you are buying video games for children, this guide might
not help you very much. Your kids probably want or have a
Wii and would now like a very iconic Nintendo-type game with
universal appeal like Mario Kart, Super Smash Brothers, or
Julian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2009. But for those of you
buying for teen to adult gamers, this Christmas presents a
number of challenges because the last few months have seen
the release of cinematic, nuanced, sometimes darkly humorous,
violent, video-game epics that will keep your gamer happy
through the winter doldrums. Again, I stress that the following
recommendations are by no means appropriate for younger gamers.
First, let’s talk systems. All the kiddies want a Wii, but
adult gamers, don’t be fooled. Wii’s game quality is mediocre,
and unless your gaming tastes have not evolved since you owned
the 8-bit Nintendo Entainment System, you will quickly find
the Wii serving as an overpriced conversation piece.
A recent gift guide in the Times Union touted the Playstation3
as a must buy this holiday season. A “must buy”? While we
have heard the gaming industry called “recession proof” in
recent weeks, we regard the PS3 more as a “How can you afford
to buy?” or a “Why would you buy?” With most PS3 packages
coming in around $400, and a lack of worthwhile games that
makes the Wii catalog look strong, this system seems more
like a last choice. Of course, the TU gift guide made
the Blu-ray argument. The PS3 is a Blu-ray player. But we
wonder in this economy who is interested in replacing their
DVD collection with Blu-rays when Blu-ray discs run upward
of $35 each? Unfortunatly for Sony, the PS3 is burdened with
a high price tag and development software that is difficult
to work with, which has driven game developers away to other
systems and made cross-platform titles for the PS3 inferior
to their Xbox 360 versions.
So clearly, this is a good Christmas for 360 owners, especially
with 360 bundles coming in as low as $199.
With that said, regardless of whether you are buying a game
for the owner of an Xbox 360, a Playstation 3 or a high-end-PC,
there is one game that every adult gamer should own: Fallout
3 ($59.99). The game is set in post-apocalyptic Washington,
D.C.; the player begins his time being pulled from his mother’s
womb. After customizing your in-world avatar by gender, hair
style and body type, you begin exploring Vault 101, the nuclear
fallout shelter that has functioned as an underground sanctuary
for multiple decades for generations of families. But quickly
drama develops—the player’s father, voiced by Liam Neeson,
does the unthinkable—he leaves the safety of the vault, and
soon you are thrust out into the irradiated wilderness to
search for pappy.
Not appropriate for a rental or quick play, Fallout 3, with
its dark humor, cultural references, political satire and
extremely nuanced game play—where every moral decision affects
the capital wasteland—is more novel than comic book. It is
all-consuming. From meeting the new wanna-be rulers of America
to salvaging documents of historical importance from the ruins
of the National Archives or simply trying to stay alive by
finding clean, nonirradiated water sources, Fallout 3 is a
unique gaming experience no intelligent gamer should miss.
It is rare when a video game actually lingers in the player’s
mind after the experience, like when reading a good novel,
but Fallout 3 will stay with you for years to come.
For a more lighthearted twist on role-playing games still
based on the player making moral choices, Xbox 360’s Fable
II ($59.99) offers a more traditional swords and sorcery
setting. Unfortunately, the game offers far less playtime
and bang for its buck than Fallout 3.
The 360 exclusive Gears of the War 2 ($59.99) is
the Iron Man to Fallout 3’s The Dark Knight. And
it provides the best straight-ahead shooter action of the
year. Think Halo 3 with a third-person view, but darker, slower
and with chainsaws. Those looking for a multiplayer frag-fest
need to look no further.
Guitar and band games Guitar Hero World Tour ($59.99)
and Rock Band 2 ($59.99) did not make a
huge splash this year. Guitar Hero was busy catching
up to the first Rock Band’s multi-instrument setup, while
Rock Band 2 mostly focused on improving its music catalog
without making any drastic changes to the software. If you
have to make a choice between the two for your music-minded
gamer, Rock Band 2 is by far the superior product as its song
catalog is absolutely massive.
paid Grand Theft Auto 4 ($59.99) heavy attention
earlier this year; it is worth repeating that any adult gamer
who has yet to pick up this iconic title should do so. It
is available for every format except the Wii. Those who have
completed the sordid tale of Eastern Eurpoean immigrant Niko
Bellic might want to check out the surprisingly fun (although
extremely crude and juvenile) Saints Row 2. Imagine
Grand Theft Auto with no morals and even less taste. However,
it has fun missions like insurance fraud, where the player
must hurl himself into traffic to cause accidents to earn
money, and Fuzz, where the player goes along for a ride with
the local police department to film episodes of a Cops-like
reality TV show.
It is pretty clear this year the real gaming treats are not
for the kids.
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