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Review Round-Up: Dishonored, XCOM, Pokémon, And More

It's getting to be that time of the year when every game we've been excited about releases within about twenty minutes of one another. In honor of the season, we've gathered all of our holiday release reviews into one place, Test Chambers included!

Dishonored (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) – "Though I was frustrated by the chaos system and how it steers your actions, the heart of Dishonored is about being inventive, adaptable, and ruthless. The team at Arkane Studios has injected an array of cool possibilities into the simulated city of Dunwall, and discovering them all is a blast. When you come face-to-face with the people who wronged you, your only dilemma is deciding which poetic method of elimination will produce the coolest result." – Joe Juba

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) – "Both of XCOM’s layers present life-or-death conundrums to which there is no right answer. No matter what you pick, something or someone is going to suffer for it. This kind of tension and terror rarely occurs within mainstream gaming, and almost never with this level of skill in the execution. Don’t let the “turn-based strategy” moniker scare you off; XCOM is a singular achievement that every gamer deserves to experience." – Adam Biessener

Fable: The Journey (Xbox 360) – "At best, Fable: The Journey shows us that a first-person Fable game would be pretty damn cool…with a controller. This perspective works well for this world, its foes, and the cartoony art style. Even if you’re convinced you can live with unexpected Kinect malfunctions, the game itself doesn’t offer many thrills in any of its action sequences. It’s a cakewalk of a game that spends far too much time admiring its scenic sights from horseback. Now, if you’re looking for a horse and carriage simulator that periodically makes you feel like you’re drunk, run out and get it immediately." – Andrew Reiner

Pokémon Black and White 2 (DS) – "This latest entry benefits from the long line of previous releases that have iterated on and perfected the original Pokémon games that released in 1998. It’s still incredibly addicting to catch ‘em all, and seeing your Pokémon evolve is one of the most rewarding forms of leveling up in any RPG. So many little things make these games fun that it’s tempting to forgive their stubborn opposition to experimentation, but the lack of innovation is disappointing. I know that is a common complaint about Pokémon these days, but it has been earned through years of Nintendo and Game Freak sticking to the same formula. Black and White Version 2 has a title that is usually reserved for sequels that adds new features and expand the experience, but it doesn't live up to that promise." – Kyle Hilliard

Resident Evil 6 (PS3, Xbox 360) – "Over the years, the tone of the Resident Evil series has morphed from a George Romero horror flick to Michael Bay summer blockbuster. That metamorphosis into insane action is front and center in Resident Evil 6, and bringing a buddy along for the chaos is great fun. The game’s minor flaws don’t hold back the decadent experience from being an unhinged, flaming rollercoaster ride." – Tim Turi

Borderlands 2 (PS3, Xbox 360) – "All of the improvements would make for a standout title even if it were constricted to single-player. Considering Gearbox has continued to put this franchise in a league of its own when it comes to co-op, it elevates the game to something more. With its unmatched co-op gameplay, intense shootouts, addictive loot collecting, expansive skill customization, hilarious dialogue, and insane level of replayability, Borderlands 2 is one of the most rewarding gaming experiences of this console generation." – Dan Ryckert

NBA 2K13 (PS3, Xbox 360) – "Niggling complaints aside, NBA 2K13 puts in another solid performance with its unrivaled broadcast-style presentation, improved online experience, and the best single-player mode in sports. None of its new features revolutionize sports simulations, and cutting out the historical mode was a poor decision, but it's still a polished experience NBA fans should enjoy." – Matt Bertz

FIFA 13 (PS3, Xbox 360) – "FIFA 13 captures a lot of the passion and pageantry of world football, but beneath the surface its gameplay flaws can hinder the beautiful movements that truly make the sport great." – Matthew Kato

Torchlight II (PC) – "I would have loved persistent server-stored characters and a more robust social/trading system than the server browser that Torchlight II offers, but the minimal online implementation works just fine for hooking up with buddies for a little friendly co-op. The difficulty spikes and general balancing weirdness is unfortunate, but solvable with a little persistence (and maybe a cheated-up respec potion or three). Torchlight II is an excellent game no matter how you slice it. As big of a Diablo III fan as I am, the margin between the two is razor-thin – and I have to give the nod to Torchlight II." – Adam Biessener

Dead or Alive 5 (PS3, Xbox 360) – "Dead or Alive 5 can be a decent fighter when you’re settling into a good match, but the overall package just doesn’t deliver what a sequel should. New characters Mila and Rig are fun to control, and some cameos from Virtua Fighter are a nice bonus, but this series simply hasn’t progressed in the same way that its peers in the genre have. This may have sufficed as a sequel in 2007, but Dead or Alive is getting lapped by its competitors in 2012." – Dan Ryckert

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit (PS3, Xbox 360) – "Thanks to challenge-filled world designs, the quest to fell 100 foes is enthralling and constantly rewarding – even if they perish before you really get a good look at them. If you're wondering about Ash’s illicit photos, you'll get to see them during the credits sequence. Don't worry; his photos aren't nearly as graphic as Zach Galifanakis' in The Hangover." – Andrew Reiner

Final Fantasy Dimensions (iOS) – "Dimensions has the key components that comprise a classic Final Fantasy game, like crystals, airships, and chocobos. But without the spark to bring all those pieces to life, it feels more like an inert imitation than a return to the glory days." – Joe Juba

Realms of Ancient War (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) – "On its surface, Realms delivers the experience it promises. However, a closer look reveals too many missing elements that come standard in comparable games. Realms is like a first-person shooter without a reload button. The game works, and you still get to shoot, but you’re going to notice that button is missing and it’s going to frustrate you to no end." – Kyle Hilliard

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