Although the global economic crisis brought the good times to an abrupt halt last year, gamers are playing on as they look forward to a fresh crop of outstanding titles slated for release early this year. The video-games industry usually outperforms in periods of sluggish retail sales, enjoying growth at odds with other sectors. Why? Gamers turn to new software when new hardware becomes an expensive proposition. Still, there was a healthy global increase of game console users last year - thanks to strong demand for the Nintendo Wii, which outpaced sales of Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360. The economic slowdown, however, may stymie the growth of the console gaming market and shift the balance in the direction of (Windows-based) personal computers, according to multimedia market analysis company Jon Peddie Research. Some of the most technically impressive games published last year were critically acclaimed, including Halo 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, BioShock and Devil May Cry 4. The titles previewed below are among the initial batch of major releases scheduled for the first half of the year. Several could be up for game of the year in 12 months' time. 1 Dead Rising: Chop Til You Drop Developers Capcom Platform Wii What is it? A critical and commercial hit on the Xbox 360 in 2006, this title gets a makeover on the Wii to make it more attractive to casual gamers. It follows freelance photojournalist Frank West as he uncovers a zombie outbreak in a small town. He seeks refuge inside a mall and has to battle thousands of flesh-eating zombies to survive. This single-player, survival/horror role-playing game offers a sandbox component, which means there are several endings, depending on decisions made during gameplay. 2 Street Fighter 4 Developers Dimps, Capcom Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC What is it? This 2D/3D fighting game is the first new entry in the series for more than eight years, following the acclaimed Street Fighter III Third Strike. In its 22-year history, the Street Fighter franchise has revolutionised the fighting-game genre and created a global legacy. Fans can be reacquainted with their favourite fighters; all 12 of the original warriors including Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li and Dhalsim are included as well as the hidden character Akuma. Look out for a new 'boss' personality as well. The game is played in the classic Street Fighter 2D perspective with additional 3D flourishes. Capcom promises new martial arts techniques, astounding locations and more challenging gameplay elements, designed for both novices and seasoned players. 3 MadWorld Developer Platinum Games Platform Wii What is it? This third-person action title is the first collaboration between publisher Sega and independent video-game developer Platinum Games. It has a black-and-white graphics style reminiscent of 2005 movie Sin City, depicting an incredibly sharp backdrop that straddles the graphic novel and 3D worlds. MadWorld, which uses the Wii remote and nunchuk as input devices, features the kind of irreverent humour and over-the-top violence that Wii users currently miss. Players must master the use of various weapons and items, such as chainsaws and street signs, to battle opponents. 4 The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Developer Pandemic Studios Platforms Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS What is it? Set in British author J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy world of Middle Earth, this action game allows players to fight the epic battles depicted in the trilogy. In addition to fighting for the forces of good as Gandalf the wizard or Gimli the dwarf, among others, gamers can join the dark side. They can enlist in evil Sauron's army, fighting hobbits as a Nazgul or killing elves as the Dark Lord himself. 5 X-Blades Developer Gaijin Entertainment Platforms Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 3 What is it? This hack-and-slash/action-adventure title features a blend of beautiful anime-inspired characters, relentless combat, cinematic environ-ments and fast-paced gameplay. Players assume the role of the enchanting, scantily clad heroine, Ayumi. She is a tenacious treasure hunter who uses her acrobatic ability, guns, blades and magic spells to defeat her enemies. This was originally released as a Russian-language game, called Oniblade, for Windows PC in 2007. 6 Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust Developer Team 17 Platforms Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 3 What is it? Lovable loser Larry Lovage takes a summer job working on a movie lot owned by his uncle, Larry Laffer, the original lead character of the Leisure Suit Larry series of adult adventure games, which has been published by Sierra Entertainment since 1987. In this rollicking, innuendo-laden lampoon of the movie business, gamers get an all-access pass to the glitz, glamour and gorgeous women of Hollywood. Its sandbox-style gameplay includes exploration, platforming, racing and puzzle-solving to complete missions. 7 Ghostbusters: The Video Game Developers Terminal Reality (PC, PS3 & Xbox), Red Fly Studio (PS2 & Wii), Zen Studios (DS) Platforms Xbox 360, Windows PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii, Nintendo DS What is it? Ghostbusters is back in an all-new story penned by the creators of the original film franchise, actor/screenwriters Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. They are joined by Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson, fellow stars of the 1984 and 1989 Ghostbusters films, in lending their voices and likenesses to the new title which is published by Atari. Set two years after the events of Ghostbusters II, this action/shooter game sees downtown Manhattan overrun once again by a plague of ghosts and other supernatural creatures. Players will take on the role of a new recruit with the team. 8 My Fitness Coach Developer Ubisoft Platform Wii What is it? Players can get in shape with virtual trainer Maya, who provides a pep talk for each workout. The game offers an accessible and intense fitness programme for those who cannot afford exorbitant gym fees. Users can try up to 480 exercises, including yoga, cardiovascular workouts and strength training. Exercise can be soundtracked with various types of music, such as hip-hop, Latin and dance. Additional reporting by Bien Perez.