We've seen examples of the destroyed wasteland before, but Empire City's wounds are still fresh, with people randomly wandering around lost and grief-stricken. The city hasn't completely lost its life, but it's caught in a perpetual state of shock, and the visual temperament of the game manages to capture that mix of desperation and hopelessness. It makes the different areas of the city fun to explore, even after you complete the final mission. Of the PS3 games that I've played this year, inFAMOUS is the first one I've played through more than twice. I found it a captivating hero tale that left itself open for a possible follow-up. I want to see what happens next.
Halo 3: ODST may have started as a side project at Bungie, but the finished product has become something that is much more than the sum of its parts. Thanks to a combination of well-designed levels, a solid story line, addicting multiplayer and top-notch voice acting, Halo 3: ODST presents a package that is even more compelling than its namesake. The game is not only better than Halo 3; it is the best Halo title to date. And, planned or not, Bungie has also managed to create a compelling character in Gunnery Sergeant Buck. He is just as much the hero as Master Chief ever was. Here's hoping that we see more of the smartass sergeant in Halo: Reach.
It's been amusing to compare the run-up for Killzone 2 as opposed to the original. While the first game was lauded as a "Halo killer" in some circles, only to crash and burn on arrival, the sequel has been met with measured skepticism, all afraid of heaping praise upon it lest we be burned again. It's clear that Sony and Guerrilla Games wanted to strike back at the naysayers, and they've done it in the best possible way by delivering a game that exceeds all expectations. Granted, there's almost nothing completely original about the title, but who needs new ideas when you can do such a great job improving on the old ones? The bottom line is that Killzone 2 can compete with any other shooter on the market, and PS3 owners should definitely be adding this game to their libraries.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a solid, if uninspired, addition to the franchise. Everything's been tightened up a bit from Phantom Hourglass, and the title's strongest features are its sense of humor and the great dynamic between Link and Zelda, which keep the plot engaging and fun for gamers of all ages. Despite some small gripes, Spirit Tracks is a well-rounded game that is difficult to dislike. It may not stand out as much as other Zelda titles, but Spirit Tracks offers a lot to keep gamers happy.
This has proven to be a banner year for racing simulation fans, with some of the best games of the genre arriving in the last two months. Out of the three that have arrived during that time period for home consoles, Forza Motorsport 3 stands out as the absolute best of the bunch. All of the title's new features and positive traits outweigh the few negatives and make this the racing game to have.
In the end, there's very little not to love about MadWorld. This is exactly the game the mature, hardcore Wii crowd has been craving, and it's just too bad that Nintendo is too busy making the next Wii Play, Wii Fit or Wii Music to put more resources into projects like this. Kudos should be given to both Sega and Platinum Games, as they have teamed up to bring us a title that stands head and shoulders above the competition. If you happen to be a Wii owner over the age of 17 looking for a terrific hardcore title, this is the one. Go buy MadWorld right now.
All in all, Street Figher IV feels like it was made to make you remember how much you used to love SF2. If you want to buy a good arcade stick or one of the SFIV-compatible control pads for the game, then Street Fighter IV is a lot of fun. You'll be able to pick up your old characters from 1991 almost immediately, figure out their new tricks, and beat the crap out of your friends for hours on end.
There are many reasons why Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II could be considered a successful real-time strategy game. The game engine is capable of fine attention to detail, and the unit design is balanced in that each exhibits both strengths and flaws. The campaign mode has more than a few curveballs in store, with its almost RPG-like unit progression and non-linear mission structure. The multiplayer is the most traditional part of the entire game, and yet it still isn't quite like the genre's gameplay norm. The title is successful because it doesn't just try these new gameplay elements; it outright embraces them and makes it feel like the genre has simply been lacking them and been the worse for it. It's easy to find the quality in the title, though it is the authentic adaptation of the venerable tabletop game that really gives it style. For a game that tosses so many RTS conventions out the window, Dawn of War II is a surprisingly solid real-time strategy title that pretty much lays down the gauntlet for any game that follows in its wake.
Punch-Out!! is a must-have sports game on a system that doesn't really have many decent sports games. The graphics bleed with style, and the sound is a top-notch effort on the console. The controls are responsive enough, depending on which control scheme you use. While the multiplayer isn't something that will see much playtime, the lengthy single-player experience will ensure that this title is kept in rotation for quite some time. Punch-Out!! is definitely a worthy addition to any Wii gamer's library.
Wii Sports Resort includes lots of opportunities to collect points and stickers and improve your in-game rank, but the lasting power of Resort will depend almost entirely on how engaging the games are, and how much of a blast you and your family and friends continue to have getting together for extra rounds. Most of these mini-games fit the bill.
If you're willing to take the time to learn Demon's Souls, it can become an exceptionally fulfilling experience. Making your way through the difficult dungeons is often exciting and fun, and it's tough to match the sense of satisfaction you get from crushing a boss or escaping a black phantom. The online capabilities really add a lot to the game; being able to call in other phantoms to help is a great idea, and the added tension that comes from fearing an invasion keeps the levels from becoming dull, even if you've already played through them multiple times. For those willing to put in the effort, Demon's Souls is perhaps the most rewarding RPG available on the PS3 and easily a must-have for any PS3 owner who doesn't mind a bit of difficulty and death.
'Splosion Man is one of the most enjoyable and unique platform games I've played in years. The gameplay is simple to pick up but full of complexities to master. The level design is consistently fun and rarely aggravating, and the game is forgiving enough that almost any gamer can eventually make his way through. There's also plenty here for hardcore gamers, with the time trials and Hardcore mode offering enough challenges to test even the most skilled gamers. Most importantly, the game drips with charm and humor, and it's a joy to watch and to play. For the price of a mere 800 Microsoft points, it's a real bargain as well. Anyone with an Xbox 360 really owes it to themselves to give this strange little platformer a try.