Byline: Heather Newman
Video gamers, get ready for tasty holidays.
I spent a week in San Francisco and Seattle recently playing many of the games that are sure to break best-seller records over the holidays. Although the new releases are heavily dominated by sequels _ the meat and potatoes of the gaming industry _ creative new twists on old conventions add spice.
Here are titles that stood out, either because they looked particularly appetizing or because they did something different or fun.
One caveat: While I've played pre-release copies of almost all of these games, final versions won't be available until they actually go on sale. But these are the games that are getting the buzz _ and the ones I plan to watch over the next couple of months.
GAMES TO BLOW OFF STEAM
Guilty pleasures all, these are the games that you'll spend hours on when you really should be doing something else.
Electronic Arts' "SSX3" snowboarding game (PS2, Xbox, GameCube; most likely to be rated E for Everyone) is a hoot to drive and prettier than ever, and it offers lots to keep you busy. PS2 players can even take it online.
Namco's "Kill.Switch" (PS2, Xbox; early builds are rated both T for Teen and M for Mature) is an action shoot-`em-up with a fun twist: When your guy is taking cover _ behind columns, corners, overturned benches, you name it _ he can fire blind at the enemies you can see but he can't.
"Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando" (PS2; T) is …