "real" protagonist who is actually in control of assassin's like Connor.

Did we lose you? Don't worry because the game does a great job of catching you up if you've missed Ezio's adventures in part two. The story is compelling and the ability to visit New York, Boston and Philadelphia during Revolutionary times is a great change of pace for an action game. Assassin's Creed III also has online multiplayer options, but we were so engaged by the single-player, it took a back seat (though we'll get back to it soon). If you're looking for a unique backdrop for an adventure game or if you're just up for killing some redcoats, Assassin's Creed III fits the bill.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops II

When a series continues to break sales records with every new title, you know it has to be good. Call of Duty: Black Ops II is the latest shooter from Treyarch and Activision, but instead of taking you to Vietnam or World War II, they're taking us to the year 2025.

Unlike other games that take place in the future, we're not talking about some far-fetched world. Instead, they did a good job of portraying a future that is entirely plausible. If you're a Call of Duty vet, you'll recognize a few of the characters as you go through the single player campaign, but if you're new to the series, Black Ops II is a great way to jump into the action.

Of course, there are millions of Call of Duty gamers out there who won't even touch the single-player campaign and will instead hop right into multiplayer. It's that good no matter if you're playing a traditional deathmatch or one of the zombie modes that serve as a refreshing change of pace. If your action gamer hasn't picked this one up, there may be a problem, so help them out this holiday season by picking up Black Ops II.

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