Say what you will about the game's simplicity, or the brevity of the single-player campaign, but Ensemble Studios absolutely nailed console real-time strategy with Halo Wars. The controls work beautifully, allowing for the kind of granular management required in RTS games, and yet they remain simple enough for almost anyone to get the hang of the game. Add great online multiplayer and it's one tasty proposition.
Frankly, I was so addicted to the Skirmish mode when reviewing the game that it ate into my work hours. Remembering that makes it harder to face the fact that Ensemble was shuttered once work on the game was complete. I can only hope that Robot is given the chance to further the series, or at least work the controls into an entirely new game.
Are you bummed out that Diablo III won't be arriving until 2011 at the earliest? If so, you clearly haven't been playing Torchlight. Made by the minds behind the first two Diablo games, Torchlight offers an absolutely delightful dungeon crawling adventure. I've picked up the game many times, thinking I'd take on a quick quest or two, only to look at the clock and realize that hours had passed. Granted, it's single-player only, but it's also only $20 and the recently released editing tools promise more adventures in the future. If the forthcoming free-to-play Torchlight MMO lives up to its potential, my (real world) social life just might be in trouble.
I'm not sure who is in charge of designing gameplay concepts at PopCap, but they really need to stop. It seems like every year the developer delivers a game so addictive it threatens to stop me from working entirely. And Plants vs. Zombies occasionally succeeded in doing so. A different take on tower defense, Plants vs. Zombies had just the right mix of challenge and unlockable goodies to keep me coming back until I had completed every single mode and event available. Honestly, I can't say that about most $60 console games.
Climax established a very solid foundation with Shattered Memories and I really hope the studio is given the opportunity to develop a sequel.
It's really pretty simple. You kill zombies. With melee weapons. Then you do it some more. A magical gaming formula set up by Left 4 Dead and improved upon by the sequel. Did I mention that you kill zombies? You can even honk the noses of undead clowns. Good stuff.