Total Reviews: 121
Average Overall Score Given: 7.45785 / 10
Total Forum Posts: 78

Dead Rising

Ah?.Capcom and Zombies. This combination goes together better than monkeys and diapers. Capcom has been refining this since the early days when they released the groundbreaking Resident Evil, and they knocked it out of the park with Resident Evil 4. Dead Rising won?t be mistaken for an attempt at Resident Evil 5, but the game is a worthy addition to their series of zombie related games.

Dead Rising starts with a simple concept. You are a freelance journalist dropped into the middle of a zombie-infested mall. Cover the story, get the scoop, solve the mysteries, and try to get out alive. Since you?re in a mall, you can grab just about anything to help you in your quest to dispatch massive amounts of the undead. You have 72 hours until the helicopter arrives to take you away?so it?s up to you to figure out how you want to spend that time.

Dead Rising just oozes with quality?the graphics are gorgeous, the sounds are fantastic (mall muzak, woo-hoo!), and the controls are excellent. Aiming firearms is done with a nice over-the-shoulder interface similar to RE4, although you?ll find yourself ignoring firearms to get a bit more up close and personal with the zombies. The amount of on-screen zombies is incredible?this game is truly amazing.

Killing the undead is a complete blast. The mall is stocked with so many items you can use?finding new ways to obliterate zombies never gets old! Baseball bat? Check. Knives, swords and axes? Check. Lawnmower?? Heck yes. You can spend hours running around finding new weapons?and you can grab just about ANYTHING: Cash registers, plants, televisions, benches, and guns, guns guns. After a long day of annihilating zombies has your health is going south, then grab some food, or mix something up in the blender. If you don?t like your clothing?then try on some new duds! If you want to run around wearing spandex, then find a sports shop! If you want to wear a tuxedo, then you can find that too! If you want to wear a dress, then you?re a sick, sick freak (but, you can do that, too).

Dead Rising uses an interesting leveling up system. As you complete tasks, quests, or just general mayhem, you gain points that you can use to increase your stats, skills, and moves. (Hand to hand combat becomes much more amusing as your level progresses). The great news is that your stats, outfits, and powers stay with you, even if you die and start a new game. This is a GREAT idea, since it doesn?t force you to start at square one on subsequent replays.

The story line in the game is fine, and keeps you going as you try to uncover the mystery. You also get plenty of requests to help out other hapless shoppers caught in the mess. Rescuing survivors nets you incredible points for leveling up, so you?ll want to lend a helping hand when you are able. Since you?re a journalist, you?ll also want to take lots and lots of pictures?and you get bonus points for taking dramatic pictures, action photos, and so on (you can even take dirty pictures, you sick perverts). When you complete the story line, it opens up a new ?overtime mode?, which is basically just a one-day extension of the main story. If you make it through that, then you are rewarded with ?infinity mode.?

Replayability is through the roof on this game. You simply can NOT do everything in one play through, which encourages repeat plays. Play again and try to save that helpless survivor that you ignored last time, or just try to defeat one more maniac psychopath.

Dead Rising does have its share of negatives. First off, the save system is atrocious. You get ONE save slot?that?s it, and frankly, it is inexcusable in this age of next-gen games. If you have a buddy that wants to start his own game, you?re out of luck (unless you have a spare memory card, I guess). Save spots are few and far between, and it is too easy to ?save yourself into a corner??where it is impossible for you to complete the storyline.

Bosses can be too difficult, and not in the: ?Gee, that was challenging? way?more like the: ?Gee, I just emptied my entire machine gun into his face, and his health is only down by ¼.? Because of the awful save situation, this can lead to a lot of frustrating replaying of sections. Some bosses can take 10-20 minutes just to GET to, and if you die, you?re all the way back, traveling the same path (instead of just jumping to a ?checkpoint? where you get to start the boss fight again). Not to mention, if you manage to defeat some psycho boss, and stumble out with minimal health, only to get aced and have to start the whole thing over again. Inexcusable?at least auto-save after a major battle so I don?t have to replay it again!!!

The game promises ultimate freedom, but to be honest, you?re kind of handcuffed to the story line. If you miss a scoop, or don?t get to a spot on time, then it?s game over. Seriously?the game ENDS. The first time through the game, I felt like I had no time to explore?there were whole sections of the mall that I had to zip past as I was on a serious time crunch to complete the story quickly. There were people I wanted to try to save, but just couldn?t because I was a story-slave errand boy. This is really too bad?Dead Rising is a game just BEGS to be explored.

The second part of the game (?overtime mode?) is where you complete the game to get the ?true ending.? Frankly, overtime mode just isn?t that much fun. Enemies become much more difficult, and tedious to dispatch. In overtime mode, there is even less time to explore, and is even more lacking in enjoyment. You do have to clear it in order to unlock ?infinity mode??which has to be AWESOME, right??

Wrong. Infinity mode is the most hideous piece of garbage I?ve ever seen, and one of the most disappointing features. First off, I was expecting a mode with infinite freedom to do whatever I wanted?like keep leveling up, learning new moves, find more hidden stuff, and so on. I mean?that?s what you?d assume would happen, right? Instead, you are greeted with an atomic wedgie.

First off, you can?t level up in infinity mode. Because you can?t level up, you can?t learn new moves or skills. Your health constantly drains (so you can?t just camp out somewhere?you?ll die), and you have to spend your entire time looking for food. Certain areas of the mall (like the grocery store) are CLOSED (so much for total exploration, eh?), and certain items are disabled (like blenders?so making cool new drinks is out). You can?t take pictures, and you can?t look at your watch. All of your kill stats erase. There aren?t any missions. To top it all off?you CAN?T SAVE. So?if you?re looking for a marathon game where you survive for 7 days, then you?d better clear some time from your schedule. As it is, infinity mode would have been decent if it was added on as some kind of ?arcade mode?, and you were rewarded with what everyone wants?true, unlimited freedom to do what you want.

Dead Rising is a frustrating game to rate. This game could have been one of the greatest games of all time. You could replay it hundreds of times, and it just wouldn?t get old. Instead, the game has been crippled by the horrible save system, lousy boss battles, a tedious 2nd part of the storyline, and a lack of a true ?free roam? mode.

Complaints aside, the game is still incredible, and is worthy of a purchase. It?s just unfortunate that Capcom missed so horribly in certain spots with a game that is so amazing in just about every area.

Overall Score: 9.2 / 10 Table Tennis

Two thoughts went through my mind when I heard about Rockstar?s Table Tennis. First off, I was shocked they were making a Ping Pong game on the Xbox 360. The most powerful gaming console seemed like an odd choice for a game like this. Even more curious, this rather tame sounding game was being developed by Rockstar ? the bad boys of the video game industry. But, the biggest surprise was what I found out after I played the game. It?s good? real good.

This game could not have come at a better time. After nearly 30 years of Pong/Tennis video games, I was thinking there wasn?t much left to do with the game type, and that it might be growing a little stale. Rockstar?s Table Tennis puts a whole new spin on it, and breathes some new life into the oldest video game genre.

The game works so well largely because of fast paced frantic action on a relatively small playing field. The physics behind the lightweight ping pong ball is another thing that makes it stand apart from your standard tennis game. The spin on the ball is a lot more exaggerated, and there are a wider variety of hits. The gameplay tweaks go a long way to creating a gaming experience that is just pure frantic fun.

While most games in this genre make you build up a character through monotonous training exercises, Rockstar gives you a cast of characters from around the globe that require no training. It?s a welcome change and adds to the pick up and play fun nature to the game. Much like a fighting game, the characters each have their strengths and weaknesses, and a unique style. Unfortunately, there is a downside here. The players are fairly uninspired stereotypical representations of whatever region they hail from. Worse yet, there is no player create mode, and with a very limited number of given characters this would have been a very useful feature.

While the characters may need a little work, the star of this show is the gameplay. The controls are tight, very satisfying, and easy to pick up after just a couple games. There are four basic shots mapped to each of the main buttons on the 360?s controller ? top spin (A), back spin (Y), left spin (X), and right spin (B). Not only can you visually see the spin on the ball just by the trajectory, but the ball will also glow the color of which button was used to hit the ball. So, if you hit a right spin (B button) shot, the ball will have a slight red glow. If you can react quick enough and hit the same type of shot back at the player, you can make the spin even more effective. Aiming of a shot is done with the left thumbstick. The rumble feature of the controller is put to very good use by rumbling slightly to let you know your shot will be near the edge of the table. If you hold the direction too long it will start to rumble even harder, letting you know your shot may be off the table, unless you quickly change direction.

As you connect with solid, fully charged shots, a focus meter will fill up. The focus meter has three stages (red, yellow, and green), and can be rather confusing at first. In the first stage it is red, and upon filling it up it will automatically kick in to focus mode for a short time, in which your shots are much more effective. Upon depletion, the meter will turn to yellow, and eventually will build up to the green, which is the most powerful, longest lasting of the three. If both player?s meter fill up in the green, the surrounding area around the table will go dark and both players can hit some fast and wild shots back and forth.

While the gameplay is nearly flawless, if this game has one problem it is that it has very few frills. It has the standard tournament and exhibition modes. It also has a very nice Xbox Live component, complete with a Tennis Network in which you can watch others play. While all those are well done, that is pretty much it for the game. There are only a few unlockables, such as characters and clothing, but what is there is fairly boring. The unlockable costumes are essentially just a different colored T-Shirt of the one that was already unlocked. There is a lack of any customization (no player create, player edit, etc?). There are no mini games and no story mode. Some of this can be expected, as it is not a full priced title, but it was a little more stripped down than I had anticipated.

You won?t be buying this game because it shows off the power of your Xbox 360. While the visuals are serviceable, I couldn?t help but to think it was not a game that really needed a next generation platform. It probably would have been just as fun on the original Xbox.

The character models are light years ahead of anything we?ve seen before from Rockstar, but then again they?ve never been known for having spectacular character models. However, these were on par with what we?ve seen on the 360 in other games, and it gives hope to what we may see in Grand Theft Auto IV.

In the audio department everything is simple, but effective. The basic ping pong sounds are captured faithfully, and there are some added sound effects for when you are hitting focus powered shots. The sound changes nicely to fit the arena you are in ? such as there being more of an echo in the barren warehouse venue. As for the voice work, there is not a lot of dialogue, but all of the characters speak in their native tongue, and the PA announcer is non-intrusive and fits in nicely. There is some subtle use of background music - such as it starting to play during a longer volley ? but overall the music is very sparse and unnoticeable. You?ll likely be using the custom soundtrack feature with this title.

The bottom line is that while there are not a lot of extra bells and whistles to this title, Rockstar?s Table Tennis is a tremendously fun, fast paced game that?s tough to put down once you get started.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Rumble Roses XX

Having played the PS2 version of Rumble Roses, I expected the newly released Xbox 360 version, Rumble Roses XX, to be an over the top wrestling game. It was around the time that my character was tickling a defeated opponent on the beach with a giant hand on a stick that I realized the game exceeded my expectations in that regard. Quite simply, there is nothing subtle about RRXX.

RRXX is a wrestling game with a cast made up entirely of half naked females. There is all the stereotypical fantasy types ? a nurse, a schoolteacher, a cowgirl, the teen pop star, a dominatrix, a devil woman, etc... Some may be put off, or offended by the over the top, in your face sexuality found in the game. However, this is a wrestling title, and when has anything in that area ever been subtle? If there ever was a place for a ridiculously cheesy game, it is in this genre. So for those of you that enjoy wrestling games, but are tired of watching sweaty guys grapple in the ring, of if you?re a gamer who is in touch with his inner 13 year old boy, then perk up your ears because Rumble Roses may be a game for you.

Rumble Roses XX is not simply a graphically updated version of the PS2 game. There are quite a few added gameplay types (such as tag matches and 3 way battles), an online component, several more costumes, collectables, a new photo mode, a create a wrestler mode (or edit an existing character), and more venues. While those were all great additions, Konami curiously took away the story mode. Sure, the story didn?t make a lot of sense ? it was mainly about a girl who tries to rescue her brainwashed sister and ends up fighting her dead mother (who has been turned into a robot) ? but the wacky story fit in perfectly with the rest of the game.

Without the story, your task in the single player mode is to simply unlock a massive number of characters and special items. Every character has a face (good) personality and a heel (bad) side. At the start of the game you are given one version of the character. If you successfully raise the popularity of each wrestler, you will unlock the opposite personality. I found it much easier complete this task with the face wrestlers, as all you are required to do is win the match without doing anything considered illegal (like using weapons). The heel wrestlers are a little trickier as you have to win the match and fight dirty in the process to get any popularity boost. So, with several characters and items to unlock you?re sure to get several hours out of the single player game, even though it is devoid of any story.

In between matches there are a few additional activities to distract you. New to this version is a create a wrestler mode. You can customize everything from the costume to the wrestler?s body proportions. After winning a few matches you can purchase/unlock the camera at the shop and take pictures of your wrestler (or any character) in suggestive poses. Those pictures can be uploaded onto Xbox Live, where you can download and view other player's pictures.

Another new feature is the Queens Match, in which the loser is humiliated by being tickled with a giant hand on a stick, made to jump rope, strike a sexy pose, clean herself like a kitten, etc? It?s an event that is both hilarious and creepy all at the same time.

Of course, all this glitz and over the top presentation means nothing if there isn?t some competent gameplay attached. RRXX has a decent wrestling engine at its core, but it is not without a few problems.

The main controls consist of a strike button and grab button which can be combined with the directional pad to vary the types of attacks. The type of grab also is dependent on where you are standing in relation to your opponent. At the top of the screen is a finishing move gauge - when you fill the meter up you can pull off a ?killer move? or in special circumstances a ?lethal move?. There is another gauge on screen called the ?humiliation game?. Certain moves will cause the opponent to become humiliated ? fill up the gauge and you can pull off a ?humiliation move?. There is also a special ?Double X Move? that can be pulled off with your tag team partner when both players have a full finishing move meter.

Back from the original title is the ability to damage specific body parts. Keep attacking your opponents head, or putting them in a head submission hold and you will weaken that body part until they can?t take any more and must tap out. You can also utilize weapons ranging from a guitar to a whip. Some characters - usually the heels - start with a weapon, but you can also find them hidden at locations in each arena.

The main problem with the gameplay is that the matches can become repetitive. While every wrestler is a little different, and has different moves, you?ll likely find a few moves that work for you and stick to those. Another problem is that there are times that you don?t feel in total control. Often you?ll attempt to pull of a specific grapple, only to do something completely different. This problem is caused by asking a single button to do every grab move, and the fact the type of grab depends on where you are standing in relation to your opponent as well as where you are in the ring (different grabs will occur near the ropes). However, despite the problems, it is an effective engine, and there are some fun finishing moves.

RRXX received a massive upgrade in visuals when compared to the PS2 version, but that by itself doesn?t say a lot. Ultimately they are very hit and miss. The character models are well done, and they are the bright spot of the visuals. I was slightly disappointed by the arenas and background visuals. The arenas are largely boring, and you won?t find yourself admiring the scenery. While the elimination of the story mode means you won?t be watching any cut-scenes, there are quite a few entrance movies (every girl has two) that are rendered with an in game engine. The entrance movies range from hilariously awful to really lame and boring and after watching them once or twice it?ll just be something to skip over to get to the match.

There isn?t much to brag about in the audio department. There is some really, really bad elevator type music to be found, as well as some extremely schlocky pop/rock. Most of the voice acting is fair, but the announcer is incredibily grating.

The bottom line is that Rumble Roses XX does exactly what it sets out to do, and for that I give it a passing grade. However, it?s definitely not a game for everyone, and it all comes down to whether an all girl wrestling game wrapped in a soft core porn package sounds appealing to you. It?s one of those rare games where you know exactly what you are getting before you play it. You simply need to trust your instinct on this one.

Overall Score: 7.4 / 10 Fight Night Round 3

There were several moments while playing Fight Night Round 3 that I found my jaw hitting the floor in amazement. One of those moments was the first time I laid eyes upon the unbelievably realistic character models that are like nothing we?ve seen before from an in game character. After I got past being in awe of the graphical shine, I was equally amazed at the realistic gameplay and unique control utilized for the fighters.

The last thing to make my jaw drop was out of sheer amazement over how much product placement EA managed to fit into one game. During the game you can strap on your Dodge shoes, pull up your Under Armor shorts, slip into your EA boxing gloves, and fight in the Burger King match ? complete with the creepy Burger King guy (from those TV commercials) as a corner man. This is the video game equivalent to one of those NASCAR cars? there is hardly a spot left in the game that doesn?t have an advertisement plastered on it. I half expected to see the ring girl turn around and have a McDonalds logo tattooed on her backside. While this last jaw dropping moment wasn?t a good thing, I?m happy to say it doesn?t distract much from the other more important aforementioned good points.

One thing the Fight Night series has always strived for ? and succeeded at ? is creating a sense of realism. This is not a button mashing arcade fighter. You won?t get far in the career mode ? or against a halfway skilled opponent ? by standing in the middle of the ring and mindlessly wailing away. Adding to the realism, the game is loaded with real boxers from Muhammad Ali to Roy Jones Jr. that all look so realistic you?d swear you were watching an actual fight. The game also has a realistic presentation. You won?t find any health bars cluttering up the screen. Instead, you have to use other clues ? such as the well crafted camera that gets unsteady along with the boxer ? to gauge when your opponent is about to go down.

FNR3 has all the play modes that you?d expect. At the center it has a career mode, in which you can build up a real life boxer (like Ali) and take him to the championship, or you can create your own boxer. The create a boxer feature is incredibly detailed and your options in crafting the face and head is nearly limitless. I found creating the boxer was nearly as fun as the action in the ring, and spent way too much time fiddling around with making representations of boxers that were not included in the game ? like Mike Tyson. Besides the career mode, you can also take your boxer online through Xbox Live, or play 2 player games on the same Xbox 360.

Over the past few years, sports games have been taking full advantage of the right analog stick ? from utilizing it for a golf swing to pulling off wicked crossovers in basketball. FNR3 carries it to a whole new level with ?total punch control?. With TPC, you can throw every punch in the game ? with a specific hand ? utilizing only the right thumbstick. It takes a few fights to really grasp it, but it is very satisfying once you get the hang of it. For those that prefer to use button presses, there is a controller option that allows you to use most of the punches with those, but if you want to master every punch, you have to use the thumbstick.

One touchy gameplay element in boxing is making the haymaker punch well balanced. In FNR3, EA did an excellent job of doing just that. It takes a little longer to pull off, and is thrown a little slower (because of the wind up). The haymaker must be used strategically as a counter punch or when a boxer leaves himself wide open. So, you will not be able to simply throw wild haymakers throughout a match without paying dearly. Landing a well placed haymaker is very satisfying and can change a match dramatically.

While I have no real complaints about FNR3 in the ring, there are a couple miscues outside the ring. One of them is the training. As you progress in career mode, you must train your boxer to hone his skills. Unfortunately, you only have a very limited number of training options (only three). The training is done through ridiculously simplistic mini-games like weightlifting (to increase your power stats), a combo dummy exercise (to increase your speed stats), and the heavy bag (for your stamina and chin related ratings). These three give you very limited options for sculpting your fighter as you desire. Other boxing games from years past, such as Rocky Legends, gave many more options, mini-games, and was implemented much better. The whole training aspect felt like an afterthought that was never fully finished, but placed in the game anyhow. Another minor misstep is the highlights between the rounds, which seemed more like really boring lowlights. Also, the ring girls between the rounds quickly become repetitive as there are only 3 that repeat over and over and over again.

If you?ve played the demo ? which was released weeks before the title hit the shelves ? you know just how gorgeous the character models are. I found myself marveling at the quality of the skin textures, and let?s just say it?s not often I stare and marvel at the skin texture of another man?s body. The slow motion knockout replays are also a thing of beauty. Watching the ripple effects on the face, or the splatter of blood and spit as the glove connects, is mesmerizing. Video game violence has never been this pretty before.

While none of the other visuals in the game will impress you quite as much as the character models of the boxers, they do look nice. The environments ? such as the crowd and venues - are well crafted. There is a variety of locations to keep things fresh ? from a desolate boxing ring in a gritty gym to a fully packed Madison Square Gardens.

In the audio department, FNR3 wins by a split decision. The sound effects ? like the booming punches ? are fantastic. The commentary is serviceable, but very repetitive. You?ll hear the same phrases repeated several times each fight.

Overall, despite a few low blows - like the massive quantities of in game ads - FNR3 is a fantastic boxing game and really shines as a next generation gaming experience.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Ridge Racer 6

Ridge Racer 6 reminds me of a really old car with a fresh coat of paint and a squirt or two of some ?new car smell? air freshener for the interior. Strip away that new glossy shine and RR6 is a game that could have been made in the mid-1990?s. It comes complete with wacky physics, confined courses (with no shortcuts or alternate routes), and unfaltering AI opponents. At its heart, it?s virtually the same Ridge Racer we?ve many times before on other systems. This is both the downfall and charm of RR6. The simplistic gameplay makes it quick and easy to pick up and play. It?s sure to please those that love the previous games in the series, but others will soon find themselves wishing there was a little more under the hood.

With a slew of unlicensed cars, unrealistic physics, fictional race locations, and no damage modeling for the vehicles, Ridge Racer 6 definitely falls into the category of ?arcade? racer. It?s very reminiscent of Burnout 3, except the spectacular crashes and blazing sense of speed have been removed and replaced with a focus on drifting and the use of turbo. There is no corner too severe that you can?t take at 200+ mph by simply letting off the gas and drifting your vehicle around it. In the event you do strike the wall, you?ll simply bounce off it unrealistically and repeatedly, much like a basketball being dribbled against the hardwood floor.

While much of the game feels a little dated, there are some fresh additions. Most notably Namco has included Xbox Live support for head to head play and a few downloadable items. There is also an amazing number of unlockable extras to be earned through both the single player and online areas. There are over 100 vehicles to be discovered as well as a video, the classic Pac-Man game, a few secret messages, and several additional races. The extras are spread out in frequent intervals throughout the single player experience, which help to keep you coming back for more.

RR6 is all about the use of drifting and turbo. By taking drifts at high speeds, you can fill your turbo meter, which is separated into 3 tanks. The faster you?re going when you drift, the quicker the tanks will fill up. You can use each turbo as they come, or you can fill up all 3 tanks which will enable you to use 2 or 3 turbo boosts at once for some serious speed. Time your use of turbo just right, and you can recharge the meter at an alarmingly fast rate by using the extra speed burst to take some really fast drifts. It takes a bit to get used to the system, but utilizing the turbo and drifting to attempt to pull off a perfect race can become quite addictive.

Ridge Racer?s single player campaign is done through a system called the ?World Explorer?. It?s a unique race tree with branching pathways that allow you to unlock extras along the way. The basic route is comprised of 111 races, most of which are straight forward and fairly easy. As you complete those, other routes appear such as the advanced route and special routes. These extra routes can be extremely challenging and highly frustrating. During the basic route, I was very pleased to see the absence of "rubber band AI" that can be found in some racers. Unfortunately, the rubber band AI rears its ugly head in the special and advanced routes, making them even more maddening. Since the cooler cars and the ending movie are earned through these harder routes, it can be quite a painful experience to nab those achievements.

While there are a ton of cars available, many of them look way too similar. Each time you unlock a vehicle you get to see a cut-scene as your car is revealed with much fanfare. However, it?s slightly disappointing when most of the cars look almost the same, or are just simple paint swaps of models you've already unlocked. There are a few truly unique cars to unlock near the end, such as a Pac-Man mini car driven by Pac-Man himself, but they come way too late in the game.

The courses also run into a problem with lack of diversity. While there are 15 different courses, many look too similar and you?ll often confuse tracks with each other. You can race each track forward and reverse, but there simply aren?t enough courses or diversity to keep the game fresh through 15+ hours and 150+ races in the single player campaign.

RR6 is a decent straight forward Xbox Live experience. The races are quick and easy to pick up and play. However, I experienced terrible lag initially until I learned that you have to shut off your media sharing with your PC for it to run smoothly. If you take that extra step to disable that feature, the game runs smoothly and is a solid XBL experience.

In the visual department, RR6 looks very crisp and clean and runs smoothly while whizzing by the various locales. However, the game lacks any extra pizzazz. The textures are flat and boring, there are only two camera angles to choose from while racing (a bumper cam and the standard behind the vehicle look), and reflective surfaces lack that something extra that you find in most of the Xbox 360 games. It looks like one of those games that you?ll put in your Xbox 360 in a few years down the road just to see how far the system has evolved from the ugliest games (RR6) to the newest and best thing (Halo 3, perhaps).

As for the audio, you won?t be doing cartwheels over anything here. The engine noises all sound way too similar from car to car. The race announcer is extremely annoying and way too hyper ? your first order of business will likely be turning this voice off. The backing music is your standard techno fare.

The bottom line is that while Ridge Racer 6 is not a bad game, it is difficult to recommend it when the Xbox 360 lineup already has two top notch racers ? Project Gotham 3 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted - both of which are a cut above this Namco offering.

Overall Score: 6.6 / 10 Perfect Dark Zero

Between Halo and Half-Life 2, the Xbox library was crammed full of tremendous first person shooters. With the debut of the Xbox 360, many fans of the genre were hedging their bets on Perfect Dark Zero - Rare?s sequel to their acclaimed game from the Nintendo 64 - to keep the tradition alive. I?m happy to report that Perfect Dark Zero hits the ground running and continues the tradition of top notch FPS on the Xbox platform.

Perfect Dark Zero has everything you could ever ask for in a top notch First Person Shooter ? a terrific set of weapons, great controls, a massive assortment of multiplayer options, varied environments, and some gorgeous graphics that easily top any console FPS to date.

While there are plenty of good points about PDZ, there are a few missteps that keep it from achieving perfection. One of the more frustrating flaws is that there are not enough checkpoints in the single player campaign, and in the event you meet an untimely death you often have to play over a large chunk of the level. I also didn?t find the story to be very gripping and at times I found myself tuning out the plot details out of a lack of interest. It?s not horrible, it just isn?t in any danger of winning a Pulitzer Prize.

The single player campaign has you jetting off to wildly varying locales throughout the 14 missions - from the South American jungle to China and everywhere in between. It?s a slightly slower paced FPS, and there is an emphasis on stealth on most missions. However, on the easy and normal difficulty levels you can generally still go in guns a blazin? without much of a problem. There are a few vehicles, such as a jet pack and hovercraft, thrown into the mix, which are a joy, but the real star of this show is the weaponry. There is a wide selection of guns thrown your way throughout the campaign, and all feel extremely well done. Most weapons have a nifty secondary function - such as adding a silencer, jamming radar, or shooting out grenades. At the end of each mission you are giving a score which, if hooked up to Xbox Live, you can compare with the top players. Also the strategies change a lot between the difficulty settings, which just adds to the already high amount of replay value.

The single player game is a solid experience, but PDZ really hits a homerun in the multiplayer park. If you like co-op, not only can you play on the same Xbox 360, but you can also team up over Xbox Live. Some levels feature branching pathways in which the co-op players are put on separate paths that intersect at certain spots ? enabling you to help out your teammate. It really adds a dimension the strategy and fun, and will give you good reason to play the level twice to experience both paths. I started out with the intent of playing the co-op for a level or two to get the feel of it, but ended up playing it for many more hours than I had anticipated ? it?s just that much fun.

You?ll also find your standard assortment of Xbox Live options, such as your standard deathmatches and capture the flag adventures. You can have up to 32 people in a match, and if you?re short of a few players of whatever number you desire, you have the option of filling out the roster with AI bots. If you haven?t jumped on the XBL bandwagon, you can also play Deathmatches all by yourself against an entire team of bots.

On top of all that, there is a very unique ?Dark Ops? multiplayer mode in which there are no specific set weapons, and you have to ?purchase? your weapons prior to the match using credits earned by your performance in these matches. The better the weapon, the more it will cost you. It?s a unique experience as you must be conscious of your budget and plan ahead.

The game controls like most FPS to grace the Xbox over the past 4 years, except for one feature ? there is no jumping. While I am sure there are those that could argue for days about the pros and cons of this, I will simply say that I found that after playing through a few missions and deathmatches that I did not miss the ability to jump and rarely thought about it. Joanna Dark can easily navigate over small ledges and stairs simply by pushing toward the obstacle, and it did not present any problems throughout the game.

Since this is a new console generation, and we?re dealing with a much more powerful platform, I expected PDZ to look prettier than anything we saw in the last generation of consoles. I was not disappointed as PDZ looks simply gorgeous, especially when playing the game on a HDTV. The lighting effects and textures on the surfaces are terrific. Another positive is the environments, which were very detailed and changed drastically throughout the single player campaign. On the negative side, I did not notice much of an improvement in the character models over the last generation of games. Also, if you?ve been playing the latest FPS on a high end PC, you likely won?t notice that much of a difference between that experience and this one.

In the sound department, the gunfire and explosions are top notch. The music is decent and blends in nicely, although I found myself frequently using the Xbox 360 feature of being able to play your own music during any game. The voice acting is a mixed bag. I found a few of the actors (especially Chandra) to be slightly annoying, but on the whole it was passable.

The bottom line is that PDZ is a top notch FPS and rivals anything we saw in the last generation in terms of gameplay, multiplayer options, and replay value. As the icing on the cake, it?s wrapped in an awfully pretty package. It will likely be a game that will still be played heavily over Xbox Live for several months to come (or until we see Halo 3).

Overall Score: 9.4 / 10 Blitz: The League

Who says you need an NFL license to make a good football game? While Electronic Arts was dumping truckloads of money at the NFL headquarters for the sole rights to their license, Midway developed Blitz: The League, a game that throws that license to the ground and then stomps all over it. Blitz is packed full of things you would never find in an NFL approved game, such as off color language, drug use, gambling, violence, and scantily clad women.

At the center of Blitz: The League is a story mode in which you attempt to take a lowly team to the championship. Your team is highly customizable from the team name, coaching staff, uniform design, cheerleaders, and player?s names and appearances. To whip these sad sacks into shape, you are given full control of their training throughout the campaign. The task of training each of your players, buying extra equipment for them, or purchasing training upgrades can be very daunting initially. More than likely you will end up wishing you had spent your money differently by the time you figure it all out. It can be a very fun aspect of the game once you get the hang of it, and your early mistakes will give you a good reason to play the campaign mode a second time through to perfect your strategy.

A unique aspect of Blitz is that you?re not stuck with the normal training tactics. You can also put your players on the ?juice? - a variety of illegal and legal performance enhancers. Most of these substances will increase a player?s strength, stamina, or speed to varying degrees, but it comes with some negatives. Many of the illegal ones will also decrease the player?s awareness, make him more injury prone, or you can risk getting a dirty test result leading to fines.

Midway did an excellent job at creating an original league from scratch. The league is based on a 3 division system, with the worst teams in Division 3 (where you start out), the average ones in Division 2, and the cream of the crop in Division 1. Your goal is to work your way up to the division 1 championship in a single year - something no other team has done before.

Each team you face has a star player, and many of these stars suspiciously resemble those from the NFL. Tito Maas, a star WR for the Arizona Outlaws, seems to be a combination of Terrell ?TO? Owens and Randy Moss (TO Moss?). Quarterback, Mike Mexico, resembles Michael Vick, whose nickname is Ron Mexico. At any rate, by the end of the campaign the league and a few of the players will nearly feel as real to you as the NFL and its players. Going into the game I was skeptical that Midway would be able to pull of a league that would make you not care about the NFL, but they certainly succeeded in this area.

On the field, the game plays very similar to traditional Blitz games. It is a very fast paced game of 8 on 8 football. New to the game is a "clash meter" that can be used to pull off some crazy moves on both offense and defense. Use it on offense to go into "bullet time" - slow down the defense and blow right past them. On defense you can utilize it to pull off some extreme hits. In addition to the clash meter, if you pull off enough big moves, your meter turns into an "unleash meter" which is slightly bigger and badder than the clash meter. It can make you invulnerable on offense, or enable you to pull off some wicked hits on defense that are likely to cause a fumble or injury.

Speaking of injuries, they are hands down one of the coolest aspects of the game, and nothing is more satisfying than crippling the opposition's star player. Landing a nasty hit that causes an injury will cause the game to go into slow motion and zoom in on an interior view of the player showing you the injury. Watching spines shatter, muscles snap, or teeth go flying is more fun than it probably should be. Unfortunately, it's not as fun when it is one of your teammates, but luckily you can choose to juice him up to get him back on the field in just a few plays. A fractured leg is nothing a shot of juice can?t fix!

One thing missing from the traditional Blitz game is the ability to smack down your opponent at the end of the play. Older versions allowed you a few seconds to hit or throw around your opponent. While you can no longer do that after every play, they did introduce brawling. If you hit your opponent with too many dirty hits it will start a brawl mode in which you have 10 seconds to land as many dirty hits on your opponent, while they try to do the same to you. The winner of the brawl is given clash icons to help build his meter into the Unleash mode.

Unfortunately, the game is lacking in some areas. First off, there are essentially no statistics to speak of ? completely inexcusable for a sports game in this day and age. The only stats to be found are a handful of league leaders in each of the major stat categories, such as yards passing, rushing, receiving, and defense. It is a puzzling omission as it could not have been difficult to include detailed stats for your players. Another irritating thing is that you are not allowed to make any roster moves of any kind. You can not substitute players, trade them, or move them to different positions. This is partly because there are a few scripted on the field incidents during the story mode that would not be possible if that person was on the bench. However, it does not explain why no roster moves are allowed during Quick play games.

Another problem is the lack of depth. Once you finish the campaign mode that is pretty much it for the game. There is no franchise option - you can not start a second season with your team. Your only option is to play quick play games, or play through the campaign mode again.

Visually speaking, Blitz looks very good. The original stadiums are imaginative, unique, and very well done. The motion capture elements ? especially the hits, are some of the best in any football game to date. The player models are solid, but aside from the differences in hair styles and skin color they all look relatively the same in the face. Some of the cut-scenes look fairly dated, and it was one of the rare games where I actually thought the in game graphics look better than the FMV on the whole. However, the bottom line is that the game looks very clean and crisp and the graphics are solid.

For the most part the sound is also decent. The voice acting includes ex-NFL player Lawrence Taylor who provides the voice for the NY Nightmare linebacker, Quentin Sands. The music is a blend of hip hop and rap, which matches the feel of the game. A few of the sound clips played during the game can get old after 30+ games, and it would have been nice if Midway utilized the custom soundtrack feature. However, the only real downer in the sound department is the announcing. The old Blitz games used a fun, over the top announcer to deliver the play by play, and it worked very well. Unfortunately they?ve replaced him with easily the most snooze inducing announcer I?ve ever heard on a sports game. It is an odd choice for a game that is anything but snooze inducing.

The good news is that none of the flaws detract from the fun of the game - it just makes you think how much further this series can grow. Where it truly succeeds is in showing that you do not need an NFL license to make a football game that is an entertaining experience. Blitz: the League is a game that would rate high in the fun factor column, but just misses the mark in the depth column. It?s a fun diversion from the standard fare, but you likely won?t be throwing away your copy of Madden 06 or ESPN 2K5 any time soon.

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 Serious Sam 2

If you like First Person Shooter games with a lot of gritty realism, whip smart Artificial Intelligence, and complex storylines, then steer clear of the Serious Sam series - very, very far away. Serious Sam is a FPS that revels in its simplicity and over the top gameplay.

The gameplay largely consists of putting you in an enclosed areas and sending waves and waves of enemies toward you to mow down. There are no complex tactics involved, and most enemies simply make a direct beeline toward your position. You rarely stop moving, and almost never remove your finger from the trigger button. It is a throwback FPS?like the old-school DOOM games, where hordes of enemies relentlessly attack, and similar in feel to classic arcade games like Robotron. This game has lots of mindless action, and plenty to keep your twitch reflexes sharp.

The lead character, Sam, is a likeable hero - despite the fact that he is a muscle bound, egotistical, testosterone filled, wise-cracking fellow. He reminds me of a cross between Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness) and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In this, his 2nd adventure on the Xbox, Sam is sent to 5 different parts of the universe to collect 5 pieces of a medallion that can be used to defeat his arch nemesis, Mental. Of course, who cares about plot? You?re just here to blow stuff up real good.

Quite simply, Serious Sam II is a weird game. There are not many games that you can say you battle zombie accountants using a parrot strapped with a bomb as a weapon in a village populated with what appears to be Smurfs. As a matter of fact, I?m going to go out on a limb and say this is the only game that does that.

The controls are like any other FPS that has been released in the last few years on the Xbox. If you?ve ever played Halo, you?ll jump right in to SSII without a problem. There are a couple small odd quirks to SSII. First off, there is no reloading. If you have 200 shotgun shells, you can continually fire without reloading until you?re out of shells. Secondly, you can throw grenades when you are dual wielding weapons (two weapons are automatically dual wielded ? the pistols and uzis). The grenade flies out without your hands ever leaving either weapon. I would really like to know how Sam is throwing those? on second thought, maybe I don?t want to know.

By now you?re probably thinking this all sounds really good, right? A game with a quirky sense of humor, non-stop wacky action, and no in depth story to slow you down does sound pretty appealing on paper. However, before you run out and purchase SSII, I should warn you that there is a downside to all of this ? the mind numbing repetition. Sure, it?s fun for a couple hours, but after 10 hours of mindless shooting at hordes of brainless enemies it can all get pretty old. It might be the only game where you actually wish things would slow down for a few moments just for a change of pace.

There are a few things injected in the single player campaign to attempt to break up the monotony, such as the ability to use a few vehicles, or gun turrets. There are also several more cut-scenes, when compared to the first Serious Sam. While those are welcome breaks from the routine, in the end it does not do much to improve the overall feeling of repetition.

On the positive side, there are plenty of game modes in case you get bored. You can play online through Xbox Live. So if you tire of the mindless enemies in the single player campaign, you can hook up against human opponents that display a wide variety of intelligence, or lack thereof. There is a co-op mode, but unfortunately it is only available through the system link feature. There is no split screen co-op on a single Xbox, and none available through Xbox Live.

SSII is also slightly disappointing in the visual category. It looks no better than the first Serious Sam ? which was released in the early days of the Xbox. Being that this was released nearly 3 years later ? in the twilight years of the Xbox - I expected to see noticeable improvement between the games. Unfortunately, that was not that case. Most surfaces look very flat and uninspiring. There were times where I felt like I was in a world crafted by Nintendo - a Mario-esque type world - colorful yet flat looking surfaces.

The music mostly consists of generic melodies that play up tempo when there are enemies around, or on those rare occasions where there isn?t anything in the vicinity to shoot at, it plays much more softly. Since enemies spawn from every conceivable direction, it is handy to have the music as a cue when something is nearby.

Sam?s voice is one of my personal favorites in any video games. It?s very distinct, humorous, and is a booming bass filled tone. My one beef is with the grunt Sam makes when he jumps. If you move Sam close to a small ledge or stair step he makes the grunt noise automatically. Get in a tight space near a step or ledge and you can hear Sam grunt repeatedly. It can get very annoying. The rest of the voice work is serviceable, but unmemorable. The same goes for all the gunfire, explosions, sound effects, etc? very unremarkable one way or the other.

The bottom line is that if you can overlook the mind numbing repetition and you?re looking for a FPS with non-stop brainless action and a quirky sense of humor, than SSII is for you.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Tecmo Classic Arcade

A few of you may be surprised to learn that roughly 20 years before Tecmo was developing drop dead gorgeous games like Ninja Gaiden and their Dead or Alive series, they were in the arcade business making relatively average looking 2D style games. What is possibly more shocking is that none of these early Tecmo games featured scantily clad women with large chests playing beach volleyball. As disappointing as that may be to a few of you, let's move on and examine Tecmo Classic Arcade.

Tecmo was never known as a behemoth in the arcade industry. However, they managed to dig through their archives and slap together this compilation of 11 games that hit the arcades from 1981 to 1991. Those who didn't live in an arcade in the 1980's may only recognize a few of these games from their much better known NES versions - such as Tecmo Bowl, Rygar and Solomon's Key. What we're left with is a collection that is largely filled with lesser known games, and unfortunately, the bulk of these are not hidden gems.

I noticed a few really big disappointments before I even put the disc into the Xbox. First off, the price tag of $30 seems out of whack with other arcade compilations such as Midway Treasures and Namco Museum. Making matter worse, some of Tecmo's biggest and best arcade games such as Ninja Gaiden and Silk Worm are nowhere to be found. These omissions seem inexcusable, especially considering the higher price tag and the fact that Tecmo wasn't overflowing with arcade hits to begin with.

On the positive side, most of the better known games still hold their charm. Despite being nearly 20 years old, Tecmo Bowl remains a surprisingly fun football game and a fine trip down memory lane. While the single player game can get old after a few minutes (it's a tad on the easy side), the multiplayer - up to 4 players can join in - is as fun as it ever was. Other games that hold up well are Rygar (a challenging side scrolling action adventure game), Bomb Jack (a simple collect the bombs while avoiding the enemies game), and Solomon's Key (a fun and challenging puzzle solving game).

I found myself having trouble caring about the rest of the collection. Pleiads is a knockoff of Space Invaders and Galaga, but not as good as either. The same goes for Strato Fighter which plays very similar to Defender, but just is not in the same league. Tecmo Cup is a soccer game that simply did not hold up well with time. Pinball Action is a rather mundane pinball game that features changing playfields, but feels terribly outdated and offers very little entertainment value. Swimmer is a game in which you try to guide a guy swimming through a river while dodging obstacles and collecting fruit. I say "try" because the controls are frustrating and feel unresponsive. Senjyo is a very early 3D shooter. It is impressive considering it was made in 1983, but as with most of the games on this set it just won't spark any real interest from the casual player.

I was hoping to find some nifty extra features to redeem this package, but sadly I was also left disappointed in that regard. There are no unlockable games or extras to be found - nor are there any videos or documentaries. The only extra you will find is a gallery featuring a handful of old posters and original manuals from these games.

Technically speaking, these games are faithful recreations of their arcade counterpart. All the visuals and sounds appear to have made the trip to the Xbox intact. Many of the sound effects can get pretty annoying, such as a few of the high pitched tones you will hear in Pleiads, but that is to be expected when you are dealing with 25 year old games.

The bottom line is that I could only recommend this collection to the diehard fan that is already familiar with most of these games. Those looking for a Tecmo Bowl, Rygar, or Solomon's Key fix should simply dust off your old Nintendo and save the $30. Now that I think about it, you could probably buy an old NES and all those great Tecmo games for under 30 bucks, and you would still have enough left over to buy the Ninja Gaiden cartridge and complete the true ultimate Tecmo collection.

Lastly, I must say that this collection highlights just how far Tecmo has come in the last 20 years. I largely played these arcade games while taking breaks from Tecmo's newly released Ninja Gaiden Black. The contrast between the two was simply amazing. From makers of average 80's arcade fare to one of the best and technically advanced adventure games to date, Tecmo has come a long way indeed.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Burnout Revenge

You know a game is good when it makes all the other games in its genre seem rather boring in comparison. Burnout 3 did just that. By the time I peeled the Xbox controller from my sweaty palms and moved onto other racing games, I noticed they all seemed to move too slowly and felt rather mundane. Burnout 3?s success was largely due to its innovative ability to seamlessly blend an action game with an arcade racer. The result was an incredibly fun, fast, and furious style of gameplay with plenty of carnage to assault your eyes and ears.

Almost a year to the day Burnout 3 was released, EA presents us with the sequel, Burnout Revenge. There are a handful of changes and additions, but none of them have an Earth shattering effect on the gameplay. It was nice to see that they did not fix what was broken, but at the same time the game feels like a new car without that new car smell.

The tweaks to the game are a mixed bag between good and bad. Hands down the best change is to the racing courses. Not only are the environments better from a visual perspective, but they are also much more entertaining to race through. Gone are the tight enclosed racetracks found in the previous Burnout titles. These courses are loaded with alternate paths, insane jumps, and hazardous obstacles that are handy for ramming your opponent into. For the Burnout enthusiast, this change alone should make the game worth the price of admission.

Another change is ?traffic checking?, which allows you to ram most of the same direction traffic (with the exception of larger vehicles). The checked vehicles are sent flying like a pinball hopped up on caffeine and sugar. They can be used to take out opponents and other traffic. I was somewhat torn on this addition. On one hand, it simply looks cool, is entertaining, and it cranks the carnage meter up to 11. On the other hand it takes away a little of the strategy and makes the game slightly more simple. You essentially no longer have to worry about hitting traffic in your lane - a big no-no in previous Burnout games.

The Burnout games have never been about realistic physics, but the fact that plowing into 10 cars in your lane does nothing to affect your speed, might be slightly overdoing it. In the end, I think the fun factor wins out and makes this a welcome addition. As singer Sheryl Crow once wisely pointed out ? ?if it makes you happy, it can?t be that bad?. I?ll go with Mrs. Lance Armstrong on this one.

I was also torn over the changes to the crash mode. This was one of the slickest features in Burnout 3. It was simple, fun, and accessible for gamers of all skill and ages. Some of the changes made to the crash mode in Burnout Revenge left me largely scratching my head. For example, they added what amounts to a laugh track. Crash and you?ll hear a very fake sounding audience applauding and screaming with delight? it?s bizarre and seems out of place.

Another oddity is that to start your vehicle in crash mode, you have to kick a field goal. That?s right, I said a field goal. EA essentially took their field goal meter from the Madden games and placed it in Burnout Revenge. You have to time button presses as the meter goes up and then back down. Do it wrong and your engine could blow up or stall causing you to have to restart. It?s baffling to me as to why they thought this would be a fun addition when just pressing on the gas pedal seems like a much better idea.

Another mind boggling change is there are no longer replays in crash mode. Half the fun of making all the carnage is to be able to watch it again and again and again. This time around you are out of luck.

However, it?s not all bad. The crash mode does have its improvements. The locations (ripped directly from the race courses) are much better and more creative. The jumps are more spectacular, and some nifty wind effects have been added. The multipliers, bonuses, and heartbreakers are gone. In its place there is simply a target vehicle that you can shoot for (after the initial wreck). Having the multiplier icons removed really opens up your options and strategy as you are no longer simply aiming for icons. Overall the crash mode is still fun, but I ultimately preferred the one found in Burnout 3.

The system by which you can earn medals (gold, silver, or bronze) for races has been slightly tweaked. This time around it?s not enough to simply win the race - you also have to drive recklessly enough to earn that final star. Win while driving like Grandma (boring, with little destruction) and watch your rating go from gold to silver. This was a nice little change that added some extra challenge while encouraging more destruction.

Crash breakers (blowing your vehicle up to cause destruction) have now graduated from just being in the crash mode to being utilized in races. It can be used to blow up opponents that attempt to pass your disabled vehicle. It works nicely to combat the rubber-band A.I. ? which has the opponents right on your behind regardless of how good you are driving. It will stop those little buggers from passing you by if you make one mistake. Crashing right before the finish line in Burnout 3 and losing your first place position was incredibly frustrating. Now you can simply blow up those right behind you and still have a crack at finishing in the top spot. I deem this to be a welcome addition, even if it does make it slightly easier.

While I am on the subject of rubber band A.I., I would like to add that the Burnout series in the only racing games that this type of A.I. feels appropriate. It keeps your opponent close, which increases the element of action. Racing all by your lonesome (way ahead or behind) would be so disappointing in this game when you have so much destruction at your fingertips.

Besides the changes above, the core of the game remains largely intact ? which is a good thing. You still race through career mode with a variety of race types (preview lap, eliminator, straight up races, tournaments, and traffic checking ? which takes the place of ?road rage? from B3). The basic gameplay feels the same. If you played B3, you should be able to jump right in on Burnout Revenge with out needing time to adjust.

Visually speaking, Burnout Revenge is by no means the prettiest racer out there and it will not give games like Forza Motorsport and Project Gotham 2 a run for their money. However, it does one thing better than any other racing game on the planet ? it creates an amazing sense of speed. The environments whiz by at an amazing pace, and the effects when hitting the turbo really do their job at conveying the sense of speed. While you won?t often stop to marvel at the environment, you really won?t have time to care.

All of the vehicles are unlicensed, but many of them closely resemble those found in the real world. There is a large variety of every type? from the smallest compact cars to the massive trucks. As a cross promotion by EA, you can get a special Madden truck if you have a Madden 06 save on your console.

The game features a decent soundtrack filled with acts such as the Chemical Brothers, Junkie XL, and Billy Talent. It is no Grand Theft Auto (they?re mostly lesser known songs from those bands), but it does the trick if you like that musical genre. As an added bonus, the game features custom soundtracks, so you can rip your favorite Perry Como and Frank Sinatra CDs to your hard drive and listen to your own tunes.

Ultimately Burnout Revenge is the same fun game that we discovered in Burnout 3. If you are a fan of the series and can ignore the fact that this isn?t a major evolutionary step, you will likely be satisfied with this new addition to the Burnout family. The casual fan that already has Burnout 3 would be best advised to rent it first for a test spin.

Overall Score: 8.6 / 10 Outlaw Tennis

Welcome to Pong with a heaping dose of attitude. Outlaw Tennis is a game that turns the typical country club on its head and then stomps all over it. The game is filled with a cast of characters that you likely wouldn?t find at Wimbeldon? the stripper, the hardened criminal, the hard drinking English woman, the steroid enhanced Russian, and so on...

If you?ve played an Outlaw game (Outlaw Golf 1 & 2, Outlaw Volleyball) you know what it is all about. A tennis game mixed with plenty of crude humor, scantily clad women, and celebration movies that would likely spurn Hillary Clinton to invoke some new legislation.

Outlaw Tennis features 16 character ? 7 new and 9 returning from previous games. Summer, El Suave, Harley, Killer Miller, Shawnee, Donna Maroni, Lizzy, Natasha, and Ice Trey all return. The 9 new characters are an eclectic mix of various ethnic stereotypes. You are sure to find a few characters that amuse you, as well as a few that annoy.

Surprisingly, the Outlaw series has always had terrific game mechanics at its core. Outlaw Golf was not a disposable parody that was all about the crude humor. The gameplay was as good, or better than the hardcore versions - such as Tiger Woods and Links. The same thing could be said about Outlaw Volleyball. Unfortunately, Outlaw Tennis does not quite live up to the series? great reputation in that regard, and it does not give the elite games in the genre - Top Spin and Virtua Tennis ? a run for their money.

The mechanics feel slightly sloppy and a little loose. You?ll occasionally find yourself heading a different direction than you wanted to go, or watching the ball hit your character in the leg while you swing the racket a good 3 feet away from the ball.

After playing the game a few hours, I got more used to the mechanics and hyperactive speed, but it never reached the quality of the other games in the genre. It?s far from bad in this regard, but just slightly disappointing when compared to the quality you?ve come to expect in the Outlaw series.

On the positive side, the game has a massive amount of gametypes that keep things very fresh. You can play several match modes in addition to playing the standard rules - baseball, football, ping pong, pinball, hot potato, casino, and time bomb are all added into the mix.

The game has a ton of unlockable extras ? including bonus movies, characters, courts, drill events, tour events, and several sets of clothing and accessories for each character. Every win will give you a handful of new stuff to check out.

As with Outlaw Vollyeball, you can pick a fight with your opponent. Unfortunately the system has been changed to simple button mashing. The person who mashes the buttons the fastest wins the fight (and 30 seconds of ?hyper-mode?). The Outlaw series has never been good at the fight mechanics, but this is a curious step backwards

The visuals look almost identical to those seen in Outlaw Volleyball. At a casual glance it is difficult to tell the games apart? the courts and character models look nearly the same. The courts are boring this time around as all the typical places make an appearance ? the snow covered icy court, the hot desert court, the gym, hell (which was already done in Outlaw Volleyball), etc? The subject matter should have lent itself to more creative environments.

As with the other Outlaw games, the voice acting is top notch. The commentary is decent, and is presented by the Daily Show?s Stephen Colbert. It does get repetitive (as is the case with most sports games), but is funny at times.

There is a wide variety of in-game music from mostly B-level bands ? not terrible, but not anything you?ll be rushing to your local store to buy. The game also features custom soundtracks, so you can rip your favorite Bette Midler and Neil Diamond tunes to your Xbox and jam away.

Ultimately, Outlaw Tennis is a fun game with enough variety to keep things fresh, but with tightened up game mechanics this could have been the ultimate tennis experience. It?s a great buy for the Outlaw fan, but the casual player that already has Outlaw Volleyball may want to pass on this one.

Overall Score: 7.6 / 10 Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack

After Halo 2 was released in November of 2004, some gamers slaved away on Xbox Live getting their Halo 2 ranking up to an obscene number only to have it all wiped away when Bungie reset all the stats in May of this year. If you were one of these people left frustrated, sad, and alone, I?m happy to announce that Bungie has released the Halo 2: Multiplayer Map Pack that features 9 new multiplayer maps, a variety of game play improvements, and a handful of special videos. The expansion pack should brighten your day and give you cause to get back in the saddle and recapture that spectacular ranking.

The 9 maps are a diverse group, and there is something for everyone. Each map has a unique environment? from the small swamp area called Backwash to the large sunny island called Relic you?ll likely find something to enjoy. Here?s a rundown of the maps:

Backwash is a smaller map that is set in a swamp with a light fog. The fog makes for some wickedly cool lighting effects, and limits your visibility. It is a terrific map for slayer battles, or small team based objective games. By default there is invisibility pick up on the map, as well as a sword. The invisibility coupled with the fog makes for ample opportunities to sneak up on your unsuspecting opponent. Backwash is sure to please fans of smaller maps, and was one of my favorites.

Terminal is a medium to large sized map that is in an urban environment set in the middle of a train track ? complete with moving train. There is also a multi-level parking garage nearby to gain strategic positioning on your opponent. There are several vehicles on the map, such as the Wraith, Ghost, and Warthog. It?s a decent map for team-based objective games, and is one of the more visually engaging maps. My one complaint is that it?s fairly cluttered and tight in the middle, making it difficult to utilize the many vehicles littered around the map effectively.

Sanctuary is a medium sized map with a base on each end and a structure in the middle. It is set in the Delta Temple area (as seen in the single player campaign) and has a Mayan ruins feeling to it. There are no vehicles, but a great variety of weapons, from the energy sword to the sniper rifle. It?s an all purpose map that is good for just about any game type and party size.

Gemini is a smaller map set in the covenant world of High Charity. It is somewhat similar to Midship, a map originally included with Halo 2. It is mostly indoor, but has some outdoor areas as well. Bungie based this map off of Duality, which first appeared in their game, Marathon. It has a tree set on one end of the map, and a statue of a Covenant prophet on the other. This map works excellent for slayer matches with 2-4 players as there are not many places to hide. Most of the weapons found on the map are suited for close combat? like the energy sword, shotgun, and brute shot.

Relic is one of the biggest maps in the pack. It is set on a sunny island setting ? I half expected to find Tecmo?s DOA girls playing beach volleyball somewhere on the island. There is a large base in the middle of the island surrounded by several rocks ? which are great to hide behind. This map?s is primarily for large team based games, and it works very well for that. There are plenty of routes from one base to the other, leading to a variety of strategies each team can use. It has a great open feel to it, and fans of larger maps should enjoy Relic.

Warlock is a map many of you may have already played as it has been available as a free download on XBL for about a month now. It is the smallest map available, and is a remade version of Wizard from Halo 1. It serves its purpose ? decent for 2-4 player type games ? but, I largely found Wizard to be one of the more lackluster maps included in this new set as there just isn?t much going on, and the environment is bland.

Turf is a map in an urban setting, and is designed for medium to large sized battles. There are lots of streets, alleyways, and building tops to explore. There are two bases and a few vehicles. Like Terminal, this is a visually engaging map that is fun to explore. Turf has a lot of tight corridors and pathways, which makes the vehicles useless, except for driving directly from base to base. It is a great map for Territory battles and most team-based objectives.

Containment is a large snow covered map with 2 bases, one on each end (this is the other map that was offered for free last month through XBL). Like Relic, it is another big level. However, Containment is a substantially more complex at it has 2 large bases and caves along each side of the map. It?s not very hard to get turned around or lose your opponent. Almost all of the vehicles make an appearance? the tank, Banshee, ghost, and Warthog. Containment was a little too large and complex for my taste, but fans of 16 player CTF and slayer matches should enjoy the challenge.

Elongation is a retooled map from Halo 1 called the Longest. Unlike the lackluster retooling of Wizard, Elongation?s improvements make the map better and more fun. The most notable change is two conveyer belts running along each corridor with large crates on it. This makes for interesting places to hide, and makes it easier to get to the upper level as you can simply jump on any moving crate to get to the top. With no energy sword, rocket launcher, or sniper rifle, this map is terrific for ?old school? deathmatches. For added fun, pop back in Halo 1 and check out the Longest just to see how much substantial improvement was made to the visuals between Halo 1 and 2. The improvements to texturing and lighting effects are simply amazing in comparison.

The improvements to the gameplay are mostly subtle, but very welcome. The melee attack has been improved, and you can now knock your opponent out with a single strike. Other improvements include an increase in the grenade blast radius and slight tweaking to a few of the weapons. Cheating was also addressed and various glitches that were being exploited by dirty players were fixed.

Perhaps my favorite improvement is the ?Double Team? game type, in which you and a friend can take on another team of 2 gamers at various things like slayer, CTF, and oddball. It?s a unique game style that plays much different than the larger team based games, and adds a whole new dimension.

Included in the expansion pack are a few new videos, one of which is a brand new cut scene that fits into the Halo 2 single player story. Graphically speaking, it is much prettier than the scenes found in the single player campaign as it is not rendered completely from the in game engine. The video does not involve any of the main characters from the campaign, and details the events of a few marines that crash land to Earth that the Master Chief later runs into. It?s interesting, but does not add much to the game or story. Another video is a straightforward behind the scenes documentary that shows off the new maps by talking to each of the 9 Bungie teams that created them. There are a few other video extras, such as a very interesting E3 video for Halo 1 in 2000, which shows a lot of things Bungie had planned, but cut in the final version? such as herds of strange creatures roaming the Halo surface, an energy sword (which made it into Halo 2), and some truly horrid voice acting (Master Chief has a high nasally voice).

Overall I liked the expansion maps much more than the original set that came with Halo 2. Bungie did a tremendous job of creating 9 maps that represent diverse environments and game types. There is something for everyone in these maps. These maps, along with the interesting videos, and improved game play make this expansion pack well worth the price tag that sits under $20, and will give you reason to keep playing Halo 2 for at least a few more months.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Lock up the children and hide the politicians, it?s time to review the latest installment of the controversial Grand Theft Auto series, GTA: San Andreas. After arriving on the PS2 last year, Rockstar has retooled the game, and presents us with an Xbox version that touts better graphics and a few new features not found on its PS2 counterpart.

In San Andreas, you play as Carl Johnson, who upon learning of the death of his mother returns home to Los Santos (a city clearly modeled after Los Angeles). Carl reacquaints himself with his local gang and finds that it?s not what it used to be. As Carl you try to restore your gangs reputation while battling crooked cops and rival gang members. The story has some good twists and turns, but I was not crazy about the departure from the previous GTA?s. While the previous versions have a very ?out there? plot that involved stereotypical characters that are not common in the real world, San Andreas deals with inner city characters and gang violence. It is a stark contrast to the previous GTA games, which had a detached sense of reality. Gang violence just doesn?t seem as funny or as fun as playing as a Scarface inspired Tony Montana type fantasy character, as we did in Vice City.

Several new features have been introduced in GTA:SA, most all of which are big improvements. There are several new vehicles, especially aircraft ? such as the jet plane, stunt plane, jet pack, and a parachute. Your character can now more falling into 5 feet of water just to watch your character flop around helplessly and die. Rockstar also introduced several new RPG elements. Carl has to eat and can work out to define his body. The more you work out, the more buff your character looks. If you eat a lot of greasy, fattening foods, Carl will get fat. I initially thought this would be just like playing the Sims, and while I like the Sims, it didn?t seem to have a place in a Grand Theft Auto game. However, I found it was not a pain at all, and I never felt as though I was ?babysitting? the character. Eating restores your health, and you will naturally stop to have a bite to eat just to do just that. Also, saving your game automatically feeds Carl, so if you save often, you really don?t have to eat at all. There are other ways to customize the look of your character, such as several clothing shops and barbers to style your hair in most any fashion you can imagine.

Another new element is your character can now attract girlfriends. There are several possible girlfriends located throughout San Andreas, and you can take them out for dates. Once you have successfully wooed the ladies, you?ll have access to their special car, get a new unique outfit, and some give you special abilities ? like being able to get out of jail or hospital without losing all of your weapons.

The most notable change is the environment itself. Vice City is frequently referred to as a ?giant sandbox? that gives the player a large area to explore and do what they like. For GTA:SA, Rockstar has turned the sandbox into a virtual desert. While Vice City focused on one city, GTA:SA has 3 large metropolitan areas - Los Santos (i.e., Los Angeles), San Fierro (i.e., San Francisco), and Las Venturas (i.e., Las Vegas). These cities are surrounded by vast countryside, several small towns, wooded areas, a desert, farm land, and more. This stands in stark contrast to the smaller areas given to us in GTA 3 and Vice City?but does size really matter? Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?

As with the previous versions, the other areas will unlock as you complete missions, but it is still very daunting when you start out with such a large map. The pure size is where some of my biggest gripes with GTA:SA come from. There are more than a few missions in which you are forced to drive from one town to another ? not a small task. If you fail the mission, you?re forced to complete another trip just to attempt the mission again. These long bouts of driving can become frustrating and boring at times. Another problem is with the map system. While the small navigation map worked for smaller cities like Vice City and Liberty City, the multi-tiered roadway system is much more complicated in San Andreas. The map system is highly inadequate, and you?ll frequently find yourself getting lost and frustrated trying to find your way around.

On the positive side, the huge size keeps things fresh, and you?ll have countless hours of fun simply exploring new territory and finding new things to do. The bottom line is that the increased size is fantastic, but there desperately needs to be better mission design and a map system to go along with this massive playground.

The missions are laid out identically to the previous versions. You have core missions that you must complete to further the main storyline, and also several side missions that you can complete at your own leisure. As with the previous titles, the missions range from easy to very frustrating without much consistency. A few missions become so maddening that you?ll likely break an Xbox controller or two (or take your frustration out on a few pedestrians) before completing them. However, with the open-ended gameplay there is always something else to do while you take a break from those missions.

The Xbox version adds a new feature in the form of replays. You can now replay the last 20 seconds of gameplay at any time. While you have complete control of the camera angle, you can not pause, fast forward, rewind, or save these replays. Furthermore, there is no sound played while viewing. It?s a great idea that feels half finished.

Graphically speaking, GTA:SA will not be confused for a Tecmo or Ubisoft game anytime soon. In other words, your jaw won?t be hitting the floor looking at expansive beautiful environments and brilliantly designed character models. However, it looks much better than its PS2 counterpart. The draw distance has been increased ? a major downer in the PS2 version. There is still some ?pop up? graphics, but it does not affect the gameplay as it did in the PS2 version. The graphics are also much more crisp and detailed in comparison.

On the plus side, each area is very unique. The sweeping changes in the environments as you travel across the map keep things interesting and detract from the otherwise bland graphics.

I can not think of a game series that does a better job in the sound department. The voice talent is tremendous. Rockstar once again utilizes A-list Hollywood talent, such as Samuel L Jackson and James Woods. There are hours upon hours of funny dialogue to be found on the radio stations and from the pedestrians. As you switch locations, the dialect of the pedestrians will change, such as the Hillbilly sounding townsfolk of the smaller hick villages to the effeminate males found in San Fierro.

Rockstar is famous for its soundtracks. While the selection of 90?s music in SA is not as good as the 80?s fare found in Vice City, it is still very stellar and enjoyable to listen to. The custom soundtrack option is utilized as it was in Vice City and GTA3. However, they changed the control scheme for the worse, and it takes a while to get the hang of switching between songs and soundtracks, and even then it does not feel natural.

The Grand Theft Auto series has been often imitated, but never duplicated. Once again, Rockstar delivers a game that will raise the bar in this genre and give the competitors something else to shoot for (and likely fall short of). GTA:SA is a fun game, and in this case, bigger is indeed better.

Overall Score: 9.6 / 10 Doom 3

It was not the grandfather of all first person shooters, but when the first Doom was released by Id in 1993 it pushed the envelope of this brand spankin? new genre. It was fast paced, dripping with mood, had wide open environments, and a variety of groovy weapons. Its style was imitated for years to come. It?s been over 10 years since gamers have been treated to a new Doom game, and in that time the face of FPS has changed dramatically. Going into Doom 3 I couldn?t help but wonder if it would be able to compete with the new breed of FPS, or if it would be able to be the ?envelope pusher? it once was.

Another big question was just how well it would look in comparison to the PC version that was released last year. Clearly Xbox gamers would be receiving a ?dumbed down? version. Receiving watered down ports is a new experience for the Xbox, a distinction usually reserved for the PS2.

On the good side, I found Doom 3 to be a very worthy competitor in comparison to other games in its genre. I was also pleased to find out that the Xbox version survived the port from the PC very well. The graphics took a very slight hit, but the difference is not very noticeable. On the bad side, Doom 3 does nothing to push the boundaries of the genre, and in some respects ? such as repetitive level design and standard weaponry - it feels very dated.

I won?t bore you with a lot of plot details, mostly because there aren't many details to bore you with. It is a very simplistic story in which you play a generic marine with no name sent to Mars City to investigate the disappearance of a worker there. The game starts off slowly and you will find yourself reading communications or listening to audio files on your PDA for the first hour of the game. The fun kicks in once you start encountering enemies in tight dark places. The action is brutal and there is plenty of blood and gore to please even the most sadistic FPS fanatic.

The available weapons are pretty standard FPS fare, such as the pistol, machine gun, rocket launcher, and grenades. One unique element comes by way of the flashlight that you have at your disposal. You cannot hold both your gun and flashlight at the same time. Considering that most of the game takes place in poorly lit corridors and rooms, this creates a considerable dilemma for the gamer. You?ll find yourself constantly switching between the two. This really helps to create an uneasy mood as you feel relatively uneasy with either one in your hand. However, the constant switching gets tiresome, and it is unrealistic as most anybody with any skill and coordination would be able to hold both items at the same time.

For the multiplayer enthusiasts, there is plenty to keep you entertained, if you have Xbox Live, such as standard deathmatches and a co-op mode. Unfortunately, co-op mode is not available without Xbox Live or a system link connection, which I found to be very odd. Also, for those that purchase the collector?s edition you will find both Doom 1 and Doom 2 included as well as a few other goodies.

Everything about Doom 3 revolves around immersing the gamer in a creepy atmosphere. Fortunately the visuals are sharp and crisp, and do a great job at creating the mood. There is no shortage of texturing, lighting effects, and bump mapping. Doom 3 pushes the Xbox hardware to the maximum, and it is unquestionably one of the prettier games to grace the console. I did note some framerate issues when there is a lot of action on the screen, but it does not effect the gameplay and does not happen enough to be a problem.

One knock I have regarding the visuals is the lack of varied environments. Essentially you will see the same metal corridors and rooms with only slight variations throughout the entire game. After about 8 hours of seeing the same environment it can get very tiring. This is one issue that I felt made the game feel dated. Tight corridors and repeating environments for the entire game seems like a thing of the past, and should not be something that we see from a top notch FPS in this day and age.

Doom 3 really shines in the audio department. Id did a terrific job of using the audio effectively for creating a creepy mood. The music, grunts from zombies, and the marine chatter over your radio are all used very well to paint a scary picture as you walk along the dark tight corridors. Sounds effects such as weapon fire and explosions are serviceable and do the trick.

After playing through Doom 3, I can?t help but think of it as a supermodel. As with most supermodels, Doom 3 is all about the look and mood - just don?t look under the surface as you will find a few flaws. It may not push any new boundaries, but the bottom line is that Doom 3 is a very solid game, and still deserves its status as an elite series in its genre.

Overall Score: 9.2 / 10 TimeSplitters: Future Perfect

TimeSplitters: Present Good.

It?s time to move on to the future. You can?t keep living in the past. After almost 5 months it?s finally time to pry your hands from your Xbox controller, take Halo 2 out, and give another first person shooter a spin. You could wait a few more weeks for Doom 3, but you?d be missing out on a solid game in TimeSplitters: Future Perfect.

Future Perfect is the third installment of Free Radical Design?s TimeSplitter series. The story mode picks up where TimeSplitters 2 left off, with you leaping through various time periods to save the world. In this chapter you are seeking out an evil madman who is using time travel to achieve his plan of world domination. The plot is nothing original, but the concept of time travel makes for a good video game. The environments change wildly from one time period to the next. You?ll find yourself jumping from the 1920?s to the 2240?s and everywhere in between.

During each level you are thrown together with a sidekick that is a stereotypical character from that era. For example, while in 1969 you are teamed up with Harry Tipper, a swinging 1960?s hippie with long sideburns and an Austin Powers like attitude. On the good side, they frequently aid you with fighting the enemy, and also inject some humor into the game. Your sidekick can not die, except for a few dreaded ?escort missions? in which you have to protect them. Unfortunately, they don?t always behave intelligently, and at times it reminded me of playing a co-op game with a really dumb friend.

The story mode is short ? it takes about 7 hours to complete - but it is a small part of the game. There are several play modes including a challenge mode, arcade mode, map maker, and multiplayer through Xbox Live. TS:FP makes good use of Xbox Live with a lot to do besides just the multiplayer aspect. You can also share your user created maps, compare your high scores in the challenge mode, and download replays of others to see how the best do it.

You don?t need Xbox Live to have a good time with TS:FP. You can do just about everything offline that you can online. If you?re all alone, but want to experience a multiplayer deathmatch, simply set up one in the arcade mode with computer controlled opponents. Other than not having a 12 year old trash talking to you, you?ll hardly notice the difference from the Xbox Live experience.

The controls are set up almost identical to Halo?s, making for an intuitive, easy to pick up and play game for veterans of that series. The aiming system has been substantially improved over the last installment, and is much smoother this time around. You?ll also find a good variety of weapons throughout the game, including some futuristic weaponry, such as time altering grenades.

TS:FP is not perfect, and it?s not ready to join the elite group of first person shooters that include Halo, Doom, and Half-Life. Your path through the levels are very confined, and you do not have a lot of freedom or wide open spaces. You are given a few opportunities to hop into vehicles, such as a jeep and tank, but the vehicles leave a lot to be desired when compared to other games that do the same. There was a tad too much puzzle solving and key collecting for my taste. Other than the time travel element, TS:FP simply doesn?t bring much new to the table to set itself apart from other games in the same genre.

Graphically speaking, TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is slightly behind the rest of the field. It has graphics that are crisp, and the varied environments keep things fresh, but there is simply nothing in the visuals that will impress you. There is virtually no texturing and most surfaces are flat in their appearance. There is also not much in the way of lighting effects. Quite simply, the graphics will not deter you from having a good time, but will not enhance the gaming experience.

The sound is largely unnoticeable, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The voice acting is solid. The sound effects ? such as gunfire and explosions ? are nothing of note one way or the other. I was about halfway through the game before I even realized there was background music that is good background music! Essentially the sound does exactly what it?s supposed to, and you rarely even think of that aspect of the game.

The bottom line is that TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is not in the class of elite first person shooters, but would easily be at the forefront of the second tier. The TimeSplitters series continues to make improvements with each new game in the series. The present installment is good, and with continued improvement the future may indeed be perfect.

Overall Score: 8.4 / 10 Major League Baseball 2K5

Sega?s ESPN Major League Baseball series is back. Well, kind of... Apparently a lot has changed in the off-season. Sega is out of the picture as they sold their stake in the series to last season?s co-publisher, Take-Two Interactive. This is also the last year the series can use the ESPN brand name as it was snagged up by Take-Two?s nemesis, Electronic Arts. The ESPN name has been removed from the title, and is clearly being phased out. The series even has a new creator, as the game has been ripped from last year?s developer, Blue Shift, and handed to Kush Studios, which develop the NHL 2k games.

If trying to keep track of those changes isn?t enough to make your head spin, Kush Studios took it a step further and redesigned the entire game from the ground up. As the instruction manual touts, ?Not enhanced, not adjusted, not tweaked, and not updated. MLB 2K5 is ALL NEW??. Despite the changes, Take-Two still managed to deliver a high quality, very competitive sports title at a bargain price of under $20.

The most apparent changes to the gameplay is the new pitching and hitting interface. Luckily both work very well, as a baseball game can sink or swim here. Batting is a simple 2 button scheme, in which you can choose a low risk/low power contact swing, or you can try to reach the seats with a riskier power swing. The left analog stick is used to aim toward the ball as it comes over the plate which increases your chance of contact. The system is very simplistic, but it works very well. Every so often you will be served up a ?fat pitch? over the plate causing the game to go into a slow motion mode called the ?slam zone?. A power meter appears and you have to rapidly tap the ?A? button to increase the meter, and then swing the bat to slam the ball out of the park. While this can be fun, it seemed out of place in this otherwise realistic baseball sim, and it was more like something you would see in the gimmicky baseball titles, such as MLB Slugfest. After several games I turned this feature off as it became more of a distraction.

The batting interface is good, but they really hit a grand slam with the pitching system. You pick your pitch and the desired location over the plate, which sets a target at that location. You then have to line up a series of two moving crosshairs into that target. It?s a good feeling to nail the pitch, but miss it and you may serve up an easy pitch down the middle for your opponent (or give him a ?slam zone? opportunity). Pressure is also a factor. The controller will rumble like a heartbeat in high pressure situations (or if you bring in a relief pitcher without adequately warming him up) making it slightly harder to get everything to line up. Quite simply, the pitching system just feels right. The only downside is that after you get the hang of it, it becomes very easy to strikeout the computer controlled players, and it?s not unusual for the weakest pitchers to strike out 10+ batters a game.

A completely new and unique baserunning system is introduced, which also works very well. You can control individual baserunner by pressing the button assigned to them. Using the shoulder buttons you can tell the runner (or runners) to advance or retreat to a base. You can even play as the baserunner, from their perspective. You can switch between all of the baserunners and the batter with ease using the right analog stick. The baserunning is almost a game in itself, and it is very fun to play from this perspective. If there is one knock on this system it is that it can get confusing trying to control several baserunners when you need them to do different things, and you?ll likely make a lot of mistakes in the beginning.

All the game modes you expect to find in a sports game are here, including franchise, a GM mode, Xbox Live play, and even a home run derby. Each mode is deep and should satisfy baseball enthusiasts. There is also 3 Skyboxes (similar to ?the Crib? in the NFL 2k series) where you can spend tokens you earn during gameplay to unlock mini-games, old teams, new stadiums, and cheats.

The overall visual presentation is fantastic. It looks just like you are watching a game on ESPN. There are also a lot of nice little touches that add realism ? shots of the fans filing into the stadium, a slick strikeout replay that edits all three strikes together in one short clip, unique camera angles, and realistic stat and graphic overlays. The stadiums are all recreated to near perfection, and you can practically smell the grass, or the lack of, when playing in a dome on Astroturf.

The player models are the only thing that is a slight disappointment. While they aren?t horrible, they won?t leave you in awe. Some players just don?t look quite like themselves.

ESPN commentators Joe Morgan and Jon Miller deliver the play by play, which adds to the authenticity of the presentation. They have very soothing, laid back voices that suit baseball very well. The commentary is deeper than your average sports game, but as with the rest of them it can become repetitive after some time. There are a few phrases that are repeated more than others, and I noted a couple of bugs that did get slightly annoying. For example, I created a rookie player, and nearly every time he came to bat throughout his rookie season, Jon Miller would note that he had ?no home runs last year?.

As with the 2K football series, the custom soundtrack feature is put to good use. You can assign music to a particular batter, pitcher, or specific events that occur during gameplay (such as a solo home run). It?s a fun feature that adds to the presentation, and it?s easy to get stuck for a few hours editing and assigning music to players and events.

Suggestions: Considering how many changes were made since last year?s version, it?s amazing the game is this solid. As with anything that undergoes a major renovation, there are a few bugs, but luckily none that will have any major effect to the enjoyment of this game. My hat is off to Kush Games which has hit a home run in their first trip to the plate.

Overall Score: 9.6 / 10 Street Fighter Anniversary Collection

Do you stay awake at night wondering who would win in a fight between Ken from Street Fighter: World Warrior and Blanka from Super Street Fighter II Turbo? If so, your prayers have been answered with Capcom?s Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, a compilation of six different versions of the "old school" 2D fighter that allows you to cross over characters from the various games to compete against each other.

Believe it or not, it?s been nearly 15 years since Capcom released Street Fighter II. If you are one of those gamers that played SFII on the Super Nintendo or fed quarters into the arcade machines, this trip down memory lane will be a virtual treat.

The game features five versions of the Street Fighter II series (World Warrior, Champion Edition, Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II, and Super SFII Turbo) and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, originally released in 1999 to arcades.

While a straight up port of these games would have been great by itself, Capcom also added a few bonuses. The best addition is that both Street Fighter II and III are Xbox Live enabled allowing you to show off your skills (or lack of) in a head to head match any time of day. Capcom also included a few special features, such as the entire Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie and a video gallery of all of the SFII opening movies.

One of the better features is the ability to cross over the characters from the five Street Fighter II versions to compete against each other. For the Street Fighter II fanatic, you will have hours of fun creating matchups like the one described above.

Street Fighter III is an overlooked gem that holds up surprisingly well today. It?s still fun, fluid, and looks pretty good for a six year old game. Gamers who like the Street Fighter II series, but never played Street Fighter III should definitely check it out. The animation is very detailed, and the gameplay is extremely tight, which is to be expected from a Capcom 2D brawler. Most of your favorite "classic" SFII characters are missing, with only Ken, Ryu, Chun-Li, and Akuma returning on this sequel, but the new characters keep the game fresh and new. The addition of this arcade-perfect port is a very nice bonus.

The game plays beautifully on Xbox Live for both Street Fighter II:AC and III. Gameplay was smooth with no lag, and is arguably the most fluid online fighter to date. The only downside is that there is no penalty for dropping matches, resulting in a few dishonest gamers who drop a game as opposed to taking the loss.

While everything plays as it should, it should be noted that the Xbox controller is downright awful for this game. The default settings use the black and white buttons for the hardest punches and kicks, which is awkward. You can remap most of the buttons, but for some bizarre reason, you do not have the option to remap the shoulder buttons. It would have been helpful to map all three punches, and all three kicks to the shoulder buttons?since attempting to pull off the highest level of super moves is difficult with the default setup. The Xbox controller is downright painful to use for extended periods of time. Even though I had spent hundreds of hours on the SNES and arcade versions, I had never experienced the hand cramping pain that was induced by the awkward Xbox D-pad?particularly with the "charge" characters, like Guile, Vega, Dee-Jay, Blanka, etc. (Heck, even the 3DO controller was less painful). Oh yeah... good luck if you like Zangief or T. Hawk, too as pulling off 360 degree motions with any consistency is very difficult! If you are serious about this game, invest in an arcade-style joystick.

Street Fighter The Anniversary Collection was clearly made with multiplayer in mind. You should have countless hours of fun in head to head mode or on Xbox Live. If you?re looking for a terrific single player game, you will not find it here. One problem in the single player mode is the difficulty level, which is not consistent with previous versions. Beginners will struggle to make it past the first 3 or 4 fighters even on the easiest setting. Another problem is that the Super Street Fighter II Turbo single player mode is the only SFII version available to play. So, if you select SFII:WW Dhalsim, you?ll have to battle the much better SSFIIT opponents, making it extremely hard to clear on any difficulty setting. It is confusing as to why Capcom would not include each individual single player game in its standalone state. I would have even been satisfied with a random single-player matchup, where you have a chance to go against Bison from SFII: Turbo, or maybe Sagat from SFII: Championship Edition on your way to the top. To have every matchup against a SSFII:Turbo opponent in the single player game makes this a glorified version of the 3DO port.

Visually, Street Fighter Anniversary Collection is recreated faithfully. The old graphics are here in their original splendor. So, if you?re looking for jaw droppingly beautiful animations and environments you would be better off with the Dead or Alive Ultimate game. However, the visuals do exactly what you?d expect them to. It is worth noting that the bonus movie of Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is not DVD quality?and, they took out most of Chun-Li?s shower scene. Sorry, fanboys! Other than that, this game delivers what you?d expect?arcade perfect graphics.

I experienced several problems with the sound when playing the Street Fighter II versions. Frequently the background music would get stuck on a note, or completely disappear for long periods of time. Street Fighter III ran smoothly, and I did not experience the same problem with that portion.

When the sound was functioning properly, it was a perfect recreation of each theme. The music, sound effects, and character voices are all here in their original form. As with the visuals, the sound is not state of the art, but does exactly what you would expect.

Suggestions: While this is a terrific game for fans of the series, I feel that there is one glaring omission: where is the original Street Fighter game? The rare game that started the series off, and hasn?t been ported to any major console (if my memory serves correctly, it was only on the Turbo-Graphix, and under a different name), would have been a great addition to this collection. As it is, SFII: AC is very good, but could have been a much better, more complete experience.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Top Gear RPM Tuning

I know what you?re thinking - you just can?t find a street racing game these days. If only somebody could fill this glaring hole in the gaming world! Ok, so maybe not... With Need for Speed Underground 1 & 2, Street Racing Syndicate, Midnight Club 2, and the soon to be released Midnight Club 3 and Juiced, we?ve seen a ton of street racing games lately. You can add another to that list with the newly released Top Gear RPM tuning.

Those who are not familiar with Kemco?s Top Gear racing series, may think that this is a new entry into the racing world. Others - like myself - were spending the better part of 1992 decked out in flannel and racing the nights away with Top Gear on the Super Nintendo. Top Gear was a terrific racer for it?s time, and was well received with fans and critics. It spawned nearly 10 sequels on a variety of consoles in the 13 years that followed. It?s hardly a newcomer to the racing game scene.

Unfortunately time has passed the series by. This might have been a good game if it had been released five years ago, but now it looks incredibly dated, and pales in comparison to any other game in the genre.

At the heart of Top Gear is the ?Adventure Mode?. In this mode, you assume the identity of Vince Riker. Vince infiltrates the street racing underground and meets characters who send him on missions and challenge him to races. Along the way you earn fame, money, and vehicles. The story is very unoriginal, and has been done much better in other games. The characters you meet are very annoying, and it all becomes boring very quickly. You?ll be eyeing your other Xbox games in no time at all.

Unfortunately, there isn?t much to Top Gear other than the Adventure Mode. There is a ?Quick Race? mode in which you can use the vehicles and races that you unlocked in the Adventure Mode. There is not much to get excited about in the multiplayer area, as there is only a 2 player split screen mode, and no Xbox Live support.

Top Gear features a paltry selection of 8 unlicensed vehicles. On the plus side, you have the option to rename your ride. You can add some realism by simply labeling your 4 cylinder hatchback a ?Dodge Viper?. One of the few bright spots of the game is the sheer number of options available to you for tuning or modding the vehicles. If you enjoy modding, you can spend countless hours painting your vehicle, affixing stickers, and upgrading every part inside and out of the vehicle. As soon as you take it out of the garage, that?s when the problems start.

During races, there is very little sense of speed. Firing up the turbo doesn?t help, as it does not have any noticeable effect on the speed of the vehicle. The vehicle handling is sluggish, and it often feels like your trying to steer a dump truck filled with cement. Crashes are also very unimpressive...striking a utility poll at 150+ mph merely results in a dull thud and your vehicle coming to a slow stop as if it struck a wall of marshmallows.

That?s the big problem with Top Gear. There is simply no facet of this game that is remarkable, or hasn?t been done much better by other games in it?s genre. While there is nothing completely broken in Top Gear, it is dull, lifeless, and there is simply no reason to play this game over the other far superior street-racing games.

To put it mildly, Top Gear was beaten senseless with the ?ugly stick?. It is one of the ugliest racing games to hit the Xbox. The visuals are grainy, there are frame rate issues, and blocky graphics. At times it is difficult to distinguish the road from a wall, which leads to obvious problems.

The game looks like the ugly brother of Need for Speed Underground. It is set in a single nameless town. You always race at night, and there is plenty of neon on all of the buildings. They attempted to do a trippy color effect when you hit the turbo, but it just does not work as good as it did in NFSU and does not succeed in giving you a real sense of speed.

One nice thing to note about the visuals, is that the vehicles show damage. The damage does not effect the performance, but it was nice to see a street racing game that included this feature. Unfortunately, with very unspectacular crashes, this really takes away any excitement from the damage effects.

I?m not exaggerating when I say there is merely one generic techno song that repeats over and over during the races. Eventually you will stab sharp objects into your ears just to get it to stop. If ever there was a game that needed custom soundtracks, this would be it. Unfortunately that is not an option available to you, so hopefully you will really like the one song that plays repeatedly.

The sound effect for the turbo, is easily one of the all time worst sound effects I have ever heard in a game. It sounds exactly like a dentist?s drill. For those with first hand experience of the dentist's drill, using the turbo will likely cause your teeth to hurt.

Other sound effects are very poor. Crashes are dull thuds, the engines sound very generic, and the braking noises are almost non-existent.

Suggestions: With other bargain street racing titles out there, such as Need For Speed Underground and Midnight Club 2, there is simply no reason for Top Gear to exist - even at it's cheap price tag of under $20. Unless you are a fanatic of tuning and modding vehicles, steer clear of this mess.

Overall Score: 3.0 / 10 Dead or Alive Ultimate

DOA is back, and this time Tecmo went to the archives and present us with an upgraded version of DOA2 and a direct port of DOA1. Cleary the centerpiece of this game is the new and much improved DOA2, so I'll be referring to that one in the review. At the core you'll find the same game as DOA3. However, DOAU brings a ton of upgrades to the table. While DOA3 was pretty, DOAU is even prettier and is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. There are a sleu of extra unlockable features - something that was sorely lacking in DOA3. There are well over 100 unlockable costumes, two unlockable characters, a CG slideshow (featuring pics from DOAXBV), a 1/2 hour documentary featuring the rise of Tecmo, and if that wasn't enough the promise of downloadable content in the future. There are all the game modes that you'd expect - story mode, time attack, survival, and tag team battles. If that's not enough, DOAU is also Xbox Live capable. I can't really find any fault with the game. If I had to pick really hard, I'd say that I miss Christie (who was not in the original DOA2), but we could always expect to see her in the form of downloadable content. If you're a fan of the DOA series, this is a must have. Casual fans may be content with DOA3 as this is not a huge departure from that one.

You can make the prettiest game in the world, but if it doesn't have good gameplay, it doesn't mean crap. Fortunately, DOAU plays smoothly. It's essentially the same terrific fighting engine from DOA3, but with a few added tweaks. Thankfully, Tecmo did not fix what wasn't broken. There are a few more counter attack options and a few new moves, but other than that it's the same game at it's core. The controls are intuitive and fluid.

Quite simply Tecmo makes the prettiest games to grace the Xbox, which is saying something. The environments are spectacular and the character models are some of the best I've ever seen (and I'm not just talking about the female figures here). I dare say there is not a prettier game to be found on any console.

The sound effects, such as explosions from hitting electrified walls and hits and kicks, are very good. The music on the other hand is very average. It's not annoying, but nothing that you'll be cranking up your speakers for. As typical with Tecmo's fighting games, character voices are all done in Japanese. I love the voices and the voice acting is above average, but some may be annoyed by not having the option to hear the characters speak in English.

Suggestions: Downloadable characters would be great - Lisa, Christie, and Brad Wong would be a terrific place to start.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Halo 2

(Very minor spoilers ahead) I'll try to avoid boring you with an overview of Halo 2, as everyone with a pulse knows what the game is about. It's very difficult for any much hyped sequel to live up to insane hype, whether it be a blockbuster movie or a video game. I was pleased to find that Halo 2 lived up to every bit of the hype and I was fully satisfied by every aspect of the game (single player campaign, XBL, and co-op play). Some may be put off by a cliffhanger type ending (think Matrix Reloaded), or the fact that it asks more quesitons than it answers, but I thought it was very well done and am very much looking forward to Halo 3!

The first thing I noticed - regarding the single player campaign - was that the level design was improved greatly over Halo 1. While I loved Halo 1, it did suffer from some repetitive level design, and less exciting levels as the game progressed. Every level in Halo 2 is incredibly diverse and stands very seperate from the others. Also a few of the later levels were some of the best in the game. Bungie still does some amazing outdoor battle designs, and they greatly improved the indoor ones too. The dual weilding weapon was a nice touch, and added an interesting aspect to the game. I thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with different weapon combination. The weapons have been tweaked, and for the most part improved, although I do miss the old pistol and AR. But, the improvements and dual weilding more than make up for the weapons that disappeared. Halo 2 has a beefed up story that was much improved over the first.

It goes without saying that it is a terrific looking game. But, I don't know if I would call it the best on the Xbox to date. I still think Tecmo makes a very slightly prettier game (Ninja Gaiden, DOAU). And, I would have preferred FMV cut-scenes as the in game rendered ones had some pop-up (with the texturing) and framerate issues in a couple spots. But, I'm nitpicking as it is without a doubt one of the prettier games on the market today. The environments are just amazingly well done, and the character details are spectacular.

It doesn't get any better than this. A tremendous soundtrack that chimes in at all the right times and voice work that rivals the best games. The marine and grunt chatter is hilarious. I love that they brought in a few celebrities as the marines (David Cross is hilarious). The sound effects, gun shots, blasts, etc... are just so well done. I loved it on the first level on earth when you could hear gunshots ringing out in the distance. It truly sounded like you were in an urban warfare situation.

Suggestions: A couple minor things...there should be a split screen option (horizontal or vertical) in the game, without making us change our dashboard settings from widescreen to 4:3 TV size. A few more XBL options would be nice too, instead of Bungie choosing the gametype for ranked games.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 BloodRayne 2

I really enjoyed the first BloodRayne game, despite it's flaws (mainly the lackluster graphics). I was overjoyed to find this sequel looks 10 times better than the first one. I was also pleasantly surprised to find many other improvements to this sequel. The level design and environments are much better. You'll find yourself fighting in such places as a zoo, mansion, train yard, downtown area, etc... Gone are those god awful "plant" levels from the first. The fighting engine and moves have been tweaked. The game feels much more balanced now and provides a greater challenge. It's not as hard as Ninja Gaiden, but those expecting the cake walk found in the original will be surprised to find this one is more challenging. Other than the groovy changes, it's pretty much the same bloody game. Rayne is a sexy, sexy half woman/vampire that hacks, slices, and sucks her way through the bad guys. It's got a plot about her trying to kill her family line, but that's not important. This game is all about the carnage.

There is no shortage of ways to dispatch your enemies. As in the first game, Rayne has her trademark silver blades attached to her arms. She no longer can pick up and use guns. Instead she has two permanent "blood guns" attached that can be fueld by your victim's blood. As you go along the guns get more powerful. She also has her harpoon. In the first game you could use these to harpoon your victim, draw them to you, and start sucking their blood (for health). I was slightly disappointed they changed this, and now you can only throw them. No more harpooning and sucking. Also, you can no longer attach yourself to victim's on the ground. Rayne does have a variety of special powers such as blood fury, super speed, freeze time, etc... that are gained as the game progresses. You have to make good use of all of these to get through the game. The level design is pretty much straight forward. Most of the levels were very well done. But, I must admit I'm sick of every game ending up in the sewers at one time or another. It's always a boring, repetitive, and drab place. But, places like the zoo, bar, mansion, etc... make up for that one. Overall, BR2 takes about 11 hours to complete, and has about 32 levels.

There are a few CGI cut scenes that are tremendous. Rayne looks a lot better in this game when compared to the first. The environments also look solid. Very pleasing game to the eye, overall. Also, some very good character design all the way around.

The voice acting could be considered cheesy, but I loved it. There are some very funny lines, especially near the end. The rest of the sound effects and music were just right.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow

Overall: I was never a huge fan of Stealth style games, as I always tended to prefer the straight up style of a FPS. Perhaps I have ADD as I find myself just prefering to fight or shoot instead of taking the time to be stealthy. But, that was before I ran into the first Splinter Cell game, which I got after hearing such glowing reviews for it. I found myself enjoying the mix of strategy and fighting, and really liked the idea of having multiple ways to complete an objective. PT is no different, and makes a few minor improvements. Namely, the environements are improved and feel more open. Secondly, it has an excellent online component that was missing in the first. My only issues with PT would be that it's really not a big step up from the first game, and ultimately feels almost identical to that one. Also, Sam Fisher still can't perform hand to hand combat worth a darn. You would think he would be a little better at hand to hand.

Gameplay: Certain games just "feel" right. I can't quite explain it. It's much like when you are playing Halo and the controls and shooting just feel like second nature, almost as if the controller was built for that game. PT is not quite to that level, but pretty close. Everything is just very intuitive, after a few levels you'll be sneaking around, grabbing bad guys and knocking them out without even thinking of the controller. My only complaint would be with the inventory system. It is still fairly clunky, but it does not deter from the game as you don't have to do it "on the fly". As I mentioned above, the hand to hand combat also leaves something to be desired, but this game isn't really about that, I guess.

Graphics: Games don't get much prettier that the Splinter Cell series, and I would put it in the top 5 prettiest Xbox games right behind anything that Tecmo does.

Audio: Voice acting is top notch, and I can't think of a game off hand with better voice acting. The sound effect and music are also just simply perfect.

Suggestions: UbiSoft is slowly becoming one of my favorite developers. I just love everything they do. Thumbs up to US!

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 RalliSport Challenge 2

Overall: I was a big fan of the first RalliSport, and was not disappointed in RalliSport 2. They made small improvements on nearly every aspect of the first game, including better courses, environments, vehicles, graphics, and gameplay. I do have a few minor issues with the game, that I'll get into. Overall I'd give RS2 a 4.75 out of 5, but since I don't have that option, I'll round up...

Gameplay: I have almost no complaints in the gameplay department. The cars handle smoothly, and intuitively. One improvement that I appreciated greatly over RS1 was the ability to redo certain stages of the race. In the first one, if you messed up a stage badly, you would have to do the entire race - all of the stages - over again. In this one, you can redo the stages as needed, which causes for a lot less headaches. RS2 has a lot of different type of races including Hill Climb races, Rally races, Rally Cross, Ice Racing, etc... My only very minor complaint is that in a lot of the races you are racing alone, with no other competitors on the track. With some of the longer races, this can get a bit tedius. However, in all fairness, that is the name of the game, and it is not a fault of the developer.

Graphics: The visuals are fantastic. The environments and vehicles look great. The vehicles also show damage. Realistic weather conditions are a nice touch, and there are several different driver views to choose from.

Audio: Alright, here's my one real beef with the game. The vehicles all sound pretty much the same and they are whiny, buzzing sounding engines. It can definitely get annoying after awhile. It would be nice to hear a more throaty sounding vehicle, or at least have a noticeable difference between the vehicles. But, it does have custom soundtracks, which is a HUGE bonus. I'll deduct a point for the lacking engine sounds.

Suggestions: Engine noises could be improved. Perhaps more unique vehicles (much like the ones that were offered as DL content on Xbox Live).

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Mortal Kombat: Deception

Mortal Kombat is back with lots of new features built around pretty much the same game we saw in Deadly Alliance. There have been a few improvements to the game, including two fatalities per character and another fatality in which you can force the character to commit suicide. The environments have multiple levels (like Dead or Alive), and hot spots where you can kill a character by hitting them into a certain area. But, there's not a lot to surprise you in the gameplay department, it's all very much the same idea of blocking attacks then trying to string together a long combo.

As fighting games go, I think Mortal Kombat at it's core is starting to fall behind other more improved games such as Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive, and even Tekken. As for the additional features, the Konquest mode is essentially a RPG type game, but it leaves a lot to be desired. The voice acting is REALLY bad, the story is weak, and essentially you just run around and do pointless errands for townsfolk in turn for coin that you can spend in the krypt. Also the collision detection in the Konquest mode is painfully bad. At times you can walk through wall, other times you can not walk between trees that are spaced 10 feet apart. There is a chess and puzzle fighting mode that are decent add ons and a nice diversion from the normal play.

Mortal Kombat is starting to look dated. The characters, environments, and everything else look dated. With games such as Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive around, it is painfully obvious that MK is falling behind in this department. Everything lacks polish. The graphics in the Kongquest mode are slightly worse. To be fair, the visuals are not disgusting, they are just far from inspiring.

The background music is annoying at times. This voice work in the Konquest mode is laughable at best. The rest of the sound effects are very good.

Suggestions: Upgrade the visuals. The Konquest mode was a nice attempt, but needs a serious upgrade all the way around in visuals, story, and voice work. But, overall the extras were a nice distraction from the main game and help this out to be a better than average game.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 ESPN NBA 2K5

I have not visited the NBA 2K series since 2K2, but seeing as how this years edition came out at the buzzer beater price of $19.99, along with the ESPN brand, I thought I'd give it a go. There are many mode, including a franchise (association), street mode, and a 24/7 story type mode. Overall, it is a fun game, and worth the price, but I do have some issues with it. Mainly, there was not near the improvement I was expecting between the 2k2 and 2k5 versions, and in some aspects it took a step backwards. By contrast, when you compare the improvement between their NFL series from 2K2 to 2K5 it is astounding how far that series has come.

The overall gameplay is where the series took a few steps backwards. First off, it is very hard to drive to the hoop in 2K5, and darn near impossible to do an alley oop. Dunking is also a little harder. The movement is awkward when you first hit the turbo, and lacks fluidity. Ocassionally your player will go a different direction than you intend. There are some fancy new moves like behind the back dribble, a hop forward, and spin move. The good news is you get used to the controls and awkward movement after a few games, but the gameplay was much smoother in earlier 2K versions.

The visuals do the trick for the most part. The real life player models look similar to their counterparts, and the arenas and envirobnment (fans) are decent. The create a player is severely lacking with only about 7 heads to choose from, hair that looks like raw hamburger, and little customization.

The sound is a mixed bag. The commentators are flat and are too repetitive in their comments. The sound effects, including the crowd, are handled nicely. It utilizes custom soundtracks, but for some reason it just doesn't mesh as well as it did with football or the hockey 2k5 versions.

Suggestions: The gameplay department needs to be smoothed out. I don't want it to be incredibily easy to drive, dunk, or alleyoop, but they went to the polar opposite and made these things way too hard. More options for create a player. Better commentary. A crib mode should be added.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Project Gotham Racing 2

Overall: While I enjoyed the first Project Gotham racing a whole bunch, I never fell in love with it, primarily because of the closed feeling on the courses. The path is so tight and confined, that it takes away a certain fun element for me. Unfortunately, Project Gotham 2 didn't really deviate from the same closed racing path style. However, it made some upgrades that really improved the game, and made it a winner for me. Namely it has the best use of Xbox Live of any game to date. Even in the single player mode, it will compare your scores to everyone elses. And, you can download anybody's ghost car and see how the true champs do it.

Gameplay: There are TONS of cars and tracks to choose from in PG2, and every car handles and sounds very differently. There are a lot of various race modes to choose from. Sometimes you'll race against others for a street race, or a 1 on 1, and other times you race alone for kudos (style points). As I said above, my one beef with PG2 is that the courses are very confined (no alternate paths, shortcuts, free roaming, and except for a few tracks near the end of the game, you can't ever get even slightly off the road.

Graphics: Nothing to complain about here. The visuals look fantastic. Great cars and environments. The damage modeling is great. Everything runs and looks smooth.

Audio: The cars sound good, and each has a unique sound. The inclusion of the custom soundtrack feature earns PG2 a 5 in this category.

Suggestions: I would like to see a more open-ended gameplay mode mixed in with the confined spaces ones.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Ninja Gaiden

Overall: Ninja Gaiden is a game for the diehard gamer. A tremendous 3rd person action adventure game that does just about everything perfectly. I wouldn't recommend it to the casual or unskilled gamer, but for everyone else this is the type of game that you wish every game would be.

Gameplay: Ninja Gaiden plays so incredibly smooth, and has a great combat system. The levels are well designed. Most of the boss battles were very well done. A few can be frustratingly hard, but the satisfaction of beating them makes up for it. When you beat the game, you feel a real sense of accomplishment. There's high replay value, as I've played it through 2 1/2 times so far just to find the scarabs, play with the various weapons, and to check out the new bad guys and features in the downloadable content. Quite simply, games do not get much better than Ninja Gaiden.

Graphics: Drop dead gorgeous visuals from the in game animation down to the prettiest CGI cutscenes since the ending scenes of DOA3. I would be hard pressed to find a better looking game anywhere on any platform. The environments are also very diverse and well done. The new Xbox Live update also addressed any camera concerns, although I never had a problem with the original camera.

Audio: My one very minor beef with NG is the music. At times it does not seem to fit the environment, and could have been slightly better. The rest (sound effects, voice acting) is all good.

Suggestions: .Make another one!

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 ESPN NFL 2K5

Overall: ESPN NFL 2k5 is easily the best football game on the market, and is easily one of the best games I have ever played on any console. This series just gets better and better every year, and at $20 there is not enough that can be said for it. I have over 100 hours into the game now, and still have a lot of milestones that I want to accomplish, and am far from bored with it. Easily the best 'bang for the buck' I have ever discovered.

Gameplay: Last years game played very well, but they managed to improve it this year. Most notably the running game was improved so that your runner can no longer turn on a dime. The level of control you have over your ball carrier and defense has also been improved. The franchise mode has been upgraded, and also affords much more control over the goings on. If I had to nitpick, my one minor beef would be with the weekly training players feature which is incredibly time consuming and fairly clunky. There are plenty of game modes, First Person Football is back and a fun diversion. Also included is the 25 greatest comebacks of all time, and you are put in charge of re-creating those combacks. Finish it and get a big trophy and 5000 crib points. The halftime show, postgame show, and weekly Sportscenter are nothing short of amazing.

Graphics: The visuals are spectacular. The character models look very good, the environments and stadiums are top notch. It's what I've come to expect from Sega as every year they put out a very pretty game.

Audio: The commentary is solid as always. The Chris Berman weekly wrap up and halftime and postgame shows are nothing short of amazing. The inclusion of custom soundtracks, and being able to edit your music to play for certain events on the field is more fun than it should be, and a terrific addition to this year's version.

Suggestions: No suggestions...just a standing ovation.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

Overall: Psi Ops would be a standard 3rd person shooter with so-so graphics and semi bland environments, if it were not for the inclusion of the Psi-Powers. You are given the ability to do some pretty nifty things with his brain powers. You can pick up objects or people and toss them around at will. Or, you can gain control of another character and use the bad guy to kill other bad guys. You can have an outer-body experience and walk through doors to see what's beyond without getting hurt. All of these things set the game apart from your standard 3rd person shooter, and make it a joy to play.

Gameplay: Psi-Ops controls very well. Using your Psi powers is very intuitive and not hard. Having the powers affords you about serveral ways to solve any situation, and millions of ways to kill the baddies. For example, you can pick the bad guy up and thrash him against the walls repeatedly until he dies. Or, you can hold him in the air and shoot him. Or, you can slowly throw him into an open fire. Or, sneak up behind him and suck out his Psi energy until his head explode. Or, just shoot him. Or, take control of his "friend" and introduce him to some friendly fire. Or, take control of him and make him jump into a lake or a tall building. Well, you get the picture... The level designs are fairly straight forward with a few puzzle solving type problems. There are boss battles, but they are handled fairly well and each are very different. Overall, there's not much to complain about in the gameplay departmnet. It's the visuals where all the problems are, which leads me to the next category...

Graphics: Yuck. Psi-Ops is not easy on the eyes. The environments are bland and stereo typical of these action games (shipping yard, train yard, futuristic prison with endless metal hallways, office building). The character models look dated and are not very fleshed out. Just a whole feeling of 'blah' surrounds the visual portion of the game.

Audio: The voice acting is a mixed bag. There's a female in the game that sounds a little too mannish. The rest of the voice acting sounds pretty B movie-ish. The sound effects are serviceable, and the music is not really noticeable, which can be good or bad.

Suggestions: Terrific gameplay in the body of an ugly game. Upgrade the visuals. A little more creativity in the environments.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Alias

I'm a BIG fan of Alias, so I had high hopes for this game. In short, I was highly disappointed by the gameplay. I would recommend it to die hard fans, but definitely would not recommend it to the casual viewer, or someone who has never watched the show. For starters, the game did a good job at fitting into the Alias universe. It takes place in the 2nd season and weaves it's way into the plot pretty nicely. All of the actors do the voice work, which lend it credibility, and they obviously spent a lot of time trying to get the faces to look like the actual actors. Where the game severely falls apart is in the execution of the gameplay. The combat system feels sluggish, mostly like you're fighting in jello. There's not much that's interactive within each level (except the ability to talk to a few random characters). Shooting, targeting, etc... feels awkward. Even general movement is glitchy at times, I found myself running around a door trying to get the open door icon to pop up. So, the bottom line is that they captured the Alias feel, look, and sound perfectly, but the execution of the gameplay sucks big time.

You are given fairly clear goals to accomplish. You use combination stealth/fighting/puzzle solving. This game does nothing new that hasn't been done before, and does it much worse than most games out there. It you've ever played Splinter Cell, you'll laugh at the stealth elements in Alias. The combat system is putrid to put it mildly

The overall graphics are not very good, and it looked fairly grainy to me on my 57" HDTV. But, for the most part they nailed the character's faces, and look of the game, so I give it thumbs up for that. Plus, they use a few of the actual costumes from the show which was also nice.

They did a terrific job with the sound. The actual Alias music comes and goes with different variations. All the actors from the show do the voice work. Marshall is a little overdone (more so than the show), but it's all good.

Suggestions: Improve the combat system, make it feel less sluggish. Improve the stealth elements (more use of shadows, distractions, etc...).

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Overall: I like what Ubi Soft has been developing lately, and Prince of Persia is no exception. It reaks of a quality game with good graphics, excellent attention to detail, and solid gameplay. It follows a good story that keeps you interested until the end, and mixes in some humor with the action. The game does take a couple of missteps, but overall it's a worthwhile game. Oh, and there's also POP1 and POP2 to unlock...a nice bonus!

Gameplay: The controls and fighting engine were good. The level design was a mixed bag. After about 60% through the game, the puzzles get ridiculously hard -- in particular there are 2 levels involving mirrors that drove me nuts -- although, to be fair, I generally am not a fan of puzzle type games. For most of the game you have a 'dagger of time' and can rewind time, which greatly helps with the complicated platform jumping -- you miss a jump, just rewind and try again. The fighting was good, but through most of the game you have to keep the princess safe (I hate 'escort missions'!!!).

Graphics: The graphics are one of the games strong points. Terrific environments, great cut scenes, and an awesome attention to detail. I liked how the Prince would still be 'dripping' when he got out of the water, and his feet would slip if trying to run up a wall if they were still wet. Lots of very nice subtle details like that can be found.

Audio: Good voice acting, and standard Middle Eastern style music are what you'll find here. Good use of 5.1 sound.

Suggestions: Make the puzzles a little less difficult, and the gameplay a little more straightforward. But, overall another teriffic game from Ubi Soft!

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Serious Sam

Overall: I bought this game on a whim as it was $20, and was pleasantly surprised. The best word to describe this game is 'mindless', but that's not a bad thing in this case. SS consists of plowing your way through several levels of wave after wave of bad guys. There are several types of guns and baddies to keep things interesting. However, the game is not without it's flaws, mainly that it gets a little repetitive at times and the graphics are not what you would call 'top notch'. Ultimately, the good things in this game far outweigh the bad.

Gameplay: The controls are easy to use and become second nature quickly. Serious Sam is essentially a move straight ahead and shoot, with the exception of a few 'key collecting/find the button' type objetives.

Graphics: There's nothing in particular that is wrong with the graphics, but they feel just slightly outdated when compared with other Xbox games of a similar nature.

Audio: The music is pretty generic. The rest of the sound effects (guns, explosions) are decent. Overall nothing to note one way or another.

Suggestions: A little more diversity on some of the levels and a slight upgrade on the visuals would have put this game up to a 5 out of 5 for me.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Midnight Club 2

Overall: A very disappointing racing game that does a lot of things wrong. First up, the characters are way to annoying. Secondly, no custom soundtracks -- which is bizarre for a racing game. Thirdly, I thought the cars were boring and didn't really care for any of them. Lastly, there are far better racing games on the Xbox, so avoid MC2. It wasn't all terrible, though. The graphics and environments (3 cities) all looked pretty good, and I liked the open ending races which you have several paths to choose from.

Gameplay: The controls are what you'd expect from an arcade style racer, and MC2 is a little unique in that in most races you can take a variety of paths (and short cuts) to the finish line. But, it's all rather ho-hum, and nothing new. There are a lot of better racers for the Xbox (Project Gotham, Midtown Madness, Need For Speed, RalliSport), so why waste your time on this one?

Graphics: Everything looks ok, but since everything is at night, it all looks the same after a bit and even the few changes in cities don't help the variety much.

Audio: Characters have the most annoying voices and attitudes. The music sucks, and there are no custom soundtracks. Nothing is good in the sound department.

Suggestions: Custom soundtracks, licensed cars, better characters...

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 XIII

Overall: I have some issues with XIII, but overall it was an enjoyable and unique first person shooter. I liked the style of it. The Xbox Live play makes it very fun and lengthens the life of the game past the single player experience. I didn't like the frequent stealth levels in the single player game.

Gameplay: A nice variety of weapons, and some good levels. Some very unique elements for the stealth levels, like visual clues ('tap...tap') to help you locate the bad guys when you can't see them, but as I said they overused the stealth levels in the game as I would have liked to see more straight up shooting levels. Also, many times I felt very confined to the certain path, and it did not even give the illusion of being very open ended at times. I liked the Xbox Live deathmatches, and have used this game on Live more than any other lately.

Graphics: This game looks teriffic, and makes the comic book look come to life better than any other game. In particular, I liked the comic book panels that come up when you shoot someone in the head, or they fall off a cliff...very nice touches.

Audio: They utilized professional voice acting (David Duchovny and Batman), which was a nice touch. The guns sound good (but not great), and all other sound effects were serviceable.

Suggestions: Less stealth missions more FPS style levels.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Panzer Dragoon Orta

Overall: I heard the great reviews, but always thought I would hate a 'rail shooter' style game. So, I held out until I found a copy for $10. Woah, was I surprised when I found all the reviews were right! This game was not perfect, but it was very very good. The amazing thing was that it never felt like a rail shooter to me. It felt more like a very cool updated 3D version of an old school arcade shooter (Galaga, Space Invaders).

Gameplay: The controls were very intuitive, and felt good. Shooting, targeting, switching between your dragons, and everything else felt very good and became natural after a few levels. Some very minor complaints would be that it's short (took about 5 1/2 hours for me to complete), but can be frustrating at times.

Graphics: Some of the best, diverse environments in any game. There's a wide array of enemies, and the game never feels repetitive (unless you're stuck replaying a specific level over and over). Great cut scenes, and character models.

Audio: This is the one major misstep of the game and keeps it from a 5 out of 5 score overall. The music is bland and will make you want to sleep more than play it. The language the characters speak sounds like baby talk, and is pretty retarded. The dragon screech is annoying -- shouldn't it have a frightnening and powerful voice?!?

Suggestions: Fix the sound issues and make it a little longer.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 True Crime: Streets Of L.A.

Overall: This game was so disappointing. I expected a GTA quality game, but it's not really close. I can think of far more things the game does wrong than right, and that's never a good thing. For starters, the shooting/targeting system is simply awful. The zoom/shoot is mapped to the same button?!? Speaking of the controls, it never felt configured right no matter which scheme I tried. The story starts off ok, but gets bizarre (Flying fire heads, dragons, etc... pop up in the middle), which doesn't match it's 'True Crime' aspirations. The game also desperately needs more open endedness (like GTA), and more things to do besides missions and police calls.

Gameplay: The story is short, but has branching paths depending on how good or bad you are. I did like solving the various side police radio calls, but that only goes so far, and they start to repeat. There's not much else to do, and often after completing a mission, you have no choice but to start the next mission.

Graphics: The game does some things right here. The graphics are much improved when compared to GTA. The character models and pedestrians are all nicely done. Good cut scenes can also be found.

Audio: This game gets my award for most screwed up use of the custom soundtrack feature (beating out Midtown Madness by a hair). You can only add 100 (picked at random) of your custom soundtracks, but that doesn't matter because it'll still play it's own music most of the time NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO!!!! Ugh, I hate rap music, and I hate that the custom soundtrack feature did not work half the time. I hate that I could only choose from 100 of my songs when I have well over 300 on the hard drive. This sucked beyond belief! I'd give sound a -1 if I could.

Suggestions: Fix the soundtrack feature. Make more stuff to do, and more side mission type things (ala GTA).

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Grand Theft Auto: Double Pack

Overall: I'd heard about GTAIII and GTA:VC, but didn't play it until it arrived on the Xbox. Now, I see what all the fuss was about. In particular, VC is one of the best games I have ever played. I have never encountered a game that is so open ended and packed with side missions, and assorted fun junk to do. I've played it for over 35 hours, and still find new stuff around town every time I play. I definately prefer the newer VC to the older GTAIII as VC has the helicopters, motorcycles, and a few other bonuses, but both are just awesome games.

Gameplay: I can not think of a game that is more open ended and has such diverse gameplay as GTA. There is just so much to do, and ofter you get sidetracked into just causing general mayhem, and forget there are mission to do. I hope game makers make more games that are this open ended.

Graphics: The graphics are serviceable, but it is the only minor downer in the game. The 'pop in' is pretty bad especially when flying over the city. Character models are pretty poor, as are the cut scenes. Again, it serves it's purpose, but I would love to see a GTA with Xbox quality graphics.

Audio: This game nailed the custom soundtracks feature better than any other game...ever! Play any song on any of your soundtracks on the fly (no annoying 'playlists' like some other games), and it also starts the song off where it left off, as opposed to starting it over from the beginning like many other games. AND, the radio stations are soooo good, that I frequently listen to them over the custom soundtracks. This is the only game that I have ever opted their music over mine when I had the choice. The voice acting is also some of the best of any game.

Suggestions: Make an Xbox specific GTA that has graphics to match the hardware.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance

It's great to see Mortal Kombat back with a somewhat fresh approach to the game. New features like the three fighting styles for each characters is a nice touch and there are plenty of characters and tons of unlockables to keep it interesting. But, I do have a few complaints that irked me. I was very disappointed that there were no more than 1 fatality for each character and that they did away with the "friendship" option which I always got a kick out of in the earlier Mortal Kombat's.

Each fighters fighting styles are unique, and the gameplay is fluid. I did experience some serious slowdown, but discovered I had to turn off the Xbox's HDTV feature in order to make that go away. It seems like Midway should have tested this, or put a note in the instructions. Anyway, overall the gameplay is solid. the Krypt was a nice feature.

The graphics are good, but I was really disappointed it did not support HDTV. I was even more disappointed with the ending scenes as they were only still pictures with beyond stupid stories (essentially: oh, you won with Scorpion, but forget that because after you won, somebody killed him...I'm not making this up!).

Sounds are adequate and what you would expect. The stage with the screaming souls was as annoying as hell, though.

Suggestions: Better character endings (FMV), HDTV support w/o serious slow down, bring back "friendships", and more than 1 fatality.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

Overall: Splinter Cell is a near perfect game with perfect visuals that definately merits a 5 out of 5 score.

Gameplay: The control scheme works beautifully. After a few levels it becomes very natural and you can do things without thinking about it. I found almost more fun to play the 2nd time as there are many different ways to accomplish the goals. I have two minor beefs with Splinter Cell. First off, there is no way to skip some in game dialogue or cut scenes, which occassionally gets really old if you have to play the part over and over. Secondly, I wish there were unlimited save spots instead of only three. But, those are very minor gripes to an otherwise perfect game. One last thing, I read an earlier review that complained about not having enough ammo or not being able to pick up other guards guns. I have to disagree with this. Half of the fun is trying NOT to kill the guards. Unlimited ammo would suck the fun out of this game. And as a trained CIA agent, Fisher would never trust somebody else's gun. It makes more sense for him to stick with his own equipment that he knows and trusts.

Graphics: Perhaps the best visuals ever seen on a console (DOAXVB and Halo are also right up there). As countless others have said here...the lighting effects have to be seen to be believed. The textures are amazing. The diverse settings are tremendous. There are just not enough words to descrive the visuals. I would give it a 6 out of 5 if I could.

Audio: The Dolby 5.1 is as good as it gets. You can hear where guards are by listening to the speakers. The sounds are clear crisp distinct and the use of the 5.1 is excellent. On a slight downside, the music isn't much to speak of. I love the opening theme, but the in game music (when a guard is alerted) gets a little old after the 500th time. But, overall the good far outwiegh any negatives.

Suggestions: Be able to skip cut scenes. More than three save games. Put it out for PS2, so all the PS2 fanboys can see how much there system sucks compared to the 'box.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 MLB Slugfest 2003

This is one of those games that I was expecting very little, but was really surprised by how good it is. I was amazed at the quality of graphics coming from this game. The stadiums and the players faces all look very realistic. I was even more surprised at how fun and easy the gameplay was. I also loved the sense of humor. The comments and animations are very funny. But a word of caution, if you are looking for a baseball simulation, this is not it (it's nfl blitz, fast paced style baseball). MLB 20-03 delivers a fast paced, fun, and often hilarious baseball game that is well worth it's bargain basement price. It's too bad this was overlooked by the masses when it came out.

I loved the gameplay. Batting and pitching is very easy, while still being fun. It's nothing to score 20+ runs a game, and the game is fast paced. It adds in some unique elements like the ability to punch or kick an infielder to attempt to jar the ball loose and advance a few bases. Get a few hits in a row, and you're on "fire", literally. Your player will scream in agony as they catch in flames, but then you can use unlimited turbo while batting or fielding. There are also tons of cheats available, which keeps things fresh. I can't think of anything to complain about, except that there is no create a team or player.

The graphics are a lot more than expected coming from this type of game. The stadiums and players look fantastic.

The announcers are hilarious. The comments they make are very funny, and I love the stuff they say during the initial loading screen. The rest of the sounds do the job.

Suggestions: Create a team, player features will be great (I hear they will be in 20-04's version!).

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath Of Cortex

When you buy a Crash game you know what to expect, and this game doesn't deviate from the basic formula. It's got your same old settings such as the jungle, the snow and ice levels, "flying" levels, Crash gets chased by a big animal or natural disaster levels, Crash in a hamster ball level etc... It also has the same gem collecting system, in which you have to play every level a few times over to get 100% of the gems and crystals. Overall, there is nothing really wrong or bad about the game, but the series is starting to become a little repetitive and boring. Crash needs desparately needs some CPR!

The gameplay is easy enough. It's the same as every crash game...spin, jump, smash. The controls feel responsive enough. I didn't really like the levels that you play as coco. I didn't think they played as well as the Crash levels. The story line of Cortex trying to take over the world is definately getting old. Time to whip up a new nemises for the next version. Also it would be nice to see a story line that even vaguely made sense.

The only improvement over previous versions is in this category. This is the prettiest Crash game to date. I like Crash's fur, and the environments look good.

Yawn! Mostly boring music and sounds. Very typical of crash games. Perhaps use of custom soundtracks would have helped.

Suggestions: Time to revolutionize the franchise. How about something completely different. Perhaps a 3D world that you can explore without being on a specific path? Or a new nemises? Something different is what this game needs to survive any longer.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Turok: Evolution

I made the ghastly mistake of buying this turd for $50 when it came out. Then, I tried so hard to like this game, but it just was far too painful of an experience. It's been a while since I've disliked a game so much. I generally like first person shooters, so I thought I'd like Turok. It seems to have all the elements for a good game: FPS, lots of weapons, dinosaurs, diverse settings, but it misfires in the gameplay category. There are many things I disliked, but the main ones are as follows:

1. The flying levels are horrible. Too hard, boring, and so not necessary.

2. Desperately needs more save points. Playing whole levels over again is not fun for anybody that I know.

3. Put a plot in the game and make it flow smoothly with more FMV sequences.

4. Enemy AI is some of the worst I have ever seen. Should have been called AR (artificial retards).

Gameplay was beyond bad. Turok does not move right. It does not feel responsive. Jumping is a pain. Key collecting levels/button pushing levels make little to no sense. The story is of little concern and rarely has anything to do with the gameplay. The only cool thing this game has, is the poison darts that make the bad guys puke. But after 10 times, it gets old.

The textures are horrible. Big blocky trees and leaves. On the plus side, there are some diverse locales that make up for the blocky-ness of the textures.

Weapon sounds are decent. Ambient music was fair. The rest of the sounds worked ok.

Suggestions: Too many things to mention, but having more save points (like Halo), improving the graphics, improving enemy AI, actually including a story, and getting rid of the flying levels would be a good start.

Overall Score: 2.0 / 10 Cel Damage

Cel Damage isn't horrible, but it never was engaging enough to make me want to play it. I picked it up because it was a cheap title (under $10), and I got what I paid for. It pace is fast, and eventually I got used to it, but I think the fast pace helps to cover up the fact that there really isn't much of a game here. Basically you pick up different weapons and try to smash the competition in one of 12 different environments.

The pace makes the game a little disorienting. It's not unusual to get killed and re-spawn 20+ times a match which gets a little old. The variety of weapons is not large enough. Overall it's a little too simplistic for my taste.

Nothing wrong with the visuals. The sets are diverse and unique. The cel shading is ok. But, it's also nothing earth shattering.

This is one of those games that desparately needed to use custom soundtracks. The developers dropped the ball here.

Suggestions: More weapons, more to do in the game, custom soundtracks.

Overall Score: 4.0 / 10 Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2

NFS2 is a solid racing game. What it lacks in graphics, it more than makes up in gameplay. I've always liked the NFS series, and this is the best one to come along in a while.

This game plays better than any other racer. The cars handle smoothly, and each car feels different. The cops behave intelligently, and this is where it is the most fun. I love the helicopters that drop the exploding barrels, but I wonder who would do that in real life?!? Cars behave like they should (bump the back corner bumper and the other car will spin out). Lots of different modes and things to unlock keep things interesting.

Overall the graphics are pretty sad when compared to other racers on the Xbox such as PGR, Apex, and RalliSport. It's not god awful, but is certainly bland. Typical of EA games to not make use of the Xbox's potential.

Custom soundtracks earn it a 5 out of 5 from me. Each vehicle sounds different, and I like the police chatter on the radios.

Suggestions: Needs an upgrade in the graphics department before I would give it a 5 rating.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams

SH2 is one of the creepiest games I have ever played. Overall it's a very immersive game that'll have you hooked until the end. However, it is not without it's flaws. My main complaints were that the controls never felt right to me, there was not much variety in the bad guys, and the ending was a little confusing. But there are a ton of positives. The story is solid, the setting is terrific, and SH2 is genuinely scary.

The story was very good (until the end), but the contols never felt right to me. I got used to it after a few hours, but still never liked the control system.

This game shines in the visual department. It creates a perfect mood to fit the game and keep you on the edge of your seat.

The sounds are excellent and very creepy. I like the use of the static to tell you when a zombie is near.

Suggestions: Make the controls better. More diverse enemies.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 TimeSplitters 2

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". This phrase sure sums up TS2 for me. The single player story mode suffered from inconsistent level design that ranged from being a blast (Notre Dame, Wild West) to a controller throwing, head slapping crap fest (Atom Smasher, Robot Factory). There was also no rhyme or reason to them as the first level is 10 times harder than the last. Levels aside, the game packs an astounding amount of diversity with a story mode, arcade mode, great multiplayer options, and more. I really liked that it also kept stastics (how many rounds you fired, monkeys killed, etc...). This brings me back to my opening line. It's tough to rate this game because for every one thing I love about TS2, I can think of one that I hate with as much passion. Thus, I have to give it a 3 out of 5.

I had a problem with the aiming. You can play with a reticule or without. The problem is it moves differently with the retucule which make it virtually unplayable that way. It moves better without, but you can't tell what you are hitting or if you are hitting an enemy. Besides that issue and some bad level design, I did like the way it played and felt.

It's a PS2 port, so it's your basic PS2 style graphics. On the good side each level has a very unique feel to it.

I finshed this game about 2 weeks ago, and to be honest I can't remember the sounds that well. So, that must mean it wasn't anything memorable one way or another.

Suggestions: Fire your level designer(s) and hire ones that don't smoke crack and can bring some consistant logical design to TS3.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Circus Maximus: Chariot Wars

I bought this one because it was under $10 on ebay. The money would have been better spent by hiring a hobo to stick a sharp stick in my eye. At least it would be less painful than playing Circus Maximus which suffers from numerous flaws. Mainly I found it to be incredibly boring. The game utilizes "computer assistance" so you can never move too far ahead of the pack, and no matter how badly you screw up the others seem to park and wait for you to catch up. Every race seems to come down to the last 10 seconds of the race, so why even race the first 3 minutes? Also, you just mindlessly hit the slash button to try to hit the others while you race. It's awkward, unfun, and boring. But, I won't give it a 1 out of 5. I will give it an extra half a point for trying a unique idea (getting a stick in my eye rates a 2 out of 5).

It sounds like a great idea. Let's race chariots and slash at the other opponents. Ok, it does sound stupid, and succeeds at being idiotic and boring. As I mentioned above the computer assistance ruins any chance of this being even a viable racer for the 'box. With so many great racers out there, avoid this one even if it's free.

The graphics are not terrible, but are pretty basic. The tracks have some diversity and the game moves fast without dropping the frame rate.

Very average sounds. No custom soundtrack is a big negative. I would enjoyed racing a chariot to some modern music.

Suggestions: For CM2, change the chariots to cars and call it Project Gotham 2.

Overall Score: 3.0 / 10 BloodRayne

This game really sucks. But, that's a good thing in this case. BloodRayne is definately a bloody violent game. There's no shortage of blood flying (or being sucked up by our heroine), limbs being hacked off, and heads rolling on the floor. If you can stomach the violence, it is a really fun game that is unlike any other. BloodRayne gets two hacked off thumbs up from me.

There are about 101 ways to dispatch of your enemies. There are loads of guns categorized into small guns, large guns, and special ones. You can also use two guns at once. If that's not good enough you can use BloodRayne's razor sharp claws to hack and slash your way through the bad guys. Or you can simply jump on one and suck the blood out of him while using your victim as a shield and shooting all at the same time. What makes this game unique is the many features such as slow-motion or the heat sensor and the numerous weapons. BloodRayne herself is a likable character and the story keeps things interesting. The game plays very smooth and was very immersive.

The visuals aren't stupendous, but they succeed in their goal. BloodRayner herself looks great. The levels look good, but could have used a little more diversity in their appearance.

The sounds are very good. All the special effects sound great, and the music does the job. Can't ask for anything more here.

Suggestions: Keep up the great work and thanks for putting out a very fun game.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee

Oddworld is a terrific platformer with a great sense of humor. It was one of the first games I bought with my Xbox, and I always thought it didn't quite get the credit it deserved. I never played the earlier 2D versions, so I can't say how the versions compare, but I love this 3D version. What really stands out is the sense of humor and original bizarre characters. Abe and Much are two of my favorite video game characters, and the way you can switch between the two to play cooperatively was ingenius. The game has some of the best video cut scenes in any game. Now that the game is a Platinum Hit, it is truly a great buy at $20. I give Oddworld a hearty two farts and a burp up.

The game plays very well, and it gently guides you through learning the controls in the first few levels. It gradually builds the level of difficulty, and allows the player to save anywhere at any time. All games should take a page from this book! The game plays well and each character has a unique feel and different abilities (Munch is a good swimmer and Abe is better on land).

The cut scenes rate a 6 out of 5, and the rest of the game a 4 out of 5. The character models are excellent. My only complaint is that it could use more vibrant colors within the game. As is, it is slightly color-less for such a colorful game. But overall, the graphics definately get the job done.

The voice acting/farting/burping is perfect. The rest of the sounds and music are also very competent.

Suggestions: I definately would love to see an Oddworld 2, and I think this can become a major platforming success for the Xbox.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 James Bond 007: NightFire

007: Nightfire is an ambitious game in which no two levels are alike. It is much like a Bond film taking place in many locales different vehicles, weapons, gadgets, etc... While diversity in a game can be a good thing, Nightfire comes off as slightly schizophrenic. It never stays in one place too long and ultimately in the end you feel like you played 10 mini games as opposed to 1 complete game. And while most of the "mini games" are fun, it ultimately was and unsatisfying short journey. I give it 1 goldthumb sideways.

As I stated above the story mode feels more like 10 seperate short games. The multiplayer does not utilize the system link, which is a huge negative for me. Leave it to EA to ignore Xbox specific features. The game controls ok. The car chases use the Need For Speed engine which is good. The FPS levels were good once I customized the controls. There were about 3 times that it turned into a rail shooter, and that was kind of boring for me.

They finally use Pierce Brosnan's face on James Bond. The graphics do the job, but like so many other games end up being nothing of note.

What happened to Bond's voice?!? Sounds like it was voiced by some guy off the street trying to do a bad Bond impersonation. As for the music, I was sick of the Bond theme song by the end of the game. The rest of the sound effects were adequate.

Suggestions: System link, a little longer story that spends a little more time in each environment.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Dark Summit

The extreme sports genre never appealed to me, and thus I've played very few snowboarding/skateboarding/BMX sytle games. But, I bought Dark Summit on a whim as I heard it was a rare story based extreme sports game which sounded like it could be intersting. Sure enough, it was a pleasant surprise. I did enjoy the game a lot more than I thought I would. The story held my interest long enough to keep me playing the whole game. Each level has several individual challenges, and the difficuly ramps up as you continue through the quest to the top of the mountain. Throw in the bizarre feel of the game complete with UFO's and cows and it really was unique. My only beefs were that the last challenge was a way to hard and frustrating and the graphics are slightly outdated for the Xbox.

DS plays very smoothly and within a few minutes you'll be doing 720 degree turns and flips like a pro. Most of the challenges are easy enough, a couple border on being too frustrating, but overall the game plays well and the story line is a welcome fresh addition to the genre.

Pretty basic graphics for an Xbox game. But everything moves smooth enough, it just lacks textures and does appear to be a little blocky at times.

I liked the voice acting. In particular it is fun to listen to the "Chief" who sounds a little like he escaped from a Hogan's Hero TV show. This game screams the need for custom soundtracks, but doesn't deliver. It's devoid of any music for that matter. The rest of the sound effects were fairly boring.

Suggestions: Custom soundtracks, upgrade the graphics.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Kakuto Chojin

Kakuto Chojin is a bizarre game. It plays and feels like an unfinished product that did have some potential. The characters are fairly generic, but they look very good. The arenas are some of the worst I have seen and are totally devoid of anything of note. There are no breakable or interactive items, no breakthrough walls or multi-tiered environments, and they are just boring. The fighting engine is adequate and the moves are easy enough to learn, but it lacks any depth. The character endings are boring static screens, and then your character dances while the credits roll (yipee!). Worse yet there is no save game feature, nothing to unlock, and no reason to want to finish the game. The basic framework of the characters and fighting engine work nicely, but there is absolutely NOTHING built on from there, and ultimately feels like an empty waste of a game.

As I stated above, the fighting engine is competent and the controls are easy enough, but it's just not very deep.

The characters look teriffic, but perhaps a little too "shiny". What is there of the backgrounds looks good, but there just isn't much going on.

I have never heard a fighting game sound this bad ever before. There are not enough adjetives to describe the weak "slapping" noises that are supposed to be fists landing on your opponent. The voices never even closely match the lips, and I don't think this was intentional (unlike Kung Fu Chaos).

Suggestions: Actually try to build a game around the basic framework. Let's see MK has 700+ unlockables. KC has 0. Make reasonably interesting arenas. Check out DOA3 endings to see how it's done. Recall this game from shelves immediately...oh, that's already been done...good job!

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Fuzion Frenzy

FF is one of the best party games ever. It does everything a good party game should. It's packed full of mini games, it's easy to pick up and play, and it is a blast to play with 4 players. There is something for everyone with the mini games, I personally like Sumo and Twisted System the best. What is really special about this game is that it's fun to play for everyone from 4 years old to us really old folks.

The mini games are great. Some are more fun than others, but all of them are playable. You can play the game to randomly select the games or you can choose them yourself. They never require more than two buttons, or in some cases just the anolog stick, which makes it easy to pick up and play for anyone. My only complaint about the game lies with the characters, as a few of them can be annoying (Zack mainly).

The visuals are actually very good considering the type of game this is. It's very colorful and vibrant.

FF utilizes custom soundtracks, which merits a 5 out of 5 alone. With the exception of a couple character's voices the rest of the effects are very good.

Suggestions: Hope they make a FF2 with more mini games!

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 State of Emergency

State of Emergency is a good game when considering its bargain basement price (around $20). Basically you run around different settings such as a mall or downtown area and take on various missions, such as kicking somebody's butt or taking down corparate goons. On the good side, it's easy to pick up and play, the settings are colorful, and it can be fun running around the locales shooting and punching whatever you like. On the bad side, the missions quickly become repetitive. There's not much of a plot, so it's easy to put the game down and not return to it for a while (which is what I did - a lot). Bottom line: If your looking for a light, easy $20 game, this is it. If you're looking for an immersive journey that'll keep you on the edge of your seat then play Halo again.

Because SOE is not a complicated game, the controls are easy enough to learn. The missions basically consist of "protect (fill in the blank)" and "kill (fill in the blank)". These are repeated over and over and over. Overall, it's fun and easy, but it's just not immersive enough.

I liked the cartoony visuals. Everything is bright and colorful. Nothing looks too real, but it works for the type of game it is.

As promised in some of my earlier reviews, I will give a 5 out of 5 to any game that utilizes the custom soundtrack feature. It makes the game that much more fun to listen to your own music. The rest of the sound effects are adequate.

Suggestions: Think of a plot. Make the gameplay a little more open ended. Use vehicles.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Max Payne

I cleared Max Payne shortly after it first came out, and after playing Dead to Rights (a knock-off of MP), I got thinking about it again. Max Payne is all you can ask for in a 3rd person shooter. It has a solid story, good action, plenty of weapons, and diverse gritty settings that are oozing with dark mood. It was one of the first games to utilize the Matrix style slo-mo bullet time, and it works very well in the game. It's not perfect, but it's pretty close.

The story drives the gameplay and will keep you hooked to the end. The controls are easy enough. Shooting, aiming, utilizing slo-mo, and moving Max around are easy. I thought the camera was pretty good, a rare thing in 3rd person games. My two minor complaints about the game are the dream sequences in which you have to walk the thin red line and jump from line to line. It felt like it turned into a platform jumper, and it was so out of place in this type of game. Secondly, there is no replay value. These two things kept MP from being a 5 out of 5 for me.

The settings are diverse, detailed, and add to the immersive story. The characters are rendered well. I've never seen the PS2 version, but it seems to be better than most ports from the PS2.

Voice acting and sound effects are very good. The music fits the game and mood. It's what you'd expect, nothing more, nothings less.

Suggestions: Lose the platform jumping, line walking parts. Make some incentive to want to replay it.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 The Sims

I love the Sims for PC and have nearly every version and expansion pack. So, when it came to the Xbox I was a little skeptical that they could succesfully turn this into a console game, but I bought it anyways. After playing it, I found that the Sims COULD be very good on a console, but EA managed to mess up some things with this console version. The Sims on the Xbox is the same addictive game that will keep you playing the hours away, but it sorely misses some of the PC aspects, mainly downloading new stuff.

My biggest fear was that without the mouse and pin point clicking on items that the console version would be very frustrating. This was not the case, as they devised a different style of cursor and you do not have to click directly on an item (score 1 point for EA!). It also included a two player mode in both competition and during regular gameplay (score another point!). But that's not all, it also includes a goal based gameplay mode in which you can unlock extra things to buy or more face styles, clothes, etc...(score another point!). So what went wrong? Mainly EA is a stubborn bastard and won't jump on board with Xbox Live. This means no downloads, add on packs, more skins, sharing houses with others, etc... Part of the joy of the Sims on PC was everybody making their own stuff and sharing it online. You won't get anything else other than what's on the disk. But, back to the gameplay, the control scheme does work for the console version. Building can be tricky at first, but you get used to it.

It's not as pretty as the PC counterpart, but it looks good enough. I play the Sims on a 57" HDTV widescreen, and it's definately not the prettiest Xbox game, but it does the trick.

No custom soundtracks option????? The rest of the music and sounds are directly from the PC version. I do love the Sims gibberish talk.

Suggestions: Where to start? Jump on the Xbox Live band wagon, EA. Custom sountracks. The graphics could be better.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Madden NFL 2003

I've played every Madden vesion from '92-'03 (on 5 different consoles), and it used to be my one true football game love. But, then I started cheating on Madden with Sega's NFL 2K- series when I got a Dreamcast. Sega did things for me that Madden never could, and it was great. After this '03 version, I'm sad to say that Madden and I are going to part ways for a while. Call it a trial separation... The bottom line is that Madden is becoming a stale franchise, and Sega's version is far surpassing Madden in every category (gameplay, visuals, online capabilities). Madden '03 is one of the very few Xbox titles I bought (I currently have over 45) and then turned around a sold (heck, I even kept Kabuki Warriors!).

The game plays much like the Madden '02 game on Xbox. Not much has been enhanced over the previous years. They have made obvious attempts to beef up defense AI, but I can still find a few plays that work every time and then exploit them making the game a yawn fest blow out.

The visuals pale in comparison to the NFL 2K series, and are also below Microsoft's NFL Fever series. The player's faces do not look right.

I liked the addition of Al Michaels, and the deletion of the now senile Pat Summerall. Madden is good, but I swear they are just re-using comments from all the old games. There's not much new here and it is obvious Madden did not spend much time in the booth recording dialogue.

Suggestions: Ever hear of Xbox Live? How about utilizing the Xbox's graphic powers? Grease up the doorway to the voice recording booth and pry Madden through it so he can record some NEW dialogue.

Overall Score: 3.0 / 10 Rallisport Challenge

RalliSport Challenge is a solid racer. I've played a lot of racing games over the years, but never a Rally racer, and I'm glad I got this one.

There's a lot of diverse tracks (48 tracks) and settings (mountain climbing, desert, ice, etc...) and tons of cars (29 of them) in RS. I found the earlier stages to be a lot more fun than the later one. Near the end of the game the cars get too fast (I never thought I'd say that!) and are hard to handle. But, that's a minor beef to a pretty darn good racer. The cars move well, and after a few races you'll be racing like a pro.

Beautiful cars and tracks. The cars take damage, and everything looks spectacular. I thinks this is the best looking racer to date.

Custom soundtrack merit a 5 out of 5 here. The co-pilot shouts out useful information during most races, but also will yell at you if you're damaging the car, and that can be annoying (yeah, like I meant to drive off that cliff!). The cars sound great.

Suggestions: Adjust the final cars or tracks so there not too fast for the tracks.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Dr. Muto

Let's play Jeopardy. The answer is "Hack, Puke, and Poke Eyes Out with Rusty Needles". If you guessed the question was "Things Yellowlab did after playing Dr. Muto" give yourself $500 bucks and a pat on the back. Dr. Muto is one of those few games I could not even finish. I got through a few levels and quit. Everything about it is painful from the gameplay to the graphics. Not to mention that several times the game stuttered and the sound would cut out from time to time.

I think the morphing (Dr Muto can morph into a mouse, spider, and a few other things) feature was supposed to be neat, but instead it felt tacked on and really had no necessary use. And, can't they think of better things to morph into???? Dr. Muto does not move right, the camera is the worst ever for a 3rd person game, and that is saying something. The plot is stupid. Ugh! I'm getting angry just thinking about the game. I want to morph into a Midway executive and fire whoever is responsible!

I no longer have my eyeballs after playing this game, so that ought to tell you something about Dr. Muto's visuals.

My ears are bleeding. Dr. Muto's mad scientist voice is annoying. The sound effects were acquired from a can.

Suggestions: Help me to get my eyesight back. Make my ears stop bleeding. Erase my memory of ever having touched this game and I will forgive you!

Overall Score: 2.0 / 10 Spider-Man

Overall: Spiderman the game follows the movie pretty closely, and as with the movie it does not disappoint. The game uses voice talent from the movie which really helps sell the story, and helps make up for some of it's weak points.

Gameplay: The level designs are diverse with lots of different tactics (fighting, stealth, flying above the city) which keeps things fresh. The game has a great sense of humor (love the training scenes with Bruce Campbell!). On the bad side, I found the fighting system to be lacking and essentially a button masher. The hits sound weak. I wish it the fighting engine and sounds were more like Indiana Jones.

Graphics: Captures the look of the movie very well. The FMV are good, and the settings are diverse. Character design is also solid.

Audio: Professional voice acting puts this a 5 out of 5 in this category. Overall, solid sounds, good music, and except for the weak fighting sounds, everything else is very good.

Suggestions: Improve the fighting engine.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Unreal Championship

Overall: Unreal Championship is one of those games that has all the elements for a good game (lots of characters, guns, etc...), but for some reason I just never got into it. I think, for me, I really would have liked to see a story based game along with the championship aspect. As it is it feels like half a game to me.

Gameplay: Essentiall you and your team try to beat the opposing team at the various typical games...deathmatch, capture the flag, etc...This can be fun online. But, it really lacks as a single player game. In all fairness, I don't think it was designed with that in mind, but it would have been nice to see some effort in that department.

Graphics: UC looks good, but not as good as I was thinking it would be. The arenas are somewhat bland and could have been better.

Audio: The sounds of the guns and explosions were very good. The voices of the characters are diverse (I like the taunting!)

Suggestions: Throw us a bone...make some sort of single player story line game for those rare times you don't feel like being on Xbox Live.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Quantum Redshift

Overall: Quantum Redshift was one of those overlooked games, that is really a bargain at it's curent price (under $20). As a racer the sense of speed was tremendous and the highlight of the game. Of course, it's not without some flaws, mainly that it gets boring after a few hours of gameplay.

Gameplay: The controls are easy enough and it doesn't take to long to master. There are lots of unlockables (characters and tracks) and that'll keep things interesting for a bit, but not much longer. Also you can upgrade your vehicle as you go along (more turbo, weapons, shields).

Graphics: The tracks and vehicles look good. The characters are pretty standard fare and I thought the FMV sequences that carried the "story" (I use that word loosely) were poor.

Audio: The vehicles and weapons sound as expected. Each character uses it's native language, and that was good.

Suggestions: Better FMV sequences. If you're going to go with the story aspect, make it something more.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Jet Set Radio Future

I resisted buying Jet Set Radio Future as it didn't look like my type of game, but I finally caved after reading rave review and made the plunge. It's tough to review because I see why some love it, and it really is not a bad game. It has a unique style and technically the graphics are very good. But, it just ended up being one of those games that just wasn't for me (all game publishers should make games with me in mind!!!). First off, I just didn't like any of the characters. I found I wanted to smack them, and I was rooting for the Police to beat the snot out of them. It's basically a love it or hate it game, so I'll be a rebel and rate it in between. It does merit a few points for the technical achievments alone.

JSRF is heavy on platform jumping, and painting, which really bored me. Some spots in the levels are really hard to reach and the game can be frustrating. The physics were bizarre as you can ride a rail with no effort other than a button push. The thing I enjoyed most was making my own obscene custom tags, but it seems like they could have made that easier than it was.

The visuals are just about perfect. Great settings, beautiful colors, and the a unique city that really comes to life in the game. It's not the best Xbox game visually, but it comes close.

Some of the music was good, but this is a game that definately needed the custom soundtrack feature. The voices are annoying!

Suggestions: Custom soundtracks is about all I can recommend. Just wasn't a game for me.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 4x4 Evo 2

4x4 Evo 2 is a good concept that just doesn't deliver. It has several real vehicles (I bought it because it has the Dodge Durango), a good career mode, adequate graphics, and diverse settings. It's all there, but there is very little sense of speed when racing which ultimately brings this title down.

In career mode you can buy vehicles, earn money, upgrade parts, all the usual stuff you'd expect. Driving and racing is easy enough, but it is not easy to win each race (which is good). The physics felt good, but like I said before no sense of speed = low excitement.

Graphics are very average, but do the trick. It looks like a high-end PS2 game, and a low end Xbox game. Some of the scenery looks a little blocky, and since you're going so slow, you have more time to look at it.

Utilizes custom soundtracks, so who cares about the rest of the sounds? Crank up your favorite tunes and race at what feels like 5 mph!

Suggestions: Give the game a sense of speed. Upgrade the graphics.

Overall Score: 4.0 / 10 All-Star Baseball 2003

This is my least favorite baseball video game of all time. From the horrible pitching/batting interface to the flat graphics, this is one baseball game that succeeds in pitching an ugly slow ball down the middle of the plate that deserves to be slapped over the wall in dead center field.

I really hated the manual pitching/batter interface. You have a triangle shaped box that you try to move where the pitch is going and swing. You can do a power swing or contact hit. But, it just doesn't feel right and takes way too long to get a good feel for it. Fielding was also a pain. Nothing was intuitive.

This game is ugly. It's pretty sad when a baseball parody game like MLB Slugfest looks 20 times better in every department (stadiums, players, etc...). I thought ASB looked flat and boring.

Announcers and ambient fan noise was good. It's pretty hard to mess up the sound in a baseball game (but, I'm sure not impossible).

Suggestions: Take a bat, apply to head. Repeat.

Overall Score: 4.0 / 10 Test Drive

Overall: I loved Test Drive 6 for the Sega Dreamcast, so I was so looking forward to Test Drive on the Xbox. I bought it on the day it came out, played it for a few hours, cried for a few days (because it is just that bad!), and hardly touched it since. I enjoyed playing the pong game that comes up during loading times much more than the actual game (neither are that fun, though)!

Gameplay: The story mode was lame. It's some ho-hum plot about you racing as a street racer for another guy, and you earn money and more cars along the way. I have no idea why they felt the need to change to a story line racing game, they should have kept it the way it was in the previous versions of Test Drive. Just shut up, race, and buy better cars along the way. The bottom line is that Test Drive is just way too easy, short, and nothing feels quite right. It's really bad all the way around. I can't remember when I've been more disappointed in a game.

Graphics: All I can say is that everything looks very average. With all the other good racers on the Xbox, you really have to do something special to stand out in the pack. Test Drive does nothing, including visually, to stand out.

Audio: The game did get one thing right, and that is the sound. It utilizes the custom soundtrack feature. The cars sound pretty good too.

Suggestions: I hope this franchise can be saved after this epic disaster!

Overall Score: 3.0 / 10 NFL Blitz 2002

There are certain games franchises that never seem to change, and you know exactly what you are getting before you play it. The NFL Blitz series is one of those. Hardly anything changes throughout each new NFL Blitz arrival. NFL Blitz 02 is no exception. A minor graphic upgrade and updated player rosters (for 2002). But, it is the same game that I extreme style football game. Fast paced and funny.

This is not a football sim. If you want that go get NFL 2K3 or Madden 2003. This is a light hearted football game with extreme hits and tackles. You wont see any unsportsman like conduct penalities.

There were some minor graphical improvements over previous versions, but nothing spectacular.

The announcing is very funny and the tackles are bone crunching-ly good. The rest of the sound effects are good.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Gunvalkyrie

THE GOOD: Gunvalkyrie has originality and style. THE BAD: confusing level design. THE UGLY: A horrible control scheme. Overall, Gunvalkyrie is a disappointment, and could have been so much better with clearer level paths and a better control scheme. It does have an original feel for a 3rd person shooter/adventure game. In the end though it is more of a chore to play than a joy. So, if you really like to work for your gaming enjoyment, than this is for you.

As I said the control scheme is very, very bad. The character does not move correctly using the left anolog stick. Trying to turn around behind you can be a chore (usually you end up making a big running loop just to turn around) and that is not a good thing when you are being attacked from all sides. Weapon changes require 3 buttons?!? It truly takes a while before you get used to the controls and they never became second nature to me. The level design is poor and at times you wander around endlessly trying to figure out what more you are supposed to do before they will let you out.

Visually, this game has a unique style and it looks fine. There are lots of diverse settings in various out of this world places. The main characters also look alright.

It's been a while since I've heard weapon noises that are this bad. One sounds like a squeaky bird (Kelly's rocket).

Suggestions: Better control scheme, weapons, targeting system, level design with clear paths.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 NFL Blitz 2003

Nearly every year I buy the newest NFL Blitz game, and every year I wonder why. This has to be the least changed series from year to year. If you bought NFL Blitz the first year it came out, then you essentially have the same as this 20-03 version, just without the updated rosters. It's not to say it isn't a fun game, it's just getting on the stale side, and I think this will be my last purchase in this series for some time. While other football games are making changes and improvements over the past 4 years (NFL 2K series, Madden), NFL Blitz defiantely remains the same year after year.

The game play is fairly easy. I like that they included a cheat so that you can use icon passing (press A,B,X,Y to pass to that receiver), but shouldn't this be a regular option and not a cheat code? As always, it's fun to add hits after the play, and the announcers can be funny. 20-03 also has a create a player mode, but you can not create more than one player on a team. Your created player changes to whoever has the ball, which I didn't care for. I would rather be able to create specific players for specific positions. But, on the good side, Blitz is easy to pick up and play, and can be a fun experience.

Not as pretty as NFL 2K3, but it does the trick. The players are pretty generic looking, unless you make a custom player like a dolphin or the dough boy.

The announcers can be funny, the hits sound nice. The rest of the sound effects and menu music does the trick.

Suggestions: Give us a reason to buy 20-04's version besides updated rosters.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Spy Hunter

Spy Hunter was not my favorite aracade game, but I did have fond memories of playing it in the aracdes when I was much younger. So when this newly updated 3-D version hit the stores for the Xbox I was intrigued, but I held out buying it until it became a Platinum Hit selection for $20, and I'm definately glad I didn't waste $50 on this disappointing game.

I call Spy Hunter disappointing because it could have easily been so much better. It looks good, and the car is definately goes from boat to car instantly and has enough gadgets to make James Bond drool. But, the game goes wrong in the gameplay category. The missions are set up to be frustrating. You have to finish all the objectives in each mission in one shot, or you start the WHOLE thing over again. This can get very frustrating in some levels, and you'll find yourself playing some over and over again just to get to the next. There can be a fine line between being challenging and being too frustrating, but Spy Hunter manages to smash well past that line. It is a rare occassion for me to use a cheat code to complete a game, but I did so on this one so that I could finally play the old 2-D aracde version. I found I had more fun playing the old version.

Spy Hunter looks good. The cars and environments all look nice, which made it that much more frustrating, because with better designed gameplay this could have been a very solid title.

It has the classic Spy Hunter theme, which was a nice addition. I would have liked custom soundtracks, but everything else was good.

Suggestions: Make the gameplay less frustrating.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Totaled!

is one game that slipped past me when it was originally released and I haven't seen it in stores recently. So, I found a copy on Ebay and gave it a try. I really think I was intrigued by the exclamation point. I figured it had to be exciting because it was called "Totaled!" and not just plain old "Totaled". It must be "exreme totaling", I thought. Well, after I played it, I really think the whole exclamation point was uncalled for. I found the game to be a little frustrating and harder than I thought it should be, and just not that fun. Running around smashing cars sounds like a fun concept, but somehow it just isn't. But, it isn't without some merit. Totaled! looks nice and it's controls are simplistic and easy to pick up. The crashes look and sound good, but it just never comes together quite right.

The first thing I noticed was the incredibly long load times. I used several words that required exclamation points while waiting for the level to load. Once it's loaded up, the vehicles handle well, and it's pretty simplistic to control. I just found it a lot harder to win the levels than it should have been. And, it just was not that immersive or gripping of a game. It really lacked personality, and something else that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

The environments and vehicles looks good. The damage is also realistic looking. There's nothing that'll have you screaming with joy, but it does the trick for this type of game.

This game really shines in the sound department as it utilizes custom soundtracks. The crashes and other sound effects are also decent.

Suggestions: Load times should be about 15 minutes less. Make the game a little easier and less frustrating. Give it some personality, something original.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2x

Overall: I've never played a skateboarding game before I decided to give THPS2x a try, and I only got this one because it was so cheap I couldn't pass it up. Technically it achieves it's purpose, and it was fairly easy for me as a newbie to pick it up and play. I was pulling off some impresive stunts within the first few minutes of gameplay. I can't really compare it to the 3rd and 4th installment of the TH series because I've never tried them, but I liked this one. While it was mildly fun, I found it to be kind of disposable. The only thing that kept me playing was to see new environments and to upgrade my skills. Bottom line is that it didn't convert me into a skateboarding game fan, but it was fun enough to hold my interest for short time periods.

Gameplay: Like I said above, the game plays very easy and in no time I was doing some cool stunts. I still am far from mastering the game, and there are a few areas and items that I have trouble figuring out how I am supposed to reach, but overall it is easy enough.

Graphics: Environments and the characters look solid. I got a lot of chances to watch the characters fall down because that was what I do best. There was occassional collision detection problems when your character falls down, but everything else was fine.

Audio: THPSK2XPF2 (or something like that) has great sound effects, great use of custom soundtracks, everything in the sound category was just great.

Suggestions: Lose the "x" at the end of the title, and make the title shorter so the initials are smaller and easier to write. How about Tony 2. That way when I write a review I can just use T2. THPS2x is just too long as is. These are important issues I have!

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Burnout

Burnout was a very solid racing game with a few minor flaws that keep it from taking the checkered flag. Starting with the good points, Burnout is one of the prettier racers on the Xbox (and that's saying something), it has a real good sense of speed, is easy to play, and has quality tracks. On the downside, it is inexcusable to release a racing game without custom soundtracks, there are not many cars (a few more are unlockable, but there is less than 10 total vehicles), and I didn't care for the checkpoint system of racing.

Games don't get any easier to pick up and play than Burnout. It's not to say it isn't challenging, but it doesn't take long to figure out the controls. My only gripe is the checkpoint system. You could be in first place, but if you don't make the next checkpoint in time, the race is over.

Burnout was a lot better visually than I could have expected. The tracks and environments look better than Project Gotham and RalliSport.

I am baffled how the sound department could be this bad on a game that is this solid. For starters there is no custom soundtrack option. I can't off the top of my head think of another racer on the Xbox without this option. Also, the music it does have sounds terrible. The crashes could have been better too. Not much good to say about the sound department, and it really keeps this game from being perfect.

Suggestions: Custom soundtracks, lose the checkpoint system.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Dino Crisis 3

For some unknown reason I seem to think any game with a dinosaur in it looks like it'll be fun. This resulted in me buying Turok Evolution which is currently buried in my back yard so I don't have to be responsible for someone else suffering through it. Well, it's time to warm up the shovel 'cause I bought Dino Crisis 3. There is no word to describe how bad the camera is in this game. I called the fine people at Webster and told them they need to invent a new word that would describe the horrific experience brought about by the game's camera. They said to quit calling and got a restraining order against me, so I think that means they're working on it. In the meantime I'll have to settle for 'horrific' to describe the camera. The camera shifts around so much I had 25 seizures in the first two hours of gameplay. And it rarely shows the action or the people you're fighting, but I'll get to that more a little later in this review... What makes this game so frustrating is that it could have been a good game had it simply fixed the camera issue. It has a good story, nice graphics, and some cool FMV.

Basically you're stranded in space on a 'deserted' ship with a small crew. The problem is there are dinosaurs on the ship and you have to fight your way through the corridors and various rooms. You have a nice selection of weapons to fight with. But all this is irrelevant as it is impossible to get past the bad camera, which leads me to my next category...

Have I mentioned I hated, I mean HATED, the camera? The camera shifts focus way too many times and you'll suddenly find yourself running the opposite way when it makes it's jarring shift. This is very disorienting and annoying. It also shifts while making you do platform style jumps. When it shifts, you change direction, and it makes it next to impossible to hit the next platform. I would love to meet the sadistic bastard who designed this camera as I have the aforementioned shovel all warmed up now and would be happy to dig another hole. The worst thing about the camera is that during the action, the dinosaurs are not slow and are constantly moving making for more jarring shifts and more seizures. You rarely see them on screen and the camera shifts so much it becomes disorienting and absolutely no fun. Capcom used this style of camera for Resident Evil, but it worked in that game as the Zombie's are slower and there isn't the platform jumping. This was a 'horrible' (I called Webster's again - still no progress on the new word) game design flaw. You can jump to a first person mode in which you can control the entire camera, but it is of little use as you CAN'T move around in that mode. With fast dinosaurs attacking, it doesn't do much good to stand in one spot.

The ambient music was a little on the bland side and made me want to sleep more than play a shoot 'em up game. The rest of the sound effects were ok.

Suggestions: I thought of more than one suggestion that was not fit for print. They involved places to stick this game. The least the developers could do is come to my house and help me dig a hole next to Turok to put this turd of a game.

Overall Score: 3.0 / 10 The Simpsons: Hit and Run

If you threw Grand Theft Auto III and the Simpson's Road Rage into a bowl, then added some Buzz Cola and a few zombies you'd have something that tasted real bad. But, luckily it would translate into the Best...Simpsons...Game...Ever!, AKA: The Simpson's Hit and Run. You get to run and drive around 3 different areas of Springfield in a total of 7 levels and 49 missions. Like GTA, you can take any car you see on the roadway, and can enter many of the buildings. Overall it's a very fun game with a funny story penned by the actual writers of the Simpson's TV show. This is a must have for any fan of the Simpson's.

Like GTA, you can run around Springfield and borrow any car that you see. You can also enter many of the buildings and interact with various items. Each level has a bonus mission, 3 street races, and other assorted side missions (collector cards, coin collection to buy extra items, level gags, etc...) so you are not locked into completing the story missions and have a lot of freedom. By the last level, things are getting very freaky in Springfield. There is plenty of Simpson's brand humor to be found everywhere which makes it very fun to explore each of the 3 areas. The 35 vehicles that you can earn can be accessed from any telephone booth and feature some of the standards from the TV show (the Canyonaro, Family Sedan, Car Built for Homer, Duff Beer truck, Mr. Burns Limo) along with several other unique ones (a Hover Bike and Zombie Car are two of my favs). Also you can earn other cars driven by the other side characters...Cletus's truck, Wiggum's Police Car, etc... The game does have a few minor flaws. First off, some of the missions can be repetitive and could have used a little more diversity. Secondly, a few later missions border on being a tad too frustrating (the final one with Grampa Simpson had me throwing my controller into the TV set). Lastly, it would have been very nice to tie all three areas together once you have beaten the game into one big playground. But, overall the game was extremely accessible and a lot of fun to play.

Overall, the game captured the look and feel of the Simpson's very well. The three areas of Springfield all look colorful and have lots of areas to explore. The Simpsons look a little different in 3D, but you get used to them pretty quickly. There are some funny FMV sequences, and you can unlock a funny Itchy and Scratchy cartoon near the end. I'm knocking a half point off for the camera which was fully adjustable, but did have problems. The camera controls were slightly awkward (to look up you had to use one of the triggers when walking), and the camera would act goofy if you were too close to a wall.

As with their last game (Road Rage), this one features all the actual voice actors from the show. There are some very hilarious lines delivered by the cast members. I particularly loved driving around as Cletus or Professor Frink as Hank Azaria is the voice behind those and is fall down funny. There is a lot of variations of the Simpson's Theme song to be played througout the game, and a GTA-style song that seems to get played any time your near Moe's Tavern. Overall the sound and music could not be better unless it offered custom soundtracks.

Suggestions: A little more variety in the missions. The addiional clothing for each character (3 per level) should be more accessible as opposed to having to find a shop to change your clothes. Make all the camera controls on the right thumbstick as opposed to some of them on the trigger, and make it behave better when close to a wall.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy is very close to being a solid game, but a couple disastrous flaws hold this one back. The biggest flaw is that if you die during a level, you have to start back at the beginning. There are no check points and you can not save at any time. It was extremely frustrating to spend 20 minutes on a level only to fall off a cliff because you timed a jump wrong, or got knocked off...resulting in having to replay the last 20 minutes. I currently have 3 Xbox controllers lodged into my TV screen due to this game. I noticed about halfway through (at about the dock levels) the game became more frustrating then fun. Then by the end the game it turns into a lot of platform jumping and hazards that generally result in having to replay the level about 50 times, hence more controllers lodged in the TV. Ok, so I didn't at all like the no save or check points or the god awful platform jumping near the very end, but there is a lot of good things here. The fighting engine is great (it was almost identical to the Indiana Jones game), the sense of humor was good, and the first half of the game was fun.

At it's core Buffy has a terrific fighting engine that allows for lots of moves and combinations. You can use various weapons like shovels, sledgehammers, spears, spikes, etc... Hand to hand feels solid with thunderous hits. One minor complaint is that switching between weapons was a pain, as it uses the D-Pad and was very clumsy. There's a wide variety of baddies to kill all with varying degrees of difficulty. The level design varied widely from being fun to maddening. I generally liked the school levels and the cemetary. I hated...I mean hated the dock and foundry levels (repetitive, boring, hard, cliched, and never ending). I also didn't like the levels that were heavy on platform jumping (second time in the sunken church and the dream levels near the end).

Standard and cliched levels hold this back a little. Namely the factory level and the docks level. These don't seem to fit in with the Buffy universe. The character models look good for the most part. Buffy looks like Buffy. Not sure about Willow though. I noticed a lot of slow down throughout the game, which was weird as it did not look like a high tech game that should have slowdown.

A lot of the cast lent there voices to game, which added a lot. SMG didn't do the voice of Buffy, but whoever does, sounds just like her. The music was very good and added to the mood. It would occassionally chime in at just the right time to add to the mood. The fighting sounds are perfect. I can not fault the sound in any way.

Suggestions: This game needs to have reasonable check points or save points. Nobody likes playing an entire level over because of a minor mistake near the end of a level!!! Reduce the amount of platform jumping, this isn't a Mario game!

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Outlaw Golf: 9 Holes of X-Mas

I've had this one for a bit, but never thought of reviewing it because I always thought of it as a demo. First off, I love the full version Outlaw Golf game and gave it a 5 out of 5 (lots of challenges, modes, equipment, and characters). But, the 9 Holes Of Xmas is not near the game that the full version is. It's just 2 golfers (Killer Miller and Harley) in a snowy environment. But, even without the extras, it still is a fun (and funny) game at it's core, and well worth the extremely cheap price (well under $10).

Outlaw Golf always amazed me on just how well the actual gameplay was. It truly is better than most harcore golfing sims.

Maybe it's just me, but the visuals seem to be worse than those in the full version game. The new course is nice enough, though,

Love the sense of humor, and commentary in the game. The sound effects are better than you'd expect from a golf game.

Suggestions: More games should come out with Holiday versions for $5. How about a Thankgiving Halo (Master Chief dressed like a Pilgrim), or a Easter BloodRayne (her in a Bunny Suit)....

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Kabuki Warriors

Simply the worst Xbox game. This belongs on the all time stinker list, right up there with Superman for the Nintendo 64, and ET for the Atari 2600. I'm trying to think of one nice thing to say about the game...oh, it makes a great coaster. It keeps my end table nice and dry.

Plays horribly. This is just a button masher at best, and not even a good button masher. There is no appeal, or interesting characters.

The character designs are retarded and bland. The stages are flat. This game might has well been made on the Gameboy.

Sounds like the game sounds were recorded in a tin can. Boring and terribly ho-hum. Nothing good at all. I am forced to give this a 1.5 as the XboxAddict system will not accept all 1's

Suggestions: Run to the nearest cliff and jump off. Save the world from more games made by your sorry butts.

Overall Score: 2.0 / 10 MechAssault

I hate Mechs. Never liked them. I really can't tell you why I hate them. Perhaps I had some traumatic Mech experience as a child that I have repressed and will later recall in psychotherapy. So when I found myself standing in front of a cashier purchasing MechAssault, I was shocked. Maybe it was the cheap price ($25), or the "Xbox Live" label on the front of the box that made me buy it. The next thing I know I was actually playing the darn thing. And then it happened, I actually started liking it. Could my hatred and bias toward Mechs be uncalled for and unrealistic? Well, I don't know. But, I know I liked MechAssault as a game. I found it to be one of the more pleasant Xbox Live experiences.

MechAssault has a single player experience that warps you to different locations to destroy just about everything. There's nothing more fun than destroying things that are 50 times smaller than you, or stepping on foot soldiers. But the real reason I got this one was for the Xbox Live feature. It is one of the better experiences on Xbox Live. It has lots of modes. I particularly like Giant Killer, in which one person is a giant Mech and everybody else is incredibly small. There are also the standard deathmatch and team deatmatch options among many others. MechAssault also has the most downloadable content than any other game. My only gripe is that the single player mode can become repetitive, but that's not the reason you buy this's for the Live!

The visuals are not in the fantastic category, but there are some cool environments with lots of diversity. The Mechs are well designed and there is also a big variety.

I thought the sounds could have been better. There are a lot of standard weapon and crashing sounds, but nothing that stood out.

Suggestions: No real suggestions. This was about as good as a Mech game could possibly be for me.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick

Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick is based off the cult movie hits (Evil Dead I, II, and Army of Darkness). And the star of the movies, Bruce Campbell, returns to do the voice of Ash. Add in the fact that the game is a 3rd person shooter where you shoot zombies (and hack them with a chainsaw), and this sounds like a totally kick butt game on paper. Somehow they managed to take all these elements and make a pretty crappy game. This baffles me. It had to be harder to take all these elements and make the game suck, then it would have been to simply make a good game. So what went wrong? For starters, instead of making the game mostly action based, they throw in several puzzles that at most times make little sense, or are impossible to solve without cheating. The city environments have nothing that is interactive (you can't walk into hardly any stores, open doors, etc...). Heck Ash can't even walk up steps. The weapon selection is pretty lame. You pretty much stick to the shotgun/chainsaw combo without ever trying or needing anything else. But, it is not a total suck fest. It does have Bruce Campbell, which earns it a few points alone. Bruce throws in funny one liners and makes the game playable. Also, there are a few cool combos to use. That's about it though for the good things. You definately can see why this came out as a $20 budget title.

The controls feel awkward. The puzzles are ridiculous. The gameplay is severely limited. There's not much to brag about here. It simply does not get much worse than this.

Some of the environments look good enough, but there is just nothing that is interactive. Digital Ash looks similar enough to movie Ash. Overall the game looks slightly dated and definately does not push the Xbox hardware to it's max.

Get's good points for Bruce Campbell's voice talent. Otherwise most of the sounds and music suffer from being too generic.

Suggestions: This game could have been so much better. Try again, but make it a good game next time. Heck, I'd pay $50 for a quality version of an Evil Dead game.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Batman Vengeance

Batman Vengeance has a good look to it, and great voice acting, but it falls apart in it's execution of the gameplay. It's a game that desperately needed to be more open-ended, with freedom to explore on your own. Instead you are locked into nearly a rail-shooter style of gameplay in which you follow a linear path.

There were a few things I loathed about this game that nearly made it unplayable. First was the camera (I'll get to that later...), then there was the gameplay which included far too much platform jumping for my taste. Lastly, I was annoyed by the bat cuffs. What happened to the good old days when you could beat the baddies to death. Instead, Batman beats them and then must use his bat cuffs on them, or they'll come back and attack you. Arresting every bad guy is not my idea of a fun game.

BV has a cool look to it. Batman and the environments look great. The problem is the camera is never in the right spot. I can only think of one game that has a worse camera (Dark Angel).

Not too much to complain about here. Mark Hammil supplies the voice of the Joker, and all the voice cast is solid. The rest of the effects and music do what it should.

Suggestions: I really liked the look of the game, and think they should design a more open-ended style of gameplay around that look. Also, fix the camera.

Overall Score: 4.0 / 10 Chase: Hollywood Stunt Driver

Chase is another one of those games I bought because it's simply so cheap (around $10) that it's hard to pass up. I found that it was an average game, but worth the cheap price. It's pretty simple concept. You play a stuntwoman who must complete movie scenes by performing certain tasks or stunts. The sets and environments vary widely, and it keeps the game fresh. But, overall it feels like an ultimately empty experience.

Chase was pretty easy to pick up and play. After a few levels you'll be doing stunts with ease. Some of the tasks can be frustrating to a point that is no longer fun. But, overall Chase is an easy game to pick up and play for a quick game.

The diverse sets and environements were nice. A lot of the standard movie sets can be found in the game. There are a lot of various cars that fit in with whatever scene you are doing.

Customs soundtracks are utlized as they should be for a game of this nature. The rest of the sounds are more than adequate.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 ESPN NFL Football 2K4

For the 5th year in a row, Sega's ESPN NFL Football (2K4) wins the Super Bowl of console football games. This year's version even manages to surpass last years (2K3) tremendous game in just about every way. There are several nice changes this year. Headlining the changes is First Person Football (FPF), in which you can step into the shoes of a football player and play from first person perspective. This is a blast, and completely changes the way you play and view the game. It actually feels like you're on the field, and I would literally cringe every time I got hit by a 300 pound lineman. However, there's a lot of room to grow with FPF, as I would like to be able to jump in and out of FPF as I see fit, and view the replays from FPF. Can't wait to see what they do with this in future years. The next noticeable change is "The Crib". This is your bachelor pad where you can earn trophies, wide screen TV's, unlock mini games (trivia, table top football, air hockey), unlockable videos, bobbleheads, leather recliners, etc... It's very nicely done and so much better than the Madden Cards from EA's football offering. It also gives you lots of incentive to reach certain benchmarks, and keeps things fresh. The next change is the use of the ESPN license. Last year it was kind of only halfway used and felt tacked on. This year they pull out all the stops. Chris Berman's Prime Time reports at the end of each week are a thing of beauty. He seemlessly recaps all the weeks plays and big players, along with ESPN highlights and commentary (he...could...go.. The halftime reports also beautifully recap the action on the field. Berman details the game like he was actually there watching it. On the field, the gameplay has not been changed greatly from the 2K3 version. It plays nearly identical, but with an improved running scheme, and the ability to make "hot routes" for receivers on the fly. Also, they included an option to challenge plays.

The only major change to the gameplay was the play calling menus, which were "dumbed down" in an attempt to draw in fans of the Madden series. While I completely understand the need to "dumb" down things for fans of the Madden series, I really liked the old play calling scheme used in the previous versions. The new scheme isn't bad, but not as good as the old. The running game has been improved slightly over last year's version. The passing game is also very well done. The defensive AI plays smart and can be a challenge, especially in the harder difficulty levels.

Sega has made great improvements to the facial models. The players look very good. I play the game on a 57" HDTV widescreen TV, and it looks beautiful. Two minor complaint are the Cheerleaders and the various scenes with the 6 fans celebrating. First, the Cheerleaders look god awful. They look like Gumby clones with long skinny plastic arms that nearly touch the ground when they are standing. And the group of 6 fans that represent the 'fan reaction', look like it was shot in a stadium 2,000 miles away, and really does not look like part of the action. Also these 6 fans are in every stadium, and always seem to root for whichever is the home team (bunch of traitors!). But, those are extremely minor flaws to an otherwise beautiful game.

Chris Berman's voice work during the Primetime Weekly show and Halftime analysis puts this over the top. The gameplay commentary is also very good, and almost always spot on. If there was one thing they could improve on, it would be to make some of the tackles sound more bone crunchingly loud.

Suggestions: This is the closest to perfect football game yet. But, there is still room for improvement. Make FPF more intergrated (jump in, jump out, replays, etc...). And for god sakes, fix the look of those zombie clone cheerleaders (they kind of scare me)!

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Midtown Madness 3

MM3 is like a big bowl of delicious chocolate candy with a teensy dead bug lying somewhere in the mix. Sure it taste great, but you have to deal with the bug. For starters, MM3 looks beautiful. The automobiles (32 of them) and the cities (2 of those) are both very well done. There is a variety of game play modes (work undercover, blitz races, checkpoint races, cruise, and Xbox Live games). The game play is smooth. But, dammit, there's that bug rearing it's ugly head...the custom soundtrack feature is severly messed up (I'll get to that later...), some of the voice work is pretty pathetic, and it can be a tad too repetitive. But, overall this game is a blast to play, and the inclusion of some fun Live games seals the deal and makes this one a keeper.

In MM3 you are given to highly detailed cities, Paris and Washington DC (anybody else see the humor in that?), to work and race in. The cities are very detailed with a lot of hidden areas, monuments, parks, and both look ultra realistic. In the gamplay department, it reminds me a lot of 'Wreckless', only a lot better. It is very similar in that it looks very good, and has a mission based mode in which you are given several different quests. In some missions you have to play a Paramedic and pick up and drop off patients in a certain amount of time. In another, you play a stunt driver and get to do all sorts of nifty jumps. Others will have you bashing other cars to get them to stop, or playing a police officer. But, unlike Wreckless, MM3 adds a cruise mode in which you can simply cruise around town and pick up assorted goodies (fancy paint jobs for the vehicles you have unlocked), and it also includes checkpoint and blitz races (10 each in both cities). There are 32 cars (realistic models - Dodge Viper, Lotus, PT Cruiser, Police Cars, Busses, Garbage Trucks...just to name a few) to unlock, and the game shows realtime damage to the vehicles. The cars all handle like you would imagine them to (I've never actually driven a garbage truck or a Viper...). The faster vehicles give you a real sense of speed when you let them fly on the highway (especially the final car you unlock after completing the whole game). The Xbox Live games are a blast and are really what pushes this game over the top. Cruise around with 8 other people, or play games like Hunter in which the Hunters seek out the Prey. My only beef here is that some of the missions get slightly repetitive by the end of the game. But overall it is a very solid gameplay experience and earns a solid 5 out of 5 in this category.

I think this is the prettiest racer on the Xbox, and that is saying somthing when you consider the other fine racers such as Project Gotham, RalliSport, Apex, etc... As I mentioned earlier, the cities look beautiful. The vehicles also look good, and I liked the fact they showed damage. My only minor gripe here was the still pictures of the people between undercover races looked like the quality of an old SNES game, and looked unbelievably out of place in the midst of all the other quality graphics.

I have this long standing policy that I'll give any game that utilizes the custom soundtrack feature a 5 out of 5 in the sound category. Well, I have a new rule. Any game that adds the custom soundtrack feature, but manages to screw it up will get a 1. This is utterly baffling how a game can get made with a glitch this bad. Yes MM3 lets you play your custom soundtracks, but it always picks the last song on the list...over and over and over and over again. You can't change the song in mid game (like many other games), so you better like the song that is last on your list. There is a fix where you can put 10-15 "blank" 5 second tracks at the end, which did sort of work (it still likes the last song too much), but how a game got made with this glitch is beyond me and is totally inexcusable. The voice over acting is pathetic at best. The fake french accents and Humphrey Bogart-ish U.S. accents are really bad. The rest of the sound effects (cars, crashes, pedestrian noises) are all fine, but the utter incompetence of the developers with the custom soundtrack feature earns this puppy a 1 out of 5 for sound.

Suggestions: Take that bug out of my chocolate! Fix the soundtrack glitch. Cut out the heavy stereo-type accents. Add some FMV sequences instead of the static picture sequences in between the missions.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 James Cameron's Dark Angel

Dark Angel is not a quality game, but it was oddly addictive. I've never watched the show a day in my life, and only got the game because it was under $5. It has some serious flaws like the camera and that the stealth mode is very crap-tacular. But, the hand to hand fighting was good enough to hold my interest, and kept me playing it for longer than I should have.

Basically you play as Max (Jessica Alba's character) and run around the streets and kick the oppressive police force's rear end. It is very heavily hand to hand, and felt similar to the fighting style in Spiderman's Xbox game. There is the occassional stealth mission, but I found it easier to not be stealthy and just beat everybody up. When you are caught in stealth mode it gives you a certain amount of time to beat up whoever spotted you, or the mission is over. It's not hard to beat them up, so why worry about the stealth? But, there's not much variety in the gameplay. It could have used more weapons or variety. They do give you a stun gun, but I found I rarely needed to use it, and it wasn't very easy to use anyways. Also you can pick up a "tonga" which makes your punches have more power for a bit, but other than that there is little variety to the weapons. Also, the levels varied widely. Some took 10 seconds to complete, and others would go on for ever. It needed more consistancy.

This is where the game really falls apart. The visuals are down right boring. The camera is officially the worst camera every in a 3rd person game, and that is saying something. You can change it yourself, but it never moves or feels right. When you are fighting, it will switch to places that you can't see your enemy. Words can not do it justice on how bad the camera is. Jessica Alba's likeness is used, and does look enough like her, but most of the time she looks so small that you can hardly tell. Everything needed to be bigger.

The voice talent from the show provides the voices of the characters on the game. I thought the guy was a little annoying. He would try to brief you in the middle of a fight, and nearly every message started out with "Max..." after about the 1,000th time it got really old hearing him say "Max...". The punches and sound effects also were nothing special. But, I do give it points for having proffessional voice talent.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Smashing Drive

Smashing Drive is a simple game, which is its saving grace and at the same time its downfall. It's perhaps the most simplistic racer in years, so it's very easy to pick up and play. But, at the same time it is a very empty and shallow experience. You can easily put this one down and not think about it for a long time (which is what I did).

As I said, it's terribly simplistic. Basically you accelerate and steer and race the CPU cab to the finish line. And this simplicity can make it fun to pick up and play a few times. But, with so many good racers on the Xbox, this one is not even worth it's bargain basement price.

Graphics are not on the high end. I can't off the top of my head think of a racer on the Xbox that has worse graphics than this one. It's not that they are terrible, they just look slightly dated and there isn't much to look at.

What?!? No custom soundtracks. This is inexcusable for a racer on the Xbox to not have this feature. So, you'd think without custom soundtracks that it would have a good soundtrack of it's own, right? Wrong. Instead the game has very lame music.

Suggestions: Custom soundtracks, more vehicles, game varieties, better graphics.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Tetris Worlds: Online Edition

The complete game of TWO came with my Xbox Live Starter kit (ver 2), so I didn't really shell any money out for this title. It was definately worth the free price tag.

It is pretty much the same Tetris that's been out for years, but with a few more bells and whistles. It, of course, adds the online feature, and more game modes than the original. Playing online is ok, but Tetris has always felt like more of a solitaire game to me. There's nothing really wrong with the game, but it is pretty limited.

This is a hard game to rate on visuals. Obviously, you do not play Tetris for the visuals, and if you are, you haven't seen a modern game in years. But, the various backgrounds look good, and everything is what you'd expect.

I was surprised to see TWO had the custom soundtrack feature. This alone almost makes it worth playing the game. Really nice addition. I've never really listened to the default music that is with the game, but the rest of the sound effects are fine.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Apex

Apex is an example of an interesting concept gone wrong. The premise of designing your own line of cars sounds interesting, until you find out that you can only pick one of a few pre-designed cars. The graphics were nice, but the in game driving psyichs were not up to par. With so many other great racers in the Xbox lineup (RalliSport, Project Gotham, Midnight Club II, Midtown Madness III, NFS:Hot Pursuit), Apex is a good game to avoid.

I was very disappointed in the physics with in the race. For example, you can not bump the back corner of a CPU racer and make them spin out. The computer assistance was awful. No matter how good you do, the computer is right behind you. Or, if you do very bad, the computer practically parks and waits for you to catch up.

Apex's graphics are on par with other racers on the Xbox, and this is what makes the game this much more of a disappointment. With so much work into the graphics, it seems like they would have spent more time on the gameplay.

Apex supports custom soundtracks, which earn it a 5 out of 5 for sound. However, the other sound effects were weak, such as the collisions and vehicle noises. But, I can crank up my own music and drowned out those flaws.

Suggestions: Give the user more freedom in creating their own vehicle. Use realistic physics, especially with collisions. Lose the computer assistance.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War

Have you ever watched a critically acclaimed Oscar winning movie, and just didn't get why it was so hyped (ie. the English Patient, American Beauty)? You just don't get it. That's the way I felt after playing RTCW:TOW. I read a lot of good reviews, and was expecting a very good FPS. Instead I got a very average FPS. I thought the beginning levels (pre-Wolfenstein) were rather boring and tedious. It got a little better once you get caught and put in Castle Wolfenstein, but even then most of the levels just seemed to be a lot of lever pulling and door finding boredom. The enemies were lame (exploding zombies?!?, fat nazi chicks?!?). There was a lot of underground tunnel levels that got old fast. There were some outdoor levels, which was a nice change of pace, but some of those were a little confusing, or too dificult (one alarm sounds, and it's over). I found my mind wandering during the 15 minute cut scenes of political people sitting around a table spouting inane dialogue. Yawn! Overall, I was very disappointed with the single player experience. What redeemed this title was the Xbox Live feature. Now that was fun. I thought it would be standard deathmatch (not that there's anything wrong with that!), but found it was a squad based matches in which you play a role (soldier, Lieutenant, Medic) and have specific duties. It was a refreshing approach and one of the better Xbox Live games. So the single player experience I give a 2.5 out of 5. The multiplayer a 4.5 out of 5. So, overall RTCW:TOW gets a 3.5 out of 5.

The game controls similar to Halo, so it's not hard for someone to pick up who has played that. The guns do not feel as good as they did in Halo, and the selection was iffy. I also didn't like that you couldn't throw grenades on the fly. You had to change your weapon to the grenade and then throw, and then change back to your weapon.

Really, the visuals were not that fantastic. It was saved by the variety from outdoor settings, tombs, war torn Europe, etc... that kept it fairly fresh.

Dolby 5.1 sounded good. Explosions, shots, and music all did the trick. It's nothing that you'll flip over, but nothing that you notice as being bad.

Suggestions: Just a question: Why do the zombies explode when you shoot them?

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Outlaw Volleyball

Outlaw Volleyball is the 2nd great volleyball game to hit the Xbox this year. And while I feel that Dead or Alive Xtreme Volleyball is a slight bit better, I still loved this one. There's plenty to get excited about in OV. There are lots of unlockable characters and courts, the gameplay is very good, there are plenty of volleyball modes (such as hot potato, bombs, casino rules, timed games, etc...), 4 player mode, Xbox Live, custom soundtracks, and the game has a great sense of humor. If I had to nitpick, there are a few minor flaws. First off, the load times seem to be too slow, especially when changing the character's swimsuits. Secondly, changing characters around in the tour mode is confusing and too hard (some players can't be combined, if they are in a better "class" ranking, and you can only "dump" one of the characters at a time, not both). Thirdly, the swimsuit selection stinks (both in size of collection and originality of the suits), especially when compared to DOAXVB. And lastly, some of the characters from Outlaw Golf are nowhere to be found (what happened to Suki?!?). As for comparison's to DOAXVB, I was surprised to see just how different the games are from each other. Both are solid games. DOAXVB is far superior in graphics, characters, swimsuit variety. I would call it dead even in gameplay, but both are very different games in this category (Each had unique aspects I wished were in the other game...I liked the relationship factor in DOA and liked the turbo ability in OV). OV beats DOAXVB in the play modes with 4 player, Xbox Live, and all sorts of different game types. So, even though I give a slight edge to DOA, the bottom line is that OV is a teriffic game and any flaws are so minor they are not noticeable in the end. I give DOAXVB a solid 5 out of 5.

This is not a game that you can pick up and play and become really good in just a couple games. It does take a bit to get good with the controls, but once you do you'll find it to be an incredibly fun game to play. There are several different gameplay modes which keeps things fresh during the tour mode. I've played 4 player exhibition mode a few times and this was a blast. I found OV to be incredibly addictive as it can take hours to unlock characters and more tours. And if you get tired of the tour mode, you can jump on Xbox Live and challenge somebody else. There are some very minor gameplay flaws. First off, you can fight your opponent to gain momentum which is a neat idea, except that the fighting engine is extremely basic and very lame. Secondly, as with DOAXVB it would have been nice to see your relationship with your partner having a direct impact on the game. For example, if you keep screwing up, your partner can become less confident in you and play a little worse. But, those are very minor gripes to an otherwise perfect gameplay experience.

The visuals are solid. Not breathtaking, but solid. The animations after points can be funny, but some become a little too repetitive. Do we really need an animation after EVERY point? The characters look good, but not DOAXVB good. There are lot of volleyball courts from snow covered lands to playing in the sewer. All the courts look good, and most have a lot going on in the background.

OV utilizes custom soundtracks, and has a decent track list of it's own if you don't have your own tunes to play. The voice acting is good. The announcer (from the Daily show) is funny, but most of his comments become too repetitive by the third game you play. The rest of the sound effects do the trick nicely.

Suggestions: Fix the incredibly long load times when changing a player's swimsuit. Bring back Suki. I would love to see more Outlaw Sports genres, such as b-ball, football, tennis, etc...

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Defender

Ahhhh, the classic Defender arcade game brings back fond memories. At it's time of release in the early 80's, it was a groundbreaking game that incorparated things like "particle effects", and actually had gameplay elements that occurred off the screen (the first game to do so). I lost a lot of quarters to this classic (I loved it and was never that good at it. A terrible combination for machines that eat quarters). Fast forward nearly 25 years and we get a 3D version of Defender from the same company that made the 2D version, Midway. There is nothing groundbreaking about the new one, and it is about as deep as the original. But the game succeeds at being fun, and it brings back fond memories of the original. They also pack in a few bonus features on the game disk, such as a short feature on the original game, making of the new one, and a few trailers of other Midway games.

Defender is a fairly simple game. Pick one of 6 upgradable ships (4 are unlocked through the game), save colonists by picking them up, and shoot the evil aliens. Just like the original, the aliens try to pick up the poor colonists and devour them. And just like the original, the aliens turn into mutated super beasts if you let them succeed. Add in a few dreaded "escort missions" (protect some supply ship) and that is Defender. As I said before, it is fun flying around shooting things, saving colonists, but it does tend to get a little boring after about the 10th mission of the same thing. The ships handle very well, and have some solid weapons. It's very easy to pick up and learn to play. After the first level, I felt like I had mastered everything there was to know. There are different play modes such as deatmatch and cooperative. I was surprised to see the co-op and deathmatch modes as it doesn't seem like a game that would have those features. Neither mode is very entertaining, but it was a nice add on. Overall, the 1 player story mode is a little on the short side, and you can clear the game in about 8 hours.

The graphics are not Defender's strong point. The environments are bland and start to look alike after a few missions. They seem to alternate between snow covered areas and something that resembles the surface of Mars. Everything else looks pretty drab, and there is nothing of note here.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the custom soundtrack option, but you can only choose a maximum of 10 songs for the playlist. They use a lot of the classic sounds which was a nice feature. I'll give it a 5 in this category for the custom soundtrack option.

Suggestions: Spice up the environments and graphics. Some more diversity in the game play, and not so many "escort missions".

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Sega GT 2002

Sega GT 2002 is pretty much the answer to the PS2 exclusive GT3. Like GT3, it has all the cars you could want and each is upgradable. It also has various races and license tests. It looks prettier than GT3, but on the downside the tracks are more boring and there is less variety. Once you get going, it can be a very addictive game as you are always a little bit away from getting the next best car. The biggest problem is that there are so many great racing games on the Xbox (Project Gotham, RalliSport and Need For Speed to name a few) that it kind of gets lost in the shuffle, and I rarely find the time to play it.

It's pretty easy to get the hang of the racing, and it doesn't take long to feel comfortable with it. One thing I didn't like is that you start out with cars that are so slow that you feel like a Grandma on a Sunday drive. It takes a good 2-3 hours of gameplay before you earn enough money to buy a car that drives fast enough to be fun.

The tracks and vehicles are pretty. Having no damage on the cars is a shame, but I understand this is a licensing problem with the automobile manufacturers and not Sega's fault. Also it desperately needed a bigger selection of tracks and environments. Everything looks pretty much the same.

Custom soundtracks earns this puppy a 5 out of 5 in this category. The other effects are exactly what you'd expect of a racing game. All the vehicles sound like their real life counterpart (from what I could tell).

Suggestions: Bigger variety of tracks, damage to vehicles.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 RollerCoaster Tycoon

There are just some games that you know exactly what to expect when you buy them (The Sims, Crash Bandicoot), and there is little room for surprises. Well, Roller Coaster Tycoon is one of those games. If you enjoy games like Sim City, Zoo Tycoon, etc... then you'll probably like RCT. Overall, it suceeds at it's purposes, expands on a few elements of this style of game, and delivers the addictive gameplay you would expect. Just prepare to spend a hour or two learning how it all works.

In RCT you build a theme park and maintain it. The unique thing about it, is that you can build custom Roller Coasters in your park, instead of just using your the pre-designed models. Building your own can be fun, but it is a challenge as it uses realistic physics, so if you don't plan ahead your coaster can crash or not make it over a hill. Also it rates the ride, and you have to be careful to make it so that it is exciting, but not too overwhelming or nauseating. There are several different areas to build a park on, and lots of different scenarios to try. You can also start out with a pre-made park and try to maintain it. It does take a while to learn how to navigate through the various windows, and I thought they could have devised an easier system that would be easier to learn. Building also takes a while to figure out, but after a few hours, it becomes easier.

Graphics are what you'd expect from a game like this. I thought the rain effects were a little on the bad side. It looked more like my TV had static than rain falling. But, everything else is good.

Average sounds and sound effects are all that is to be found. Some of the ride noises and screams get repetitive and annoying after a few hours. A custom soundtrack option would have been nice, for when you are building things.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Brute Force

I had no idea what to expect from this much delayed game when I first popped it into my Xbox. And after playing for the first half hour, I was starting to get real worried that this was going to be a total suck fest. But, then slowly the game started to evolve and piece by piece you start putting your team together of Tex, Flint, Hawk, and Brutus. Once the total team was in place (about 4 levels in to the game), and I adequetly learned all their individual strengths and how to use them (about 5-6 levels into it), I found this was a really fun game, with just a few minor flaws. If there ever was a need to rate a game a 4.75 out of 5, Brute Force is it. So, I'll rate it a weak 5 out of 5 just for it's originality and at times perfect gameplay.

Once you learn each individuals strengths and weaknesses and how to control your team, this game really kicks into high gear. It's very fun to come into a new environment and scout out how to attack it. For example, you can scout it out with Hawk (who can go invisible for short time periods), place Flint (an excellent Sniper) up in high ground, and then attack with Tex and Brutus who are the muscle and close combat fighters. Each player has a special ability, such as Hawk's invisibility, Flint's automatic targeting, Tex's ability to weild two guns at once, and Brutus's heat vision and ability to heal himself. Commanding the fighters is easy after a few levels and you can switch to any fighter with a single touch of the D-pad. There is just a few things wrong with Brute Force. First off, some of the weapons look and feel weak. Secondly, the Osiris levels suck in comparison to the other 5 environments, and lastly, Brute Force is not Halo. The last one sounds stupid, but seriously, BF controls nearly identically to Halo, so it takes some time to adjust to the fact it isn't Halo. Once you get used to the fact that BF is a totally different style of game, it becomes more enjoyable. As for the multiplayer, I liked the system link co-operative mode (something Halo doesn't have). I did not care for the deathmatches as they didn't seem as gripping or as fun as Halo's. Brute Force has a few additional bells and whistles that are worthwhile such as keeping statistics (total number of kills, what character you use the most, etc...).

Some of the FMV's are very good. With the exception of the Osiris levels, the rest of the levels look good and are immersive. The characters are all unique and have a distinct attitude and look. I will say that overall, the graphics were not quite up to the level that I was initially hoping, but at the same time they are all very solid.

The voices are well done and are intentionally cheesy. The group can have some funny lines and the characters react differently depending on who is still alive in your group through the levels. The weapon sounds could have been better, as I found them to be a little weak. Overall, the game sounds great on a DTS 5.1 system.

Suggestions: Overall BF was an excellent game, but there was room for improvement. Scrap the Osiris levels...Improve the weapons...make a cohesive storyline

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 MLB Slugfest 2004

Midway's Slugfest series wins my award for the best game that nobody seems to be playing. MLB Slugfest 20-04 improves upon the already stellar 20-03 edition by adding bigger rosters, create a team feature, instant replay, a home run derby, and more hilarious commentary by Tim and Jim. What makes this game so good is that it is a terrific baseball game at its core, then they mix in tons of humor and additional gameplay features such as the ability to give your opponent a butt whoopin. I seriously do not know why theses games are not more popular. Slugfest 20-04 would easily be in my top 5 Xbox games in my library of over 50 games, and I do not typically like baseball games.

The pitching and hitting interfaces are easy and fun. Get a couple hits and your player gets on fire...literally. This year they added a feature where if your pitcher gets 3 K's before the opponent scores a run, he's on fire until the opponent scores again. Being on fire gives you the ability to pitch faster, run faster, and deliver more powerful blows to your opponent. There are also hundreds of cheats, with really unique stadiums and players (play as Sub Zero or a Zombie...etc) Overall, Slugfest is a fast fun and whacked out baseball game.

You would not expect visuals this good from a "cheesy" baseball game. The stadiums look better than in any "realistic" baseball game. The player models look great. The effects, like players igniting on fire are really cool. There is also lots of hilarious motion capture animations when players come to bat or a pitcher gives up a home run.

The announcers, Tim and Jim, are the funniest thing in the game. The 20-04 version has a great option where you can turn on the commentary for both the 20-03 and 20-04 versions if you never heard last year's. "Jim" is by far the funniest as he sounds like an 80 year old who went senile long ago and never knows quite what's going on. The rest of the sound effects are great.

Suggestions: Two more thing would make this game even more perfect...create a player option and individual player stats after a game is over. But, overall this game is simply tremendous as is!

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Splashdown

I've always enjoyed the Wave Race series from Nintendo (Wave Race for N64 and WR: Blue Storm for the Cube), but rarely find it worthwhile to dust off my GameCube just to play it. So, I was pretty happy to see a worthwhile replacement hit the Xbox in the form of Splashdown. While it's not quite as good as Wave Race, it is good enough to make it so my purple purse (AKA: GameCube) can stay in the closet for a while longer.

Splashdown does a lot of things right. It has a nice selection of tracks, realistic physics, and a good selection of riders. There are a lot of stunts to pull off, which directly effect the speed of your racer. The more stunts you do, the faster you race. Unfortunately, the game does misfire in a couple things. Namely, it is about impossible to do flips off of the ramps (ala Wave Race), there is no turbo, and the racers can be annoying. I also experienced one glitch in which my game would freeze up anytime I tried to switch racers. I had to restart the whole career just to fix that glitch.

The water and tracks look good, but not great. I thought the riders and jet skis could have used more work or detail. Overall it has a PS2 feel, and does not have as good of a look as the Cube's WR: Blue Storm.

Riders voices are annoying, but that is covered up easily with the custom soundtrack feature. I give it a 5 for that feature alone, but all the other sound effects are pretty poor.

Suggestions: Slight improvement to graphics, riders voices and look need improvement, add a turbo feature and easy flips off of the ramps.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Enter the Matrix

Enter the Matrix is perhaps the best game ever made that is based on a movie. I can not think of another game that expands upon the movie in quite the same way as this. It's worth playing alone for all the FMV shot exclusively for the game (which includes a steamy kissing scene between Niobe and Persephone). The game really shines in several categories, including, the hand to hand fighting, the ability to "focus" (slow-mo bullet time), the sounds and music are some of the best, and there is a great variety of weapons, characters, and gameplay. The separate story lines of Ghost and Niobe make it a must to play the game over after completing it with one. It has a hacking system which provides some extra games and entertainment. ETM does have a couple flaws, mainly that there are too many "escort missions", in which you have to protect others who like to put themseleves in harms way. Of course, ONE escort mission is too many, in my book. And, some of the scenery can be drab. But, the good stuff more than makes up for these flaws, and I have to give it a 5 out of 5.

The gameplay is teriffic. I've played for hours and still see new kicks, punches, and disarm moves every time I play. This game uses the slo-mo time better than any other. Fighting is easy and fun. You'll be pulling off wickedly cool moves within the first few minutes you pick it up. The story weaves into the Reloaded movie very well, and expands upon the back story.

When I saw that the game supported 1080i HDTV, I was pretty excited, but then I put it in and found it looks no better than those that support 480p. The scenery can be drab and a little on the boring side. I was getting a little tired of the sewers and endless tunnels. The FMV scenes were not up to DVD quality. On the good side, the characters look teriffic, and there is nothing really bad about the visuals, just nothing that'll make you run around in circles screaming for joy.

The music captures the Matrix experience perfectly and it does utilize some music from the first movie. This game sounds teriffic on a DD 5.1 system. The sound effects from punches to weapons deliver everything you'd want and then some.

Suggestions: Great game! The Only suggestion I can think of would be to eliminate the escort missions (this suggestion applies to every game with one).

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding

Overall: Amped is one of those games I bought simply because it is now so cheap that you can buy it for a rusty nickle and a piece of gum. I'm not a big extreme sports fan, but found I enjoyed Dark Summit (also a snow boarding game) more than I thought I would. After playing Amped for a while, I found a really enjoyed the game, and now I'm worried that I can no longer claim that I'm NOT an extreme sports fan (oh, no!!).

Gameplay: I loved just about everything about the game. I liked how you strive to get media attention and try to get various publicity (the animated videos were very funny). The controls were very responsive and everything felt great. Nearly everthing from the equipment to your skills is upgradable.

Graphics: The visuals were good, but I think it's really hard to make a game that is set in the snow look fantastic, because there is an overall inherent lack of color. The animations when you wipe out look good.

Audio: Amped uses the custom soundtrack feature, as it should be used in a game like this. I never listened to the default music, so I'm not sure about that. The rest of the sound effects are what you would expect.

Suggestions: This was a good game even for us non-snowboarding fans. I may actually buy Amped 2, keep up the great work.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Mad Dash Racing

Every so often a game comes along that is not that good, but I end up enjoying it more than I should, kind of a guilty pleasure. Well, Mad Dash fits in that category for me. Sure the graphics are crappy at best and the characters are cheesy. MD reminds me of a race through a Crash Bandicoot level. You race 3 other opponents (computer or friends) to the finish line. You can pick up weapons and fight along the way. There are multiple paths to complete your goal. I could pick this game apart without even trying, but for what it is, it can be a light enjoyable game.

There are a few modes such as versus (against the computer or others) and an adventure mode. The versus mode will play in split screens (4 of them) if playing with human opponents. There are a lot of flaws with the game, such as sometimes it is very easy to get turned around while racing and lose the path, and the computer assistance is horrible. If you get ahead the computer speeds up, if behind they stop for you, so it's slightly more fun against human opponents. But, the bottom line is MD is a cheesy stupid game that can be fun if you're in the right mood. There are some unlockable characters and levels along the way on the adventure mode.

I seriously can not think of a worst Xbox game graphically. It's essentially the look of a Sega Dreamcast game. I would even call it a poor looking PS2 game.

I like some of the music, but others are really bad. And no custom soundtrack feature. That's messed up for a racing game. The characters voices aren't as funny as they are supposed to be.

Suggestions: Some serious flaws, but overall a fun game. It could have been so much better if the graphics were improved, custom soundtracks were utilized, and the racing paths more clear.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller

Overall Crazy Taxi 3 was a disappointment. I used to love the Crazy Taxi series, but it is becoming boring. It's essentially the same game in a different city every time. In this one they have a new Las Vegas style city ("Glitter Gulch") and they have some new characters (cab drivers and fares). That's about the extent of the new stuff. That's not to say that CT isn't a fun game, it just needs an injection of something new. I thought the Simpson's Road Rage (a Crazy Taxi rip off) was a better game than this because it has tons more vehicles, character, and humor. That's the direction Crazy Taxi should be going. Bottom line, if you own any previous version of CT, don't bother buying this one.

The game is the same as the previous versions, pick up fares (sometimes multiple people in one fare) and drop them off before time expires. CT3 also has several mini games which are smack dab in the middle of fun and frustratingly painful. In the Glitter Gulch course, I found the car got hung up in a few spots way too easily. On the good side, they include all of the previous versions of CT3.

The Glitter Gulch level looks good and the other levels are direct ports from the previous Dreamcast versions, so expect Dreamcast level graphics (not really too bad). But, why don't they just go ahead and call the level Las Vegas and make it similar, complete with real Casinos?

Fairly lame in the sound department. The passengers bark orders/complain/cheer at you like in the previous versions, and at first glance they sound like they just took the voice samples from previous games instead of recording new dialogue.

Suggestions: Time to give this seies some CPR stat! Use a real town, and real layout (like a Project Gotham Racing). More cabbies, more humor, and give it a new feel.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 House of the Dead 3

How much you like House of the Dead III really depends on whether you have the light gun or not. I enjoyed it with the light gun, but not so much with the controler as the aiming isn't as fast or accurate. But, all things aside, it's about time a good light gun game came to the Xbox, hope we get more uses for the gun in the near future. It's a short game, but what is there is lots of fun. I did find out the hard way that the gun does not work with most HDTV's and projection TVs, so that was slightly disappointing.

HOD3 is basically a rail shooter, with the occassional choice of path. The plot is pretty basic, but it's not the type of game you play for a deep plot. Just aim and shoot the baddies!

I was surprised at the visuals as they were better than I thought they would be for this type of game. Everything looked crisp and clean. The bad guys looked creepy and there was just enough diversity in them.

The sound effects were ok. Nothing more than what you'd expect from this type of game. Voice acting was cheesy, but I think it was supposed to be that way.

Suggestions: Make the game longer. It's nothing to clear it in a couple days. I did like the unlockables such as the compete HOD 2 game.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Project Gotham Racing

Store this in the "who cares? file": Project Gotham Racing is the very first game I bought with my Xbox way back when. Anyways, I like it, but think it is slightly over-hyped. Sure it looks pretty, and has lots of cars, but I found it to be flawed in a few areas. It needs a greater sense of speed, and I'm still not sold on the whole "Kudos" system. I so wanted to take the cars out on a country road (like Need for Speed) and just drive a straight road.

I found the courses to be too confined and PGR is more about the ability to take corners than it is about blazing through a straight section of road. On the plus side, there are a LOT of gameplay options and no shortage of unlockables. There is a punishing degree of difficulty as the game progresses.

It is a pretty racer. Great looking cars and scenery. Just lacked a sense of speed for me. And, I don't think it looks as good as RalliSport in comparison.

Custom soundtracks always rock, because it's music I picked. The cars sound great. I love the opening theme (Galaxy Bounce) Everything is perfect here!

Suggestions: Make some open courses!

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Knockout Kings 2002

When you first pop Knockout Kings into the Xbox, you'll find it to be a surprisingly fun game. After a few hours you'll start to notice it's has some flaws. And, after a few more hours it gets old and becomes slightly boring.

KK-02 has a single player mode, in which you can create a boxer and take him all the way to the top in one of 3 weight categories. But, after you win, you can't do much with your boxer in single player mode. The two player mode is the most fun, and there are plenty of real boxers (Ali, Sugar Ray, etc...) to choose from. It's main flaw is that the control scheme is seriously messed up. Body blows and blocking are tricky and EA should have made a different scheme for both. KK also is merely a button masher at it's core, which is what keeps it from having much depth. With that being said, it does make it a fun party-style game. Get some friends over and beat each other to a pulp!

The boxers do look like their counterpart, but at the same time all the visuals feel slightly outdated (a little blocky) for a next-gen console like the 'box. This seems to be pretty typical of EA games.

Sounds are adequate. The punches and other sound effects all do the trick. Custom soundtracks would have been nice for this fighting game, but oh well!

Suggestions: Let the story continue in some way with your custom boxer after you win the championship. Why can't others challenge you? Update the graphics. Utilize custom soundtracks. Improve the control scheme for blocking and body blows.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Dead to Rights

Dead to Rights might has well been called Max Payne 2. I swear I was playing the same game all over again. Both have a renegade cop on the edge who is wrongly accused, a dark gritty city, slo-mo bullet time, and all is 3rd person perspective. There are a few differences. Mainly, in DTR the lead character, Jack Slate, gets a K-9 dog ("Shadow") to assist him from time to time. Ok, so it's not too original, but that does not make it a bad game. Bottom line: If you have already played Max Payne and looking for a similar game, then this is for you. If you haven't played MP, then buy that instead.

On the plus side, I liked the auto-target system. I also liked the additional use of the dog on most levels. The story was nothing new, but it did keep my interest right through to the end. Overall the save points, placement of armor, and health were pretty reasonable and made it so the game was not too frustrating. The level design was very good with lots of strategically placed cover to hide behind and shoot, and also the diversity of the levels was good. The mini-games were a nice addition, but they disappeared midway through the game. On the bad side there were a few "bosses" that were ungodly hard (Pinnacle, Hennesey, and Fahook near the end of the game...yeesh!). There is no replay value. The camera is NOT your friend in tight rooms and stairs. And like I said earlier, this is far, far, far from an original game and is clearly a Max Payne rip off.

The graphics looked crisp, and the cinematics were good. It all does the trick, but it definately smells of a PS2 port. The character modules were very cookie cutter, and slightly on the boring side (I swear Jack Slate is Ryu from Street Fighter!).

Voice acting was the epitome of average. No celebrity voices are involved. It's what you'd expect from hack actors doing them. The guns and explosions were good. Each weapon had a unique sound and everything sounded good on the DTS 5.1 system. The music repeated a lot and was mostly of a generic industrial rock nature.

Suggestions: Fix the camera problems in tight areas and stairs. Give it some replay value.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb

Indiana Jones is a solid game with a couple mis-steps that keep it from being perfect. First off, the good stuff: it has an very fun fighting engine, it captures the Indiana Jones feel perfectly, has diverse levels, it's packed full of gameplay, looks good, and sounds excellent. On the bad side, some levels are inconsistent. They occassionally go from very easy to ungodly hard and back to easy again, or really short to frustratingly long (if you die, you start over at the begining). This would have been easily fixed with REASONABLE save/check points within each level. It's was a real pain in the butt to play an entire level over again because you merely missed a jump at the end of it. Speaking of jumping, it could have used a little less platform jumping and more fighting. There are large stretches with no one to fight, and only jumping or swiming. However, overall the good does overcome any of the negatives, and the game was definately worth buying as it sustained about 20 hours of gameplay.

IJ&TET plays very smoothly. The game breaks you in gently in the first level, and holds your hand showing you the basic moves. There's nothing new here, but combines elements of a lot of different games. There is lots of fighting, platform jumping, some "rail shooting" levels, a Crash Bandicoot style level in which you run from a tank jumping over pits, some water levels with lots of swiming, and some "stealth" levels. The big star of the game is the fighting engine. It's a blast to fight your way through the levels. On the downside, I experienced two freeze-ups and frequent stuttering with both the music and video. Also on one occassion Indy got stuck "in" a wall and could not move. I also noted worse than normal collision detection as you can almost pass through "solid" walls and objects.

I liked the diverse locations, and each one had a unique feel to it which kept the game feeling fresh. Indy looks like Harrison Ford. The visuals were solid, but I didn't see anything that I would call spectacular.

The sounds were excellent. It has all the necessary Indiana Jones music that chimes in at the right time. The game makes good use of a DD 5.1 sound system. The rest of the sound effects were solid. Voice acting was top notch, they found a perfect Harrison Ford sound alike.

Suggestions: Reasonable save/check points, fix bugs, more fighting/less platform jumping.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Dead or Alive 3

DOA3 was one of the first games I bought with my Xbox (late 2001), and is not only still the best fighting game on the Xbox, but is among the best fighters for any console, ever. This has everything you can ask for in a fighter. Very diverse characters, an excellent fighting engine, beautiful graphics, awesome arenas (with break through walls and interactive items), various modes, great sounds, and terrific FMV ending sequences. Add in the fact that Tecmo/Team Ninja gave out free updates with additional costumes (on the OXM bonus disks), and it just gets better and better. One of my favorite modes is the 2 player tag team mode. There are specific characters that team up together (like Tina and Bass) and do some pretty cool moves in tag battle mode. The ending FMV scenes are perhaps the best quality I've ever seen. I only have one very minor gripe, and that is the final boss, Omega. I generally don't like boss battles anyways, but this one was a little cheap. The overall bottom line is that is one of the best fighters ever, and DOA3 along with Halo are the two games that completely sold me on the Xbox, and I have barely touched my PS2 since.

DOA3 shines in the gameplay category. It's both terrific for button mashers and also incredibly deep for the hardcore gamers. There are an incredible amount of moves for each character and each character has a very distinct fighting style. So, it's the perfect balance for newbies and hardcore gamers.

Wowza! This one looks fantastic. It supports 16:9 HDTV's and looks terrific on mine. The characters look tremendous, and the arenas are very, very nice.

The sound is perfect. Nice hits and "slams". It'll give your sub woofer a work out. Not a big fan of Aerosmith, but it could have been worse. Overall very good sounds!

Suggestions: Can't wait for DOA4!!!!

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Kung Fu Chaos

Kung Fu Chaos is a fun game with a good sense of humor. There are plenty of unlockables (levels, costumes, and a few characters) and tons of play modes to keep things fresh. Both the single player mode and the multi-player modes are solid. I especially loved the 4 player games. It's very unique, it's part Mario Party/Fuzion Frenzy mixed in with a fighting game and a Bruce Lee movie. While I really liked the game, there were a few things that kept me from thinking it was a 5 out of 5. For one, I thought the characters were funny, but not as unique or as diverse as I would have liked. All the characters were "ok", but I found I didn't really love any of them. The graphics were good, but it is one of the few games that doesn't support 480p, and it shows on my bigscreen HDTV. And lastly, getting a 5 star rating on some of the levels seems darn near impossible! But, overall I did like the game, and thought it was a good buy. Lastly, I would like to comment on a few other reviews I read (EGM) that claimed this game was racist because it portrayed Asians as a stereotype. I think that is ludicrous. This is more of an homage to those 70's Kung Fu flicks, and not racist, in my opinion.

The gameplay is solid. I really like that they take you step by step through the levels and introduce new combos and moves gradually. There are plenty of modes, and all of them are plenty of fun. The fighting engine is good, but would not be good enough to support a fighting-only style game.

First on the good side, the scenery and diverse locales is terrific. There is plenty going on, and there is never a hint of a loss of framerate or slowdown. On the bad side, as I said before the game is one of the few Xbox games that does not support the 480p feature (KFC plays in 480i), and when you play it on a larger HDTV it shows as there are lines visible. And, in my opinion, the characters are somewhat bland. I could take or leave any of them.

The sound is terrific in KFC. It supports custom soundtracks. Personally, I will give any game a 5 in this category if they include the custom soundtrack feature. The other sounds are great. I love the "ninja" sounds, and it sounds great on Dolby 5.1.

Suggestions: More unique diverse characters that we can actually care about. Graphics should support 480p.

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

DOAX Volleyball is a very unique game that is a lot of fun. It's a fun mix of volleyball, shopping, and playing in the casino.

The gameplay was smooth and I enjoy the volleyball aspect of the game. It has a two button system which was very smooth and easy to pick up and play. I like the system in which you have to keep on your team mate's good side, or you won't be winning much.

Visually DOAX is fantastic. It really shows off what the Xbox hardware can do. The graphics simply will make your jaw drop.

Great sounds, plus you can use your own soundtrack (always a big bonus for me). Can't ask for anything more in this category.

Suggestions: Nothing comes to mind, I like the game the way it is...

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Whacked!

I wasn't sure that I would like this game at first, but after a few times playing it, it got very addictive. I found it to be creative and I love those warped commercials(How to Walk with a Rock, Baby's First Chainsaw, and Major Woody's Spank Tank) and cinematics. It's easy to learn and fun to compete against others. The weapons are original (yolk a matic, prickly cactus, and good bye doggie...) and challenges are somewhat difficult, but not to the point of throwing the controller at the wall. The characters are hilarious (Lucky,the footless handless rabbit, and Charity, the uber hyper brat, are my faves)and the announcer is a hybrid of Elvis and a used car salesman. The furious gameplay is a great way to let off tension and blow off some steam. I hate those @$&* chickens though! Some of my favorite challenges are dodgeball, tag, king of the mountain, and other assorted recess scenarios. I really enjoyed Oddworld, so this game really appealed to me. Overall, I would not recommend the game to kids because there is plenty of language and violent content. It is funny enough to keep adults entertained and challenged, but too much so for children. I have to give this game a 5 out of 5.

The controls are easy to learn, but not childishly so. The only level I find confusing is Space Age. It is hard sometimes to find and follow the leader beam. I have not found any glitches yet in the game beseides that.

Graphics are great, but not to the extent of Halo or Splinter Cell. The stage environments are colorful and original. Some of my favorites are Ghost Ship, Arctic Pipeline, Jimmy's Kitchen, and Can Can. The cinematics are done very well and the commercials have a cheesy retro feel.

The sound is not crucial to the gameplay, but the game does not need it. It's not intrusive or annoying, it just adds atmosphere to the gameplay. The commercial music is so funny. I can't get the Scrapple or Nateos jingle out of my head!

Suggestions: Make more commercials! I love those things. I couldn't wait to unlock more. More environments instead of repeating some of the same. Introduce more characters to unlock.
The leader beam idea is great, but sometimes I lose it in Space Age.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Halo: Combat Evolved

Overall: Best...Video Game...Ever! I've been a gamer since before the Atari 2600 (anyone remember the Fairchild Channel F?). Anyhow, this is the best game for any platform...period! I never was a big fan of the FPS genre, but heard good things about Halo, and decided to give it a try. I was not disappointed as it lived up to and exceeded the hype.

Gameplay: Plays and controls beautifully. The gameplay is very smooth. The story helps the game along just perfectly without being too intrusive to the gameplay.

Graphics: The game is stunning visually. I love how things become so crystal clear close up. I can count the blades of grass or check out the textures on rocks. The outdoor scenes are diverse, expansive, and just plain...well, stunning (there is not other word to describe it).

Audio: The music, explosions, gun fire, and opponent's chatter is all ungodly awesome. Doesn't get any better than this.

Suggestions: Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 4....Halo 25...Halo The Geriatric Years

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 The Thing

For every 3 things I liked about this game, there was alway 2 that drove me insane. Overall it was a semi-enjoyable game that made me lose too much hair.

The game has a decent look and feel to it. The controls are ok, but it takes a bit to get used to. The main problem is about 2/3 into the game it becomes way too hard. The med packs and ammo are too far between, and you will find yourself playing the same thing over and over again. It quickly become more frustrating than fun.

I liked the idea of having others that you had to build trust and get to help you, but this idea did not go far enough, and ultimately had no bearing on the game. Plus, you can't keep your crew from level to level. There were several more issues, but it would take me too long to go through them all.

Pretty basic visuals, but they succeed. The outdoor scenes do feel cold and desolate, and there is enough variety to keep it interesting.

Sounds were also basic, and nothing remarkable, but did the trick. There was nothing that stood out as being bad or good.

Suggestions: Make the game a tad bit less frustrating. Build on the trust relationship aspect and make it a more intregal part.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 NFL 2K3

I've played nearly every football game I could get my hands on since the Atari 2600 came out with their "state of the art" 3 on 3 football, and this is quite simply the best football game made to date. A hefty improvement over last years NFL2K2 in both gameplay and graphics, and a league above this years Madden 2003. Add in the fact that it is Xbox Live compatable, and this is the complete package. This is in my top 3 Xbox games ever (Halo, Splinter Cell, NFL 2K3)

The controls are nearly the same as last years NFL 2K2, which is to say that it plays very well. The addition of the ESPN license helps with the overall presentation and adds some realism. I particularly liked the weekly wrap up at the end of every week (Although, the play of the week was always semi-retarded).

Simply the best out there. The replays are spectacular, the faces and expressions are very good, but this is still one area I think they can improve even more on. The attention to detail is astounding.

The commentary is the best in any football game. Some will not like the fact they didn't use well known stars for the commentary, but I think this is a bonus. Clearly they spent a lot of time recording, as rarely do you ever hear the same thing more than once, and they are spot on with the commentary.

Suggestions: It's really nit-picking to say this could be improved, but I'll try. Keep on improving the facial modules and expressions, and make the play of the week a little cooler (9 out of 10 times it's a 25 yard field goal?!?)

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Loons: The Fight For Fame

This is in one of my personal top 3 WORST Xbox games to date. Several glitches, camera problems, and control issues keep this from being playable. The diverse sets were nice, but it all comes down to gameplay which really, really bit.

This game plays horribly. Several times I got stuck in walls or behind objects and could not get out. Didn't anybody test this game? The camera is not adjustable and there are occassions in which it is behind an object and you can not see yourself. Jumping does not feel right, and you feel too far away from your character to see what is happening. The fighting is far too repetitive and just not fun.

The cinematics are nice, and the backgrounds are small, but ok looking. It is slightly blocky in other areas, and overall nothing to get excited about.

The music is good, and the voice acting is high quality. However, the voices are very repetitive, so get ready to hear the same thing over and over and over again.

Suggestions: More characters, better control, better camera. On second thought

Overall Score: 3.0 / 10 Outlaw Golf

Outlaw Golf is one of my favorite Xbox games in my library of over 20 games. It was a pleasent suprise. I bought it because it appeared to be humorous, and was pleasantly surprised to find tight and enjoyable gameplay to go with the humor.

The game plays smooth and is quite addictive, particularly in multi-player modes. My friends and I have spent many, many hours competing against each other.

The graphics are excellent. The courses are very detailed. I can count the blades of grass on the course. The golfers are rendered very well, and very diverse.

I find the announcer (from the Daily Show) to be very funny, although some may be turned off by his sense of humor. The sound effects are also very good.

Suggestions: It's a great thing as is...but, as it is with a great thing, I always want more, more, and more! How about more courses, golfers, etc..

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 The Simpsons Road Rage

I had heard a lot of bad things about this game before I bought it, so maybe my lowered expectations made me like it a lot more. In the end, I found the Simpson's Road Rage to be a very fun and funny game. It's been compared to Crazi Taxi, but I think it's better. For starters it's funnier, it has 4 times the amounts of cars and characters, and more courses than your average Crazi Taxi game. I will admit that it is not without it's flaws. Chiefly, some of the levels are poorly designed and not worth playing (the Nuclear Power Plant and Springfield Mountains). It's too easy to get stuck in dead ends in some places, which can frustrate some. And there are a few characters that have horrible vehicles that are not useful on any of the courses (Barney's plow).

The gameplay is easy to learn and the controls are simple. This may annoy some hardcore gamers looking for depth. But, if you're looking for a fun easy to pick up and play game, this is it. There's a lot of hidden stuff on each level, and hidden shortcuts that keep things interesting.

The visuals are nice. Lot's of color and details thrown in from Simpson's episodes. It's a blast driving through a fully rendered Simpson's neighborhood.

The cast of the Simpsons lent their voices to the game. Lot's of jokes and more depth that I thought there would be.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Wreckless: The Yakuza Mission

Wreckless is good, mindless fun that goes down easy. A stunning game visually with some enjoyable vehicles and levels. But, the game is not without it's flaws. There are not enough levels (only 20), and of the 20 the vary from being way too easy to ungodly hard and back to easy again, and a few of the levels are way too repetitive. Overall, though, I enjoyed the game and found myself playing it way too much.

They could have definately used more variety in the gameplay category. It's fun to blow cars up, and run through buildings, but it would have been nice to actually get out of your car occassionally, or something similar.

It doesn't get much better than this in the visual department. Graphics look photo-realistic, and the replays are actually worth watching.

The sounds get two analog sticks down for me. They are simply boring and flat. Occassionally they are down right annoying, such as the &qu noises whenever you turn a larger vehicle around a corner, such as the big 4WD.

Suggestions: Improve the sounds, the mission variety, and add more missions.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 NBA 2K2

NBA 2K2 is simply the best basketball game out there for any platform. Terrific AI defenders, crisp graphics, and nice attention to detail make this a solid game.

The game looks and plays like the real thing. The controls are easy to learn and are set up almost identically to the previous dreamcast versions. Many different modes such as season/street/playoffs keep things fresh. I also liked the commentary, which was rarely repetitive, and almost always on the mark.

The graphics are crisp and good, but I still think there is room for improvement. The replays have been improved from previous versions, but some look shaky and are not the best graphically. The arenas are very good and have a lot of nice details, but the fans in the stands look like cardboard cut-outs.

The commentary during the game was very solid and some of the best. Very deep, rarely repetitive. The rest of the sounds are decent, but nothing ground breaking.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10

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