'Assassin's Creed 3'

"Assassin's Creed 3," which takes players back to the days of the Revolutionary War, is on many gamers' "must have" lists for what remains of 2012. (UbiSoft)

Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/PC

In the "year of the threes" ("Diablo," "Mass Effect," "Max Payne," etc.) Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed 3" may reign supreme not only as the most coveted third installment in gaming but as the hands-down most anticipated game of the year. We are nothing short of giddy at the prospect of romping through revolutionary America taking out redcoats and hunting mountain lions. "Assassin's Creed 3" has the advantage of a tremendous franchise pedigree combining with a genuinely unique take on a historical setting. If the gameplay is even one percent better than any of its lauded predecessors, it will be a smash hit. Actually, based on the record pre-orders, it already is.

"Call of Duty: Black Ops II"
Nov. 13
Xbox 360/PlayStation 3/PC/Wii U

We know, we know, another year another "Call of Duty." Sure, there are more cerebral, mature and realistic military shooters out there, but none have the cache of "Call of Duty's" online experience. Just because it's not highbrow or groundbreaking doesn't mean that it doesn't have a place in our disc trays. "Call of Duty" is a Big Mac. It's Michael Bay with a controller. Sometimes, one just needs to zone out and mindlessly play digital paintball with a bunch of immature people wearing headsets. It's not high art, but it's successful because there's a market and a place for it. 

Dec. 12
Vehicle shooter/multiplayer

Hushed words of anticipation around "Hawken" have been uttered since early 2011. Now with a release date and a lot of momentum starting to build in the beta stages, "Hawken" looks like it could be not only a fun multiplayer experience, but an important title for the future of free-to-play. After picking up a pile of awards at 2012's E3 Expo, "Hawken" is poised to bring back combat in the style of the old "Mech Warrior" games this winter. In addition to being a litmus test for a "blockbuster" style game being free-to-play, its availability on the Kickstarter-phenom OUYA console could be a sign of the times in game development and consumption.