Ah, autumn. A wonderful time of year. Beautiful colors, a pleasant chill in the air, warm snuggles with loved ones ... and the sounds of a million n00bs getting lit up by rocket-propelled grenades.
Yes, America's favorite celebration of devastating global warfare begins anew on Tuesday with the release of "Call of Duty: Ghosts" on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and Windows.
Activision and Infinity Ward's series of first-person shooters began with popular World War II combat games, but became an annual event with the release of 2007's "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare," crafting a wild, often controversial narrative set in our post-9/11 world.
It's hard to argue "CoD" and games of its ilk don't glorify war -- promos for "CoD" competitor "Battlefield 4" feature actual gamers talking about the coolest ways to kill their opponents -- but it's just as hard to argue against the game's addictive multiplayer modes. Fighting World War III might not sound like fun, but gamers keep crawling back to these games year after year.
I'm one of them; I've logged more than 350 hours of playing time on "Modern Warfare 3" and I can't even win a multiplayer free-for-all match. The latest installment brings Team Deathmatch, Domination, Kill Confirmed and other multiplayer modes back to the fold and introduces seven new ones.
If a single-player campaign is more your speed, "Ghosts" has a doozy of a story: A hacked American space station levels San Diego with an experimental weapon, leading to the eventual downfall of the United States. Your unit of "ghosts" is tasked with taking the country back from a faction of South American rebels and their allies.
The road goes ever on
The extended DVD and Blu-ray sets of director Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy are right up there with "The Ultimate Matrix Collection" and "Alien Anthology" among the most essential home video releases of all time, and Jackson hopes to add to that legacy on Tuesday.
The extended edition of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" arrives on Nov. 5 with all the bells and whistles Middle-earth fans have come to expect from Jackson: In-depth commentaries, comprehensive and exhaustive behind-the-scenes footage, longer (and hopefully richer) versions of the films.
The one caveat this time around is, however, considerable: Last year's first installment of what feels like an unnecessary trilogy of "Hobbit" films wasn't quite up to snuff, was it? It felt like a longer sit than its 169 minutes suggest, and now there are 13 more minutes to watch!
But Jackson has earned our trust, and "An Unexpected Journey" has earned a second look as the release of the second installment, "The Desolation of Smaug," awaits on Dec. 13. (Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly looking gorgeous and firing arrows all over the screen? Yes, please.)
• Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald copy editor and a tireless consumer of pop culture. You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.