By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
Maybe it's because the holidays are upon us, those depression-inducing weeks during which a minute of egg-nog-without-snog socializing seems like a day in purgatory. Craving distraction, I cracked open TRUE CRIME: NEW YORK CITY to see a disclaimer saying the NYPD didn't approve this game about police bribery and urban evil. Rebellion: cool. Once I loaded the game, a windswept, lonesome yet violent Christmas in Harlem actually felt real. In fact, throughout Manhattan, there was grit and dirt: the herald angels sing: someone finally got New York City right in a game. The story of a thug turned cop story was compelling, appropriately complex and decently written, if nothing that new. So I finished the training as a cop (definition: how to press buttons, aim and drive in the game, not that much like the police academy) and went on the first undercover assignment with my embittered partner. Somewhere on 8th Avenue in Midtown, I heard a loud BUZZZZZZZZ. Get ready for some fisticuffs and mayhem, I thought. But the screen had stopped on a frame and I had to reboot the game, thus losing my progress (since there was no automatic saving of the game) and the last vestige of holiday sanity. Who made this game, The Grinch Who Froze the Xbox?
50 CENT: BULLETPROOF gets you together with the buff rapper and his clan of mischief makers like the great Tony Yayo. When I saw the game last May at E3, the trailer looked like the most misogynist collections of bytes I'd ever stumbled upon. But that was out of context; the game is raw but not disgusting. Because Bulletproof lets you unlock a load of 50 songs, demos and videos and because folks like Eminem and Dre appear, true fans of the rapper will regard Bulletproof as a must have, especially the editions that come with a bulletproof vest adorning the box. Unlike True Crime, however, the graphics don't feel that real and the unwieldy weapon aiming mechanisms makes me feel like a blind, uncoordinated rugrat trying to use a gun. In da club? Uh-uh. More like in da flub.
Zombies rule all year 'round if you're a horror fan. If you mix zombies with Christmas in New York, you'll get INFECTED, an unusual game, part of which lets you utilize the PSP's wireless functionality. If you want to save Christmas, you have to blast the zombie hordes, then inject them with blood to annihilate them when their defenses are down. It's a darkly humorous game that will appeal to the same crowd who loved Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa.
Those unfortunate wastrels addicted to air guitar can now be savedif they've got the most minor semblance of rhythm. That's because GUITAR HERO, the most unique music-based game of the year, comes with a mini-guitar peripheral. With four colored buttons on the neck that act as frets, you'll move through the rock 'n roll ranks from dingy clubs to giant arenas. With 30 songs from Deep Purple, The Ramones, Joan Jett and the like, you'll be asked to tap your frets as the music speeds up and becomes more complex. If you're off-rhythm and you miss the colors as they scroll by onscreen, your audience will boo louder and louder, eventually leaving the clublike I did when Eminem looked like a poor imitation of Elvis at the Garden last summer. The only downside I could find with Guitar Hero is that after an hour plus of continuous play, my button pressing hand ached like I'd been pulling a sled in the Iditarod.
DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION EXTREME 2 is chock full of techno tunes and a few originals from Sean Paul and Fat Boy Slim. Here, there are remakes of supersweet superstars from Beyonce to Britney to Christina, 70 songs and 100 minutes of pop dance music. Add the EyeToy peripheral and you can see yourself dance within the game. Too bad the graphics are about a decade old.
Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3
DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION ULTRAMIX 3 for the Xbox features more hits by the original artists than Extreme 2, and a Quest mode, missions with a story that lets you dance in clubs in various cities. In addition to the techno and Japanese pop songs, there's a fair amount of rock stuff from Good Charlotte, They Might Be Giants and The Clash. A Freestyle Mode lets your freak flag flydance any way you want: great for me since I'm a spaz on the level of Elaine in "The Little Kicks" episode from Seinfeld.
Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix
DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION MARIO MIX for the Gamecube lets you play as all the classic Nintendo characters. While there are only 25 different songs here (why not more?), the story mode feels like a mix of the better Mario games for the GameCube with the addition of dancing. There are five rich environments to dance in, and the movements are never so difficult that a child couldn't feel like a real star.
If you're gonna get wild as in the Rated X Panty Party at Scenic, there's nothing better than KARAOKE REVOLUTION PARTY for the Xbox. With 50 songs and an included microphone, you'll be crooning all night. You can add a "DDR" dance mat and bop around while you sing. Because I love an eclectic song mix, wailing the variety of "Sweet Caroline" and "Pieces of Me" really gets me enthused. Sadly, I can't sing and dance at the same time, but maybe I'm open to singing and sex simultaneously.
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