Home entertainment systems
PlayStation 3 (playstation.ca)
The latest redesign of the PS3 entertainment console ($300) includes a sizable 500 gigabyte (GB) hard drive. And this holiday it will also come with a copy of the Assassin's Creed III video game by Ubisoft. The PS3 is still the only video game system that includes a Blu-ray player, which makes it a great choice for those looking to cut down on the number of boxes in the living room.
Wii U (nintendo.ca)
Nintendo's newest game system comes in two configurations. The basic system ($300) comes in white with eight GB of hard-drive space, and a deluxe edition ($350) is black and has a 32 GB hard drive. The Wii U includes a new tablet-like controller called the GamePad, which allows for new gaming experiences. In Batman: Arkham City (Warner Bros.), for example, the GamePad gives players a display of what's in Batman's utility belt. While playing ZombiU (Ubisoft), gamers look through the GamePad to aim weapons and scan the area for zombies.
Xbox 360 (xbox.com/en-ca)
If you're looking for an Xbox 360 for your family, get your money's worth by grabbing a bundle, which packages popular games with the game system. There are three being offered this holiday: Xbox 360 with Kinect, a 250 GB hard drive, Dance Central 2, Kinect Sports and Kinect Adventures ($400); Xbox 360 with a 250 GB hard drive, Skyrim and Forza 4 ($300); Xbox 360 with Kinect, a four GB hard drive, Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Kinect Adventures ($300). Or get the special edition Halo 4 Xbox 360 ($400), which includes a 320 GB hard drive and a copy of Halo 4. and two United Nations Space Command-branded controllers.
Portable game systems
iPod Touch (apple.ca)
Available in five vibrant colours and with two capacities, 32 GB ($299) and 62 GB ($399), the iPod Touch has become a true contender for most popular portable gaming system. After all, the best hand-held game device is the one that you have with you. And there are some 175,000 games and entertainment apps that can be played on the Touch and that all look amazing given that the latest models have a four-inch Retina display. And it can do so much more than play games, too: high-definition video, Siri, music, video calls, photography and so on. The possibilities are endless.
PlayStation Vita (playstation.ca)
Available with WiFi only ($250) or WiFi and 3G ($300), Sony's hand-held game console is a lovely piece of hardware. With dual analogue sticks and touch screens on the front and back of the device, the Vita provides the kind of gaming experience that was once only available on a TV. This holiday season, two bundles are available, both for $250: a black WiFi Vita packaged with Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified and a special edition white WiFi Vita packaged with Assassin's Creed III.
3DS XL (nintendo.ca)
Nintendo's three-dimensional portable with two screens has grown up. The XL ($200) has displays that are 90 per cent bigger than the standard 3DS, which means there is so much more Mario to New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Paper Mario: Sticker Star. The upper screen has a three-dimensional display that is easily adjustable to your individual preference, no glasses required, and the bottom screen's touch functionality allows for intriguing game play.
Alienware M17x (alienware.ca)
This 17-inch laptop is a premium gaming rig. Equipped with the latest Intel processor, the M17x (starting at $1,500) is fully customizable. Want a solid-state drive to speed up your game response time? You can have that. Need to see things in three dimensions? All you have to do is ask. On top of it all you get the distinct Alienware design, including the fully programmable LED lights that make the machine look like something from outer space.
MSI GT70 (ca.msi.com)
It's not small or light, but the 17-inch GT70 (starting at $1,600) wasn't meant to be exactly portable. It was built to replace a desktop gaming setup and this sturdy machine does that well. It also plays games better than most with a quad-core i7 processor from Intel and up to 16 GB of random-access memory (RAM). The back-lit keyboard and trackpad are nicely responsive, too, which is important when you need to defend yourself against the coming horde.
Peripherals and extras
Gaems Vanguard (gaemspge.com; amazon.com)
Described as a "personal gaming environment," the Vanguard ($350 U.S.) is video gaming on the go. Inside a rugged and durable case is a 19-inch LCD monitor with a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) connection, stereo speakers, and a space for either a PS3 or Xbox 360 (not included). Straps hold your game system of choice in place, foam padding throughout keeps things protected, and LED lighting adds a futuristic feel. Available exclusively at Amazon.com (it can be shipped to Canada), the limited-edition model available this fall is styled in the manner of the UNSC from the Halo game franchise.
This peripheral, for the Microsoft Xbox 360, turns you into the controller. Kinect ($110) plugs into the console and enables gestural and voice control. You can talk to your Xbox 360 and have it search for a game, then tell it you want to play. And because Kinect can sense your body's movement, it's perfect for a workout (Nike+ Kinect Training) or dance competitions (Dance Central 3 and Just Dance 4).
Sony PS3 wireless headset (store.sony.ca)
There's lots of competition in the gaming headphone market, but Sony has quietly come up with the category killer in the Pulse Elite wireless headset ($100). It works through a USB dongle that plugs into a PS3 and, when the headphones are in use, all sounds are directed to the headphones. Volume and sound mix controls are cleverly and discreetly set on the frame of the ear cups, and the wireless signal is stable. What's more, the headphones are comfortable. Which is important if you're wearing them for hours at a time.