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May 21, 2008

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

Title: Gran Turismo 5 Prologue
Genre: Racing
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Release Date: April 15, 2008
ESRB: E
Rating: 8 out of 10

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If it seems like a year is too long to wait for Gran Turismo 5, then Sony will satisfy your love of the road with this abridged and early version. I sort of think that $39.99 is a lot for a teaser, but now that I’ve played it non-stop for days I think it is worth it.

It’s sort of weird how the game starts and you have nothing. You have to buy your first car, and then the collecting starts. Part of the game is about collecting new cars and they’re all different so it is always cool. There are only 60 cars. This is more than enough for me, but still it would be better if there were more. They are sorted by brand such as Ferrari, Acura, Honda, Ford, Mitsubishi, Dodge, etc. There’s plenty of variety in terms of learning how each car handles and accelerates. I’m psyched that I can race using my car, and Acura Integra. There’s not much tuning, but then again, that’s not what GT is for.

The graphics and audio are amazing and enveloping once properly configured. Watching a full 1080p on my 65” HDTV and listening to 7.1 multi-channel sound makes me feel as much of a race car driver as I’ve ever felt if not more so. If anything, GT5 Prologue shows us that GT5 will look stellar. The details are all there. Shadows sweep across the track, water ripples on infield lakes, the steering wheels are leather wrapped. The only disappointment is that the crowd looks like some cardboard cutouts – Sony would have been better off leaving the crowd out completely rather than doing a half-assed job.

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The graphics really shine when you start to change camera perspectives while driving. One view involves you sitting behind the wheel, steering left and right, shifting, and tilting your head from side to side. You’ve got side view and rear view mirrors. The details are noteworthy. I’ve never seen another racing game like this. Of course, I find that view hard to use for racing and opt to use one that is almost first person. I think, and I would for someone from Sony to give me a pixel count, that there are more pixels in the rear view mirror of GT5P than there were in the whole screen in my beloved GT on PSX.

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April 6, 2008

Open It!

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This isn't quite a game review, but it is a review of a handy little tool that every gamer will want. This tool is a plastic snipper, razor blade, and screw driver (interchangeable phillips and flathead). It is is really convenient. The big scissors cuts right through plastic blister packs, cord, and tie wraps. It's really convenient. The razor blade is recessed and there's a safety mechanism to prevent it from hurting anyone inadvertently. The razor blade makes opening games as easy as any razor blade would - just one slash across the top and the plastic comes off.

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The razor blade is short and only comes out when you press the safety catch, which makes it both safe and effective.

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March 2, 2008

Patapon Review

Patapon
Sony Computer Entertainment
PSP
Single player
"E" for Everyone
Rating: 8 out of 10.

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When Sony first showed me Patapon in December, I didn't know what to make of it. Firstly, it's rhythmic, and I love rhythmic games. It's a side scroller, not a plus in my book. But it is cute, very cute. If you're not a lover of cute, then maybe you'll find the art interesting - it was designed by the popular French graphic artist, Rolito and the 2D art involves catchy abstract shapes, and colorful environments.

The principle of game play is that you have to lead the Patapons through a series of epic battles against opposing armies and gigantic monsters. You control the Patapons by pushing buttons that make drumbeats and send commands like march, attack, and defend. There are six different drumbeats that are combinations of X, O, box, and triangle. For example, circle, circle, box, circle might mean charge. You have to push the buttons in time to the background music, which is also in time to the action. If you chain a bunch of commands together, then you unlock a special mode where your attacks do more damage.

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November 11, 2007

NBA 2K8 Review

NBA 2k8
Matt Congdon
Score 3.5/5

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Basketball, when anyone cares, is such a great sport. It’s all about being down to the wire and the players are running on empty but still manage to get that game winning steal. However the problem is in the NBA it seems like they hardly care. The NBA finals this year this amassed an all time low of viewers, which shows that the players’ lack of interest is infectious. I know I didn’t watch it, but I think I must have watched 30+ college games during the NCAA playoffs. As far as NBA video games go, NBA 2K8 does a good job capturing the feel of the NBA. The game has its lows and its highs. It can get very exciting when you tied up going into the final minute and playing against a friend, but playing against the computer isn’t that fun.
NBA 28k is a lot of fun at times but just like the NBA has some definite flaws. One of the most obvious is that too many damn layups and dunks are missed. If there is someone else in your vicinity in the paint chances are you will miss the layup. You shoot literally about 25% on layups with a defender on you. It gets really annoying after you miss a couple in a row. That problem also extends to shooting elsewhere. If there is a defender in your face you can’t shoot at all. For 3 pt shots for example if you are wide open you might shoot about 60%, while with a defender on a mere 10% or less. This make playing defense tough because you know if they swing to an open guard on the perimeter it’s pretty much automatic.

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NBA Live 08 Review

Review by Matt Congdon
Score: 2 out of 5

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The first EA Sports game that I played was Madden 64. I was horrified. I explicitly asked for NFL QB Club 98 for Christmas, but I was stuck with madden (what does my mom know about football or games). In my eyes this game sucked hard. How can you make a game without an NFL license or endorsements? When wanting to play as the Patriots I was stuck with some team named “Foxboro”, not to mention that the graphics sucked and so did the game play. I would describe it the pinnacle of boring. I promised this would be the last EA Sports game I would buy.
Later in life, I got a PS2 and decided to give EA Sports another chance on a different console. I was thrilled at Madden 2001,. The game kicked ass, and it kept getting better as the years passed. EA Sports produced a string of brilliant games and that kept getting bigger and better. I thought this was the kind of company that was out for the players not the dollars. Their hockey and basketball games all were a lot of fun to play and somehow the developers improved them from year to year.
Of course, EA Sports let me down. They suck again, They have started a long down spiral, passing mediocre a year or two ago and they are now about as bad as I can imagine [[I’m trying to avoid obscenity. Sucks is ok, but I draw the line at shit. MDS]]. NBA LIVE 08 illustrates this point. This game is crap. EA Sports just threw money and a deadline at a development team. It is inexplicable to me how a company can mess up basketball so badly after having good editions for last generation consoles. The game looks alright on an HDTV, but on an SDTV looks very distorted and odd. It seems like there are a lot of fisheye type replay angles. There are so many flaws that, the decent game they might have had for PS2 is now damaged goods.

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October 15, 2007

Bioshock Review

Bioshock
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Irrational Games
Rated M for Mature
Rating: 5 out of 5

Review by Matt Congdon

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There are a few rare games out there that force you to play them; once you lay down that cash, you're sucked in until you finish. Sure, many games have great stories (Final Fantasy X), and some have great game play (God of War), but few combine both into something so special that you just can't quit. One such title this year that shouldn’t be missed any adult gamer looking for a bit of adventure.. The game creates an intriguing story, but it’s the gameplay that makes the story come alive. Too many games these days have stories that aren't connected with the actual gameplay, but rather just feature boring cut scene movies--which the typical ADD gamer (such as myself) doesn’t really like to sit through. Bioshock’s story is delivered mostly through audio, which is transmitted to you via radio, so you're listening to the story while shooting, dismembering and electrocuting baddies through Bioshock’s Levels.

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October 4, 2007

Halo 3 Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Here's an interesting debate. Matt C. feels that Halo 3 should not be judged harshly just because it is a sequel. In his words, "If it weren't a sequel and were a free standing game, then it would definitely get a 5." In some ways, he's right. But, looking at it the other way, I (Matt S.) think that Halo the first really kicked ass, then Halo 2 was really good but still just more of the same, and now Halo 3 is literally just more of the same and very short. I was disappointed. Sure, it's a great game, but there isn't really any innovation.

What do you think? Is Halo 3 everything it was cracked up to be? Or is it just a few more maps that should be downloaded for free for Halo 2 owners?

Leave a comment and let us know.


Review by Matt Congdon

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What is perhaps the most anticipated game ever was finally released. After a staggering 1.7 million presales, Halo 3 is finally in the consumer’s hands. If I had to review this game in one word, it would be "solid."

Halo 3 is very much a sequel, which you should expect when first playing it. I was so full of anticipation that I was almost disappointed with my first Xbox Live match. But I grew to love Halo 3. The guns are sick, the environments are beautiful, and the game play is even more addicting than before.

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For this sequel, Bungie has included new gadgets called “equipment.” It's is a blast to fool around with, and can actually can come in handy once in a while. Gravity Lifts are great for sniper games, giving you a better vantage point. Trip mines are work well in levels with a lot of vehicles--Vahalla, for example--and Bubble Shields can help you out in a pinch;,they are spherical shield which surrounds you, where neither gunfire nor grenades can enter or leave but people and vehicles can. This allows you to get creative with your killing[s] and try out a few new things.. A clever man could turn a flamethrower and a bubble shield into a Ronco Showtime Rotisserie BBQ, just set it and forget it! Some equipment is pretty pointless, though--for example, the Regenerator (your shields regenerate regardless). But mostly, these gadgets make every online game unique.

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May 11, 2007

Pokemon Review

Pokemon Diamond or Pearl
Nintendo
Rated E for Everyone
Score: 5 out of 5
Players: 1-8 (1-4 in battle)


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What can I say? I'm 37 and I love these pokemon games. I find them highly addictive. I played Ruby until I won, which took tens of hours. I'm well on my way towards logging that with Diamond. Today I noticed that I've played 10 hours to date. I don't know what it is exactly, but the combination of exploration, puzzle solving, and turn based combat is fun. I also think that maybe the relationship between trainer and pokemon, in otherwords, my odd affection for my pokemon, is another thing that draws me in. I also love how everyone I battle says something like "prepare to lose" or "you're so weak this isn't even a challenge" and then I wipe the mat with them.

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When you start your adventure in Sinnoh, you choose between 3 pokemon, Turtwig, Chimchar or Piplup. I chose a Turtwig and named him Turdwiggle. Today, he turned level 20 and between his Razor Leaf and Absorb he can beat the crap out of anyone. There are over 100 new pokemon such as Munchlax, Weavile, Lucario, Mime JR, Bonsly, and more. You pick whether you want your character to be a boy or a girl, then find and train pokemon, which really means you battle, earn experience, and teach new more effective moves to your pokemon. You travel from town to town and battle with Gym Leaders to advance. There's also a storyline about Team Galactic who wants to control the universe.

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March 31, 2007

Custom Robo Arena

Score: 3.5 out of 5
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo DS
ESRB: E 10+

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Custom Robo Arena is very much like Custom Robo for GameCube. It's a familiar concept that battles are waged between robots and not between people. The twist is that you play as a kid who does all of the battling, not as some kind of futuristic soldier. And the battles take place in a ring, or arena, not on the battlefield. The robots are small and called "robos" instead of being some sort of huge mech kind of thing. Overall, the game has a charming interface and graphics, and the combat is limited to taking place in a ring. I think the combination of those factors makes this a very good game for children who are interested in robots. Also, geekier adults, such as I, will enjoy the extensive robo customization features.

I had actually written a much longer review, but for some reason it simply disappeared. My guess is that I hit "publish" but didn't hit "save". Gotta love duplicating my efforts.

You play as a kid who is starting a new school and wants to join the robo team. In this, you walk around the town and talk to people. Unfortunately, this part reminded me of Pokemon for GBA, which is my way of saying that it isn't really up to DS standards. Although, to be fair, when you talk to someone the artwork is pretty good. It's just that the exploring the town part is very basic.

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The real action comes in the robo arena. Before the battles you can tweak your robot by modifiying different parts such as guns, pods, body frame, bombs, and legs. You can make your robot heavily armored and slow, or give it one really good gun, a light body, and then hop around and shoot. The ability to customize your robot so heavily is a major strongpoint of the game. There's strategy involved in building and configuring your robo and then there's tactics involved in the actual fighting. Fighting is pretty fast and frenetic, and best of all no one gets hurt so this seems like a pretty good game for kids. I also like the way that the fighting is confined to a ring, which sends the message that fighting is only ok under controlled circumstances.

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November 10, 2006

Wii Will Rock You

The Wii arrived this morning and the household was filled with joy. Nina immediately jumped in the box that it came in.
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Nintendo sent me a bunch of stuff, including an extra controller set, Zelda, and Excite Truck. Here's the package laid out on the unfinished wood floor of my apartment.
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First, the facts. The Wii will be available November 19, 2006 at an MSRP of $249. I've heard a lot about people being forced to buy bundles and that's just the stores forcing you to buy extra crap. It comes with on Wii Remote controller, one Nunchuk controller, Wii Sports (some cool games that will get you into the "swing" of things), sensor bar, power cord and standard composite cable. If you want component or S-video you'll have to buy that separately.
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The box itself is a sleek little thing with a shiny plastic finish. It's about 8.5 inches long, 6 inches wide, and less than two inches thick. It weighs less than 3 lbs.
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There's an external power supply that isn't too big. It can be installed either horizontally or vertically.
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A self-loading media bay (it sucks the disc out of your hand) plays single or double layered 12 cm optical discs for Wii and 8 cm Nintendo GameCube discs. There's a bay for SD memory which is probably there so you can show photos on your TV or to expand the 512 MB of internal flash memory.
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There are also four ports for Nintendo GameCube controllers and two slots for Nintendo GameCube Memory Cards.
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It's a nice piece of hardware. It's got built in Wi-Fi, two USB 2.0 ports and a PowerPC CPU made with a 90 nm SOI CMOS process, jointly developed by Nintendo and IBM.

The key to the whole thing is the sensor bar, which can be placed above or below the TV screen. It's unobtrusive when installed, and then a long cord runs down to the Wii console.
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August 25, 2006

Madden NFL 07 for Xbox 360 Review

EA Sports
Also available for PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, PC, PSP, DS, GBA
Score 4.5 out of 5

Last year's debut of Madden NFL on the Xbox 360 was a horrifying disappointment. This means that EA Sports could do just about anything and produce a better version for this year. I'm happy to report that they've done a lot and Madden NFL 07 on the Xbox 360 is a great, but not perfect, game.

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EA Sports has the exclusive video game license of the NFL and PLAYERS INC and Madden NFL has been the best selling football game of all time. This is the 17th installment and for this game they've focused on the running game. Last year they revolutionized the passing game and this year they're aiming to revolutionize the running game. It's possible to play as the lead blocker to set a block, and then switch to the running back and burst through the hole. New running controls give you the easy ability to overpower defenders, juke right or left, or take a cute little backwards step. The right thumbstick lets you use player specific running styles matching those of the real NFL players. For example, smaller backs slash and cut to avoid tackles and bigger backs overpower defenders.

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The running controls are a step forward, more so the Highlight Stick (right thumbstick) than the blocking. I find that it's not so easy to set a good block and many times I'm better off letting the computer do it. Although, a few times I have dealt out devastating blocks on sweeps on the outside and then switched to the runner and danced into the end zone. That was fun. So my feelings are mixed on the blocking. But the Highlight Stick rocks. Shaun Alexander bowls corner back over and Tiki Barber sort of slithers his way around defenders when you push up. It's very cool stuff. I have great control over jukes also. The running game is pretty powerful stuff. Coupled with the improvements in passing last year this makes for a powerful offense.

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June 16, 2006

Lemmings

By Old Timey Gamer

Score 5 out of 5

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The story of the Lemming civilization is one of hardship and, ultimately, benevolence. Forever traveling across a haunted landscape strewn with thick, industrial-grade piping, ruins that one may expect to find in Ancient Greece or Egypt, and even pits of lava from the very bowels of hell itself, Lemmings face extinction on a daily basis. Certain historians have questioned, from time to time, the ability of Lemmings to not only survive but to thrive. To them, it is quickly pointed out, often delivered as a joke, but at heart meant seriously, that the Lemming has no predator other than its own stupidity.

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Readily identified by a unruly mop of shockingly green hair, a Lemming (Lemmingo Dimwittum) is content to follow the one in front of it--the asexual nature of the creature along with its rather unusual mating ritual would make an interesting future study--even if the next step would cause it to fatally fall from a precarious height or sizzle in a pool of burning lava. True, throughout Lemming history, certain creatures have performed heroic, selfless acts, thereby dooming itself to save the rest. The most common of these feats involve acting as a blocker, causing the unstoppable march of the Lemmings to reverse direction, say, from a path that would carry the group off the edge of the known universe and into certain death.

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That Lemming society has clearly benefited from these selfless acts is not in question. However, a group of experts (that have been dismissed by some as being crackpots), who have closely analyzed every aspect of Lemming society, have made a remarkable discovery: the creatures are saved from certain doom by an invisible hand. Apparently, the actions of a master class, known as Gamers, ultimately decide whether Lemmings live or die.

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Now, only a select few can ever hope to join the ranks of this master class. For to be a Gamer responsible for the continued survival of an entire civilization not only requires a pair of hands willing to hold the platform upon which this world exists (known as a PSP), but also demands a certain skill-set that many find extremely difficult to master, namely exceptional analytical thinking, unquestionable hand-eye coordination, and impeccable timing.

For more than 15 years, I have been a proud member of this select group, unable to stop myself from saving the Lemmings on multiple platforms, from their first appearance on the Commodore Amiga to their most recent on the Sony PSP. (I even have a vague recollection of playing this game in a good; old-fashion arcade in the 80’s…perhaps this is just a figment of my imagination, a mythologizing of my past. Is there anyone out there who can confirm if this was a coin-op game back then?) By far, this latest version is the best. The Lemming world has never looked or sounded as good.


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June 12, 2006

Nintendo DS Lite

Score 4.5 out of 5
$129.99 MSRP

I've been playing with my DS Lite for a few days now and I'm ready to write a review. Overall, I really like it. I'm a big fan of the clamshell design (not that the clamshell is new I'm just saying I like it). The pearly white finish is sort of strange. It's like it's been "ipodified". But the finish seems scratch resistant and that's a good thing.

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I've been getting a lot of looks carrying the DS Lite around. No one knows what it is yet. It's much sexier than the original DS. Just the right size to fit in my front pocket or a cargo pocket. It's 133 mm (5.2 in) wide, 73.9 mm (2.9 in) long, and 21.5 mm (0.85 in) high. The height is the key dimension because the DS Lite is very thin. It's also light, weighing in at about 216 gm. or less than 8 oz.

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I like the design of it. My girlfriend had some interesting things to say about it. First of all, she's really not a gamer. She does play occasionally. She thought the DS Lite was a makeup case. She would never think that it was a Nintendo. She thought that the original DS looks cooler because you can tell it is a portable game just by looking at it. I think she's got the whole thing backward as far as Nintendo is concerned.

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May 2, 2006

Rampage: Total Destruction

Score 2.5 out of 5
Midway
If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

It's been twenty years since the original coin-op Rampage hit the arcades. Is this $19.99 value title a worthy follow-up?

Midway brings that arcade classic to the Playstation 2 and Nintendo GameCube in the form of Rampage: Total Destruction! With all new graphics and some new gameplay; without substantialy changing what the game actually is. It's still the same smash and bash game that it ever was. And that's good news.

The story believe it or not loosely follows the original arcade game story, but with slight updates. A group of human subjects were taste testing Scum, inc's. newest soda, Scum Soda. Everyone who tried the drink mutated into a vicious monster who wants to wreak Total Destruction! The Scum Labs guys cryo froze the monsters so they wouldn't get loose, but they, I mean you did.

There are two ways to play Rampage: Total Destruction; by yourself, or with a friend. The Playstation 2 version supports 2 players, and the GameCube version supports 4. You can play through an entire campaign spanning 7 cities, or play King of the City and King of the World, two games where you battle it out with your friend(s) for the most points and the most destruction. Multiplayer is actually pretty fun. There's nothing like a little friendly competition when trying to wipe out a whole city block. Then again, it's also pretty fun to play the Campaign mode together.

Rampage: Total Destruction also includes the original arcade versions of Rampage, and Rampage: World Tour. They'll take you back in time.

The thing that makes Rampage so much fun to play is its complete simplicity, just like the original arcade game. Unfortunately, it may also be the game's biggest weakness, just like the original arcade game. As good as Rampage was at mindless and rampant destruction, and easy to use controls, it eventually becomes monotonous, repetitive and boring. Rampage: Total Destruction has the same effect, even though parts of the game are definitely upgraded from the 1986 original. The game in a nutshell goes like this. Think Godzilla, or every other Saturday afternoon 1950's gigantic monster movie you ever saw. You are a monster, you saw the story above. You walk up and down a city street beating the crap out of a host of buildings, trying to knock them down. While doing this, an ever increasing force is trying to take you out. It starts with just police, then graduates to military; coming at you with tanks and helicopters, etc;. The evil doctor that cryo-froze you in the first place before your escape also comes after you trying to put you back in the freezer so you don't get away. So you have a life bar. As you get hit with bullets, tank shells, and grenades, your health goes down. In order to keep your health up and not turn back into your human form, you have to find things to eat. In the buildings you smash up, you can grab from inside windows all kinds of foods which will give you life. But you can also grab things that will hurt you even more, like radioactive waste, bombs, and hot peppers. You can also grab and eat people, but they don't help your health. It does take care of your police problem though. Once you have destroyed all the buildings in the level, you move on to the next one where things get even more difficult. That's the gameplay right there. When you get through about 10-12 levels, you start to tire of things and end up turning the game off. That's the only complaint, and it's really just the way it is with games like this..

Midway tried with Rampage: Total Destruction to add some things to make it good for 2006. They are able to do just that without tampering with the core gameplay from the arcade. For example, in the arcade, you could punch and jump and move. In Total Destruction not only can you punch, but you can also kick, which is great for kicking the side of a building or a tank on the street. Not only do you have the fast punch, which also serves as your grab for items and food and such, but a full powerful punch that can really knock out a piece of a building. Another big change is the move from 2D to 3D, because of course you're working on the PS2 and GameCube. So while with the arcade you more or less climbed up and down the side of a building, in Total Destruction you can also climb up and down the front of it and punch out pieces of building ahead of you. This means that the buildings are also much bigger and need a lot more bashing. You can also jump on top of a building which does damage to it, albeit slower than punching and kicking it. You can also do a down bash which can knock out cars, people, and building tops. Again, all this new gameplay and it still feels like the original arcade game.

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April 10, 2006

Odama

Score: 4 out of 5
Published by Nintendo
If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

Odama is one of those games that's so different from everything else that it's hard to know what to do with it. It's a pinball game that also requires you to move a bell and some troops across the board. It sounds crazy and it is, although it's not really a thrill a minute. The reward takes longer to earn and you have to think about it.

The Odama is really a huge pinball that rolls across the battlefield destroying anything that it rolls over. The Odama gets launched into the battlefield where you can tilt the surface left, right, up or down. There are also two big flippers at the bottom of the screen that you use to send the Odama back into the battlefield when it settles down. In between the flippers emerges a small army and some big men carrying a bell. Your job is to get the bell and the soldiers through the gate on the other side of the battlefield. You do this by destroying enemy fortifications and clearing a path with the ball, and voice command for the soldiers and the men carrying the bell.

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April 2, 2006

Pursuit Force

Score: 3.5 out of 5
Sony Computer Entertainment America
Rated "T" for Teen

Pursuit Force is a combination racing and combat game that offers enough variation in game play to keep you on your toes. Nothing about it is all that special, but it's good for some entertainment.

As a member of the Pursuit Force, you are assigned to bring some law and order to Capital City by taking out five criminal gangs who have overrun the city. The gangs found in the game range from the Capellis, your typical mafia crime family, to the Vixens, a group of scantily clad high tech thieves. Most of the game is centered around pursuing these gangs using various vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, speedboats, and a heavily armed helicopter. A small portion also involves some on-foot action, but those segments are few and far between. Chasing down enemy cars sounds like any pursuit game, but it gets better - you can actually lean out of your moving vehicle with a weapon to inflict some damage, and most importantly, abandon the vehicle entirely and leap onto another. The best is when you can jump out of your vehicle and onto the enemy's, all the while shooting at them in a glorified slo-mo. It reminds me a little of Mad Max, especially The Road Warrior where he's driving the truck at the end and all the bad guys are fighting with him. After grabbing onto the roof or hood of an enemy's ride, you need to work to shoot down the driver and possibly a heavily armed passenger or two to regain control, all while trying not to be shot or tossed off. The fence swings both ways though, and you may find a gang member on your hood trying to commandeer your vehicle as well. If you successfully bring criminals to justice lawfully, it will boost the "Justice Bar". Once activated, you can then slow down time during vehicle jumps, shoot at enemies in mid-air, and even restore player and vehicle health. It sounds complicated, but once you get the hang of the controls it isn't too bad.

Overall, vehicle control is just what you'd expect, except that the boats are too sluggish and the motorcycles too flighty. Smashing into other vehicles and obstacles won't destroy your car, at least right away, but they will slow you down and sometimes spin you around and put you out of the race. There are about 30 missions overall, grouped by the five gangs you need to take down. The missions range from eliminating a series of gang members in an alotted time to taking control of a bus while keeping its speed over 100 mph (how original!). BigBig does a good job of keeping the game play varied but consistent so it keep you on your toes. You always start off in your vehicle (boat, car, motorcycle), then jump to the perp's vehicles, overpower them and use their vehicle. So there's lots of changes but overall the game play is similar enough that you don't have to spend too much time trying to figure out what's going on. Each mission gives you the ability to unlock better weapons, more missions, better cars, etc. In addition to the missions there are time trials and racing levels. My guess is that it would take about 15 hours to master this game and complete all the levels.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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March 23, 2006

Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams

Score 4 out of 5
Rated "M" for Mature
Capcom Entertainment, www.capcom.com

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams begins approximately 15 years following the annihilation of the infamous Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga at Honno Temple. Another dark shadown now looms over Japan as Nobumaga's successor, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, has decided to align himself with the evil Genma forces. Assume the role of Soki, a young warrior who possesses incredible power and skill, along with several other cohorts to try and thwart Hideyoshi's pursuit for power.

The Onimusha series has long been a favorite of mine. The formula is a good one: present enemies that gradually grow more difficult and couple that with some puzzles to keep the brain as active as the fingers. It works for me. Essentially, your character needs to destroy evil Genma (think of them as spiritual monsters). After you strike down each enemy warrior, you capture his soul and maybe some health. The souls are like experience points that you can use to improve your weapons and characters. You learn special (and devastating) attacks and unleash them on monster after monster.

New to Dawn of Dreams is the ability to control more than one character. The game has been rounded out to be more of an RPG as you contol a party and have the chance to improve your characters skills. This increases replay value, but in my opinion it makes the game more complicated than it has to be. You can give commands to your allies such as tell them to wait, follow, attack, defend, etc. You can combine your power to perform insanely powerful attacks. The cast of characters includes a girl named Jubei, a mysterious monk named Tenkai, the powerful and gorgeous Ohatsu and the Japanese-Spaniard brawler named Roberto. Each character possesses his or her own set of skills and special abilities.

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March 22, 2006

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The face of war has changed. Enemy lines blur and there is no longer a clear opponent. New enemies and new threats require a new type of warfare and a new type of soldier. Enter the Ghosts.

G.R.A.W. is the first Xbox 360 title that has really impressed me. Others, such as Kameo, impressed me, but G.R.A.W. is almost stunning at every turn. A great multiplayer mode and a solid single player mode make this title highly recommended. However, there are a few little glitches that hold me back from rating it a 5.

The graphics and graphical details are breath taking. The heat haze over Mexico City and the fact that you can even read the small print on various signs around the city are two examples of the attention to detail. Everything's textured and the lighting and particle effects are attention grabbing. The sound effects are pretty strong also. The gunfire sounds realistic, the explosions will rock your living room, and the enemies' shrieks of pain will make you feel good.

Using the Cross-Com, a communication device powered by satellite technology, you'll always be kept up to date on the latest happenings on the battlefield. Attached to the soldier's monocle, the Cross-Com provides full situational awareness and command of the battlefield. Command the Ghost squad and remote allied forces and drones, and direct artillery and air strikes. See what the squad sees and receive visual and auditory intelligence from allied forces and unmanned drones. It sounds great, but it's takes a lot of my attention away from the actual combat.


If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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March 8, 2006

Black

Electronic Arts
PS2 version reviewed
Score 4.5 out of 5

Black is a game that brings out some passion in me. It is just downright fun to blow guys away and shoot the hell out of everything. That's what it is all about. And it feels great.

You play as a black operative who is in prison after he went on a mission. It was one of those "you get caught and we'll deny everything" kind of missions. The plot line slowly unfolds through a series of conversations that take place between battles. It's the old telling of the story after it took place. That's about all that matters as far as storyline is concerned. And one more thing, if it moves kill it. Actually, if it's on the screen kill it. Things don't have to be moving to be targets.

This game is a real shoot 'em up FPS. Complete with crazy weapons that you can use to blow enemy heads off and my favorite accurate grenades that blow guys to bits. It's non-stop firing. If you can't get an enemy then destroy his cover and then take him out. For example, if an enemy is hiding behind a car, shoot out the tires of the car, the car drops down, then take the guy out with a head shot. I'm smiling as I write this because it cracks me up that I like to shoot stuff as much as I do. This is frenetic combat, with glass raining down and barrels exploding all over the place. I always wonder what terrorists need with so many exploding barrels in their hideouts...

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March 3, 2006

State of Emergency 2

Published by SouthPeak Interactive
Rated "M" for mature
Score 3 out of 5

The follow-up to State of Emergency, which sold more than 1.5 million units worldwide, SOE2 continues the series and the Freedom movement to rid the world of the oppressive Corporation, an evil corporate dictatorship that is intent on the global enslavement of the masses. The game opens like a movie, which sets a very cool tone and the the story unravels around the Justice Corporation's execution of a riot instigator who has been in prison for four years. Spanky sets up the show so the escape can go down during a live television execution and from there is just gets wild.

The third person camera angles are generally pretty good but sometimes leave you fighting enemies that you can't see. This is a challenging game that rapidly goes far beyond easy. At times I felt that it was tedious and repetitive, but all games are sort of like that to a certain degree and SOE2 does keep you hooked through the story. There is a frustrating lack of save points which means that you will have to replay levels over and over again until you reach a save point. And while I'm talking about the bad aspects of the game I'll throw in that SOE2 must have THE weakest sniper rifle of any game I've ever played. It doesn't zoom. What kind of a sniper rifle doesn't zoom? That's, as the great gamer Slim Daddy would say, "unacceptable".

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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February 11, 2006

PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient

Score: 3 out of 5

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Addictive puzzle games are beloved members of the portable games market. I've got a friend who still carries around a mini-Tetris keychain and uses every spare second to play. PQ is a series of much deeper puzzles that require some forethought in order to win. To clear each puzzle, you need to move your character (a man who appears as a white silhouette) through a 3D world to a radiating exit.

The obstacles that are placed in your path is what will test your intelligence. You can't jump, look at that a white man who can't jump, but you can push, grab, and climb. Blocks are placed in your way and you'll have to push, drag, and rearrange them to help you reach the exit. And then it gets more complicated as escalators, switches, conveyor belts, revolving doors and lasers are added to the mix. Now you have to rethink the strategies that worked on the easier puzzles.

And so you advance through PQ as the game calculates your PQ score. This takes into account how quickly you were able to get through the puzzle in how many steps. The countdown timer puts a lot of pressure on you, but if you get stuck you can fail a level and take your time to figure it out.

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February 4, 2006

Ape Escape 3

Published by Sony Computer Entertainment America

Score 3 out of 5

Specter and the monkeys are back and determined to rule the world. Under Specter's command, the mischievous monkeys are taking control of your television and airing programming that will cloud the mind of anyone who watches. Heroes Kei and Yum dash through the TV studios capturing monkeys just as their outrageous shows hit the airwaves.

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This game is fun and simple. Chase all the monkeys and capture them in order to save your town. The right thumbstick controls how you swing whatever is in your hand. The monkeys will actually run away from you and dodge. Monkeys will become enraged and knock gadgets or the Monkey Net out of your hands. If you lose the monkey net and it's used against you your play on that level is terminated. The third person camera angle works pretty well for the most part, but there are times when I couldn't see what I was doing.

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February 3, 2006

Torino 2006

Video games based on the Olympics have traditionally been pretty sucky, so I expected very little from Torino 2006. It's essentially a bunch of mini games that are sports related. I think when I was a kid there was a company called Epyx that made a decent summer games. Torino 2006 is fairly standard fare for a genre that is more likely to be collected as a souvenier rather than be played.

Score = 2.5 our of 5

Given the high quality of racing and snowboarding genres one would think that a good winter olympic games game. Apply the knowledge obtained by developing a racing game to the luge and that of developing a snowboarding game to skiing and things should look and feel good.

The speed skating mechanics are pretty good down - the player mashes alternate buttons to generate enough speed to be maintained by a rhythmical, consistent tapping of the two buttons. This imitates the motion of the left and right leg and is one of the only control systems that has an actual feel to it. Timing the presses is required for straightways and curves. You'll need long strides to gain speed on the straightways and short strides in the corner. You can sense when you're getting out of synch (ignore the on screen bars as they appear to have nothing to do with your timing) and do the right thing to get back on track.

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Not only are there very few events, but some of them are repeated. Cross-country skiing is included in no less than three different events including the Nordic and Biathlon. There's not much difference between bobsled and luge, only that in bobsled you can move your men left or right, neither of which really matters. In both events you shoot yourself off like a plunger hitting a pinball. Press the button at the appropriate time to generate the most power and your sled will snake its way through icy channels. The analog stick allows you to move to the right or left to avoid hitting the walls. Controls are sluggish at first, but then as your sled or luge speeds up it becomes more responsive.

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January 28, 2006

The Movies

By Old Timey Gamer

Score 4.5 out of 5

Excellent production values, great characters, a complete catalog from action to horror, liposuction and pyrotechnics, “The Movies” for PC has it all, and the game play is more engaging than any of this past summer’s blockbuster films. “The Movies” combines two great elements in one package, an addictive tycoon/builder game and a simple to use movie-making tool.

The game begins in the 1920s and an empty movie lot. Players need to first build the facilities and sets that will allow them to begin making movies. The game adroitly takes players step-by-step through the action during the initial stages, making the fundamentals of “The Movies” easy to learn. Which is good, because once the business of movie making begins, players will have their hands full. The main problem is the directors and stars: they are moody creatures prone to boredom and stress. If not managed properly, they will turn to food, drink, or other vices in search of relief, which in turn can cause them to become drunks or get fat, potentially ruining their careers. Luckily, there’s rehab and liposuction to solve these two particular problems. In my first game, my movie studio, Missing Ear Productions, specializing in horror films, met with disaster when I pushed my director too hard and he became a raging alcoholic. Players must also keep their lot attractive, research new technologies, and maintain the buildings and grounds of their studio in order to gain prestige, win awards, and, ultimately, produce blockbuster movies

Even though there’s much to think about, “The Movies” constantly delights and surprises. The graphics are top-notch, one can zoom into the action and see many interactions and details, and there are elements of humor, throughout. In addition, the stars have distinct personalities and will come to feel like real people. There’s even the option for gamers to create their very own movie stars.

It’s all about making movies, though, and the game offers two options: a script can automatically be created or players can create their own script from scratch. Creating the scripts and editing movies became my favorite part. A script is created by combining any number of scenes together. The general action and number of characters in the scenes are pre-determined, each lasting anywhere from a couple of seconds to close to a minute. For instance, a scene will show two characters fighting each other. If the gamer wants to select this for inclusion in his movie, all he needs to do is decide who plays what role. A clear tutorial explains the process and it’s pretty easy to pick up. In no time, I was off making movies. The only shortcoming is that there are only a limited number of scenes and it’s not possible to control the camera angle, so that after the third or fourth movie, I wished there was more, or even that it was possible to create my own scenes.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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December 28, 2005

Pinball Hall of Fame

Score 4 out of 5

Pinball fans finally have a great PSP pinball game. Pinball hall of Fame is a compilation of 11 of Gottlieb's greatest pinball machines released over 60 years. All the great tables are there: Ace High, Central Park, Big Shot, Genie, Black Hole, Victory, Tee'd Off, Going Nuts, El Dorado City of Gold, Strikes and Spares, and more. Historical information is included about each table describing the designer, the design goals, and the year in which it was produced. Then, there's a feature by feature guide that shows you what to do on each table and how the bonuses are doled out.

Two players can either play against each other on the same PSP or against each other using two PSPs and a single game disc. Game play is about as authentic as it could be with realistic sounds and table action. Gravity is realistically reproduced on each table; the ball bounces consitently off bumper and arcs consistently across and up the table. At first it takes a little time to get used to seeing a whole pinball table as a two parter on the PSP screen, but once you adjust to that this game is just good ol' fun for pinball lovers.

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December 21, 2005

Madden NFL 06

Score 4 out of 5

Madden NFL 06 for the Xbox 360 has been built from the ground up to deliver completely redesigned gameplay and the most lifelike football experience ever created. Incredibly detailed player models are so real that onlookers will think they're watching a real game. Adding to the realism are lifelike stadiums and fans. With a full Franchise mode, in-depth online play and a new presentation style and new playcalling system, Madden NFL 06 for the Xbox 360 is poised to continue its legacy as the only authentic and licensed NFL experience. If you want to play football on the 360 your only choice is Madden.

The new look and feel is a plus. Gone are long winding speeches that led nowhere from John Madden. I found that this totally removes one aspect of my game, which was screaming "shut up madden you fat f##k" at the tv every few minutes. Announcing is more of what you'd hear from a radio commentator. Sometimes, there's even silence. And yet I found that I missed Madden after a while. It oddly felt like something had been left out of the game.

Graphics are incredible. You can see the condensation forming as players exhale. Pads are outlined under uniforms and muscles are detailed with bulging blood vessels. If you look really closely you can see that player's eyes watch the ball

There are a lot of changes to this version. There's no practice, no mini-games, just football. I couldn't find any video setting to tweak camera angles. Replay is solid as always with a welcome decrease in automatic replays. Play selection is reordered and includes coach's picks and Madden's picks.

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November 24, 2005

NHL 2K6

Score = 3 out of 5

I'll cut to the chase right away. If you're looking for the best hockey game on any platform, then NHL 2K6 for Xbox 360 is it. Unfortunately that doesn't say much.

The ice is a work of art. It starts off all wet, shiny and reflective, and slowly get scratched and less reflective. The puck casts a shadow. You can see the scoreboard reflected in the ice and it's beautiful. The crowd is more realistic and more 3D. They react when players get close to the boards or better yet checked into the boards. Players themselves are more realistic with better player models and better physics where players are now broken down into limbs and body instead of just body so they sprawl appropriately when checked. Because everything is more realistic and in better 3D it's possible to pick and choose holes to pass through and openings on either side of the goalie. One of the coolest effects is the whip of the stick when a shot is made, and the snow that flies when someone stops is pretty cool too. And the goalie animations are frighteningly convincing.

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November 22, 2005

Project Gotham Racing 3 vs. Ridge Racer 6

Project Gotham Racing 3
Score = 5 out of 5

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This is a must have for PGR1 and PGR2 fans; no questions asked just go buy it. The franchise just keeps getting better and better. This version looks great, sounds great, the cars handle precisely. I can't think of anything wrong with it, except that maybe it isn't enough of a simulation for those people who want a full simulation experience. It's enough of a simulation for me - any more real and it would start to become a hassle to maintain the car and everything.

PGR3 looks so good that sometimes I purposely lose the race because I'm driving around looking at things. Everything looks good: the buildings, backgrounds, parks, water. Racing across the Brooklyn Bridge is very cool because the views up and down the East River are amazing. According to Microsoft Game Studios there are as many polygons in the Brooklyn Bridge as there was in the entire city in PGR2.

The sound is also fantastic. Each car has a unique sound and this sound is modified by the surroundings and whether it is in front or behind you, closing or pulling away. So you can hear a car, recognize the engine sound and hear it pull up on your right, look at it and know you were right and then it's by you. PGR3 is immersive in every sense of the word.

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The online community can suck you in too and then all of a sudden it is 6 hours later and all you've done is played PGR3 all afternoon You can have an Online Career using the garage from your Solo Career. The Online Career mode automatically matches you against other players of a similar ability. They use the new TrueSkill system for rankings which measures your skills over four or five races. Your race from you online career might even end up on Gotham TV. The whole premise of PGR3 online is this Gotham TV, with a Heroes Channel to watch the best racers in the world, a Friends Channel where you can meet up with your friends.

One crazy detail is the crowd. They respond to your driving and jump out of the way when you crash into a wall. There are about 4,500 different combinations of crowd members, all built up from hundreds of modular body parts. Most of them are Bizarre Creations or Microsoft Game Studios employees.

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November 21, 2005

Kameo: Elements of Power

Rating 5 out of 5
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Firstly, this review has to start with a disclaimer. I have played Kameo for at least 5 hours a day for the past three days. I love it. It's beautiful. The animations are so fluid. Every surface has a reflection. When you talk to other characters you can see your reflection in their eyes. And who could object to the content? Giant weeds that beat up Trolls are awesome.

Kameo's parents ruled the elves and there was peace between the elves and the trolls. Then Kameo's evil sister kidnapped their parents and made a deal with the trolls. Now the trolls are trying to catch all of the elemental spirits that are worshipped by the Elves. Kameo must free the elemental spirits and use them to free her parents and her people.
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Kameo morphs into 10 different elemental warriors on the fly. This makes the combinations of ways to fight a battle limitless. You can use Pummel Weed (my favorite) to box with the trolls. Or Major Ruin can run them over and impale them on spikes. Ash the dragon can blast them with flames. It's so much fun. You can morph in the middle of a battle, like use Rubble to shoot rocks at the distant enemy then morph into Pummel Weed to kick their asses when they get closer. Learning the combination of warriors it will take to fight bosses or maneuver through the land. Each elemental warrior brings something different to the action and throughout the journey, upgrades can be made on each character's attacks.

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November 16, 2005

Shattered Union

Score = 2.5 out of 5
Review by special correspondent Old Timey Gamer

I’ll never forget my first wargame: Avalon Hill’s Battle of the Bulge. I was held spell-bound at the first sight of the game’s map, which was mounted on cardboard and superimposed with hexagons. By the end of turn one, I was in love. Back then, the Internet wasn’t yet invented and the Commodore VIC-20 was considered a first-class gaming machine. In this era before the floppy drive, games were available only on cassette tapes. While this format brought many engaging games, such as Attack of the Blue Meanies, it could not deliver a complex strategy game. To find that kind of gaming experience, one had to turn to the cardboard counters, paper-based combat results tables, and thick-rule books part of any Avalon Hill wargame.
Technology has taken some giant steps forward since then and, for the most part, has left wargames, in all their hex-board, turn-based glory, behind to die alone and forgotten. Of course, there have been a few notable exceptions. Both the Panzer General and Battleground series brought wargames to computers and consoles with varying degrees of success. Panzer General emphasized playability over tactical and historical accuracy, while Battleground chose a different path and attempted to deliver games that detailed the weapons and warfare of a particular period, from Napoleon to WWII. It wasn’t until Combat Mission that it was demonstrated, without a doubt, that technology could deliver a superior wargame: one tactically rich, deeply realistic, and, most important, a joy to play.
These days, there aren’t many computer wargames on the New Release shelf of the local gaming store. Whenever one does make its way into production and wide distribution, like Shattered Union, a turn-based game played on a hex-board map, there is a reason to celebrate. Unfortunately, once the initial buzz of this game’s release wears off, there’s not that much life left in this party.
Shattered Union starts with an interesting premise, imaging a future in which, for various reasons, America has once again descended into civil war. The country breaks into six different groups, from the New England Alliance in the north to the Republic of Texas in the south. The European Union even becomes involved and, in an attempt to restore stability, invades Washington, DC (and is a playable faction in the game).
A game of Shattered Union is broken into two parts: one strategic and the other tactical. On the strategic portion, players move across a map of the United States, able to attack adjacent territories as well as build and repair units. The majority of game play is in the tactical mode. After a player chooses to attack, or is attacked, turn-based battles are fought over particular states with victory determined by how many cities are captured, or defended. Each tactical battle is 14 turns long.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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November 5, 2005

Sniper Elite

Score = 4 out of 5

This is the ultimate sniper game, created for those of us who love picking off enemies who don't even know where we are. Set in spring of 1945 in war torn Berlin, the Russians and the Germans are locked in an epic struggle. The Russian secret service (NKVD) is in Berlin to steal atomic bomb technology from the Germans. Your character is an OSS sniper, disguised as a German and working alone to stop Stalin's forces from controlling the world's nuclear technology. You'll use your stealth and sniping skills to infiltrate hostile enemy environments and wreak havoc.

In the beginning, there are plentiful hints about gameplay displayed on the screen. It's not so easy to control your character. Between the binoculars (left trigger) and the sniper scope (press down on the right thumbstick) it can get confusing. You'll have to plan out your moves using the map which takes a little getting used to, and then advance using your camoflage to blend in while you lurk in the shadows. This is not frenetic battle action, this is methodical and cautious. It's necessary to play the angles and the distances. As long as you can keep the enemy at a distance you have an advantage because of your sniper rifle. You advance inch by inch, constantly scanning the rubble and bombed out buildings for enemy snipers.

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November 4, 2005

Ratchet: Deadlocked

In this latest installment of the Ratchet and Clank series, our heroes are captured while uncovering the mystery behind the disappearance of several other famous heroes. They discover that the missing heroes (including themselves) have been abducted by a deranged media mogul named Gleeman Vox, who intends to use them as contestants on an underground reality combat show hosted in the lawless sector of the universe.

The game starts out with a tutorial during which you'll learn the common controls. And then it's off into the "unethical and completely underground battle sport". Each battle involves entering an arena and fighting against combat robots. You are flanked by your own combat robots and you have some squad based control at your disposal. Destroy the robots in one arena and a gateway opens to the next arena. Each arena is progressively more difficult.

Gameplay is pretty solid with non-stop combat. Ratchet can modify any weapon, which leads to an almost unlimited number of possible weapons and effects. The variation in weaponry is interesting because it affects the way that robot foes are destroyed. Graphics are pretty straightforward. Nothing is all that complex, which is good because it keeps the frame rate up during the insane battle sequences.

Multiplayer gameplay is a blast. All of the single player levels are available for multiplayer use, whether in co-op or some other mode. Co-op requires a lot of communication to lay down crossfires and cut the enemy to shredded hunks of smoking metal. Up to 10 players can compete online in a variety of game modes ranging from deathmatch to king of the hill to conquest.

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November 1, 2005

Star Wars Battelfront II Review Posted on PCMag.com

My review of Star Wars Battlefront II for PC posted this morning on PCMag.com.

In general, I liked the game very much. I'm a first person shooter kind of guy and also a Star Wars fan so I had to try to keep the review unbiased. The huge multiplayer battles are insane. You have no idea who you're blowing away or who is shooting at you. Pure chaos.

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October 27, 2005

Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is a visually stunning game. Colossi stand as enormous as a mountain and possess massive powers and your job is to kill them all. That's the only way that you can restore life to a dead loved one.

Created by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, developers of the critically-acclaimed ICO game released in 2001 for PS2, Shadow of the Colossus is a single player, third person action adventure game.

Essentially, this game is 12 boss battles. The battles are enormous, covering a lot of ground. You're fighting this enormous (literally as big as a mountain) enemy. How do you bring something like that down? With the help of your magic sword. The sword first tells you where to attack the colossus, then you use it to kill it. Blood splurts everywhere and the earth shakes as the monster goes down. Usually, you have to mount the colossus, then climb up him, then figure out how to get to where you need to go to attack it, and then get it done. It's sort of a big puzzle to figure out how to climb over the colossus and jump over obstacles while trying to be aware that it might try to shake you off at any time.

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Doom (the movie)

Last night I went to an advanced screening of Doom. It was interesting. Definitely a horror flick. There was a lot of gore and violence. There are some really cool special effects. At one point a creature is trapped inside a wall and the texturing on it looks very cool. But overall, the special effects were not impressive. I thought that the imp was definitely a man in a rubber suit. And I was disappointed that my beloved enemies from Doom were not in the film, only the imps and a single pink elephant. At one point the film switches to first person view and this person just starts kicking ass. It's pretty cool. But the film falls short in my eyes. It didn't capture the true feeling of Doom, that feeling of invinceability, that feeling that Hell should bring it on. It's work seeing on DVD and definitely needs the surround sound.

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Logitech PlayGear Amp

Logitech sent me some goodies yesterday and I've taken the liberty of evaluating the PlayGear Amp, an amp and speakers designed specifically for PSP. They come in a nicely designed case that got covered in cat hair within seconds of touching my desk.

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The case is well constructed and padded. There are compartments for the PlayGear Amp and associated equipment.

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October 24, 2005

NHL Eastside Hockey Manager

The Collyer brothers began programming computer games in their bedroom in the late 1980's and they produced their first game in 1991. That game was the wildly successful Championship Manager, or Football Manager. Risto Remes began programming hockey games in his bedroom in the early 1990's and released a freeware hockey management
simulation game that received a lot of critical acclaim. The Collyer brothers launched Sports Interactive in 1994 and eight years later asked Risto to join and make a hockey game. And then the magic began. The combination of the fan driven features that Sports Interactive has come to be known for in their Championship Manager (Football Manager) and a great hockey game designer yielded an accurate, fun to play hockey simulation for PC and Mac.

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Total Overdose

Get ready to enter a Robert Rodriguez film. BTW, if you haven't seen El Mariachi go rent it. You play as a criminal released from prison to take the place of your DEA Agent brother in the hunt for your father's killers. The whole thing involves shooting your way through the Mexican drug world. You get missions and drive around to them, or you can go directly to the mission and skip the exploration. I'd recommend the exploration because it is not only fun but also the best place for finding pick-ups, some of which like Day of the Dead in which you kill as many people as you can, end up being great bonus opportunities. Driving around or running around you can find a lot of stuff that you can use to improve your character's skills.

It's a fun game. The heart of it is shooting the crap out of everyone and everything. You use the left trigger (L1) to pull off all the dodges and shooting moves, such as walking up a wall, diving left, reversing and diving backwards, all while shooting. You can use vehicles as weapons, ramming into enemies or driving at them and then jumping out of the car before it smashes into them and explodes. Every battle is a guns blazing battle where charging forward using special moves is the way to go. There's no drop back and pick off the enemy like a sniper here; it's all bull forward laying down the lead. It's set against a surreal Mexican background so there are a lot of opportunities for humor. A dark humor pervades this game. I actually found myself laughing aloud at times.

The bad news is that the load times are just ridiculous. It's not that the load times take a long time, but rather that there are so many of them. It seemed like every 2 minutes I had to take a break and watch the game load. It completely ruins the atmosphere to have that many loads. My only other gripe is that vehicle control is not so good. Everything handles like a sled. It is good that there's a way to skip the driving and go right to an objective.

Total Overdose is a fun shoot-em-up set in a stylistic Mexican drug world. It's not for the faint-hearted or little kids. It's a lot of fun to play it.

If you'd like to view the slideshow click here.

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September 27, 2005

Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks

I played a little MKSM this morning. It's a good fighting game. There's a storyline to the single play and co-op modes. It's pretty much a brawler action-adventure game. You smash and bash your way through a tutorial first. The fighting system is directional so you can attack in any direction by pressing the L thumbstick towards the enemy. So it's possible to chain attacks and get combo bonuses. There are a lot of animated fatalities. You and your character learn them through the course of the game and they just get more and more involved and gruesome. It's almost reason enough to play through the single player mode.

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