Total Reviews: 89
Average Overall Score Given: 8.33708 / 10
Total Forum Posts: 2003

South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play!

So what happens when you take the Tower Defense genre and drop into it 4 of the most famous..........or should I say infamous, little kids from South Park? Well with Cartman at your side anything is possible.

With South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play!, you get the familiar TD (Tower Defense) strategy mechanics with a South Park makeover. Playing single player you must fend off hordes of some familiar enemies such as the Ginger Kids and Hippies; wave after wave hurling snowball after snowball in hopes of defending the town. As you complete a few levels you unlock the rest of the South Park quartet, each armed with his own special attack and speed variation. Multiplayer is also available adding a surprisingly challenging and hilarious mix to playing with friends.

The TD genre is left intact in this addicting incarnation of the strategic game but with the addition of these 4 "movable" weapons, the South Park kids. Positioning and speed come into play as you set up strategic vantage points and create turrets from everything from barbecue's converted into laser cannons to rocket launchers made from boxes of fireworks.

While this may seem very simplistic, don't be fooled. Go into this on a whim and I'll guarantee you'll have a challenge before you, South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! may be a small addition to the XBOX Live Arcade catalog but it's a great challenge, a lot of fun and surprisingly addicting. While South Park, like many animated classics, hasn't had a great full blown video game success published, this little side scrolling wonder is sure to please both fans of the genre as well as fans of the show.

South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! Makes my "Must Have" Arcade title list, the Japan-imation style intro and filler scenes are funny and the wise cracking, foul mouthed South Park humor remains intact making this a nice merger of game genre and intellectual property without losing what makes the South Park animated series so popular. So invite over a few of your friends and help our four little South Park juveniles, Cartman, Kenny, Stan and Kyle defend there town from hostile take over.

South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! Is available on the XBOX Live market place for 800 MS Points and in this gamers opinion, well worth the investment.

Overall Score: 7.2 / 10 DiRT 2

There?s something about racing that just gets you going. The rev of the engine, the speed, and let?s face it, the cars. These shiny, exotic pieces of art can make grown men cry. In Dirt 2 we leave the well mannered vehicular eye-candy and asphalt tracks and highways behind for some off road, high speed, roll your car in a ditch fun. The folks at Codemaster may have skimped on a few minor things in Dirt 2, but one thing they did do well was deliver a great looking, well laid out racing game that is both exciting and entertaining, so If your worried about getting mud on your shoes or your wheels for that matter, buck up, cause Dirt 2 will defiantly kick up some dust.

Dirt 2 takes you globe trotting across the world over 8 locations and a seemingly endless list of events over various disciplines, from Rally events being guided by your co-pilot, navigating you through twists and turns to Rally Cross events that consist of tight circuits with a mixture of asphalt and dirt terrains. Besides the 5 more customary disciplines are included some extra, fun modes such as Gate Crashers that will push not only your precision, but also your speed and accuracy while you crash gate after gate, padding your time while still trying to finish first.

Like most racers your stats increase with experience gained by winning and placing in race events, along the way racking up cash for some new vehicles, liveries and other fun items such as your XBOX Live Avatar hanging from your rear view mirror. As you level your skills more events and challenges are available to you in various locations, aside from the regular events you will gain access to World Tour Events, the X Games and even have direct challenges by some of the sports biggest names like Dave Mirra. ?Throwdown? events offered by the other racers in Dirt 2 are a mix of one on one, head to head event?s and sometimes against a pack of the big boys. I nice wrinkle to the game that ties into the Throwdown events as well as the regular events is that if you get the attention of the ?Stars? in Dirt 2 on a regular basis you actually build on relationships adding to your ?Friend Bonus? and eventually these allies will be available for the ?Team Up? events. Once on the tracks a variety of in race missions are presented to you that vary from mastering corner drifts, overtaking your opponents to fun stuff like kicking up some dust while doing donuts with your vehicle, all the mission?s keep padding your experience and leveling your racing skill.

Codemasters came up with a very nice, non typical interface for Dirt 2, all your options and event choices are navigated in and around your trailer, not a lavish amenity filled trailer mind you, but a cluttered poster filled space that does add to the feel of the game and living in the pits. Events are chosen from a map on the table, you can walk outside your trailer to choose vehicles, check out your rides and adjust the in game options.

Dirt 2 doesn?t offer a huge stable of vehicles or options for fine tuning them. Here is where my slight problems with the game are. Your vehicle choices are relegated to about 10 or so and spending your hard earned cash on them is a bit of a challenge if not just guess work. Looking at each vehicles ?Stats?, cars that are price at, let?s say $100,000 are almost identical to those priced for twice as much and more. The vehicle stats are 3 basic slide bars indicating Top Speed, Acceleration and Drivability. You can toggle on the tuning mode giving you more control, but again that control is minimal at best utilizing a 5 setting slide rule adjusting a few mechanics such as Ride Height, Gear Ratio and Differential. To enter your vehicles in certain events they need to be outfitted with certain packages to qualify. This boils down to cost and nothing more, enter an event, if you have a ride that can enter but needs the upgrade package just purchase it. Again, this is a minor thing in my eyes and the rest of the game more than makes up for this lack of control, Dirt 2 is not a simulation racer and for those die hard racing control freaks this may be a problem. During events you can choose you?re racing view, all of the usual angles are available, and a nice touch to the cockpit view was that you need to pay a bit more attention when using it. Drive your vehicle through a muddy puddle and you will be blind for a moment while your windshield wipers clear your view and in some events that could mean the end of your race when an overpass pillar shows up right in your face.

The events and locations in Dirt 2 are fantastic, hands down more than makes up for any short comings. All the tracks are well designed, beautiful to look at and challenging, they look and feel great as you maneuver through them with your vehicle feeling bumps and dips along the way. Vehicle physics are just as tight when your car bounces as it lands from a jump or splashes through mud, water and dust. Dirt 2 also sports a nice reflection package that just shines, no pun intended, as your vehicles makes it?s way through different times of day, sometimes with sun flare, some times the reflection from overhead lights from night venues. Adding to the visual offering of Dirt 2 is the ?Flashback? feature which some may remember. The Flashback feature actually plays out to be more of a learning feature than the obvious, I just rolled my car into a pillar, let me back it up and try again. For me it really helped in learning the tracks, which all race fans know is the key to success in racing. Inevitably there is a little bit of a cheaters usage to the feature, in some cases short cuts present themselves and well, you miss them?Flashback and shave a few seconds off your time. Hey, we?re only human.

All in all I was pleasantly surprised with Dirt 2, the look and feel of the game made up for the lack of the ?Sim? factor, but to be honest I enjoyed the more casual approach to it. I didn?t miss the Sim like feel of the Rally Sport series as much as I thought, Dirt 2 offers up simple choices in the pits but delivers big time on the track. The casual feel extends into the events themselves by not making you have to finish all events to unlock new ones keeping the game and racing fun and fresh and still delivering a sense of accomplishment as you move from event to event. So if you enjoy rolling in the ?Dirt??had to do it, Dirt 2 is well worth your time and gaming dollar, a great racing package was delivered by Codemasters with this one.

Suggestions: Expanding the vehicle selection a bit and maybe the tuning options, but overall a fantastic effort.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Need For Speed: Shift

I?ve said it before and I?ll say it again, racing games are one of the gaming world?s bread and butter genres?. If you can deliver a solid racing title you pretty much have it made, if it turns into a solid franchise, well, the sky is the limit. But when you hit that great franchise title you run into new challenges?constantly building and improving it over time. Lord knows when you stop doing that you pretty much get shuffled into the gaming world?s oblivion, the bargain bin.

The Need for Speed franchise is a long and favored one. I remember playing the original on my PC and gazed in awe at the high reflections on the cars and endless highways and byways available to me. I?ll take that one step further, it let us live out our rebellious streak by outrunning the law when ever we sat down to play. What gear head hasn?t fantasized about ducking and dodging the local law enforcement, sirens blazing and tires squealing around every turn? That?s what made me fall in love with the Need for Speed franchise.

Over the years the franchise has done an overall commendable job, only in recent years has the franchise suffered a bit. Not quite living up to the reputation it built, getting sometimes lost in the flash and ignoring the substance, but for the most part delivered the street racing fun and excitement that still kept some of the fans interested. Needless to say the clamoring for the latest and greatest NFS (Need for Speed) title waned a bit, but fans of the franchise, such as me, really wanted to see NFS knock one out of the park so to speak. So when EA announced Need for Speed Shift, I was very excited and couldn?t wait to see what they had done.

Need for Speed Shift is a complete departure from the franchise?s usual formula. At first I?ll admit I was disappointed, I mean, the minute I loaded the game and it started its introduction scenes I audibly said to myself ?This isn?t Need for Speed?, but hey, I gotta do the review so let?s see what we got here. As I played I came to one realization, the NFS I was used to wasn?t in my system, and as much as that disappointed me I had to go forward and see if this complete turn around delivered anything, or for that matter could hold up against the big boys it squarely targeted. Because you see my friends, the days of police chases and street racers are over, at least for now, NFS Shift has gone to simulation tier racing ala? Forza Motorsports. Quite a change of direction to say the least, and I?ll admit it was hard not to keep thinking ?why?? So was this the change the franchise needed? Would this completer overhaul help bring back some of the fans? Maybe.

Let?s forget the past and focus on the present, Shift actually does an above average job delivering the ?Driving Experience? The game looks great, houses a commendable stable of vehicles, there not all there, but all the right ones are ready to be parked in your garage. The ?Career? mode plays out in very familiar fashion, start off small and slow, upgrade your vehicle, earn money and move up the ranks. Winning races in Shift isn?t the only way to pad your profile; you can also earn badges and bonuses as you race. Mastering turns, running clean lines, all earn you favor with the point system. Your style is judged on a two sided scale completely generated by you. If you like hammering the opponents in corners and trading paint, your scale will tend to lean towards Aggressive. As I said before, run clean lines, drift perfect corners and overtake your opponent with style and your scale will lean towards ?Precise? all of this influencing your racer profile.

As you move from Tier to Tier earning Stars and Badges for more stuff than you can shake a stick at, you not only open and unlock new options but Invitational Events along with profile goodies such as an extra space in you garage or a new wheel manufacturer becomes available. The main menu system is average at best, and the design editor isn?t the greatest either, it does it's job but seriously,copying vinyl?s for the opposite side of your car is almost a mandatory thing now a day?s isn?t it? The options menu houses the usual upgrades and tweaks, everything from wheels to NOS, Body kit?s to suspension, and custom paint jobs to vinyls.

Now where I feel NFS Shift makes up ground is in the actual racing, still a little Arcady for a simulation racer, but hardly a draw back. The physics from one car model to the other is fantastic. You can feel the difference between a muscle car like a Camaro and a tuner like the Skyline, unlike some racers who seem to have most of the cars start with the same ?Stats? and have you adjust them from there. The tracks are a mix of real life venues with a few mythical locations added in for good measure. One of the unique and polished features in Shift is the cockpit view and cockpit physics. The cockpit views of the past always seemed to be just frame around the screen, just to give the illusion of being inside the car. Well Shift raised the bar a bit in that department. Authentic reproductions of the cockpits of some of the greatest cars on wheels are here for you to drool over, you can even add some custom gauges If you so choose. The other cockpit dynamic is the blur effect and physics while you drive. If you take a turn to fast, or hit the line just right, your point of view follows that subtle sway you would have in your seat, changing the angle of view a bit as you turn and you shift in your seat. Conversely, lose control of your car and hit a guardrail and you get slightly blurred vision from the impact, the greater the impact the more sever the blur and duration. I know cockpit views are not for everyone, but I can?t encourage you enough to at least give it a try, it truly does add to the realism of the race.

NFS Shift adds to the experience by delivering some spot on engine roars and impact effects, the sense of speed while racing is adrenaline pumping and it also did a little ?Addition by Subtraction? by removing any soundtracks playback while actually racing, I can?t tell you how much that was appreciated. After all, when?s the last time you saw a race car driver tuning into his favorite FM station?

So where does that leave me as far as my longing for the street racer I enjoyed so much? Well unsatisfied, but having to judge Shift on its own merit I would have to give it some props. NFS Shift delivers a great looking, highly customizable, solid ?Driving Experience?, great physics and the cockpit upgrade give it some new life and separates it from other driving sims, and who knows it may even give the big dogs a run for their money. The few aesthetic draw backs and the slight arcade feel hardly hamper the game, and racing head to head on-line is sure to garner some attention and fuel those competitive juices. So while it?s not the NFS I was expecting, it definitely is an exciting addition to the franchise presented in a different way. If you enjoy simulation racers you definitely need to give Shift a few test laps, once you get past the fact that it?s not a street racer, you can settle in and enjoy it for what it is?a commendable tier racer with more under the hood, where it counts.

Suggestions: Kudos to EA and Slightly Mad Studios for a solid racing simulation racer...but I would like to see the old street racer make a triumphant return.

Overall Score: 8.9 / 10 Pinball FX

If you?re a ?Mature? gamer (and I?m not talking about mentality here, I?m talking age), you?ve had the pleasure to watch gaming in general evolve into what we see today and if you really take the time to look, it?s really been an amazing road. I know a lot of people look to games like Pong as the forefront of what we consider gaming today, but I would beg to differ. while Pong may have introduced gaming to screens, Pinball actually introduced the micro-processor to gaming.

When I was younger, you could not set foot in any establishment that sold anything that didn?t have a pinball machine. They were, at one time, the best money makers a business owner could get his hands on; most times making the initial purchase investment back in a few weeks. I don?t want to go too far back to the wooden tables and cues, but what we all know as a pinball machine.

A themed table with lots of flashing lights, crazy sound effects and steel balls??no comment. Before video game arcades there were pinball arcades, and they gobbled up just as many quarters, if not more than any video games ever did.

Overall Score: 6.9 / 10 R-Type Dimensions

In the arcade hey days of the 1980?s, there were many shooters taking up space on the arcade floors devouring quarter after quarter with one simple mission?your 3 initials residing up high of the ?Top Scores? list.

In 1987 a side scrolling space shooter made its way to the dimly lit arcade halls, R-Type. R-Type, produced by Irem, is considered to be one of the era?s classic side scroll shooters and also carried the dubious reputation of being one of the most challenging games in the arcade scene. Here we are 20 plus years later, games have come a long way as well as gamers. Surely this ?Blast from the past? has lost a bit of its challenge and now really only helps bring that nostalgic feeling to our gaming hearts?NOT!

Now all of my fellow gamers can share that experience, available on the 360?s Xbox LIVE Arcade is R-Type, in all of its original side scrolling splendor, which I reluctantly admit includes the original frustration?its still hard.

In R-Type you man a space craft, the ?Arrowhead?, armed with some decent fire power you man your way through wave after wave of alien obstructions known as the ?Bydo?. Like most of the classics, you manage your way through the game with various power ups that increase your firepower as well as your ?Armor? depending on how you decide to use them.

R-Type is very well designed and the graphics were among the most eye-catching of its time. The trick to this game was, as in many of these classic side scrolling wonders; not to rely on the fire power alone, you couldn?t muscle your way through levels, but more so finding the ?Sweet Spot?, that one illusive position on the screen that your enemy seamed to overlook, giving you the green light to fire at will on your target without fear. This was a good thing in R-Type because evasion tactics were priority one as you maneuvered through the seemingly endless cluttered screen of aliens. Many an expletive was shouted at this inanimate machine that took all my hard earned money in the summer of 1987, leaving me broke, aggravated and always coming back for more.

Your R-Type download comes with a few added bonuses such as some improved and updated graphics that can be toggled back and forth in-game, and if you get tired of burning through the allotted 3 lives from the original offering; (and I know non of you would even think of doing this) you can go the ?Infinite Life? route and just keep plugging away.

Lastly your R-Type download also includes R-Type II, the sequel to the original arcade classic. I know these classics don?t appeal to everyone, you either just appreciate them due to the lore and reputation that they have built over time, or you lived through them like I did, either way I feel ?Modern? gamers should give them a try, especially a title such as this. Its still challenging and very hard to put down once you start playing, which just emphasizes that good games don?t get old?.they just find new players to aggravate.

So jump in your Arrowhead and go kick some alien Bydo butt in R-Type, its still loads of fun and offers just as much challenge, if not more, than some modern games.

Overall Score: 7.6 / 10 Section 8

You are the Elite of the United States Imperial Forces; your unit is known as ?Section 8??..Section 8; irrational, insane, or mad. Your fight: to free the innocent and oppressed from the ?Arm of Orion?. Your destination: New Madrid. Geared with the most modern gear, weaponry and technology, access to Heavy Armor and Tanks??sounds like a non stop action packed experience.

Section 8 is the newest First Person Shooter from Timegate, and it?s jumping into a genre pool filled with some pretty big fish; the heavy hitters of the genre. Will the intense ?Burn-In? and Jet packs be enough to keep Section 8 in the company of all those FPS? Let?s take a look and see.

Forgive the dramatic intro to this review, but let?s face it, you need to come up with some pretty aggressive and intense imagery and wrinkles to stand out in the FPS (First Person Shooter) genre. My personal opinion is that with games like Halo and Gears of War harnessing gamers by the thousands online, you better have your big boy pants on and have something to offer or be sucked up into no-mans land. Alright, enough drama, let?s get to the game???.Section 8.

So your part of an Elite Military Squad sent to New Madrid to defend some of the out of the way colonies the US has left out there. Armed with some impressive armor consisting of a ?Tribes? like Jet pack that adds a nice fighting dynamic to the battles, you arrive on the scene not on the ground but overhead in space. You then ?Burn-In? to your location. The Burn-In system replaces the spawn system in S8 (Section 8) and actually does give you some interesting flexibility. Via your ?TecNet?, your pre-burn HUD, you can carry out a few things. One, you can determine where you want to drop into action, first thing that came to mind was, no more ?Spawn Campers? when I go on-line. You can also tweak your weapons and customize your characters gear in preparation for battle. When you chose a drop location on your HUD map and ?Burn-In? your literally hurled to the surface at break neck speeds, once you reach a certain altitude you have the option to hit your brakes and maneuver your exact drop location. This replacement of the spawn points does give Section 8 a nice change of pace, if your truly a ?Section 8? you can drop right into the action behind, in front of or right on top of the enemy.

S8 does have a wide variety of weapons available to you, assault rifles, rocket launchers, a variety of grenades and bombs, along with a few gadgets like Sensor Blocker and Repair Tool that can ?Repair? (Heal) a target or yourself. Your armor is equipped with a Jet Pack and Overdrive capabilities. The Jet Pack helps you leap distances and hover a bit and has short bursts available which recharges when not in use. Your overdrive is a sprint mechanism; sprint for a short distance and you go into Overdrive, increasing your speed drastically and even overshooting your target at times.

So there is your basic gear but you can also acquire ?Requisition? points to requisition Heavy Armor (A Mech Like suite) and Tanks. You gain points by playing, defeating and accomplishing both basic objectives and ?Dynamic Combat Missions? which are random add on missions that will be offered up as you progress through the regular goals of the game. Add to this a few different Turrets that you can utilize and Supply Depots and you have a good overview of what you?re dealing with.

Alright, so those are the ?Specs? of the game, S8 starts off getting your attention but unfortunately it doesn?t hold it long enough in my opinion. For one, the campaign mode is way too short and being able to be completed in a ?Normal? session of gaming; I?m not talking marathons here. I know what some would say, but it?s online capable and that?s what most will play. Well again, the on-line offering is nothing out of the ordinary, nothing we haven?t seen before or done. The objectives are noting more than a variation of ?Capture the Flag? which is called Hacking, or whatever, but it?s still just sitting there for a period of time to control the objective.

The actual combat, again, while fun in the beginning; becomes a game of chance with the over the top health/armor that opponents and NPC?s are boasting. It seems to take forever to take anything down, and while you would think this make it a greater challenge, it doesn?t. It just turns the battles into stretched out cat and mouse games, add the jet packs and overdrive and the battles seem to take forever to complete. Now I?m not saying that gamers have short attention spans, but you do need to feel like you?re making a dent rather than just chipping away at a never ending situation. I kind of felt like I was beating on a boulder with a plastic hammer at times.

Online; S8 is a 16 on 16 matches that consist of the usual fair, quick, custom, advanced, private and even System Link options. From there you are playing the same ?Campaign? objectives and DCM?s (Dynamic Combat Missions) only in a player vs. player arena (Unless you opt for bots to fill in).

I do want to mention the ?Swarm? modes available in the Instant Action menu. If you love living as an underdog this is for you. Swarm mode pits a small group consisting of players and friendly bots against a larger group of enemies. Again, a great idea and concept, but the above mentioned ?Never Ending? health issue makes this a little one sided?..bots are stellar opponents in S8; there is no confusing a ?Real? opponent with a bot. Now S8 may appeal to some, this is of course one gamers opinion, but the tactical angle that S8 states goes out the window because of this health issue. It?s a problem in game play and drags the game down and it could be the one single factor that may have derailed Section 8.

Section 8 looks great, sounds above average and tries really hard, but the short campaign mode will disappoint the non LIVE players; there are some out there, and the LIVE experience for me was just too much work for little reward. I know that sounds harsh and it?s hard to really put into words how much the Health issue really makes a difference in the pace of the game, and oddly so contradictory to the whole speed element in S8; the overdrive and the Jet packs. You get to your opponent in a dazzling dramatic manner and then you feel like your hitting them with nothing special, it turns into a slap fight for lack of better words.

Suggestions: Like I stated in my opening, the FPS genre is a tough nut to crack, and I?m glad that studios are still trying to re-invent the FPS wheel and I?m sure some great ones will eventually show up. Unfortunately Section 8 falls into the ever growing group of FPS that just don?t make the grade. I would love to see how Section 8?s game play would change with some adjustments to the health system, I can?t emphasize enough how that one dynamic affected this game for me.

Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 NCAA Football 09

When NCAA Football hits the streets it usually means two things. One, football is in the air, and two, summer is fading fast! EA?s NCAA Football 09 is back once again with a long list of features, mini-games and modes to entice all you pigskin aficionados. The thing with football games is that we all know the game and how it?s played and we?ve seen it presented numerous times on console, so what makes this the latest and greatest, if it even is? This is football so there really is no reason to cover plot, or storylines, what we can tackle, no pun intended, is the mechanics and features of NCAA 09. One of NCAA?s big features is bringing you ?Wide open Authentic College game play?; this particular feature is enhanced by some home field advantage nuances to the game. If the visiting team gets rattled enough and starts to lose its composure, your button icons turn to question marks and routes to squiggly lines, if your pass gets picked off, yet another little nuance pops up, the ?Quarterback Quiz?, name the defense the opponent was running correctly to regain some of your composure. The kicking game is also affected by the pressure by the ?Icing the Kicker? mechanic. Late in a game call a time out to ?Ice? the kicker, a lower camera angle, audible heart beat and controller rumble ?Kick? in to try and un-nerve the player. Why do I bring these things up with a little sarcasm? Well, because these are just gimmicks in my eyes. Give me a solid game and keep the odd little bells and whistles for something else, none of these features make the ?Authentic College? experience pop out at me. You can pump up the crowd by clicking down on the left analog stick, which would have been more than enough. Why do I criticize so harshly? Because NCAA 09 has a lot to offer without the gimmicks.

The game looks great, real simple. The player animations and movement mechanics are pretty close to spot on. You even get to enjoy the cheer leaders high flying pyramids and jumps. Players will slide, jump and bobble passes to try and complete them. The control scheme is standard fair, everything where we have learned to expect it. There is a bit more fluidity in control via the analog sticks and audible and hot routes can be executed flawlessly from the line. On defense, you can ?Stick? player with bone crushing tackles and aggressively try and cause a turn over ?Striping? the ball with a push of a button. Time your jumps and moves just right for a quick ?INT? heading the other way. Plays are broken down by ?Coaches Picks?, by play, formation, etc?making it easy on all level of players to get into the game?so why do we need the gimmicks? Yes, playing the all mascot games is funny with the over the top jukes and jumps, that too would have been enough. If you want to really be part of the game create your own ?Campus Legend? live on campus go to classes, hang out at night, train and perform well in practice and move up the depth chart, he even has his own set of achievements, recruit him to your favorite team and see what you can do. It?s kind of your alter ego in NCAA if you will. So again I ask you? Why the gimmicks?

Now what is going to make many a football fans day is NCAA?s all new Online Dynasty mode. With 60 years of continuous play, 12 players can join your Dynasty playing as any team. Full recruiting, stats and NCAA news enhance the experience. This is more or less fantasy football played by you and your friends. Your new Dynasty is by Invitation only and you reside as the Commissioner, you are in complete control. You can track everyone?s progress and communicate to the group via Dynasty Headquarters. A really nice feature in the overall game is the ability to convert online to offline and vice versa, so the system is pretty seamless and effortless. The Dynasty mode is very deep and I can see it being the meat of this game for quite some time, you could lose yourself in this mode if you?re not careful, although I?m not quite sure if that?s a bad thing, true football fans are stat junkies anyway, so go crazy. You of course can launch a Dynasty the lazy mans way, which is ?Siming? your way through all the recruiting, building, training, etc? and get right to the schedule, so there really isn?t a reason for anyone not to try and give their ?Dynasty? a shot, its one thing to play as the Georgia Bulldogs, its another to be your own custom built team. So the quick way, or the right way, Dynasty mode is well worth looking into for every player with a pulse.

Aside form the ?Play Now?, ?Dynasty? and usual modes, there is a ?Gimmick? I did enjoy. Not because of its break form the norm but I have to give it an ?A? for originality and use of the entire team. I?m referring to the mini-games, not the in game ones, but the stand alone fun stuff. Returning are the ever popular, at least I enjoyed them, Option Dash, Bowling and Tug of war?my favorite. This year there are two new additions to the list, HORSE and Special Teams Challenge. We?ve all played Horse the concept is relatively easy. In NCAA 09 Horse pits kicker against kicker, where you are able to spot the ball anywhere on the field as your line of scrimmage, now all you need to do is keep knocking them through the uprights. You can even add wind and other elements to make the challenge that much greater. The special teams challenge is a ?Drive? to be the first to score, you can play against a player or CPU, 1 play each, back and forth, first to score wins. Lets say you return a kick to your opponents 20 yard line, then sty full their play right there, you can just kick a field goal to win. Conversely, you can play a position game by punting until the tide turns in your favor. All the mini-games, old and new are a nice addition, well thought out and a lot of fun to play when you need to step away from the X?s and O?s.

I didn?t mean to harp on the gimmicks, but while there were some minor flaws in the game, it?s a very solid effort for the long running series. The sounds of the game are well balanced and accurate, the home crowd cheering or jeering on an interception does add to the feel of the game, the commentary while at times a little repetitive is very accurate and the inclusion of custom sounds pretty much seals the deal?you want ?Wipeout? to play on a turnover? So be it, there are well over 20 specific game instances that you can upload custom sounds to. The Dynasty mode is deeper than a 10 page review could have covered, and all that being said, the ?Football? game, in its purest since, without the gimmicks and odd bells and whistles is more than adequate, so there really was no need for the gimmicks. Pick up NCAA 09 for the football and depth of the online Dynasty experience, play a few mini-games to break up the season, and does NCAA 09 really deliver an ?Authentic College Experience?? ?who cares, the "Football" game was well designed and I can still jam a receiver at the line to rattle his cage, that?s what counts.

Suggestions: In this gamers opinion, keep improving the mechanics and character animations of the overall game and realism of the online experience. Gimmicks will never put a game over the top.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Spiderwick Chronicles, The

Once again we find ourselves in the all too familiar category of movie licensed games. On top of that the added sub category of sorts that target younger gamers. But having children of my own, I try not to take my pre-conceived ideas and notions about this particular genre too seriously. The Spiderwick Chronicles by Sierra is targeted to the younger gamer, and is based on the popular books which have recently made the jump to the silver screen, all these elements are usually a sure recipe for disaster but after playing for a bit I have to admit that The Spiderwick Chronicles (TSC) showed some unexpected promises.

The game is structured around a boy who discovers ?Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You? that goes on to explain the magical fantasy filled world lurking right under your nose. Like most adventure games TSC is filled with area to explore, items to discover, puzzles to solve, and my personal favorite? goblins to fight. While overall a sound experience it does have some minor flaws.

Not to harp on the bad things, I just wanted to get them out of the way before we delve into the positive things, which, yes there are. The first unavoidable thing that you?ll undoubtedly notice is how dark the game is, you are prompted right from the beginning to adjust your screen, now on mine, it took a few tries back and forth because once in the game you realize what you thought was acceptable is still to dark to see items in corners let alone staircases and corridors in the house. Needless to say, it was a function that could be corrected. Looking at the game from the perspective of the audience it was intended for I also found the game a bit hard to navigate in terms of knowing where you are, of course you can consult your guide at any time, but more often than not, its wasn?t tremendously helpful. The game also has quite a few cut scenes that were lifted right from the movie, and while a very nice touch, it would have been nicer to be able to skip through them as an option. My one big complaint is the way the inventory system works out, you don?t really have one, and the major down side to that is as you find objects, you really can?t collect, you can investigate them, learn what they are, but until your in that mission/quest you can?t collect them, so there is a little bit of frustration in remembering where you saw certain objects earlier and now having to backtrack. Outside of a few the occasional clipping problems, and some random invisible objects you can pass through TSC was very well designed.

TSC does a great job keeping your interest by its many diverse playing schemes, the puzzle solving begins basic and grows in complexity as you progress through the game, the combat system while a button masher for the age group intended is still fun, and the collection of sprites unlocks new magical abilities such as healing, super speed and super strength, catching enough of them with your ?Sprite Net? will launch you into a ?Painting? mini-game, which seemed more added, than a part of the game. I thought the collecting aspect was interesting when piecing items like your initial monocle to view the mystical world around you. The aforementioned button mashing won?t go to waste either, after vanquishing a goblin you can collect its teeth which in turn unlock new moves for your characters melee attack as you collect enough of them, one attack in particular will bring a chuckle to any gamer, as goblins are launched into the ?cheap seats?. While the ?New? attacks are not overly complicated, more or less the addition of a new button, they are more than acceptable and challenging enough to keep to keep gamers collecting teeth. All these elements do a commendable job keeping to the adventure roots of the book, movie, and now game. In addition, gamers can also look forward to unlocking 2 player co-op modes which is sure to not only extend the life of the game, but add a new wrinkle to the adventure.

Visually TSC is above average, but lacks some of the ?Flare? we as gamers are getting used to, if not starting to expect in our games. Detailed shadows, particle effects, etc?TSC offers a straight forward visual style that is adequate but not fantastic. As mentioned earlier the game does have some minor visual glitches like be able to swing through your targets, and the flow is off at times. The character models on the other hand are very nicely rendered and if you?ve seen the movie will appreciate the likeness. Even the load screen seems a bit lack luster with animated leaves blowing by that really don?t match the rest of the look of the game, so overall, TSC looks fine, but could have been ?Polished? a bit more. The soundtrack in TSC does stand out quite a bit, from spooky creaking doors and other effects it does a great job of putting you in the Spiderwick world and sets the mood very well. The voice acting is above average, considering most of it is via cut scenes and your main character Jared.

Overall, The Spiderwick Chronicles accomplishes what it set out to deliver, a solid adventure game for younger gamers, and in that respect it actually delivers an above average experience that holds true to the adventure game genre, possibly getting those younger gamers to continue to enjoy the genre. While the game is very linear at times and walks you through the early levels a-la ?Tutorial? it should appeal to the gamer it set out to impress. The books were great, the movie was very entertaining also, the game?well, let me put it this way, a certain eyeglass wearing wizard may have to step up his game in the video game market. The Spiderwick Chronicles was enjoyable for both children and adults, kudos.

Suggestions: Overall a great adventure game, would like to see a bit more "polish" to the game and an inventory system to work around the item backtracking.

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10 FEAR Files

For those of you who played the original F.E.A.R, you?ll find yourself right at home with F.E.A.R Files, a nice double expansion pack in one offering. Not only do you get the original games first expansion, Extraction Point, but you also get the latest expansion in the series, Perseus Mandate. For new comers to FF (F.E.A.R Files), the expansions can be played as stand alone experiences without needing a complete knowledge of the original. The original game in the series gave us some great AI, weaponry and even more chilling moments than you can shake a stick at, but I often find myself disappointed in expansions as well as some sophomore efforts, they just seem to fall short or try and ride on the coat tails of the successful original. Extraction Point starts off exactly where F.E.A.R left off, literally. It?s a very nice segue to the first expansion and offers continuity in your continuing mission. But how does it play out as a ?New? game? What does it bring to the table this time around? Well let me share my thoughts on the Expansion Double Pack F.E.A.R Files.

Both games offer unique weapons and a pretty standard HUD. You can carry no more than three weapons at a time, find a weapon you would rather have and trade it off with your least favorite. Your health is regulated by a meter and health packs are randomly scattered around maps as well as ammo and a few secret items. Your character has heightened agility, and this is carried off in the game via bullet time effects, your so fast that the world around you seems to be moving in slow motion, its all pretty much standard fare, your bullet time regenerates as you rest a bit, along with your helmet light, that will defiantly light the way at times when you feel there is no way out. The control pads layout is all too familiar and very easy to master from the get go. This caries over both expansions, so let?s get to the meat and potatoes of this double pack.

The two expansions set off trying to give us new experiences in FF, the first expansion, Extraction Point, takes you right where you left off in the original, the explosion that all but levels the Origin Facility also causes the helicopter down, now your goal is to make it to the top of a hospital for extraction. A few characters that supposedly met their maker in the original find there way back in the expansion. Extraction Point has signature AI from the original, massive fights with numerous types of horrors, great weaponry and the all familiar bullet time feature. The game is very solid, there is no doubt about that, the issues lie in ?What?s New?. Extraction Point offers a lot of the same old same old, not only in play mode but locations and situations. You can only take so many sewers and abandoned warehouses, the maps just lack a little creativity. With that being said, there is something to the skirmishes you end up in, the fights are non stop action, and while bullet time effects are far from something new and exciting, there is a fair amount of adrenaline pumping as you slow down the action and pump off a few shots with your shot gun in slow motion. The game is as grizzly and graphic as always, and while I found it not as intense as the original there are still moments that will make you jump. Unfortunately as I stated earlier the lack of originality hurts the returning gamer, new gamers to the series may not find it as lack luster and more enjoyable. The storyline is a little thin, and plot lines are really kind of secondary, so Extraction Point continues to be a little flat overall.

The second expansion, Perseus Mandate, kind of blurs the line between the past and the present in that you play as a second unit that was sent in during the original storyline. Trying to give it an alternate view from the original character, or maybe a different twist, it accomplishes neither. The characters have the same abilities and weapons for the most part, a few new toys do surface, but all in all it?s still the same character. And once again you find yourself in all too familiar surroundings, same locations, same look, same game play. Now while Extraction Point may have had some ground to stand on with newcomers, that may not hold true with Mandate, the inevitable been there, done that will set in. Yes there are some new enemies sprinkled in for good measure, but that far from makes up for the lack of overall new content. So is there something that will help elevate this experience for 360 owners? Actually there is, in the form of the Instant Action mode. Now as much as I harp on the lack of improvement, I do and have given credit were credit is due, F.E.A.R overall has always had great action and battles, and returning in FF is the Instant Action Mode were you play through short scenarios and are scored on how quickly and efficiently you neutralize your enemies. Yes these are short snippets at best, but a lot of fun none the less. Rounding off the package is on line play via Xbox Live, what little new content was tossed into the game transfers to XBL, and a few new maps also make the trip, again, unfortunately these few nuggets hardly make the experience feel any more exciting or fresh compared to the original.

So while FPS?s seem to be everywhere now a days, I have to say that all in all FF is a solidly made game, keep in mind these expansions originally surfaced a few years ago for the PC, so maybe time is catching up to them a bit in these ports, but as I said, the game is solid, its still fun to play, the creepiness is still there and you?ll find yourself moving through levels a bit more cautiously than normal. The levels are a bit stale and dated and a few of them become bogged down with a few too many paranormal flash backs, slowing the action down to almost a stand still. The stand alone expansions will most likely appeal to newcomers more than returning F.E.A.R fans, although some may enjoy revisiting the frenetic action that the series has become recognized for. I guess Extraction Point offers up some continuity for those of us returning, but I have to admit that Perseus Mandate seems to be leaning on the popularity of the series a bit more than it should. I still think you can enjoy the game on its own merit or as a returning fan, but it?s just not offering up anything that makes you stand up and take notice.

Suggestions: Its time to take the F.E.A.R universe to new locations and re introduce a solid story line. Solid as always, just not shining as it should.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Rock Band

We?ve all been there, in your bedroom, in your car, in front of a mirror, even screaming into a hair brush that you hold in your hand. Yes at some time in most normal people?s lives we find ourselves living our Rock and Roll fantasies out in our minds, lip syncing to our favorite songs, emulating our favorite rock bands or singers. There is just something about the Rock and Roll lifestyle that lures us into living that guilty pleasure if not just for a few minutes in the privacy of our room. Yes Karaoke had its stint and helped bridge that gap a bit, but it didn?t really fulfill my Rock and Roll dreams very well. Some of us spent countless hours mastering the air guitar over the years, while others took to upside down buckets to live out our dreams of pounding out thundering Drum solo?s. And as fun as all that is and was, there is no better way to live your Rock and Roll dreams than the newly released Rock Band from Harmonix. But lets be honest, theoretically this isn?t a new concept, but what does Harmonix do to raise the bar in this popular growing genre? Well for starters why not get one of the biggest names in guitar history to lend its likeness in creating a controller. Then just to make sure no one is left out in the cold, let?s bring the rest of the band to your living room so you get the complete experience. So go dig out that Rolling Stones concert T-Shirt and leather pants, and make sure your audience has their lighters fired up and in hand, because as AC/DC proudly exclaims?.For those about to Rock, we salute you!

I have to admit, when I first heard about the idea of Rock Band I was a bit skeptical, I mean come on, wasn?t a guitar enough? But 10 minutes into my review time with this game my volunteers and I were hooked. There is a lot to mention about Rock Band. While the idea is simple, Harmonix really put not only a fantastic game together, but a great group experience for gamers, family and friends alike. While RB (Rock Band) may make your wallet cringe a bit with its price tag, you need to really look at the contents of the package. So let?s start with that simple part, what does your hard earned cash get you? RB comes complete with a Microphone, Drums, and an amazing replica of the classic Fender Stratocaster guitar. Each item is a full blown controller except for the Microphone, the Drums come complete with sticks and a foot pedal, the Fender Strat houses the all familiar ?Whammy? bar and Solo Frets that allow you to pull off notes without having to ?Strum?. Along with the actual instruments, you are supplied with a mini USB hub to connect all of them to the 360, just a quick note, any USB hub will work with the system, so if you run out of ports you can expand that with a HUB. One of the nice little touches is the set of mini headset adapters that can attach your 360 headset directly to the Drums or Guitar, opening up the Chat capabilities while on line. And of course the game itself, which boasts quite an impressive list of songs right out of the box. 45 songs spanning from the 1960?s to the new millennium, with 13 additional tracks that can be unlocked as you improve your skills.

So of course this begs to ask that ever popular question?what about Downloadable Content, can I get more songs? Well just a few days ago Harmonix announced that it has a stellar line up of DLC that will be available weekly through the rest of 2007. 3- Song packs via the Xbox Live Marketplace will be available for an SRP of $5.49 per pack or $1.99 per song (440 Microsoft points per pack or 160 MP?s for individual songs). New song packs by Metallica, The Police and Queen along with individual songs by Foreigner, Wolfmother and The Runaways will be available. The press release also stated that you could expect weekly content through 2008 with an SRP varying from $.99 to $2.99 per track (80 to 240 Microsoft Points) with the majority falling in the $1.99 price range (160 MSP) So its safe to say, your not going to run out of tunes.

So with all of the dollars and cents out of the way, let?s get to the important part, the game. RB can be played solo or in a group, group play can be achieved either locally with some of your friends or via Xbox Live. The system will be familiar to those who have played the ?Other? game, match the beat, strum or pitch to the song and earn points. When starting you can opt for the Training mode, there are available Tutorials for both instruments ranging from the basics to the advanced, you can also jump into Practice Mode and hone your skills without worrying about points and pressure. The guitar and drum work off the same principal, match the colors as they enter your Target to score points and favor with the audience. The guitar has color coded frets that match the Red, Yellow, Blue and Green buttons you would find on a controller, the drums pads are also color coded the same way with the addition of the Foot Pedal. Color coded notes make there way down the screen, the Foot Pedal is a solid line across the Drum path. Each note garners you points. You can build up your Energy Bar by nailing the Special Glowing notes that appear. When you build up enough energy you can whip the crowd into a real frenzy by going into Overdrive with the guitar, this is achieved by tilting the neck upwards while playing. With the Drums your energy can be unleashed with Drum Fills; this is your cue to go nuts. Once you reach the end of your Fill you will need to hit the Green ending note for your barrage to count. Singers have the same options; singing is more about keeping the right pitch than signing the right words. The singer needs to follow a Pitch Meter, keeping the Pitch meter on target is crucial, and just like the instruments you can accumulate Energy by nailing the Glowing Lyrics when they pass by. To use your Energy you need to keep an eye out for the Freestyle section, at which point you can unleash you?re pent up vocal prowess. Playing the Guitar and Drum also gives you the opportunity to nail the ?Big Rock Ending? at the end of a song you can go completely unscripted, play what you want and rack up big points, but in order to get credit for the points you need to nail the last few notes that appear.

With RB that?s only half the battle, you also need to make sure you are impressing the crowd or your going to get run off the stage, the more accurate you play the higher your ?Crowd Meter? reads, keep it in the green and your doing fine, each member has his or her own Icon on the meter so its going to be easy to see who your going to kick out of the band later. But, many an impressive musicians have been able to keep the crowd excited enough to bring fallen members back from the grave. As a member falters and eventually ?Fails? they can be saved by their band mates? mastery giving them another chance, but Fail 3 times and you pretty much doomed your Band. The point system in RB accumulates into Stars, with a perfect 5 star performance being the goal. Stars not only help you progress, but also gain you fans and cash in various modes of the game. So with all of this RB breaks down into a few modes, Solo Touring or Group Touring and Band World Tour. In the World Tour Mode, you can start a band or join a band. From there you can visit the Rock Shop and create your Rocker alter ego that can be used in all the modes, purchase clothing and instrument upgrades as well as give your Band a bio, where they came from and the hardships they have faced. As you gain fame and fans you can unlock various venues not only across the country but around the world. Travel to Paris or stay in the states and try and get a gig at New York?s historical CBGB?s. As a Band you?ll need to play requested songs by the game, but also be prepared to take on mystery sets to help increase your fame and fortune.

In the end I feel there are a few things that really make Rock Band appealing, anyone can play it, whether you?re just playing this type of game for the first time or you?re a seasoned vet. It?s addicting to spectators, you may have friends and family who will start off just wanting to watch, but I?ll guarantee they will eventually be jockeying for position to get in the mix. The music, the variety of genres is fantastic, not only in terms of era, but styles. From Bon Jovi to the Ramones. The Rolling Stones to Radiohead, there is something for everyone in this package, and if all the DLC?s come to fruition the game will never get stale. This game will appeal to all ages young and old, and hardcore gamers will get a charge out of battling head to head over Xbox Live in a cyber Battle of the Bands if you will. It?s one of the best party games available; you can enjoy it with friends as well as family. So for what I originally thought might be a stretch, Rock Band turned out to be a great gaming experience. So if you have to, start digging in the sofa pillows for loose change, pass on a few DVD purchases and find a way to go pick up Rock Band. And if all else fails..."Dear Santa..." Rock Band is just that much fun.

Suggestions: Kudos to everyone involved, great game, fun for all. I only have one complaint...where is the travel case for all this equipment? ;)

Overall Score: 9.8 / 10 Timeshift

Time manipulation has been used in games before, sometimes succefully, sometimes as just a gimmick. I have to admit the concept, in either form, always seems to interest me. I?m always wondering how well it can be implemented, and when I first heard of Timeshift by Sierra, I was equally interested. The premise?you poses the Beta Suit, it can master movement through time, not just forward and back, but you can also bring time to a stand still. Dr. Aiden Krone recklessly makes a Time Jump across the space-time continuum. Now it?s up to you to hunt him down and restore order to the madness he?s unleashed? welcome to your alternate reality.

Timeshift hits the ground running with some very impressive, dramatic cut scenes. A quick, yet sketchy storyline starts to unfold, the next thing you know your hardwired into the Beta Suite and your being rushed down dark, dank corridors by Commander Mason Cooke, the leader of the anti-Krone resistance. While the quick, confusing pace seems a little, well, confusing, it does replicate the feeling of not knowing what happened or where you are quite well. There is an element of mystery within this game, because the story is pieced together more so as you play rather than it all being explained up front. The dark, gloomy Alpha District is just that, very bleak, very quiet except for the sound of gunfire or oncoming tanks, Mech?s, or helicopters. The silence is almost distracting at times, but again it does lend itself well to the overall feel of the game. Your alter-ego if you will, is the Beta Suites artificial intelligence S.S.A.M. Along with the ability to warn you about impending enemies or obstructions, S.S.A.M can also retrieve any Audio or Video transmit ions within a certain proximity, so while you will have some surprises, you can be prepared for oncoming conflicts and obstructions.

That?s about as much info as your going to get once you start playing. Timeshift at a glance plays out like many FPS, you are able to yield many various weapons, all which have an alternate fire capability, you can man turrets along your route as needed and most importantly if you can get to them in one piece. The game is very tactical?with a new twist. As much as many gamers will have the urge to run and gun this game, the true concept of the game lies in examining your surrounding and utilizing your time manipulation. New vantage points can be gained by simple things such as barrels that roll off a scaffold in a higher location. Standing on the barrel and reversing time can elevate you to a higher vantage point, helping your AI buddies through some thick fire. Its very difficult to stop and rethink how to play a game, but once you get through the first couple of missions, and a little trial and error the game takes on a new life, large enemy presence isn?t as daunting when you know how to use your powers of time bending, slowing down time as you take down enemies one by one with your shot gun, or even disarming them becomes quite interesting. Snapping back into normal time once disarmed, your enemy is pretty much at your mercy, or lack there of.

Overall Timeshift is a well made, and visually pleasing experience, its pitfalls are few, but there none the less. Enemy AI seems to be a race of thick skinned warriors, because at times it does seem an overabundance of fire power is needed to take down what would seem a normal foot soldier, head shots are 50/50 at best, and the missions seem a bit too linear. Again, the concept of the game is to utilize the time abilities, so I can kind of turn a bit of a blind eye to that problem. You can also mount vehicles in the game, more for getting across distances quicker than anything else; they do come in handy for running over groups when needed. When on a vehicle the game retains its FP aspect, the controls are a bit twitchy while driving, but manageable. There is a nice array of weaponry at your disposal, over 10 weapons and assorted grenades will aid you through your missions, and you can reload quite easily and gather ammo along the way from fallen enemies or unmanned Ammo Lockers. The HUD is pretty straight forward, a life bar, or Rapid Recovery system will protect you, the suite will absorb damage, but only do much, dodging into a safe area for a bit will recharge your shielding system and your off and running. Time powers can be activated anywhere, in certain situations the ?Correct? time function will be enabled just by pushing the shoulder button, other times, you can choose which function you feel is needed. The amount of time available in each ?Time? manipulation is dependant on usage, like the shielding system, it will become depleted as used but a few minutes of rest will recharge the system. That being said, you can disengage the time function at any point during use, saving energy for later.

Timeshift also offers on-line muti-player action via XBOX Live; unfortunately I was not able to find players during my review process, besides the usual game types such as capture the flag, Timeshift offers a completely new dynamic built around the Time manipulation theory. Chrono Grenades are the most fun, affecting all players and weapons within the blast radius accordingly, Slow, Back, or Stop Grenades are at your disposal.

Here is the inevitable problem, in my opinion, Time Shift is a solid game, not the end all be all, but its well designed, fun to play, and challenges players to think more than just run guns a blazing, but the inevitable comparisons to another popular FPS will plague Time Shift. Time Shift looks great, aside from a few minor things is very enjoyable, but the concept of Tome manipulation didn?t knock my socks off. At times it is used in a very gimmick like fashion, such as stopping time to walk across electrified water, or fire engulfed sewer pipes. Once you remove the Time element from the game there really isn?t anything over abundantly new here. Kudos to everyone on the game for delivering a well polished game with a shot at a new twist, it just doesn?t have enough to make it a real stand out at the moment.

Gamers may be split on Time Shift, I would recommend giving it a look if your willing to abandon your ?Run and Gun? instincts for a bit and use a little grey matter, but as stated earlier there are comparisons that will be made, whether justified or not.

Suggestions: I liked the concept, but there needed to be a bit more too it in some way. Entertaining, visually clean, but not enough to set it apart.

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Well here we are, it seems like just yesterday when an orphaned child set foot on the steps of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and went from a mere boy to a wizard with quite a daunting destiny. Actually it was 5 years ago to be exact (In school years that is) when we first got a chance to play EA?s video game adaptation of the Harry Potter saga.

Like most video games that come from movies, unfortunately, the Harry Potter series was a nice family oriented, E rated, button pusher, and each successive installment really did little but update character, surroundings, and maybe a spell or two, which brings us to the most current installment in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I must admit I wasn?t expecting anything more than what I have come to expect, but from the get go this game seemed a little different than its predecessors. Had EA and Warner Bros done the unthinkable? Try and make a good movie adapted video game? Alright, the end all be all its not, but HPOP (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) has become the best installment to a stale formula and quite an enjoyable little game.

OK, so what?s so great about this game? Well, for starters HPOP does a great job of immersing you in the Harry Potter universe more than ever before. There is a better connection to what it must be like to be a student at Hogwarts, let alone Harry Potter himself. The game starts with a curious cut scene, I say curious because I haven?t seen the movie yet, but in a quick little Dementor attack and some news headlines you find yourself in year 5 of Harry?s adventures at Hogwarts. Once there the game turns into a well designed, interesting combination of discovery, training, and mystery.

The first noticeable difference is the spell-casting controls. More like a real wand would function, you cast spells by moving the left stick in various directions to cast a spell, no more button pushing for a few obvious casts, you are able to train Harry to acquire 6 non-combat spells along with 6 Dueling spells. Depending on the mission or quest your on, the spells needed will be available to you. The other part of the game is discovering Hogwarts, for the first time you really get a sense of the size and confusion that Hogwarts is. From the moving staircase to the talking portraits, they have done a great job of incorporating all the things that makes Hogwarts, well, Hogwarts. As you discover different areas of the school you earn ?Discover Points?, as they are accumulated, these points increase not only your proficiency in spell casting but unlocks a slew of hidden unlockables in the game. From interviews with the cast member to trophies, the list is long and elaborate. As you accept missions from fellow students and teacher you make your way through the halls of the school, a keen eye will detect secrets behind tapestries, hidden images in the mortar, and many other small mysteries. The game isn?t relegated to the school itself, it actually encompasses all of the school grounds so you do venture outside the walls to complete missions and continue discovering the mysteries of Hogwarts.

Your discovery doesn?t end there; to make your romp through the school a little easier you can discover the passwords needed to access secret passages hidden behind portraits, noting the same portrait in a different parts of the school should key you in on the shortcut. With the size of the school, and believe me you will get turned around a bit with all the winding hallways and levels, you do have access to the Marauders Map. The map has the entire school laid out for you to follow, but even with the map it can get difficult to maneuver Hogwarts so they implemented a ?Follow the Footsteps? system, where all you need to do is mark the destination on the map, once done, retuning to the game you will see footprints on the ground leading you to your destination. That being said, you can still veer off the beaten path to continue discovering Hogwarts and earning those Discovery Points.

The underlying story here is Harry contacting students that have signed up to be in the ?DA? Dumbledore?s Army and be trained by Harry in the Defense Against the Dark Arts, since the new teacher has a more passive approach to things. Interwoven in the missions and discovery are a few mini-games ?Wizard Games? if you will. The first is ?Gobstones? a Hogwarts version of marbles that can be played in a few different ways; the second is ?Exploding Snap?, which is a match game, and lastly ?Wizard Chess?. Wizard Chess is the best mini-game in the group, using regular chess rules, but with the addition of Hogwarts styling in which the pieces actually battle. This was one of my favorite parts of the movie and it?s nice to see it finally make it to a game.

All the main characters are represented in the game, obviously our three main characters, Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Along with them are Ron?s brother, familiar ghosts, and other students I?m sure you will recognize. Visually the characters are well rendered, as well as the look and design of the rest of the school, grounds, and the many effects you unleash as you cast your spells. The game includes 22 of the original cast members doing their own voice over work, these unfortunately didn?t include Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Emma Watson.(Hermione Granger). The music is fantastic, scored form the movie and included in the game form an actual orchestra and not snippets from the soundtrack, nice touch.

The game culminates with a battle with ?He who?s name shall not be spoken? and only you can save Hogwarts, the Ministry, and Harry. So brush up on your casting, learn all there is to learn and with a little help form your friends you ?May? defeat the evil?well you know.

All in all I enjoyed the game more than I thought I would. It was easy to learn, easy to understand, and it did a fantastic job of brining the Harry Potter saga to life. It?s without a doubt one of the better movies adaptations to hit a video game, and it?s a great title for younger gamers that are usually relegated to chasing and dodging in a linear fashion. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a nice change of pace form the current titles out right now. Very entertaining, I recommend checking it out.

Suggestions: Kudos, a very pleasant change form earlier versions.

Overall Score: 8.4 / 10 Project Sylpheed: Arc of Deception

Project Sylpheed from Square Enix takes the tried and true space shooter and revamps it for the Xbox 360. Set in a time when humans wonder far past the reaches of its own solar system, making other planets habitable for life and colonization. As in any good story of making things better for humanity, there has to be a faction of people who see things differently than the masses, here in lies part of your story line. Earths military, the Terra Central Armed Forces (TCAF) is now in a constant struggle with rebel forces known as the ADAN Freedom Alliance, if this weren?t enough of a plot line, in true Square Enix fashion, you have a trio of close friends, with one joining the rebels in search of revenge for the destruction of his home planet. Our 3 main characters in Project Sylpheed are, Katana, the main character and your alter ego in this adventure, Ellen and Margras. Margras being the good character gone bad, has now joined forces with the ADAN and Chairman Doris Egan, who rounds off the main protagonists. Good versus evil, friends turned enemies, and humanities struggle for survival, it?s all here, the makings of a great space saga with the noticeable Square Enix look and flare, so lets see where this stellar adventure takes us.

Project Sylpheed starts, again, in true SE (Square Enix) fashion, with the anime look and drama that has made the game developer famous. Elaborate cut scenes lay out the story for you as credits are sprinkled on the screen, intense battle scenes set the visual stage in your mind as to what your going to be thrust into, and the personal struggles of one time friends turned enemies is given a face and an ultimatum. Once the stage is set you have the option of starting your missions right off the bat, or going through a 2 stage tutorial system. Even if you?re familiar with this game style, I would highly recommend going through both the basic and advanced tutorials to give yourself some familiarity with the controls and capabilities of your ship, the Delta Saber. To succeed in this battle you need to utilize all the functionality of your vessel, the Saber along with your basic maneuverability has special moves that can be executed with relative ease by using the ?B? button and the Left stick. The various combinations will execute barrel rolls and 180 degree turns, which will come in handy when trying to shake off enemy missiles.

Along with the movement of the Saber is the fire power of the ship. You are able to equip a variety of weapons custom fit to various points on the ship, interchanging weapons is again a simple task via the ?X? button, and switching targets is achieved via the ?A? button. The control scheme is relatively simple to handle, along with the aforementioned button assignments, your ship can accelerate, decelerate, use afterburners, and with some practice use Power Cut techniques that will keep the nose of your ship pointed at your target as you glide by it scoring multiple hits and damage. The Saber is also equipped with an on board radar very similar to many you?ve seen before, enemies in red Friendly in green. It also has a side bar that indicates enemy distance, avoiding ammunition waste due to targets being out of range. The HUD (Heads Up Display) is a bit daunting at first, but once you know what everything is, you know what to zero in on at any given moment

Project Sylpheed is mission based with the usual fare, protect, destroy and accompany. There is emphases put on squadron commands and objectives, shooting enemies willy nilly will get you a scolding form your team, and a reminder of what the task at hand is, such as targeting specific crafts or objects first. Missions usually have multiple stages making the battles rage on for quite a while, with each completion you receive your Mission details, enemies destroyed, objective accomplished, etc?earning you credits for your fighting performance, along with a mission ranking.

Here is where I found the ?Difference? the 2 things that really made the game a bit more than I originally thought it would be. After each mission you unlock new weapons that can be equipped in the ?Hangar? giving your Saber a bit of customization to your style of fighting, keep in mind though, that just because it?s your favorite weapon it may not necessarily be the right one. The other section is the ?Arsenal? you can spend credits here to develop new weapons for your ship. These may seem like small things, but it does make the game a bit more immersive than your standard space fighter and keeps you going back for more in terms of trying different weaponry to up your ranking, in tern giving the missions a bit of life. Don?t get me wrong, Project Sylpheed is a polished ?Pivot Point? style aerial attack game, reminiscent of many old school games like it, but the non stop action and SE intermingled cut scenes make it shine brighter than its predecessors. Visually the in game graphics are a bit delirious, the HUD is constantly filled with information, vapor trails and numerous identification markers. Outside of the heavily ?Anime? flavored cut scenes Project Sylpheed really hasn?t got a lot to offer visually, this also rolls in to the sound department, the dialogue is standard fare, typical commands and instructions are barked out during battles, and the voice acting during the more dramatic banter is again, nothing new or exciting.

Overall Project Sylpheed has quite a bit to offer to the genre, it?s amazingly detailed in its simplicity, easy to pick up and play and it will keep you plugging away for a bit. Not the longest of games and the lack of multi-player options as well as any Xbox Live support shortens its shelf life even more. In the end I enjoyed the game even though its not really my cup of tea, those who enjoy aerial combat and any of the many space combat games set in the Star Wars universe should definitely give Project Sylpheed a try, others may get bored with the repetitiveness found in games like this making it a hard sell, not to mention holding there interest long enough to get past the first few missions and getting more involved with the storyline.

Suggestions: Square Enix does a commendable job taking an ?Old School? style game and giving it a current day overhaul.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Eragon

The book Eragon from author Christopher Paolini that inspired the movie, which opens in theatres today, also inspired the action adventure game now available on the Xbox 360. Take the roll of Eragon, a simple farm boy, who?s destiny as a Dragon Rider and discovery of a dragon egg begin his adventure. Once hatched, Saphira the dragon and Eragons destinies are united. Movie based games seem to be as common as breakfast cereal these days, the problem being that they sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Developers and studios alike hoping to cash in on the popularity of a franchise also sometimes leave the creative juices needed to deliver a quality game at the door.

Eragon, which I can?t wait to see, has the makings of a good game. All the ingredients are there for the taking, action, sword play, magic, adventure, and even a dragon at your fingertips. There are 3 main characters in the game, Eragon of course, Brom, and Saphira which work together in an interesting control scheme. You play as Eragon through most of the early levels with Brom as your constant sidekick, he follows and lends a hand with not only the enemies you encounter but also helps guide and train Eragon as he progresses with helpful hints and direction. Bows and swords are the standard weapons for your heroes but as Eragon ?Learns? his craft as a Dragon Rider from Brom he is able to cast magical forces of energy and manipulation to aid in the quests at hand.

Our third character is Saphira the dragon, she communicates with Eragon through his thoughts. In early stages Eragon can summon her to help get through barricades or even dispose of an evil enemy. The game does offer up some dragon flight levels where you actually take control of Saphira, including breathing fire and a speed burst to evade enemies. Even though Saphira is relegated to cameo appearances in the early going the dragon flight levels are a nice touch. So there you have your band of adventurers, now lets see how the stay alive and combat the evil forces.

Eragons game play will be very familiar to many gamers, levels are designed for completion, and a point system for enemy?s vanquished, and hidden secrets to round off your ?Grade? for the level. Obviously levels are replayable to obtain missed hidden objects and raising your score for the level. The path is a bit linear, and littered with obstacles forcing you to do a little searching for the pathway through, making the game a bit too scripted for my liking. Your health is maintained by ?Health? orbs which can be found in crates and boxes throughout the levels and are released by fallen enemies. Magic Energy is another weapon at Eragons disposal, much like his Health, Orbs will increase his energy meter. A third attack involves both Eragon and Brom, the Fury Meter, this builds up as power orbs are absorbed and once ?Connected? Eragon can use the Fury Attack.

The level design and objectives very from simple ?Fight your way through? scenarios to protecting villagers as they try to extinguish the fires set to their village. As I mentioned earlier there will be times when you will need to summon Saphira to open up large blocked passages, but what good is a dragon if she can?t take care of a few minor speed bumps. The battle system itself is again very familiar, combat combos deliver everything from basic attacks, to ?Special? moves, which the camera slows down and zooms in for. Visually the game is above par, not fantastic, but acceptable. The areas are very detailed and vibrant, some nice lighting effects set the mood at times, and the ?look? of a vast world is pulled off quite well. The audio department is, again, above par. The soundtrack is perfectly written to match the adventure and phantasy mood this game is set in, and sound effects are well balanced and accurately matched to the action at hand. The voice acting is fine, although the cast of the movie is not reprising its roles for the video game.

As an adventure game Eragon doesn?t really break any new ground, but is an entertaining experience. It?s well balanced and offers just enough diversity to the levels to keep it interesting. The inclusion of Dragon Flight levels were a must in my opinion and are one of the best parts of the game. The addition of a co-op mode were a second player can control Brom should extend the self life of this title. The Xbox 360 version of the game also includes an exclusive Kull boss battle and two additional levels to the game. I think fans of phantasy adventure games like Lord of the Rings will enjoy Eragon, again, its nothing over the top, but a fun play. My only true problem with the game, as is with most games of this type, is the linear game play.

Suggestions: My suggestion is a bit repetitive, I seem to find myself repeating the same thing or most games based on movies. Expand the world a bit, and find a new wrinkle in the development or strength and talents of your characters.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Destroy All Humans 2

Now I know I?m dating myself a bit, but one of my all time favorite things from my youth was watching old black and white Saturday afternoon sci-fi movies that would be showing on the local super station. Yes the special effects were terrible, and yes the movies were a bit campy, but they were a lot of fun to watch and laugh at, even at a young age. Why this trip down memory lane you ask, well that was the appeal for me when Destroy all Humans was released last year. It took a slice of all of that campy humor and delivered it in a amusing and entertaining package, while poking fun at so many of the ideals of the 50 in the good old USA.

Well, the 50?s have past, but yet THQ has sent our favorite Martian back for another go around. This time Crypto will be set free in the Free Loving, Flower Power era of the swinging 60?s. So sit back and let me tell you how our buddy Crypto deals with hippies, drugs, and free love in THQ?s Destroy all Humans 2.

Destroy all Humans 2 jumps right back into the winning formula that made the first game so much fun. Lots of destruction and just as much off beat humor to keep the experience light and fun. This time around the game has a little more of an ?Open? feeling to it, and the missions are more of a scavenger hunt, which isn?t bad because the entertainment value here is in the raw fun that is blowing stuff up and sending the army and all of its artillery flying down city streets. The game play and controls have remained pretty much the same this time around, with the added bonus of getting some of your powers right out of the gate rather than collecting DNA as in the first game. As in the first game, which picked at stereo types of the 50?s, we now find ourselves in the 60?s and all of its fun filled stereotypes.

Chasing down free loving hippies and the other slightly ?High? freaks in the streets offers up quite a bit of humor at the expense of the hippies. But as I mentioned earlier the fun is in Psychokinesis, moving things with your mind is always cool. Among some of Crypto?s other powers and weapons, we bring back the tried and true Zap-O-Matic and the always entertaining Disclocator which launches not only tanks and cars into the streets but humans as well. Pedestrians, police officers, military, no one is exempt to the power of our man Crypto. You can also send mere humans into a ?Free Love? dance to keep them occupied, or sneak up on one and perform a ?Body Snatch? so you can walk among them undetected, these tasks do have a limited time set on them, but add a sense of stealth to it all.

One of the nice new wrinkles to the game is the co-op mode were you and a friend can go through the game together and cause twice the amount of destruction on the same poor planet. The soundtrack, as in the original, is true to the time period, and the dialogue is just as witty as ever. The one minor problem I had was with the drug references, not the mention of them mind you, but they beat those jokes to death in this game, it?s funny for a while then the funny wears off.

The gamplay itself is just as solid as the first, they made some nice changes as I mentioned, but probably could have gone a bit further with this sophomore effort. Playing it safe isn?t a bad thing; I just would have liked to have seen a bit more. Along with the ground attack Crypto can also take to the skies in his flying saucer, this is also available in the co-op mode which was pretty cool as one drives and one mans the turret.

At the end of a busy day of overtaking a planet Destroy all Humans 2 does a nice job of picking up where the first game left off, delivering the same type of action and entertainment we enjoyed the first time around, although I feel like they could have taken the game much farther in it?s sophomore effort, it was still entertaining. All in all, if you liked the first game you?ll most likely like Destroy all Humans 2, so fire up your jet pack, charge up the Zap-O-Matic and hit the streets of planet earth for another shot at destroying humanity.

Suggestions: I?m not really sure what would be a benefit to the game, its still fun, it just seems like maybe the ?World? needs to be bigger. Maybe taking Crypto to various cities if not countries would expand the world. An on-line option with humans vs. aliens would be kind of fun too.

Overall Score: 7.6 / 10 Import Tuner Challenge

Racing and the Xbox 360 seem to go hand in hand, with an abundance of styles to choose from. Import Tuner Challenge from UbiSoft is one of the newest racers to jump into the genre and rub elbows with some pretty impressive titles on the now 1 year old Xbox 360. In a sea of titles in this genre how does this racer compare to the rest, does it hold its own on the mean streets or is just left in the dust? Not to mention an eerie similarity to a racer from my Dreamcast days.

My first and pretty much immediate reaction was that this is actually Tokyo Extreme, no doubt about it, and the more I played the more the similarities mounted. Same vehicles, same ?In/Out? track system, same, same, same. Is same bad? Well in this case it?s not the similarities that hurt, but the lack of excitement. But before we delve into the negative, there are some positive things going on in Import Tuner Challenge.

For fans of ?Simulation? style racing games, you can spend hours, once you accumulate the cash, tweaking your ride. Everything from the paint, decals, ground effects and instrument panel can be changed to your liking. Not to mention the never ending mechanical upgrades and precision adjustments that can be made to your engine, exhaust, suspension and so on, it?s enough to make the most die hard car junkie go into overload. The vehicles in Import Tuner look pretty near flawless. I have to give credit where credit is due the cars are all well rendered and look great. Unfortunately that?s where the positive stuff ends.

For those of you who played any of the Tokyo Extreme racer games, you?ll be slipping on a pair of old shoes. The main part of the game is the ?Quest? mode, which sounded like it would be much more than it turned out to be. Basically you?re racing for cash on the streets against ?Gangs?. Each gang has drivers in various parts of the street along with the bosses to make it more interesting. Each particular driver has a certain time of day and section of town they frequent so you just need to track them down and beat them in a ?Spirit Point Battle?. Pulling up behind your rival and flashing your high beams starts the challenge, once the race starts the object is simple, stay ahead of your opponent for as long as possible. Your ?Spirit Points? will begin to dwindle the longer and farther away your opponent is from you, with a fast car this challenge is really over quite quickly. Your Spirit Meter is also affected by damage, rub a rail, hit a wall and you meter drops, on the subject of damage, Import Tuners really doesn?t exhibit much flair for damage, you get some sparks and barely a jolt when you hit a wall. The damage system leaves a lot to be desired. You have a few other modes to work with, Time Attacks, Free Run, Versus Mode, and Network mode (Xbox Live). You can also tool into your garage when you have some coin to upgrade your ride.

The real downside isn?t that you need to rack up wins to spend the cash needed to hang with the big dogs, that?s the game. What makes it unfulfilling is the lack of excitement when racing, in any of the modes. I?ll be honest I didn?t give the XBL mode a try due to the lack of excitement found in the other modes. Yes it?s a race, and yes its on some interesting tracks, although a tad monotonous at times, but there is no ?UMPH? I sat there pedal to the medal and really felt like I was on a Sunday drive rather than a street race, there was no real sense of speed and with franchises like Need For Speed and Burnout in the locker room you can?t slide in with a game that fails to get the adrenaline going. It seems that there is a bit of an identity crisis with Import Tuner in that it?s not sure if it?s a race ?Simulation? or a ?Street Racer?.

I?m a big UbiSoft supporter, and back in the day I enjoyed the hell out of Tokyo Extreme racer 2 on my Dreamcast, but that was then and this is now, and the bar has been raised by the aforementioned titles to do more. As I said, the game design is pretty cool for a next-gen console, but the meat and potatoes of a real exciting street racer got checked at the door. This game slid in under the radar and I?m afraid that?s where it's going to stay, with so much to offer it really just fell flat.

Suggestions: My recommendation would be simple, call it Tokyo Extreme 3 and find a new wrinkle to the antiquated game system that might cause the ?Wet Palms? that are so much a part of a good racing game when you?re flying down the streets.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Open Season

Open season is based on the movie by the same name and puts you in the staring roll as Boog the domesticated bear. Boogs life gets turned upside down when a wise cracking one horned deer named Elliot gets him into a little trouble in town. Suddenly Boog finds himself away from his comfy garage at Ranger Beth?s and in the forest during hunting season. With Elliot by his side the 2 set out to find their way back to Timberline, no easy task when you don?t really fit in with the other woodland creatures. So join Boog and Elliot as they befriend the animals and take on the hunters in Open Season by UbiSoft.

Open Season is one of the 1st true ?Kids? titles on the 360, with that it is also, in my opinion of course, a step above the normal run, jump, and collect fare that usually accompanies the kids movie to video track. You start off playing the game as Boog the bear, who lives in Ranger Beth?s garage and performs in her wilderness show. Honestly Boog is just an oversized dog, living? the good life and completely detached from his animal instincts. One night he is coaxed out of his cozy living into town by his soon to be sidekick Elliot the one horned, wise cracking, comic relief in the game. After a small incident at the neighborhood convenient store and a tranquilizer dart to the butt start Boog and friends on their adventure to find their way back home to Timberline.

Like most games Open Season has its tutorial/stage, and also gives you tips along the way. The game is a mix of collecting as well as a bit of strategy. Your 1st tasks are to befriend the creatures of the forest so they will help you rather than attack you; this is accomplished by completing mission given to you by each creature. Once befriended the game hits its normal flow. Using each creature abilities to help you outsmart the hunters led by the ruthless Shaw (Boss), and ultimately get you back home in one piece. Open Season does a great job of coming up with unique strengths for your new found allies. Need to get a hunter out of his cabin to take him out? Well grab a skunk and launch him down the chimney as a stink bomb. The control method is very simple to learn, which include picking up the small creatures as projectiles such as the skunk, for more accurate projectiles rabbits come in handy dew to the ?Cross Hare? feature they have, using their ears as sights helps with those bunny head shots. Again, most of the animals process a bonus skill of some sort to help you out. Your one mane stay is Elliot who is basically an extension of Boog. You can launch Elliot to hard to reach places and call him back to you by whistling for him. When Elliot is equipped, as well as other projectiles, a trajectory arc appears with a bulls-eye at the end to aim your flying animal of choice.

To this you can add a few fun features to the game; Beth?s Scrapbook is basically the collecting part of the game. Collect Ranger Badges that are scattered around the forest and add them to Beth?s scrapbook. Then you have the Wild Challenges which are mini games that can be unlocked as you go through the main adventure, two of the five are open from the get go. And lastly the, if I dare say, the RPG part of the game?not really, but it?s the easiest way to describe the Wild Academy feature, Boog can spend the Wild Style points he earns on improving his health bar, accuracy, and distance to name a few things. The last few things about Boog and his adventure are his Roar skills, Hide and Sneak function and how does he stay full of life? Simple one first, boogs health is kept in check using his sense of smell, pulling and holding the LB helps Boog sniff out berries for himself along with hidden items. Being a bear you may as well use your fear factor when trying to get rid of hunters, you can try and sneak up close to hunter by using your Hide and Sneak cover tactics by pulling and holding the RB. Boog will then whip out a few branches with leaves and become virtually invisible to hunters, there is only so much time available to hide so time your approach wisely, once close enough you ?Proximity? icon will flash and you can let out with a great big bear roar. A Roar meter appears and holding the ?A? button brings the meter up, when in the red it can be released for a big roar that sends hunters running for their lives.

Let?s not get crazy, yes the game is very linear and the one real annoyance is the ungodly load time, but that being said this little adventure game will appeal to a few mature gamers as well as entertain younger gamers with slightly more involved and interesting game play. Open Season also looks real nice on the 360, yes its based on a CGI movie, but we all know that doesn?t help sometime, with Open Season the game play is smooth, the effects are nicely done and the environment give a great illusion of vastness. The voice overs are not of the original cast but do a solid job of brining the characters to life, the comic relief by 1st and foremost Elliot is a fun touch, and the other characters lend a hand in keeping the game light and entertaining for younger gamers.

Suggestions: All in all I liked Open Season for what it is, and entertaining ?Everyone? title that broke away form the norm showing that movie to game titles don?t need to be cookie cutter and can be fun for not only younger gamers, but adults also. I seem to never get tired of riding an outhouse down raging rapids, call me silly.

Overall Score: 7.6 / 10 Flatout 2

Since the beginning of video games there have always been racing games. And in the modern day they continue to be one of the most popular genres in gaming, although the genre has sprouted some sub categories. Destruction Racers have become one of the most popular sub-genres, if you will, on the gaming horizon. One such franchise is Flatout from Bugbear Entertainment, this year Bugbear has released its sophomore installment to the series, Flatout 2. Is the game bigger and better than before? Well, yes and no?

I enjoy arcade racers very much. Mindless destruction is always a great criteria for my gaming pleasure. So when faced with Flatout 2 I was more than excited to give the game a run through and see what it had to offer. The first thing I noticed was that the game was much ?Bigger? than its original version, boasting 5 modes of play with a slew of options to keep you busy. The game is essentially split into 2 categories, racing and mini-games. Like many racers Flatout 2 offers plenty of tracks, vehicles and ?Obstacles? for your vehicle to engage, and while the visuals are more than above par, only suffering from some clipping at times, my only problem with the racing aspect is very simple, the vehicles suffer from ?Floating? controls. I understand this isn?t a SIM racer, but it?s enough to take away from this aspect of the game. The racing does an admirable job at bringing very diverse tracks, AI, and debris from the very impressive ?Damage? engine, but none the less that one small blemish looms large. That being said, Flatout 2?s ?Racing? is better than its predecessor, but nothing really new and exciting.

Now I know this sounds like a game that?s headed for the cellar, but here is where the fun lies in my opinion. Flatout 2 delivers the most entertaining mini-games in a good long time. To be honest the Rag-doll minis more than make up for the racing ?Blemish?. Once again, there are 2 types of mini games, the Rag-doll Stunts and the Demolition Derby. The ?Rag-Doll? games offer 12 stunts ranging from a High Jump to a human Stone Skipping competition over a pool. Toss in the human Dart Board and you will get a chuckle playing through these mini games. Each mini game has the same basic concept in control, speed, angle, and a human projectile. Its simple yet take s some calculations to reach lofty goals, your vehicle has a set distance to travel before launching its driver through the windshield, as you approach the end of your track you can control the angle of your driver as he explodes out of the vehicle, once in mid air you have ?acrobatic? control over him, basically minor shifts in direction with the analog stick, and one small elevation bonus by tapping the ?A? button. The rag-doll effects themselves aren?t bad, the humor is in how your driver lands, or slowly rolls down fencing as he snags his hand, leg, or head on the barrier of choice. Again, I know this sounds simplistic, but the rag-doll mini games are extremely entertaining. If you enjoyed them before, you?ll love them now.

The other surprise in the Flatout 2 package is the Destruction Derby mini game, some great ?arenas? and a ton of fun. 8 racers in one arena smashing each other to bits, earn boost as you cause damage and inflict even more damage as you zero in on your next target. Each rival has a specific style and you?ll find out quickly who needs a little ?Extra? attention. For those of you thinking of just avoiding the carnage until the odds are in your favor, save it, you need to hit something every 50 seconds or be disqualified. It also takes a little thought when it comes to picking your vehicle of choice; weight, traction and acceleration all come into play. Heavier vehicles sustain more damage, but have a harder time out running the AI. Faster cars need to watch those dirt tracks, its hell on the handling. In other words, as much as you can just take off and enjoy, there is some thought process involved in the mini games of Flatout 2.

Multiplayer modes round off the package, with up to 8 players in the racing mode, and the inclusion of the Rag-Doll mini games and Destruction Derby Arenas to online play is a sweet treat. Flatout 2 also has a great soundtrack consisting of some great rock tunes to fit the mood.

All in all Bugbear did an admirable job making Flatout 2 a better game than its original, more verity, more tracks, more cars, and more rag-doll games. If you enjoyed the original this is a no brainer, if you liked the mini games in the first game, again a no brainer. If you like party games I highly recommend giving Flatout 2 a go just on the merit of the mini games. So while they may have set out building a Destruction Racer with mini games, I see Flatout 2 being more popular do to its mini games rather than the racer?and there is nothing at all wrong with that.

Suggestions: If Bugbear could solidify the vehicle control in the racing mode, this game would be 100% solid in every aspect. Even so, a great sophomore effort.

Overall Score: 7.6 / 10 Final Fantasy XI Online

Coming from a fan of the Final Fantasy series, I was very interested in seeing how FFXI would play out not only online but in the Xbox 360. With the release of Final Fantasy XI from Square Enix, two new things have made there way to the Xbox 360 universe. One?the first Final Fantasy title to be found on the Xbox 360 or Xbox for that matter, and two, the first MMO on the Xbox 360. The later being a hole that gamers have been clamoring to be filled for quite some time. Final Fantasy XI was originally released over 2 years ago on the PS2 and PC and has had that time to develop communities and a following, so what effect, if any, does that have on the new crop of FFXI gamers creeping into the FFXI landscape?

Let me start by saying that FFXI delivers the usual type of game play in that you level up as you gain experience and manage your persona and items by using ?GIL? the FF currency to buy better weapons, armor and such. It would be impossible to go over every little aspect of FFXI in the length of this review. That being said, the FFXI world is enormous, Xbox 360 owners are also treated to an even larger world with the 3 included expansion packs Rise of Delart, Chains of Promethia, and Treasures of Aht Urhgan in one massive online package. I mentioned the effect of the 360 community for one reason only, I found in my time playing the game it was difficult to join up with others on quests and missions. For a gaming experience built on the community and comrade aspect of an MMO I found that a bit disheartening when looking for a leg up, as it were. I?m getting a bit ahead of myself here, so let?s back track a bit and go over some of the other points of the game.

The first thing I noticed was that it wasn?t the Final Fantasy I thought it would be, gone is the turn based fighting system, gone are the over the top cut scenes, and not too many of the FF characters make the leap to the online experience. Which begs this question to be asked, is it Final Fantasy? That really depends on the player, and I?m not even going to start the debate of whether it is or isn?t. Instead what I can tell you is that FFXI has a huge learning curve to overcome. The game controls, as in most MMO/RPG, are a little complicated and takes some getting used to. I would highly recommend hooking up a USB keyboard and playing the game the way it was originally designed to be played. It?s an easier process to learn and the communication is much easier to carry on via keyboard rather than game pad. Once you actually start playing you will find an immense world to investigate and plenty of creatures to enter into combat with to increase your many traits and level up you character. Speaking of your character, the character creation portion of the game does not offer many options to customize your creation; rather you can customize your appearance and such by purchasing new apparel, weapons, and armor. The game also offers the ability to own a home and decorate it as you like, there is even an interesting FF eBay, where you can auction off items to other players. Gil (Currency) is a hard commodity to come by, but a necessity. This was one of the hindrances I found in the game, it takes too long to find your stride. You will spend endless hours attacking minor animals just to level up, but this is what you need to do to get to the more enjoyable plateau of the game. Once you have reached a reasonable level, done all the learning needed to feel more comfortable with what you are doing FFXI is an enjoyable, but typical MMO. If you?re a fan of the RPG aspect of the game you?ll find yourself having the same amount of learning to do just to get to a point where the experience starts to give something back.

FFXI is what you make it, as in most games like this, but remember this universe has been active for about 2 years, player have grown and developed over that time and 360 users are newbie?s to the world. Even though this is an Xbox 360 title you are playing on Play Online servers, not Xbox Live. There is a small silver lining to that issue, that being that you don?t need to be an Xbox Live Gold member to play FFXI, so no XBL monthly fees, but there are FFXI monthly fees to pay for your Content ID. Your monthly fee to venture into FFXI is $12.95 per month; you do receive a free 30 Day trial with your purchase. Once you pop the disc in the system is prepared for an almost never ending stream of downloading, registering and updating. Your first order of business is to install the Play Online service, after that you need to download the game, updates and register the game and all the expansion packs, this process is very time consuming, I?m talking a couple of hours, and if ever a USB keyboard was a must it would be during this initial set up. One other thing to note, the FFXI experience will also take up about 6GB of space on your Hard Drive, now on the PS2 were the Hard Drive was basically worthless outside of it?s tie in to FFXI I can find no argument, but on the 360, that?s a lot of storage space to give up for a game, if it?s worth it or not, is entirely up to you.

Which is exactly were the balance of this game lies, you. Final Fantasy XI is an impressive MMO/RPG, but really offers nothing new and exciting to the mix. FF fans may find enjoyment in it, but again, you are walking into a world that?s been around for 2 years, and while the game looks much better than its prior platforms, the developers have always stated that it wasn?t worth doing a complete overhaul to the game just for the 360. So is Final Fantasy XI worth it? I?ll tell you how I feel, no. The ?bang? for not only my buck, but time and interest isn?t there. It takes too long to get to a comfortable level and without a keyboard, I would recommend you pass. There is another RPG on the 360 that offers much more than FFXI can, although not online, it still is a better experience in my opinion. With a 30 day free trial I would say if any of this peeked your interest give it a try, otherwise save you coin for a game that is built with the 360 in mind and not just using the 360 as a portal to not only another service, but a 2 year old game.

Game on!

Suggestions: I have no real suggestions because the game inits origianl offering is solid, its just not a good tie in to the 360. I'll reserve suggestions for the 1st Sqare Enix game made with the 360 in mind form the get go.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Outfit, The

Yes War is hell, and there are enough war games out there to make your head spin. I guess military games could have there own genre, but they kind of skew the lines a bit depending on the mode of play. Is it a First person shooter, 3rd person strategy, is it realistic or arcade like in its play, there are many subtleties that set war games apart form each other. Needless to say there is defiantly something out there for just about any military mind set. So were does The Outfit fall when it comes to games of war?

The Outfit offers some unique additions to games of war, while entertaining at times, it does fall prey to some redundancy as you move from mission to mission. You are offered 3 choices of character to play as, each one offering there own unique weaponry, stamina, and health. Each character also has varied bartering skills, more on why later. The basic structure of The Outfit is mission based; each mission is basically you and your troops making it from point ?A? to point ?B?. Many enemies abound, a lot of shooting, a lot of blowing up and so on.

Let?s focus on some of the positives of the game first, The Outfit actually has decent graphics and the landscapes, building and objects scattered about are pretty well detailed. Add to this that just about everything is destructible and you end up pleasing quite a few gamers. The biggest feature in The Outfit is the ?Destruction on Demand? function. Lets back up for just one second, as you play through each mission you earn points/currency by killing the enemy and destroying enemy strongholds and buildings, what is the earned booty for you ask, well, back to the Destruction on Demand?You earn certain DOD (Destruction on Demand) functions by taking control of enemy radio towers, motor pools, etc?your DOD has 12 open slots that are automatically filled when a new function is available. It costs points/currency to use these functions, this is also were the bartering skills of your character come into play, the higher the skills the better the price. You?re most basic skill is calling in reinforcements, your troop consists of 4 soldiers and yourself, as you lose men during battle you can call in reinforcements to aid you in combat; your troops are then parachuted in to help your cause. Some of the other functions that will be available are Tanks, ground based artillery, 4x4?s, and the ability to call in air strikes. Besides the reinforcement that are just dropped into your current position, your other functions when called up appear as a transparent frames that you can place anywhere it is clear, if the area is obstructed in any way the frame will turn red indicating you can?t place it in that position. Once you have settles on an area your item is ?Drop Shipped? by plane on the spot you have chosen. It is actually a sweet in game feature; your character places a red smoke flair to indicate the spot for your ?Delivery?, then a huge crate hits the ground after being parachuted to you, the sides? pop open leaving your new hardware ready for action. Let me answer a simple question right off the bat, yes, you can drop your hardware onto enemy forces. One of the other cool functions on the DOD wheel are the Air Strikes, if you have taken control of a radio tower you can call in an air strike to destroy blocked access points or demolish buildings, just like the other functions a frame appears with airplanes and a target, place the target on the spot you want to bomb and call in the strike.

Taking over enemy camps and buildings involves you taking out the enemy forces and standing near the ?Objective? long enough to take over, a small meter winds down as you hold your position, when the meter fills to your side, the Nazi flags roll up and American flags take their place. Now once you have taken control it is possible if you leave enemy soldiers behind, or forget about new enemies being dropped in, to lose control of an Object, thus also losing whichever DOD function you gained when overtaking it, example, taking over the motor pool will give you access to a tank, lose control of the motor pool and no more tank. That being said if you just hang in there and wait for all the enemies for a given area you should have no problem maintaining control. Again, lots of explosions, lots of gunfire, mass destruction and cool hardware, what?s the problem you ask?

Well here are my issues with the game. First off while the maps are pretty well designed, the objectives are repetitive, it?s just a case of overtaking 3 or 4 posts and moving on. The AI must be made up of a master race because you need to shoot one with a rocket launcher 2 or 3 times before they stay down. The same can be said for our heroes, they are just as resilient, actually more so, because you really can?t lose in The Outfit. If you die you just re-spawn at your last point of control, no harm no foul. So I ask you?what is a War without the anticipation and nervousness of losing? If the only real consequence of your actions is having to start at your last check point, which is usually a few steps behind you, is there really any danger? The characters movement is very slow, throwing grenades becomes useless unless you?re right on top of your intended target, the range of our Heroes ability to throw are pretty sad making grenades more of a distraction than a weapon. The maneuvering of vehicles at times will lead to some frustrating moments. On top of that there are some mundane issues with the game, when it says to destroy ?All? of the enemy barracks or camps, it means ALL. I spent a little too much time trying to figure out how to get passed an obstacle just to find that I left 1 tent standing, not an armory, not a moor pool, or even enemies?just an empty tent. I need to ask why.

The Outfit could have been much better, I?m not sure where it got derailed but it did. There is one aspect of the game that is truly fun and that the multiplayer aspect, whether split screen, system link or Xbox Live, playing against friend is a ton of fun. Is that aspect alone strong enough to carry the entire game? Not in my opinion, with so many other offerings available that supply not only a great Multiplayer experience, but also deliver a solid single player experience, it?s hard to move The Outfit into that group of games.

Suggestions: Overall I think the developers deserve kudos for the Destruction on Demand function, it?s very innovative and the way the functions play out visually in the game are very entertaining. Having the ability to cause all of this destruction is fun but not enough to keep this gamer entertained for too long. I think The Outfit was a good first effort, now all the need to do is wrap the DOD feature in some innovative solid game play and you?ll have yourselves a real winner.

Game On!

Overall Score: 7.6 / 10 Burnout Revenge

One of video games more long-lasting and flat out fun franchises, Burnout, finds its way to the Xbox 360 with Burnout Revenge. The burnout series has done a fantastic job over the years in delivering a bigger, better, more exciting game with each new installment, not many franchise can claim that, let alone the sea of games that suffer from the sophomore jinx never to be heard from again. Burnout has always been full of excitement, and this time around two words come to mind every time I load up Burnout Revenge?Reckless Abandon. If you can?t enjoy Burnout Revenge check yourself into a hospital because you have no pulse. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, no comparisons will be made.

Burnout Revenge is truly a pick up and play, fun filled, gaming experience. Its not too often you can say that about a game, but this is one of those times. BR (Burnout Revenge) is divided into a few categories ranging from racing to, what made the franchise popular I the first place, mass destruction. While it is fun to try and cause as much damage as possible I found the racing to be very entertaining and adrenaline pumping. Besides the obvious objective of a race, to win, BR takes it one step further with Rivals. Not only can you turn an opponent into a rival by slamming him into the wall, you yourself can become a rival. This same dynamic is available on Xbox Live making the competition factor escalate that much more.

More on the racing aspect, the tracks are diverse and well designed, you do run some of them in both directions, but the layouts are so balanced that it does feel like a completely new track. Every track has the ?Obvious? route and the not so obvious route. Short cuts are scattered allover each track and are almost a necessity in timed races, some of these shortcuts are just a means to cut corners, but some are pretty exhilarating sending you air born and leading you into a narrow corridor of buildings were now you find yourself dodging dumpsters, to underground gauntlets with pillars scattered in the wrong places, keeping you on the edge of your seat and wide eyed the whole way through. Your vehicles can accumulate ?Boost? by driving recklessly, causing damage, drifting, and driving head on into traffic, the easiest and most fun of the options. Boost is another one of those ?Gotta Have? things to get the most out of your run. Each event offers 3 levels of accomplishment split into 2 sections, time and damage. The faster and higher your score the higher your medal reward becomes, Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Each new medal unlocks not only new challenges and tracks but vehicles. There is also a Trophy system in place for achievements such as damage total to vertical takedowns. Takedowns, the most fun ever, get big points for basically leading opponents into walls or other obstacles; this will also gain you a few rivals as you progress.

So how about all that destruction, BR offers up so much destruction you won?t know what to do first. These destruction challenges are ranked in points, and as in the races divided into 3 medal versions and point totals. The intriguing part of these lay outs is that the obvious route once again may not necessarily be the best route. There are usually an assortment of vehicles in your path and on more than a few tracks you?ll find ramps or opening in overpasses that spill into the traffic below, the goal is simple, cause as much damage as you can. Each of the damage challenges has a Target vehicle that you should try and destroy; sometimes not so simple because it doesn?t seem to show up right away, but cause a big enough chain reaction of damage and you?ll be fine. There are 2 other wrinkles in the damage challenges that make it that much more fun. One is the combination of your vehicle explosion and aftershock. When cars start crashing you accumulate damage points, once the meter fills you can cause your vehicle to explode causing other vehicles near by to so the same, exploded vehicle equal big points, the aftershock is a directional tool, once you explode you can point your vehicles path in any direction, so those cars that had smart driver, you know that stopped before piling into the wreckage, well they aren?t so safe anymore, direct your car in that direction and start a whole new chain reaction of damage. The other wrinkle is that you can record your best high-speed antics as well as those highflying explosions to save for later or share on Xbox Live. Get enough attention on XBL and you could end up on the top 20 clips.

Graphically this game holds nothing back. The locations are stunning; they vary from highway to European piazzas, shadow effects, motion blurs and car shakes just add to the visual speed and intensity of the game. This is one of those games that no amount of description could do justice to. The soundtrack is a good mix of music that just adds to the mood of the race, although some of the track will be familiar to EA gamers, they have appeared in other EA titles. Burnout Revenge is a pretty sweet package, easy to pick up and play without a lot of instruction, entertaining to most everyone with a pulse and really well thought out. All of the single player and multi-player aspects are available on Xbox Live just adding to the longevity of this games life. If you?re looking for that one game that has to be in your library that you can pretty much pop in no matter what your friends like, look no further Burnout Revenge is that game.

Suggestions: I do have one minor complaint, if you will, nothing that will hinder the experience too much, but the shadows are a bit dark at times. I played on an HDTV and still had problems at times seeing what was in front of me, usually an appropriately placed pillar, causing quite a bit of trial and error racing. Not that I mind having to learn a track, but it does help seeing what is in your path. Outside of that, I offer up some big Kudos to the Burnout Revenge team, the franchise has yet to disappoint, keep up the good work.

Game On!

Overall Score: 9.6 / 10 Sonic Riders

So our turbo charged little blue buddy is back, that?s right Sonic the Hedgehog has returned. Not in his usual surroundings in this new outing by the folks at the Sonic Team, Sonic finds himself in a more ?Extreme? situation. Accompanied by the usual cast of characters and a couple of new ones, Sonic Riders takes our speedy friend on a high-speed hover board adventure across some interesting tracks and obstacles. Much like my feelings towards a certain plumber from that ?Other? console, I find myself asking this burning question?Is it time to retire? Let?s find out together shall we.

The Sonic franchise has always been one of my favorites; it?s always kind of been the anti-Mario character to me. The speed, the levels, the cut-scenes, I just couldn?t get enough. Now after a few ?Best Of? outings we are treated to an entirely new Sonic adventure, and I do mean new. Apparently Sonic has grown weary of running and needs to take to a hover board to relieve his boredom. The simplest way to describe Sonic Riders is Sonic meets SSX Tricky, with added Sonic wrinkles for good measure.

The storyline is a little week, Sonics arch enemy Egg Man sets up a grand competition, a series of races on these ?New? hover boards. 2 New villains are added to the usual cast of characters, and your pretty much off and running. Levels are replaced by races in SR (Sonic Riders), Sonic staples, the golden rings, the speed tracks, and cut-scenes are all still here. The few wrinkles are the Tony Hawk like upgrades to your board, and rival jet streams as you race.

Each race starts out with your character on foot, as the race is started you run towards the start line and hit your board. Sounds simple enough, but you do need to time your approach just right because if you cross the start line before its time you get zapped, loosing precious time. This sounds like an interesting little addition, but it ends up being more of an annoyance as you play on. I just found myself asking, does it really need to be in the game? Once your off and hurling down the tracks your met with various twists and turns, and the usual cut scenes that are forced on you, taking control of the game for the duration. This cut scene thing worked well in the past, but now seems not only a little overdone, but I?m finding that in SR there is more ?watching? and less playing. During races you can also ?Jump? onto a rivals ?Jet Stream?, riding his wave and conserving your board, more on this a little late, but again, more watching less playing. Your board does overheat and needs to be ?Re-Charged?, there are stations along the track were you can do this, oddly enough they are never placed in easily accessible locations causing you to either continue forward to the next one or try and double back wasting time and your position.

On top of all of this, SR also has an added ?Trick? system, yep Sonic can perform some ?Extreme? combos while air born and get graded as he lands. At this point I have to admit, SR is a hodge-podge of ideas that don?t come together very fluidly. The speed that games of the past were made classic for seems out of control in SR. The control scheme while simple, has a very steep learning curve, making your early races seem more like a pinball game with your character basically bouncing off walls and obstacles in an uncontrolled frantic manner. Graphically the game looks as good as ever, but there is some excessive clipping and I hate to beat a dead horse, too many cut scenes within the races. The sound quality is solid, the music a little different from Sonics past, more heavy metal, less Sonic-like. The dialogue is campier and more stagnant than past games also, adding to the week story line.

Sonic Riders offers some very interesting ?Tracks? as you progress, and could be better than I may think, but it will deffinatly have a problem keeping the attention of not only new gamers, but die-hard Sonic fans long enough to find out. I found myself going on and on with SR just to give it a valid chance before writing this review, but I found it a chore at best, which tells me it will be just as big a chore for others with less reason than I to continue.

If you?re a Sonic fan, a Die-Hard, give it a shot, you may find the change of pace refreshing. Which leads us back to my original burning question. Is it time to retire? Well, this may surprise some of you after this review, but I would say no, and I?ll justify it with this comment, which applies to the plumber too, by the way. Franchises we love become just that because of innovative ideas and level designs, not by throwing those franchise characters in surrounding not really suited, or familiar to the games basis.

Suggestions: So to the folks at Sonic Team I say this, give me the Sonic that I fell in love with way back in the day, hell, even the Sonic from Sonic Heroes is much closer to what I want from my blazing blue buddy, but don?t sell him short.

Game On!

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Full Auto

It?s sometimes difficult to describe a game that covers more than just the usual definition of a genre; it?s even harder when the game offers up more than the usual way of winning. Full Auto falls into this cross-genre category although I?m not sure what genre the destruction part of this game would belong in. It?s safe to say that Full Auto isn?t your usual racing game. Filled with rocket launcher wielding, smoke screen spewing muscle cars, more destruction than an off the chart earthquake and more explosions than the 4th of July , Full Auto defiantly delivers the ?Bang?. Now its time to see if its worht the "Buck". Hop in, fasten your seatblets and let?s find out.

Full Auto by Sega is a racing game in its simplest form, but it combines racing with a more direct impact on your competition. Your vehicles are armed with everything from machine guns to rocket launchers. Finishing a race is only part of the objective here; finishing alive is an entirely different story. As I mentioned you are given a choice of varied vehicles, 21 to be exact and 8 weapons to choose from. Muscle cars as well as SUV?s are available depending on the event type and course your racing on. Not super deep in the custom vehicle part of things, but more than ample choices to suite the task at hand. Full Auto offers 5 race types that are nicely mixed with alternate objectives ranging from ?Wreck Points? to ?Rival? elimination. Each objective is offered up in 3 levels of accomplishment, Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Completing objectives unlocks the next tier, as it were, of objectives.

Some of the positives first, Full Auto has ample objectives to complete and keep you busy all on your own. Unbelievable range of destruction, pretty much anything you see can be crashed into, blown up, or run through. Another nice little addition, and a more regular occurrence in games now a day, is the rewind feature, or ?Unwreck? feature. If you find yourself in a mishap, rather than forgoing the race, just back it up a bit and avoid the problem the second time around. You obtain the unwreck feature by causing damage and destruction, you can also obtain ?Boost? to help speed you along. Full Auto also has a nice choice of maps, if you will; I avoid ?Tracks? because this is more of an urban assault race with no rules. Full Auto is definitely a game that will find a larger fan base in multi-player events, whether via split screen or Xbox Live.

Now some of the not so good parts, Full Auto doesn?t have a lot of negative things, but a few that may hamper its popularity. While offering a decent array of vehicles Full Auto suffers from the ?Detached from the Ground? feeling with its cars, they kind of float rather than demonstrate weight and speed. While the damage is fantastic not only on the surroundings, but also the cars, it suffers from the over-exaggerated reaction to collisions at times. A minor bump or miss calculation will send you spinning out of control. Lastly, Full Auto does get a tad repetitive after a bit. Yes the objectives change and the scenarios along with the objectives, but once you figure out some of the ?Tricks? to the game it becomes more of an exercise in execution rather than racing. Without giving too much away, in one scenario to receive a Gold ranking you need to accumulate 45K in Wreck Points, finish 1st and eliminate a Rival in under 1:50. Well the first few times through you can?t quite see how this is possible, the Trick is that the Rival alone will give you the points needed for your objective, making this more of a chase than a race.

With all of this being said, I did find Full Auto entertaining in both the single player mode as well as on-line. If you love to just blow the be-geezas out of stuff you?ll probably enjoy Full Auto. This is defiantly a more ?Arcade? type racer and meant to be over the top in its presentation. Full Auto delivers that very well. My fear, again, is that most gamers will find it repetitive after a few run through, but I do feel, as I said before that Full Auto can gain a large following on Xbox Live. Competition is a big driving force in this game, no pun intended.

Suggestions: So my final thoughts are simple, Full Auto is highly entertaining and really shines in the multi-player arena, either with friends sitting next to you or via Xbox Live. I think Full Auto has its issues but nothing to overly severe; again, this is a more arcade like experience. Serious sim racers may want to rent this first, if you?re in it for the fun and excitement of total destruction, give Full Auto a shot.

Game On!

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Kameo: Elements of Power

Kameo Elements of Power was supposed to set the Xbox 360 community on its ear. I don?t know if it quite accomplished that task, but is the game anywhere near the hype that surrounded it. Our friends at Rare and Microsoft Studios really wanted this title to be special, after moving from one system to the next, reschedule after reschedule it finally found a home and the honor of being one of the 360?s launch titles. So its out, personally I never listen to the hype so I?m here to give you the lowdown on Kameo.

Let?s cut to the chase on one thing, I think the game was misunderstood by many. I think everyone expected a huge RPG title, when in fact the game was never really pushed as being such. Kameo is an action adventure platform game in its most basic sense, but as we all know it?s not the genre its how you deliver the goods. Kameo was one of the first Xbox 360 games I picked up, I had been looking forward to this title for quite some time, and I have to admit once I loaded the game and started playing I found it difficult to put down.

That being said, there is a lot to explain about Kameo, the first thing you will notice is the unbelievable graphics in this game; I played on an HD setup so keep that in mind. I know eye candy is just that, candy, but to ignore the fact that this game looks as incredible as it does would be an injustice to the people who worked so hard to make it look as good as it does. Starting with the basics, the environments are lush, colorful and full of life, particle effects float around open fields, and water falls and rivers ripple with a pleasant ambience. Lighting effects in the form of natural light, torches, or explosions are simply amazing. The characters while on the cartoonish side are very detailed and offer some of the most fluid movement I?ve ever seen. One of the most impressive visuals is that of the main character, Kameo, inside the chosen ?Element of Power? character, I could see where this could have been just left out and none would be the wiser, but they took the time to make the idea of this character transforming and controlling these elements to an entire new level. Again all in all Kameo is simply breathtaking.

Adding to the ?Experience? is a just as Impressive score. The music is a perfect fit to the game and does a great job of putting you in the mood of the world of Kameo. Light and airy at times when the game needs it also moves to a more powerful score when in the heat of battle. The ambient sounds just as the graphics are perfectly executed and suit the game perfectly. Clings and clangs of metal swords and weapons are very authentic, explosions, water effects, crackling fire, you name it, and they didn?t miss a beat on any level.

The reason I started with the look and feel of Kameo is because it is very impressive to have a game deliver this level of production and then become the background to the game as you settle into it for a bit, before you know it the ?Ooh?s? and ?Ahh?s? will be gone from your mind and you?ll start to see what this game is really all about. It?s an action, adventure platform game?with a slight twist. As you may have gathered by now, you are Kameo, a spry young woman out to save her family and her world. Right from the start you are thrust into battle, and you soon are forced to realize that you are not as powerful as you think, and in order to save your family you will need to obtain the ancient ?Elements of Power?. Part of the game is spent acquiring the 10 elements, each of which offers a unique and diverse style of attack, not to mention unique attributes that will suite given situations better than others. I do like the diversity of the ?Elements? you have Pummel Weed the boxing plant, Rubble, who is basically a pile of rocks that can disassemble in some interesting ways to cause destruction, Ash the Dragon, Deep Blue the underwater help complete with tentacles and jet stream packs, Major Ruin who reminds me of a giant pill bug that can roll around and keep Kameo safe within his armor. The second half of the group is 40 Below who is capable of dismantling large hordes of trolls, Snare who is best described as Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, Chilla the abominable snowman like bear if you will, who is the brawler in the group but also launches the occasional Ice Spear as needed, Flex the most agile of the bunch and last but not least the diminutive Thermite, in his case, size does not matter.

Why go through the whole bunch, well because this is what makes Kameo, Kameo. The ability to not only find all of these Elements, not only to use the right element at the right time, but also how to switch between elements as you go along, basically part of the puzzle of Kameo is to figure out the best combination of elements to use at a given time. By this I mean you need to learn to switch in mid action to be effective. So that?s the gist of the game, but how does it play out? Well the nuts and bolts of it are this, you can have 3 elements loaded into the buttons at any given time, and you can replace elements whenever you want during game play using the Warrior Wheel, basically giving you the ability to change warriors on the fly into one of the 3 slots (X, Y, or B). Kameo herself has a range of attacks and is also able to hover with her wings. As you venture through the game you can collect Elemental Fruit, that can be used to upgrade your warriors as you see fit, basically changing their attacks and attributes in a sort of RPG fashion. You can also collect Runes the currency in Kameo to use later in Shops. Your warriors will use up energy as they fight, this is shown on your blue Spirit Bar, and it will drain and refill as you progress through the game as you collect Elixir. Battle Bonuses are eramed by your attacks in the form of multipliers in 3 categories; Carnage, Brutal and Frenzy, defeat a troll without him landing a hit and achieve higher bonuses. The focus meter is a cool effect and comes in handy at just the right time, Kameo EoP has no problem hurling hordes of trolls at you at one time, making the battles intense, but if you string together enough attacks you?ll hit a Focus point where everything around you slows down enabling you to increase your attacks on numerous enemies while they appear to be standing still, this only lasts so long so get in as many punishing blows as you can. Through all of this you have a guide in the form of a Wot Not book and Ortho the wizard, these work as helpers to Kameo when she may be unable to figure out what to do or how to achieve a certain objective, sort of a built in cheat system if you will, but you may choose to ignore it and go on by your own wits.

This entire adventure revolves around Thorn, King of the Trolls and Kalus who feels she should be the rightful heir to the Elements of Power. So you spend time fighting trolls, ogres, rock monsters, etc? while also trying to solve some puzzles along the way. Some of the puzzles are rather simplistic but if you don?t take the time to observe your surroundings you may miss them. The other wrinkle in Kameo is that you can move from one area of the world to another through these teleport like windows, why, because you do have quests that can?t be completed without the proper warriors so you may revisit areas to complete missions. Kameo offers side quests as well, they range from obvious to a little more obscure but there is always something else to take on if you want to. Again, while Kameo offers some very tried and true platform elements like Hearts for health and elixirs for the warriors power it also ads quite a bit more to the mix in how you obtain success. Each level is awarded a point total and you may revisit levels to increase your points if you like, The Shops offer a little side step to the game to break it up a bit. The controls are well balanced to the point they too become second nature by the time you get into the real heart of the game.

Now do I feel like Kameo was everything it promised, well no, but I do feel it delivered a great platforming experience that did put forth some challenges as well as some real strategy when taking on some of the bosses. Yes some of the elements powers become a little redundant, but what platform game doesn?t suffer from that in some way shape or form. I feel the hype behind the game may have defused some of the true entertainment value of Kameo Elements of Power, but thats more our fault than it is the games fault. So if you?re looking for a new adventure in the platform genre and enjoy a little fantasy in your gaming diet Kameo Elements of Power may be for you. I defiantly think its worth your time if your gaming pallet is diverse, and for you die hard?broaden your horizons a bit. Highly entertaining, a little short on replay value, but heavy on production value I thought Kameo Elements of Power was a keeper.

Game On.

Suggestions: Expand the "world" of Kameo.

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 Tony Hawk's American Wasteland

Yet another long standing and successful franchise make its way over to the Xbox 360. Tony Hawk has become quite an Icon in society as well as the gaming industry with his detailed and entertaining skating games. So how does Tony Hawk American Wasteland fair in the Next-Gen? Let?s take a closer look.

THAW follows a tried and true formula with its mechanics, some of the best in the biz, not only now, but they have been the bar to which other games of this genre are measured. That being said, THAW makes some strides forward, but also leaves some of the comfortable familiarities of the past intact. Is that a good thing? I?m kind of on the fence with it. My initial reaction is, new game, must be better, but that?s not always the case. Here is how the latest Hawk game fairs in my opinion.

The game offers some great options, the 2 main ones being Story Mode and Classic Mode. Going a little deeper in the game, you find a once again awesome Create-a-Player, Create-a-Park, Create-a-Graphic, as well as Crate-a-Trick. Closing out the options is the head to head competition you can get your skater juices flowing to on Xbox Live. This is were American Wasteland will set itself apart with gamers, being able to hold 8 players at once will definitely offer up some intense competition and bragging rights. Free Skate and Co-Op modes are also available. The ?Create? options are nicely balanced and varied; you can upgrade your look, and board by earning cash during the game by completing challenges. This is straight forward TH fair. What I thought was a nice touch and maybe a safety net if you will, was the inclusion of the Classic mode. The Classic mode is your basic TH list of achievements to knock out in varied tracks, the usual combos, flips, grinds, and secret tapes are all available in all too familiar game play. Hell even the sounds in the classic mode remained the same. While I have always enjoyed the TH series, the last few outings have seemed a little on the un-original side of the spectrum, yes new location, new clothes, new board?s, are all ?New?, if you will to American Wasteland, but the game really remains the same. Still, let?s remember this is the ?Classic? mode of American Wasteland and as for what it?s supposed to be in the scheme of the game, it delivers as promised, the tried and true Tony Hawk experience we have grown to love.

The ?Story Mode? is the new option in American Wasteland. The basic premises is country boy leaves to go to the big city to become a skating legend, then, boy meets girl who ends up being basically his guide through some missions and introduces him to other skaters he can learn from. So what drives American Wasteland, well its pretty much all mission based and unfolds like one big tutorial. Every 24 hours the local skate shops offer up a list of new challenges for you to try and accomplish. Doing so increases your player ranking, when your ranking reaches certain levels you are eligible to enter certain competitions. During all of this you can make your way around town, let?s say Hollywood, and come across various characters that will issue challenges to you for cash and advancement. You can take the Bus to and from areas you have visited, you can go it on foot and have non-skateboard challenges like learning to do wall flips add to your achievements, while on foot you can also use your board as a weapon, its actually part of certain missions, and lastly on the list of things you can ride, are the BMX Bikes. Hop on one and tackle a whole new set of tricks to keep that ranking ever climbing. Adding to the cornucopia of options is tagging, much like Jet Set Radio, you fly along and tag walls and earn advancements for a job well done. But again, it?s a constant, go to the next guy, get his challenge, try and do it, wash rinse and repeat. Of course they added cut scenes with some humor and the usual thug skater throwing down a challenge. Those hidden little areas we all spend countless hours trying to figure out how to reach are scattered around American Wasteland, but all in all, American Wasteland while solid on its own, offers nothing overly new or exciting from prior versions.

That being said, the game does take a step up in graphics and fluidity all thanks to the new 360 hardware. The game looks very good running at 720p, real time shadows and textures are well done, the locations sport some great detail and as usual most objects are interactive and can be pushed, moved, broken, or shattered. The game did seem a little dark on my TV, but a quick trip to the options menu took care of that. The soundtrack boasts the usual mix of great songs form some of today?s skater favorites. The environmental sounds are well done and balanced. Dolby Digital does a great job of putting you in the middle of everything and delivers a pleasant experience. It?s hard to knock any of the Tony Hawk games; they deliver such solid experiences and again some of the best mechanics and realism in the genre, but American Wasteland even with the familiar and comfortable inclusion of the Classic mode, does fall a little short of my expectations. As in the Xbox library, I stopped at TH3 because the newer versions didn?t offer anything spectacular, well, Tony Hawk American Wasteland will remain in my library for 2 reasons, the classic TH experience never looked or sounded better than it does in American Wasteland, and the Xbox Live options will most keep your competitive juices flowing. Fans of the series may not care for the Story Mode, but as I said, the on line play will certainly bring some of the gamers who are unsure off the proverbial fence and into American Wasteland. If you?re a fan of the series or Tony Hawk, pick it up, you won?t be too disappointed in this installment.

Suggestions: I can't put my finger on it, the Story Mode was a great shot at changing things up a bit, it wasn't bad, but its not quite what the doctor ordered. Outside of that, the trick system, mechanics, and look are great as always.

Overall Score: 8.4 / 10 Project Gotham Racing 3

As long as there have been video games there have been Racing titles. The racing genre in my opinion is one of the 2 ?Bread & Butter? genres of the gaming industry, the other being sports titles. If you consider yourself any kind of gamer you must have some sort of racing title in your gaming library, yes I said ?MUST?. The interesting thing is that as time has passed the racing genre has kind of sprouted a bit of a sub-genre. You have your Street Racing, NASCAR, Simulation, and every aggressive driver?s favorite, smash the crap out of everything you can?and actually are rewarded for it. So my point is, now a day there seems to be something for everyone, regardless of your talent level and or the racing style you prefer. So where does Bizarre Creations Project Gotham Racing 3 for the spanking new Xbox 360 fit into this racing pile up? Let?s start with a bit of history.

The PGR series has been around for quite some time, originally released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2001 as Metropolis Street Racer; it was immensely popular on the system until the DC?s unfortunate demise. Bizarre Creations was then picked up by Microsoft Game Studios and changed the title of the game to Project Gotham Racing, and was then released as a launch title for the original Xbox system. So now on its 4th incarnation, how does the game stack up and has it stood the test of time?

PGR has always been one of my favorite games since it was MSR, and I?m not a huge racing fan by any means, but fun games are fun no matter what the genre. PGR3 offers a wide variety of game play modes, a huge inventory of vehicles ranging from popular street racers, classic muscle cars, and exotic dream cars. The 2 main game play modes are the single player Career Mode, and the on-line Career mode via Xbox Live. The Single player game offers 22 un-lockable Championships, each one consisting of 2 or more objectives, meaning you?ll be busy for a while. Aside form the usual Street Race; you have challenges based on precision, and speed in the form of Cone Challenges which have you running an obstacle course of sorts having to meet your ?target? goal in the allotted time or ?Kudos? total. The ?Top Speed? challenge that has you ?Pedal to the metal? to hit your ?Target? speed within a given time on a given track, no straight-aways here gang. One of my favorites, the ?Overtake? challenge, were you need to pass the ?Target? number of cars within a given time period, and a new wrinkle to the PGR series, ?Time over Kudos? were the kudos you earn add time to your run, sounds easier than it is, do you gamble on spinning out of control or do you try a clean run just to hit your time.

The championships are devided up into 5 medal rounds, or simply put, difficulty levels. The lowest difficulty level is the ?Novice? level with a Steel medal, then Bronze, Silver, Gold, and the holy grail of PGR3, the Platinum Medal, being the hardest difficulty level. At first glance that seems like a cop out, but I feel it gives the player a nice learning curve to work with, giving you a chance to actually accomplish something while getting comfortable with the game itself. Aside from earning trophies for completing championships, you earn medals for a plethora of ?Achievements?; everything from catching some air to Kudos combos, earns you a new medal. Of course I mentioned Kudos; yes the Kudos system is back, although I have to admit it?s a little more forgiving than prior PGR games. You can actually progress with skilled driving over power slides this time around. Don?t get me wrong, if you master the power slide and drifting you?re definitely on your way to greatness, but at least the game remains entertaining to those of us who don?t sleep with a steering wheel under our pillow. Your accomplishments in the single player mode do roll into you XBL achievements, which is a great little plus for the closet racer who is a little shy to hop onto a Live race but likes showing off stats with their Gamer Card.

With all of this being said, the controls on PGR3 are just as responsive as ever, actually they feel a little tighter this time around. In the past you tried really hard not to use your brakes and just kept that acceleration trigger pressed all the way in. This time you can really feel the difference, especially when you get to the B and A class cars that have some uber power, when changing the pressure on the accelerator subtly as It were. You can toggle your view between a few camera angles with a few that put you right in the drivers seat, there is sure to be one that will suite you well. The association between the emergency brake and the Kudos system is still something to master to rack up big Kudos scores, but again, the controls seem a little more tuned so if you beginners are tired of just spinning out of control you can avoid the E-Brake and still get somewhere in the game.

Another new addition to PGR3 is the track editor, now for the first time you can design your own custom tracks, and use them not only on your local machine, but also via system link or XBL. You can choose the weather conditions, the time of day, vehicle class, even who can race with you. You work off of an interface with several starting points and way points, choose the start position, then click a way points until your course is complete, then save it for all to enjoy.

This brings us to where PGR3 really lives, on Xbox Live. Even if you?re not a die-hard racer you?ll find the game a lot of fun on line, finding the right group of racers to match your skills is pretty easy, and with the addition of the ?Preferred? gamer to all XBL titles it makes playing with your favorite people easy without filling up your friends list. You can also just jump into any race with an opening and take your chances, which can be fun, but usually you end up in the deep end of the pool without a life preserver. Now I know this sounds like the usual on-line fare, but Gotham TV is now on the air, what?s GTV you ask, well, if you want to watch the big dog?s race and maybe learn a few tricks of the trade you can now join races as a spectator. You can toggle between each vehicle racing, you can also change the camera angles, and if that were not enough you can save the replays of these races to study more in detail later. I know this sounds goofy to some of you, but I really think Microsoft hit on something here, some gamers stay off the track, as it were, because of fear of getting demolished, yes I know this is a game and not real, but hey, why not watch what others are doing, how they take turns, the vehicles they choose, and so on, it does nothing but make the entire experience appeal to a larger audience. Of course the ultimate achievement for Joe Racer on-line is to be on GTV, if you?re good enough you can actually end up as a replay on Gotham TV, this is obviously reserved for the PGR elite, you know the guys I mentioned before, the ones who sleep with a steering wheel under their pillow. The XBL end of PGR3 has it own set of accomplishments set aside just for on-line players, the Kudos system is also intact while playing on-line, in a nut shell PGR3 does a great job of intertwining both single player and on-line play into one main stat screen and career.

Connected to all parts of PGR3 is the Kudos system which helps your ranking, the cash you earn by winning races and completing objectives. You have your own garage to store the vehicles you purchase, when shopping for and just checking out your inventory of ?Toys? the vehicles are sorted not only by Class, A,B,C,D,E, but also by price and performance, which does make your search a little easier when looking for your next purchase, you can also choose from a few colors for your new ride.. Once you have your vehicles parked in their new home you can take pictures of them, zooming in or out and getting just the right angle and composition. You also always have the option of selling your rides when you feel you have no use for them anymore, of course resale value isn?t always what it should be. The soundtrack in PGR3 is just as solid as PGR?s of the past, a nice mix of styles and genres are great backdrop to the driving experience, of course you can toss your own tunes in if you prefer. The other part of the sound dept. are the actual vehicle sounds, the tires spinning and screeching, are well done, impact sounds when you slam into a rail are also realistic. I always try and pay close attention to the sound of the vehicle itself, PGR3 does a great job of reproducing accurate acceleration and engine sounds that correspond to vehicle makes and models. There is nothing worse in a racing game when a Skyline sounds just like the Ferrari and vice versa.

Well what can I say about the graphics and the look of PGR3? This game has never looked better, everything from the vehicles to the course details are just about flawless. Now there is a little ?Smoke and Mirrors? in PGR3, but you know what, it helps the look and feel of the game so I don?t really care how they did it, the motion blurs the environmental effects like rain, smoking tires, and vehicle damage are next to perfect and not over the top keeping everything a little more on the realistic end of the spectrum. Night time driving, shadows during the day, even the neon lit streets of Las Vegas never looked this good. Whether in Single player mode or on XBL the game has no drop in fame rate as far as I could tell during my time with PGR3, it plays very smooth without the slightest hick up. Graphically, you just have to see PGR3 for yourself to appreciate how good this game really looks, especially if you have the means of playing on a High Def screen.

Overall the thing I like most about PGR3 is that it concentrates on racing, and not tweaking your cars, slapping on ground effects and graphics. Again, don?t misunderstand what I?m saying, that ?Type? of game offers a lot also and are very entertaining and popular, but I prefer not having to figure out which muffler is going to help me in the long run and racing just to swap out parts. PGR3 is simple for all gamers regardless of their skill level in the genre to have fun and accomplish something rather than getting frustrated with failure. The learning curve is perfectly balanced so that with time and practice you can improve at your pace, again, reaping some rewards along the way. I?ll mention Gotham TV again, because I think it helps a lot to see how others race, its one thing to tell someone where the apex of a turn is, it?s much easier for most to understand the apex by seeing it in a race. So basically, ease of use over a broad range of skill levels, tons of un-lockable objectives and vehicles, and a very user friendly XBL experience makes Project Gotham Racing 3 very appealing to the novice gamer as well as offering enough of a challenge and the rush to the die hard racing junky.

Suggestions: More unique tracks and locals, while the reverse track system does give a course a different feel it does seem like the easy out.

Overall Score: 8.4 / 10 Condemned: Criminal Origins

Let me start by saying I?m a big fan of the Horror genre in all of its formats, movies, games, you name it. Let me elaborate a bit on that point, I like to get scared, not grossed out or shocked , but really scared, and in my book there is nothing scarier than things that you can perceive as real. I?ll give you an example. While characters and creatures like Jason, Freddy Kruger, or the Alien form Alien are scary I?m much more uncomfortable and truly scared watching a movie like the Exorcist. I mean, if you believe in Heaven and angels you must believe in Hell and demons.

Alright, I think you got my point; I don?t want to turn this into religious education. Condemned by Sega uses this formula flawlessly, not going down the path of the usual horror genre like the Resident Evil series, but on a path that?s not only disturbing but rooted in a world that you would have no problem accepting as real. Abandoned buildings, subway stations, and dark alleys are all very real places and I?m sure if you have ever been walking around at night, most of us have experienced that uncomfortable feeling and glance over the shoulder for a seemingly unknown reason. This is the environment you step into in Condemned.

The story revolves around the main character Ethan Thomas, an FBI agent investigating a rash of brutal murders and a growing oddity in the derelicts and low life?s that populate the disturbing sub culture of the city. While on the crime scene of a brutal double homicide a chain of events unravels leaving agent Thomas on the ?Hunted? side of the law and having to prove his innocence. This is the driving force behind Condemned. A very tried and true formula, but the mission you are about to embark on is an entirely new wrinkle to the genre.

As agent Thomas your left with few friends to help you through this ordeal, you must use your forensic skills and instincts to solve this mystery and clear your name. The game takes place in some of the most graphically stunning run down areas you have ever seen. Your best friend is a flashlight, and whatever you can scrounge up as a weapon. The areas are fully interactive, you can pick up just about anything as a weapon and a small chart appears giving you stats on the item in comparison to what you already have with a plus or minus sign, comparing the damage it can inflict, the speed of use and how effective it is defensively in the form of blocking. This by the way is a very important element of the game, blocking, learn it well it will save your life.

Melee combat is more the norm in Condemned adding to the already tense situation you find yourself in, it?s one thing to pick an enemy off with a head shot from long range, and it?s an entire new feeling being forced to go toe to toe. You do have guns in the game but ammo is scarce and so are the guns, again, reality. You?re probably not going to find a ton of ammo in an abandoned warehouse or a gun for that matter but you can rip a piece of conduit off the wall and swing away. Agent Thomas? other inventory consists of his forensic tools that range from being able to detect odors like decomposing flesh to inferred cameras to detect clues not readily visible to the naked eye. Which brings us to our heroes? instincts? We all know FBI agents need to use there instincts a bit while trying to solve cases, Agent Thomas is no different, clues are very important in Condemned and at times you need to take a good look around and see what is unseen, you go through this slowed down/flashback type scenario hinting that there is something worth looking for in the area, that being said, the usual ?solve the puzzle to progress? is not in place here. You can wonder away from an area with nothing if you prefer, but in the end it may be that key piece of evidence you needed.

Of course it wouldn?t be much of a challenge if there weren?t some deranged lunatics wondering around, sprinkled with a few serial killers and just plain crazies. The AI in Condemned is great, these freaks will attack in packs, destroy fuse panels to kill the lights, go into a frenzied attack if cornered, lure you into areas and will take off down a dark corridor if their at a disadvantage.. All of this adds to the suspense of the game, you know that these guys are waiting for you, you know it, you just saw one run across the hallway in the distance, and then you get that ?Oh Crap? feeling in your head that is not only disturbing but fun at the same time. Melee combat is pretty straight forward, as I said earlier you need to learn to block to survive. Another one of your more useful tools is your taser, it can slow down your attacker so you can either get away or finish him off. The attacks in Condemned come without warning form just about anywhere, no little compass with red dots as the enemies here folks, they are brutal and fast paced and if you don?t react quickly your sure to pay the price with your life, keep on your toes even when analyzing clues with your forensic tools, the AI really doesn?t care that you?re busy with something else.

Well since we are officially now in the next-gen system let?s talk about that. If you want a glimpse into what the 360 is capable of producing pop Condemned into the system, yes it?s early and the characters aren?t quite at a Pixar level but this is defiantly a sign of things to come on the new system. Condemned shines graphically, for a game that spends a lot of it?s time in the most dank, dark, and unsettling places you will ever spend time in you will be amazed at the detail and fluidity of the game. Running at 720p is a thing of beauty showing every little detail there is to see, toss in Dolby Digital and be prepare to jump from your seat not once but a few times during your romp through Condemned, not to mention that looking over your shoulder bit. Condemned rounds off the package with some great voice acting that reads more like a movie script than the usual repetitive stale game dialogue, and the story, while sometimes confusing, truly keeps you pushing forward. Condemned also boast the new ?Achievement? system on XBL, ranging from clues found to hidden Xbox 360?s that earn you detective badges.

Condemned may not appeal to everyone, but it looks great and is truly a solid sign of not only the future of gaming on the Xbox 360 but hopefully a new direction for the horror genre, I would highly recommend horror fans pick it up and enjoy the uneasy feeling that this game is sure to provide. In my opinion Condemned is one of the better launch titles on the list, not without a few minor flaws, but they are so minor I don?t even feel they are worth mentioning because they are based on preference rather than being deterrents to the overall experience of the game. So make sure you got fresh batteries in your flashlight and settle in for an intense, exciting, experience that is sure to have you slowing down your pace a bit to make sure the boogie man isn?t around the next corner.


Suggestions: I wouldn't change a thing.

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 Conker: Live and Reloaded

I can remember hearing about our furry little friend way back in the day, I remember seeing a box with this cute little squirrel on it, the game was Conkers Bad Fur Day. Didn?t sound that good, what do I need with some cutesy platformer for my N64, so I passed on by. A few weeks later a friend asked me if I had played it, I laughed and asked why, well it turns out I missed the boat on this one boys and girls, because after I played my buddies game I made my way back to the store and added this envelope pushing, genre bending foul mouthed squirrel to my permanent library. Conker has sat there ever since, so when I heard Rare was going to resurrect my fuzzy friend, I was truly excited and waited not so patiently to see what they had in store for us.

Well, 5 years after my 1st Fur Day experience I sit down to take in the latest incarnation of our friend from Rare, Conker Live and Reloaded. Let me start by saying it?s great to see my buddy get an ?Ultimate Makeover?. For those of you who are fans you will be thoroughly pleased with how great the game looks compared to its N64 days, it?s not perfect, but it?s a great improvement. For newcomers to the Conker world, be prepared to shatter all the cute and fuzzy stereotypes from games gone by.

Conker Live and Reloaded basically boils down to 2 sections, the 1st being somewhat of a remake of the original Conkers Bad Fur Day. All the obscenities are present, the squirrel with a knack for making the wrong choices and solving his problems by having a few?too many, is back in all his glory. In the single player game Conker is a platformer and a puzzle game, work your way through Conkers dilemmas and obstacles and make it to your goal. The controls are very simplistic and super easy to pick up and run with, the game still utilizes context-sensitive controls, get into a tight jam were a bat would be handy, and poof, a little light bulb goes off over your head, and a push of the ?B? button pulls it out of your pocket. The fun in Conker is the humor and the characters, I mean were else can you have a Boss battle against a pile of poop. The let down with the single player game is that it was tweaked to make it better, but they also cut some of the original out for I?m not really sure what reason. It comes straight out of Conkers mouth during the game that this isn?t a port of the original. As he gets to an obstacle he approached in the original his actions from the original don?t work anymore, that?s great that you would take the time to make the game a little different for us returning gamers, but why delete entire levels. Not that it hurts the game experience greatly, but as a fan of the original I would have liked to have seen all the original content in some manner.

On the subject of tweaking, Conker has been polished up but some things haven?t improved greatly, their better, but not great. The camera controls are still frustrating at times, but better than they were. Get into a tight spot like a ledge and you will get a little frustrated with the camera. Taking Conker into the water is still a pain, the swimming controls are still a little difficult. Another issue is the pace of the game in the early stages, it?s still a little bogged down, the pace does pick up as the game goes on, and actually near the end it gets down right frenetic by comparison, but I?m hoping it doesn?t loose gamers along the way. Which leads me to a simple conclusion, gamers may get bored and not give this game the time it needs to fulfill their gaming experience, and this game definitely needs time to grow on you.

That being said, it also applies to the 2nd part of the game, the on line multiplayer mode. Rare went the route of all out mayhem with the XBL end of things. It?s a fast paced, explosions fest with heat blurs a plenty from near misses and just mass chaos throughout. What contributes to this chaos? Well for starters you never need to search for ammo, you will need to reload but you?ll never run out of bullets. Conker also utilizes a class distinction in picking who you want to be when playing, classes are the same for both sides, cute and furry squirrels or the Tediez. Each class offers its own unique weapons and style, from a bazooka wielding destruction machine to a stealthy cloaking assassin. The problem is that in the beginning the Live end of Conkers is a little confusing; you really feel like your thrown in the middle of the ragging fire and don?t know what to do. The interface doesn?t help any, it?s too cluttered and not real user friendly. I can tell you that time is the answer, as your comfort level increases and you get the flow and pace of the game it is much more enjoyable. The maps for the most part are well designed and diverse in their surroundings. You have your usual death match and mission based objectives, but I would recommend going with larger groups rather than small ones, the game play just seems to be a little better when the roster is full.

A nice addition to the area between single player and XBL is Chapter X, were you can enjoy the multiplayer mode with the use of bots. Now I now this doesn?t sound that appealing to some, but I have to say it?s a great training ground for the Live portion of the game. Try out different classes, get to know the maps and get a feel for the game without suffering at the hands of your friends.

All in all it was fun to play Conker again, it was the same yet different, in some ways I felt the original was better, in other ways it was great to see an old friend get the spit shine he so deserved. The on-line portion is a ton of fun even when confusing, playing with others on line will surely bring a laugh or two to the group. Expect the same laughter in 2 player split screen and system link gatherings. This game is solid and is really about the humor set in gear by Conker himself, who really doesn?t give a rats a** about anyone but himself, he?s been cleaned up graphically but he?s basically the same old Conker I couldn?t put down 5 years ago. Some of you will unfortunately abandon this game prematurely, some of you will stick it out and go the 10 or so hours to the end, personally I think it?s going to be a fifty fifty split. Live will be were this game pulls ahead, manning turrets and causing mass destruction has never been more fun?come on, it?s squirrels against teddies, have you ever seen a teddy bears head explode?

Fans of the original, I recommend you go down the Conker trail once more, you?ll enjoy it. Newcomers see what the buzz is all about this squirrel, and if you don?t laugh?there is something wrong with you. Rare did an admirable job with Live and Reloaded, I wish they would have tweaked a few different things, but that?s ok. The time they spent developing the Live content is appreciated, I think it will please many of the Multi-Player maniacs once they get a grip on the game play, don?t get me wrong, this isn?t Halo or Rainbow Six, but when you need a break for the serious tactical stuff, Conker is your man?or, err, Squirrel.

Overall Score: 8.6 / 10 Prince of Persia: Warrior Within

When we last romped through challenging, beautiful, lush areas with our favorite Prince in Sand of Time, one of last years marks of greatness, the experience was more than exciting and well worth the price of admission. Now fast forward to the sophomore effort of the next gen revival from the talented folks at Ubi Soft, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. Our Prince is back and ready to take us on an adventure of a lifetime; does this new and improved Prince dodge the ?Sophomore? jinx? Read on and find out.

POP:Warrior Within is the newest installment of the Prince of Persia franchise from Ubi Soft. Last years Sands of Time surprised many with its visual style and impressive storyline, not to mention the high flying acrobatics our hero could pull off. Warrior Within not only meets the standards set by its predecessor, but surpasses it in a lot of ways. Not without a few minor issues, Ubi Soft shatters the sophomore jinx and hits this one out of the park and into a completely new and exciting world.

Let?s start with the obvious, WW is a much darker game than sands was, not only in scenery but our hero himself seems to have matured and become quite a bad !&%$@#* in the process, not that that?s a bad thing mind you, just that It could have been so easy to keep the style of the game intact and just continue on with the adventure, but our pals at Ubi took the time to recognize what they had in Sands, and kicked it up a notch. The great story telling is back with WW, and the cut scenes are a thing to behold, but none of this would matter if the game play were lack luster.

From the beginning of the game you?re pretty much thrown into the heat of the action, the 1st ?Level? if you will, begins your training of the fighting system and all its new attributes. The fighting system has been opened up quite impressively, unlike the scripted moves of sands, WW offers dual wielding offering up a new set of combos to be executed. Hitting an enemy with a single weapon can start a string of minor attacks or use your athletic abilities to hop over your enemy and execute a new string of combos, from a behind the back strangle hold to a powerful, and quite grotesque, beheading. And if a simple beheading is still not enough, brace yourself for splitting your enemy in half, I?m not talking across the waist mind you, no, no, no, I?m talking from the top of his head to his zipper. Your attack options change once again with your acrobatic abilities, swinging around poles or off walls lends themselves nicely when you?re in a crowd. You can also gather up weapons from the baddies you have slain or from a weapon rack you stumble across, improving your chances against some truly capable enemies as you find your self moving deeper into this story. When I started out I have to admit there was a fair share of button mashing, but as I settled down against my 1st challenging foe and my 5th ?Try Again? I realized that there is a bit of planning and strategy involved depending on who your enemy is.

Speaking of the story, WW has a great story and characters to bring this package together. As those of you who played Sands of Time know, our Prince was supposed to die at the end of the story, now without spoiling too much, fate has decided to make good on its promises to take the Princes life, this time in a very real, very scary creature by the name of Dahaka. How do you get death off your behind, well since all of this started because of the Sands of Time, what if the sands never existed? Sounds simple, but it would be kind of a dull game if it were that simple. The story has some great plot twists and definite ?No Way!? moments. That?s all you get for now, it?s just refreshing to play a game that takes the story and truly makes it part of the game rather than just the ?Framework? of it.

The other aspect of WW is the adventure, wall running and swinging from bars was never so much fun. In WW Ubi takes it a step further and test your exploratory abilitie and your sense of reasoning. Like a big puzzle, some of the areas you need to maneuver are bordering on impossible at first glance, but study your surroundings a bit and you will notice, all be it slight, a way to get were your going. Added to the acrobatic package this time around are curtain drops, sliding down curtains or tapestries slowing yourself down with a weapon dug into it brought back images of Errol Flynn, I know I?m dating myself a bit.

A few things making their return in Warrior Within are the Time Powers and Health power ups. The Time Powers work the same way as they have in the past, with the exception of not having to manually extract ?Sands? from fallen enemies, this time around its automatic, walk by them and they get sucked in. Water is still your friend in terms of health in Warrior Within; drink it up whenever and wherever you can to keep that tank full and ready for the next encounter.

The audio dept of Warrior Within, while being acceptable, is a little off in my opinion. Not that it?s a major thing, but the heavy metal soundtrack was a little over the top in my opinion, I know it probably played into the edgier look of WW, but I think a stronger orchestral soundtrack like the one in Sands would have more to my liking. The dialogue is also in the acceptable department, a little corny some times, but nothing to take away from the overall enjoyment of the game. The sound effects and ambient sounds are perfectly placed drawing you deeper into the games adventure and story.

The newest addition to Warrior Within is the inclusion of Xbox Live capabilities, grant it there are no head to head type games, but the offerings are just as much fun. Time Attack Mode is simple in principle; get through the map as fast as you can. Keep in mind this is the high flying, pole swinging, Prince we?re talking about, and a simple beat the clock turns into a sweaty palmed nightmare, but a fun one. Arena Survival Mode pits you against wave after wave of enemies in a series of arenas, with an increasing difficulty level. All of this gets entered into the XBL Scoreboards and if your good enough you can see your name in XBL history for all of your to admire. And if that were not enough you can download new maps for both Live modes to keep things interesting.

All in all Prince of Persia: Warrior Within is like watching a great adventure story on a Saturday afternoon, with the added dimension that YOU get to be the hero, well crafted and a wonder to look at, I can?t see WW not appealing to all gamers, there is enough excitement and challenge to meet even the pickiest gamers appetite. Once again I find myself offering up kudos to Ubi on a job well done, and pushing that proverbial bar up another notch or two.

Suggestions: No more heavy metal...LOL

Overall Score: 9.6 / 10 Breakdown

From the minute I heard about Breakdown I was intrigued, I couldn?t wait to see how this ?New? way of playing would, well? ?Play? out, no pun intended. Breakdown is kind of in a category of its own, First person shooter meets first person fighter. With an interesting storyline that truly sucks you into the mystery of what is going on, to the original point of view and the cool glowing fists of power, Breakdown boldly goes where no game has gone before. Of course that leaves us asking the million dollar question?is it any good?

As Breakdown comes into view, literally, you wake up dazed and confused in a hospital with doctors milling around you, your first clue that this game is ?Different? is that you automatically start to have hallucinations. Now your not really sure why or what they mean, but that?s exactly how your supposed to feel, and exactly what helps keep the fascinating storyline rolling. Kudos number one?best story I have ever played through in a game, although a little aggravating at times?we?ll get to that a little later, Breakdown when completed gave me more of a sense of watching a deep, suck you in ?till the last minute, movie. As you slowly come to your senses all hell breaks loose and a mysterious woman embarks you on your quest for answers. Alex, the aforementioned mysterious woman, answers a lot of your questions but also leaves you hanging in terms of really giving you all the info.

I had mentioned that Breakdown is a combination of FPS and FPF (Fighter), well the meat and potatoes of Breakdown is in its dedication to the first person perspective, and fighting is the meat. After a brief ?Training? session, you discover that you are Derrick Cole with some incredible past and incredible abilities to match. The game never leaves Derricks FP view throughout the game, no matter what transpires, crawling, drinking, running, driving, and of course fighting, its all from Derricks eyes.

As you progress through the game more of your ?Powers? become available and more answers to exactly who you are become available through visions, the action kind of slows down and goes to an eerie glowing mode and you experience these visions, one of the early ones really had me perplexed and made me really want to know what the hell was going on as the flesh from my bones disintegrated leaving me a mere skeleton. There are guns in this game, the auto targeting system is simple yet aggravating at times when you try to switch from one target to the next, but as I said, this is more about the ?Mano a Mano? than anything else. Breakdown definitely has a learning curve, a little difficult at first but once you get those glowing fists rolling and master some of the wicked moves you will be impressed with what this game has to offer. Some of the combos will make you give out an audible ?OHHHHHHH!?, just as well as that same sound of pain when you get clocked and are dizzy and disoriented for a moment?keep in mind, you never leave the FP perspective.

For as much as I was impressed by Breakdown it?s not perfect, the gunplay is dull, but again understandable because it?s all about the fighting. The beginning of the game I fear may cause a few gamers to abandon this adventure due to lack of information and the need to just run. Let me explain, Breakdown goes to great lengths to progress the story accordingly, which means you don?t have a lot to work with in the beginning, forcing you to basically get away from your assailants. There were a few moments that I really got tired of being pinned in a corner and not being able to exit fast enough before being pummeled, having to replay areas just to find out the correct route, now that being said, once you find your game groove, your off and running.

Breakdown plays really well for a FPF, you?re able to recoup your health by drinking and eating. You?re also able to pick up weapons from fallen foes, and uncover other clues along the way. Aside from the fighting controls, which turned out to be a little easier to pick up than I first thought, you can also use some evasive maneuvers such as back flips, cartwheels, and blocks. I know this is getting repetitive but, ALL IN FP PERSPECTIVE. It does take a little getting used to, and early on you may fall victim to becoming disoriented after a flip or two.

Breakdown definitely succeeds in what it set out to accomplish, and I?m sure if Breakdown 2 comes to fruition it will address some of the minor problems, Breakdown may not be everyone?s cup of tea, but the story and originality of the game play are worth the price of admission.

HDTV enabled, Breakdown is hard to knock visually. Super clean, detailed levels abound. The ?Visions? are very stylized and creepy leaving you longing for answers. One of the best things about Breakdown aside form the FP Perspective is the transition from level to level, or checkpoint to checkpoint, there are no cut scenes, or transition menus or instructions. The game loads at the correct moment and you just continue form the exact view you were at without missing a beat, it just continues through the entire game without leaving the story or action. Well designed fluid characters utilizing some nice rag doll effects and range of motion. And if you haven?t heard by now, you do get to experience what I believe is the first FP vomiting in video game history, head down in the bowl and all, after eating a tainted hamburger.

In the sound department Breakdown continues to favor well, the dialogue while not enthralling, does contribute to the story and intrigue of the game. In game Dolby digital lends a hand in hearing the super human soldiers on your tail and definitely help in your evasiveness at times. Ambient sounds are authentic and accurate, from gun fire to the sound of your fists hitting a baddie. With the sound of alarms going off in labs, crackling fire heaps, echoes in corridors, Breakdown delivers a solid effort.

Suggestions: Solid first attempt at something new, and different. Can't wait to see how the sequel comes out, hint, hint.

Overall Score: 8.4 / 10 James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing

Our favorite ?00? agent is back, this time on the trail of a missing scientist and her high jacked nano-technology. In true Bond fashion our Dr. Nadanova is drop dead gorgeous. Along with the good Dr. Everything or Nothing also shines both visually and in game play, a plethora of ?Bond? gadgets, and the obligatory bevy of Bond beauties and your off and running on another international adventure that takes you from Peru to the "Big Easy". Hollywood talents lend not only their likeness but voice talents as well to make Everything or Nothing seem like your in a true Hollywood summer blockbuster.

The obvious difference right off the bat with EON, is that James makes more than a cameo appearance in cut scenes as in past Bond games, 007 is in complete 3D in this third person incarnation of the series, Pierce Brosnan once again supplies the voice talent of James Bond, and his video counterpart is amazingly accurate.. I am a big fan of Golden Eye, and a few of the other Bond games, but I have to admit that playing Bond in third person really gives you a sense of true Bond adventure. Electronic Arts, who has nailed down the ?Playing a Movie? formula, doesn?t disappoint with this title. Everything or Nothing is a Hollywood movie that doesn?t really exist. From its opening scene, complete with original title track by Mya, to the lavish visual style all Bond movies have had in the past, this is a Hollywood production.

What would a Bond game be without the usual Bond goodies? Well, it wouldn?t be a Bond game. This game does add a few nice ?upgrades? to the Bond formula, let?s start with stealth moves, 007 can now crouch to hide and evade enemies as well as make his way through smaller areas. In a third person view this is a beautiful thing. Along with crouching, 007 can also ?Wall-Hug? and peek out and target enemies. The auto aim system is pretty accurate, although a little rough when faced with multiple enemies. You lock on by pulling the left trigger and firing with the right, the problem lies in releasing and re-locking on a target. Under normal situation though, you can just move the ?Lock? to another enemy by moving the right stick in the direction of the enemy. There is a bonus in the targeting system, once you lock on, especially if your in a stealth frame of mind, you can move the point of aim within the target indicator, basically, once you have locked on you can fine tune your shot for the ?One shot and he?s down? head shot.

Since we have moved into the equipment 007 has let?s take a look through his bag of goodies. A couple of cool little toys this time around from our buddy ?Q?, played by Monty Python alum, John Cleese, the ?Rappel? gun is a neat gadget enabling you to scale up and down walls and access points that would seem unreachable, in some instances you even get to engage enemies as you scale a surface, you have the ability to move left or right, turn around and target your weapon as you would normally. Next we have the ?Q? Spider, a handy gadget when scouting areas ahead of you or too small to venture into, once at your point of impact you can detonate the Spider to access or disable any obstacles in your way. The ?Nano Suit? that renders you invisible, Sleeper Darts, Coin Grenades, and even an RC Car when the obvious way in won?t do. Of course when all else fails 007 can go hand-to-hand with the best of them, just enough combos to avoid being a button masher. Along with all of the gadgets 007 also has ?Bond Sense?, you can use Bond Sense to help figure out important aspects of your missions. You can activate BS?sorry, by using the D-Pad, once activated the action around you slows down and important objects and information have an aura around them.

Another aspect of EON are the Driving missions, while very entertaining, are a little sluggish at times. But you do get another Bond staple?the vehicles, decked out in usual Bond fashion. Along with the signature Aston Martin, V12 Vanquish by the way, Bond also has a sweet off road ride, no not just any SUV, a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, equipped with missiles, and guns, a Triumph Daytona 500 Motorcycle also equipped to Bond standards. I found the motorcycle missions a lot of fun. If that weren?t enough you even get to fly a helicopter.

Everything or Nothing truly does make you feel like you?re in a movie; the locales such as Egypt, Moscow, and New Orleans lend themselves well to the story. The game play is simple yet exciting and the in game ?Bond? moments that are seamlessly inserted into the game top off a sweet package. Bond fans will be thrilled, but this game may also draw in a few newbie?s to the series. EA did a great job not making this series get stale and predictable. The story line oozes Bond, and all of the traits of a good Bond venture are present, hell even Jaws make a triumphant return to take another ?bite? out of James.

When talking graphics and visuals in a Bond game it?s hard to bypass the obvious ?Bond Girl? thing, so let me tell you right now that Shannon Elizabeth never looked better. The character renderings are pretty amazing, very accurate, and the range of motion is pretty solid. You do occasionally find your self stumbling to get into small spaces but it?s not too bad. The levels are well designed and detailed, the action is crisp and exciting, and the addition of the ?Bond Sense? effect and the Rappel angles and detail in the zip line are evidence of a job well done. Joining Pierce and Shannon are dead on likenesses of Heidi Klum as Dr. Katya Nadanova and Willem Dafoe as Nikolai Diavolo. All in all, EA delivers another visual stunner, you may not like the game but it?s hard to knock the way it looks.

Aside from the obvious explosions, gun fire, and innuendo laced dialogue, EON utilizes the Dolby Digital (THX) well, and environmental sounds add depth and emersion in the game play. Well balanced and not over the top. The thing that popped out at me most was, again, the Hollywood quality that was brought to the game. When you can secure big names lending their talents to a video game it?s a big deal, especially when it?s not recycled dialogue from the movie. The soundtrack is all ?Bond? from the ?Burned in our Brains? theme, to the original title score by Mya, who also lends her talents as Agent Mya Starling.

Suggestions: 007 Everything or Nothing is a solid package with all the makings of a great movie, game play is fun and exciting, and the addition of 4 Multiplayer modes including a Cooperative mode strengthens the replay value.

Overall Score: 8.4 / 10 Sonic Heroes

After a lifetime as the flagship character of his own slew of systems our favorite little blue rodent from video games past is now on Xbox. Sonic makes his Xbox debut with Sonic Heroes, Sega?s latest installment to the Sonic license. So does Sonic show any signs of aging, or slowing down for that matter? Will Sonic be welcome on his new black and green home? Or is it going to be another case of a "Retro" game charecter on his last leg? Read on and see if this 3D platform has what it takes to bring our little blue buddy back to gaming fame.

Sonic Hero?s does a great job of bringing back the fun and break neck speed of the original 2D side-scroller with a few modern day tweaks. Sonic Heroes definitely seems to have found a new gear in the speed department and game play has been updated to a ?Team? set up. In this new Sonic adventure you play as one of 4 teams, one consisting of Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails (Team Sonic), another with Shadow, Rogue, and Omega (Team Dark) these 2 teams are basically the ?Normal? mode, Team Sonic, and ?Hard? mode, Team Dark. In addition to the 2 familiar teams the Sonic Team has included 6 more of Sonic?s friends, one team represents a ?Beginner? level, while the 4th team is a Mission based adventure. So as you can see you have quite a bit to work with in this Sonic Heroes package. Within each ?Team? configuration you have a choice of going through a tutorial, the ever-popular Story mode, and a few un-lockable mystery modes.

Within the team you choose, each of the 3 characters has a special trait to better handle various situations and obstacles to work through as leader of the squad. Choosing the right configuration comes into critical play when working through the elaborate and original levels in Sonic Heroes. Sonic obviously has speed and his signature tornado attack, Knuckles has the muscle although his claws seem to be MIA, and Tails can fly you to the many unreachable locations, as needed using his tail. As a team you also come across the usual power ups and level ups, and also build up your ?Team Blast?, a group super attack complete with it?s own mini cut scene to make it a little more dramatic, this Team Blast is not only original but effective when out numbered by the many enemies you encounter on your quest to yet another showdown with Dr. Eggman.

Switching between leaders is key to capitalizing on the elaborate rail levels and vertigo inducing heights you encounter in Sonic Heroes. Each configuration not only opens up new combo attacks but also helps take advantage of multiple paths in the game. Example, many rails and paths split into 3 individual paths, with the right configuration your team members will each go down 1 path, meeting up further down the line, these are the basics of Sonic Heroes. The usual elaborate and colorful level design that we have grown to expect form the Sonic Team is well represented again in Sonic Heroes, and the speed of Sonic and company is at an all time high, making Sonic Heroes more dizzying and frenetic than ever.

Sonic Heroes is not without a few minor glitches, but a solid effort for our blue buddies first trip to the Xbox, fans of Sonic past will not be disappointed, and platform junkies will find the hours of speed induced game-play very addicting.

Visually Sonic Heroes doesn?t disappoint, you can see the subtle Xbox tweaks to the game and as I stated earlier the level design is fantastic. Where Sonic Heroes suffers a tad is in a common problem with all games, camera issues. In tight spots once again, it becomes difficult to see what is happening around you, causing you to end up in some sticky predicaments. Ending up behind a wall, and difficult viewing angles causing a missed landing (It?s a long way down, as usual) happens more than I would like, but yet, playing through at the pace of the game, it?s annoying but not to the point of slamming down the controller and walking away. Even with its minor issues, Sonic Heroes does counter with elaborate and eye-catching level design, the pinball level is sure to be many a gamers favorite.

The sound department in Sonic Heroes is nothing new, very similar to Sonic games of the past, not only in dialogue but effects and comments. The sound of the rings flying as you get hit, the all too familiar ?Nooooooooooooooo? as you fall off an edge to your doom. As much as I would like to say this is a bad thing, I really can?t. It?s an issue of staying with what works, and when dealing with a character that has stood the test of time, it?s hard to knock the familiarity of what a Sonic game should be.

Suggestions: Sonic Heroes makes a nice transition to the Xbox with just enough of the old and the addition of something new keeping it fresh and original even for a character that?s been around so long. So even though Sonic doesn?t have his usual Sega home, he?s more than welcome here on the Xbox.

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10 Kill Switch

When you think all avenues are exhausted in a military based game someone comes up with a new wrinkle. The someone in this case is Namco and Renderware?s Kill Switch, and the new wrinkle is ?Cover Tactics?. Loaded with weaponry and some other little surprises Kill Switch may just be a game you may want to take a gander at.

The story here isn?t anything new and groundbreaking, your usual ?Seek and Destroy? objectives, but the way the missions are laid out is challenging and interesting. You begin with a tutorial that runs you through not only how to use your weapons but also goes over ?Cover Tactics?. What are cover tactics you ask, plain and simple you need to master hiding and shooting from and around walls, barriers, and other objects you will come across as you run through your missions.

The developers did a great job with the control system, especially on the cover tactic maneuvers. As you approach a corner you simply face the wall and squeeze the Left trigger and your character, Bishop, will hug the wall with his back. Once in this position you can use the Left analog stick to peek out around the corner to aim and shoot. The same tactics apply to crouching behind barricades and abandoned vehicles, Left trigger will crouch you behind the object and the Left stick will bring you up to shoot. Now the developers added another method of attack called ?Blind Fire?. Blind Fire is achieved by ?NOT? using the Left stick to peek out, just use the Right trigger to fire and you will only peek out your weapon around corners or over barricades and fire in the general direction of your aim. Blind Fire is obviously not as effective as popping up and seeing where you?re shooting, but very effective at forcing your enemies to cover while you make your move to the next cover point. Using other parts of your arsenal such grenades, can be tossed from your cover position forcing your enemies to scatter giving you the opportunity to ?Clear the Field?, you can through them varied distances by changing how long you apply pressure on the button. One of the challenges in Kill Switch is that your enemies utilize the same cover tactics and blind fire that you do, and I have to admit the AI in this game is above average, enemies don?t seem to make the same paths as they did before, and they will wait for you to poke your head out to fire so it?s imperative you check out all your options as you work your way through a mission.

The goodies in Kill Switch are diverse and effective. Your basic weapon is a M4 Assault Rifle that can be upgraded with a grenade launcher; you will also come across AK 47?s and AKU?s. You also have 4 types of grenades at your disposal, the basic grenade, mini grenades, sticky grenades, and flash grenades. All the weapons if used at the right time and place are very well suited to the game and the missions. Your weapon selection is extended by the ability to use enemy turrets and other weaponry as found. You can also pick up health packs and ammo as you clear areas and pick up enemy artillery.

The Kill Switch maps are laid out in a ?Gauntlet? type manner. Your missions are set in diverse places and scattered with spots to hide behind and attack from, and even a few hidden spots with extra goodies. Moving from place to place you can go at it in a stealth manner or you are able to just press the ?A? button and dive behind objects. Enemies are scattered behind objects, on roof tops, and in windows, making it important to realize were fire is coming from and how many are coming your way. There is some thought involved in getting through each level of this game without getting drawn into a crossfire or pinned down in a corner. When I first started playing Kill Switch I didn?t really think the game was going to be all that great, and while I?m not ready to crown it as the end all be all of covert ops games, the developers did bring some originality and some intense challenge?s to a genre that can easily become stale and repetitive.

Graphically Kill Switch is slightly above average. The main character seems to move a little funny but does respond well as being maneuvered around. The surrounding areas and random objects are well detailed and sharp, broken bottles, random tables and chairs, etc?all lend to the mood of each level. The levels are nicely designed and varied in size and local, all rendered wonderfully. Ambient effects are also well represented like environmental effects such as rain, and even the slight puff of dust from you running on the dry dessert sand. Explosions, ricocheted bullets and even the enemy the physics of the enemies when ?Neutralized? is super, you even get that little extra ?Twitch? as they go down. The main character does seem a little clunky in his motions but not enough to mess with the experience, the camera does have it?s limitations in tight spots as you try and rotate your point of view, this seems to be a common problem on a lot of games so I have a hard time bashing this one for it. All in all a solid job creating the mood of the game without selling it short.

In the audio department Kill Switch delivers exactly what it needs, nothing more nothing less. The voice acting is actually pretty good and the distant sound of enemies calling out instructions and warning others of your position is nicely done. If you go stealth in Kill Switch you can listen for the enemy positions very easily and the positions are very accurate. Ambient effects are present and accurate, gun fire and explosions are intense and diverse, so when you use a grenade as opposed to a flash grenade they sound different, the same goes for your other weapons which is a nice touch. There is a nice little background soundtrack that you don?t notice much but does help set the mood in intense situation.

Suggestions: Kill Switch is a nice little game with some well deserved kudos for the whole ?Cover Tactics? mode. I would think it could use a graphical upgrade and a tweak in the camera department, but again a very solid release from Renderware and Namco.

Overall Score: 7.4 / 10 Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel

Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel takes place in a post apocalyptic wasteland after nuclear war devastates the world sometime after the 1950?s. From the poisonous air and mutated creatures roaming the earth, people are moving into underground vaults to survive while the others who choose to remain on the surface are struggling for survival in a wasteland with no law. From this hellish future spawn Mutants, armies of giants devastating humanity and adding to the growing danger of the wastelands as each day passes. Through this all, a small group known as the Brotherhood, helps maintain order and keep the mutants at bay. This is our future, what can you do to make a change.

Fallout BOS is an Action/RPG using the exact same game play as one of Interplays other titles, Baldur?s Gate Dark Alliance. You can work your way through this adventure as one of three characters, Nadia, Cyrus and Cain. Utilizing the 3rd person overhead view and directional map to guide you, you are set on basic quests that branch out in many directions, from the mundane like finding the local hookers cat, to taking on a warehouse full of mutant rats and scorpions. Unfortunately the quests are all too familiar, fans of Baldur?s Gate will notice the uncanny similarity right from the get go, so much for originality. Your choices dictate were and what you will find and how your character will benefit from it, ala point system for upgrades ranging from bartering powers to melee boosts, again, the interface for all of this is all to familiar.

For those of you who may not have played Baldur?s Gate, and Fallout is your first venture into this genre, the game play is very simple to master and pick up. Controls are well laid out and it?s extremely easy to cycle through weapons on the fly as well as popping a health restoring injection when needed. Complete your quests while defeating enemies along the way, mutants of a wide variety, working your way through mazes of buildings, corridors and caves. Destroy boxes and crates as you come across them uncovering goodies that may boost your chances of survival. Some levels offer a slightly greater challenge with obstacles, basically an elaborate puzzle or maze that leads you to a switch or other device, or goodies found off the beaten path. As you defeat enemies you gain experience points which will reward you with level ups to your character. Characters can be designed to your specifications, as in many RPG?s you can dictate your characters forte?, cunning with the gift of gab or go with brute strength, it?s entirely up to you.

You also accumulate ?Caps? which is the currency in the Fallout universe, caps can be spent on anything from weapons, armor, drinks at the bar and even a rendezvous with the local ?Woman of the night? complete with a fade to black and interesting sounds and comments. The areas in the game are pretty sizable and the array of weapons and customization are nice, but before too long the game becomes very repetitive and ultimately becomes a ?hack n? slash? of sorts, while earlier titles were original and fun, Fallout seems like an old car with a new coat of paint.

The one thing that does set Fallout apart from its similar sister is the ?M? rating. Now I do understand why games get this rating, and I have to say that in this case it seems like the developers were going for shock value rather than it being a part of the game. ?F? bombs are dropped left and right, profanity is the norm and I have to admit paying the hooker for a good time was different, not to mention, if your character is a woman she responds accordingly. Yes, Fallout is supposed to be a gritty, wasteland, with a Road Warrior feel to it, but it doesn?t pull it off. If it did, the language and such would have added to the experience, but as it stands, it just seems to be tossed in for effect and not much else.

I?m sure some may like Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, but for me it was dejavu. Been there done that, and as much as I truly hate comparing games when doing a review, I?ll leave you with this final example. In Baldur?s Gate DA, your first quest to get the key to unlock whatever is to rid the cellar of rats. In Fallout your first quest as you roll into town is from the mayor, who will give you a key after you rid a warehouse of scorpions. Not to mention the levels are also just mazes that just wind you around and around just like you know who. I wanted Fallout to be good, I love Road Warrior type stuff, and as much as I hate to say it?Fallout is Baldur?s Gate in disguise.

Graphically Fallout doesn?t set the standards for anything, same old same old here folks. Absolutely nothing new from the developers here except the two headed cows that roam around the wasteland. Yes they get the dirty dingy thing working pretty well, but not enough to save this title.

Dolby Digital is a plus in the sound department, but again, nothing new and or exciting. The dialogue and comments are repetitive and bland, and the never ending cycle of comments during questioning with key AI is annoying.

Suggestions: My advice to the developers would be to broaden their horizons and come up with something a little more original, or if you?re going to repaint an old car, disguise it better. It just doesn?t seem a lot of effort went into this one.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Armed and Dangerous

Armed and Dangerous is a fast paced, non stop, run and gun action game with a heaping helping of humor and wise cracking characters that will without a doubt bring a smile to your face. Loaded with some of the most ?Unique? weapons you have ever seen in a video game, and spread across some diverse and interesting terrain with an even more interesting group of adversaries. Does Planet Moons explosive, smack talking? group of oddballs deliver the goods? A & R isn?t a super complicated game; simply put it?s an insane shooter.

You are part of a rag tag group of characters known as the Lionhearts. Led by Roman a clever and cocky jack-of-all-trades, Jonesy the explosives expert and human sized mole, ?Q? who was at one time one of the king?s robot guards, and Rexus the absent minded, blind seer.

The story revolves around King Forge?s quest to unlock the powerful ?Book of Rule?. The book was locked many years ago by your truly, Rexus, and the King feels he is the one to unlock it for him, so he places a bounty on Rexus and the Lionhearts. From hear on out your presented with goals and tasks that range from saving your fellow members to defending the castle from hoards of enemies from a turret.

Now the real fun of A & R is the frenetic pace at which you work your way through challenges, everything in this game is destructible, buildings, towers, bridges, etc? Starting with just a rifle and quickly gaining other ammunition of sorts you find yourself in the middle of an ocean of enemies, literally surrounding you at every turn. The pace is fast and some may feel it has the pitfalls of seeming repetitive, but the developers did a fantastic job balancing this game out with just the right amount of upgrades, health packs, and explosives to suck you into this game for the long haul. With just about every enemy taken down your rewarded with some sort of goody, so your able to keep up with the pace without feeling overwhelmed.

The weapons and capabilities available are also a huge part of a well-designed package. From the comical ?Topsy Turvy? bomb, resembling a giant cork screw that you screw into the ground, and when activated turns the world upside down, and if your not holding on to something you fall ?UP? into the sky, and then after a few seconds the bomb returns your surroundings to normal plummeting your enemies to the ground and their demise. Just as unique as our little bomb is the Land Shark Gun, this little trinket shoots out baby land sharks that grow to full size within seconds and attack the target in a gruesome way, not to mention, in true shark fashion, if there are any other ?Shark Snacks? near by your little razor toothed friend will continue devouring enemies. Along with these unique weapons you also have an assortment of other bombs like Sticky Bombs, Knockout Bombs, and the worlds smallest Black Hole. Other goodies along the way are the ability to commandeer turrets such as Forge Cannons and Stig Machine Guns, helping you mow down the waves of enemies that you will encounter.

As you complete your goals you are allowed to shop in the pubs where you can purchase other weaponry and such, and believe it or not there is a method to this madness, yes you can just gun your way without thinking, but you are scored on peasants saved as well as for enemies vanquished, not to mention any head shots you may pull off, but your also penalized for destroying civilian homes as well as the innocent villagers you come across. Your score is awarded by raising the bounty on your head and this ?odd? scoring method leads me into what I believe makes this game the little gold mine that it is?the humor.

It seems that in a sea of ?Heavy? games built around strategy and stealth, serious challenges such as saving hostages and intense murder mystery, there have been a handful of games delivering some light hearted well overdue humor, I mean isn?t it supposed to be entertaining as well as challenging? Well the gang at Planet Moon must have hired some of the best comedy writers available because if you don?t chuckle at some of the one-liners and wise cracks your not normal. That being said, if there were ever an award for the funniest scene in a game, the obvious satire on a memorable Star Wars scene is priceless. Planet Moon doesn?t back off Lucas Arts at all in this game poking fun at characters from the Star Wars universe every chance it gets, and kudos to Lucas Arts having the common sense to laugh at itself and not making Planet Moon edit their content.

No, Armed and Dangerous isn?t going to be a critically acclaimed work of gaming history, but as far as I?m concerned it?s one of the best gaming experiences that doesn?t depend on graphic eye candy or gimmicks, it?s just a down and dirty shooter that will keep you entertained and in stitches for some time.

As I said, A & D isn?t a graphical juggernaut; actually it?s kind of average at best by today?s standards. Although the environments are nicely laid out and interesting, it offers nothing earth shattering, even the cut scenes show some ungodly pixilation during the game. I have to admit though that with all of the intense action during gamplay the frame rate doesn?t falter, so as unimpressive as the graphics are they really don?t take away from the overall experience.

In the sound department I find myself splitting it into two categories, sound effects, such as weapons firing, explosions, and ambient effects like ticking from a bomb to be more than adequate. The second category would have to be the dialogue and script, I know I?m sounding repetitive, but the wise cracks and comments from enemies and villagers alike are immensely entertaining and just plain funny. The score has a ?Braveheart? feel to it that really sets the mood and theme of the game very well. In game Dolby Digital rounds off the audio experience of A & R.

Suggestions: I think Planet Moon did a great job of taking a genre that could become repetitive and dull, and whip it up into a non-stop fun fest. Crank up the visuals a bit for the sequel, and add some form of co-op or multiplayer mode, it seems a give in when having a ?Group? to lead around. All in all it?s big fun and you should give it a look if for nothing else one scene that I will never forget.

Overall Score: 9.2 / 10 Deus Ex: Invisible War

Deus Ex Invisible War takes place in the mid 21st century after the fall of modern civilization, and offers a unique combination of Role Playing Game development and First Person Shooter action. Play as a ?Biomodded? student from the Chicago Tarsus Academy, and be thrust into an amazingly deep story that pulls you in multiple directions leaving you to decide who is telling the truth and who is using and deceiving you. An impressive arsenal and control system along with stunning graphics rounds off a unique and diverse gaming experience. Not without some issues, Deus Ex Invisible War does offer gamers a solid open ended, exciting gaming experience. Is it the experience you are looking for? Read on and find out.

You play through Deus Ex IW as Alex D. who can be a male or female, and is caught in the middle of a terrorist attack at the Tarsus academy. Waking up in your apartment you are guided to your eventual escape to Seattle. This game offers so many choices during game play it will make your head spin, aside from the main quest, which often has more than one goal, you are also going to have what seems a never ending flow of secondary missions that will keep you running. As much as I tried to just stick to the main mission, I found myself being pulled into secondary quests because of how the story unfolds. The story in Deus Ex is absolutely amazing and more than any other game I have played, keeps you guessing and interested. Without giving too much away, Alex is on a quest to find the truth of his existence.

This game offers the player the choice of how to play, you can actually play through Deus Ex IW without firing a shot, completely in a stealth mode, or for you high powered gamers, you can arm yourself to the teeth and run and gun. Personally it?s fun to mix the two together as each situation unfolds. Just about everything in the Deus Ex world can be manipulated or interacted with. From flushing a toilet to picking up a trashcan and throwing it to distract security bots on the prowl. The physics in Deus Ex IW are amazing, giving objects accurate mass and weight, so some heavier objects while impossible to lift, may be easier to push. Most scenarios have more than 1 way of playing through it, again, run and gun, or sneak into the ventilation shaft and work your way around your obstacle. Again, I found a combination of the two was not only more fun, but also uncovered some goodies along the way.

Aside from the usual array of hardware you can acquire, such as pistols, shotguns, grenades that can be upgraded via slots on specific weapons, you need to remember you?re a ?Biomodded? human being. You can modify 5 different slots on your body, Eye, Cranial, Skeletal, Arm, and Leg with biomod canisters, each slot has 3 upgrades one of which is a slot for a ?Black Market? mod which will take a little more effort to find compared to a regular biomod canister, but offers some super cool abilities. Each one of your abilities can be upped to a level three status. Biomod canisters offer everything from Vision Enhancements, Bot Domination were you can posses your enemy while your body is vulnerable somewhere else, or even cloak yourself and become invisible to your enemies. With the amount of enhancements available and methods of play Deus Ex IW can be a very different experience from player to player. Now the hardware as I said can be upgraded, but there are also some specialized items you can uncover that you can?t live without, such as a ?Multitool? that can unlock just about anything, or ?Spider Mines? that will continue to wonder around an area shocking all who come near or can be detonated at your command.

Everything comes with a price in Deus Ex IW, some of your Biomodded abilities use energy, while others such as stealth has no ?Drain? on your system. Your heads up will show your energy level along with health and inventory. Inventory items and your ?Mod? abilities are easily equipped or switched on the fly. Controls are tight and responsive utilizing the ?two joystick? configuration that FPS fans seem to be happy with. Health can be regained by health packs or by taking the time to munch on some food you may have lifted from an apartment refrigerator you were snooping around, or a dumpster you decided to investigate. Your energy level can be replenished via Energy Packs you can find scattered throughout the areas, but you do need to do a little investigating so you don?t miss anything, such as more ammo and grenades for your weapons. Ammo is shared between your weapons so you won?t need to look for specific ammunition to use various weapons.

One ?minor? flaw with Deus Ex IW is the frame rate, here and there you will notice a definite drop in a frame rate that seems to be low to begin with. Unfortunate yes, but it didn?t seem to ?flatten? the game experience too much for me.

All that being said, the abundance of options in game play, and character design just help you get more and more immersed in the game and the story being unraveled by you as you play through this adventure. Personally, Deus Ex IW feels more like an RPG with a fantastic story than anything to me, but the addition of the FPS element gives this game a new and different feel than most. This game is hard to describe because it can be whatever you decide it should be, but without a doubt a joy to play. RPG fans will love the new elements available, while FPS fans will enjoy the explosive game play and numerous gadgets.

Visually Deus Ex IW is pretty impressive. Bump mapping and regular mapping throughout, spot on real-time lighting sets the mood very well, the character design is well done, but unfortunately the facial expressions in cut scenes is quite ?Poker Faced?, not a huge problem, just odd. Again, the physics are dead on and the ?Rag Doll? effects on the characters are almost eerie at times. The only thing bringing the graphics down a bit is the frame rate problem. Otherwise Deus Ex IW is solid as a rock.

In the sound department Deus Ex IW doesn?t really offer anything out of the ordinary. While surround sound enabled, very little of it is apparent in game. The voice acting is mediocre, and the score shows up at opportune times leaving the rest of the game with very little. Ambient sounds are represented, but again, nothing spectacular.

Suggestions: All in all, Deus Ex Invisible War is a solid gamming experience even with the few ?negative? aspects, and my comments to the developers would be to address the problem areas and leave the rest of it alone. One of the best stories ever told in a video game, kudos.

Overall Score: 9.4 / 10 Metal Arms: Glitch In The System

Comical, Fun and fast passed. Those are the best words to describe Metal Arms: Glitch in the System. Born from scrap metal, Glitch, the fearless, diminutive bot from Droid City is out to save his world from the evil General Corrosive and his Mil bots. Unleash all of your powers and work your way through this fantastic adventure utilizing not only weapons, but vehicles and some of the most interesting gizmos this side of the galaxy. With tight controls and stunning visuals Metal Arms packs a punch and is very difficult to put down. Mario beware, theirs a new sheriff in town and his name is Glitch.

From the minute I played the demo of this game I was hooked. Although slightly linear Metal Arms does give you so much to do and so many ways of doing it that it doesn?t matter. Obviously, you are Glitch, a smallish robot who you are introduced to in a super funny intro scene and then you head off into the Droid Mines on your adventure. You start with a little bit of basic training, and then you are off to blast all the bad guys with your Mining Laser. The controls are well laid out and responsive, the inventory system is right at your fingertips and easy to access. Halo-like would be an accurate description and I?m sure that makes quite a few gamers happy.

Just about everything in Metal Arms is destructible, stray fire causes just as much damage as a direct hit, enemy bots can be dismembered and yet their legs will still be tooling around waiting to meet there maker, conversely, shoot out a leg and watch them lumber around mercilessly. Destroying body parts is just as effective as total destruction, aiming for the limbs is a good tactic when confronted with larger enemies, effecting there movement and targeting. When enemies are destroyed you are treated to a shower of parts flying and smoldering on the ground, and collectable washers that can be used to purchase upgrades.

As you work your way thru the adventure, not only does the story get funnier but Glitch?s power packed weaponry gets better and more interesting, the best being the Control Tether, which is a challenge to use but when mastered you can become your enemy and control it?s actions and abilities utilize them as you see fit, hovering and flying are always a good thing. All the goodies, power ups and bigger, better weapons are hidden all over the maps, including ammo and a variety of grenades. Not only do you get all the cool gadgets but you get some equally cool vehicles to run with including a tank and a unique hovercraft sporting giant pincers, great for picking up and tossing baddies into, well, bad places. Metal Arms also does a good job of varying the action from run and gun to one on one battles, by land and air, tanks and hovercrafts just to keep things interesting and fresh.

All in all Metal Arms delivers in spades, it?s fun, entertaining, and with all of this sprawled over 42 levels and 14 multiplayer maps there is very little more you can ask of a game. The story also does a good job of flowing with the game play and refuses to become just a backdrop and disappear by the end. I know many think cute and polished can only get you so far, but Metal Arms is all about the awesome game play and intense action. If you?re any kind of gamer, you need to give Glitch a run, you won?t be disappointed.

Graphically Metal Arms doesn?t loose any steam, well detailed areas and character are everywhere. Fantastic lighting effects set the mood in the mines as you tool around by only the light from your helmet. The effects are just as gratifying, explosions, as I mentioned earlier, just explode onto the screen in vibrant color and accurate flames and smoke as parts lay smoldering on the ground around you. Laser fire and ricochet points are sweet and leave the marking to prove the impact, nice attention to detail. Well textured surfaces keep with the ?UMPH? the Xbox can deliver and the HDTV 480p capabilities round off the visual package.

Metal Arms isn?t done yet?The audio department shows the same polish the rest of the game does, the in game Dolby Digital sucks you into the action as you marvel at the explosions, echo?s, and sounds of the Metal Arms world surrounding you. The dialogue is well thought out to keep the story moving and at times just the right amount of comic relief to defuse intense situations; I would recommend not skipping the intro for a good laugh. Cap it all off with a nice mixture of ambient sounds and background music that suits every move and you have a pretty solid effort.

Suggestions: My only gripe is a usual one...Perfection with Live capabilities and system link.

Overall Score: 9.4 / 10 Whiplash

You think you have problems? How would you like to be one of those poor little critters stuck in some testing lab, to be pocked and prodded and god knows what else. Well, here is your opportunity to take on the roll and guide your fury little friends to freedom. Whiplash is a humorous platform adventure that takes you on an interesting romp through a huge industrial lab, where you take on the roll of a lowly squirrel like critter named Spanx. But there is good news, you won?t have to undergo this escape plan alone, your right hand man?literally, is Redmond the rabbit, a fur-ball of doom. Shackled to Spanx, Redmond serves as Spanxs? weapon of destruction, what ensues is some of the most original and funny platform gaming in some time, is it your cup of tea?? Read on and judge for yourself.

Not without flaws, Whiplash is an entertaining experience as far as a platform games go. As I said, you take the roll of Spanx who has the luck to be chained to Redmond the wise cracking, multi-talented bunny of doom. Our bunny buddy is Spanxs? weapon, key, and comic sidekick throughout the game. The gist of the game is simple, escape from the lab.

The lab has multiple levels and objectives like freeing your fellow animal brethren from cages, acid baths, and numerous other tortures. The first level serves as a tutorial teaching you the moves your going to need to use not only Redmond effectively, but also the basic inventory system. Obstacles such as locked doors can be opened in many ways, my favorite is putting Redmond in a shredder like gizmo to unlock the door, and it?s quite funny watching the fur fly. You will also need to master jumping and grappling to reach higher ground, and yes this is another of Redmond?s functions, poor guy gets a work out. Levels also contain surveillance cameras that trigger alarms and notify guards of your were a bouts. Attacking guards until unconscious with a flurry of combos that hurl Redmond mercilessly all over the place is common, string together enough combos and Redmond goes into hyper mode destroying everything in his path as long as you keep stringing together those combos, keep in mind those guards will eventually regain consciousness. Most of the environment is destructible, and at times is part of your objective. Your little buddies are guided not only by a mapping system, but an unknown stranger who communicates with you via the lab intercom system, who is this stranger, and why is he helping?

Now Redmond is more than just a rabbit who still has his ?Blue? lucky foot attached, he?s a raging fur ball. Redmond can obtain special traits when found and used, such as dipping him in bio-sludge infecting all he comes in contact with. He?s also capable of inhaling helium to get you over certain obstacles, and even back up toilets causing all sorts of problems. You have some of the usual platform game tools available like maps, first person views, and power ups ranging form health to exploding hamsters you can use as grenades?yes I said hamsters.

Whiplash offers up some real unique ways of getting the job done, unfortunately the fun is short lived, I made it through the game in about 10 hrs, not really a long enough challenge for a game, and after the first few hours the cartoonish humor starts to loose it?s luster. The game is also plagued by camera problems making your moves and views very difficult to achieve without backing into something, let alone missing important objects and or information. Whiplash is not a bad game, it?s just short on replay value and becomes a little repetitive once you get used to all of the ?Innovative? ways to use Redmond.

Definitely worth a weekend rental, and some may actually love it enough to buy it. Platform fans need to give it some serious time, and casual gamers will find it most entertaining. So make sure your animal activist friends are nowhere around when you indulge in this bunny bashing adventure. One last note?no animals were hurt or injured to make this game, I think.

Visually Whiplash is pretty sharp. Although it has a cartoonish look to it, it still has some nice elements and character rendering. Nothing way over the top, but details are very present and were given some attention, such as the fur flying in the grinder, or the whirling, chaotic antics by Redmond when he goes into hyper mode. Hard to criticize Whiplash too much as far as the graphics because of the style and content of the game, it suits it well.

In the audio dept. a lot of the same holds true, while nothing over the top, it suits the game well. The best part of the audio is the dialogue. Quite funny and you will get a giggle or smile on your face due to some of the comments. Unfortunately this too gets repetitive after the first few hours of play.

Suggestions: Needs a little more depth or the addition of some sort of co-op mode to give it some replay value.

Overall Score: 7.2 / 10 R: Racing Evolution

One part Sega GT, one part Project Gotham Racing, and one part Rally Sport Challenge, the makers of Ridge Racer bring you Namco?s R Racing Evolution, a cornucopia of vehicles, tracks, city?s and options. Think you have what it takes to heat up the asphalt? R Racing Evolution will put you to the test to see if you got the ?STUFF?. Not your basic racing game, RRE puts you in a variety of races and situation, not to mention an actuial storyline were you need to earn your pay, stay on top or die trying. Does R Racing Evolution have the "stuff"? Read on and judge for yourself.

R Racing Evolution is broken into 5 modes of play:

The ?Racing Life?, where you are Rena a female ambulance driver given an opportunity to become a championship racer for G.I.V after showing her ?Skills? rushing an injured driver to the hospital. In this story mode you start as any rookie would, prove yourself by showing your skills on a test run, then work your way through 14 chapters, each offering up a new challenge, a new vehicle and a new venue, and of course with every race, earn your valuable Racing Points.

?Event Challenge? Pay your entry fee to challenge the best of the best on various tracks and in different vehicle classes, keep the pedal to the metal and take home the prize. In this mode new vehicles can be bought and upgraded to your hearts content.

In the Arcade mode you jump right into the heat of the action, pick a car pick a track, music and you?re on your way. Time Attack is pretty self explanatory, and versus mode is always a great way to grind your best friends into stains in the asphalt.

Regardless of the mode your in, each race earns you Racing Points and vehicles, all determined not only by your race results but how well you drove, how well you hit your cornering lines, the top speed you achieve and avoiding the occasional fender bender if possible also raises the purse; At any point in the game you can also take a trip to your Garage were you can view any replays that you may have saved, unlocked in game movies, demos, and the vehicles you have acquired throughout your career. R Racing Evolution puts you in Master GT, Rally, and Drag races in the premier racing circuits. Achieve your objectives by staying on top; use those hard earned Racing Points to purchase, upgrade, and pick out the next dream car for your private collection. All the races in R Racing Evolution give you the option of the racing class as well as the difficulty of the competition. Each race also offers a nice mixture of scenery and track configurations to keep even the most avid race fan happy and wanting more.

R Racing Evolution also utilizes a ?Dialogue? with the AI and pit crew depending on the race. Your pit crew will keep you advised of your current situation and give ?Constructive? criticism along the way. During Rally races you?ll be informed of upcoming twists, turns, and jumps along the way. During some races you will also be entertained by the banter of your competition, and a little ?Love/Hate? meter showing how the particular driver feels about you. Racers with ?RED? meters will try and put you in the guard rails so make friends if you can. Add to this your standard control configuration with pretty impressive response, a nice selection of tunes you can choose for each race and the ability to save your sweetest runs to show off to your friends later and this game is a nice little package.

R Racing Evolution has a lot to offer gamers with a need for speed, the mixture of racing styles is a nice touch, and the Fine ?tuning of the vehicles will appeal to die hard of the genre. R Racing Evolution may not dethrone some of our favorites, but it definitely deserves some respect.

Graphically RRE actually delivers an above average experience, nicely detailed locations, realistic physics on the vehicles, although a little sloppy at times. The vehicle designs and renderings are nicely done, and all those ?little? things were also added?dust on rally tracks, skid marks on asphalt, etc?The Cut scenes are awesome, Namco has a knack for producing some visually pleasing eye candy in this department, and I?m happy to report RRE is no different. Some interesting camera angles on replays and the addition of over head chopper views adds to the realism of the game, they got the chopper ?Shake? down pat. Not too shabby.

Dolby Digital caps off the experience giving the game a more realistic feel. The addition of multiple soundtracks to choose from was a nice touch, although custom would have been better. The sounds of the crowds and the ambient effects are all well represented, but RRE does have the usual ?Japan? feel to it, not that it?s a bad thing. The voice acting in story mode along with the AI banter is cool, but the banter gets repetitive real fast.

Suggestions: I think Namco delivered a solid game, my additions would be the custom soundtrack feature and XBL capabilites.

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10 Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon

Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon brings an entire new meaning to ?Adventure Game?. Combining some pretty sharp story telling with very intuitive controls, you guide Nico Collard a French investigative reporter, and George Stobart, a not so run of the mill patent clerk. Powerful events are in motion and threatening the world. An Ancient Conspiracy and a fiendish source of pure Evil are responsible... From the jungles of the Congo to the streets of Paris, from underground pyramids in Ethiopia to gothic castles, Nico and George may be the world?s last hope. A slick graphics engine and facial expressions add to the detailed and well thought out epic story. Adventure fans will relish the deep mystery and puzzle solving being thrown their way?will the average gamer feel the same?

Broken Sword does deliver a solid gaming experience, but it?s definitely a ?niche? game at best. If you?re looking for a fast paced adventure game with guns a blazing and peril at every corner, move on. On the other hand if you?re a fan of games like Siberia and even the Myst series you may want to give Broken Sword a serious look-see.

The adventure begins with our two saviors George and Nico. The opening of the game starts with George flying into a severe storm and crash landing in the Congo. With half the plane dangling over a cliff and the pilot out cold George needs to find a way out. Nico on the other side of the globe stumbles across a murdered hacker that she was to meet regarding some secretive information. And so it begins, look for clues, information from witnesses and passer bys. Use your wit to get out of sticky situations and live to see tomorrow.

The controls are very simple to understand and carry out, an ?Action? icon appears on objects that can be interacted with, while one button commands to climb, jump, pick up, are indicated during game play by a control diagram in the lower right corner. Multiple options may present themselves in certain situations such as doors, where you can listen at the door before deciding to enter. The characters are move freely with the left thumb stick, and certain items can be pushed or pulled to help your situation.

Broken Sword is a mystery/puzzle game, but it also seems a little to scripted, by this I mean if you miss a clue, or find clues or information in the wrong order it tends to get a little tedious. The camera has its problems at times making your search for clues a little difficult too.

Broken Sword does offer some impressive visuals and almost seamless transitions from ?real? play and cut scenes. During game play you may come across situation that require some fast reactions on your part, example?you have a gun pointed at your face, but you notice a frying pan just within reach of your right hand, this all being played out during a cut scene, as the cut scene ends your ?Action? cursor appears on the frying pan. A slow reaction on the action button will meet with certain doom, on the other hand time it right and you pick up the pan and the bullet ricochets into the wall. This continues through areas, as you complete areas (basically by finding out everything you need or ?Solving? the way out of a situation) you move onto new areas.
All this is tied together with some slick cut scenes and dialogue to help not only move the game along but help tell the story. Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is a cool little game, but you need to really be a fan of this genre to enjoy it to its fullest.

Graphically Broken Sword is pretty impressive, great character designs that not only have smooth movement but show facial expressions pertaining to the situation at hand. The environments are nicely detailed and some nice shadow effects lend themselves well to the overall feel of game. Not a lot going on besides the action at hand, no extra characters floating around, or traffic in the streets does make it seem thin at times. The most impressive thing I found was the interaction between some cut scenes and actual game play as I described earlier, it?s a sweet way of keeping the story moving without the ?Loading? pauses, the developers deserve kudos on this aspect of the game.

In the sound department I found Broken Sword average, the score was good, and the dramatic music is perfectly placed when finding important or significant information. The dialogue does become repetitive if you find yourself going back to areas over and over again, but the ?script? does develop the story well and keep you listening to every little detail. The ambient sounds are nicely placed throughout the game like birds chirping in the park, waterfalls in the Congo etc?all in all the audio dept. lends itself well to this particular genre but offers nothing new.

Overall Score: 7.4 / 10 Gladius

Gladius propels you into the ancient games of a history long gone, the quest to develop your school into an elite fighting force on the path to the championships. Follow the saga of Ursala the daughter of a Barbarian King from the land of Nordagh; or Valens, the son of Imperia?s greatest gladiator. Become one of these heroes and embark on an exciting and brutal journey to fulfill their destinies and keep an ancient Dark God from destroying all mankind. Gladius opens up new doors and adds an element of control and excitement to a tried and true genre. RPG fans will find familiar ground within Gladius, as well as a few surprises. Not without flaws, Gladius does deliver a solid gaming experience.

I have to admit that when I heard this game was turn-based I was a little put off, but the more I found out about it the more I really wanted to play it for myself. Gladius plays out in one of two stories, both progress in the same basic fashion. You are to develop you school and progress through tournaments to reach the championships. You do need to finish basic training, and when you arrive in one of the 4 regions of Gladius you do need to earn the right to fight in their leagues. Each region has its own leagues and tournaments, each needing you to have certain criteria to compete. Some need you to win ?Badges? from other events while others need you to field a team of gladiators.

You move about Gladius via a world map, and at times you may need to travel great distances to obtain the ?Badges? you seek to enter certain events. While traveling on the world map you may come across chance encounters with non-player-characters that may offer information or a side quest to embark on. Unfortunately unlike in arena battles where your character will be available to fight another day even if defeated in battle, these side battles can result in the permanent death of a character. The bulk of Gladius is spent in battle in various arenas developing character skills and recruiting others to your school. The arenas range from ?The Pit?, which is exactly that, a large hole in the ground without a lot of room to move, to large ornate structures right out of ancient Rome. Player development just like in most RPG?s is gained by experience, weaponry, and in the case of Gladius, ?Affinity?. As your character levels up he is given ?Job Points? that can be spent on learning other skills and affinity attacks. Affinity attacks are basically the ?Magic? powers in Gladius. Combined with the right weapons affinity powers can help overcome stronger advisories throughout the games. Each village you visit has a shop were weapons can be bought and sold, some shops may cater to certain types of items that may be better suited for a particular adversary, so it would be wise to keep this in mind as you learn who you will be battling.

Recruiting warriors to your school is fairly simple, although some of the more advanced characters you come across may not want to be affiliated with a fledgling school at first. You can pay ?Full Cost? to recruit someone to your school permanently, or pay a lesser amount to have them fight with you for a given battle. Battle ?Objectives? vary in Gladius, the basic battle would be a 2 on 2 fight to the death, while other battles consist of a ?King of the Hill? type strategy. Gladius does a good job of making each battle experience a little different from one another. That being said, the basic battles can get a little challenging when more than 2 teams are present, meaning a total of 8 gladiators at once?4 teams of 2. This, by the way, is a blast.

Ok, back to the turn-based battle system. The best way I can describe it, is a Chess match come to life. Your characters can move around the arena and quite a bit of strategy is needed if you want to succeed. Yes it?s turn based, but you can have one member of your team start to move while other turns are being played out, so the game ?Flows? more and looses that ?Toe-to-Toe? stagnant my turn, your turn annoyance. Gladius also adds structures that can be climbed on, chests with goodies to be collected, and you can even pick up weapons left from your conquered foes. The attack method is just as good, no more just push a button and wait to see what the damage is, no, no, no. Gladius utilizes a ?Slide? method with critical points on it. When you engage an attack the slide will count down and then start to move, the better you time your ?Hit? (A) in the red critical zone, the more damage you can do, conversely, being perched on a rock attacking down on an enemy will do far more damage than attacking up at one. The strategy involved in this game is pretty cool, again, utilizing the fact you can move around, you can have a team member attack the same enemy as you from the side or rear inflicting greater damage, but as you employ this strategy, the other team may do the same so beware. Again, coming from someone who is not a fan of turn-based fighters, Lucas Arts has given me a great alternative.

All in all Gladius has a ton of game play to offer, although it does get a little slow, dull and repetitive at times. The traveling back and forth may get to some gamers, and although you are dealing with large areas, some RPG fans may not feel Gladius is as ?Open? as they like. Then again, Gladius may be just what some gamers new to the RPG genre are looking for. I think Gladius deserves a shot from not only RPG fans but adventure fans as well and if you were one of the turn-base haters such as me, do yourself a favor and give it a try just to see how turn based should be done. Again, Lucas Arts gets a big ?thumbs up? on the originality of the fighting system, and the story lines are actually pretty good.

Graphically Gladius is above average, nothing earth shattering here. Nice landscapes, descent character models and physics. The battles are lack luster visually, no real ?Violence? or gruesome attacks, but this game is more about strategy anyway. The cut scenes are ok, but again, nothing spectacular. It seems almost like a combination of normal ?Textures? and cell shading at times, no real time lighting effects or even elaborate magic effects. But, please don?t think this takes much away from the game itself, it does the job it needs to do.

The Soundtrack in Gladius is lovely, but monotonous. What little dialogue there is during battle will become repetitive after the first 4 or 5 hours, and the ambient sounds are nothing special. Yes the crowd cheers on critical hits, and boos when you do something stupid, but their really isn?t any emotion behind it, it?s just there. The attack strikes and shield clanks are nicely done, but overall the sound department is average at best. I would have loved to hear a heckler or two during a battle.

Suggestions: Guys there is a trully graeat game here, just need to "Polish" up the graphics and add a little originality to the sounds of the game. Do that and the Gladius sequel should be a perfect game.

Overall Score: 8.6 / 10 Top Spin Tennis

Top Spin is a well designed and deep gaming experience for tennis fans and gamers alike. Filled with an endless array of options in create-a-player, and locals across the world keep this game interesting and challenging. Start at the bottom of the tennis rankings and work your way to the top, traveling across the globe to increase your skills as well as your pocket book. Tight graphics, Tournaments, and ?mini? games keep Top Spin well balanced and appealing to a broader audience. As one of the new XSN titles Top Spin will surely deliver hours of excitement on Live, but fear not, Top Spin also includes a multi-player option to keep you and your friends busy until you go LIVE. So tighten up them laces, and work on that killer back hand, because Top Spin just raised the bar for all tennis games to come.

As I stated earlier, Top Spin has a great balance between matches and ?Other? features such as Pro Shops, Salons, Instructors, and even Jet setting across the globe to keep you going for a good long time. Top Spin starts with your game options?Exhibition, Custom Tournament, Career, Multi-Player and Tennis School. The meat of the game is in the Career Mode. When starting you actually get to design your character, now when I say design your character I mean every little detail, from the slope of your nose to how high your cheek bones are. It?s uncanny how elaborate this process is, but its fun and gives you a sense of individuality. You also choose your traits, or style of play along with some clothing options that can be changed as you progress along the tennis circuit. Hell, you can even show a little attitude during your matches by using the White & Black buttons.

You start ranked 100, bottom of the barrel. Start off by playing in Minor Pro-Am tournaments to climb the ranks and line your pockets, you move from tourney to tourney on a cool world map that features North and South America, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and the Middle East. Each local has its own Tournaments, Coaching Camps, Sport Shops, Air Ports, and Sponsors. During your early career you can also be sponsored by someone if you pass there tests and they feel you fit the image they are looking for. Big names such as Adidas, Prince, Wilson, Yonex, Oakley and K-Swiss are available for you to pursue. Once sponsored your new friends have all sorts of goodies for you as you perform well, but make the company look good in commercials and other extra curricular activities. All the extras in Top Spin play out as mini-games testing your accuracy and power in a wide array of challenges.

Top Spin also has plenty to un-lock ranging from new tournaments to new clothing and accessories. As you grow from an Amateur to ?Young Gun?, ?Star? and ?Legend? status more and more will be available to you. Building your characters skills is just as challenging. You are assigned 14 Career Stars to assign to your 4 Masteries?Serves, Forehand, Backhand, and Volley. This is much like building stats on an RPG. The Coaching Camps are also divided into 3 tiers, Bronze, Silver and Gold, adding to your strengths and Skills. With each hurdle you pass, a new item is unlocked, and so it goes. Top Spin also throws in some nice touches such as a Scrapbook where you can look over your trophies, your sport bag which has all your digs and gifts from your sponsors, along with the usual rankings, stats, earnings and such.

Custom Tournament allows you to set the parameters to your specifications. Men/Women, Singles/Doubles, Human Players, Games Per Set, Sets Per Match, Number of Rounds and the difficulty level. As in Custom Tournaments, Exhibition Mode lets you set some of the same parameters, and in both Modes you can choose from Grand Slam venues all the way to 20 playground courts. In these 2 modes you also get to choose from random players to some very familiar names such as our favorite darling of the tennis world Anna Kournikova. Lastly, Tennis school is a tutorial level to help you get the feel of the game, which to be honest with you isn?t hard to pick up and go with, but if you?re serious about hitting that Number 1 ranking you may want to practice, practice, practice.

Coming from someone who doesn?t follow tennis and never played except in gym class, I was surprised the game kept my interest and offered up a nice learning curve without making me feel like a true ?Rookie?. Top Spin offers plenty of game play and the XSN Sports package will only make this title more interesting. I just hope that the more ?Main Stream? sport titles don?t overshadow this well designed package.

Graphically Top Spin is drop dead gorgeous. Fantastic venues, beautiful textures, and nice lighting effects all lend to the ?Realism? of the game. The subtleties of the ball impacting the surface and kicking up a little dust are awesome. The physics are also a wonder to behold; you can ?Feel? the differences in court types, from clay to grass. Not to mention the range of movement of the players themselves. It?s nice to see the XBOX flex that graphic muscle on this one. The bluish colored ?Heat? blur effect on power shots is just too cool. Top Spin also delivers the best looking crowds I have ever seen in a sports game; just don?t look too close or you?ll see past the smoke and mirrors.

Now I know this is a tennis game and there really isn?t a lot going on in the sound dept. but, this game needed some commentators. I would have settled for unknowns just calling the action or at least having reactions to great plays. Don?t get me wrong, the ambient sound and crowd reaction is great, even the rocket serves that fly by you hit something off the screen and you hear it, but the silence between sets, matches, and serves is un-nerving. Now I realize Tennis purists may think I'm crazy, but it's just one mans opinion. The soundtrack is well done, and what little dialog there is fits the on screen happenings and luckily the Audio downfall, doesn't warrant dragging the overall performance of this game down.

Suggestions: Just what I stated earlier about some sort of commentary. Otherwise, Kudos.

Overall Score: 9.8 / 10 Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind GOTY Edition

I wasn?t really sure how to go about writing a review of a game that was released before, so let me start by calling Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Game of the Year simply ?Uber Morrowind?, because that?s exactly what it is. Take all the greatness of the original award winning game and give it a real good spit polish, add to this the 2 PC expansion packs, Tribunal and Bloodmoon, and the ability to grow your ?original? character to new heights and any self respecting RPG fan will be giddy as a school girl. Morrowind Game of the Year is sure to please, especially fans of the original. There is easily hundreds of hours of game play in GOTY. With all the cool additions to the original you?re easily going to spend another lifetime in Morrowind.

Well we have been down this road before, and yes all of the open ended RPG goodness is still present in GOTY. Our friends at Bethesda were nice enough to address allot of the little bugs that plagued the original, making your gaming experience all that much more enjoyable. The one thing I noticed right off was the horizons in the landscapes were always visible, unlike the original where they would kind of materialize as you moved forward.

The game play is as good as its predecessor with the addition of the 2 expansion packs released for the PC version. For those of you who have never ventured into Morrowind before, you can start you adventure right from the beginning and build your character to your specific mold. Morrowind utilizes an interesting ?Questioning? method to determine your characters character as it were. You can also choose your characters appearance and sex, and his or her traits?Stealth, Melee, even the gift of gab to get yourself out of jams. With all of this, keep in mind that ultimately your actions throughout the game determine much of your fate and success.

For those of you revisiting Morrowind, you can pick up were you left off. Yep, you heard right, GOTY will take your original XBOX saves and let you continue with the expansions, also allowing you to build your original characters power and prosperity. Now I know what some may think, is it worth it?? I can tell you without any hesitation, that if you enjoyed the original you will absolutely love the GOTY Edition, not to mention the mere $30 price tag.

So what does that $30 actually get you? Well first you get to venture into Tribunal. In Tribunal, you journey to the capitol city of Morrowind, called Mournhold, to meet the other two god-kings of Morrowind, Almalexia and Sotha Sill. Your adventure will lead you to the Clockwork City of Sotha Sill and a huge, ?HUGE? dungeons, where you will stumble across an interesting array of creatures, including goblins, lich lords, and mysterious fabricants.

From there you can venture into Bloodmoon. Now Bloodmoon was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed this addition. It takes you to the frozen Island of Solstheim. Nothing like venturing into a blizzard and the challenges of Mother Nature as you encounter new creatures including trolls, wolves, and ice minions. Let me put it this way, the first time through, my life came to a bitter end because I failed to notice the rather large polar bear in the snowy hills. But the best part of Bloodmoon?the ability to change into a werewolf at will. Yes-sir-e-bob, a werewolf, your character becomes stronger and faster than he or she originally was. But, be careful were and when you decide to go through this morph, because if your seen by some wondering villager he may report you to the authorities, and you will be hunted down and attacked.

I have to admit I was a little leery about this Game of the Year Edition, but I was truly pleased and enjoyed it just as much, if not more than the original adventure. If the expansions weren?t enough, Bethesda also added some new armor and weapons. So be prepared to loose a lot of sleep again, because Morrowind is back, and better than ever. For more details on the Original game, take a look-see at the review.

Visually, Morrowind GOTY is stunning, huge landscapes, endless textures, and water that only our beloved XBOX can deliver. Again, a lot of the bugs were ?Fixed? from the original. Particle effects, magic effects, etc?It?s all good. Newcomers will be thrilled with the look of the game, and for those of you re-visiting?you?ll be thrilled with how well the game was ?Fixed?.

The sounds of Morrowind GOTY, as in the original are fantastic. The score sets the mood for a time of fantasy and mystery without being overbearing. The ambient effects and the sounds of nature are perfectly placed throughout the game. The dialogue is still a little repetitive, but as in the original it?s a minor distraction.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Tennis Masters Series 2003

Touted as the ultimate tennis simulation by Microids, Tennis Master Series 2003 puts you in the middle of the ATP's most prestigious tournament: The Master Series. With 67 very different players to choose from, playing in 9 different tournaments from Miami to Paris. Add Doubles matches (Up to 4 players), cash prizes, and some exciting motion capture moves to the mix, and TMS is an exciting and addicting game for any tennis fan. The Ultimate tennis simulation? on.

I think the best thing about this game is the "Pick-up-and Play" factor. Super simple to get going, but when you want to excel you'll need to start mastering some skills on the court. That being said, mastering the skills is not a daunting task, and being the wimp I am, I decided to start my career as you should...a "Rookie". TMS offers 4 difficulty levels, rookie, armature, pro, and Master. I was told once that tennis is a simple game, you serve and then you return. So let's start with the serve. Simple, yes, but TMS offers some of the most subtle tweaks I have ever seen. You basically have 4 different serving styles, all accomplished with 1 of 4 buttons. You can vary the strength of the serve which seems very simplistic until you notice what a difference it can have on your Slice Serve, bending the ball deep into the corner leaving your opponent vulnerable. Subtleties like these are everywhere in TMS. Your returns are just as varied, with 6 different basic returns that can be combined to a total of 60 moves I didn't have the pleasure of exploring fully. The physics of the game are just as impressive, sporting 3 types of courts, Hard, Clay, and Indoor Carpet. I was able to play on the varied courts with the same character and it is amazing the differences the surface makes to ball reaction, all the courts are available from the get go except for the Masters, so you are able to travel around. You do need to qualify for tournaments and you can choose from 67 players divided into 3 types, Power Hitter, Baseliner, and Net Rusher. Net Rusher worked best for me because it cut down the angles of the returns, but you can choose based on more specific characteristics ranging from speed, stamina, and strength of play. Coming from someone who?s only tennis knowledge consists of Anna Kornikuova, for obvious non-tennis reasons, I was very impressed with Tennis Masters ability to deliver a solid gaming experience with some replay value utilizing the Doubles options. ?Best Tennis Simulation Ever?, not really sure, tons of fun for tennis fans???without a doubt.

Graphically Tennis Masters is above average. Solid character models, with some of the nicest motion captures I have seen. (Supposedly over 500 M.C?s in all) The courts and surroundings are nicely detailed although the line judges could have used a little life. They mostly just sit there, even when a ball bounces into them. Real time shadows lend to the experience and are truly amazing when playing on the indoor courts. Tennis Masters also uses the ?I never seem to get tired of? bullet time effect on your more astounding shots, such as the diving save across the court to snag away that ever critical point, or the ill-fated lob you ruthlessly smash into your opponents face. Add to all this a few hot dog moves like behind the back or between the legs returns and TMS is a pleasure to look at.

How much sound is there in a real tennis match? As I played along that question kind of stuck in my head. Aside from the spot on ?OOOH??s and ?AAAAH??s from the crowd I did notice some of those subtle additions in the sound department when we moved indoors. The slight echo from the crowd and the announcers and on the right courts you could even hear the squeak of the tennis shoes????.OOOOOOOOOOOH! There really isn?t a lot you could really do in the audio dept. of a tennis game but Microids did well with what they had, going as far as hearing a cell phone in the crowd and the ref. Remarking ?Quite Please?. Unfortunately lacking XBOX extras like Dolby Digital, Tennis Masters still deserves Kudos on the finished product.

Suggestions: I think Microids deserves alot of credit for this game, my gut tells me that the lack of "Star" power, and the comparison to the up and coming MS Tennis game may cause a few gamers to pass this little gem by. The addition of a create-a-player mode and some sort of system link or On-line capabilities would have put TMS near the top of this genre. But kudos for a solid and exciting gaming experience.

Overall Score: 9.2 / 10 Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds

Our favorite slayer is back and better than ever, and this time she brought her freinds along. Battle the undead as Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike, Faith, and Sid the re-incarnated Dummy. Chaos Bleeds offers up 12 levels direct form the BTVS universe, over 150 fighting combinations and unique weapons and spells. Add to this sophmore effort a fantastic Multi-Player mode with 20 charecters to choose from for up to 4 players, and you have a solid, longlasting and humorous addition to the......uh, Horror genre. ;)

Chaos Bleeds is a great continuation of the 1st Buffy game, familiar yet new and different. The fighting system has been bulked up quite a bit, with approx. 150 combinations ranging from hand to hand to weapons. The variety of weapons is also a nice addition to the game and a need one since you play through certain parts of the game as other charecters. Just a note here, this isn't a "Squad" type scenario, at certain point in the game you will meet up with another charecter and after a small cut scene you will proceed with that charecter. The challenge to this is that each charecter has a very different way of combating the baddies, so it would behove you to learn what they are skilled at. An example would be Willow, shes a whitch, so it stands to reason that her forte' is magic, Xander isn't the most physical guy in the world, but put a crossbow or battle axe in his hands and he can hold his own. This will all be explained, and played out in the first mission, The Magic Box" which i liked because it's a tutorial, but counts as part of the game, it gives just enough info to get you on the right track. All the main charecters are available, and Sid the ventrilaquist dummy is hilarious, Buffy followers will be tickled to see him making an apperance. All the usuall secret items, potions, and a new list of unlockables are present, ranging from interviews with the cast to new charecters for Multi-Player mayhem. On the topic of Multi-Player, I have to admit this is one welcome addition to this game, devided into 4 modes, Survival, Bunny Catcher, Slayer Challenge, and Domination, it gives the gamer a great variety of multi-player fun. From simplicity, so to speak, as Bunny Catcher where the one who has the most points after catching bunnies wins, to Slayer challenge which is an all out battle royal to see who's the best. Be warned, Bunny Catcher is not as easy as it seems, some bunnies are good, and some bunnies are bad. All in all ther is enough here to keep you satisfied for a good long time, unique power ups, bonuses and the usuall Buffy humor make this one of my favorites. I really liked the the 1st game and this is a fantastic follow up even though it has a few on.

HDTV compatible, visually Buffy is above average. Everything is crisp and clean, I think the female charecters look a little too "wide-eyed" in my opinion. That being said, the "Effects" look great, dissintigrating undead, spell effects, etc..The environments are nicely done with some nice shadow effects throughout. Keep in mind Chaos Bleeds was developed by Eurocom Entertainment and Vivendi Universal, not the team from the original BTVS, so it's a different engine. The unforgivable part of the visual aspects of this game is the less-than-adequate camera movement, in tight areas it's impossible to spin the camera around or re-center yourself, and in some battles it becomes a real hinderance. With better camera physics the visual score would have been higher.

In the sound department the lack of Dolby Digital is kind of odd. But the sounds-of-the-game are very nicely done. The background soundtrack is creepy and yet not distracting. Environmetal effects are spot on (Could have been great in DD). It all lends itself well to the flow of the game. Unfortunatley, and this may seem like nit-picking some of the voice acting is awfull, ok to be perfectly honest, the actor doing Willows voice is "Not-so-hot" Alyson Hannigan (For those not familiar with BTVS, Michelle "...this one time, at band camp..." from American Pie) has a very unique way of speaking and the actor here is trying too hard and it's almost "Odd" when you listen to her speak. Once again, as in the origianl our Slayer is voiced over by someone else, but lending their true voices to the game are Spike, Xander, and Faith. Not too bad, but Buffy fans will be all over the Willow thing, LOL. Alright it isn't so bad that it ruins the game, but i had to mention it.

Suggestions: My biggest gripe is the camera system. The voice acting i couldlive with. Kudos on the Multi-Player modes.

Overall Score: 9.4 / 10 The Great Escape

The Great Escape is based on the classic 70's movie of the same name. During the war the Nazi's decided the best way to cut down on escape attempts was to transfer all these "Bad Apples" to one camp, the camp that they claimed could hold anyone. In doing so the nazi' brought together a group of POW's with only one mission in escape at any cost. A combination of stealth, and cunning will be needed to make this esacpe come true. SCi delivers some accurate representations of the era, and even an unbelievable "resurection" of our main charecter Steve McQueen, but doesn't really do the movie justice...but how about the game itself?

TGE is simple enough to pick up and play without to much explination. The game is set up in various missions using variouse modes of play. The beggining is slow starting with mostly "Obtaining" objects and bringing them to designated charecters. SCi utilizes a sweet "Peek around the corner" move to help you navigate around. The game picks up a little speed as your able to comandere vehicles and weapons in certain missions. The controls are laid out pretty well except the inventory is a little difficult to hit on the fly. You are able to "Throw down" with the guards, but your fighting system is relegated to one punch that seems to stun your victim temporarily. Unfortunatly TGE offers little else in the "New" and or "Different" department, and lands somewhere in between Prisoner of War and Metal of Honor. The later being a much more enjoyable war period experiance IMO. The game is worth a looksy over a weekend, the movie on the other hand is "Highly" recomended.

Visually TGE is nothing spectacular, although very accurate in recreating some of the aircrafts, vehicles, and landscapes. Charecters are average at best, with the exception of Steve McQueen, which again, is an uncanny likeness. Explosions and other ambient effects are ok and lend to the experience of the game.

Besides the inclusion of the original score from the movie, TGE offers very little in the audio dept. Ambient sounds are minimal, and the "effects" are very basic. The dialogue is very repetative and lacklustre. All in all the sounds of TGE lend very little to the game experience.

Suggestions: The Great Escape game had a hard time recreating what made the movie so great. Although my guess is not many gamers are going to be familiar with the movie, it should have been a better representation. Which I think would have made the game more enjoyable.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

From a Galaxy far, far, away?The XBOX hits the mother load of Star Wars games, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. KOTOR is a super in depth RPG that will make RPG fans and Star Wars fans alike go into complete game overload. Not without it?s minor problems, but the character development, vast detailed environments, and the ever-alluring battle between the Light Side and the Dark Side are sure to overcome the blemishes. Set 4000 years before the rise of the Galactic Empire your faced with an undoubting enemy in Darth Malak who has unleashed an invincible Sith armada upon the galaxy. Choose from unique characters, creatures, vehicles and planets, across 7 enormous worlds and watch as your destiny unfolds. Will you be lured by the Dark Side? Only time and your actions will tell. Highly recommended to any RPG or Star Wars fan, general gamers may find the deep RPG style of KOTOR a little hard to get sucked into. This gamer was drawn in from the get go and had a hard time putting it down. Fire up your Blaster and inform your favorite Wookie your going in to kick some Sith?. well, you get the idea.

RPG?.Let me say it again, RPG. KOTOR offers up the most in-depth character development I have ever seen. You can spend hours just tweaking your character even before you actually start playing. Just about everything in KOTOR is ?Tweekable?. Weapons, Armor, and vehicles can be upgraded to your liking. The controls are set up in a dual joystick fashion, which makes movement very fluid; the one drawback is the inability to look up or down?minor flaw #1. The character interface is well organized and easy to manage on the fly, everything is right in front of you. Once you set forth on your adventure all the usual RPG rules apply. Explore, open containers, and collect credits and items and so on. When interacting with other characters your choice of responses is just as critical as any other aspect of the game and fashioned as Good, Neutral or Evil responses. Example: ?Yes, let?s move on and save the Princess? to ?I have better things to do, so back off or I?ll slit your thought?. The battle system is pretty cool, labeled as a ?Turn Base? system by some, I would have to disagree. Once your character encounters an enemy you have the option to engage in combat or ?Continue?, meaning you can use some of the other cool goodies such as your ?Stealth? clocking device to sneak past guards and such. If you choose to engage in battle, your character will attack with the weapon they have equipped until the enemy is defeated or he is. Now the enemy is also engaged in combat simultaneously with your character, so it?s kind of a ?Real Time? cut scene if you will. Heres the fun part, while engaged in battle you can either pause the battle or add ?Actions? on the fly, if you have decided that the enemies are just to overpowering for your Blaster, dial up a grenade from your inventory and eliminate the your enemies in one swoop. Your actions are maintained in the ?Action Menu? and have 5 slots to fill with various interactions from weapons, armor, and powers. Through all of this you can also build a ?Party? to help you on your quest. A party turns KOTOR into kind of a ?Squad? based scenario with the ability to switch ?Leaders? on the fly to best undertake the situation at hand. ?Party? members become available as you progress through the game. In usual RPG fashion, you gain XP (Experience Points) not only by defeating enemies, but ?Learning? new powers and or making the proper choices. All this translates into an entirely new pool of things you can do. Learn to hack a computer to access restricted areas, repair damaged droids you encounter during battle and use them to overtake enemies or defend an area. Take your weapons to a ?Work Bench? and upgrade them to your liking, and yes?with enough experience and knowledge you can even build your own lightsabre. KOTOR is an amazing game, well thought out and balanced; all the writing in the world would still sell the game experience short in my opinion. RPG fans don?t think twice. Star Wars fans will enjoy the ?Universe? and some pleasant surprises. General gamers don?t be scared off by the RPG factor; this game definitely deserves your attention.

Visually KOTOR is not over the top by any means, but with HDTV 480p features you are treated to colorful well-detailed environments, smooth frame rates and fluid character movement. The weapon effects and explosions are nicely done, and the ?Special? effects such as the aforementioned ?Clocking? is awesome. Character are pretty detailed, but again, not over the top but very customizable. All in all a well designed game with impressive cut scenes and environmental effects. Rumors of clipping have been floating around, I personally haven?t noticed any during my 10 hrs plus of game play.

In the sound department the usual Star Wars themes are present, but BioWare has added over 90 minutes of a new score just for this game, a welcomed addition to the almost ?Stereotypical? Star Wars soundtrack you find in many of the SW games. The dialogue is interesting and unique, and the aliens do speak in their native tongue so you will need to read. Battle effects and explosions take full advantage of the in game Dolby Digital, and truly suck you into the game. Solid effort.

Suggestions: This game need to go completly on-line with XBOX Live.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Hulk

I would assume at this point in time not too many people don't know who the Hulk is. Which is to bad in my opinion...why you ask? Because if you put aside the Saturday morning cartoon, the TV series (Sorry Mr. Ferigno), the Comic Books, and even forget that there is a movie coming out, you would probably enjoy this game allot. But I think the hype machine may damage this exciting little game. Now if your like me and really like the Hulk from years gone by, you'll get a charge out of "Becoming" our large green machine (No, not an XBOX). This game does deliver the feel of being the Hulk, feel every earth stomping, fist pounding, thunderous handclap you can muster up. To make things more interesting you are also treated to playing as Bruce Banner. The combination of stealth, puzzles, and bonuses and challenges keep you glued to this game. What this game lacks in replay value (sigh?), it makes up in flat out fun.

The game is broken up into 2 basic scenarios. Play stealth levels as Bruce Banner, and action levels as The Hulk. The control layout is very simple to understand and learn for both characters, and the use of forced feedback has never been better. Your mission, as most of you know, is the cure. You?re confronted with enemies of various sizes, shapes, power, and numbers. You also need to solve a few puzzles along the way to gain access to rooms and labs. As you work your way through a mission, defeated enemies leave health ?Orbs? behind temporarily for you to recharge, they also occasionally leave behind ?Rage? orbs. When in rage mode The Hulk can do some pretty intense damage. This is not to say that he doesn?t already, no, no, no?about 90% of what you see is not only destructible, but it can also be picked up, kicked, thrown or used as a weapon. You can even pick up some enemies by the throat and hurl them into other groups. The physics in this game are absolutely amazing, nothing is pre-determined, falling debris, water, you name it, and it?s always different and reacts as it should in the real world. You can also find ?Blue? orbs which will save your game at that point if you parish before ending the level. There are also a nice array of hidden goodies, and un-lockable ?Hulk Challenges? to add to the fun. All in all I was really pleased with the game, it?s a lot of fun and will keep you going for a while?unfortunately the good times will eventually come to an end, the replay value isn?t here aside from the usual 3 difficulty levels. Now the bad stuff?camera angles, we have a major issue with camera movement. You can only look around in 1st person mode (L. Trigger) but you can?t move, and if you?re crouching as Bruce (A) and you?re behind a crate your not going to see much any way. This became a big problem on levels were enemies were perched above you. Still worth checking out in my opinion, if you?re a fan you won?t be disappointed, if your not, I think you?ll still enjoy it over a weekend.

Visually The Hulk is pretty impressive, the characters are cell-shaded and the rest of the game is nicely rendered and accurate. Again, physics of not only the environment but of the characters movements are spot on, when Hulk smashes into the ground you know it, the pavement cracks and debris flies. When characters perform holds, punches, kicks they just look smooth and accurate. Moving from area to area is relatively seamless and the cut scenes help to keep the game flowing. All this across 25 fully destructible and interactive environments. Not really meant to be a ?realistic? looking game, but it does have that fantasy, comic book feel to it. I liked it.

In the sound dept. Hulk is nothing spectacular, but it?s well done for the game itself. In game Dolby Digital helps the ambience when in tunnels and labs, the echo?s are cool and the voice acting isn?t terrible. Solid, but nothing new and exciting.

Suggestions: Some sort of Multi-player set up could extend the life of this game, but i'm not sure how to implimant it. Otherwise, I think the game is solid fun.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 V-Rally 3

The best way to describe V-Rally 3 is Sega GT meets Rally Sport Challenge. Although, I?m not ready to crown it king of the XBOX Rally Racers, VR3 solidly holds second place, In my opinion, in this XBOX category. Rally enthusiast and racers alike will enjoy the in depth career mode which truly pulls you into the game and the "Life" of a rally racer, as well as end your career in a fatal off cliff accident. Start off at the ground floor, prove your racing prowess and land a exceptionally well and you may be tempted away by another team. Fans of racing "Sims" will delight in tweaking their vehicle of choice, repairing and upgrading it.
The tracks rank with the best Rally games and surpass some. Unlockables goodies, Multiplayer support (1-4)add to this attractive package.

The focus of the game play is really on the career mode. As I alluded to earlier with the Sega GT comment, this game has a fantastic, in-depth, career mode. Create your driver, look for a team to race for and keep your ride in tip top shape?If that wasn?t enough, your attitude also comes into play. Vehicle damage and normal wear and tear come into effect, checking in and replacing, repairing, and upgrading your vehicle can be done in a very nice ?Virtual? garage interface. VR3 also has a nice array of European tracks to qualify and advance on, with a number of weather and terrain conditions. A nice assortment of vehicles are also available, and split into 2 classes (1.6 & 2.0 ltr.). Controls seemed a little touchy, but easy to get used to. VR3 also offers Steering Wheel Support.
Solid game play will appeal to many.

480P enabled,Visually VR3 is above average, the car damage, and track environmental objects and obstacles are crisp & clean. A variety of weather conditions are well represented, and the ?effects? of the elements are eye-catching (Splashed up mud, rain drops, etc?)I always like the "rain on windshield", to really get you into the game. Solid frame rate, with no major clipping issues. . Again, all in all a solid effort by Eden Studios.

In the sound dept. Dolby 5.1 Enabled helps the "atmosphere" of the game. VR3 looses a little ground though, not so much because it was poorly done, but because it?s the usual stuff, actual a little less. Your co-pilot is spot on but a little redundant. The music is, ?eh.? Obviously the sounds add to the game experience, but you did buy this to race. Adequate at best.

Suggestions: Nothing really...The game is very solid. With so many "Rally" games on XBOX, you really need something special to pull away from the pack...Eden Studios and Infograms delivered a solid effort. Number 2 on my list.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Red Faction II

Red Faction II is a futuristic, FPS with some interesting options, and gameplay. A large group of weapons to choose from, and a descent storyline help keep it interesting. Overall I feel it could have been more and I was a little disapointed at the "suggested" totally destructable levels. Multiplayer adds some replay value, but the "Campaign" mode can be had pretty easliy. Some will like it, some will hate it, I recomend a rental before a purchase, just to see for yourself.

RFII is, as we know, a FPS. That claims totally destructable surroundings and fast paced action. Well IMO it falls short on both counts. Yes you can destroy some stuff, but it's very "Linear" for the most part, the game forces you to follow a set path. I don't count exploding barrels, those have become a staple in many games of this genre. That being said, gameplay itself was pretty smooth, the weapon selections system and overall controll were well done. You will find some levels very repetative, and kinda slow moving, the action isn't as intense as I would like. One of RFII bright spots is the "variations" it throughs at you, an example would be, earlly in the game you go from a "standard" FPS mode to being the gunner in a flying atack ship. So a little variety saves it. You are also part of a squad, and the twist is, from level to level you assume different charecter, but it's imposed, it's not your choice, so it's a squad based wanna-be, IE...on a level were stealth is the name of the game you'll assume that charecter for the level. The voice acting and dialogue are actually pretty good "mood" setters, it does give the game the right ambiance of a time when a tyrant ruled. The speeches by our villain are great, why didn't they put that effort into the rest of the game? What completly pulls RFII out of the merky abys is the multi-player option, nothing too inventive or new, but it does add some much neeeded replay value to an otherwise quick "Campaign" mode. You may faulter in this game earlly, but once you get the first 2 hrs in, you'll be flying through this one. Not completly without merit, as i suggested earlier, it's worth a rental for a weekend, if not just to judge for yourself. Personally, RFII is going to be a "Vanilla" XBOX title, kinda, ehh, what else ya' got.

Visually RFII is again, very Vanilla, nothing earth shattering or new, the destruction is pretty cool, at times, but overall can't really get the game up over the "Mediocre" bar. Again, not bad, but were was the extra effort on this one? This game needed something to lift it up, and the graphics aren't it. A "good" visual experience.

Sound, again my favorite word for this game...Vanilla. Everything you have heard before in a slew of FPS is in this one also. Thier is a bright spot, the voice acting and dialogue are above par, well written, giving the game the right feel of an oppressed time.

Suggestions: I really can't put my finger on it with this one, It just, Vanilla.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus

Woo-Hoo! An XBOX exclusive fighter we can all be happy to call our own. Without a doubt fighting games will be compared to the big three no matter what (Mortal Kombat-DOA-Soul Calibur) but the gang at Microsoft Game Studios delivers a solid fighter with plenty of action, options, and punch. Easy to pick up and play, but learning those ever important combo's is the key to victory. Add in real time damage, interactive environments, interesting charecters, an cool use of "Chi", and Tao Feng doesn't disapoint.

Like most fighting games it's all about the combo's. The engine is solid, but not to different from other fighters. There are 6 game modes available, one of which is a training mode to sharpen your skills. The others include, Versus, Quest, Survival, Team Battle, and Tournament. Theirs a nice mix of locations, with interactive objects you can swing around or off of to punish your opponent. 12 interesting and diverse charecters are at your disposal, with alternate costumes and alternate stances (each charecter has 2 stances, simply put 2 styles of fighting), they even have a few taunts to really get under the opponents skin. Now the cool stuff, "Chi". Chi is a !&%$@#* ulated as you fight, the more devastating the blows the more Chi you receive. Once your Chi meter is filled you can unleash 1 of 3 special attacks. I'm not talking a cool move, I'm talking walls of fire and stuff. Ther is a nice little twist to your Chi, it can also be used, when full, to replenish your health and heal damaged limbs. Limb Damage, my favorite...If you attack an opponents, arms, legs, sholders, etc...repeatedly or hurl them into flaming barrels, glass panes and such, they will sustain gradual damage until they are unable to use the damaged limb. As the limb suffers damage, it will not be as effective when attacking, ie...if a leg is starting to get damaged, you will move slower. Be advised, Chi works just as well for your oponent. Real time bruising and bleeding on the charecters is perfectlly done without the cartoonish, IMO, blood from MK. The fights are round based which can be set in the options screen. As for the basic fighting part of the game, it's impresive. There are enough basic moves and combo's to get you started, the blocking techniques are achieved via the D-Pad, which takes a little getting used to, but once your comfortable with it works great. All the charecters attacks are based on 4 parameters, height, range, speed, and strength, so study your opponents carefully. All in all, the usuall fighting ingredients are here, bone crushing attacks, blood, bruises, and of course multi-player. The developers added just the right amount of "New" stuff to be loyal to the genre, yet make Tao Feng a unique game on it's own. Personally, Tao Feng moves past MK on the fighting lader.

WOW! The variety of locations from dank alleys to bright museum halls shows off the visual prowess of Tao Feng. The charecter models are perfectly balanced and fluid, bruised faces and hobling oponents never looked so good. Environmental effects such as fire and explosions hold there own with the XBOX's power pushing it to a smooth, fast, and beautiful experience. Copmplex moves by charecters render no clipping or "irregular" look to them. Kudos to the crew at Microsoft Game Studios and Gigante.

Well, as we have come a customed to, in game Dolby Digital does not dissapoint. What little voice acting there is is perfectly used and performed. Taunts get a little repetative, but acceptable. Echo's, flames crackling and impact sounds are perfect througout. The base soundtrack is also well blended into the game without being annoying.

Suggestions: Only 2 words..............XBOX LIVE!

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Murakumo: Renegade Mech Pursuit

Murakumo is a blazing fast, seek and destroy, mission based game. The story is simple, renegade A.R.K's (Artificial Reflexive Kineticoid)have broken away from their human controllers and have set out to reak havoc on Oliver Port, a huge metropolis that is the center of scientific advancement in the future. You are part of an elite force of pilots quickly assembled to helm a prototype group of Mech Hunter units known as the Murakumo. Destroy enough of these renegades and unlock even stiffer adversaries. In this game you can't think, you need only react....or die.

Speed, thats were the fun of this game resides. The velocity in which some of these ARK's move on the screen is amazing. Your ARK is equiped with 2 weapons, 1 primary, and one secondary. 5 ARK's to choose from each with different strengths and weekneses. Controls are very simple, left stick used just like a flight sim, right trigger is your boost, left trigger reverse boost, "A" main weapon, "B" secondary, and "Y" toggles your view (You can play this game in the 1st person perspective). You are assigned a mission to destroy a Mech and off you go, at your disposal is a guidence system to let you know where your target is, and how far away it is, fall to far behind and you mission is over, let the enemy Mech get out of the containment area and your mission is over. Mastering quick turns is key to piloting your way around a sea of buildings. In case your thinking about flying above all the clutter, think again, your ARK has altitude limitations, so your gonna have to give chase. Now, the game is basically that simple, the Mechs are cool, the speed at which this game moves is amazing, the visual effects are pretty spectacular...but in the end the game gets very repetative, your playing to beat your high score and little else. To throw an even bigger monkey wrench into the formula, their is no system link or multiplayer option. It's a solo ride from start to finish. I didn't finish the game but was a little bored with it relativelly quickly, and there may be something real special when unlocked, but if a game can't keep your interested long enough to get to that point, well, that's a problem. The opening scenes make you salivate with anticipation, and then a few hours of frustration takes over as you keep repeating the same mission, slamming into the same building, loosing track of your target, and then finally you beat it to find another mission in, for the most part, the same type of city scape. Yes you occasionally find your self dodging bridges or overpasses, but not enough to get your interest level back up. The targeting system is real loose, and will drive you crazy during a heated pursuit. Again I find myself playing a game that could have been a great addition to the library, but just doesn't have any "...umph", no power ups, no nothing...just speed. This all may appeal to some of you out there, and by all meens, give it a rental, but I played for about 12 hours total, and I really don't have the urge to pick it up again. This is the same group that gave us Splinter Cell, right?

Visually Murakumo faired better, you do notice if you look closelly that some of the distant objects are less than spectacular, all to make the main action move that much faster. It's acceptable, because the frame rate is solid throughout. The explosions and vapor trails off your missles are very cool. The blured vapor trails and heat blur around your mechs gives it an uncanny realism that is amazing. Not to much in textures here because at the speed you traveling you will never notice. Graphically UBI delivered a solid game.

Descent soundtrack, the rest is pretty vanilla. The voice acting is very repetative, but it is supposed to be an AI talking to you. Explosions and crashes are nothing special. Even the in game Dolby Digital didn't really do much.

Suggestions: Again, a great idea and some wonderfull visuals fall short on gameplay. In this day and age there is no reason to not include multiplayer in a game of this genre. Take it the whole 9 yards next time around.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Crimson Sea

If you like shooting and slashing your way through hoards of enemies Crimson Sea has quite a bit to offer. With a little RPG style to it, nice graphics and Elaborate levels, this Japanese style epic is worth a looksy.

CS controls are pretty basic albight not layed out in the best manner. With a little practice you'll get used to the configuration and your off. You are Sho, a private detective who gets recruited by IAG (Intlegece Agency of the Galaxies)to be part of G-Squad. Joined by his young, mouthy sidekick Yangqin (who i thought was a girl for the first few levels)they embark on their adventure. The begining of the game turns out to be a prequel of sorts and is kind of annoying, as you progress through the initial level you come accross the other members of your squad,Kecak and Bow Rahn. Together you must defeat hoards of bug like creatures, water monsters and bosses that may be responsible for the deaths of many inocent people and IAG members. Armed with a Viper hand gun (to start) and a blade,Sho can find power ups for himself as well as his team, better weapons (which are also customizable) and health packs. The team progresses together for the most part and you can manipulate their formation to better suit the situation. Using a grid interface you can decide where your teammates will be positioned around you as well as the direction their initial attack will be concentrated. Sho has various ways of eluding and conquering his enemies,jumping,dashing,180 degree turn and a lock on system for your guns. Since Sho is the leader he is also responsible for his squad, meaning he needs to watch the squads individual health meters and dispence regeneration as he see fit. The pace in CS is pretty frantic, resembling Gunvalkry at times but designed a bit better. The camera angles are a big drawback, very jerky and hard to figure out in the heat of battle, very distracting at times. Your quest will take you across 6 worlds and over 20 stages, each stage completed posts your results for that stage based on time, damage,enemies, and max hits, giving you a rank and possibly a reward. After each quest you will also return to IAG Headquarters were you can shop for items and weapons, work on your skills as well as Master Neo-Psionic skills. NP skills are aquired as you pick up BP capsules, NP skills require certain amounts of BP to unlock, so as you ac !&%$@#* ulate the proper number of BP you will aquire 1 of 6 NP skills. Marionette, Meteore Crash, Blastfire, Cure, Protection, and Deathray. This is the "Modas Operendi" of Crimson Sea to quote one of it's charecters. Crimson Sea offers more than the 1st hour or 2 of gameplay suggest, entertaining but probably short lived for most. The Japanes style will appeal to fans of the genre, so give it a fair shake and you will have an entertaining adventure.

Visually Crimson Sea is great to look at. Large worlds with many areas, detailed monsters and charecters. There is a little pre-rendering going on in Crimson Sea, but it blends in nicelly with the game. The masses of enemies are very impresive and bosses are very well done. What really kills CS's look, and knocked the score down aquite a bit, is the annoying camera angles and jerkiness during gameplay. Very dissapointing.

The soundtrack and voice acting stay true to the Japanese style of Crimson Sea, effective but a little over the top. The ambient sound is really non existent, but 5.1 DD lends itself well to the mass of enemies around you. Special effects like gunfire and blade swipes are mediocre at best but tolerable. Could have been much inproved.

Suggestions: The idea behind this game is solid, it just needs some polish and it could be a winner.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Vexx

Our little friend Vexx is from the village Overwood, on the planet Astara. The Shadowraith Dark Yabu decended upon Vexx's village and reaked havoc & destruction. Vexx and his grandfather were defiant, and when Vexx could take no more he launched a futile attack on Dark Yabu. Vargas, Vexx's grandfather tried to help and Dark Yabu turned his powers against Vargas and destroyed him. Striken with grief, Vexx escapes vowing to take revenge, but fate turns to fortune with the legendary Asanti War Talons. Now armed with his talons and fearless determination, slave turned savior will stop at nothing to overthrow the Dark Yabu, avenge his grandfather's murder, and bring peace back to his planet. I have been waiting for this little dude for some time, and all i can say is...Vexx can clobber Mario any day of the week. Now that i have that out of my system, Vexx is a fantastic platform with huge, detailed levels full of surprises, hidden levles and varied challenges. Vexx is devided up into different worlds, each one presenting a new set of challenges to finally reach our goal. Platform lovers, don't let this one pass you buy, too bad it wasn't an exclusive to our beloved system.

As i mentioned earlier, Vexx is devided into 9 worlds which offer up a total of 70 objectives, the goal of each objective is a Shadowraith Heart. As you complete objectives and retrieve the hearts you bring them to the portal's Rift Hub opening new worlds. Vexx has many enemies to encouter and with each defeat Vexx recievs talon charges to unleash the talons special powers, Vexx has a combo-based fighting system wiich is very easy to understand and utilize.Vexx can also retrieve Elemental power ups such as the Rock Suit, very cool, and the Air Suite. There are also health and extra life power ups hidden in the vast worlds. The cool thing is that our hero has nemerouse abilities, from climbing shere mountain sides with his talons, to swimming above and under water, super jumps, and devastating attacks. Vexx's worlds also contain Devices, a Sundial that can fast forward or rewind the day, and if you play close attention certain times of the day open "Hidden" levels that are crucial to your succes. Portals and World gates, bounce pads and Spirit Stones to booste your health when needed. Time does pass in Astara, and night will fall reveiling new and fiercer enemies. The challeng builds as you progress form world to world, worlds that take you from Ruins, Deserts, Oceans, and Frozen Outlands. As you exit the portal into new worlds your given hints as to the were abouts or method needed to reteive your next Shadowraith Heart. Vexx is a well balanced platform adventure with tons to offer and over 20 different baddies to cope with, add various puzzles to solve and hidden treats. Your in for hours of gaming bliss. Long awaited platform for the XBOX delivers big.

Aklaim did a great job with Vexx, vibrant days chilling nights. Beautifull sky scapes that always have something going on, watching the sun set and the moons rise on Astara is really cool. Attention to detail is very evident, dust and sand being kicked up as Vexx lands on the ground, water droplets hitting the camera as he splashes into huge waterfalls. Some decent textures and nice camera manipulation help get you into the game. Attacks are vibrant and effective. The charecters are a tad blocky, but it takes very little away form the overall experience. HDTV 480p enhanced delivers that extra punch if your set up for it. Solid effort from the developers.

A great soundtrack runs through the worlds of Astara, not over the top or anoying, what little voice acting ther is in Vexx is done well with effects to get you into the story. Environmental souds abound, from waterfalls, creaking bridges and grunts from the Puggles comming up behind you. In-Game Dolby Digital lends itself well to this title, the world and all its sounds wraps around you very well. Once again very Solid.

Suggestions: None, I think Aklaim put out a quality platform game without having to resort to cute charecters. Need a sequel!!

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance

Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance is a RPG adventure that delivers both on gameplay and storyline. Become one of 3 versitile charecters each equiped with a variety of weapons, magic, and and charecter exclusive forte. Work your way through incredible levels featureing hidden treasures, enchanted weapons and surprising enemies. All the usuall RPG charecteristics are here, build up your charecter, weapons, magic, attitude, and on , and on. If Morrowind is a little too deep for you and you need a well balanced, exciting adventure with a lot to offer, give Baldurs Gate:Dark Alliance a fair shake, you will be pleasantlly surprised. BG feels like Buffy to me, very underated.

The beauty, in my opinion, to Baldurs Gate is that anyone can pick it up and understand what to do. The fighting system, inventory system, and magic usage are well designed and easily understood. The story...Baldurs Gate is a city recently plagued by a growing evil.Town memebers have been turning up dead, and their are rumors of a Thieves' guild civil war beneath the city. You assume one of three Newcomers to Baldurs Gate who is thrown in the role of the Hero. Vahn, the Arcane Archer, Kromlech, the Dwarven Fighter, and my personal fave, Adrianna, the Elven Sorceress. Each charecter has his oe her own stregths and weeekness. Along your adventure you will find gold to upgrade your weapons, armour, and magic. The items change in the in the shops and you may occasionally find the enchanted sword of your dreams. Weapons have weight, value, damage points, and sometimes special attributes. Your cahrecters have specific atributes, weapons they can't use and can only carry so many object based on weight. Adrianna obviouslly can't carry as much as the brawny Vaughn. Your quests go from rat infested seweres to Ogre infested mountain sides. As you vanquesh your enemies your "Experience" builds, as that happens your charecter levels up and is awarded points, which can be applied to your charecters abilities. Strength, Intelegence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma all factor into your charecters abilities. One of the best options in this game is the ability to transfer your cahrecter from one game to another, so basically if you have built your charecter stats and want to use that charecter when playing the coop mode, yes cooperative play, you can inport that charecter without having to start from scratch. Save points are available along your adventure, your success will be measured by your ability to balance fighting, magic, and some puzzle solving. Recall potions are available to transport you back to the tavern where you begain your quest and where you can visit the shopkeaper to sell and or buy new weapons, armor, or potions when your carrying a bit too much or need some healing potions for your next big battle, and when done return you to the point in the game were you left. BG has more too offer than i can ever write, but this game has payed alot of attention to detail, unique levels and enemies, and the ability to offer a long exciting experience. Please note that this is the only version of this game i have ever played and it has plenty of merit on it's own. The developers obviouslly spent alot of time on the "GAME" itself. Job well done.

BG is played in a 3rd person perspective, which gives the graphics a little leway. That being said the look of BG is right on the money, dark and dank in the sewers, cobwebs where needed, along with some nice textures to give it a polished look. The charecter models move fluidly, no frame rate issues or clipping. The camera angles work real well, although in a few minimal instaces were awkward. Magic effects are visually stunning and as we have come to expect with the box, the water looks great. The developers delivered a sound visual product.

BG really has nothing stellar in the sound dept. It offers Dolby Surround, the soundtrack is pleasant and not overbering, the voice acting is above average, and the sound effects do the job. Again, you can tell the efforts went into the gameplay, but the sounds work well for this title.

Suggestions: My only suggestion would be to offer more charecters and more than 2 player coop. Everything else is solid.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Panzer Dragoon Orta

Panzer Dragoon Orta is a non-stop shooter with enogh excitement and bonus material to keep you going for quite some time. Add to that the stunning visuals, 5.1 Dolby Digital, and 480p HDTV and your set for an exciting treat for your gaming sences.

Most of us have played some sort of shooter or another, and what sets them apart is how interesting and different they are from one another. Well Panzer Dragoon Orta is about as interesting and different as they get. You are Orta, riding a dragon that has been thought to be long gone and could be the end of the Dragonmares. Your dragon has some pretty amazing trates, Guns, Homing Lasers, and a devistating Berserk attack. Your dragon also has the ability to morph from it's Base Wing form to Heavy Wing and Glide Wing, each with it's own special charecteristics and variation on the weapons. The key to this game is to learn well which type is best suited for the task at hand, in the beggining you'll sit with the version you feel most comfortable with and get agrivated at how hard it is to defeat some enemies, but as you learn to morph during battle it all becomes a very tacticle battle. Your dragon and each of it's "Morph's" can also level up as you progress by picking up "Gene Basis" these bases will go into a "DNA Counter" which when filled will level up your dragon, that is it will level up the dragon that picks it up, so again, learn to morph and keep all your versions strong. Of course the 360 degree fighting system is cool as hell. Being able to track enemies from vertually any position makes PDO a unique experience in the shooting genre. PDO consists of 10 levels in the story, which depending on your resolve, you may finish over a long weekend, but fear not Sega was nice enough to add some Sub Scenarios, Missions, and if you hadn't already heard, Unlocking the original Panzer Dragoon game. One other little extra is that some of the levels offer multiple routes to take, if your quick enough to notice. So as you complete levels you'll see which route you took and how many alternates there are. PDO is a game based on a point system, who can get the most points on the game garnishing the best grade (A,B,C,D,F) and also gives you a cute rankning to go with it, like "Gunner" if you just shoot the lights out. All these extras along with the "Flight Records" are stored in Pandoras Box, which i have to say is a nice looking interface, from there you can access just about anything. This leads me to the one thing i didn't like...the save system. The game is set up for one player to make it through the entire game, meening, if you stop on Episode 6 to let your little brother play and he stops and save on Episode 2 Easy mode, he will overwrithe your progress, this is idiotic, how hard would it have been to incorporate multiple saves via User?? Anyway, I can kinda look pass that because the game is addicting enough to where you may play through non-stop. Well worth the purchase, but if your new to the series you may want to do the weekend rental.

Where to start...PDO is one of the best looking games on the XBOX. 480p HDTV support obviouslly helps, but in general the Episodes are lavish and colorfull, particle effects, explosions are amazing. The morphing of your Dragon and the stylized Berserk attacks are also something to be seen. The best part of the entire aspect is that it's simply flawless when it comes to frame rate. With the speed of this game, that is a huge compliment. Not to mention when you have so much going on in the screen as you do at times there is no hickup what so ever, it's amazing. They also took the time to let the very slick cut scenes blend into the game from Episode to stunning Episode.

5.1 Dolby Digital and 360 degree fighting do the math. The sounds of PDO are just as impresive as the visuals. Well thought out, and well placed. Ambient sounds are abound and the in game soundtrack is pleasing without being annoying. You do have to suffer through subtitles because PDO is spoken in a foreign language througout, but most of the dialouge is during the cut sceens so fear not, you won't miss important info while trying to destroy your enemies.

Suggestions: Again, the save system so more of us can enjoy the game without repeating Episodes.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball

What drives this game?? I thought about it for some time because it really isn't the volleyball, and i think i have the answer...TESTOSTERONE. Not that it's a bad thing mind you. Some will find DOAX entertaining, and some will never admit to owning it. All in all DOAX plays more like an RPG than a volleyball game.

The appeal is really simple...Our favorite DOA lovelies scantilly clad on a tropical beach, bending, stretching, and hoping around for your visual pleasure. You have 2 modes to play with, Exhibition mode and Zack Island. If your really interested in playing multi-player volleyball (Max 2 players) hang around the exhibition mode, all the charecters and locations with a very simple controller scheme. Left stick to move your babe of choice. D-pad for ball direction. A for serving, blocking, and spiking. B for receiving and tossing (set). Thats it, thats all there is to it. Now for what is supposed to be the main game...Zack's Island. The premiss is Zack got rich and bought an Island, now he's having a volleyball tourny with all his old DOA buddies, the female ones that is. Your on Zacks Island for 14 days, in that time you need to make cash by playing volleyball, problem is i found myself not playing to much volleyball and generating an income from the poolside "Hoping Game" in which you need to time your jumps onto square floatation pillows lined up accross the pool. Speed and accuracy (hitting every float)earn you more cash. The more enjoyable method of earning cash was the Hotel Casino, where you can indulge in Roulette, Black Jack, Poker, and slots. The Casino is very realistic in terms of gaming rules and actually alot of fun. Oh, volleyball, thats what we are here for right...You need to convince one of the other DOA gals to be your partner, because it is 2 on 2 matches. Asking just won't do, so you need to shower your perspective teammate with gifts available at the Island shops. The goodies range from flowers to diamonds, I even came across a prototype XBOX. But the place to shop in DOAX is the Sports Shop that carries the most eyepleasing swimwear around. The items in all the shops change daily so you do get quite a few surprises. You can purchase anything you can afford and give anything as a gift to snag a partner, once your partnered you actually get to play volleyball. You get bonus cash for good plays and big cash for wins. Of course this doesn't stop your partner from ditching you after 1 or 2 matches, so you'll be back to buying presents for the gals. Mind you that all the ladies are fickle and may just toss those $5000 sunglases in the ocean, so choose your partner wisely if you can. You also get "mystery" presents from Zack every night, which you can open or keep packaged and give them to someone else. The items you collect can be kept in your items interface that consists of your outfits (bathing suits), objects, and items. It could take you quites some time to get all the objects in this game, more time than is given to our charecter...You get up, make some money pool side, or from the casino, spend it on gifts in hopes of getting a partner and by the time you have talked to a couple gals (and been turned down) the day is over and you go back to the hotel. You have no choice, you need to go back at night. You can visit the Casino for as long as you want before going to bed and starting the entire process all over again in the morning. Resting by the pool is also a feature of the game (the clock is still ticking on the day while you rest)...I call it the "Gauking" mode. Check out your DOA babe of choice from multiple angles and you can even zoom in to check out those big beautiful..*cough,cough*.."eyes". On the 14th day your off the Island and your vacation is over.Some of the charecteristics of your vacation remain as you continue a new 2 weeks with another charecter. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. DOAX is confusing because it does have some entertainment value, all be it a voyeristic one, but it isn't what I thought it would be. Is that a bad thing, your gonna have to judge for yourself. DOAX is more of a guilty pleasure than an extreme volleyball game. Rent it, get your DOA girl of choice in that micro-bikini that costs a mint, gamble away thousands in the casino and judge for yourself.

HDTV 480p enabled and the DOA graphics we have come to expect make a really pleasing combination. The locals are colorful and accurat, the water is fantastic, and sunsets never looked better. Bottom line, if the graphics weren't this good you wouldn't spend all this time trying to buy those "Bairly There" swimsuites for your babe o choice. The charecter movement during matches is fluid and accurate, dives to the sand are perfect with sand being kicked up just so. I can't help but feel this game will be a graphical show piece for gamers when they want to show off the XBOX graphics, and you can't help but feel like a stalker when your just watching Cristie stretch on a lounge chair poolside...Is that wrong?

In game Dolby Digital, a descent soundtrack that we all probably know by heart. Nothing fancy here. Thank goodness for the Custom Soundtrack option. Load up your favorite toon and watch Tina do a dance for you on the private beach.

Suggestions: Concentrate on the volleyball game next time, you can keep the bathing suites.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Deathrow

OK, I know that Master Chief's deciples are going to be hot on my heals after this hits the Top 100, but i don't care, this game needs some seriouse attention. The Story in short...way in the future an underground game arouse, a great way for gangs to settle their "differences". Then a huge corporation took notice and turned it into a media event watched by everyone (Think Running Man)Now you have teams from Convicts, to Cops facing off in one of the most brutal sports around. No weapons, but no rules either. With the mass media & corporate america running this thing it's just fair to add side wagers, drugs(steroids), and sleezy managers to the mix. If you want to rise to the top you best leave your sissy genes at the door cause this is a no holds bar, can't run and hide, fast paced, death sport.............Welcome to Deathrow.

This is not going to be everyones cup of tea. Honestlly i got the game, put it in the box just to take a gander cause i didn't have alot of time to play at first. The Intro was awsome, then the game started and i was saying to myself, WTF?? I was a little dissapointed to say the least. Later that night i sat down for what turned out to be a 6 hour marathon. This game is deep, you control a 4 man team in a soccer like match, no , no kicking except the opponents ass. There are 2 circular "goals" at each end, and you use a "disc" to score. That's the simple part. 150 warriors, 18 teams, Single-Conquest-& Network play. The game starts with the disc popping up in the middle of the arena, as you sprint to get it before the oponent, controls are easy to pick up, offensivelly as well as defensivelly. 4 control schemes are available to customize it to your liking. The player you control will display a pass line as well as a shot line for the direction the disc will go, passing is an auto feature, and you will assume the player with the disc, although if your caught on deffense your team will go forward without you. You can adjust your team strategy on the fly with the directional pad. Normal is a balance of Off. & Deff. and you can tweek it to all out off. or lock down on deffence with a lead. Conquest mode is the tournament, there are 4 periods of 2 minutes each (can be modified)you score points by throwing the disc through the goal, the pace is fast because play does not stop because the disc stays in play after scoring, so you can follow it through and shoot again from the backside. There are power ups in each arena ranging from health to cash. Even a lockdown mode were you will be magnatized to the floor for a time. The big appeal, NO RULES!! Is your team mate trailing you with the disc, take out the goalie and clear a path. On deffense, punch, kick, flip, pile drive, there are over 100 moves to be had to steel the disc away from your opponent. When you execute a great flip or something it goes into a "Bullet time" effect, this also happens if you pull off a "One time" pass with an open shot on goal. The AI is awsome, they don't forget who did the taunting or the beating and will come after you. On top of all of this you earn cash for how many injuries you cause, knock outs, crowd appeal, etc..."Train" your team with cash and improve their stats, buy new members, health slots, and heal your guys in between periods. Victories give you Unlock credits, specifically for unlocking teams, arenas, and players, plus a couple of surprises. There is so much here it could make your head spin, but the bottom line is, it's a fast paced sport with no rules and a ton of action. High replay value on this bad boy.

Fantastic!! Well textured andd detailed. The charecter are nicelly done with the pace of the game. The arena's are highly detailed and offer great lighting effects. The colored "Speed" trail the disc leaves and the spark of it hitting the metal edges of the goal or any other metal surface are sweet. The Intro is still my favorite, you feel like your sitting down to watch the actual event unfold.

The soundtrack is nice, the ambient sounds are wonderfull, crownd noise cheers, big "UHGS" when you just miss or lay a good smack down on someone. The dialouge is perfect for this type of game, lots of swearing and F this and F that, but it fits the game well. Dolby Digital enabled, giving you a great sense of the arenas your playing in.

Suggestions: XBL would have been awsome for this title.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Blinx: The Time Sweeper

A great platform game for XBOX plus an inovative twist, and an original charecter come together in this action packed, puzzle solving, time manipulating game. At first glance Blinx the Time Sweeper may seem simplistic and basic, but there is more depth here than meets the eye. Upgradaes, hidden treasures, unique charecters, and the capability to control time. What more can you ask for? This game does not dissapoint if you give it a fair try, once again we have a game that may fall prey to the simple minded gamer who just wants to fly through without delving into the little secrets of the game.

My first concern was the control scheme, with all of this time jumping i was a little concerned, but fear not, it's as simple as pie. After the first 15-20 minutes you'll be crusing. Blinx is a daring cat that decides to try and save this world that has been populted by monsters due to the medeling of some badies. Crystals are the key here, you can collect them to manipulate time, but you do need to be aware of which crystal you are picking up, pick up the wrong sequence and you have wasted 4 of them. The idea is to collect 3 of the same crystals, each type unlocking a particular time jump, pause, rev, ff, etc...Your other problem is that you can only have 3 time manipulations at a time. There is also gold to be found and used in the store to upgrade your equipment, time slots (so you can have more than 3) Redo slots (your health,you start with 3, and can buy more) as you perish your life gets a "redo" it actually rewinds the game to just before you died in a VCR like effect, kinda cool. Your main weapon is, well, a va !&%$@#* e. Yes a vacume that can suck up pretty much anything you see and use it as a projectile, barrels, cans, tv's, couches, you name it. Collect "Trash" and fire away. Again we have a limit, 5 objects at a time, but you can keep refilling at will. You work your way through a level with basically 2 objectives, beat all the monsters, and find all of the secrets. You must defeat the monsters to continue, you don't need to find the all the secrets, and chances are you won't. Why?? Because you probably can't get to were they are with your current items, so you will be bouncing back and forth into levels throughout the game. Now the big catch, there is a 10 minute time limit in which you need to accomplish your task. This game is challenging and fun, you need to have a little strategy and plan your way through the level, and you will need to return to levels to uncover hidden items and power ups. i think the developers did a good juob incorporating the time travel to encumpass the entire game and not just levels. One regret, as for most games now, some sort of co-op mode would have been fun, and a very small camera angle problem, neglagible at best. Blinx is going to be lke a few other games that got dissed in the beggining and as people give it a chance it will catch on. Not dissapointed at all.

WOW!! Simply stunning. Wonderfull textures, weather effects, shadows, you name it. Then again we are on the XBOX and it can handle it. No glitches, snags, or hickups. Smooth as silk. You may have to forget your time limit a few times and just wonder around and take a good look at this world. Job well done!

Sound wise Blinx has a, and forgive me for saying it, Nintendo like feel to it. A Japanese like dialougue with sub titles, and a Mario like sound effects when it comes to weapons, jumping, walking, ambient sounds, and explosions. All suite this platform very well.

Suggestions: Muti-player of some sort. Maybe some side quests. A non timed mode.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Hitman 2: Silent Assassin

If your a big fan of stealth and cunning, you will enjoy Hitman 2. I never played the original version so i have nothing to really compare it to, which is o.k. Plain and simple, you are an assasin forced out of a peacfull retirement by an unknown foe. "Silence is deadly" in this game. Sneak around sniping, drugging, and disguising yourself to complete your mission. Somewhat of an old idea, but the stealth play is a welcome change from the "run & gun" games of the past.

The appeal is in the attention to detail as it translates to what you can do. Sneak up behind a guard and use a zip line to strangle him or use cloraform to knock him out. Then drag the body to some hidden spot to avoid being discovered, and while your at it, swap clothing to get past the gate undetected. If that were not enough, if you happen to forget to ditch your firearm and they frisk you, your dead meat. Again attention to little details is amazing in this game. The control scheme seems complicated when you start, but actually grows on you effortlessly. One small problem, you will occasionally drop a weapon you had not intended to, just a minor glitch in the system. The levels are nice and big, detailed and offer multiple access points, making gameplay different for every user. The storyline may be right from a "B" movie, but it works well. The other "detail" i noticed was the dialouge. I'm Italian, and speek fluentlly, well the comments and vulgar language was dead my surprise. All in all a pleasurable experience that still has me playing, very addictive and who doesn't love pretending they are in a covert, hush, hush, situation were they can nail that head shot with a silencer. Alot of fun!

Visually the game is adequate, nothing earth shattering. Real time shadows, nice textures, basically what we would now accept as bear minimum in a game. The dead guys you drag around bend kinda funny, and when i draged one into the pool, i didn't even get a ripple.

The score is great for this type of game, the dialougue as i mentioned is perfect, and the ambient and sound effects are nicelly done. DD pulls you into the game a little more. Nice Job!

Suggestions: Maybe a graphical tweek, and some sort of co-op mode would add to the replay value.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Loons: The Fight For Fame

Romp through 15 movie sets as your favorite LOON, unlocking mini-games and new levels. All of this to be the star of director Yosimiti Sam's latest epic. May entertain younger gamers, but not for long. This game lacks any replay value at all. I was hoping this "Platform" would have been a little better than it was.

This is a platform game, with some wonderful "gizmos" and the use of bonus prat falls a la' Looney Toons, such as falling anvils,and cows. Zapping your competition into womens clothing, and the ever popular "Thunder Cloud" striking. Unfortunatly the game is set on movie sets. Each level is a new set, but unlike real movie sets these are the size of your particular TV screen and not much more. Levels are small and lose any initial "WOW" factor in minutes. The charecters seem to be tripping over each other throughout the game. The mini-games are not really that clever at all, seem to be put in each level to expand a little on the lack of "area" you actually have. Multi-player functions are available but don't really help any. I will say that the prmiss of the game is very interesting and entertaining, too bad the developers seemed to take the quick route on this one.

This game gains some respect visually, i'm not sure of the process used but it's great. The in game graphics are very close to viewing a "real" cartoon as i have ever seen. Charecters have that drawn cartoon feel and display very little of the usuall "blockyness" that cartoon games usually have. The same goes for the envronments, very true to the cartoon look and feel. Job well done on the "Cartoon look" of this game.

All of your favorite voices, and sounds are present in this title. Charecter voices are well done, since the charecters have such recognizable voices i'm glad they stayed with accurate representations. All of those wonderfull Loony Toon sounds are also recreated accuratlly. Music, pops, pings, lightning, all straight from the actual cartoons.

Suggestions: If you could figure out a better way for this game to play and let everything else stand as is it would be a great platform for any system.
Once again the gamer creedo plays through, it aint nothin' without good gameplay.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

I really wanted this game to be great. It's not bad, but i came up a little short for me, in an odd way. LOTR Fellowship is an adaptation based on the books morso than the movie, which is retold and played out wonderfully. Fans of the books wil find this title very entertaining. Wonderfull worlds, charecters, and quests make this a well rounded title.

LOTR plays very well. The controls are very easy to pick up after a couple of minutes, the graphics are above average, and diliver some nice particl effects and rays of light and shadow to add to the mood of the game. You play through as all three charecters using each ones strengths to progress through your quest. ie...Frodo is very adept at stealth, but he's not very good at fighting. You swing back and forth in your qwest to maintain the "good" in yourself, but certain action can stray you to the "dark" you have a meter that keeps this in check for you, and can be manipulated by good deeds as well as unwise choices. This game is an RPG/Action game. My problem lies with the action, and that this game is very linear. Even when your knee deep in battle it just doesn't get your adrenaline going. You fight but it's not really that exciting IMO. I think some sort of co-op mode would have lent itself well to this game since the charecters are supposed to be a group working twords the common good, but they failed to see that. This is going to definatlly take a rental if your interested, and you may find it better than i did, this one is trully going to fall on personal opinions.

Visually the game is spectacular, as i said before, nice rays of lite pushing there way through windows with perfect little particle effects visible. The charecters are all well rendered, the worlds are vast and take a little exploring to get through. the environments are very "alive". The camera is a little annoying at times, depending of course on the situation you will not be able to see what it is you are doing, and it happens at the worst possible times.

Well balanced, nothing ovewhelming, but well done to match this game. The DD works very well to achieve atmosphere. The dialogue is a little repetative, and believe it or not sometimes a little too fast. Again, nothing spectacular but well done.

Suggestions: The tension level needs to go up a notch to fullfill the need for decent action. Some sort of co-op mode.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Aggressive Inline

Let's cut to the chase, If you like and own THPS3, save yourself $50 because outside of a few new wrinkles this game has been done before. AI is fun just like all the others, this time your on in-line skates. Huge and detailed levels, objectives galore, and a complex trick system (That will chase away any newbies to this genre)Another nice looking game that suffers from "Been there, Done that."

The appeal of AI is if you have never owned or played any of the other "Skating" games that came out before. The levels are big and complex, if you can see it, you can grind it. You just have to figure out how to get there in the 1st place. The game is ; based, talk to NP's and other objects to get a new mission. You can boost your charecter stats by dooing specific moves over and over again. ie, Keep grinding all over the place and you get better at grinding. You health as it were, is measured bya "Juice" bar. If you keep pullijng off tricks your bar will stay full, just skate around doing nothing and it will start to deplete itself. Power ups are available all over the levels, and you can find hidden objects such as "Keys" to open locked areas within a given map. Again, alot of fun on it's own, but it's just been done so many times before. The game has lasting appeal if you havn't played games like it before.

Visually the game is pretty solid. The lwvwls are detailed and vast. The charecters have great range of motion. The only annoying thing is the "Rubber ball" effect your charecter has when hitting a wall or come flying out like a rubber ball bouncing off the surface. An occasional camera problem, nothing remotlly problematic. All in all very nice.

Soundtrack is great, with the works of some of todays biggest bands. The addition of custom tracks was great, but next to impossible to locate without the manual. Again, been done before.

Suggestions: Find something fresh and creative in the next game. "Xtreme" has run it's course in my opinion.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Quantum Redshift

Overall: SPEED, SPEED, AND MORE SPEED!! Those are the best words to describe this game, along with eye-poping graphics Quantum Redshift is a race fans dream. Futuristic racing competitions across very diverse terain, track, snow, you name it. An easy weapon and defense system make this game super easy to pick up and play. Custom soundtrack options and multi-player give this title long lasting value.

Gameplay: The immediate appeal of Quantum Redshift is the racing. Racing is about speed, and QR has an unbalievable amount of it. In single player modes it is just amazing how fast this game runs without a glitch. Multi-player does show a little drop in visuals, but i found it acceptable. You can take control of 16 different pilots each with ther own unique ship, known as SPARC's. Each pilot also resides in one of the 16 circuits as there home giving them a "Home Field" advantage of sorts. Each player also has a Nemisis to deal with and can score bonus points for destroying the thorn in there side. Each ship is also equiped with it's own unique weapons, one of which is a homing type, the other manual. As you race along you can keep boosting your weapons and shields to fend off enemy attacks.QR comes with 4 game modes, Tournament, Time Attack, Quick Race, and Multi-player. Tournament being the meat of this game. In tournament mode you will race your way through 5 levels of competition, Novice, Amature, Expert, Master, and Redshift. Each level getting faster than the previouse. Completing each level unlocks the next. You also race for points wich can be used to upgrade your ships weapons and shields. The snag is that you only a !&%$@#* ulate points if you break your previous record on the track your racing on, so it does get tough once you get to the Expert Level. Quantum Redshift is a long lasting, warp speed, adreniline filled racer that won't dissapoint too many fans of the genre. My one critism is that when you slam into a mountain side or side of a bridge you don't "Crash" you just kinda stop or bounce off, i would have rather seen some impact damage, or flat out explosions to add to the thrills.

Graphics: Call it eye candy if you want, but QR is one pretty game. Textured terains, detailed locals, water effects, explosions, you name it and QR delivers without flinching. Again, multi-player does show a slite drop in frame rate, but i really had no problem with it. Replays are a nice feature that has become pretty much standard in racers now a days. Very solid graphics helps the QR experience.

Audio: QR comes in Dolby Digital and it adds to the experience. The voice acting is a little contrived, but there isn't alot of it so it was easy to deal with. Explosions, weapon and ship effects are all nicelly done. Best of all QR has our favorite XBOX function, Custom Soundtrak capabilities. So copy in Sammy Hagars "I can't drive 55" and go full throtle in your "SPARC" of choice and hang on.

Suggestions: Maybe move this game away from the Arcade feel to a more realistic looking competition.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 The Terminator: Dawn of Fate

Terminator: Dawn of Fate is somewhat of a pre-quel to the movies. You are Kyle Reese in training and in missions under John Conner before he gets to jump back in time to save Sarah Conner, and the unborn John Conner........i think most of you know the story. The game is, unfortunatly a retread of sorts. Nothing really makes this game stand out much, except the Terminator liscense. That liscence alone didn't do much for this title.

Not the worst game ever made, but it's really going nowhere fast. It's hard to really understand what they thought was so great about the game. The controls are simple enough to figure out, but maybe the game took too many simple routes, the right trigger is your target lock, and once you walk into a room you pretty much just need to keep the lock pressed and the fire button (X) depressed and wait till the enemies are all gone. The camera angles don't help much, very difficult to get a flow going because you get a flipped perspective when you enter a new room or area. The game has 3 difficulty settings, easy, medium, and terminal. Terminal is unlocked only when you finish the previous diffculties. Unfortunatly the difficulty is pretty much more enemies and nothing else. The game also sports an "Adrenaline" meter, when maxed you can shoot more accuratly, fight harder, etc... There are also a variety of weapons, Armor, Med packs and such. There is also a point system in place, as you make your way through a level you can pick up Skynet Files, which are worth variious points. At the end of the mission you can use these points to upgrade the number of weapons, ammo, basically the amount of stuff you can cary. Sounds great, but doesn't really help the game at all. New level, shoot bad cyborgs and stuff, when there all gone move on, etc, will occasionally get the slightly differnt mission,example, keep the explosives guy alive long enough to set the C4 and blow the place. The problem is he wonders all over and when you need him to move he just sits there getting his !&%$@#* shot up, the AI in this game is pretty lame IMO. An old idea with a few little twists and a hollywood movie liscence.

Nothing visually earth shattering in game, the usual fair. Not bad, but not up to snuff for what i would have expected with a title like Terminator. The intro scene is pretty nice, but even that left a little to be desired. Not a huge stumbling block in the game but it sure didn't help it any.

Average dialouge, gets repetative at times. The use of the Terminator soundtrack does set the mood when moving through the game, but the in game soundtrack is a yawn. Weapon effects and vehicle effects fair better, but again nothing to help catapolte this game anywhere.

Suggestions: Rule number one: You need more than a blockbuster hollywood liscense to deliver a quality game. I really think this game could have been so much more if they really wanted to go the distance with it.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Wreckless: The Yakuza Mission

Wreckless is like jumping into a pool of cold water.......Your initial reaction is "WOW" but then the cold wears off and your back to "eh....." Wreckless surrvives on a few things, Originality & Technology. This is the reason i can't completly blast this title. At release i questioned mostly 2 things, replay value, and is it worth $50, to both my conclusions were negative. The game is alot of fun, has a definate learning curve, which unfortunatly may drive some people away, and visually will knock your socks off. Definatly worth renting for a couple of days, a possible purchase at the price i picked it up for.(see above)

This is tough, as i stated above the game can be frustrating until you get the hang of the controls. Once you get that down it's more tollerable and you will start to have fun with it. Missions are pretty much all time based in one sense or another. The objectives vary from a "Tag" of sorts, obsticle course, and just flat out destruction. There are 2 scenarios available which include unlockable vehicles as you progress. The phiysics of the game are pretty !&%$@#* impressive, and speed and destruction are what Wreckless is all about. I can't lie, it is a ton of fun to just sit there in awe of what you can destroy in this game, but unfortuantly it does prove one of the all time gamer rules......Graphics don't make the game great, the gameplay does. Wreckless would have benefited by the addition of a few things, Multi-player would have been huge. Free-roam would have definatly added some replay value without multi-player. Which brings us to the real killer of alot of games, replay value.....Wreckless has none, when you complete it your done, you may pop it in to impress your friends or take a quick spin through your favorite level, but the 5 hour marathons are long gone.

10 hands down, this game is a great example of waht is possible on the XBOX. For that reason alone, and the $19.90 price tag, i wanted to add it to my collection. The in-game distruction, particle effects, explosions, shadows, and heat blur no less are nothing short of amazing. The replays can be saved, and you may want to save the cool ones, they also use different filter effects on the replay which adds a little "umph" to them. Call it eye-candy if you want, i call it a peak at whats to come.

As they say everything has an opposite, were Wreckless has unbeatable graphics, it has mediocre sound at best. The dialougue is corny and the muffled dispatch voice is hard to understand at times. The"mahem" you cause with crashes and such is above average, but again, if you close your eyes your really not gonna notice anything that hasn't been done before.

Suggestions: Multi-player, Free Roam. One would have been great, both would have been fantastic. The game is a Graphical marvel, now you need to tweak the game play to match the graphics level.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 The Thing

If your a fan of hunting monsters on a rescue using flame throwers, grenades and guns, be prepared for so much more. A continuation of John Carpenters "The Thing" this picks up were the movie left off, you get dropped in the arctic to find out what happened to the scientists before you, but you also have to survive not only the inevitable apperance of the baddies, who come in varied sizes, but you need to survive the elements and each other. Great game scheme for an old style.

This game incorporates a few new elements to the gameplay. The elements, you can search around in the driving snow but don't stay out too long cause the temperature will effect you. The core of this game is in the Trust and Fear system in place. You need to earn your fellow members trust to have them listen, and act on your commands. Keep your men well stocked with ammo and pitch in on the battles to let your crew know your there for them. Fear, on the other hand effects everyone differntlly, so keep an eye on each other to avoid craking up, you never know when a memeber of your party flips and starts shooting everthing and everyone in site, including you or themselves. Throughout the game it's your job to keep your team stocked, healthy, and sane. If all that isn't enough, one of your crew could be a "Thing" in disguise, you can find blood test hypos to check your crew and yourself to ease the suspitions of your men. Your team consists of yourself (Soldier), a medic, and an engineer. Use there specialties to further your mission. This is trully a nice departure from the usuall monster hunt game. With all of these differnt features you would think the contol scheme would be a nightmare, wrong.........the controls are very easy to adapt to, and the designers did well to incorprate a "Training" scenario which covers the first 2 levels of play. For those of you who are too good to use tutorials you can switch it off in the options menu.

Visually the game delivers on all counts, great environmental effects, shadows, particle and fire effects abound. Alot of detail in the environments your in. The creatures are ok, they do the job. Charecter motion is well rendered,although i have noticed the occasional frame drop in cut sceens and game play. Not enough to relly detract form this game, but there none the less.

5.1 Dolby Digital in all it's glory. Decent voice acting, with a smattering of profanity to give it that "real" edge. Well done.

Suggestions: Multi-player in this game would have launched it to the top.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Sega GT 2002

In the tradition of the previous GT series this one does not dissapoint. A slew of cars to buy, sell, tweek and collect. Great new Garage section to enshrine your racing prowess, and a solid control scheme puts this racer at the upper end of the XBOX library.

Accurate control scheme depicts the car in use, modifications also display themselves in the control, feel and response. You can purchase cars and upgrade as you ac !&%$@#* ulate cash (and bonus vehicles) for finishing a variety of races from an oval track to Drag Racing. The parts department is available for all those upgrades and tweeks you plan to make to your car of choice. A new feature is your garage, which you can stock with your trophys,tools and other types of items for that lived in look (some nice plants are available),and photos that you can take from your actual race through the replay. A huge list of available cars from some of the biggest manufacturers. The automobile response to your controls are very acurate and tight, you have variouse camera angles to choose from as you race along the highway. The AI is very competitive compared to past versions, you race your class as to avoid complete blow-outs, very well balanced in my opinion. The use of the same tracks in different start points or slight variations is the way they present variety(ok, but should have offered more). All in all very easy to pick up and play with alot of depth for the race enthusiast. Not sure if it's a sim, but it is alot of fun.

Very nice depictions of vehicles. From reflections to accuarte hood ornaments.The environments are very different, although there aren't very many. Detailed to the cobblestone grout. The "Flat" crowd was a little dissapointing, but you go by so fast it's not a deterent. The replays are crisp and clean and a source of photographic opportunities for your garage wall. The crashes are still dissapointing, no real damage inflicted, or parts flying or hanging off. Everything you would expect from a fine tuned racing title.

This is such a great game that even after playing for such a long time i still wonder why that 70's style music is playing. Poor choice, makes athe game seem a little goofy. Environmental sounds such as engines, slides, and crashes are all well represented.

Suggestions: Some minor things like "real" crash impacts, and a few additional tracks could have added to an already solid game. Rethink the soundtrack.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Blade 2

Based on the movie charecter that spawned from a comic strip, Blade is a "Daywalker" a half breed vampire if you will. Work your way through levels killing other vampires with various unique weapons and your acrobatic skills. Power up your "Rage" to pull off some extra special mahem, and cap off your battles with some intense finishing moves. Another instalment into the Action/Horror genre, is it for you?? Good question.

This title's timing may have been a little off. With the realease of BVS a few weeks ago, that basically delivers the same game with a little more control and flair. Blade II has action, but nothing super interesting to seperate it from the pack. You get some hand to hand combat, with a questionable control scheme. (Using the right anolog stick to deliver your attack) It may suite some, but there is just enough of a learning curve that it may discourage some. There is a point system in place, so your goals are time & score driven. Bonus objectives, hidden goodies, etc...The coolest thing is probably the finishing moves, which play over a-la DTR disarm moves. There is enough to keep you plugging away in this one, but unfortunattly it's been done before and once you complete it, your pretty much going to look to shuffle this one out of your library. May appeal to those who were not smitten with Buffy, i highly recomend this title for a long weekend rental, you'll have a blast with it.

The graphics in Blade II are above average, again nothing to scream about as far as the XBOX capabilities. Some mediocre level disigns, but nice charecter representations and motion. Visual effects are pretty sharp, explosions and such. The finishing moves as i said earlier are reaaly nicelly done. Nothing earth shattering, but acceptable.

Ambient sounds are ok, the voice acting is pretty pathetic though. Obviouslly not the original charecters in this game, and the Blade trademark lines by Snipes lack any real "umph". The usuall fair as far as sound goes. Doesn't help or really hinder the game.

Suggestions: The game itself has is a great idea, it just lacks anything do make you want "This" game over others like it. Re-think the fighting system.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Blood Omen 2

A very dark and gothic tale of Kain the Vampire seeking revenge upon the ones who vanquished him. He is back to reclaim what was his and shows no mercy to anyone who stands in his path. The game plays like a movie, very cinematic, and the voice acting is fantastic. Large areas to roam and explore. An assortment of powers, weapons and ample blood make this an enjoyable horror game.

The controls are very simple to pick up and play. Motion and navigation through the game are also very simple. The story unfolds very nicelly without cut sceens per say. They blend seemlessly with your adventure. This is a fighting game make no mistake, but the addition of some very clever stealth moves and "Mist" attacks add to the fun. Kain can roam around as Mist in certain areas, which enable him to sneek behind his prey and execute a variety of cinematic kills. My personal fave, the fist through the back removing the victims heart through his chest, ther are also some nice decapitations. You can also float down behind your prey undetected to unleash a surprise attack. You can aquire weapons from your victims as you progress, unlock special powers, and increase you resiliance buy finding hidden treasures. The puzzels are just difficult enough to avoid being a hinderence to the game. The game plays very smoothly without, unfortunatlly, too much of a challenge until you get to the Boss battles. This is were the game is a little unbalanced, Boss's are always supposed to be tougher, but the game may loose a few people because of the giant difference between normal game play and Boss battles, especially the first one you encounter. Persistence pays, but gamers are a fical bunch. The other down side is, it's a single player game and has little to no replay value once you have achieved your objectives. One side note, i purchased this game at Target for $19.90, definetly a great addition to your library at that price.

Not ground breaking but very well done. Subtle things like the charecters chest expanding and contracting while he breaths, detailed locals, and gothic inspired lighting make this a visual treat. The range of motion from charecters in fight sequences is sharp and stutter free. I would have prefered Kain actually biting some necks as oppsed to the projectile sucking he uses. All in all a great effort.

Ambient effects are present but not overbearing. The voice acting is superb, blends nicelly with the ambience of the game. Slashes, screems, and footsteps all play well over a gothic and creepy soundtrack. Dolby Digital offers a emersive quality to the entire experience.

Suggestions: Improving the graphics slightly, and offering a few difernt modes of play could help the next instalment become a must have.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The appeal of this game is that it captures the quirkyness and dry humor of the TV series. If your a fan of the show and action games you will enjoy Buffy. Personally i'm not a huge fan, but watch it occasionally, and yet i found the game to be alot of fun, cast in the mold of most action games, you have hand to hand, weapons, and of course the Buffy stuff...Hellfire, Holly Water, Stakes, etc...I would like to make a comment in regards to games like this in general, people who say games of this nature are button mashers are not taking the time to learn how to play the game. That being said, the controls are easy enough to learn, you earn new moves as you progress, the "Slaying" is wonderfully done with a turn to skelital dust and disapear, then capturing the health points from each enemy a-la Genma Onimushu souls. Seemless load times, very evident in between cut sceens and game play, crisp graphics, and dialogue Buffy fans have grown to love make this game a fun and exciting action game.

Outside of playing in the easy mode this game does offer up a challenge. The fighing is very elaborate with flying kicks, spinning falls and explosive power moves, all without a graphical hitch. The story is straight from Buffy so it may not appeal to all, but it is fast paced and being able to break chairs and such to use them as a weapon was a nice touch. This is a fine action game with new ways of vanquishing the children of the night. Holly Water, Hellfire, and a good old fashioned !&%$@#* kicking give the game a good balance. Controls are tight, the weapons menu is easy enough to work with. The levels are very detailed and you do need to do a little exploring for those little bonuses. Note: Take the time to master some moves at the cost of dieing, you'll love flipping over a vampire and impaling his heart with a broom handle through the back, quick and easy. Another nice touch is that you can through your enemy on to sharp object either killing them if it pierces their heart or at bare minimum they aint goin' anywhere. The game is just fun, just like the TV show was intedned to be.The only draw back i can see is the replay value, basically the only thing that chages from easy to hard is the amount of enemies in each level. No multi-player available, so that pretty much gives the game a definate end eventually.

Visually the game is pretty slick, charecters for the most part resemble their TV counterparts, the anbient effects such as explosions, the way the vampires turn to dust, etc... are awsome. As i said before no load times at all, the game just moves along with out a single frame rate hick-up. Charecter movement and actions are also spot on. A nice flying scissor kick into a vampires face sending him into a flying spinning fall all without any lag is pretty sweet. As much as EA is on my Sh*t list latelly i have to give them credit on a job well done.

Dolby Digital is in full force as you manouver through Sunnydale. Ambient sounds are nicelly placed without being over bearing. Again the dialogue is Buffy camp at it's best, unfortunatlly it does get a little repetative. All in all the sounds of the game suit it well, nothing extrodinary.

Suggestions: I think they stuck close to the TV series on this version, which isn;t a bad thing. But a few level tweeks and varied enemies could make a sequel noteworthy. Working multi-player into this a-la Hunter would have been fantastic, not to mention add some needed replay value.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Dead to Rights

My first comment to everyone is, learn how to play the game, it's not all about shooting, you need to develope some skills. With that being said, this game has all the action you can handle and more. Done very movie like from the opening credits to the storyline. Fast paced gun play with a mixture of hand to hand and mini games (Small challenges to win cigs to trade for service, etc...)to progress through the story. There are so many ways to work your way through a chapter it's insane, and i would venture that no 2 players did it the same way. Each chapter (Level) is a slightly different game, shooter once, fighter the next. The addition of a well designed control system (IMO), human shields, awsome disarm moves, wall mode (the best i've ever seen) and mans best friend to bail you out in a pinch makes for a very intriguing game. Difficult at times, but i've noticed if you study the action it's more managable. DO NOT BUTTON MASH!! You'll just get frustrated. I think the developers deserve alot of credit, we always say graphics don't make a game, well, they delivered adequate graphics and put all the effort into the game. Addicting, exciting and hard to put down.

I will admit, after my first hour of play i was ready to pitch the game, so i put it down and came back to it later, i'm glad i did. Gameplay takes a little getting used to,not because the controls are difficult, but figuring out the best way through a situation. A good example is the slow motion bullet time. This will definatly give you an advantage over a crowd of thugs, you can shoot one and immediatlly target the next with a flick of your right joystick, nail as may as you can before you hit the ground, works well with shotguns. Another wonderfull effect is exploding canisters, yep, throw a canister into a crowd, target it and KABOOM!! In the unfortunate instance you blow through all your ammo in the middle of overwhelming forces, you can send Shadow (Your Dog) in for a quick attack and retreval of a weapon. Maybe a little odd, but i think it was a nice touch. The levels are designed as "Chapters" in the story, and each one is a little diffrent from the other, in chapter 3 you need to get yourself out of prison, your a cop on the inside with no friends and no gun, you do the math. I feel that the way the game kinda changes as you go along is it's appeal, you do feel like your in the story. There is just so much to this game i feel no review could do it true justice.

OK, OK, visually this game is nothing to stand up and cheer about, as far as XBOX standards. The charecters, environments, and effects are all well done, could have been better, but i have to give them a little bit of a pass because the time they spent on the actual game is evident. The camera angles have their moments, but they are few and far between, lighting , shadows and such, agian, are all above average. In short, the graphic short comings take nothing away from this game.

Lots of ambient sounds, takes full advantage of 5.1 DD. They did pay attention to detail, a shotgun sounds nothing like a machine gun or asault rifle, you hear the bullet casings hitting the floor, and the pounding heart of our hero when he is near the end adds some suspence. The voice acting is ok, very "Typical" lines and comments. Again i have to give the game a little pass due to the game itself.

Suggestions: If this games graphics were brought to an XBOX level, this game would have been perfect. Job well done none the less. Knock me out with DTR2.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 NFL 2K3

Let's get something out of the way right off the bat...If your a Sega fan this game will appeal to you, if your a Madden fan you'll think it's crap, and if your a Fever fan it's a 50/50 split. I think alot of "What your used to playing" comes into play on these particular games, so take this, and other reviews with a grain of salt. With that being said, i am a Sega fan, have played the 2K series since the begining and it just keeps getting beter. This game is for the Football purist, no more raking up the score in Rookie mode my friends, your gonna have to really play to your strengths, and pound on your oponents weeknesses. A little adjustment is due for 2K2 alums, the basic controls are the same, timing and "touch" are a little different. The Franchise mode is as deep as an ocean, the addition of being able to import rookies from Sega's NCAA 2K3 is awsome, draft 'em take a look at them at the combine, yes you heard me, the combine. You have 7 game modes to choose from, Offseason tasks, and even may need to talk that veteran out of retirement for one last shot at the trophy. This is console football at it's best, and with the XBOX Live enabled modes it will be the cream of the crop.

Gameplay is a little slower than earlier 2K instalments, but not enough to cause any problems. The passing game is tight and the "MAX PASS" option is perfect, sharpen your timing and reads, it's more challenging than ever. The running game is dead on, no more stepping over 5 guys into a break away, either find the hole or follow your blockers or your dead meat. The "On the Fly Hot Routes" is a great edge to any die hard. Did you call a running play and noticed your WR in single coverage, and TE on the line with no one really covering him, Audible out and then set up a hot route on the fly and send your TE on a corner route and take the deffense by surprise. There are so many subtle, yet accurate tidbits to this game that you just need to play it to find out how good it really is. The great replays are also back and you can save them as a highlite reel of your most spectacular moves, Create-a-player, and Create-a-team are also back and polished up in this version. The ESPN addition suites the game well and pushes it up a notch on the scale, Quarterly ESPN stats are announced and at the half they even pick a "Hot at the Half" player. Weekly rap ups a well done with highlites of the weeks best plays. Player introductions, Stats, Free Agents, Combine, Draft, Rookie Sighnings, Coach's Desk, Calendar, Front Office, Trades, and even settting a Gameplan week to week...THIS IS AS CLOSE AS YOUR GONNA GET SITTING IN YOUR RECLINER!!

2K3 corrected just about all the 2K2 issues. Clipping, movement, etc..The charecter liknesses and movement are very well done. The addition of some exciting block, catches, and tackles make the game an eye popper. Split screen replays and the occasional telestrator diagrams add to the games appeal. Sideline animation increases the level of realism during a game. Stadiums and Uniforms are recreated very well also. The graphics are fluid and show no hickups at all. Running backs stumbling for extra yards after an atempted shoe string tackle never looked so good.

It's a football game, the crowd cheers and boos just when they are supposed to. The player chatter and QB audibles are fantastic. The Dolby Digital does put you in the middle of the action making the hits and graons very realistic. Nothing earth shattering, but this is just a football game, and for a football game it's perfect.

Suggestions: Can't really think of anything at the moment. Good Job.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Enclave

With all the variuos reports on this game i wanted to make sure that i gave it time and judged it accordingly. What i found was 2 minor annoyances and a pretty stable and exciting game. Enclave takes place in a breathtaking world visually, and the charecters are perfectlly suited to the fictional world. A combination hack & slash, puzzle solver, and a quest keep you moving along this adventure. A word of advice, if you play this game and just rumble through it mashing buttons and not taking the time to explore and master your skills you may feel this game is lacklustre. If, on the other hand, you give it a fair shot, you will find this game is very worthy of your time & investment.

If you like fantasy based games, swords, and magic. This game will apperal to you. You can play the game in 2 campaigns, the Light and The Dark. Dark campaign is unlocked after completing the Light campaign. Different charecters and degree of difficulty are you bonus for beating the Light Campaign and undergoing the Dark. There are a total of 12 charecters, 6 for each campaign, varying in skills and atributes. You unlock new charecters as you progress, and can trade in your basics for weapon,armour, and magic upgrades. Combat controls are easy enough to get used to, the teargeting system is nice, it will give you a color (Green,Orange,Red) which corresponds to how well of a shot or attack you will have. Needless to say, a red targeting halo, with the cursor on an unsuspecting vitims head will drop him immidiatlly. Different charecters are better suited for different levels so you may want to experiment. You have a set amount of gold you can discover along with other little bonuses in each level, take the time to find some loot and spend it freely to upgrade your charecter making your next level a little more manageble. All in all the game is a wonder to see, the sounds of the environment are well done. Utilizing DD also draws you in when you hear arrows wizzing by your head. Again, if you explore, and truely give this game a chance, it will not dissapoint. Now the 2 reasons this game falls short of the perfect 5 for me...1,Multi-player. I only want to now why?? Why was it not incorporated into this game. 2,Level Saves. At bear minimum this game could have used a check-point style save system a-la-Halo, but what we are left with is having to finish the level before you are able to save. Small consilation, prior to facing bosses you do have a check-point save in place, which leaves me asking, " Why not throughout the game". Enjpoyable none the less, worth your time to make up your own mind.

Well, this is were the game makes up alot of ground. Visually awsome, very similar to Hunter the Reckoning. Clean, smooth, no frame rate problems, nice textures, shadows, etc...As in Hunter, the camera angles on rare occasions are a problem. I'm not sure if it pushes the XBOX power to it's limits, but it's very nicely done.

The charecters voices are acceptable, a little repetative, but not anoying. The ambient sounds are prefect throughout. The effects are well suited to the game, from slashes of your sword, to the sound of your crossbow as it fires. Well balanced.

Suggestions: I think this game was a few tweeks from greatness. It may be overlooked because of it and thats unfortunate. Take a hint from Tecmo maybe and release an update disk. If there is a Enclave 2 it would have to be perfect to warrant my investment seeing as this one was so close.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Splashdown

In the spirit of SSX Tricky, this game is alot of fun. 18 loations to choose from, from beautifull Maui to the Florida everglades, during a rain storm with choppy water no less. Overall this is a great racer, tight controls,great tracks with a few surprises, and Graphics and sound to match. Plenty of modes to keep you rollin', Career, Arcade, VS, & Training Mode with mini modes like Time Trials, Countdown, Copycat, and Free Ride. 8 Charecters to choose from, 3 Difficulty settings and you can also unlock racers and wet suits throughout. This game will probably be overlooked by many, but you owe it to yourself to check it out.

I think most of the appeal is in how this game engin runs, silky smooth and tight, i think most players will use the "B" control configuration which make the right trigger your throttle. Although i have the feeling that the control will be what turns some players off. The subtleties in your racers position on the craft, leanng, and manuvering the bouys to increase your craft performance are key, but take time to master. The performance meeter is a nice touch, basically, the better you slolom through your runs and pull off tricks the better you craft will perform. Start missing those bouyes and your gonna stall. There are 3 Tiers of trick (Total of 27) plus 9 signature tricks, from stretched out "Lazyboys" to "Submarine" manuvers which come in helpfull finding "Hidden" short cuts. There is deffinetly enough to keep you busy here and the developers added a few touches that many will enjoy (Shipwrecks that are actually ramps)and a few "Cute" surprises. I only have 1 complaint, If your gonna have multi-player why make it only for 2 players.

Best looking water to date, that being said, the rest of the game is right up there. Fluid motion by your crafts and beautifull locations. No clipping or drop in frame rate were noticible and thats inpressive considering when your in the everglades you have a downpoor, waves with choppy water, and the racers going full throttle through all of this without a hickup. a little arcady but not to the point of SSX. Great engine, great job.

Above average, you can load your own music. The available music is great, Smashmouth and such, the effects are not mindblowing but adiquit for the game. The sound really let's the game be the center of attention and adds just enough "ambience'" for lack of a better word.

Suggestions: Need more than 2 players. System link would have been nice.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Test Drive

WOW! How can you take such a great premiss and kill it. I meen 30 minutes into this game my mind is on what i should have for breakfast tommorow. There is no "Excitement" in this game it's just blah. The simplest way to make you understand what i'm talking about, you would think a Cuda or '64 Camaro would sound a little beefier than a Supra, not in this game, no, no, no, they all just rev and squeel the tires. The game lacks any emotion. PGR this ain't, and Tokyo Extreme it will never be. To Bad.

Again the premis of the game and the choice of vintage muscle cars is more than appealing, but it's a Sunday drive, not a heart pounding, asphalt burning race. It "IS" your fathers Oldsmobile.

Visually the game fairs much better. The vehicles are very nicely done. The city scapes are also pleasing. But compared to PGR and Rally Sport...this one gets left in the dust. If the game played better the graphics could have saved it completlly, unfortunatlly graphics alone do not a game make.

The soundtrack is awsome. Some great artists lend there talents to some great songs. The in game sounds...again, attention to detail has cost this game. I want to hear that throughty muffler from "Elenore" from the movei Gone in 60 Seconds, not resampled engine sounds from Pole Position. Common, can't we do better than taht?

Suggestions: Be true to the genre. Racing games should get your blood racing, heart pounding, and them palms nice and sweaty. This game barelly has a pulse. Great idea, bad excecution.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Outlaw Golf

Well take one of the most upper crest sports around and fill it with the "everyman" angle, what do you get? Outlaw Glof! This game is a fun, challenging, roll through the links not to be matched. A multitude of options and unlockable goodies. Great graphics and dialogue put this over the top as a must have party game.

The immediate appeal of the game is the adult nature of the charecters and content as far as the "Off" humor involved. Stripers and bikers abound in this cast of charecters. Whithin the 3 courses available you also have 8 exhibition modes, Tour Mode and of course the Outlaw Range where you can sharpen your skills and increase your charecter stats. But the most interesting feature is &; and "Beat your Caddy" which work together. As you play your composure goes up or down, play a good game and your composure goes up, but start slicing, and hitting those sand traps and your composure goes down the toilet. The games difficulty varies depending on your composure. But fear not there is a way besides golfing to improve your composure, as you par you earn "Beat Tokens" whick earn you the right to beat the snot out of your caddy, the better the beating the more your composure recovers. As much fun as all of this is, the real surprise is the golfing. Hypnotix scores big with this engine, super tight controls deliver the most realistic golfing experience on a console to date. Precise golf swings, and the option of bringing up a grid overlay once your on the green with some ungodly breaks. The fun is next to none, but the actual golf game under the humor is fantastic. Multi-player modes makes this games lasting appeal almost endless.

Visually this game just continues to shine. Charecter renderings are very well done, charecter motion is also flawless. Attention to detail on the courses is amazing. Tree's swaying in the wind, planes flying by, you will even notice a few birds occasionally visiting. It's so realistic you almost don't notice it. The "effects" are also nicelly done, water, sand, etc...Even the splash and dust as the ball makes impact are perfect. No frame rate problems or hickups noticed during my playing time. A+

Sometimes the "sounds" of a game are overlooked. This is not the case in Outlaw Golf. Dialogue is funny and well thought out. The commentary is equally funny with perfect information being offered up. 5.1 is utilized to the max, it's very cool to hear the train rolling by behind you as you tee up your shot, not to mention the cheers and jears from the gallery. Another A+.

Suggestions: As close to perfect as you can get. Job well done.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Elder Scrolls III : Morrowind

This game is a TRUE RPG in every sense of the word. Vast worlds, what seem to be endless twists and turns through your entire journey. You will get lost in this game.Minutes turn to hours as you develope and grow, become enemy or allie, fight or die. Morrowind is devided into 18 regions, and you can very easily spend 10 hours exploring each one. In addition to your main quest, you may embark on faction quests, and a slew of other adventures to keep you going through this wonderfull gaming experience. True RPG fans should not be dissapointed. Despite some minor flaws, Elder Scrolls III:Morrowind delivers the goods.

As in most RPG's the exploration and development of your charecter is what drives the game. Morrowind accomplishes both almost to perfection. Build your charecter from the ground up or with some help from the game. Be a noble honest man or a lying, murdering thief. Learn to conjour, cast spells, summon the dead. Smother people with kindness to get what your looking for, or lie, cheat, steal, even kill to complete your objective...the choice is yours.
Combat is a little awkward at times, regadless of which methos you use, first person or third. You can tweak your controls to your likeing along with the usuall options.
Potions, magic and such has a little bit of a learning curve to overcome, but when you master it, the controls toggle through all of your desired option very easily and quickly.
Exploration of this endless world uncovers many hidden treasures, you just have to look anywhere and everywhere. Stray off the beaten path and be pleasantly pleased. The good points outway the few dissapointments in this game. If you are the type to explore and take on any challenge, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind will keep you very busy.

Visually comapred to what we know can be delivered, Morrowind faulters a bit. The real time effects are wonderful, the villages and "MOOD" of this game is perfect, all the ingredients are here for a visual masterpiece...But some all to familiar problems plague this game. Frame rate faulters when there is a little too much going on, secondary charecters are a little lack luster in appearence and motion, I'm no technocal genius, but it once again seems like the console powerhouse is left not tapping into it's full potential. You can't help but play this game and wonder if they pushed it to the perverbial limit. Adequate for the game, but dissapointing to the system.

The sounds of Morrowind are quite appealing. From the distant thunder, and rain drops hitting the cobblestone, to the fantastic music score in the background. Digital fans will enjoy the use of 5.1 in this game. The dialougue at times is a bit repetative and bland, but it takes very little away from the game. Charecters could have used a bit more personallity.

Suggestions: If the graphical envelpoe wasn't need to.

Charecter dialouge needs some "Personide of that i wouldn't cahnge a thing.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Hunter: The Reckoning

Halelulia !! The next "GREAT" XBOX title has arrived! This game is fantastic, hard to put down, and addicting as all get out. I can only come up with 2 critisisms, 1-For as great as the in game graphics are the cut scenes should have been better.2-Auto centering for the camera view. Both of these minor flaws are forgiven about 10 minutes into this game. Hack and slash has never looked better or been more fun!! From now on it will be Halo & Hunter side by side, 2 fantastic reasons to own an XBOX. GO BUY THIS GAME!!!!

Aside from the camera problem this game is very close top perfection. Play as 4 completlly different charecters. Different in weapons, strengths, style...Your blood will race as the soundtrack kicks into overdrive and your sourounded by a sea of undead, master your moves my freind your in for the long haul!! Weapons abound, and believe it or not you do have to accomplish more than just decapitate a few zombies. Each section is mition based, there are secrets to be found, and all of this is delivered in a beatifully presented experience in both sound & vision.

The cut scenes as the game starts kinda makes you say "Hay what gives, this looks like any other game" but let the game start and your in for a visual treat. Detailed environments, awsome charecter rendering, zombies and ghosts never looked so good. The scenery is awe inspiring, the cobble stone walkways, the tombs, the weapons, and the list goes on and on. No disapointments here.

The sound track, unlike Silent Hill 2 were it just creeps you out, is exciting and haert pounding, imagine the movie Blade if you will. Ambient sounds don't dissapoint either, russling leaves, brush, screems, howling, the clang of your battle axe as it accidentally hits a burning's just ALL there!!

Suggestions: Take a hint from DOA3 and have an add on disk with new charecters & weapons.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams

If your into the horror genre,this game is very entertaining. Creepy visual effects and sound help draw you into this scin-crawler. Although i know this game is not for everyone, if you enjoy a good scare you will enjoy this game, VERY ENTERTAINING!

Gameplay is pretty basic, you can manuvre in a 2D or 3D mode, straight forward item exchange. The true appeal of this game is that it will scare you. I think Konami went to great lenghts to achieve this. The fog plays tricks on you just like in real life, you may start buy plowing forward, but you will catch yourself slowing down a bit and peaking around corners, very cool! The puzzels are solvable, you can edit the difficulty of the game and puzzles, which is a nice touch to avoid getting frustrated. High rating for creepiness factor alone!

This is were the game shines, it may seem like nothing, but the fog effects make the game what it is...CREEPY! Cut scenes are very nice, no jaggies, pop-up etc... to be found. Charecters are well rendered, and the environment big enough to keep you going. Shadow effects are spectacular!

DON'T TURN OFF THE LIGHTS! My best advice. Ambient sound is fantastic, obscure enough not to notice right away, but when you hear the "White Noise" your heart will pick up the beat a little. Screems,creeking floor,static on a TV,walking through leaves, mud, it's a masterfull job Konami has done.

Suggestions: The control system could be tweaked a bit. A little margin for error would benefit finding and picking up objects.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Spider-Man

Overall: I think Spidey is in rare form,and is back and better than ever. Compared to it's previouse versions it does exactlly what you expect from a franchise...get's better. From graphics to overall gameplay and a story line "Spiderman: The Movie" doesn't disapoint. As far as lasting appeal, it depends on you...If you are like me and want to unlock everything and find every hidden object, this will take you some time. This is deffinetlly a FUN game to play.

Gameplay: Gameplay is crisp and challenging. The contorls in "Enhanced" mode take a little getting used to but once you get the hang of it, it's great. The levels are chanllenging enough after you get out of "Easy" mode, and the addition of hidden objects, rooms, etc.. is a nice challenge to get the score up and un-lock those bonus features. You'll find yourself reapeating levels to find what you missed.

Graphics: Visually this game is close to perfection. Vast levels, dead on movements by our favorite web slinger. The cut scenes are fantastic, and have that Stan Lee humor and sarcasim we all love. Toby McGuire and the other actors are earie in there video likeness. Web effects, water, skyscrapers, you name it, it's all good.

Audio: There really isn't alot to cheer about as far as the sound goes, but thats not bad. You have some nice 5.1 effects throughout the game, the ambient sounds are nice, and the effect sounds are very cool. Above average overall.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Fifa World Cup 2002

If your a "TRUE" fan of the other Football, Soccer, You will enjoy this game. This games short commings are overshadowed by the gameplay and action.

Gameplay is crisp and accurate, like past FIFA games. The ball handling, and finesse moves are dead on. Multi-player is big plus. The national liscensing is also huge. The pagentry and the excitement of the World Cup come through beautifully. Super accurate announcing, and awsome replays.

There are some great "Scenes" in this game, the celebrations after a goal by players, the way a player crashes to the ground after a hard tackle, the tackle itself are all wonderfull. Attention to detail is fantastic, and the stadiums are beautifull and vibrant. Now the down side,the "Clear" spaces in the overlaps and mouths and jerseys of the players is a little bit of a disapointment. Player renderings are familiar, but small details like hair and some faces leave alot to be desired. Once again it seems the XBOX potential was left behind.

Where visuals are disapointing in this game, the sounds of the World Cup are dead on. The cheers, and whistles at bad calls are amazingly accurate. The music score is very ot; like, and the player "Chatter" is very nice.

Suggestions: Graphics need some seriuos help. A "Create a player" mode would have been nice, and bring back the indoor mode. Multi-Player stretches the long term playability of this game, but having only 2 game modes is a little thin.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3

Very deep and loads of options. The game is smooth and visually pleasing. Multi-player has a nice mix of games. The challenges will test your abilities.

There is a learning curve here, but with a little time you'll be skating like a pro. Career mode is fantastic, very deep, lots of challenges. From the easy to complete to the ones that will drive you up a wall. If you get tired of a time limit, create your own park and go to town sharpening those skills. The park editor is very detailed and a fun option, the same can be said for the Create a skater. There is lots to do here, it will be some time before you get bored.

The graphics are everyting you would expect from a game running on the xbox. Smooth, crisp, it's nice when the graphics are so good you really don't get caught up in them. They are there, but they become secondary, as it should be with any great game.

There is a great mix of music and ambient sound in this game. The music is just intense enought to go withthe pace of the game without becoming anoying. The grunts and moans as you bail are a nice touch as are the comments from other AI hanging around.

Suggestions: ON-LINE play. Besides that the game is a great continuation of a great franchise.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 NBA 2K2

Without a doubt the most realistic basketball game out there. A never ending of options and gameplay. Franchise mode is next to none. Supper intuitive AI, and the zone deffense is a great perk. Sega continues the 2K series with a quality follow up to this franchise. Diehards will not be dissapointed. This is as close to playing in the NBA i'll ever get.

Gameplay takes a little getting used to, but it's dead on when you figure it out. You can start out in a rookie mode to get used to the configuration of the control and how to adjust when you go on deffense. Great replays, and the cross over move will lose you sometimes! Creat-a-Player is it's usuall mix of pre-set types to a complete custom player. Street mode is also a good place to practice your hops, and the commentary is dead on. It's going to be hard to get bored with this one!

This is where NBA 2K2 loses a little ground, visually this game is a slightly tweaked and cleaned version of the PS2 port, once again developers ignored the power available on the xbox. Don't get me wrong, the graphics are O.K, but fall way short of expectation on this system.

The commentary is great in this game, dead on on replays and player performances as the game progresses. The crowd noise is just what you would expect in an actual game.

Suggestions: If you utilize the graphic power of the xbox in 2K3, you can leave the rest of the game as is!!

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 SSX Tricky

SSX Tricky is almost a carbon copy of the PS2 version with a couple of perks.Bump mapping, and super SMOOTH gameplay on the xbox. A nice variety of play modes, and enough of a challenge to keep you comming back for more. If you like snowboarding with an arcade twist, you will love SSX Tricky.

The trick system has a comfortable learning curve, the trick book is a nice place to sharpen your skills. The force feedback in this game is fenominal, wait till you go over ice covered terain!! After a little while the contol becomes second nature and you spend most of your time planning out your next string of tricks. The challenges are just that...chalenging, but obtainable. Once you get a nice string together, pulling off Uber tricks is achieved by the push of a button, make sure you got enough air!! Gameplay runs as smooth as the slopes in this game.

Although this game is brite and energetic,it does suffer from one technical dificulty. You have a bit of drop in frame rate when more than one charecter is on the screen(Minimal but there), but to counter that you have some great Bump Mapped snow, great shadow effects, and some nice firework effects, this game is pretty solid visually.

The audio is above average inthis game, from the music, spiced up by Run DMC's Tricky, to the sound of the ice and snow under your board. One of the coolest effects is if your playing with your system hooked up to DD Suround. Hearing wise cracks from your competitors BEHIND you, or flying through some trees and hearing the brush go by, deffinetly draws you into this game.

Suggestions: I would hope any sequel will be enhanced a little more to take advantage of the XBOX. Runs smooth, but could have been much more.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Jet Set Radio Future

Overall: The vastness of the area and varying tasks makes this game hard to put down. Just as you finish one objective another one is offered up. Take a wrong turn and your locked into a tagging battle with law inforcement. Visually this game is incredible, who thought a cell shaded game could have so much depth and detail. Controls are easy enough to master. The degree of difficulty rises just enough not to frustrate you, and yet you will have a few unreachable targets, or so it seems. Multi-player has a great combination of games, Hog the Ball with 4 people is a must play. The bottom line...this game is just plain FUN. There is enough to keep you going and comming back for more.

Gameplay: Controls are very easy to learn, the timing takes a little getting used to but easilly obtainable. The single button tagging system i think is a plus compared to the DC version, and the challenges are wonderfully diverse.

Graphics: Visually this game is amazing considering it's cell shadded. There is just enough shadowing and detail to make the charecters more than pleasing. The ambient effects are second to none, flocks of birds scattering, pedestrians heading in all direction. You definettly get drawn into the game play because of these effects.

Audio: The sounds and the Music are fresh and new. No need to add your own soundtrack here. From the actual music to pedestrian comments, it's well balanced.

Suggestions: I only have a couple of gripes, all of which i can live with.
1. A better way to switch modes. Where is the "Quit" command??

2. A better save system. The save points are cool and all, but we do have a HD, where is the auto save?

3. On-Line play. This game would have been an amazing multi team type of game.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10

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