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.


The Clone Republic

By Steven L. Kent

Ace Books, 400 pages, $7.99
An Oblivion Sugar High?
photo: Courtesy of 2K Games
An Oblivion Sugar High?

Details

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
For: Xbox 360, PC

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    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 characteristics—and 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. 


    Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.

    Daxter
    Publisher: Sony
    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.

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