Happy new year, everyone! How were all of your holidays? I'm still sifting through all the junk I got and/or bought for myself, not to mention all the game mags of 2007 in preparation for my year-in-review piece, which I'm planning for next week.

For now, though, I'd like to talk about the last few mags of '07, the first January issues. Hot exclusive features seem to be the order of the day right now, and none are hotter presently than...

Electronic Gaming Monthly January 2008 (Podcast)

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Cover: Street Fighter 4

This issue is the hype of the moment, no doubt, and everyone inside is incredibly excited about the main subject. ("I'm still rubbing my eyes over the fact that this sequel even exists, much less that we got the world exclusive on it," Shoe writes in his editorial.) However, even Shoe admits that the game is "extremely early" (his emphasis), and the 13-page feature preview is mainly a long, narrative interview with producer Yoshinori Ono about how he'd like this project to unfold. Still, the feature works because Shane the writer shows off his deep fighting-game knowledge, asking Ono intelligent questions (covering everything from combo mechanics to Chun Li's thighs) and keeping things interesting despite the monotony of the screenshots, all featuring the same characters fighting in the same battle scene.

Otherwise the main highlight is a bumper Afterthoughts section featuring postmortem interviews with the crew behind Halo 3, Mass Effect, The Orange Box (again, after GFW's bigger retrospective last month) and Uncharted.

Play January 2008

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Cover: Tomb Raider 8 [Underworld]

Last month's Play had a split cover (Uncharted and Turok) and I completely failed to notice. Darnit! Why must you torment me, Halverson? Is it such a horrible thing to put "Cover 1 of 2" or something in the mag so I can at least be on the lookout? Your covers are among the only ones I actually like collecting!

Getting back to the subject at hand, this slim 92-page edition is your standard Play cover piece, with Dave asking Crystal Dynamics creative director Eric Lindstrom about Lara Croft's arse dimples and screenshots depicting the lady going around some jungle ruins in full current-gen glory. The rest of the previews well is similarly interview-laden, and Play Japan is still the most fascinating part of the reviews section.

(By the way, Girls of Gaming Volume 5 is advertised as being on newsstands but I haven't spotted it yet. Anyone?)

Game Informer January 2008

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Cover: Tiberium

The cover feature is of the same style as EGM's and Play's, albeit with much more visual variety -- you can pick on EA all you want, but you can't deny that they know how to make great "target gameplay footage."

EA seems to love GI and the other way around, although the EA titles GI have put on the cover in the past have never been all that good -- no doubt a side effect of GI's consistently touting games up front that are over a year from release. A reader brings up this question in the letters column, noting that Brutal Legend (the November '07 cover) isn't due out until Xmas 2008, and he gets the response you'd expect: "When it comes to the cover...we prefer to chase down exclusive first looks at never-before-seen titles...if you want to learn about a brand new game, the cover stories pull back the curtain on the titles that we think will be big a little further down the road. It's like getting a glance at the future of gaming."

As always, the news section is the most interesting to read, including bits on game physics, the unlikely rise of LEGO as a killer game IP, and a mini-artbook for the Star Trek Online project. There's also an unranked Top 50 of 2007 feature which is a little zzzz...

Official Xbox Magazine January 2008 (Podcast)

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Cover: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2

This is probably the most well-designed cover feature of the month, although the subject frankly bores me on a personal level. (Oh boy, the two main characters cover each other more realistically than before!) More interesting is a piece on how Harmonix chose and chased songs for Rock Band. This issue's 100 pages, 12 of which are Cellplay.

Games for Windows: The Official Magazine January 2008 (Podcast)

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Cover: We review lots of PC games

You know the PC game marketplace has changed when a magazine has a huge preview blowout and the first preview in the mag is... LEGO Batman. Otherwise...yes, there are a ton of reviews in this issue. Besides previews and reviews, the interesting bits are a piece about Native Americans in video games written by the guy who voiced the hero of Prey and a Tim & Bruce on Armageddon Empires.

Ziff Davis Media loves the tagline "Too Many Games!". A lot. EGM's used it at least twice in the past, if I recall.

Some Wii specials

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Both Future and IDG have released Wii-themed specials for the holidays, although IDG's uses the same newsstand distribution that Code Vault did and is therefore a bit less straightforward to find.

Future's Wii Handbook (the first special from them with the Nintendo Power label) assumes you either don't own a Wii or bought the magazine alongside the console. It starts off with a catalog-like look at what the console's capable of out of the box and continues with tips on Wii Sports, Mii making, and Virtual Console choices. It closes out with some looks a games out and coming soon, divided by general genre, and overall the book does what it sets out to do amicably.

The Wii Gamers' Guide is more like a standard issue of GamePro that happens to be all about a single console. Bits and pieces both new and taken from old GPs fill up the pages, and the general vibe is less "welcome guide" and more "gamer's guide", the exact opposite of the Wii Handbook. A neat contrast, but as a whole I like Future's approach better.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]