Summer may be over, but this is good news for gamers. While the movie industry may release its big titles around the Fourth of July or Christmas, the height of the gaming season falls between September and November. This may not bode well for your first semester’s studies, but there’s a good chance that your game of the year will be coming in the next few months.

This fall’s batch of new titles brings back some of the biggest names and introduces a few that look like they’ll become the next household gaming names. With so many great games coming out, it may be easy to miss some of the big ones. To help you prepare for an autumn of blockbusters, here’s a quick look at some of the big titles that will be coming out in the next few months.

CURRENTLY AVAILABLE

“Dead Rising 2” (PS3/Xbox 360)

The original game that made zombie killing fun (and incredibly strange) is back with a whole new cast, new challenges and new ways to get your main character into a dress. “Dead Rising 2” shifts the focus away from the first game’s overly self-proclaimed photographer and puts it onto a new adventure-seeker survivor Chuck Green as he leaves a bloody wake behind him as he travels through the gaudy gambling town of Fortune City.

Along with the series’ trademark zany zombie-killing methods and unyielding clock that counts down to potential allies’ bloody ends, this new game adds some unique flair of its own. The biggest fun addition is the ability to craft custom weapons from other weapons, including adding two chainsaws to an oar for a two-sided staff of whirring zombie dismemberment. Players can also finally get a friend in online cooperative play where they can have a friend join or leave their adventure at any time, hopefully making the struggle a bit less fatal.

In an interesting marketing move, while the game is moving from an Xbox 360 exclusive to a cross-platform title, the love still goes to the Xbox 360 fans with the release of the Xbox 360 Marketplace exclusive prequel “Dead Rising: Case Zero.” This title takes place three years before “Dead Rising 2” and follows Chuck as he discovers that his daughter has been infected but has not yet turned into a zombie. In addition to adding an extra personal touch, this prequel also lets players level Chuck up and carry the stats into “Dead Rising 2.”

“Final Fantasy XIV” (PC)

While the sting of “Final Fantasy XIII” is still a bit fresh for all of us, there is hope in the “Final Fantasy” world. That hope comes in the form of the second MMORPG in the franchise’s history (after “Final Fantasy XI”) – “Final Fantasy XIV.” As always, this game is a completely new story, offering us a fresh start from past heartbreaks but still keeping the chocobos and other aspects that we love.

“Final Fantasy XIV” seems like its biggest draws are the high-definition, real-time cutscenes. We already know from the single player franchise how spectacular Square-Enix’s cutscenes can be, and if they can seamlessly tie into the storyline, they have a real chance of making this one of the most memorable MMORPGs on the market. Of course, if the cutscenes turn out to be bland or generic, they will come off as a gimmick that will be unlikely to turn any heads. Either way, the graphics are as gorgeous and the music is as enveloping as you would expect from a “Final Fantasy” title.

The other big selling point that the “Final Fantasy XIV” team hopes will make this the MMORPG to beat is a focus on creating a world where gamers can customize gameplay to fit their style. Solo, group and guild gaming have all been addressed independently so that no particular type of gamer should feel left out in the experience. Fans of customizing their characters with the coolest weapons and armor will love the Armoury System. “Final Fantasy XIV” for PS3 will be available in March 2011.

“Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock” (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii)

What do you do when your biggest music gaming rivals are primed to put out a new title on Halloween that features an awesome new guitar, the addition of a keyboard and other game-changing innovations? If you are the makers of “Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock,” you fight awesome with metal. Yes, this does include metal and other hard rock from Black Sabbath, Megadeth and Slipknot, but the game takes one major step that goes beyond metal into … dare I say it … METAL!

In addition to a 90-song playlist, “Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock” introduces the first real story mode in the accessory-based music gaming genre. The Story Mode is narrated by Kiss frontman Gene Simmons and follows the franchise’s trademark rockers as they are dragged into an alternate world where they must help the Demi-God of Rock defeat “The Beast” with the power of rock played by electronic instrument-simulating gaming accessories. I’ll give you a moment to take that in.

“Warriors of Rock” doesn’t just let “Rock Band 3” get away with making a new accessory either. The new guitar that comes in the full bundle has been uniquely redesigned to fit the “Guitar Hero” experience. Beyond being shaped in the style of the game itself, the guitar is said to contain all of the electronics in the neck, giving players the ability to customize it to their heart’s content.

As a special bonus for Wii players, the Roadie Battle from “Guitar Hero 5” is also back and expanded. DS owners can join the crew as roadies again, but now they are not limited to just the guitarists. Roadies can now fix the equipment for friendly drummers, bassists and vocalists or run across the stage to smash the opposing band’s equipment and try to give their band that extra push to win the battle of the bands.

“Halo: Reach” (Xbox 360)

Ah, “Halo.” What do you say about one of the most popular franchises of all time? Furthermore, what could you possibly say about a game that most of its devotees have already taken part in thanks to the free beta code that came with each copy of “Halo 3: O.D.S.T.”? Of course, fans of the franchise will have quite a bit to talk about – even if it’s mostly just trash talk – so let’s look at the new title that everyone will be talking about, “Halo: Reach.”

In case anyone doesn’t know, “Halo” is the iconic Xbox 360 exclusive franchise that chronicles sci-fi super soldier Master Chief in his multi-title war against the alien race known as the Covenant. While Master Chief may have been replaced by a newcomer named Noble 6 in “Halo: Reach,” the war still rages on.

Many of the additions from “O.D.S.T.” have been tweaked and brought back, giving players the ability to enhance their characters. Granted, “Reach” does remove the ability to dual-wield, but fans can take heart, thanks to the addition of new abilities like the jetpack, which can alter combat to fit the situation or the player’s preference.

Since the bread and butter of the “Halo” series has always been its multiplayer features, it is not surprising that “Reach” has expanded the experience with four new multiplayer modes. “Stockpile” presents a twist on classic flag play by having players collect flags and hold them for points, while the more unorthodox “Headhunter” mode tasks players with collecting the skulls of fallen foes and trading them in for points. “Generator Defense” has one team trying to keep generators from being blown up, while “Invasion” has the attackers trying to steal cores and return them to a dropship. Needless to say, you’ll be fragging your friends for many a night.

“Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days” (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)

If any film buffs out there recognize the name of this title without having played the original, don’t be surprised. The Kane & Lynch movie has been filming and is set to release in 2011 with Bruce Willis and Jamie Foxx as the criminal anti-hero pair. Here’s hoping that they can succeed where almost every other video game-based film has failed horribly.

Of course, even if they do predictably end up in another stinker of a game film, the game itself was strong enough to bring the former death row duo back for a sequel. In “Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days,” the spotlight is shifted from ex-mercenary Kane to his “self-medicated psychopath” partner Lynch as they go for an amazing score. Unfortunately, it seems that the relationship between the insane and the unstable seems to be hitting a rough patch just as things start getting bloody, leaving the pair unsure of whom to trust. While Kane and Lynch may not be playing as nicely in this version, you get the ability to team up with another player in this title to work cooperatively through the story mode.

In addition to the game’s intense third-person combat, the first game’s signature “Fragile Alliance” mode (which made online players choose whether they could trust their teammates not to betray them for cash) has been expanded to two new modes. “Cops and Robbers” mode acts as a one-sided Capture the Flag game type where half of the players are crooks looking to steal the loot and the other half are cops who need to keep the money in the city and out of the crooks’ hands. Mix this with some paranoia to get “Undercover Cop” mode: a game type where the heist goes according to plan, but one player on the team at random is assigned to be a cop whose sole job is to make sure nobody makes it out alive with the money.

“Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale” (PC)

“Recettear” is a testament to the power of alternate game sources. If it weren’t for the Steam game distribution system, Americans would never see this beautifully-rendered mix of casual gaming and action-RPG. Fortunately, those of us who have Steam accounts are able to experience the lovingly translated version of this endearing niche game.

The game follows Recette, a sweet anime girl who finds herself indebted on her lost father’s behalf to Tear, a strict fairy who was sent on behalf of a collections agency. To repay her father’s debt, Recette sets up an item shop in a town frequented by adventurers. With the rallying cry of “Capitalism, ho!” Recette learns the finer points of running a shop and haggling with customers in a fun commerce casual game.

To get items for the shop, Recette can hire adventurers to delve into dungeons and kill monsters for loot. These action sequences are classic hack-and-slash dungeon crawling levels that are so fun and addictive, you might forget to open the shop. Whether you are selling or slashing, the game’s cute graphics and quirky humor spills into every aspect of the game, making this an easy title to love.

“Mafia II” (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)

“Mafia II” has had about three years since its announcement to grow into a big name title. While the original “Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven” may have gone under the radar, this sandbox action-adventure story of a Sicilian-American World War II vet who turns to a life of crime has been turning heads for years just based on its potential. Now, it seems like it is ready to hit the big time, and it is hitting it hard.

While Italian mob-based sandbox titles are hardly new, “Mafia II” seems like it is poised to be the most dramatic tale of gangland greed and revenge. While the original had a 400-page script, this game is said to feature a 700-page script with over two hours’ worth of cutscenes. Whether this will make for a more immersive gameplay experience or a movie broken up by games (as so many RPGs and “Metal Gear” games have done in the past) is yet to be seen. Either way, it’s probably a safe bet that you are going to be able to commit some crimes, whack some wise guys and generally get all of the 1940s/1950s mayhem that we all crave from time to time.

In one of the stranger marketing moves, the developers of “Mafia II” made a deal with Playboy Magazine to include vintage covers, centerfolds and virtual copies of period magazines. If these magazines are presented with any interactivity, they should offer the extra bonus of what we can only imagine are the most interesting 1950s articles that have ever graced a video game.

“Metroid: Other M” (Wii)

Mario aside, there is one unique team-up of gaming icons that is set to be the revamp of a Nintendo classic that fans have been salivating at for over a year now. Fans of Samus Aran, the sci-fi heroine of the NES classic “Metroid,” know her to be a fierce bounty hunter whose skills with her arm cannon are only matched by her beauty in a bikini.

How fitting then that she should be reimagined by Team Ninja, the development team behind the sexy fighting franchise “Dead or Alive” (and the loosely volleyball-themed “Dead or Alive Extreme” series), in the new “Metroid: Other M.”

This new take on the interstellar bounty hunting exploits of the femme fatale who can roll into a ball seems to be a beautiful marriage of classic and modern “Metroid” titles. The bulk of the game calls back to the NES and SNES titles, allowing players to run, jump and engage in various other intense platforming actions by holding the Wii remote like a NES controller. When the situation calls for it, the player can then shift their field of vision back into the visor by aiming the remote at the screen. There is even some bare-knuckles brawling thrown in that seems set to win the hearts of “Dead or Alive” fans.

In addition to the intense action, the word is that this title will look at the woman beneath the armor – metaphorically, of course. The trailers already show the normally silent warrior finally breaking her silence as she approaches an enemy who touches her own secret past. If the game lives up to the hype, fans will have a whole new way to love this icon of powerful women in gaming.

PlayStation Move

Each of the three big names in gaming announced their next big thing, but Sony is set to be the first one out of the gate. While Xbox’s gamble on controller-less gaming with their Kinect camera launches closer to the holidays and Nintendo’s 3DS three-dimensional handheld is still way out there, PlayStation’s Move controllers are the first big innovation of the season. Oddly enough, this innovation of motion-based gaming is fairly similar to the one that PlayStation mocked when the Wii introduced it.

To be fair, the PlayStation Move is not really “Wii HD” as so many have joked. While it does use a motion controller and a navigation controller that bear more than a passing resemblance to the Wii’s remote and nunchuk, the system actually uses a PlayStation Eye camera to track a color-changing ball on the tip of the motion controller. This mix of motion tracking devices offers an innovative approach to adding more third-dimensional movement that may actually offer a more true-motion version of motion controls.

The PlayStation Move controllers offer innovation at a low introductory rate, but they get a bit pricey the more functionality you want. The controllers will not work without a PlayStation Eye, and some games may require two motion controllers to play. This could easily become a bit of a financial investment if you want to get the full experience as each motion controller is priced around $50.

That said, the functionality combined with the PlayStation3’s already eye-popping visuals seem like they may be worth a look. While the lineup of titles slated for the PlayStation Move may not be as diverse as the Kinect’s launch titles, the games that are offered hit the key points of fighting and performing. There is even word going around that some notable game developers are reworking their existing titles to work with the PlayStation Move.

“Professor Layton and the Unwound Future” (Nintendo DS)

The professor and his sleuthing sidekick, Luke, have been the stars of a hard-to-classify franchise for a couple of games now. The “Professor Layton” games have a hand-drawn style and a general softness of storyline even when discussing death that seem to imply that it is a kid’s game. For anyone that has gone along for a ride with the detective duo and encountered some of their more devious puzzles, however, it is obvious that this is not just for kids. As the franchise has grown, its fans have seen a development in the characters that is so endearing that there is no real need to pick a classification.

“Professor Layton and the Unwound Future” further evolves the storyline as our top hat-clad professor receives a letter from his young ward dated 10 years in the future. It seems that the London of the future is facing a dire threat and only the present professor and his junior sidekick can hope to avert this disaster. It is up to them – and you, the person holding the stylus that is needed to tap, slide and deduce your way through mind-bending puzzles – to put things right.

What follows looks to be a glorious romp with time as the ultimate mystery. The game boasts even more hand-animated sequences. The more action-oriented puzzles from “Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box” seem to be back in force amongst the 165. Plus, new puzzles will be made available weekly.

“Sid Meier’s Civilization V” (PC)

Lovers of political maneuvering and military strategy, rejoice! The classic PC tale of time-displaced leaders using military, economic and diplomatic approaches to achieve the ultimate goal of global conquest has returned. The maps and graphics seem far improved, and the hexes have never been more ready to be traversed in the pursuit of conquest. And, like other tales of anachronisms running wild, this one has rejected the allure of consoles in favor of PC.

The battle lines have been drawn between various nations – both current and historical – as you develop your civilization from the dawn of man into the future world. You can lead George Washington’s American troops against the Roman Empire under Augustus Caesar or make a pact between Hiawatha of the Iroquois and Suleiman of the Ottoman Empire. As with other entries in the series, the game allows you to develop new technologies and build relationships with other nations in your quest not just to subdue the world, but to truly rule it.

One declaration that should put a smile on any fan of “Civilization IV”’s face is that the developers appear to be putting extra emphasis on community in “Civilization V.” Modding was so successful in the previous title that the developers are now creating a more modder-friendly experience for anyone who wants to customize their conquest experience. The game is also ready for multiplayer action both over the Internet and LAN.

OCT. 5

“Def Jam: Rapstar” (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii)

Def Jam is already a notable name in the hip-hop community, but most gamers know them for intense rap-flavored gaming starting with “Def Jam: Vendetta” and moving on to the truly awesome “Def Jam: Fight For NY” fighting title. After the somewhat poorly-received “Def Jam: Icon,” the Def Jam name went relatively unspoken in the gaming world. That is, until now.

As the name implies, “Def Jam: Rapstar” is all about turning players into rappers through the power of gaming. This title boasts its creds as the first music game devoted to hip-hop, and with over 40 songs from throughout hip-hop history, it seems like it might represent the musical style in a way that only Def Jam could. Artists range from 2Pac to Biggie with songs including “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” and “Gold Digger.”

Unlike other music games, “Def Jam: Rapstar” seems like it is not going to put up with anyone who just hums their way through a song. The proprietary voice recognition software actually lets the game know when you are nailing the words and when you are faking it. On top of that, the game does offer modes where you can freestyle and take video of yourself with the Xbox Live Vision camera or the PlayStation Eye so that you can cut, edit and post your performances for the whole world to see. You can even battle against other rappers or team up for a duet.

OCT. 17

“Kirby’s Epic Yarn”
(Wii)

Mario may have found an interesting mix of RPG elements with hobby craft in “Paper Mario,” but Nintendo’s hungry little pink marshmallow seems to be going for the title of arts-and-crafts master in the adorable new game, “Kirby’s Epic Yarn.” While Mario stopped at two dimensions, the pink marble with pudgy fists of fury and a vacuum leading into his stomach has taken the move into a one-dimensional form. Sort of.

As the pun in the name implies, the characters in this Kirby quest are all made out of yarn, and much of the world is made of felt and other scrapbooking memorabilia. When Kirby goes into buildings, we see the fabric warping around him as he slides through. If there is a loose thread lying around, Kirby can grab it to unravel the exterior of a building or warp space itself. Kirby can do all of this and make it look far more adorable than any other game character can.

While his signature ability to swallow enemies and take on their powers seems to be missing, Kirby has plenty of cute tricks left. By dashing, going under water and other activities, Kirby can transform into anything from a car to a giant smashing Kirby-bot. Plus, a second player can join in as an equally yarny but somewhat less cute new character and play through the whole game cooperatively.

OCT. 19

“Fallout: New Vegas”
(PS3/Xbox 360/PC)

The glow of the neon lights of Las Vegas may be bright, but they don’t hold a candle to the nuclear glow of the “Fallout” universe. Fans of the franchise are well-acquainted with the post-apocalyptic world of irradiated water, horribly mutated creatures, and kitschy 1950s-era advertisements. The world took a unique jump from top-down strategy to first-person shooter in 2008’s “Fallout 3,” and fans of this new take on the wastelands have more unique realms to explore in “Fallout: New Vegas”.

This West Coast return to the world of vault-dwellers promises more than just another expansion pack to its already-popular predecessor. “New Vegas” promises some new companion-based innovations that seem to be harkening back to the more squad-based chapters in the saga. The game is also set to better integrate the choices that you make into the events of the game, hopefully giving an even more immersive role-playing experience