By Mike Musgrove
Sunday, November 29, 2009
When the holidays roll around, the video game industry rolls out the big blockbusters.
And the industry banks on gamers looking for the newest version of last year's big hits.
In no particular order, here's a roundup of some of this season's notable or well-received console or PC games.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. What is it about the Washington area that makes game designers so eager to blow it up? The best-selling game around this time last year, Fallout 3, featured a bombed-out version of the ol' home town, and so does this year's biggest seller. As a terrorist attack pulls some of the globe's major powers into war, players take on roles as soldiers on the front lines at scenarios ranging from the Virginia suburbs to Russia. (PS3, Xbox 360, PC; $60-$180.)
Brutal Legend. Give this game points for originality. Actor Jack Black stars as the voice of Eddie Riggs, a character who gets sucked into a heavy-metal-themed alternate world. As it turns out, Riggs's organizational skills, gained from his day job as a rock band's roadie, give him just the sort of tools to help this world's downtrodden populace come together and save themselves from an oppressive despot. This title also features the voice acting of such heavy-metal rockers as Ozzy Osbourne and Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister. (Xbox 360, PS3; $60.)
Beatles Rock Band. You're familiar with the Beatles, yes? This version of the Rock Band game exclusively features the Fab Four's music, with more than 40 songs pulled from across the band's career. In addition to the music that comes on the game disc, the game's maker has been offering some of the band's entire albums for sale as additional content to download. (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii; $60-$250.)
Lego Rock Band. Unless you're a shareholder in one of the companies that put this title out, it's perhaps difficult to grasp the world's need for a video game that melds Lego figures and rock music. But a series of kid-oriented Lego games with Star Wars and Indiana Jones themes have been mega-sellers in recent years; this title takes that concept and puts it in the music game. Lego Rock Band features tracks from bands such as Blink 182, Foo Fighters and Queen. (Ps3, Xbox 360, Wii; $50.)
Borderlands. Set in a desolate planet's wasteland that looks like something from the Mad Max movies, players take on the role of mercenary in a series of missions that generally involve blowing up bad guys (or creatures) with the game's nearly endless variety of nifty weapons. Story line is not this game's strong suit, but it does have style and is plenty of fun. (PS3, Xbox 360; $60.)
Batman: Arkham Asylum. You don't have to be much of a comic-book fan to get a kick out of this one, set during an eventful night at Gotham City's premiere mental institution. As players work their way through this adventure, which pits Batman against the Joker and his henchmen, players unlock an increasingly cool array of Batman's nifty gadgets. This is a slick production, with good voice acting, story line and game play. Parents should know, however, that this is a dark interpretation of the Dark Knight's story, and not recommended for the young kids. (Ps3, Xbox 360, Windows PC; $50-$60.)
Assassin's Creed II. In this game, set mostly in Renaissance-era Italy, players take on the role of a young man who becomes a killer for revenge after his family is wiped out by a rival faction. Some of the thrills offered here come from the main character's ability to scale walls as he sneaks across the rooftops and alleyways of beautifully rendered areas such as 15th-century Florence. There's a whiff of the History Channel to this one: Click on landmarks as you pass by them and the game will, if you like, give you a little background. (Ps3, Xbox 360; $60.)
Left 4 Dead 2. This game is ideally played with four friends online, each taking on a role as one of the survivors of a pandemic that has left the world crawling with zombies. If the gamer in your life doesn't like to go online to play with or against friends, this gory one's kicks are a little limited. (Xbox 360, Windows PC; $50-$60.)
Grand Theft Auto 4: Episodes From Liberty City. For last year's blockbuster "GTA" game, developer Rockstar created a huge, living and breathing version of its fictional Liberty City. This disc adds a couple of shorter adventures involving a different set of characters than were featured in last year's game, such as nightclub owner "Gay Tony" and a biker gang known as "The Lost." (Xbox 360; $40)
Dragon Age: Origins. You're a Grey Warden, see, and you're in a kingdom that is both embattled in a civil war and facing an ancient foe. It's up to you to unite the shattered lands and slay the arch-demon. . . . Okay, to be honest, I'm just reading off the back of the box here. With all these other games, I didn't get very far at all into this title, a straight-up swords-and-sorcery epic from a game company well liked by fans for its massive game worlds and deep story lines. (Ps3, Xbox 360; $60.)Nowhere else
Every year, a few "exclusive" titles are offered up to lure gamers onto one system or another. Some of this year's exclusives:
Super Mario Bros. Wii. This Wii title seems a little retro, at first glance -- and maybe after a second glance, too. Mario and his brother, Luigi, have to navigate some funky but familiar game worlds, collecting gold coins and hopping onto the heads of waves of familiar foes who get in their way. The innovation in this Wii version, and it's a pretty decent one, lets up to four players take on a level simultaneously. (Wii, $50.)
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Many PlayStation 3 fans are touting this title, with its cinematic good looks, as their pick "game of the year" and a must-have for those who have the Sony game system. This sequel puts players again in the shoes of Nathan Drake, an adventurer in the style of Indiana Jones, who this time is trying to solve a mystery surrounding some lost ships from Marco Polo's fleet. (PS3, $60.)
Forza Motorsport 3. This slick Xbox racing game offers up a deep experience for people with a serious interest in cars who want to pore over every component under the hood as they upgrade for the next race. Fortunately, for those of us with a limited interest in such things, the game also takes a far gentler approach. Don't really want to figure out the best upgrade for the next race, on one of the game's gorgeous tracks? Click a button and the game will do that for you. (Xbox 360, $60.)