Game Room: Holiday Gift Guide
Rock Band (MTV Games)
We're a full year into the three-headed race between the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii for gaming console supremacy. In this year's Gift Guide we look at the some of the coolest accessories available for all three, as well as the top 5 sports games and top 5 non-sports games that you can't do without.<br><br>Rock Band is a hefty box with an equally large price tag, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. This is three games in one -- Guitar Hero, Drum Hero and Karaoke Hero. You can play with up to four people at once (singer, drummer, lead guitar, bass guitar) to make this the ultimate party game. The drum kit even includes a bass pedal. Top tunes include Bon Jovi's <i>Wanted Dead or Alive</i> and Foo Fighers' <i>Learn to Fly</i>. Most of the songs are the master tracks from the original bands.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (Activision)
While Rock Band is the new kid on the block, the established rocking legend remains the Guitar Hero franchise. This year's game comes packaged with a Gibson Les Paul wireless guitar that really adds to the immersive feel when grinding out sings. The Gibson guitar is simply is the best on the market. The game is loaded with new songs such as Guns `N' Roses' <i>Welcome to the Jungle</i> and Living Colour's <i>Cult of Personality</i> and still delivers a fantastic solo and co-op experience.
Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel (Microsoft)
The wireless wheel was released late last year but it has turned into a must-own add-on with a slew of great racing games in 2007, including Project Gotham 4, Forza Motorsport 2, Need for Speed 2, and Sega Rally Revo. The wheel has a steep learning curve as most folks won't be used to jamming the gas and turning at a wheel from their couch. But once you make the adjustments the experience makes driving amazingly fun and intense.
Wii Zapper (Nintendo)
The Zapper is simply a piece of plastic that allows you to pop your Wii remote and nunchuck into a gun-like configuration. It's a simple design but it really opens a new world for the Wii controllers when it comes to aim and shoot games. Nintendo smartly includes a game with the zapper: Link's Crossbow Training. In the game you use the always-popular Link to fend off hordes of enemies with his, uh, crossbow, in a series of cool mini-games.
Scene It? (Microsoft)
The popular DVD/board game is more fun than ever on the 360 thanks to the four special controllers that come packaged with the game. Watch movie clips from iconic films such as <i>Close Encounters of the Third Kind</i>, <i>The Princess Bride</i>, <i>The Birds</i>, <i>Sixteen Candles</i> and <i>Big</i>, to name but a few, and answer questions afterward by buzzing in, Jeopardy!-style. Up to four people can play at the same time.
Madden 08 (EA) & All-Pro Football 2K8 (2K Sports)
As we start off the top 5 sports games of the year we're compelled to cheat a little and hand the honor of best football game to two games.<br><br>For this year's version of Madden ($60 -- Xbox 360, Xbox, PS3, PS2, Wii), EA refocused on the game play and the result was the best action we've seen in several years. But for the first time since EA purchased exclusive rights to the NFL license another company entered the fray. 2K Sports' All-Pro Football ($20 -- Xbox 360, PS3) delivered an original and inspired game that allowed you to build a customized team stocked with former NFL greats and Hall of Famers. Serious football fans should pick up both games.
NBA 2K8 (2K)
The NBA 2K series continued to wear the crown of best basketball game -- period. This year's game featured the detailed graphics and fluid on-the-court action that we've come to expect. NBA 2K8 also upped the ante for the competition by improving the artificial intelligence to make the game seem more realistic.
NHL 08 (EA)
The competition this year between NHL 08 and NHL 2K8 was fierce. But the edge went to EA which made several great game play improvements. The fine-tuning of the Skill Stick that allows you to shoot seamlessly with a well-timed, and aimed, flick of the right stick really nailed the feeling of shooting on the fly. Overall the pick-up-and-play nature of NHL 08 made it the game you want to hit the ice with this season.
The Bigs (2K)
The Bigs offers a fresh take on baseball and was easily one of our favorites when it was released earlier this year. The Bigs features fast, exciting arcade action in which a game could be over in 15 minutes. We found this a welcome reprieve from other baseball games that can literally take more than an hour to play. The game focused on a simple hitting and pitching dynamic that allows you to decide where to use accumulated power-ups.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 (EA)
From year to year it's not an easy thing to improve a golf game. And it's not every year that we'd recommend one -- but the latest incarnation of the Tiger Wood franchise is a no-brainer for golf fans. Tiger 08 features more courses, more game modes and better graphics than in year's past. EA also tightened the controls for swinging, aiming and putting making the game a hole-in-one.
Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo)
Now onto the best non-sports games that we highly recommend:<br><br>If you own a Wii and you don't have Super Mario Galaxy, then you're missing out. SMG is not only the best game out for the Wii, it's also one of the best platform games ever made. In the game you control Mario on his quest across a multitude of galaxies to save Princess Daisy and defeat Bowser. While the story remains the same, the game play is excellent and the graphics are the best we've seen on the Wii to date. The sheer joy of exploring new environments is enhanced by the tight controls which perfectly blend the Wii's analog and motion capabilities.
Halo 3 (Microsoft)
Master Chief is back with arguably the game of the year. Halo 3 offers a fantastic campaign that you can play alone or cooperatively over Xbox Live and easily the most polished multiplayer experience we've seen. The level of competition online combined with rock-solid matchmaking will challenge even the best gamers. But even if you're not so intense there are plenty of social modes where you can jump online and just have a good time as well. In the era of online gaming Halo 3 has no peer.
Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction
Tools of Destruction delivers for the PS3 in the same way Galaxy does for the Wii. Ratchet & Clank are back for another hijinks adventure that features a lot of running, jumping and gunning. The duo fires up a wide array of cool weapons as they traverse each world in a fine blend of platform and shooter. The combination of amazing graphics and addictive action makes this one of the top titles for the PS3 and a must-own.
Orange Box (EA)
The legendary Half-Life 2 franchise comes to the 360 in a huge way, with the complete Half-Life trilogy and two extra games to give you five games in one beautiful little Orange Box. This is simply a must-have for any fan of first-person shooters. The two extra games -- the immersive puzzler Portal and the multiplayer extravaganza Team Fortress 2 -- serve as the icing on the cake.
Call of Duty 4 (Activision)
The highly respected Call of Duty franchise reaches new heights with this latest version. Besides being a thrilling, run-and-gun first-person shooter, the game brings a cinematic element that is unmatched in video game annals and would make for a legitimate Hollywood production in its own right. You get to play special ops agents from England and the U.S. working to overtake a rogue regime in the Middle East. The state-of-the-art graphics alone make this worth the price.