By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
But after that initial race in Full Story mode, I began to see some problems. First, there are long load times between the movie-like scenes and this wait dampened the anticipation I had. I wanted to put my virtual pedal to the metal, and not be daunted. While the second race was a lot of fun, I couldn't progress to the next level until I finished a hunt for postcards (which was not that interesting). You may be able to avoid the postcard hunt by playing the Compact Story mode, which is more geared toward kids.
This, of course, isn't true racing. If you hit another car, for example, it doesn't sustain physical damage. But the car does scream and yell, saying mildly humorous things like, "Hey, you almost took off my bumper," if you crash into them. Also, if you're near another car, Lightning will utter things like, "Can I get an autograph?" or "You're that guy!" repeatedly. After a while, it gets annoying. One of the things you can do is to take various Sunday drives across the open environments. During that time, you'll get used to maneuvering your car and also find little lightning bolt icons which add points to your score when you drive through them.
What kept me going when things got a little dull was the driving soundtrack, which includes everything from Edgar Winter's old school "Free Ride" to the All-American Rejects' Night Drive. Also, while I enjoyed Owen Wilson's voice acting, the older fellow in me marveled as I heard the dulcet tones of the great Paul Newman in a video game. To me, this was as much of a charge as listening to Marlon Brando in the recent The Godfather game.
As you progress and try valiantly to win the Piston Cup, you'll find all sorts of races including "Monster Truck Mayhem," "Sally's Sunshine Circuit," and "Sarge's Off Road Challenge." You'll be able to track down speeders in a cop car and even assume the role of a car from the wrong side of the tracks that steals things. Since the offering was developed by the same people who gave the world the "MX vs. ATV" games, it's got pretty amazing automobile physics, especially during the off road race. (Tip: if you're buying a handheld version of the game, skip the Gameboy Advance and DS versions, which aren't that hot at all. Get the more console-like PSP version instead.)
Ultimately, Cars, the videogame, is a lot like Cars, the movie. It's a good game with honorable intentions and a warm, virtual heart that sometimes plays great and sometimes gets boring. Unfortunately, it doesn't come up to the level of the stellar The Incredibles game or even the Toy Story game for the original PlayStation.
Hitman: Blood Money
Over a hundred years ago, Sigmund Freud wrote, "No one, who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human breast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed." So it is with The Hitman, also inelegantly named Agent 47. 47's no psychoanalyst, but he's got the demons on him nonetheless.
Of all the dark characters in the world of gangland style video game shoot 'em ups and stealthy spy thrillers, Agent 47 may be the most compelling. That's because he seems to have the deepest back story and a real personality that's not one-dimensional. Sure, 47 benefits from having four installments of the HITMAN video game series which reveal his character's proclivities.
But, as an assassin, he's a loner, introspective, and outside of society. He's not only a bald rebel without a cause; he's genetically engineered from the bad seed DNA of five of the worst criminals the world has ever known. He can kill ruthlessly. Yet he's scared of needles and, as a youth, lovingly cared for his pet rabbit. He also has a bar code tattoo on the back of his head so his creators can find him easily. All of this makes his complexities even more interesting.
Hitman: Blood Money starts out with a haunting version of "Ave Maria" as a crow flies onto the shoulder of the statue of the Virgin Mary in a cemetery. The opening movie then cuts to a dramatic action visual of 36 people dying in an amusement park as a Ferris wheel crashes to the ground. That's followed by a montage of newspaper clips showing the park's owner on trial, and, ultimately, being cleared of all charges. A grieving but vengeful father hires 47 to rid the world of the Swing King, the amusement park owner.
Although the first level is a tutorial, it's a lot of fun since it takes place in the run down, ocean-side park which is richly detailed, and kind of scary. You'll distract guards with the throw of coin, and get to your prey with easy-to-follow directions that appear onscreen. As the levels progress, however, the game turns much harderquicklyand a mystery begins to unravel. Apparently, a rival wants to remove the bald 47 and will stop at nothing until he's eliminated.
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