Xbox 360 owners with a penchant for blasting bad guys and eradicating extraterrestrial races are undoubtedly awaiting the arrival of Halo 3, the third installment in Microsoft’s unstoppable sci-fi shooter series.  You’ve probably spent the winter months curbing your Halo hunger by wasting evildoers and aliens in recent adrenaline-pumpers such as Rainbow Six: Vegas and Gears of War. But with those battles conquered multiple times over, what’re you supposed to focus your cross-hairs on until Master Chief returns this Fall?  Filling the Spartan armor of our favorite Covenant-killing hero is a tall—if not impossible—order; however, the following shrapnel-flying shooters should keep your skills sharp and your appetites-for-destruction satiated for the next several Halo-less months.


You know that great battle sequence at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back—the one with all the snow and cool spaceships?  Well, Lost Planet sort of makes that look like a schoolyard snowball fight.  Seriously, we dare you to try and catch your breath during this heart-pounding, thrill-a-second shooter, staged on an arctic planet that’s as visually breathtaking as it is perilous.  As a lone, parka-wearing bad-ass, you’ll take on the elements, snow pirates, and arachnid-like aliens that would squash those Starship Trooper bugs like…well…bugs.  These multi-legged, screen-filling foes don’t go down easy, but with an arsenal that includes guns, grenades, a grappling hook, and Vital Suits—heavily armed, pilotable robots—you might just live to enjoy this winter wonderland.  Planet’s high octane action and breathtaking graphics combine to deliver more “oh shit!” moments than any game in recent memory—including Gears of War.  Plus, after you’ve braved the frigid fun offline, you can hop onto Xbox Live and play in the snow with up to 16 friends in intense multi-player match-ups.


Like frights with your firefights?  Then F.E.A.R.’s got you covered with a brilliant blend of first-person-shooting and spine-tingling suspense.  As an elite army-of-one packing plenty of firepower—all with appropriately ear-popping sound FX—and a sweet time-slowing ability, you’ll take on a paranormal plot and a seemingly endless army of cloned super-soldiers.  F.E.A.R.’s super-smart enemy A.I. pose a serious threat, but unleashing your slow-mo effect will help even the odds, while also providing some nice visuals as your victims slowly explode all over the creepy environments.  F.E.A.R. also allows you to share the scares by fragging it out online with up to 16 other players in a variety of addictive multi-player modes.  In addition to the fast action, supernatural narrative and online options, F.E.A.R. also features a super-creepy, ghostly little girl that’ll keep the hair standing on the nape of your neck long after you’ve finished the game.  Play this one with the sound up and the lights out!

CRACKDOWN (Microsoft)

Leap tall buildings, toss buses through the air, and regenerate your health.  Nope, this isn’t the latest Superman game, this is Crackdown, an open-ended Grand Theft Auto-like experience that takes the focus off of silly storylines and places it on balls-out action.  Crackdown will certainly satisfy the lock-‘n-load crowd with its clean-up-the-streets narrative and awesome shootouts, supported by the requisite death-dealers—assault rifles, submachine guns, rocket launchers—but that’s just the beginning.  Crackdown really shines in its allowing players to do all the cool stuff they wish they could pull off in other games.  Leveling-up your genetically engineered, super-human agent will unlock abilities that’ll have you shelving the usual justice-doling methods in favor of a more creative ass-kicking spree; why jack a car when you can leap across the city as a human grasshopper?  Sure, you’ve got guns galore, but wouldn’t it be more fun to chuck cars at your enemies?  Experimental free-form play, a slick visual style, and an online, play-with-a-buddy cooperative mode make Crackdown an addictive romp.