The 21 PC games that matter most this fall

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Hitman: Absolution

Don't let the hyperviolent advertising and grim title of Hitman: Absolution deter you from picking up this promising puzzle game when it arrives on the PC later this year. We call it a puzzle game because, while it's possible to carry out protagonist Agent 47's assigned assassinations in a blaze of gunfire, the real challenge of a good Hitman game is figuring out how to solve every mission by leaving no trace and harming no one (aside from your target). We hope Absolution lives up to the quality we've come to expect from Hitman games; we'll know for sure when it hits stores in November.

Far Cry 3

The Far Cry series returns to its roots with Far Cry 3, a first-person jungle adventure that leaves players stranded on a chain of tropical islands awash in violent conflict between local gangs and militia. The game encompasses a virtual world almost ten times bigger than that of Far Cry 2, providing you with hours of adventure either alone or with buddies in a four-player cooperative mode. PC players should be especially pleased by the expanded multiplayer options and robust map editor included in Far Cry 3; these features ought to keep you playing long after the game arrives in stores this December.

Starcraft 2: Heart Of The Swarm

Like most Blizzard games, Heart Of The Swarm doesn't actually have a concrete release date; all we know is that it will be ready "when it's ready." Blizzard has been conducting beta tests of the Heart Of The Swarm multiplayer mode for some time, suggesting that Heart Of The Swarm will almost certainly be ready for release this holiday season. Its length should be roughly equivalent to that of Starcraft 2: Wings Of Liberty, with about 20 single-player campaign missions that continue the story of the previous game while allowing players to take control of the Zerg race. More controversially, the multiplayer mode will likely be completely overhauled and will require players to master new units, skills, and tactics.

Dishonored

Did you love playing games like Thief, Deus Ex, and System Shock when you were younger? Then you should be excited about Dishonored, a first-person stealth action game set in a fantastical industrial city in the grip of a supernatural plague. Imagine London in 1850, but with citizens who occasionally demonstrate otherworldly powers and guards who travel via giant lightning-powered walking automata. You play Corvo, a disgraced former bodyguard imbued with supernatural powers and tasked with assassinating the corrupt elite who rule the city.

Doom 3 BFG Edition

Doom 3 came out in 2004 to mild acclaim, and now Id is bringing it back with plenty of perks and added features aimed squarely at PC gamers with powerful gaming machines. The BFG Edition should be available this October and includes support for multiple monitors and 3D displays, and also improves the graphics, the level design, the in-game flashlight, and a host of other tiny tweaks and fixes that (combined) make this game worth picking up if you missed out on Doom 3 the first time around. If you played Doom 3 and simply want a little more, the BFG Edition will include new levels, enemies, and weapons just for you.

Skylanders: Giants

The sequel to last year's sleeper hit Skylanders propagates the Skylanders schtick of bringing physical and digital gaming together by requiring you to purchase an actual Skylanders toy, which you must use to pursue adventures in the world of the Skylanders game. Skylanders: Giants is totally compatible with the original Skylanders, and you can import your old characters using their figures, but the real draw for younger players (and even a few older ones) is the new Giant Skylanders, bigger and badder monsters that are twice as big as the previous generation of Skylanders and that come with all-new abilities and challenges to overcome. Skylanders: Giants seems like an excellent game for the younger players on your holiday gift list, but even seasoned PC gamers may be surprised by how much fun they have with this seemingly simple character adventure game.

Hawken

It's been a long time since we've had a really great mech game, but hardcore PC gamers who loved the original Mechwarrior games should be excited for Hawken's unique take on traditional mech combat games when it launches this December. Hawken will be free to play and will feature a bunch of great multiplayer modes that let you choose and customize your mech before battling other players for glory and precious energy resources. We played a preview build of Hawken during a LAN party at E3 this year and really enjoyed the feeling of stomping around a post-apocalyptic battleground in hulking robots, using jump jets and giant cannons to blast other players for fun and profit.

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