By Stephanie Zacharek
By Inkoo Kang
By Voice Film Critics
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Aaron Hills
Advanced Warfighter whisks you to the year 2013 in Mexico City when the Army creates a new breed of soldier. You're equipped with the latest technology: that means truly precise and explosive weaponry. The press release for the game says that this new kind of solider is yours to command. It's more than command, however. You feel you're a part of the action every step of the way. From the sounds of looming helicopters to the way the bright sun sometimes makes it difficult to see your target, you'll appreciate the attention to detail and computer coding that's gone into the latest Clancy effort. In fact, the game itself is so high tech, it makes you update your Xbox 360 system before you play. Don't worry: it's just the press of a controller button.
Here's a game full of elite strategy as you try to halt the coup of a crazed Mexican general who threatens all of North America and captures the U.S. president. It's up to you, as with most video games, to save the world (well, at least the Western hemisphere). But don't be too aggressive in this stunning single player campaign. If you try to run toward your target and shoot without considering serious military tactics, you'll bite the dust immediately. You have to be stealthy, too, in this urban terrain. Carefully, duck behind cement blockades and look around corners quietly. You'll use smoke grenades to dismay the enemy, sure. But you'll also have the countersnipe rifle, which lets you get to hidden enemies behind walls. So precise are the futuristic weapons that you often have to press a button to hold your character's breath. This steadies your aim and lets you fire accurately.
You can call in for support, too, including air strikes, which make for quite the visual fireworks. Even better than the single player mode are the online multiplayer capabilities of the game. These will definitely keep you coming back for more. You and your pals can really make the online experience as highly customized as you wish: everything from the way your character looks to the kind of action that happens onscreen. The customization abilities here seem almost endless. Because of the nearly infinite variety of things to do online, this is one of the great games for the Xbox 360.
Speaking of high tech war battles, dean of gaming journalism Steven L. Kent has switched his talents to the novel writing game. The Clone Republic (Ace), Kent's military science fiction epic, is released this week. The plot? In the year 2508, a human clone called Wayson Harris has an independent streak that serves him well early on as he makes his way through a world of elite (though servile) clone soldiers. But Harris's individualism is not appreciated by the higher ups in the Unified Authority, which has a hammer lock on Earth's colonies. The first sentence gets you immediately: "'You picked a hell of a place to die, Marine,' I told myself." From there, the action begins fast and furious with dark musings, lavish battle scenes, and complex characterizations.
Not only does The Clone Republic feature taut writing and a truly imaginative plot full of introspection and philosophizing (Kent even quotes Plato), you can tell Kent had video gaming on his mind when he took on the project. Muses Kent, "The Clone Republic can make a good game, if it falls into the hands of a good team. All the elements are there. It has combat epic sequences and smaller man-to-man skirmishes. It has a wide range of locations that will lend themselves varied gaming experience. The battles in the book have unique goals and characteristicsand most of them are not the clichéd battle types you find in so often. The text leaves room for a wide variety of mini-games. Also, like the 'Half-Life' series, The Clone Republic starts with the premise that a fleshed out storyline will lend itself to a richer gaming experience." Kent's book begins a new series for Ace: the followup, Rogue Clone, will be released in September.
Developer: Ready At Dawn Studios
Games got music, too, and I don't mean the background soundtracks. They rock; they roll; they jazz. Don't take this lightly: I mean these three new PSP games would be welcomed, to paraphrase Wynton Marsalis, in the high houses of erudite scholarship and in the houses of ill repute as well. They are sometimes so creative, they can be like Wynton going out at Lincoln Center, doing Jelly Roll, singing "What Have I Done?," playing the washboard, and bringing out a trio of tap dancers as a surprise. This week, games for the PSP got the jazz on them.
I confess: I was never really a big fan of the Jak and Daxter franchise for the PS2. Certainly, I liked Jak's sidekick Daxter, the fictional, genetic anomaly of an otter mixed with a weasel. But I found Jak to be too one-dimensional. In fact, I sometimes wished the series would die.
DAXTER gives the deserving, wisecracking ottsel his own platform in an intriguing, action-filled game that is one of the best this year for the PSP. With Daxter, you've got a highly detailed, Bugs Bunny-inspired creature whose every move is fun to watch and even more fun to play. Call it aggressive lunking and skulking full of lopes, scampers, and lunges.
In a way, playing is like hearing Curtis Stigers do scat. As Daxter moves through a sci-fi world rife with lurid colors and mammoth, Blade Runner-like flying objects, you're transported into futuristic but wacky environments where the ottsel must take the lowly job of pest exterminator in order to find his buddy, that boring Jak. From the beginning, the puff-chested Daxter has to use an electric flyswatter to kill bugs. Step lively; step lightly; do the Daxter dance with alacrity because there's more to come. Daxter gets his weapons upgrade quickly as the bugs become gigantic: everything from an electric fogger to a flamethrower. From the on-target camera angles to the sweet-yet-thoughtful writing, you just feel the assertive attention to detail every step of the way. If you think the game is a little slow at the beginning (you have to do a lot of crouching, walking, and running), don't sing the blues. Daxter gets a scooter to make navigating the delightfully massive world of Haven City much easier.
Call this one electric jazz on acid. I'm always a sucker for a 3D gimmick, especially when it's part of a smart game. That's the case with METAL GEAR ACID 2, one of those card-based tactical games. Don't let the 500 cards stop you from playing. The 3D mode lets you view game play and trailers for a wonderful spatial effect that will make you want to reach out and touch the virtual world of tough guy Solid Snake. You can even link the game to MGS3: Subsistence (but only after you acquire the camera option on the first disc).
Here's how ACID 2 works. The cards you draw help you move along in the game. These cards are often like power-ups and they enhance the abilities of Solid along with his varied weapons. You'll need these powers to complete the missions in the game. But don't think of this game as something like poker or bridge because it has cards. It's full of action, very good graphics, and an easy-to-use interface. Add those very engaging 3D moments, and you've got a game that's much advanced when compared to its predecessor, last year's Metal Gear Acid.
Here's the jazz fusion. With the exception of annoying load times which sometimes seem endless, MX VS. ATV UNLEASHED: ON THE EDGE is an exciting, challenging racing game. The variety here is impressive, if not staggering. You've got so many tracks and vehicles from which to choose, you feel like a kid in a candy store. Add a pulse-pounding soundtrack which features the likes of The Black Eyed Peas and Nickelback, wild vehicles like monster trucks, and physics that rival the game's console version, and you've got the recipe for hours of gritty racing enjoyment. Sure, it's tough to master your clutch and do the necessary tricks to win. The bonus is that On the Edge feels like real racing despite the arcade essence at its core. It's your turn to solo, so make it intricate; don't play with ego; and, most of all, make it swing.
Onimusha: Dawn Of Dreams
I tend to go on about the writing in games as if it's a crusade, but that's because so much is two grades below the writing in the reality TV show Average Joe. Same goes for the times they try to offer a movie-like experience. Half the time, it comes out like a F-grade Uwe Boll (Uwe himself is D grade). But Onimusha: Dawn Of Dreams is a happy exception. It's not only a superior game. It's a constantly cinematic experience with a compelling story line and a good (if not amazing) script.
First, make believe you're at the Ziegfeld. The complex and lengthy opening sequences last for over ten minutes (plus, there's time for some essential time for game play). The movies are real feasts for the eyes as the sorrow and carnage of war meet natural disasters in medieval Japan. Think legendary director Kurasawa meets all-action-all-the-time producer Jerry Bruckheimer. You think, that's gonna suck wind like a boxer who got a nasty haymaker, right? It works nearly perfectly.
The Onimusha franchise, a tight combination of adventure story, combat, and puzzle-solving, is now five years old. In this two-disc set, you're still fighting evil and demons that are hell-bent on taking over Japan in the 1500s. But there's so much that's new that seasoned players will feel the franchise is fresh. And the tutorials early on will appeal to the novice who hasn't played an Onimusha previously. In the process, you'll learn how to fight and how to parry, and you'll whack some nasty demonsincluding an ugly, easy-to-kill giant.
Full of greedy warlords, mythic magic, and mayhem, Dawn Of Dreams comes complete with an arsenal of weapons for your protagonist, Soki, The Blue Demon. Soki can also absorb the souls of the dead to gain power. Some decent (though not perfect) companions help you slash your way through the nasty, armor-clad skeletons which come at you in hordes.
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