On the grid

10 titles gamers can't wait to play

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay (Vivendi Universal)

Set prior to films “Pitch Black” and its summer sequel, “Butcher Bay” follows Riddick as he breaks out of the galaxy’s most deadly prison. Should “Riddick” kill at the box office, this game could wind up being a sleeper hit. Hype surrounding the game is that it’s gorgeous – Vin Diesel lent his voice and likeness to the game, and the title takes Xbox graphics and physics to new places.
Release date: June 1
Platform: Xbox

Doom 3 (id/Activision)

The blood, sweat and tears in the third chapter to this 10-year-old franchise will look just a bit more lifelike thanks to bump mapping technology, an image-quality process similar to that used in the “Final Fantasy” movie. Though not so much a sequel as a retelling of the original story, game kicks demon ass after they’ve taken over a Mars research facility.
Release date: by end of 2004
Platform: PC, Xbox

Driv3r (Atari)

Michael Madsen, Mickey Rourke, Ving Rhames and Michelle Rodriguez lend their voices to this high-octane, guns-a-blazin’, Tarantino-inspired chapter about an international car-theft sting operation. Fueling the franchise’s marketing are Tony and Ridley Scott’s production company, which created the game’s trailers, “Run the Gauntlet.” Run over pedestrians in Nice, Istanbul and Miami.
Release date: June 22
Platform: PS2, Xbox

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar)

Details from publisher Rockstar are as sparse as those from a Stanley Kubrick film. The latest addition to this franchise, which includes “GTA: Vice City” and “GTA 3” (pictured), goes back to one of the original game’s settings of San Andreas, a fictional California city. Rumor has it that this time,Tommy Vercetti is not the title character, but rather the crime boss who dictates orders in a city run rampant with riots.
Release date: Oct. 19
Platforms: PS2

Half Life 2 (Sierra/Vivendi Universal)

Six years in the waiting, the follow-up to “Half Life” finds protagonist Gordon Freeman defending what’s left of planet Earth from aliens. Valve, the game’s developer, has enabled a new engine technology for “Half Life 2,” giving the game the colorful, realistic look of a Pixar film.
Release date: TBA
Platform: PC

Halo 2 (Microsoft)

How popular is Halo? So popular that Microsoft is proud to have Justin Timberlake as a die-hard fan. Aside from souped-up graphics, aliens and destructible environments, “Halo 2” is all about the online multiplayer aspect that the first chapter only sup-ported through the hookups of other Xbox consoles. While the game’s astronaut-clad protagonist, Master Chief, will have a few more tricks up his sleeve, like dual wielding of weapons, gamers will be able to play certain members of the Covenant alien community.
Release date: Fall
Platform: Xbox

The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth (EA)

For “LOTR” fans starving for power in Middle-earth, here’s your chance to take over the armies of Rohan and Saruman. While in the vein of “Command and Conquer,” the RTS version of “Rings” touts soldiers and elements that have real-time emotions: If one of Sauron’s elephants is hit by too much fire, it will charge upon its own troops.
Release date: Fall
Platform: PC

Madden NFL 2005 (EA)

Not only did Electronic Arts’ “Madden NFL 2004” sell more than 5 million copies last year, the title was the No. 1 seller of the year – a rarity for a sports game. Aside from an update in team rosters, EA boasts that the new edition makes defense as fun to play as offense. Look out for the “hit stick” on the controller – you’ll be able to perform the perfect clothesline.
Release date: August
Platforms: All consoles

Star Wars Battlefront (LucasArts)

If your computer system is too slow to play “Star Wars Galaxies,” don’t worry. “Battlefront” is there for the console gamer. Heralded by fan sites as the mother of all “Star Wars” games, “Battlefront” puts you in the midst of the epic battles from all six “Star Wars” films. Modeled after the popular multiplayer game “Battlefield 1942,” play as a Rebel, Imperial, Droid or Clone. For those itching to clash sabers, an Xbox demo will be bundled in the “Star Wars Trilogy” DVD this September.
Release date: Sept. 21
Platforms: Xbox, PS2, PC

Spider-Man 2 (Activision)

Activision’s “Spider-Man” bucked the notion that all videogames based on movies suck; the title ranked as one of five top sellers in 2002. “Spider-Man 2” boasts a free-roaming Spidey in Manhattan, wherein the wallcrawler can duck into subways and rescue civilians from random crimes. And a new swing mechanism – with a closer look over Spider-Man’s shoulder -is like falling through the sky.
Release date: June 29
Platforms: PS2, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, PC