The hottest games coming to the Xbox 360 in 2009

The biggest games you'll want to keep an eye on.

UFC 2009 Undisputed

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UFC 2009 looks spectacular for a game that's still in training. In particular, we're wowed by the photo-realistic character models. In the game's demo, UFC favorites Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Forrest Griffin look uncannily similar to their real-life counterparts. Everything from facial stubble to the ever-present sweat hints at a deep level of finely-tuned textures. With over 30,000 polygons being used for the game's roster of 80-plus fighters, THQ and Yuke's seem to be pushing the graphics as far as they can go. Aside from the huge cast, UFC 2009 will also support a full-fledged character creation system.

An interesting style choice in UFC 2009 is the lack of superfluous material in the heads-up display. Nixing health bars and battle text, THQ wants to maintain an air of authenticity in UFC 2009 so that playing the game feels exactly like watching a match. A fighter's level of damage or fatigue is apparent from the way the character models change during a match. Bruises, cuts, and other injuries not only hint at damage, and alter fighting styles, but also provide a focal point for attacks. In the demo we saw ribs turned purple after a barrage of punches, while a flurry of knee strikes transformed faces into a meat pizza.

UFC 2009 also pushes the idea of "contextual strikes," a feature where your fighter's position in relation to an opponent will affect your attacks. For example, a long-distance left hook will animate and land differently from a close-range attack with the same button. Also, when simultaneous punches occur, limbs collide realistically instead of clattering together like sticks of wood. This means that when you kick someone in the leg, you will actually see your foot sink into the muscle of the other fighter. UFC 2009's grappling system is impressive too-there's equally as much detail in ground grappling as there is in standing combat, which is important for the in-game fighting styles that will be used, like Brazilian jujitsu and wrestling. Forget the forgettable PS2-era UFC games...this game looks like a champion.

WWE: Legends of Wrestlemania

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Of all of life's guilty pleasures, pro wrestling probably takes the cake. It's rife with painfully bad acting, blatantly stupid story lines, and crazy crosses between the real world and the wrestling world. It's an industry of heels and faces, of pouting breasts and gigantic thighs, where punches never actually land and men in tights dive through gimmicked tables. Yet despite it all, every monthly WWE event is sold out. Pay-per-view orders cost three times as much as movie tickets, and wrestlers are rightly identified as superstars. You might tell your friends or you might not, but watching a wrestling match can be shamefully entertaining.

Wrestling Soap Opera

It's been like that for years. The history of the WWE is deep and scandalous, and much of it wraps around a set of iconic figures recognized openly as industry legends. From Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant to The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, many pro wrestlers have become household names. Some have even made the transition from the ring to the film screen, but never have the earliest and most influential been brought together like this.

WWE: Legends of Wrestlemania has been a long time coming. Unlike the WWE SmackDown! game series, Legends will focus solely on those early contenders in the company's history, the ones that made it what it is today. Historic matches comprise the game's core, supplemented with a host of authentic video and audio. It all adds up to a simple premise: introduce the matches with real intros, score them with classic commentary, and then step back and let the players rewrite wrestling history.

Out with the Old...

Every animation in the game was built from the ground up, and the controls have been radically simplified. Instead of relying on luck and a stamina bar, moves in Legends are built on a combo system. When you start a grapple with your opponent, you can begin chaining moves together, with each move a link in the chain that connects to new and different options. Go far enough down the chain, and you'll temporarily unlock your wrestler's finisher, but it all relies on following on-screen cues that anyone can see. You'll have to be careful to not let your buddy smash a cue button before you do, lest he breaks the combo and steals the initiative in a match.

Anticipated as Legends may be, it's already received a lot of backlash from fans for not including certain wrestlers. Mick Foley, for instance, has long been a fixture in the WWE, but his place in the game was stripped after he left the company for industry competitor TNA. In a game that relies so heavily on its fan base, such moves could spell disaster. Legends will just have to make up for it by blowing everyone away.

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