Let the new season of video games begin

Sony’s new handheld system, the PlayStation Vita, has a snazzy five-inch screen, two cameras, and compatibility with games for earlier PSP models.

It’ll be a busy spring for the video-game industry, with about a dozen major titles aiming to capture the interest and imagination of players. Nearly half of them are coming from Vancouver studios. Here’s a look at how you’ll be spending your money between now and the end of May.

On Tuesday (February 21) comes Syndicate (Electronic Arts; PS3, Windows, Xbox 360), a reboot of the tactical franchise from the mid 1990s. This new take on the cyberpunk world weaves a futuristic story of action and espionage, in which governments and politicians have been replaced by global corporations and chief executive officers.

Sony’s new handheld system, the PlayStation Vita, arrives on Wednesday (February 22). The snazzy five-inch OLED screen has multi-touch capability, and other controls include rear touch pads, two thumbsticks, and Sixaxis motion-sensing. The Vita has two cameras and will be backward-compatible with games for earlier PlayStation Portable handhelds. The Vita, to be available in 3G, Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi–only models, will interface with computers running either Windows or Mac OS X.

Also appearing on February 22 is Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (Microsoft; Xbox 360), in which the writer finds himself trapped in episodes of a television show facing his evil doppelgänger. Not quite a sequel to 2010’s Alan Wake, this downloadable game is more than the standard add-on and includes a Fight Till Dawn survival mode.

On February 28 comes SSX (EA; PS3, Xbox 360) from EA Canada in Burnaby. With real-world environments modelled using NASA data, you’ll be jumping out of helicopters to snowboard down mountains from around the world.

BioWare’s space-opera trilogy, Mass Effect, comes to a close when the final game hits shelves on March 6. Mass Effect 3 (EA; PS3, Xbox 360) begins with Commander Shepard trying to defend Earth from the Reapers. Unsuccessfully. The rest of the game has you trying to gain support from alien races to mount a counterattack.

Another opportunity to prowl the creepiest mountain community ever arrives on March 13 when Silent Hill: Downpour (Konami; PS3, Xbox 360) is released. In this, a convicted felon becomes trapped in the city when his prison transport crashes.

Vancouver’s Slant Six Games sees its latest work, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (Capcom; PS3, Windows, Xbox 360), hit shelves on March 20. Slant Six has leveraged its talent for creating tactical shooters to deliver a dynamic variation on the Resident Evil experience.

In Ninja Gaiden 3 (Tecmo Koei; PS3, Xbox 360), also slated for release on March 20, the ultimate ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, shows himself to be more than just a killing machine, as players can choose to spare the lives of some enemies.

Kid Icarus: Uprising (Nintendo; 3DS) brings the franchise into 3-D on March 23 and has the angelic, bow-wielding Pit defending against the forces of Medusa. It features air combat and on-the-ground adventuring and will be compatible with the Circle Pad Pro 3DS add-on.

On April 17, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Warner Bros.; Windows, Xbox 360) gives console players the opportunity to try this role-playing game that was released for Windows last spring. This is the enhanced edition of the game and includes more than three hours of additional content.

April 24 sees the release of Prototype 2 (Activision; PS3, Xbox 360). Vancouver studio Radical Entertainment is keeping the core of the experience the same, so players will still “consume and become”, but the story here is one of revenge, with the main character looking to kill Alex Mercer, the protagonist of the first game.

Scheduled for a May 22 release is Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (Ubisoft; PS3, Xbox 360), a futuristic take on the tactical third-person-shooter franchise in which players can use the Gunsmith feature to customize weapons, down to their core components.

For a few years, Rockstar Vancouver has been quietly working away on its first game since 2006’s Bully. On May 15, the eagerly anticipated Max Payne 3 (Rockstar; PS3, Xbox 360) gives gamers a chance to once again step into the shoes of the hard-boiled detective. He’s no longer in New York, but São Paulo, Brazil. And he’s seen better days.

Undated but expected
The television adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels has created a passionate audience who will be interested in the role-playing game, A Game of Thrones (Atlus; PS3, Windows, Xbox 360), based on the first book.

Casual developer PopCap has two new releases coming before the end of May. Solitaire Blitz is a social game for the Facebook platform in which you have to clear the cards in under 60 seconds. And Zuma’s Revenge! for iOS and Nintendo DS will mark the first time the matching-shooter hybrid has appeared on touchscreen devices.

The last Diablo role-playing game was released in 2000, and ever since then fans have been waiting for Diablo III (Blizzard; Mac OS X, Windows). The dungeon crawler will reportedly include an auction house where players can buy and sell virtual items for real-world money.