Forget Crichton and King when it comes to games. With his Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six and Splinter Cell action series, Tom Clancy’s games rule the video game roost. He’s even got four cell phone games on the market. In SPLINTER CELL CHAOS THEORY, you’re the solo agent, alone if not a little lonely, on ten mammoth stealth missions to save the world from terrorism. Hey, better you than W. The year: 2008. Not that that matters. You may even hate Clancy’s writing, as I do. That matters . . . a little. Thing is, if you’re into stealth games, you can’t get much better than this. Sure, you can kill to complete your objectives through ten expansive levels. But Chaos Theory also allows you the harder, more professional way to act by using no lethal force and offing no one. Yeah, OK, you can kill a little for fun, too, but just for those times when you need to be the sadist.
What a wild potpourri. If you’ve ever wanted to drive anything in competition, MX vs. ATV UNLEASHED‘s for you. You can drive motocross bikes, monster trucks, bi-planes, helicopters, even golf carts. There are so many modes to play here, it makes the head spin. The detailed career mode is a winner, but designers had a sense of humor, too. You can find Santa Claus in one of the winter courses, (and run that bearded marketing machine over). The advanced physics of the vehicles (think GM genius, not Stephen Hawking) make you think you’re driving the real things. Still, some of the vehicles are hard to maneuver, making this a very good game, but not a great game.
God of War
Wanna go Greek? Sony’s omniscient GOD OF WAR redoes the most popular and lurid stories of the Greeks. But this isn’t just a banal version of Bullfinch’s Mythology with video game graphics. God of War is so neatly packed with nonstop action, it beats the legendary Ray Harryhausen’s old-school animation in the Clash of the Titans movie. And it’s so full of Adderall-paced story, it makes you feel that you’re part of the plot. Yeah, you wish they’d gotten deeper into the myths by adding some really obscure stories like they did in the old school CD-ROM game Wrath of the Gods. But maybe they will in the sequel. Still, it’s one of the best games of the year.
For: PS2, Xbox
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
PROJECT: SNOWBLIND may make you thing of the Xbox-busting game, Halo 2. You’re a futuristic soldier, here, too, and you’ve got to save the world. But, hell, every damn game has you save the world in some sort of way. Project: Snowblind isn’t cliché or dull at all. The weaponry is uniquely wild (gotta love those fleet, robotic spiders); the AI kicks butt and the artwork is wonderfully bright, a break from the games that are just rife with too many shadows. The graphics in this one’s like Blade Runner meets Moulin Rouge!—a very good thing.
Twisted Metal: Head-On
You thought it was dead and you were happy about it. But Twisted Metal: Head-On surprisingly revives a franchise that towards the end really sucked mooseballs. The PSP version, however, is as addicting as Red Bull after midnight. The idea? Souped-up futuristic cars and motorcycles equipped with wild weapons battle it out on intricate and graphically beautiful tracks. The chaotic Los Angeles Freeway arena, for instance, is a joy to behold, with lots of lurid, funhouse-like nooks and crannies to explore. Head-On is the demolition derby/horror fantasy you’ve yearned for when you’ve broken into the codeine and finished American Purgatorio, and there’s nothing to do but play games. Sure, you blast these complexly rendered vehicles to oblivion (so viscerally satisfying) with the guns on your car. But there’s more fun. Each time your car runs into a power-up that hangs enticingly in the air, you have a different way to blow things up. Tip: Load up on homing missiles. Yeh, mascot Sweet Tooth is back, but the game’s so good, you don’t even mind his leering skull clown face.
Developer: SCE Studios Liverpool
Remember when you were a small kid and spinning in a circle was so much dizzying fun? Wipeout Pure gives you that feeling again. The game is based on the anti-gravity racing franchise that’s been around for almost 10 years, beginning with the original PlayStation. In Pure, it’s the year 2197 and 8 teams of physics-defying racecraft are vying to be the best in the world. Each sleek futuristic craft has its own wild personality of sorts. Some are fast, but don’t maneuver that well. Your airbrakes will help, but they take some getting used to. Some vehicles are slower, but take turns like a charm. As you race, you’ll be running over special pads on the track which let you pick up 10 different kinds of weapons and powerups. Sci-fi billboards have little videos on them as you pass, which is a nice touch of detail. It’ll all give you motion sickness, but with 19 tracks of dance music as you race, what a way to go.