By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
After you choose the kind of character you'd like to be, you'll begin with a tutorial that shows you how to kill: You start with an RPG staple, giant rats. They die easily, but their bites do cause wounds. (By clicking the right controller stick, I moved from the first person perspective to the third person just because it's easier to see the rats attack.) You'll find a bow and arrow, and you'll learn how to shoot. And you'll cast magic spells full of wild animation.
The key to enjoying the rich experience of Oblivion is to have a wide-eyed sense of discovery and a nagging need to explore everything. Because of the circuitous routes you take, you'll probably get lost now and then. The game itself helps you to find your way with everything from a compass to various maps. You'll also encounter zombies and goblins early on, and the way they pop out of the darkness frightens you in the way the Doom 3 did. As you move forward, you'll end up in Sancre Tor, which is full of the undead. Ghosts here will help you, and scare your pants off, too. Tip: To fight off the ghosts, you can't use just any weapon. You'll have to find a silver weapon.
If you've never played an RPG before, this really is the one to buy. You'll also want to search the Web for some needed help when things get tough (various walk-throughs are available, and so is a guide you can purchase in bookstores). Oblivion is truly immersive adventure of sword and sorcery. Novices who take the time to play will be hooked in about an hour. And the hardened gamers? Your hearts will melt as your quest becomes more and more complex and graphically intense. You will play until you drop, and when you get up, you'll play until you drop again. Even when it's done, it's not done. As George Carlin mused, "Just 'cause you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town."
Damn, if W. had these guys from Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 3 Advanced Warfighter in Iraq's Triangle of Death, we'd have won the stupid war within three months. Think of it: no 2,000 plus dead Americans. No 30,000 plus dead Iraqis. Just an elite squad making the world safe with supreme stealth and high tech power. You can dream, can't you? That's about all you can do right now.
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.
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