Game Room: 2008 Holiday Gift Guide
Gears of War 2 | Xbox 360 | Epic/Microsoft
With three mature gaming systems (Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and the Wii), 2008 was simply one of the best years for games in a long time. We played many quality games this year and have assembled a list of more than 50 games we think are worthy of your holiday shopping consideration. And so...<br><br>Gears of War 2 looks at first like more of the same, but the two-year interval has been very kind to this franchise. The scale of the environments is often eye-popping, and the missions have enough variety to constantly surprise. The single-player mode is lean but satisfying, and the multiplayer options are myriad with a co-op campaign, numerous multiplayer maps and Horde, where groups of online players fend off endless waves of nasty critters. With its highly-detailed violence, salty language and countless gallons of spurting monster blood, this isn't one for the younger set. For those old enough to watch R-rated movies, though, few games this year offer more thrills.
Little Big Planet | PS3 | Sony
In Little Big Planet you control the aptly-named Sackboy. He's not much to look at, but you can quickly customize his appearance as you acquire new outfits and couture while exploring the game. LBP has more than 50 stages where you're tasked to run and jump through various perils and puzzles. But the coolest aspect of the game is the ability to build your own levels. It's somewhat time consuming, but ultimately addictive. Cooler still is that you can play levels that other people build if you have an online connection.
Grand Theft Auto IV | Xbox 360, PS3 | Rockstar/2K Games
No title released this year came with as much hype as Grand Theft Auto IV and, surprisingly, most of the hype was justified. The narrative is as engaging as a good crime drama and most of the previous games' control and targeting woes are finally put to rest. Liberty City and its outlying areas aren't as large as San Andreas, but it's an impressively convincing simulacrum of NYC with no shortage of cars to jack, crimes to commit, mini-games to play or secrets to find. Warning to parents: It should go without saying that this isn't a kid's game in any way. If Michael Mann made video games, they'd probably look a lot like Grand Theft Auto IV.
Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe | Xbox 360, PS3 | Midway
Sub-Zero versus Batman. Scorpion versus Superman. And, of course, Sub-Zero versus Scorpion. The seemingly endless combination of matchups presented by the best of these two comic book universes makes for a must-have title among fight game buffs. The controls are tight, the signature moves are wow-inducing (wait till you see what the Joker can do) and the online play is crisp.
Wii Fit | Wii | Nintendo
The brainchild of world-renowned designer Shigeru Miyamoto -- the creative force behind the Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong franchises -- Wii Fit centers around the wireless, pressure-sensitive Wii Balance Board, an ingenious controller which measures tiny shifts in weight and balance with astounding accuracy. Over 40 mini-games and activities fall into four different training modes: yoga, strength training, aerobics and balance games. More than just a novelty, Wii Fit is a beautifully presented and easily accessible game for players of all ages.
Skate It | Wii | EA Sports
When the Wii balance board (released with Wii Fit) was released, it was just a matter of time before games would take advantage of it. Skate It works well with the board, but it's certainly more challenging than simply using the Wii controller. Fortunately, you can pick either setup. The game has a learning curve but it's well-paced in taking you through challenges and generally intuitive such that cool tricks and moves are there for the learning.
NBA 2K9 | All Systems | 2K Sports
The 2K franchise once again takes the crown for best NBA game of the year. The graphics are top notch, with close-ups that look photo-realistic and background effects so accurate that you can differentiate between bench players during game action. Gameplay is refined with improved lockdown defense and easy on-the-go play calling. Kevin Harlan takes the mic for 2K9 and does an excellent job teaming up with Clark Kellogg to provide fresh sound bites. Gameplay we really appreciated: The five-on-five live action play where everyone on the court is controlled by a real life gamer. Pass me the ball!
NCAA College Basketball 09 | All Systems | EA Sports
EA's college hoops is now the only game in town, but this isn't a bad thing. A new Set the Tempo feature adds a cool dimension to strategizing as you can choose what style of play you'd like to install prior to the start of each game. The options you pick direct your strategy as well as the performance of the players. The game is loaded with more than 300 D-I schools and features five tourneys including the pre- and postseason NITs and the Old Spice Classic. If you want to cut to the chase you can enter the 65-team NCAA Tournament or enjoy a brush with greatness in the ESPN Classic Tournament of Legends featuring all-time great squads such as Wooden's dominant UCLA teams, the 1991 Runnin' Rebels or last year's tournament champion Jayhawks.
Tiger Woods 09 | All Systems | EA Sports
Tiger gets an assist from his own golf coach, Hank Haney, who adds a robust new dimension to the longstanding franchise: Dynamic Skills. Your skill ratings go up and down according to how well you play, and after each round Haney allows you to replay your worst shots so that you are better prepared next time around. Old courses get updates and new courses include Wolf Creek and Bay Hill, among others. Upgraded swing mechanics and the GamerNet online challenges also combine to make this the best Tiger yet.
Prince of Persia | Xbox 360, PS3 | UbiSoft
Prince of Persia is easily one of the coolest games of the year. As the Prince you team up with the magical Elika to fight the evil Ahriman. Eilka's not just a pretty face as she helps guide you through the vast environments of the game and as a key component of the gameplay is there to bail you out when you fail to execute a jump or when you're getting beat down in combat. Thanks to Elika, you can never die in the game. This keeps the flow of the game intact and makes the experience far more immersive. Gameplay is deceptively simple with single functions mapped to buttons like sword attacks or acrobatics. The simplicity of the game pays off when you learn the rhythm of movement and combat which is rewarded with smooth animations and combos. This game looks amazing and is a must for fans of the genre.
MLB 08 The Show | PS3 | Sony
Easily the year's best baseball game, The Show is an impressive package, sporting a deceptively simple batter-pitcher interface and some of the most varied and polished animations ever seen in a sports game. The computer's pitching is smart, canny and merciless: you swing at junk, you get thrown junk. The standard franchise mode is a blast, but the real excitement is in creating a player in the Road to the Show mode and working his way through the minors for a shot in the pros. Coming off the bench to try to single home a tying run and secure your spot in your team's starting lineup is an awesome feeling. Only lengthy load times mar an otherwise excellent experience.
Resistance 2 | PS3 | Sony
The first Resistance game was a launch title for the PS3 and one of the best games for the system early on. The sequel raises the bar on every front. The scope of the game is much wider as the war with the aliens has spread to North America. You're in the middle of what really feels like an epic conflict that plays out between smaller skirmishes and gigantic battles where you're fighting alongside other troops against hordes of enemies and some of the most impressive and giant bosses we ever seen. Along with great new weapons and scale, Resistance 2 is also awesome online with a great co-op mode and a very robust amount of multi-player options. For first person fans this game does no wrong.
Fable 2 | Xbox 360 | Lionhead/Microsoft
Fable 2 puts the player in the shoes of an orphan boy or girl driven to revenge as a result of tragic circumstances. Could you be the long-prophesized hero of the land? If you need to ask, you probably didn't play the first Fable. Or any videogame. Ever. Fable 2 is an ambitious and often humorous action-RPG with impressive scope and an almost overwhelming number of things to do. Players can marry, sire children, do menial jobs, quest, dungeon crawl, buy property or just go about saving the land. The game's sense of humor is often juvenile (there's actually a "fart" menu option, which will either amuse or disgust characters around you) , but your ever-present in-game dog is one of the more endearing characters in gaming this year.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots | PS3 | Konami
MSG4 is simply one of the best looking and best games for the PS3 this year. Solid Snake returns for a final adventure that will have you sneaking through and shooting through some amazing cinematics. Giant automated mechs hound you and nano-technology aids you against the combatants. This is a deep game with the same slick gameplay mechanics that set the bar for stealth games.
Madden 09 | All Systems | EA Sports
Has it really been 20 years since the first Madden NFL game? Madden 09 finally delivers the next-generation football experience gamers have been promised since the first teaser trailer for Madden 06 aired prior to the Xbox 360 launch. The graphics are improved significantly and the play-by-play is worlds beyond last year's game. More controversial is the My Skill system, which learns your strengths and weaknesses and dynamically adjusts the difficulty of different elements of the game. Madden 09 isn't perfect -- there's got to be a reason to buy Madden 10 --- but this year's version is expertly crafted and should please any football fan.
FIFA Soccer 09 | All Systems | EA Sports
The latest installment in the FIFA series features everything you've come to expect from the standout soccer franchise: improved graphics and updated rosters for over 500 licensed teams from dozens of domestic leagues around the world. But it's the point-and-play controls which add an entire new dimension to FIFA. The WiiMote acts as a cursor, so you can pop pinpoint passes anywhere you want -- instead of just passing directly to a player or hitting the generic "through ball" button like in previous editions. The controller gives you the freedom to lead your teammates and put balls into space while organizing your attack.
Force Unleashed | All Systems | Lucas Arts
The story takes place after Episode III and features a story that's engaging and arguably on par with the movies. You're working for Darth Vader as his secret apprentice. Vader dispatches you across the galaxy on a bevy of missions that generally have you wiping out everything and everyone in your path. The graphics and audio work well together to put you into the Star Wars theatre. As you progress through the missions you gain new force powers and can level them up to the point where your ability to inflict damage is off the charts. Using your force powers to grab, toss and blast your opponent is extremely satisfying as are the many destructible elements and objects in each level. If you're a Star Wars fan this game won't disappoint.
Call of Duty: World at War | All Systems | Activision
The latest installment of the Call of Duty series takes you back to World War II and into the jungles of the Pacific islands where you'll battle the advance of Japan, as well as to the plains of Russia where you'll fight for the motherland to push the Germans out of Stalingrad. World at War features amazing graphics, environments and gameplay that's extremely tense. Parents be warned: this game is violent and graphically so. The online co-op and multiplayer modes are deep and are sure to attract a lot of competition.
Pure | Xbox 360, PS3 | Black Rock Studio/Disney
Pure is what you get when you cross Skate with Burnout -- it's half extreme sports title and half arcade racer, and both halves work well together. After building and customizing your ATV, you get to dirty it up on a variety of muddy, hilly tracks. Winning races earns new tricks, boost and upgraded parts for your ATV. The trick system is intuitive, and the tracks give ample opportunity to pull off ever-crazier stunts. Pure isn't the deepest racer of the year, but it's a treat for those who can appreciate striking a pose while launching a 200-foot jump. Pure is unapologetically over the top, but it's a good time for racing fans of any age.
Shaun White Snowboarding | Xbox 360, PS3, Wii | UbiSoft
Whoa, dude, this game shreds! OK, we admit Shaun White comes of a hybrid of Jeff Spicoli and Carrot Top but the kid is still a serious athlete. In Shaun's game you make your way through several huge mountain courses where you engage in races based on time and tricks. The game starts off as more of a simulation but opens up to a wide assortment of impossible-yet-fun physics that will have you soaring through the air like an understudy from Heroes. Playing online is where this game shines with up to 16 people participating at once.
NHL 09 | Xbox 360, PS3, PS2 | EA Sports
This series has long been one of the best across all sports. NHL 09 doesn't disappoint as the great action and physics return for true entertainment on the ice. The "Be A Pro" mode allows you to work you way up from the minors as you advance your career and skills ratings. The game also packs one of the best create-a-play features we've seen. If you're a hockey fan or a serious puckhead this game is a must-own.
NCAA Football 09 | All Systems | EA Sports
Your favorite -- and only -- college football game for this season is back with better graphics and animations as well as few new tricks. One great addition is the emphasis on player composure. Get behind on the road and you can lose your ability to execute passes and routes. Make a pick and you have a few seconds to guess among three options of which defensive play you failed against. Guess wrong and your performance gets worse. Also new, and long overdue, is an online dynasty mode where you can play through your games against live competition.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue | PS3 | Sony
To be clear, GT5 Prologue isn't the same as Gran Turismo 5. which currently doesn't have a release date. But considering you can pick this game up for $30 on Amazon, it's a no-brainer for racing fans to own now. And that's because the game is packed with more than 70 cars and six tracks that are recut in different ways to create new experiences. The graphics are outstanding and the simulation racing is top notch. We especially loved the in-car view that makes racing that much more immersive.
MotorStorm: Pacific Rift | PS3 | Sony
Go ahead, take your choice of two-wheelers, four-wheelers, big rigs that'll plow straight through anything, and anyone, on the track. They're all available. Not only is it a ton of fun to take each of the eight different vehicle classes for a ride, each one provides distinct advantages that you'll have to utilize to each of the course's variables. Pacific Rift's tracks are long and filled with plenty of shortcuts that offer risks and rewards. The boost dynamic is well-tuned and simple enough to give novice racers a fair shake while still providing depth for veteran racers. There's plenty of explosive action -- and exploding cars -- but the core of the game is the race and Pacific Rift does racing right.
Top Spin 3 | All Systems | 2K
Top Spin excels at realism in both gameplay and graphics. The players' striking features and return-of-serve motions are spot on. Striking the ball on serves, returns and volleys takes into account your player's timing and position on the court to determine the quality of the stroke. Be warned: There's a bit of learning curve. The game features several of the game's stalwarts such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin and Amelie Mauresmo as well as some all-time greats: Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker and Monica Seles. But the real treat is the game's deep character creation tool that allows you to painstakingly sculpt your body shape and face like a high-price plastic surgeon.
MotoGP 08 | All Systems | Capcom
With plenty of games covering futuristic and fantastical racing it's nice to see a game stick a lot closer to the simulation path. MotoGP fits the sim bill and features all the modes you'd expect in simulation racer: championship, career, time attacks and quick race. The career path takes you through a complete season with standard scoring and 18 Grand Prix events pitting you against the big guns of the sport. The game offers three levels of difficulty in arcade, advanced and simulation. Advanced is the sweet spot between too easy and too hard. The game features basic customization options of the bikes allowing for small adjustments to tires, suspension and turning speed. You can also alter your gear. If you like realistic racing this one's for you.
Wii Music | Wii | Nintendo
Here's an idea: Instead of trying to match songs note-for-note on expensive, bulky peripherals, how about a music game in which you can create your own beats and not have to sweat about your score afterwards? Wii Music requires nothing more than the regular Wii remote and Nunchuk controllers to play. Simply strum, drum and toot your own improv stylings on classic kid-friendly songs with more than 60 instruments. The most innovative feature is the online play -- create a video with your friends at home, then send over that finished product to other friends, who can add on to the video with their own performances.
Super Smash Bros Brawl | Wii | Nintendo
Super Smash was one of the best games on the GameCube and the Wii version doesn't disappoint. How can you not love beating down Pikachu with the likes of Donkey Kong? You can fight using 35 different characters including Mario, Link (of Zelda fame), Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid) and Sonic. The pollination of non-Nintendo icons is a great touch. The game offers more than 40 stages to fight in and while the game is easy to pick-up and play there's a lot of depth to the fighting techniques and capabilities of each character and many strategies that come into play on the different stages. The offline campaign mode is fun but getting online or in a room with your friends is where the game explodes to life.
Tom Clancy EndWar | Xbox 360, PS3 | UbiSoft
EndWar is real-time strategy game designed for consoles that puts you in the middle of a future conflict between European powers, Russia and the USA over oil resources. In the game you engage in 15- to 30-minute engagements over fixed territories where you command different types of units including troops, transports, choppers and tanks. EndWar has an effective voice command system that allows you to call out a specific unit and assign a task. You can achieve the commands without using your voice but it's not nearly as fast or engaging. EndWar is best played online where you can get up to four people playing on a side to win a territory. All of that is factored into a persistent online campaign allowing you to choose a side and win all the marbles.
Fallout 3 | Xbox 360, PS3 | Bethesda
Fallout 3 drops you in the middle of post-apocalyptic Washington DC. After emerging from the relative safety of the "Vault" you're left to fend for yourself in the capital wasteland. Along the way through the missions and sideplots the choices you make shape the outcome of the game, allowing you to forge along a good or evil path. Even though it can seem too easy at times, blowing raiders and super mutants into bloody little bits never gets old. The 40-plus hours of game play pass easily with the help of a great storyline and a solid combat system. If you're into first person RPG's this game is a sure-fire winner.
Left 4 Dead | Xbox 360 | EA
Left 4 Dead pits four "survivors" against an army of speedy flesh eating zombies. While the single-player mode is enjoyable the game is at its best online in the four person co-op mode. The experience of fighting of waves of zombies and coordinating your path through each level is extremely immersive. L4D consists of four campaigns that are modeled after four separate zombie flicks. The game engine, or "director," randomizes each board keeping the levels fresh so the experience is unique each time out. Like many horror flicks the game is short on story but chock full of fast-paced and gritty action.
Hot Shots Golf | PS3 | Sony
TheHot Shots series has long been one of the best pick-up-and-play golf games so it's no surprise the first effort for the PS3 delivers. The game is fast and easy as you start off. As players complete various 9- and 18-hole challenges they will level up their characters as well as unlock new outfits and clubs. As you advance you also open up new shot types like backspin and topspin. There are two systems to swing but the best is still the three click system that makes the game accessible to gamers even if they're aren't into golf. Hot Shots does a great job of appealing to casual gamers but still offers depth and solid online play for the more hardcore duffers.
Tomb Raider: Underworld | All Systems | Eidos
The lovely Lara Croft returns for another worthy adventure in Tomb Raider: Underworld. No, this isn't the Angelina Jolie version of Lara. Instead, real-life model and former gymnast Allison Carrol steps in as the character model and fills the role quite well (read: Google her!). The game is less linear and more open than in past Tomb titles, which helps you feel like you're exploring the environments instead of being pushed through them. You can use a sonar map for direction and there's advice in Lara's PDA if you get stuck on a puzzle or task. The control you have in wielding Lara is impressive but the camera around you can be tricky at times. This one is for you if you like a strong woman armed to the teeth and on the run!
SoulCalibur IV | Xbox 360, PS3 | Namco/Bandai
Namco's venerable weapons-based fighter returns and has never looked better. The controls are perfectly responsive and the fighters and environments are detailed and crisp. The widely-publicized addition of three Star Wars characters (with Yoda only on the 360 and Darth Vader only on PS3) doesn't add much, but fans of the movies will get a kick out of seeing them in action. If the 30 included characters aren't enough, a robust set of character creation tools extends the game even farther, letting creative players build new fighters or doppelgangers of their favorite characters from other games. For fans of the fighting genre, SoulCalibur IV is a must-play.
LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures | All Systems | Lucas Arts
Just like in the Lego Star Wars franchise, play through the first three movies of the Indiana Jones series in Lego form. (Thankfully, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was not included.) There is more of an emphasis on puzzle solving than sheer destruction, so keep than in mind when weighing this against the Star Wars titles. Bonus for Indy: You get to use your whip, which is especially fun with the Wii motion control.
MLB Power Pros 2008 | Wii, PS2 | 2K Sports
Melding the playful presentation of RBI Baseball with the hyper-realistic detail of a Strat-O-Matic game, MLB Power Pros 2008 is the most creative take on a sports title since Midway's NBA Jam. Ten detailed game modes make for near-infinite replay value. In the story-based "Success" mode, guide a player from Double-A to Triple-A to the majors by impressing the scouts while balancing various and frequently humorous personal situations off it. "MLB Life" mode enables players to simulate the on- and off-field career of a major leaguer over the course of 20 years -- from contract negotiations to house and automobile shopping, to making charitable donations, to picking up hobbies to fostering relationships with teammates and coaches. Innovative and addictive.
MLB Front Office Manager | Xbox 360, PS3, PC | 2K Sports
Seamheads suffering from withdrawal since the end of the baseball season can participate in their very own Hot Stove League with this title, which comes replete with advice from GM Billy Beane of Moneyball fame. Do everything a real baseball GM does, from scouting, drafting, signing free agents here in the State and overseas, orchestrate blockbuster trades and much more. Fantasy leaguers take note: With the online mode, you can create a head-to-head league with up to 30 managers.
Animal Crossing: City Folk | Wii | Nintendo
This is a kid-friendly version of the real-life sim games genre, where the point is to perform the menial tasks of everyday life. It's great fun for kids, who if nothing else will get introduced to such concepts as buying (and paying off) a house, holding a steady job, writing and mailing letters, fishing. The quirky aspect is that everything is done in real time -- if you are playing the game at night, then it's night time in your town, and vice versa, and tasks have to be completed in real time (you might get an hour to deliver a package) to get full credit. Up to four players from the same household can live and work together in the game at the same time, so when you are not playing, perhaps your spouse or child will be.
Scene It Box Office Smash Bundle | Xbox 360 | Microsoft
Hardcore gamer husbands can give their ladies a break by picking up this bag of goodies. The movie trivia game returns for a second run on the 360 with all new puzzles and a sleeker setup that incorporates the new XBOX Live avatars into the gameplay. You can play with the regular controllers but half the fun is buzzing in Jeopardy! style.
Buzz! Quiz TV | PS3 | Sony
Buzz offers PS3 fans a great trivia game, just as Scene It serves the Xbox 360. In Buzz you get to start off picking amusing cartoony avatars that represent you throughout the game. The game comes with four wireless handheld buzzers which is nice as few people own four PS3 controllers. Each round the losing team gets to pick the category which helps keep games close if there's a trivia nerd around. One of the best innovations is the ability to upload and download category quizzes online. It really adds a lot of depth and long-term replay value.
Dead Space | Xbox 360, PS3 | EA
Horror sci-fi games don't come around often enough. In Dead Space, Isaac Clarke is a systems engineer who finds himself stranded on a ship full of nasty critters called Necromorphs.This isn't Halo where you get your choice of standard-issue weapons. Clarke has to find new tools and use his engineering prowess to create his own weapons, and that adds an extra strategic element to the game, as does the lack of any hud display and quasi-third-person camera perspective.
Ninja Gaiden 2 | Xbox 360 | Tecmo
Learn the ways of the ninja in this stunningly beautiful arcade thriller that harkens back to the glory days of the franchise's original NES offerings. Slice, dice, and shuriken your way against overwhelming odds as Ryu Hayabusa looks to avenge the destruction of his clan. This isn't merely a button-masher though; the mastery of magic obliteration spells and death-defying acrobatics will make or break you.
Wario Land: Shake It! | Wii | Nintendo
Old-school gamers will love to get their hands on this new 2D side-scroller starring Mario's evil twin, Wario. Battle your way through intricately designed levels to find treasure and eventually rescue (who else?) the queen. When Wario gets in a jam, that's your cue to "Shake It" with your Wii remote.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 | Xbox 360, PS3 | EA
Real-time strategy games are best played on a PC, but if you must try it on a console, this title is solid choice. Choose from three factions -- Russians, Brits, Japanese -- and play out different campaigns with each one. The cut scenes feature live action footage with the likes of Jenny McCarthy, George "Mr. Sulu" Takei and Tim Curry (from Clue) playing key roles.
Guitar Hero World Tour | All Systems | Activision
You want drums? You got drums. In addition to the blistering guitar action we have come to expect from this franchise, this latest edition comes equipped with a drum set and a microphone to keep the whole family happy. It's a worthy rival to Rock Band and, for guitar lovers, still the best way to fly.
Mario Kart | Wii | Nintendo
The latest update of this classic racing franchise brings a new twist: the Wii Wheel. Hold the lightweight wheel in the air in front of you and race against Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach (and Baby Peach), Bowser and a host of other colorful characters. New features include motorcycles and online play (battle mode!) that supports up to 12 players at the same time.
Mario Super Sluggers | Wii | Nintendo
Swing for the fences or rear back and throw a heater with a flick of the wrist on your Wii remote on this combination of hardball sim/RPG adventure game. There are more than 40 characters, each with special skills, to choose from when picking a team from scratch in exhibition mode. You can go through the Challenge Mode and unlock teammates as you go, unlocking new stadiums such as Yoshi Park and Peach Ice Garden. Strange as it may seem to wield a bat with Shy guy or Koopa Troopa, this is probably your best chance to get your swings in on the Wii.
Midnight Club: Los Angeles | Xbox 360, PS3 | Rockstar
Games Imagine just the driving portion of Grand Theft Auto, but much better. That's Midnight Club: LA. Cruise around Los Angeles looking for races while keeping the cops on the run. The racing is tight, the graphics are gorgeous even on nitrous-enhanced speeds, and the soundtrack is perhaps the best part of the entire game, featuring Nine Inch Nails, Ice Cube, The Chemical Brothers and many other acclaimed artists.
Mirror's Edge | Xbox 360, PS3 | EA
As part of an underground delivery organization, you run, jump, climb and slide your way around the rooftops of a vast metropolis while trying to evade capture by the despotic new government. This isn't a typical third-person shooter. There's no hud display and you have no weapons other than your feet and your kung-fu and whatever you can steal from the cops.
Rock Band 2 | All Systems | MTV Games
The sequel to everybody's favorite party game features 84 new tracks, all master recordings. New features include setlists, jukebox (just listen to the jams), expanded online battles and vastly improved graphics and stage effects. If you own the first Rock Band, for $5 bucks you can integrate all of those songs seamlessly into this game. Most importantly, the wireless instruments clear up the clutter in your living room.
Sonic Unleashed | All Systems | Sega
Longtime Sonic players may be a bit thrown off by the new setup. The mad dashes for coins are still there and better than ever, though the transitions between 3D and 2D sections of the maps take a little getting used to. In addition there is an adventure/RPG mode where you have to ask villagers for clues, then at night Sonic turns into a hairy beast -- the Werehog! -- who takes on foes head on in hand-to-hand combat.
Nerf N-Strike | Wii | EA
Perhaps the best part of this bundle is the sweet N-Strike Nerf gun it comes with. It works as a real Nerf gun (ammo included) and as a peripheral for the Wii remote as well. The game play is nothing special if you are solo, but multiplayer makes all the difference as you take turns trying to nail targets on screen. Adults may grow weary of this title quickly but your kids will love it.
Burnout Paradise | Xbox 360, PS3 | Criterion/EA
It's almost a year old now, but Burnout Paradise continues to thrill with a steady stream of downloadable content and a nearly endless variety of races, stunts and the spectacular, slo-mo crashes that fans have come to expect. Paradise mixes up the classic Burnout formula with an open-world model that encourages exploration and a novel online component that lets players toggle between single and multiplayer seamlessly. The framerate is rock solid, the racing is face-peelingly fast and the AI is challenging without being frustrating. Other developers could learn a lot from the way Criterion has continued to support and develop this title.