Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (PC, Xbox 360, PS3; Ubisoft Montreal; Q4 2010)
After the well-received Assassin's Creed 2, all eyes are on Ubisoft for the next iteration. Given that they've promised 15 hours of gameplay in Rome with Leonardo da Vinci as a character, it will be hard for them to get this entirely wrong. They've also promised new weapons, which was to be expected, but also multiplayer, which is a little bit of a risk. This is a game to watch.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadows (Xbox 360, PS3; MercurySteam, Kojima Productions, Konami; 2010)
Despite a decent WiiWare title a few years back that mimicked the classic 2-D platforming gameplay, this fading franchise is due for a reboot. We're not sure a 3-D action game that looks like God of War is the way to go, but we're willing to keep an open mind. This title's success will hinge on the combat, which is reportedly inspired by Street Fighter, and hopefully the developers will keep alive the platforming the series is famous for. These are untested waters, and there's no reason to believe the game will be good or bad. Hopefully E3 will change that, one way or the other.
Strategy and RPG
Civilization V (PC; Firaxis Games, 2K Games; September 2010)
Civilization IV might just be one of those games that can't be followed. It was an undeniable classic, and even people who don't like strategy games that much found themselves addicted. Nonetheless, Firaxis Games is giving it a shot, and the new game is due in September, about five years after Civ IV debuted. The key innovation here seems to be that the map is divided into hexagons instead of squares, which obviously affects movement in countless ways. There's also a new combat system and some subtler tweaks. It's always tough trying to improve on a classic (no matter what you do, some people won't like it), but it looks to us like the developers are offering significant changes without killing the features that made Civilization IV so great.
Fallout: New Vegas (PC, Xbox 360, PS3; Obsidian Entertainment, Bethesda Softworks; Q4 2010)
You didn't have to love RPGs, or even like them that much, to be totally drawn in to the world of Fallout 3. The main quests told a great story, the side quests helped you level up, the world was huge and brimming with life, the VATS system made first-person shooting feel completely different, and the gore effects were exaggerated but not quite over-the-top. This time around, the developers have moved the location, and they also plan to add special attacks, a reputation system that affects your relationship with various factions, and weapon modification. This one's a no-brainer.