Leggo my LEGO! Don’t groan. The newest Star Wars video game gets its inspiration from LEGO, the manufacturer of those decidedly low-tech toy blocks, the ones I wanted to grind into the head of the local bully when I was a kid. LEGO STAR WARS is actually more creative than some of LucasArts’ recent Star Wars titles. They don’t converse much, these toys that have become video game heroes; in fact they don’t say anything. It just goes to prove that the Star Wars plots, although sappy and predictable, are so action-packed, you don’t need dialog to move the story along. Sure, the game could have been longer. But they’ve stuffed so much story and action in this puppy, it’s a terrific way to bone up on series plot points you may have forgotten—and to get ready for the big movie premiere. Go ahead, play: You’re not too cool for this.
Forget the fact that the affably manic but ultimately uninspiring Jeremy Shockey is the cover athlete. Even if you already bought the console version of NFL STREET 2, this is different beyond the fact that the game plays in wide screen wonder. You get modes like Street Slalom, Style Point Challenge and Style Standoff to make it almost worth the price of admission. You can even climb up walls to catch a pass. Too bad you can’t unlock last year’s cover guy/retiree, Ricky Williams, and have him practice some Ayurveda on these Bluto-like defensive ends. That would’ve added some sardonic glee to the humor already in the game.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
For: PS2, Xbox
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
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.
MX vs. ATV Unleashed
For: PS2, Xbox
Developer: Rainbow Studios
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.