Total Reviews: 72
Average Overall Score Given: 8.22083 / 10
Total Forum Posts: 1341

MX vs. ATV Supercross

Let me bring you guys up to speed in case you’re wondering what the heck happened with all that is beautiful in the Motocross gaming world. First, THQ went and got careless with all their money and went belly up, sadly; then took the original Rainbow Studios staff down with it. Later, an auction happened and Nordic Games cared enough about the franchise to acquire it. They hired BBE (Big Bang Entertainment) to work on the next MX vs ATV title though luckily, BBE was actually composed mostly of ex-Rainbow Studios folks. Therefore, names were thrown around and now by the grace of Nordic Games and Rainbow Studios, we now have a motocross game, confused yet? Trust me, it was hard to keep up.

My love of the gaming genre is very deep and goes far back, as it holds a special place in my heart. Just read some of the reviews on this site as I’ve reviewed nearly every MX title since the original Xbox.

The last offering from THQ (when they owned it) was Alive and the price was $40 retail, and it had really nothing in the box. It was a low point for the franchise and had no Supercross tracks! What the heck!? Lucky for us, Supercross is $10 lower! The game includes a career mode with seventeen tracks that you can race up to twelve other racers, but no National tracks! What the heck (again)?! We must not forget that Alive only shipped with eighteen tracks (12 National + 4 Short + 2 Free Ride) out the box and Reflex shipped with sixteen tracks but was $60! This is just put things into perspective.

The reality of the MX Vs ATV situation is that Nordic Games had to make it up to the fans first... Somehow. The damage was already done by THQ though. With Alive feeling like one giant rip-off and Reflex being the poster child of the series. Supercross had to “give back” to the community. Did they succeed? I personally think so.

The game follows the traditional formula of the franchise. From what I can tell, they weren’t out to rock the boat this time around. It also feels like a much needed polished Alive, at least for a year’s worth of development time, so fans of the franchise will completely feel at home.

However, the game has a few missing features. The lack of custom controls being the big one for me personally. The pre-load on the right thumb stick just doesn’t work for me. I would have liked to have tried it on the left thumbstick instead. Another is that fact that Supercross still has one the lingering thing that dates back from Motocross Madness 1, 2, etc… had, and something I’ve also mentioned many times in my reviews.

(Taken from my MVA Alive review:) – “However, there’s only one tiny glitch; call it whatever you want, that's been with the series since the very beginning. When you come down off a jump or small whoop and then land on your front wheel and you decide to turn (left or right) before the back wheel hits the ground, you SHOULD wreck right? (At least in real life you do). In MX Vs ATV you’ll sometimes do a complete 180 degree turn, totally facing the opposite direction. Kind of like a toy spin top! Then you have to turn back around to get back in the race. It sucks when it happens, and you sometimes throw the race.” I really wouldn’t call this a bug but more of an annoyance. But I would opt to wreck the bike or auto re-align it back on the track straight ahead with a small time penalty.

The starts are inconsistent, meaning I hold in the clutch, lay on the gas, and when the gate drops, sometime you’ll burst out and get a great start, and sometime you don’t and slowly play catch up. This is not a deal breaker, but if you are looking for consistent starts, they are tough to pull off.

Next, the AI riders are just blind and have no idea you’re present on the track. It’s like they are a bunch of Damon Bradshaws out there! They are constantly landing on you or run you off the track. Frustrating only begins to decribe it. I understand AI is very difficult to program, but you figure by now after many MX Vs ATV games, it would be near perfect. Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part.

Lastly, when you land short on a jump and you are stuck climbing the face of the jump at a slower speed, the bike’s back tire spins up the hill like you’re in sand, almost at a turtle’s pace.

With all my small complaints above, the bottom line is you have to look at what you get for $30. Number one, it’s one hell of a bargain! There’s no denying it. This game is the start of a new chapter of a game genre we nearly all lost in the train wreck of THQ!

Personally, would like to see a course creator for user created content. The folks over at HB Studios has done this with “The Golf Club”, giving the community the power to keep selling their game. However, it does comes at a price, and its share of pitfalls. How do you filter through thousands of tracks or courses effectively? That’s the million dollar question.

Another thing I’d like to see in a future version of MX Vs ATV is mud, water, and dust on the screen, as well as having to use tear offs. Be like a mini-game or sorts. Just an idea. If you weight the price of this game and what you get in the box, MX vs. ATV Supercross is a great deal and worth picking up. If this is a sign of things to come from the publisher and developer, we’re going to see an awesome next-gen Motocross title in the near future and I’m just happy the series didn’t die!

• Great price!
• Graphics look great as always for the 360
• Music selection is good.
• Bike sounds are much better than previous offerings.
• Authenticity of the sport is respected.

• Lack of customization of controls
• Lack of an instructional tutorial on the new control scheme, and a refresher for the noobs.
• AI needs work.
• UI in some places needs work. Especially displaying the rewards, the font is a tad too small
• No break or option in between the races to apply the upgrades/rewards.

Overall Score: 7.7 / 10 The Golf Club

From the days of playing Leadboard Golf on the Commodore 64 (yes, I’m aging myself), all the way to XSN Sport’s Links 2004 on the original Xbox, golf titles have been quite frankly like a drunk driver; all over the road. Even Powerstar Golf left me scratching my head in total confusion. The new one in the confusion department is EA’s display of their “PGA Tour” title at E3, as it left me with more questions than answers especially with that battleship. We’ll see what “Golf without limit really means”.

The Golf Club (referenced as TGC from here on) is the new kid on the block, and hopefully here to rescue us all! It’s created by HB Studios, located here in Canada (represent!) in the small community of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and they are no strangers to building great sports titles. Has their self-publishing gamble to create a revolutionary golf title been a success? I’ll let you guys be the judge. Also, I have to say this upfront that this review is solely based on the Xbox One version of the game, and while I did play the Steam version for the past four months, I have an obligation to my Xbox peeps.

When you launch TGC you are presented with a rather unique menu. Intentional or not, it leaves you exploring on what the game has to offer. When you select “Play” you start off by selecting the type of round you want to play: Play Round, Play Tour or Play Tournament. After selecting Play Round you create a golfer for your single and multiplayer sessions and you select the round type. Then you have the choice from the thousands, yes, you heard me right, THOUSANDS of golf courses. Some of these courses are complete garbage, some bog down your Xbox One, and some are wonderful pieces of art. Flipping through all these courses can be very frustrating at times though. Left to your own devices to discovering the good the bad and the ugly, I’m not sure if console will have a clear road map to all these wonderful courses.

While playing on the steam version. I used the friendly forums as a tool to discover new courses and its creators. However, what worries me is that the casual console community may not wander to the forums or know that all the informative tutorial videos even exists as there is nothing within the game that informs you of these cool resources. A simple call out within the game would valuable to help discover the golden nuggets of this game, especially since the Xbox One has Internet Exploder built-in.

The thing to remember about this game is that you’re always going to get new FREE courses for months to come. While there hasn’t been any formal announcement about DLC to buy, you have to ask yourself the most important question: when was the last time you bought a golf title that had 4000+ courses within it at launch? Never. I’m sure there will be premium courses or gear to buy later on, but for the time being, the community creators are the rockstars of this game. They are the fuel! Already on Steam, I’ve met wonderful course creators such as ObsoleteNexus, bradleystuart, CSUGolfer69, elz41, theclv24, guitardude_324, testegw, and Dr. Yeti just to name a few! These people take great pride in their offerings. Sadly though while playing the console something became very evident to me. Having played the steam version for the past four and a half months, if the console players don’t participate on the HB Forums, or stay on top of the new courses being created or know who the top creators are, there is no way for them to know that within the game itself. None.

There is no way to follow or thank them for their hard work, and they remain anonymous. As I stated earlier, the community course creators will be the rockstars. My suggestion would be to label the creators across all platforms, such as Kamshaft (Steam), Kamshaft (Xbox One), or Kamshaft (PS4). “TGC Member” doesn’t pass along their username at all, thus not fueling the creator’s followers. Like twitter, the more followers a user has, the more popular you feel and in the end, encouraging you or just plainly enough boosting their ego. Hopefully they will address this in the future.

Let’s talk about the gameplay. The Golf Club is turning what we know about golf games on its head. With not only access to all those thousands of courses, but with the carefully crafted and simplified control mechanics, yet hard to master. Most people coming into TGC will have Tiger Woods buried deep within their psyche. Well, forget all that. These controls are polished and you have to give them a chance. The putting is the hardest to master, you have been warned.

The global wind feature is very cool. What is it, you ask? If anyone is playing that same course, you will have the exact same wind speed as everyone else, globally. Very cool!

The interface is terribly awkward for console users. Sure, it's the same as the Steam version, but none of the social features that make Xbox Live great are there. Also, there is no way to directly jump into a friend's round if you see them playing on Live. While playing with a staff member, he said, "There's no way people are going to figure out how to group up, the menu has everything buried." - I had to agree with him.

The game is visually stunning. Even sitting at 720p on the Xbox One, on my fifty inch plasma HD television, the game looks great. Again, with the build I was given there was a lot of screen tearing, especially noticeable when it faded in and out of black. With some poking around I found the VSync option (It was off), in which it should only exists on the PC version. I quickly turned that ON and everything was much better. Another visual issue I had with the Xbox One version is reading the elevation number underneath the yardage left to the cup while on the fairway. That number is way too small at 720p. Maybe a larger and different coloured font would help alleviate this issue. Another visual issue I had was the ability to see the cup on certain courses. I found myself squinting trying to find it. I knew it was in front of me, but how far was the big question. On the PC version, I’m sitting two feet from the screen and the monitor is much sharper than the television. They maybe should have made the inside of the cup bright white, a visual queue or something.

In the audio department you are quickly introduced to our good friend John (@NewVoiceofGolf), as he’s your voice for the game. He doesn’t deliver the candidness and edginess of David Feherty but John keeps it casual and not terribly annoying, sort of like golfing with a friend. However, after 20 rounds of continuous golf, you’re left giving John the bad news. “I’m muting ya man. Sorry John.”

The music in the game is exactly what it should be, energetic and well put together. With the build that I was given there was an annoying audio stuttering bug but I have complete faith that this will be quickly resolved in the near future in a free update.

Before I wrapped up this review I wanted to try something; to test drive a few courses that some community members had created with an elevated number of objects in it. In the interest of not making any these particular creators look bad, they will remain nameless. On the steam version, these courses were completely unplayable on my personal rig. Is this a bad thing? Yes! The problem with these high object count courses is that if an unsuspecting player stumbles across these, it makes the game seem slow performing. Sadly, aggravating the console player.

An idea I had was to count the number of objects before the course loads up, and if it falls below a certain threshold it could display a warning with a disclaimer. On the Steam version these courses will load and play fine with players with a high-end video cards and machines, but sadly for the Xbox and PS4 player these can be a problem. The reason that I have faith in HB Studios patching abilities is not only did they verbally tell us that they were committed to this title for the long haul, but during the Steam early access builds these guys were religiously patching the game every single week. So, these bugs don’t really bother me at this point as I know they are on it. They’ve proven that. I’ve seen companies not release a single patch for months, and people end up leaving that game and never come back.

Personally, I spent most of my time in the Greg Norman Course Creator during my time with the Steam version, which is exactly the same as the console version. You will lose yourself in this part of the game for hours on end. It happened to me. Seriously, I’ve made four courses. Swan Hills, Sharp Lake, Rattlesnake Canyon and Knotty Pines (9 holes) they were a blast to make. So give them a try, favor them, and have fun! I want to play your courses too! That’s what's going to this game alive for months or even years to come!

The coolest thing is creating the course on my PC then sharing them across all three platforms. PC, Xbox One and PS4! The only other game that has allowed us to do this was the Trials series. Love it! The game does have its faults at launch and the biggest one is the Xbox Live specific social features. Party join is painfully cumbersome, and since golf is a social game, HB Studios needs to integrate these features, yesterday. The guys I was playing with online, all complained about it.

My score below is based on track record and faith in HB Studios. Thus far, The Golf Club is the best, most complete, not trying to sell you something at every turn, golf title for the Xbox One. Period! Despite the few launch bugs which I’m positive HB Studios are going to fix, the reality is that it's the best $34.99 you’re going to spend on a golf game this year and you’ll be supporting a Canadian indie title! See you on the course.

Suggestions: Fix the minor bugs. Make the menu more intuitive. Add the console specific social features.

Overall Score: 8.1 / 10 Trials Fusion

In case you didn’t know, motocross bikes are my thing though I'm not especially great at them. Trials Fusion is no exception. If you have no idea what the Trials series are all about, you've most likely been living under a rock, or you just bought a console for the first time. Either way, you’re in for a treat.

What sets Trials Fusion apart from previous versions is the fact that it’s set in the future. The repetitive techno song in the menus is constantly reminding you of that, with its “Welcome to the future” chorus. Frankly, the futuristic setting isn’t bad at all, and the introduction of those elements make for a really cool gaming experience which is what it’s all about.

The one thing that makes the Trials series so addicting is the fact you have to skillfully and artistically push your way through the craziest levels that the folks at RedLynx have created; those crazy Finlanders! You'll need to lean the bike forwards and backwards while hitting the gas and brakes at the right spots. Sometimes you feel you must become ONE with the game to get thru some of these levels. Sometimes you can’t help to think that the levels are impossible to complete, but I promise that all the levels are indeed doable!

That’s what Trials is all about. You know that going in ans this next gen version is no exception. Though, don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself launching your controller across the room.

The most noticeable addition to Trials Fusion is the physics based tricks system, whereas before there weren’t any at all. What’s a motocross title without freestyle? I remember the days of Motocross Madness where you would hold a trick for an extended period of time to rack up points. Well, this is the same thing.

Speaking of launching. The four player head to head Xbox Live online multiplayer is not present. From what we are told by RedLynx it is coming at a later day at no additional charge. The official word we got was...

“Multiplayer is a big part of the Trials experience so we’re taking the time to create a new, more robust online feature that will be released as a free game update. This reinforces our strategy and commitment to continuously provide new content for our fans and players alike.”
However, the four local multiplayer is alive and well, and is the same as before.

A lot of developers are doing this, holding back major features before shipping a game. Our guess is that most developers in the industry are in a tight spot these days and want to make the sure the initial game will sell, then they can proceed to plan B, adding multiplayer or whatever it is. That’s our theory anyways.

The same unlocking formula applies. Finish with a lot of medals, unlock more stuff. Pretty standard stuff here.

Graphically the game looks great, the drawing distance is a lot further in the levels, as they feel less constrained. It appears to take advantage of the Xbox One’s abilities, however we haven’t notice huge improvements in this version.

Digitally the game is $19.99 and the season pass is not included. In order to obtain the season pass, it’s an additional $19.99. However, if you buy the retail version ($39.99) it includes a code to unlock the season pass. So, it’s your choice.

Overall, Trials Fusion holds up the reputation of the brand and incarnations that preceded it. There’s really not much to say here as the online multiplayer is completely missing at launch. Sadly, we can't score a game on promises. It’s still however a fun and competitive time that is to be had by all.

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10 Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare

The original Plants vs. Zombie game was released back 2009. It seems like it’s been out in the wild forever. It was primarily a tower defense style title, which caught the world literally by storm! Plus, it was released on over 10 different platforms, and just this past year a sequel was released, so it’s safe to call this a success story. But what no one saw coming was a third person shooter to be showed at E3 (2013) last year. When I saw it I ran out of the show room screaming, “YAY!”. This was going to be a title I could consume with my son and daughter. Honestly, I was super excited! The day finally came. I installed it and the play button couldn’t be hit fast enough.

The game is sort of like Titanfall, as it’s comprised of multiplayer action. Is this bad? Not really. If you are planning on playing the game with your kids via the couch, sadly you can only play the game in split-screen horde mode, I know, I know. Split screen sucks. But, when you are playing with your kids, it becomes a non-issue. However, more split screen modes would have been welcomed. Jumping online with your “older” friend is equally fun. Sadly, I ran into strange party issues at launch, and inviting people to the game and party was a pain. Also, EA’s notorious poor server connections stuck their ugly head into the mix. However, a week or so later the issues seemed to have been resolved.

The included four (now five) multiplayer modes are Garden Ops (basically Horde Mode), Team Vanquish (Team Deathmatch), Gardens and Graveyards is a parody of Conquest and Rush modes from the Battlefield series, and lastly is Mixed Mode, where Team Vanquish and Gardens and Graveyards alternate. As you can see, the selection of modes is quite limited, however at the time of this review additional free DLC (yes, free) was available and added eight against either gameplay mode, a new map, and new abilities for various classes. Gnome Bomb is where players attempt to secure a bomb strapped to the back of a gnome and detonate at various bases. It is similar to Obliteration mode from Battlefield 4. So, free is good!

When you begin into the lower rankings of the online multiplayer action, the “Welcome Mat” is the first starting point. It’s literally the Plants vs. The Zombies. Then after each match you switch sides. While playing online I would hear the chatter of little kids screaming and yelling on Xbox Live as they would experience video game death for the first time. It was quite comical at the beginning but over the long haul, my suggestion would be to form an Xbox Live party and bounce around the different gaming modes with your friends. Graphically, the game uses the Frostbite 3 engine, and we all know it looks pretty good. I personally haven’t seen the Xbox 360 version, but on Xbox One the game looks descent.

Honestly, there’s not much to say about the game, its multiplayer Plants vs Zombies! That’s pretty much it. It’s not a giant game, nor an arcade sized game. It’s just right for what it is. So, to go on and on about it would be just be endless fluff. In conclusion, the game priced at $40 is a bargain. You seriously can’t go wrong. Although, EA’s notoriously poor multiplayer server issues, they seem to have that worked out, for now. Let’s hope those issues don’t come back to haunt us. Therefore, I’m going to recommend this title, for all ages. Just watch the kids on Xbox Live!

Overall Score: 8.1 / 10 RYSE: Son of Rome

When we were shown this title at E3 2013, we honestly thought to ourselves...”What a weak title to launch a console with! NEXT!” -- Hell, we even wrote a letter to a Microsoft executive telling him the same thing. Well my friends, there comes a time in every man’s life when he must admit he was wrong. We were wrong about Ryse. We’re positive that most of you thought the exact same thing as we did because the E3 showing of this game was terrible. Turns out they needed to show us more gameplay and less cinematics. Who knew it was simple as that.

Ryse: Son of Rome is probably one of the strongest launch titles for the Xbox One. One, it’s the only first party AAA title that is a unique and untested franchise. Basically a huge gamble for Microsoft. This was a bold move for them, especially with a brand new console. With the folks at Crytek being right there holding their game designing hand every step of the way, it was sink or swim. It also doesn’t hurt that they have an amazing graphics engine either. They’ve really bet on a good horse here. Sort of.

The best way to describe this game is that it’s a mix of Prince of Persia and Batman’s hand to hand combat system, mixed in with a bit of the linear and gameplay feel of Gears of War. All set within a beautiful Roman era historical wrapper. Generally speaking, linear games are not a new phenomenon. But, games like Gears and Splinter Cell are perfect examples of linear single player campaigns titles that work. Basically if you’ve watched Spartacus Blood and Sand series you’ll love Ryse.

When you load up the game, you have the options to play thru the campaign, or try your skills at the multiplayer gladiator arenas. For this review, I decided to play the entire single player game first. Then move on to the multiplayer arenas. In the campaign experience you play the role of our hero Marius. He gets himself all tangled up in a great mix of story twists and turns, and without giving away spoilers you can’t help to think he’s lead by the gods straight out of Ancient Aliens! Some of the familiar faces of the ancient Rome storybooks make a notable presence.

The combat is the backbone of the game. I remember asking the standing developer rep at E3 2013 to what level was the blood and gore was going to be at. He replied, relatively tame. Man, from June until now, they cranked it up; way up! This game is beautifully gory in every next gen sense. There was even blood splatter into the camera a few times. I was always craving to execute a possible rare hidden head decapitation, but it never happened. I’m not even sure if it’s really in the game. You seem to be able to do legs and arms all day long with ease. Go figure.

The controls are very intuitive. The player can unleash what they call “focus”, and when you rack up enough of it, then your character slams his shield down and you open yourself up a glorious can of bloody whip-ass! However, Ryse does comes with a few bugs. Throughout the game I’ve encountered a few instances where my character got hung up in some of the geometry. Another time I got cornered by the AI and couldn’t get out until the cut scene was over. Lucky for me, the AI saved the day!

Visually is where this game shines the most, it’s simply dreamy! It’s probably THE game that speaks next-gen to me the most because it’s not a rehashed sequel and uses Crytek’s new engine. Don’t get me wrong here Forza 5, and Dead Rising 3 obviously look next-gen, but this title stands out and has been tweaked to near visual perfection. The soundtrack of the game is what you’d expect from this title as it’s epic, heroic all the way through. All the voice acting is top notch. They spared no expense in that department.

The Smartglass features are very basic. It gives you a progress indicator on where you are in the campaign and which chapters you’ve completed. But overall it’s better than nothing. A log book basically. The only thing I walked away wanting was a coop campaign mode. Going through the story with a friend. The overall gameplay is relatively simple, but hard to master though very repetitive. There really wasn’t enough variety in the enemies either; too often once you recognized them, you knew what to do. There were less than ten different enemies if I had to guess with the exception of the bosses.

The multiplayer aspect of Ryse is the hidden gem of this title. It’s only a two player coop experience and no head to head. I could almost guarantee that most people have completely missed out on the experience. In a nutshell, it’s Horde Mode with gladiators, but you can use the environment to execute kills, or do a double execution with your friend. Plus, the various waves of enemies have different objectives too which mixes things up. You also gain experience for your warrior, sadly it’s a bit of a grind. Overall, it’s fun time for the whole family! (But not your little kids).

Are Microsoft and Crytek breaking new ground here with Ryse? No. Is the game a lot of fun? YES! If you’re looking for a brand new, never seen before game experience that will blow your mind, then move along. If you’re looking for a descent game with a good time to be had, and with the “taste” of next-gen, then Ryse: Son of Rome is that next-gen game. Not only does it look fantastic, but the lush storyline and familiar combat system makes this one an average winner. Is it a console seller? Sadly no. However, if you’ve picked up an Xbox One this holiday season, do yourself a favor and don’t miss out of experiencing this title. Buy it or rent it.

Overall Score: 8.2 / 10 Skylanders Swap Force

It’s that time of year again where parents, kids, and those nutty gamer collector types are staking the local department stores for their Christmas toy fix. Two years ago Activision and Toys for Bob released an industry revolution called Skylanders Sypro’s Adventure. It was based on the Sypro franchise, but came with a twist; the toys! The game and toys turned out to be a huge success story, selling over 500 million dollars in retail sales, and it was crowned the number one toy that holiday season (2011) by several media outlets, including us!

This year Activision has decided to hire the services of the notorious developer, Vicarious Visions. This studio is well known for titles such as the Transformers series, a few Tony Hawk games, Guitar Hero series, and believe it or not, Skyanders, though primarily for iOS and the 3DS! So, right off the bat we’re were left in good hand with this experienced developer. I’d like to believe that Activision is maybe doing the Call of Duty thing, where one developer alternates with each other every other year, but that remains to be seen.

As you first load up the game, and if you have the previous, bulkier “Giants” portal plugged in, it will quickly ask you to replace it with the newer shorter version. I guess there is new stuff in that there portal and I suppose it's to accommodate the new magnetized Swap Force Skylanders. However, every single Skylander will work on the new portal, even Trigger Happy and Gill Grunt from the vanilla days so it’s all good.

The menu system looks awesome, the graphics team that put this one together did an awesome job and everything is well placed and easy to find. As I navigate forward, the first thing I noticed was that there were only three save slots, though I have no idea why they’ve scaled this back, it’s only hard disk/cloud space after all. Strange change overall.

Once you’ve selected you’re save slot for story mode, you get to pick from a few different difficulty levels. If you’re got small children, put it on easy. Why? Vicarious Visions has really tweaked the AI from the last two games and now making the difficulty ranking is more accurate than the previous two titles.

The Skylanders franchise is heavily focused on the cinematics and storyline. For my kids that’s an awesome thing. My son gets all excited when he defeats a boss, or Chaos for that matter, because he’s seen the evil backstory from the previous two games, and that’s really cool. It teaches him to pay attention and focus, because we all know some children have the attention span of a gerbil right? (Just kidding son) The only real pet peeve I have with the spoken dialogs (in the cinematics) is that you can’t fast forward thru them, and that needs to be changed.

Within minutes, you quickly realize that this version Skylanders is different, yet very familiar. The visuals are where the biggest and the most noticeable upgrades are. Although the past games looked decent, Skylanders Swap Force looks incredible. In the past it always felt like we were getting a Wii port, thus the graphical integrity would take a step back. This time with the new developer, I think they took it upon themselves to give the franchise a kick in the butt, their own way. What this means is (without disrespecting Toys for Bob) this developer has taken the franchise to a whole new level.

The visuals, the music, the sheer size of the levels, and the little things such as the framerate stutter is gone when you drop a new Skylander on the portal. Everything is pretty much a five fold upgrade! To be quite honest, with the little bit I saw at E3 this year I was going in to this version of Skylanders thinking it was going to be another Guitar Hero type of upgrade; too little for too much. Man I was wrong. Giants to me felt it was a lesser upgrade than this one, meaning the bang for the buck.

The Xbox One version of the game visually has only a slight noticeable improvement. The best piece of advice I can give you guys is, if you already own the game for the Xbox 360, don't brother getting this version over and above. However, if you only have an Xbox One, then definitely get this version for sure.

As I mentioned before the levels are HUGE this time around, and lot larger than the previous two titles. I’ve also noticed that they feel significantly less linear. As you play through the first few levels you will also quickly notice on the harder difficulty levels that you will get your low level Skylanders killed at a higher rate. Sometimes even “one shotted”... especially in the 1-6 level range.

The character selection this time is very impressive as there are less “old” recycled Skylanders this time, meaning you’re not going to end with five different Trigger Happy’s. There are more original characters and that's refreshing! Although there is a significantly better selection, my daughter, who which loves this franchise, quickly noticed the lack of female characters. She didn’t like that at all, plus she’s five. My son on the other hand was just happy to play another Skylanders game! He’s usually my co-pilot in these crazy adventures and loves to try them all. Personally, I’ve stuck with same Trigger Happy character from Day one thoguh I’m not sure why. Another great addition is that all the characters can jump now! Finally! Not sure why this wasn’t there before.

Another welcomed upgrade is the in-level upgrade purchase eggs. What this you ask? They are blue egg-shaped objects that allow you to buy and upgrade your powers on your Skylander. Inside the levels themselves, no need to run back to the village to buy powers! Very nice!

The folks over at Vicarious Visions have added a new portal master ranking system. Not sure what the cap is but, it boils down to the move you play the more you rank up. With these level you can unlock and buy more stuff, such as levels, hats, etc. I don't think I need to dive into this too much, but we'll see how this level thing plays out later. The familiar character levels are there and the cap has been increased to level 20.

The various arenas modes are very fun! Think of it like horde mode with Skylanders! My eight year old son found it tough, but he quickly got used to it. But, when he saw the payoff, he loved it. Well done!

What I wish existed was a method to transfer the gold from one character to another. If it’s been added, I never saw it. We’ve got in our Sklylanders collection to over 60+ now and coffee table looks like a small mountain made to characters. Kind of freaky. But, truth be known, my kids love this franchise!

The one last request is to add Xbox Live multiplayer for arenas or coop play. Don't stop giving us awesome stories and gameplay for this franchise. As stated in the past, there aren’t many games that we can play as a family, but this gives it to us!

When I received the Xbox One version of the game I tired to hook up the Xbox 360 version of the portal. That didn't work. You need to connect the specific portal that came with the version of the game. In the past, the portal for the 3DS worked on the Wii, that's why I tried. I would of thought for sure the portals were interchangeably, especially among Xbox's. Not a show stopper though.

Overall, Skylanders Swap Force is definitely worth getting because you really don’t need to buy all the new regular characters, you can just buy the new Swap Force gang, and use all your old characters from the previous two titles (if you own them). DISCLAIMER: Buying this title is highly addicting if you are the hoarder, collector, or straight up gamer! You’ve been warned!

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures

As a child of the 80’s, Pac-Man was just about everywhere. I for one was completely guilty of getting on the Pac-Man fever bandwagon. I had the Pac-Man fever vinyl record, the Coleco stand-up arcade toy, the t-shirts, video games, and basically I was eating, sleeping and breathing Pac-Man back then. However, that was thirty years ago and I’m not so sure how Pac-Man has managed to stay in the hearts of so many these days. Now I don’t want to start off this review on a negative note but one has to be left wondering how a thirty year old franchise knocks the ball out of the park. The Star Wars series did come out roughly around the same time and its tenure is very high. So sit tight and we’ll see how it hold up to my kids.

A few years ago, we were invited to the 30th anniversary party of Pac-Man in Los Angeles and we were completely thrilled to attend. There they unveiled the trailer for the upcoming television show that Namco and Avi Arad’s production company were working on. Much to my surprise it was a children’s Pac-Man series to air on the Disney XD channel sometime in the distant future. I distinctly remember talking to Mr. Arad about having my children watch the show and how that could be cool or not.

Now, we zip to the present day, two years later. On June 15th, 2013 and Disney XD finally started airing the series on Saturday mornings. We as a family, we all sat down to watch the show and next thing I know my kids are loving the television series. But I must mention that the new universe for this Pac-Man title is completely based on the new ideas generated by the television show, so how does the game tie in?

Like most of the newer Pac-Man titles, it’s a platform game; gone are the days of the two dimensional chomping action. The game hosts a decent variety of gameplay modes. You can turn Pac-Man into a large rolling ball or a rubber ball, each adding a variety of gameplay. On one hand it really makes it difficult to get use to one set of gameplay mechanics, on the other it changes the monotony of the gameplay. It’s sort of a catch twenty two.

The game lacks hand holding at the start. For example, on one of the starting levels you can use your tongue to grapple from one hanging pole to another but I had to die several times in order to discover I could even do that. When I was finally able to do that move, the controls themselves fell apart. There needed to be (at the start) more in game first-timer tutorials since most titles these days have that.

My eight year old son had a lot of trouble maneuvering around through the levels as the level design was just too difficult for kids. They are not forgiving at all, plus the fact you only get three lives. Who still does that in gaming? I know the developers were maybe trying to stay true here but my son got so discouraged he wanted to go back a watch the show instead which says a lot since he’s not usually a quitter when it comes to gaming. However, I found the game wasn’t catering to the skill level of the younger generation. The audience that is going to buy the game are the 6-11 year olds that have seen the television series, not the forty something’s that grew up with Pac-Man and this game is just too hard for them.

The graphics, and sound are pulled directly from the series with some familiar Pac-Man themes mixed in. Nothing ground breaking here, but average none the less. The addition of cut-scenes would have had more involved in the overall new stories of Pac-Man.

Sadly, the game is very repetitive. And I found myself running the end of the levels without needing to kill/chomp most of the mobs just to muscle through them. Going through the chapters the absences of control instructions is a definite negative. The story in the game is near non-existent, they could have easily pulled ideas from the television series a lot more, which they choose not to. I think it would have added to the overall experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Pac-Man franchise. I own a lot of 80’s Pac-Man memorabilia. Is he ready to make a comeback? Why not! My hat goes off to Namco and company for trying at least.

Overall, the game at forty dollars is not that bad of a deal, but the title is plagued with poor camera issues, weak storyline, and overly difficult level design for kids. I’m not so sure that Pac-Man needs to make a comeback in this way. At my place, my kids preferred the television show over the game.

Overall Score: 6.7 / 10 Skylanders Swap Force

It’s that time of year again where parents, kids, and those nutty gamer collector types are staking the local department stores for their Christmas toy fix. Two years ago Activision and Toys for Bob released an industry revolution called Skylanders Sypro’s Adventure. It was based on the Sypro franchise, but came with a twist; the toys! The game and toys turned out to be a huge success story, selling over 500 million dollars in retail sales, and it was crowned the number one toy that holiday season (2011) by several media outlets, including us!

This year Activision has decided to hire the services of the notorious developer, Vicarious Visions. This studio is well known for titles such as the Transformers series, a few Tony Hawk games, Guitar Hero series, and believe it or not, Skyanders. Primarily for iOS and the 3DS! So, right off the bat we’re were left in good hand with this experienced developer. I’d like to believe that Activision is maybe doing the Call of Duty thing, where one developer alternates with each other every other year, but that remains to be seen.

As you first load up the game, and if you have the previous, bulkier “Giants” portal plugged in, it will quickly ask you to replace it with the newer shorter version. I guess there new stuff in that there portal and I suppose it's to accommodate the new magnetized Swap Force Skylanders. However, every single Skylander will work on the new portal, even Trigger Happy and Gill Grunt from the vanilla days so it’s all good.

On with the game itself. The menu system look awesome, the graphics team that put this one together did an awesome job and everything is well placed and easy to find. As I navigate forward, the first thing I noticed was that there were only three save slots, though I have no idea why they’ve scaled this back, it’s only hard disk/cloud space after all. Strange change overall.

Once you’ve selected you’re save slot for story mode, you get to pick from a few different difficulty levels. If you’re got small children, put it on easy. Why? Vicarious Visions has really tweaked the AI from the last two games and now making the difficulty ranking is more accurate than the previous two titles.

The Skylanders franchise is heavily focused on the cinematics and storyline. For my kids that’s an awesome thing. My son gets all excited when he defeats a boss, or Chaos for that matter, because he’s seen the evil backstory from the previous two games, and that’s really cool. It teaches him to pay attention and focus, because we all know some children have the attention span of a gerbil right? (Just kidding son) The only real pet peeve I have with the spoken dialogs (in the cinematics) is that you can’t fast forward thru them, and that needs to be changed.

Within minutes, you quickly realize that this version Skylanders is different, but yet very familiar. The visuals are where the biggest and the most noticeable upgrades are. You are getting a game that is getting ready for next-gen systems. Although the past games looked decent, Skylanders Swap Force looks incredible. In the past it always felt like we were getting a Wii port, thus the graphical integrity would take a step back. This time with the new developer, I think they took it upon themselves to give the franchise a kick in the butt, their own way. What this means is (without disrespecting Toys for Bob) this developer has taken the franchise to a whole new level.

The visuals, the music, the sheer size of the levels, and the little things such as the framerate stutter is gone when you drop a new Skylander on the portal. Everything is pretty much a five fold upgrade! To be quite honest, with the little bit I saw at E3 this year I was going in to this version of Skylanders thinking it was going to be another Guitar Hero type of upgrade; too little for too much. Man I was wrong. Giants to me felt it was a lesser upgrade than this one, meaning the bang for the buck.

As I mentioned before the levels are HUGE this time around, and lot larger than the previous two titles. I’ve also noticed that they feel significantly less linear. As you play through the first few levels you will also quickly notice on the harder difficulty levels that you will get your low level Skylanders killed at a higher rate. Sometimes even “one shotted”... especially in the 1-6 level range.

The character selection this time is very impressive as there are less “old” recycled Skylanders this time, meaning you’re not going to end with five different Trigger Happy’s. There are more original characters and that's refreshing! Although there is a significantly better selection, my daughter, who which loves this franchise, quickly noticed the lack of female characters. She didn’t like that at all, plus she’s five. My son on the other hand was just happy to play another Skylanders game! He’s usually my co-pilot in these crazy adventures and loves to try them all. Personally, I’ve stuck with same Trigger Happy character from Day one. Why? I’m not sure. Possibly it's just that I'm getting old. Another great addition is that all the characters can jump now! Finally! Not sure why this wasn’t there before.

Another welcomed upgrade is the in-level upgrade purchase eggs. What this you ask? They are blue egg-shaped objects that allow you to buy and upgrade your powers on your Skylander. Inside the levels themselves, no need to run back to the village to buy powers! Very nice!

The folks over at Vicarious Visions have added a new portal master ranking system. Not sure what the cap is but, it boils down to the move you play the more you rank up. With these level you can unlock and buy more stuff, such as levels, hats, etc. I don't think I need to dive into this too much, but we'll see how this level thing plays out later. The familiar character levels are there and the cap has been increased to level 20.

The various arenas modes are very fun! Think of it like horde mode with Skylanders! My eight year old son found it tough, but he quickly got used to it. But, when he saw the payoff, he loved it. Well done!

What I wish existed was a method to transfer the gold from one character to another. If it’s been added, I never saw it. We’ve got in our Sklylanders collection to over 60+ now and coffee table looks like a small mountain made to characters. Kind of freaky. But, truth be known, my kids love this franchise!

The one last request is to add Xbox Live multiplayer for arenas or coop play. Don't stop giving us awesome stories and gameplay for this franchise. As stated in the past, there aren’t many games that we can play as a family, but this gives it to us!

Overall, Skylanders Swap Force is definitely worth getting because you really don’t need to buy all the new regular characters, you can just buy the new Swap Force gang, and use all your old characters from the previous two titles (if you own them). DISCLAIMER: Buying this title is highly addicting if you are the hoarder, collector, or straight up gamer! You’ve been warned!

Overall Score: 8.9 / 10 Disney Infinity

As the fearless Buzz Lightyear would say… “To infinity and beyond!” – We welcome Disney Infinity!

Right off the bat, the masses won’t be able to help themselves but to start comparing both Disney’s Infinity and the popular genre veteran, Activision’s Skylanders. Activision were the first ones to release the action figure/video game combo genre this generation, two years ahead of Disney. But, let me just clear and say, the only thing these two games have in common are the toys; that’s it, but I’ll jump into more details later.

The toys/character themselves are the front and center of marketing with Disney Infinity and they look incredibly nice. When you open the starter pack, you’ll find three characters: Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), Sulley (Monsters Inc.), and Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles), the game and the base and one “Power Disc”. The characters each has his or her own adventure via a “Play Set”, but more on that later. We’re told the toys are made of a vinyl material, although they are beautiful, the assembly quality seems to be hit and miss. Personally, I’ve had two characters come unglued from their pedestals, nothing good ‘ol fashion crazy glue couldn’t fix. This game is geared for small children, thus the characters should have been build a tad more rugged. Again, they still look amazing, and the game will continue to function, but keep those purchase receipts.

The base, or the Portal of power for you Skylander fans, is different. It has two circular spots for two characters, and one hexagon spot is for the “Play Set” pieces and/or power discs. It’s also noticeably thinner than the portal of power which I like personally and a lot less bulky. When you place a character on the base it’s a lot less eventful as in the on screen theatrics are less exciting than Skylanders. There's a lot more exciting introductions with Skylanders characters, which I personally preferred as it gets the kids pumped!

There are two types of “Power Discs”. First are the hexagonal ones that are used to add various items in your toy box. For example, I got a Finding Nemo sky painter which will make the environment in the “Toy Box” look like the bottom the sea of Nemo's world. Second are the round discs; these are used to add various boosts for your characters and they sit underneath the base. They can be used on any character to give them extra power or loot.

In order to get started with any “Play Set” you need to grab at least one character and one “Play Set” piece that are tied together via the same universe (it’s the one with the hexagon base). While I was playing I discovered to be only one save per “Play Set”, meaning if one of your kids want to do the adventure and the other wants to play thru also, it will blast away the other child’s saved game. This is not the best design. Having three saves per “Play Set” would have been ideal.

The Incredibles game feels a lot like “Crackdown-Lite”, but if you fall in the water you get the Assassin’s Creed syndrome. Our heroes can save day but can’t swim to save their own lives. I personally thought the Pirates of the Caribbean game was the better experience overall of the three as it seemed to have the most variety in gameplay and most fun.

The “Toy Box” mode is where you'll get lost the most in Disney’s Infinity, why? You can build almost anything you want and just sink countless hours horsing around in there (which reminds me lot of Minecraft). And yes, it does feel like you’ve dumped all your toys on the carpet to let your imagination go wild! My eight year old son, had a hard time wrapping his head around the logic objects so just he stuck with dropping in buildings and other knickknacks then spent most of the time driving and jumping around like a homemade Mario level contraption with his five year old sister.

Out of the box the “Toy Box” mode object selection is a bit weak, although you do get a lot to choose from, it’s a lot of the same things and you need to play thru the “Play Sets” to unlock the bulk of them. The adventures are fun, with your kids, however my son and I thought they were quite repetitive. Grab a quest/mission from NPC, go do it, level up, rinse and repeat. You are doing all this inside that character’s universe which is pretty cool. Personally I would made the “Play Set” adventures more linear, and let the kids cut loose inside the “Toy Box”.

Also, the “Play Set” pieces do not permanently unlock those levels in your game. Unlike Skylanders, you have to put it back every time. In Skylanders, once you place a piece that unlocks a level (not the exact same thing), the player can bring it back to their house, and the friend has it unlocked forever. So if you forget the “Play Set” piece and bring a character from that world, you’re not playing him (at least not single player). For example, it you decide to buy Matter, you will not unlock the Cars “Play Set”, however you can play him in the “Toy Box”.

The Xbox Live multiplayer is a little strange in general as it seems to only work for character challenges and the “Toy Box” mode. The lack of Xbox Live coop in the “Play Set” adventures is a disappointment though. But, on the flip side, playing on the same couch with your kids is what’s it’s really about. It’s a mix of couch co-op and some aspects of Xbox Live, so just be cautious on the multiplayer, as it all depends on how you want to play. The one pet-peeve that creeped up was the lack of being able to find your coop partner in the world you happen to be in, as there was no arrow or mechanic to point you in the right direction to meet up with them. It was very frustrating at times, and it would lose the purpose of playing coop in the first place.

The game did crash on me twice, however there was a day one patch (because I got the game a few days before), and it hasn’t done a face plant since. Keeping those fingers crossed.

From a family gaming perspective, my kids fought a lot more with this game than other family titles. At first I wasn’t sure why, then it revealed itself: In the adventure and toy box modes you can damage the other player! You can start punching or shooting the other player in split screen or Xbox Live and have them restart over and over. There should be an option to remove (or have the option) any damage done to the other player, heck you can only have two. It caused a lot of friction between my kids.

The whole thing will set you back $74.95, and each “Play Set” cost $39.95 (Cars and Lone Ranger), character toys are $13.95, and a toy three pack cost $29.95, and lastly the Power Discs are $5 per pack (for two). Only time will tell, if the Infinity will have the lasting power Skylanders has had.

Overall, is Disney Infinity worth picking up? Yes, and no. Yes, if you’re kids are crazy for anything Disney’s anything, then grab it, however, I’d personally wait. Why? It’s very easy to get all caught up with Disney’s awesome stable of characters, trust me I’ve got kids! Plus, this title has come out at the end of the Xbox 360 life cycle, which tells me there will probably be an Xbox One version coming soon, and I’m guessing everything will transfer over. The timing would have been more relevant last year. Personally, I’d wait until it comes to next-gen. However, start collecting those toys now for sure! Some stores will have exclusives and you can start piling those up! And if they are anything like Skylanders, they’ll be gone off the shelves very fast. Then you’ll be ready to play, and you’re kids can start playing with the toys themselves right away.

What I’d personally like to see is an improved game next year, more complete multiplayer and maybe add deeper “Play Set” experiences, maybe with Marvel, and Star Wars.

Overall Score: 7.7 / 10 Motocross Madness

I could go on and on about the fact that the original Motocross Madness was the game that started my love for the genre. When Rainbow Studios created this masterpiece back in 1998 people were amazed! They had nailed it. Then a few years later came Motocross Madness 2 and it set a very high bar for any motocross game out there.

Then Rainbow Studios moved on to develop ATV Off-Road Fury for the Playstation 2 while Microsoft and Rainbow sadly went their separate ways. As they say, the rest was history. To date, the name “Motocross Madness” has sat on a shelf for over thirteen years. Did they somehow forget about it? Too much Halo on the brain? Who knows when publishers decide to bring back an older title, even if it’s just for the name. They need to stop and think and look at what made the original title great in the first place. You always risk making the new game worse than the original. Case and point, the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s hard to beat the original.

These days, we are seeing rehashed title one after another. But it seems to me that most of these “remakes” miss the mark. Honestly, publishers don’t seem care to ask the people that were present back then to contribute to help convey the excitement that was felt back then. I think most people would offer to do it for free too.

This “version” of Motocross Madness is NOTHING like the original title that was released back in 1998, nor Motocross Madness 2 for that matter other than the simple fact that you ride a motocross bike. This is truly sad. Will people have fun? Sure they will. Does it even have a sliver of the original game? Like I said, nothing.

The game basically consists of a combination of “Pure” from Disney Interactive and Mario Kart! And where is the motocross drifting coming from? Devs should know that in motocross there isn’t any drifting; none. And the boost? Really? Like Mario Kart, you collect stuff like coins like a platform game. Catch my drift? (See what I did there?)

The game controls are very frustrating. If it had good physics then things here wouldn't be so bad. In fact, they are the same, if not worse than MUD. I can’t get used to the fact my Xbox Live avatar is riding on the bike either. I could on and on about how this game fails for me but the fault lies with Microsoft and the developer.

Blame number one, Microsoft for using the name in vain, and releasing this game that is nowhere near the original game. Blame two, the developer for pitching this idea. Do you guys not remember the phenomenon of Motocross Madness or do we just remember things better than they really were? Was this release just a bad marketing attempt?
I really wish I had better things to say about this game but sadly, I do not. They should have made “Motocross Madness HD” and simply just update the old game or just called this game something else entirely, as to not tarnish the brand.

If you never played the original Motocross Madness and you don’t care to know the original then you’re fine; you’ll have fun at 800 MS points, as it’s not a rip off. You’re basically getting Mario kart with motocross bikes. But, if you do remember the old game, run away. It’s too different and too “arcady”. For the people that may think that this is all out of line... What if they did the same thing thirteen years from now and released a game titled "Halo", and made an avatar side scrolling version? You'd loose it. I rest my case.

Microsoft has unfortunately has cheapened the name, “Motocross Madness”, and shame on them. I beg, please don’t do the same thing to “Midtown Madness” as these iconic games deserve more than just an insulting avatar bobble-head knockoff that is nothing like the original. Trials 2 HD is better; go play that instead.

Overall Score: 4.2 / 10 MUD - FIM Motocross World Championship

Most of you that know me or have been coming here to for a while know that one of my gaming passions is the off-road racing and motocross genre. With the fall of THQ the motocross gaming community has been left wondering what will happen next, or rather who will publish the next great off-road/motocross title. With only a handful of developers such as RedLynx, 2XL Games, and now Milestone, they are probably the only folks on the planet that can actually make it happen or even care to. We’ll see.

Only a couple of months after the sale of the majority of THQ assets MUD comes along. For Namco it’s perfect timing as the competition was coincidentally eliminated. The strange part is that no one bought the rights to the MX vs. ATV franchise in the first round, mind you the overall sales of Alive probably didn’t make that franchise terribly attractive either. Anyways...

MUD is really the new kid on the block. Straight out of the gate the Italian developer has done a great job getting me excited about a new motocross game! Let’s face it, most of us motocross gaming lug-nuts weren’t terribly impressed with Alive, but we bought it anyways. Why? Because there are so few off-road titles out there. We really need our fix, even if it only comes once every couple of years.
MUD appears to take the right steps into making a great motocross title; it jumps right in with the loud punk-rock style/skateboarder music (which is appropriate) and grunge like UI graphics. However, in my twelve years of reviewing these games I’ve learned to look past the lipstick and mascara. Once again, the UI interface design is very well done, however, with all this loudness going on in the bottom right, there’s a poor attempt at a tutorial. Why is this really important? Well, they are actually introducing new mechanic to the genre. I was hopping in the game with my past skills, which didn’t apply anywhere.

They’ve approached the genre this time with a relatively new idea: “Scrub-ing”. (If you don’t know what a “scrub” is, google-it. If you find medical stuff, keep looking.) Scrubbing is not a new thing to the motocross world, but in the gaming sense, it is. I’ll explain later if this new mechanic helps or not.

As I navigate through the menus of the game, I’m left in the end figuring out what the differences between “Official Mode” and “MUD World Tour”. From what I’m able to see is the MUD mode is like a mini RPG with all the same tracks. Seems like pointless fluff. I found the various modes to be confusing and they seemed to be the same stuff just rehashed. When that happens I sometimes feel like I just got ripped off.

The controls. Where do I start? Controls in motocross games have been all over the place over the years. At first you had basic left, right, up and down, pretty much like a flight sim. Then Rainbow Studios came up with the preload mechanic, which worked well for years. Then THQ/Rainbow came up with the dual stick bike and rider control scheme, which took a lot of getting used to, but in the end it worked well. MUD now, decided to challenge things with the “scrub” system, but does it work? Well, yes and no. When it does work well and you manage to execute a “good” or “perfect” scrub, your bike suddenly takes off in a burst of speed as you pull ahead of your competition. Where it fails is when you are asked or prompted to do a scrub and the burst accelerates you into a corner. Your forward momentum is too high and slam into the corner. This is partly because of some poor planning in track design to work with the scrub mechanic; not my idea of fun. Controls need to be fun, and if that fails the rest of the game falls apart like a house of cards unfortunately.

The physics of the bike don’t feel right either. Why? If I get bumped the bike will get airborne sometimes and slam into the sides of the track like a ping pong ball. Your average bike weighs about 100 kg (230 lbs), so they don’t get airborne too often when slammed, especially with the force from another rider. I completely understand that the physics need to be fun, but here they are not. I was better off not doing too many scrubs and simply staying clear from other riders.

With the boost you get from the scrubs, there was another feature to speed boost (see the pattern here)?, and it's in a form of some sort of in-game energy drink. Are we playing a Popeye game here? You get three cans of this stuff. This I personally thinks it cheapens the overall game quality.

The game visuals are the best part about of the game; the shading, the details, etc… even the ruts. Ruts have been requested by motocross gamers for years and these guys implemented them very well, and they will actually impact the drivability of the bike on the track. The graphics engine they are using can only look a whole lot better on the next-gen systems. Keep this engine and your artists guy, as the game looks fantastic! What I’d personally would like to see is a mud roosts on the screen and a tear off system. So as you race around the track, you get mud on your goggles and would need to hit a button to swipe it clean. This would add a whole new dynamic to the game, and with today’s consoles, it should be do-able.

The sound is where 95% of most racing games fail because it’s incredibly hard to simulate an engine sound accurately. What needs to happen in this industry is a realistic engine sound simulator engine (sort of like an Unreal engine for sound) or a standard way to capture sound and have it render in a game. So when the RPMs are up or down and different gear loads, it sounds right. Sadly, most engine sounds in off-road games sound more like a “weed-wacker” than the real thing. The MUD bike engine sounds are just monotonous all the way around the track. This needed to sound better.

The game core itself has potential and I really don’t want to discourage the developers over at Milestone (Italy) of not making another motocross title. Understand, that this is their first motocross title, and they really need to get informed on what the motocross gaming community wants in a motocross title. Personally, I don’t want an energy drink popin’ mechanic in my racing titles.

I also, didn’t see any Supercross tracks, or the hint there were any. I did see some freestyle tracks or arenas. If you’re going to sell this in the North American territories then add Supercross tracks. The game only sports only 12 tracks, but they get pretty repetitive after a while.

I sank roughly 6-8 hours into the game and still wasn’t able to figure out how to do a trick. Maybe I’m getting old here, but really? My advice to the developers is to add Supercross tracks. It’s huge here in North America. Don’t change the visuals too much, or just make them better if you can. Overhaul the physics, and bike sounds. Streamline the overall UI and include better tutorials.
Best advice I can leave Milestone with is, take a look at successful off-road games like Motocross Madness 2 for the very large community it had and take notes, and MX vs. ATV Unleashed with the quads and monster trucks, my kids still love to play that game!

Being that MUD will more than likely be the last retail motocross game we’ll see on the Xbox 360, (besides Motocross Madness on Xbox Live Arcade), and the game retails for $39.99, you really can’t go wrong here. Is this a great motocross game? Sadly, no. Are you going to be having fun with it for more than eight hours? You might. I’m I looking forward to another motocross title from Milestone? Hell yes!

Overall Score: 7.2 / 10 F1 Race Stars

Every once and while gaming companies compete against each other for everything. They’ll “borrow” gaming genres, “borrow” ideas, “borrow” box art, and sign crazy licensing deals to make the next big “pot of gold” gaming title. Every single publisher is guilty of this action, however the amount of grace and tact in the way they “borrow” these bright ideas remains completely random. Now, is there anything wrong with that? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

The racing kart genre is one of these bright ideas that publishers latch onto, but why? Because, that damn Italian plumber made boat loads of money with his version of the game. So it’s a completely natural occurrence that the “copycat” factor kicks in, and that publishers want a piece of that racing action.

Example: This year alone (2012), Sonic & All Stars Racing, Little Big Planet Karting, and now this one. That’s only consoles, not handhelds, nor PC! The first problem I saw with this title before opening the box was the fact a Formula One (F1) licensed title was being marketed to a North American audience. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying there are absolutely no Formula One race fans out there, but let me tell you I personally don’t know any, and I have a lot of race watching buddies. If anyone is into racing around here, it’s NASCAR at the very least. It’s just a really hard sell around here is all I’m saying.

The art direction of the game is spot on, why? It’s simple; the caricature-like character are well designed and fit the overall look and feel on what I believe was their demographic target audience. If you read most of my racing title reviews, you’ll quickly notice that I do enjoy most of them.

Did it get my son excited? Sure it did. The music followed the same suit as the art as it did its job. However, it was short lived. The career portion offers nothing really new. You start off by choosing what you want your driver to look like and you have the incredible choice of picking your own avatar! Talk about something awesome! Well, That falls short too and the only aspect that you see visually is your head. When the race starts, that goes away, so there’s no real peck or awesomeness to be felt here unfortunately.

In every game that is created a developer needs to ask themselves one important question: do I let my cool AI programming kick the players butt or do I let them win a bit and make them feel empowered? There needs to exist a balance there. Unfortunately, F1 Race Star does not have that balance. The AI will always get the upper hand. I can’t imagine racing AI programing being easy, but when you smother it with insane rubber band AI it makes it near impossible to get ahead. The multiplayer sessions are the most fun and the most frustrating, as it clearly uses more rubber band racing here, which I personally hated. The only time it’s been fun is with your own friends. If the AI is involved, forget it.

With this title, it’s obviously geared to a young and family audience. Did it succeed? Let’s just say my seven year old son, didn’t really enjoy it, and he loves Mario Kart. As you can see this review was a double edge sword. First time for me quite honestly. Does it really bring anything new to the table? No, just the F1 license.
Lastly, the game sits at $40 and it’s really not worth that money even, unless you’re a hardcore Formula One fan. But, even then, from a pure racing gamer stand point, the controls are terrible, and track design needs work to fit the controls. You might want to pass this one up and wait for it to show up in your local bargain bin. BUT... IF, and only IF you live in Europe or anywhere else that adores Formula One. You might want to check it out, it’s $40 after all.

I really hate scoring a game on the low end, but sadly overall, if you live in North America skip this title and go play the real Formula One game from Codemasters. It’s a lot better, and it scored better too! Even, my seven year old son didn’t even wanna play anymore.

Overall Score: 5.7 / 10 Karateka

When I was a young gaming buck of 13 years old, I was a proud owner of a Commodore 64 straight from Canadian Tire (Google it!)! When this title came out, I had heard crazy mythical things, like “It looks real!” Even back then, that sounded pretty farfetched; none the less, the point is, that it captured our imagination just like Halo did. We look at Halo 1 today, and we say...”Seriously?”

Karateka, then published by Broderbund Software played an important role in my personal gaming soul! A few years ago, I reloaded the game via an old emulator, man, I remember saying, “I remembered this looking a lot better”. But did the game change? No, I did. Just goes to show we remember games better than they really were! Visually of course, even Halo (Anyone remember the anniversary edition?) can’t escape it, folks.

Our good friend, the creator of the game, Jordan Mechner is also famous for the original Prince of Persia and his writing on the Sands of time film. But, this time he’s brought back Karateka. Yay!

What drove Karateka into most people’s hearts was the simple story, its timing based combat system, and the crazy difficulty level. You had to kick some ass to save the princess, with one life!

This version of the game is basically the same as it was back then, with way better graphics, sound, and music. It’s still basically a 2D, on rails, side-scroller. This time though you have three different characters or chances. The point is that you have to try and make to the end with the original given character, which is the true love of the princess. Not the Monk nor the Brute, these guys are second chances, really.

The underlying challenge of the remake is getting the rhythm of the attacks down, and then earning your counter attacks, and trying to complete the game in one sitting. Just like the old days.

It took me roughly 40 minutes to get from start to finish, with five do-overs. Thus, the love of her life completion will have to be another day. The replayability will exist when you clear the game with the main character (the first one), then try and beat your friends via the leaderboard, which is sorted out by points and time.

This is where game differs from the original, back then you had one kick at the can, no extra lives. If your health ran out, that was it. No checkpoints, no saves. It sucked, in retrospect and the birds are still annoying, just like the old days. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a remake with a higher budget. A game more like Bruce Lee was, or could have been.

Overall, game is a nice trip down memory lane for those of us that even know what Karateka even was. However, I personally can’t see this appealing to the younger crowd unfortunately; maybe it’s not meant to, who knows. Mr. Mechner had an insane amount of hardcore fanboys emailing him to remake it! Karateka will forever be part of our youth.

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10 Need For Speed: Most Wanted (2012)

Do you have the need, the need for speed? Well, I do! Electronic Arts and Criterion Games graces us with yet another "Most Wanted" title. Wait a minute... another one? Yes folks, there's old name recycling going on here. Have a look! At the end of the day does it really matter? Not really, but come on. Couldn't EA's marketing team come up with another highly creative title? Like "Most Wanted 2". I know everyone's doing it these days, with movies like Total Recall and stuff. Oh well, it's just the creative person in me speaking at this point.

Who is Criterion? Unless you've been living under a rock, they're the fine folks behind the incredible Burnout series, Need for Speed Paradise, and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. They were bought up by EA back in 2004. Let me tell you that they have engineered some of the best crash physics in racing games to date, period.

On with the review!

The city of Fairhaven (who comes up with these names?), is one without pedestrians. Lucky for them, otherwise it would be a complete bloody disaster! The city itself is roughly the size of what Burnout Paradise was, plus it's a complete wide open driving sandbox. I was really excited when I found out they were going in this direction as I personally didn't like the linear vibe of Hot Pursuit, I felt it was more of a step backwards. I remember having loads of fun with Paradise. Again, you'll talk to just about everyone comparing this title to it. Is this a bad thing? Nope, because it represented hours of fun!

The single player is not really a campaign. It's a series of various races to acquire the faster and faster cars, with cop chases thrown into the mix. As you progress, you accumulate what they call "Speed Points", it's basically a measuring stick to unlock more races like the "Most Wanted" ones. What are these Most Wanted races? As you progress thru the cookie cutout races, you unlock races where you can potentially unlock really fast cars like the Alfa Romero. Overall, short and sweet fun. The coolest part of this version of Need for Speed Most Wanted is that you don't have to unlock any cars, you one with a logo swirling above it, then you can simply drive up to it and it's yours, it's that simple. You just have to find them all. Like a treasure hunt.

The multiplayer is the main reason you should run out and buy this game. Why? It's simple, it's the best part. However, the multiplayer events lack good explanations. You'll have everyone running around trying to figure out the main objective. If you are playing with a younger crowd with the attention span of a gerbil, things will go south and trash talking will fill the air quite quickly. But, if you are playing with a crew of good friends, you will have the time of your life whipping thru the bottomless pit of events. Which should keep everyone entertained for a while.

Here comes the good, the bad and the ugly. The good first. This game looks incredible! The cars look great, reflections, shadows, etc... It's beautiful, and enjoyable. The bad, I had the odd frame rate stutter during races and that's very annoying, even with the game installed on the hard disk. The ugly, the cops...these police chases in Need for Speed Most Wanted are ruthless! They are like rabid dogs. Now is this a bad thing? Yes, and no. Sometimes, you don't want to be chased by cops, and sometimes you do. It's mood thing really. But, when you are trying to just play, they butt in. Uggh.

I've only tested the game with one piece of driving hardware, which was the Microsoft wireless steering wheel. Functioned quite well actually. But, the violent action of whipping the thing left and right, your arms are all over the place. Why? Because the cops are always on ya! I ended up going back to the standard Xbox 360 controller. However, I did not try the full sized Microsoft steering wheel. I just don't have the space, and time.

Unfortunately, the reality that the game faces is it becomes repetitive quite quickly. I honestly think these guys need to re-think this franchise. And on the flipside there's not a whole lot you can do with this type of racing game.

Think of Need for Speed Most Wanted like this... it's a pick up and play game, which you easily walk away from and resume later without many repercussions. Most racing titles have this advantage.

Overall, Need for Speed Most Wanted is a welcomed title, however if you are looking for a deeper racing title, you'll have to look elsewhere. But, seriously how deep can a driving go? If you want that crazy depth, Forza might be a better choice. But, this is NOT Forza. It has a lot more of an arcade appeal to it. This isn't good or bad, it just is. It all depends on the mood you're in, sometimes you'll want a deeper racing game, and sometimes I just want to blast around with your friends online for an hour and Need for Speed Most Wanted will give you just that; The fix, the Need for Speed.

Overall Score: 8.6 / 10 Skylanders Giants

Greetings portal masters! The Skylanders family is back, and this time they've brought a few big friends. Skylanders Giants!

Before I get started: For those of us that have children, and an Xbox, was no escaping the all mighty Skylanders toy phenomenon last year, especially around the holidays. What wasn't there to like? A wide variety of awesome looking collectable figurines, and they actually held your game data inside of them. There really was, and still is nothing like it on the market! If only our 80's Star Wars collection did that!

Let me educate you on what I personally went thru last year with this craze. As a relatively new parent I wanted to make my kids happy last Christmas. So, like an unknowing father I bought them a small stable of Skylanders toys for Christmas! I honestly had no idea what in the world I was getting myself into. A few months after the holidays, I found myself frantically hunting around the major department stores looking for those elusive missing characters, this lasted something like six months! Uggh! Slam-Bam ended up being that final character in our collection. Additionally, I was also able to acquire a few rare ones too!

After, playing the first Skylanders (not Giants) throughout the year. I decided to ask some of my close friends (that owned the game) what their thoughts were on it. Questions like, 'How long did they play for?' and 'What did they find the funnest?' It literally was a mixed bag. Some loved it till the cows came home. Some, played it for a week and forgot it ever existed. However, any way you sliced it, nobody really hated it.

Let's jump in to what this new title is all about. Giants is plain and simple a sequel. That's it. Thanks for reading the review, good night! Just kidding. As you open the package, you'll be presented with three new characters, Tree Rex (Giant), Jet-Vac (regular-sized) and a Series 2 version of Cynder (regular-sized) which was available later in the year as a collectable. Lucky for us, Activision is selling a new and previous owner version respectfully, so there is no need to buy another portal, if you've got one already.

The game starts off by re-introducing our good ole friend Kaos, man this guy is like a Terminator, he just keeps coming back! And he's up to no good again!

As you play through the game you'll quickly notice that the level cap of the older characters (series 1) has been increased from ten (10) to fifteen (15). Do these extra levels really do anything? Well, yes, and no. First off, you can take every single one of your Skylanders that you've leveled previously, and get them up to 15. Do you get additional powers? Unfortunately, no. Your overall stats (i.e. health points) however do increase, thus, making you a little stronger. If you had a character like I did, My Trigger Happy had over 23,000 gold, so I went on a little shopping spree. Why not right? But more on that later.

If you decide to set down a series 2 character on the portal, example Trigger Happy. You have the ability to buy an extra power. They call these wow-pow, in which the first gen characters will never have.

You'll quickly notice that you'll be swapping out character a little more to get into the 'Giants only' areas, if that's the way you wanna play. From what I could tell, you can go thru the whole game without a Giant, but why would you? The reality is that Giants are an intricate part of this title, hence the name of the game, duh! This swapping is not a show stopper, in fact my kids would exchange characters several time during a session, or until every single one has perished.

In Skylanders Giants there are a total of eight unique Giants characters, eight unique and never seen before ones, and eight unique regular sized characters which are a mix of old familiars such as Hex, Prism Break and new ones with LIGHTS! (I was told that those are actually powered by magic!). And lastly there are twenty-four Series 2 variants of the originals that have different poses and the additional power; for a grand total of forty-eight new Skylanders! So, when you get the game, you'll only have 45 left to collect! Let's not miss the point here: the additional fun that you get out of this game comes from collecting the characters. Think of it like a never-ending Easter Egg hunt!

Toys for Bob has also added story difficulty levels this time around. Finally! So, if your kids are small and just want to blast through the game now they can. If you want to step it up and go medieval Skylanders, you'll want the Nightmare difficulty. As for the environment, Toys for Bob added multiple houses throughout the game that contain vendors where you can do various purchases from lucky charms, Skystone pieces, battle arena levels, and a few other things. In the previous game you couldn't really spend your money on anything other than powers.

I also, experimented by putting the series 1 adventure statues, from the packs. Well, they work, and they look great! So, nearly everything you've purchased or will purchase is compatible in this version of the game. I was really curious to see what they'd carry over.

Another improvement is the overall graphical quality of the game, it has been greatly improved, and heaven only knows I've stared for several hours at the previous. Let me tell you it looks great! You see even bump mapping (google it!) on Tree Rex the giant's bark texture. The interface also got some much need improvements.

In the audio department. I've noticed some use of famous voice actors. I'm going guess a few. The Conquertron has to be George Takei from Star Trek! Also, I'm told Kevin Sorbo from Hercules (TV series) is in there somewhere. Sounds great anyways!

Multiplayer is the same as the last game, two player on screen co-op. I really wish Xbox Live support would have been added, thus the loss of a few points.

The bottom line is, that if you are new to the Skylanders universe, please read my Skylanders review. It will give you a good introduction to the whole thing. This particular review is taking the approach of having the previous title and how it migrates. And if you are in my situation, where you've collected Skylanders, you'll definitely enjoy this one! The same awesome fun as the first original, and much more! Enjoy!

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 Skylanders Spyro's Adventure

Since the birth of my son, I?ve since have had aspirations of one day playing various video games with him. I figured that I had the right mix; I owned a video game site and a strong passion for playing the games themselves. Plus, I could share with him the excitement of playing an awesome game, and show him how it can beat watching a movie any day!
Much to my chagrin?the years went by, and I found myself frantically searching for titles to play with him. Let?s face it, the sad reality is, that those ?good? co-op family titles are just not there, especially on the Xbox 360.

With the exception of the LEGO series, there really isn?t much to choose from, and unless you?re buying into all the Nintendo Mario titles on the Wii. I became what they refer to as, ?Completly out of Luck?. Plus, if you?re willing to buy Kinect, and hop up and down for several minutes?NOT! The facts were that good ol? sit down gaming just didn?t exist! Until now!

Most of the first party publishers are all set of building triple ?A? titles. I can?t play any of those titles with my kids, at least not yet. Skylanders has finally given me the opportunity to play a game with both my children (3 year old daughter and 6 year old son), but I truly believe it trail blazes a new frontier in gaming. Let me explain.

The coolest part about the game is the ability to swap out the little characters at any time. Why? Whether you?re leveling up, gathering coins, or collecting various items in the game, it saves that information back to the plastic character. Therefore, you can take that hard information, and bring it to ANY portal on ANY platform, whether it?s on an ultra-portable 3DS, a friend?s Wii, and then back home to the Xbox. Your character is always progressing? collecting, playing, or helping out a friend. The technology is essentially a wireless USB drive in the shape of a cool character.

The Skylanders game itself is not really that hard to play, as it?s easy enough so that my kids can just run around and blow stuff up. Sometimes it's the simple things in life are the greatest. Each character has its unique introduction and own power set, and as the game progresses you will need various class/origin specialties of each of characters to unlock various things. There is a full spectrum of hidden areas and cool collectables that will keep us entertained for weeks to come.

The characters go up to level ten (10), which is plenty for a six year old, and it?s NOT a huge grind either. I can totally see future expansions, with new skills, or even DLC. Time will tell.

I tried hooking up the portal to my Windows machine, and go online, and play. But, it didn?t work. At the time of this review the online portion was in beta stages, so let?s hope they fix that really soon.

Unfortunately, I found the boss fights a little repetitive. Meaning, they will do the same moves three boss fights later. The controls are pretty straight forward and simple enough for my six year old to grasp the general concept, however my three year old, and her little hands, well, are just too little. But, even at three years of age, my daughter still had piles of fun.

A suggestion I have for the developers, is there was a lack of error messages on the screen. I wasn?t expecting the ?blue screen of death? to make an appearance, I mean, for the longest time we couldn?t buy my son?s last power for his Skylander, yet there was no message on the screen that said, ?This Skylander?s Power Gem is required to purchase this power?. So, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do, but we eventually got it.

The only real problem I had with the game was the last level. At the very beginning of the last level we had the lack of error messages again. We had no idea that both of us had to move to the one side of a small platform to unlock the picketed gates. We never thought to do that, and I personally thought that it was a little random. In single player, the gate would trip itself just by going there, but in coop it was different. We never had to do anything like that for the previous 21 levels. I personally thought it was a tad hard for my six year old to figure that out. But, it?s nothing a small patch can?t fix. But, after getting a ?how-to? video from the developers and a few attempts and swapping out a few Skylanders, WE COMPLETED THE GAME! My son really felt a good sense of accomplishment, and that was important to me. We completed the entire game together. I?m not sure who was happier, him or I.

The concept of dropping that real (not virtual) character on that portal, it becomes a little more real for the kids, they can relate to the character. My son, at night puts the Skylander toy right beside his bed. I?ve never seen that before. It put a smile on my face.

Overall, I?m giving Skylanders high scores for several reasons. First, the fact that Activision and Toys For Bob have given my family a game that we can play together, not only to play, but to help me show them various ?life? values, such as money management (coins) and completing something to the end, and not giving up. Second, for having the balls to invest into this franchise, and it?s wasn?t a sure thing like Call of Duty. Plus, Nintendo doesn?t own this thing. Third, the fact that it?s one hundred percent cross platform; so my son can bring his Skylander to a friend?s place, and keep leveling him up and collect coins, and even help his friend out. Then on the car ride home he can play on his Nintendo 3DS for some solo gaming.

This is really the cabbage patch kids of video games this holiday season! Do yourselves a favor. If you have kids between the ages of 4 to 10-ish, and you desire to play video games with them, run out and buy it ($69). Recommend it to others. Our industry needs more family games like this.

It?s truly an innovative idea, and I can see that various franchises that can use this technology. Such as Marvel, Star Wars, and so much more! Well done guys!

Suggestions: If Activision is going to make a sequel, I have a few suggestions. Better error messages or feedback messages. You need to hand hold people a little more in family titles especially at the age of six years of age they are just learning how to read. Second, online coop multiplayer support, why? Sometimes, we have parents that want to play with their kids, and can?t because mom and dad don?t get along. Third, Parental controls, not the kind to shelter my kids from anything offensive, but rather to prevent them from resetting their Skylanders back to zero or delete their saved game accidently (My son now knows what R-E-S-E-T, mean now!). Fourth, the ability to trade or give money to another Skyalander. Lastly, Patrick Warburton probably wasn?t cheap, kids really don?t care about who voices what. Save that money! I?m just nit-picking. Great job ?Toys For Bob?!

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Why do I feel Call of Duty is like that yearly sports game!?!?! Anyways (off topic). Grab your guns (controllers) and your fake military experience folks, and go find yourselves one hell of a comfortable seat. Call of Duty is in the house!

Before I jump into the review, most of you know that Infinity Ward didn?t get completely dissolved. They found themselves in bed with a newly formed company called Sledgehammer Games. Who are they? They are a conglomerate of employees that worked on games such as Dead Space, Ratchet and Clank and Afro Samurai. As you can see, there?s definitely talent behind this title, and we?re in good hands.

Let?s get started, most of you will be happy to see that the usual suspects are all there. The beautiful story of the campaign, the Mutt and Jeff (Co-op flavored) Spec Ops, and the highly sought after online multiplayer mode.
My personal favorite will always be sinking my teeth in the campaign though. Why? Because, I get my one hundred percent fix all in one place. Heart-pounding cinematic action, awesome storytelling, and bullets flying all over the place! MW3?s story takes numerous key aspects from the previous Modern Warfare tiles and attempts to tie up a few loose ends. It certain instances you see those old missions from a completely different perspective, pretty cool stuff.Don?t get me wrong, it?s not all rehashed levels here, they just use those levels to push the story along. Calm down! We get to play in some familiar old shoes, one being John Price. He is my hero! (I just needed to say that.)

In various parts of the campaign I found myself pushing my character a little too far. What I mean is, in one of the missions (again, trying not to spoil anything) the plane was tearing itself in half and I was standing a little too close to the edge, then found myself flying out the plane to my death! I stood back and said to myself, ?Yes, you idiot, back your ass up!? This wasn?t the only part where this happened, so prepare yourselves for several of those small surprises.

The campaign overall took roughly five hours on regular to complete. It?s a tad short, but I was really muscling my way through the campaign to give you guys this awesome review. Aren?t I just thoughtful?

On a side note, being a parent, there was actually a very brief part of the story that really bugged me. Again, I'll give every effort not to give away any spoilers. I don't believe the scene in question was really necessary. If the intension of the developers was to make me emotionally mad or make me stand out of my chair and yell out ?Wolverines!?, it didn?t work. It honestly bummed me out actually, and I thought to myself, ?Wow, they actually went there?. Personally, I feel that if games are going to use major emotional events to tell a story they should use it in full force. I felt this event was just thrown in there, because Homefront did in a similar fashion. It held no real weight to the main story. However, at the beginning I had a chance to ?opt-out? of seeing the whole thing. But, I really didn?t know what I was really ?opting out? to. Can?t have your cake and eat it too I guess.

If you are looking for that Hollywood action packed single player campaign we have all come to love, it?s all here! Plus, the ending will not disappoint.

Let?s talk about ?Spec-Ops?. Since its first introduction in Modern Warfare 2, ?Spec-Ops? has really grown on me, and everyone else I suppose. The newest feature added this time is ?Survival?. What is ?Survival?? The simplest way to explain it is that it?s Horde mode. That?s Gears of War for those of you that have been living under a rock.
The introduction of ?Survival? in the Modern Warfare series is welcomed with open arms. I personally had several hours of enjoyment with this mode in particular. As the waves of enemies increases, your access to more and more powerful weapons increases equally.

Both ?Survival? and ?Mission? modes each have sixteen (16) different levels each, so there?s a large amount of levels to entertain us. I?ve personally spent several hours going through this mode with a friend, and let me tell you, it?s not just the same old, same old!

In contrast, in one of the ?Missions?, you have to guide your coop partner through a map while you control a camera-controlled high powered turret gun. So, your friend can see a full spectrum of color and range of motion and then only have a black and white view, and you only have a small radius to turn the gun and camera. It made for interesting gameplay.

?Spec-Ops? also has its own ranking and progression system, which means it?s completely separate from the online multiplayer (death matching and all that) ranking system. So, it will match you up with people your speed in that game mode.

I?m not a huge online multiplayer guy. Why? Because I?ve played so much multiplayer in my past, than I care to remember. Does this mean the multiplayer in MW3 is bad? No, absolutely not. To be honest, I only spent a couple of hours playing. What I can I tell you is that it?s more new and improved multiplayer goodness in the game.

Out of the box, the game will ship with sixteen multiplayer maps. However, the ability to build custom matches has been greatly improved. Through the Elite service, players can vote on newly uploaded modes, that can eventually make their way to public playlists! Fan-boy?s wet dream!
A new addition to multiplayer mode is the progression of your weapon! There?s a full range of new toys and candy here. Too many to list! The biggest, and piles of fun is Kill Confirmed. To explain this in its simplest form; you run around collect dog tags, and you have to prevent the other team of getting theirs. Awesome! It creates interesting gaming dynamics.

The largest part about the multiplayer is the introduction of the pay-per-year Elite service. I love when companies are doing cutting edge thing with gaming, and this is it when it comes to first person shooters.

I had a chance to get a sneak peek at the Elite service, the main thing I can share here is, the clans and multiplayer hardcore gang will lose their minds. Simple.
Overall, Infinity Ward (what?s left of the original gang) and Sledgehammer Games have stayed loyal to the Call of Duty and Modern Warfare brand in the name of all their loyal fans. However, you get a lot of content for your hard earned sixty bux! Also, if you don?t play online in clan or massive amounts of multiplayer, you can skip the Elite service subscription and still enjoy a well done game.

Over and out!

Overall Score: 9.6 / 10 MX vs. ATV Alive

Behold, a new era in gaming history! MX vs. ATV Alive is out and intends to sell itself at a lower price point in order to bank on upcoming DLC in the near future. Be as it may, this is an extremely 'ballsy' strategy from THQ. Coming in at mere forty dollars ($40), what else could an avid motocross gamer want? Hey, wait a minute I?m an avid MX gamer!

Right off the bat, my hat goes off to them for nailing the bike sounds! In the past title (MX vs. ATV: Reflex) the bike engine sounds were left to be desired, terrible in fact. You?d come blasting out of a corner and ten feet out of the corner the engine RPM sounds were through the roof! Not cool. But, now they sound like they should, not perfect, but a lot better! The graphics are beautiful! Reflex had some strange, lines and artifacts. They?re gone now! Anyways, you?re probably saying, ?This guy loves all this stuff, is there anything wrong with the game??

Yes and no.

Let?s start with what they?ve done right. All the bike related attributes are nearly spot on. The track designs stay true to the awesome craftsmanship of THQ Phoenix (Rainbow Studios), they are technical, and they look awesome! Thank you for adding weather effects, too. All you need now is the mud in goggles effect. Let's not forget the bikes themselves are modeled with incredible accuracy.

Ingame the physics are superb! However, there?s only one tiny glitch, call it whatever you want, that's been with the series since the very beginning. Let me attempt to describe it... When you come down off a jump or small whoop and then land on your front wheel? If you decide to turn (left or right) before the back wheel hits the ground, you SHOULD wreck right? (At least in real life you do). In MVA, you?ll sometimes do a complete 180 degree turn, totally facing the opposite direction. Kind of like a toy top! Then you have to turn back around to get back in the race. It sucks when it happens, and you sometimes throw the race.

Despite this one little bug detailed above, MVA delivers an awesome motocross experience, it feels right otherwise!
The music is of the same loyal flavor as we?d expect: Rockin?! It gets you in the mood every time.

Now, let?s look at the bad.

Where are the Supercross tracks? I mean really. Sure you?re going to say, ?They are coming!? Again, I don?t want to review this game based on, ?They are coming!?. The fact is they are not there now. I also understand that THQ probably want to release those types of tracks closer to the upcoming Supercross season coming this January but that?s six months away.

The other thing that?s really scary is that THQ is being awfully tight lipped about the details on DLC. Especially, on a game that relies on it so heavily. Guys, give people a real look on what they should expect! At the time of this review, you can download the KTM and Suzuki factory bikes and the Jimmy Steward compound (if you pre-ordered the game). So, I?m only counting two pieces of DLC so far. That?s great, but they haven?t told us anything else! We need a real commitment here.

The game more or less feels like a tech demo to me, there really wasn?t anything to keep me moving forward for very long. Sure, I was leveling a bike AND a rider, but the unlockables weren?t really spread out too evenly. I?d level up a couple of levels, and I only had goggles to show for it.

A little tip for you gamers out there, from level one to level ten, put the AI to easiest and set the fewest laps. Otherwise you?re only racing on two national tracks, two free rides, and two short tracks for a few hours. Ok, maybe my skills aren?t all that and a bag of chips but the choices are limited until then. Unless you are willing to pay, you heard me right, pay?480 Microsoft Points (About five dollars) to unlock everything, you?re left grinding away. In this review I took the cheap guy?s approach.
Another annoyance was the rider?s auto taunt to say the least, very distracting.

The game is just missing something, even at forty dollars. I'm not sure what it is yet but after only four hours of game play, even online, I was bored. This is a first for me, and I didn?t really know how to put it into words honestly. Maybe, it needs a driving mechanism or something to push or motivate the player forward.

I?ve been following this game since it?s been announced, and you guys all know me as a hard core MX gamer. The problem is there are too many unanswered questions on the DLC, why?

Allow me to use a metaphor, it?s like if you were going to buy a car at a really cheap price and the dealer told you ?It?s not a great car now, but in a few months the company will sell you parts for it to make it awesome?. Would you buy that car? I personally wouldn?t. Not sure if my example is working for you guys, but I think it explains how I feel.

To simply put it. You pop the game in, you play either online or off. Then you'll race over and over until your eyes pop out of your head, while leveling up your rider and bike, stop in at the store every once and a while.; rinse and repeat. That's it.

In conclusion, this game is a double edge sword. If you are buying MVA at forty dollars and not really expecting much out of it, then fine. I?ve so far gotten myself to level 17 and I need to get to level 25 to unlock everything. Do I have a desire to keep going? Sadly, no.

The only thing I can leave you guys with, keep those fingers crossed on good DLC at a good price and that we don?t end up paying $80 for something we got for $60 two years ago.

THQ Phoenix?you guys know I love ya. It?s a good attempt, but if you are going to stick with this formula, it needs a bit more tweaking. Peace.

Suggestions: And now for my bright idea?let the community create the content! Release an editor that will let the track creators from the PC series and maybe even let them sell them and take a cut! The whole thing could be done on a PC, uploaded to the THQ site, checked for viruses, then released to the public. Thus, the game stays popular for another two years! Then the tracks/content could even be backwards compatible! Like an app store of tracks! It?s just a crazy idea.

Overall Score: 7.6 / 10 Call of Duty: Black Ops

It?s that time of the year again. November is generally the month that brings the shiny new Call of Duty title. This is a series that will have fans lining up outside for countless hours waiting to buy their copy of the game. This past year has been nothing short of dramatic in the offline Call of Duty universe. First, the big surprise, Infinity Ward gets dissolved. As a result, Treyarch is left to be the sole developer of the series. Then, the fans get their panties in a knot over the fate of the entire franchise. Add endless bickering via online forums concerning listing the many reasons why Infinity Ward is a better than Treyarch and the whole thing sounds like a schoolyard debate of ?My dad can beat up your dad!? to me.

There?s a questionsthat has been on EVERY Call of Duty fan?s mind: ?Does Black Ops live up to the franchise?s reputation??. Well, in the next few paragraphs, we?ll attempt to clarify all of that. Also, be warned?there are spoilers in this review, so if this concerns you, skip to the bottom and read the conclusion paragraph and eat up the score. Also, remember that this is my opinion, not the entire XBA staff either. We really don?t want the hardcore fanboys knocking at our doors telling us we suck.

Now, on to the actual review. :-)

First let me layout the familiar mix of modes is present in this version of the game. The single player campaign, Online Mulitplayer, Zombies (Coop), and a few nice Easter eggs!

Let?s kick things off with the single player campaign. It took about six and half hours to complete on Normal difficulty which for a Call of Duty title, that amount is roughly the average, based on my past experience. Personally, I found the single player story to be very compelling. Treyarch has set the whole thing dead smack in the middle of the cold war, with side trips to Cuba, Russia, and Vietnam (and a few others) made for a good variety of maps and settings for gameplay.

The story goes like this; you start off being strapped to a chair being interrogated by a silhouetted individual; and you have no idea why. Basically, confused. The gameplay is essentially you playing through your memories in order to find the answers, and trying to get to the truth and prove your innocence.

One of the maps Black Ops has you driving a chopper through the Vietnamese jungle. I?m a chopper fan; so this mission was a lot of fun! Now, I really don?t want to ruin the single story, but let me assure you that you won?t be disappointed.

Now on to the multiplayer action; most people buy into the Call of Duty series for this component alone. This time it?s all about customization, C.O.D. points, and buying the next best thing. In the shipped version of the game there are fourteen multiplayer maps to explore and all the traditional modes are present; even a few new ones worth mentioning. These are accessed by playing a ?Wager Match?. What is that you?re saying? You basically bet away your C.O.D. points in efforts to earn more to buy more cool crap!

The first one is the ?Gun Game? where everyone starts with a regular pistol. Each time you get a kill, you get a weapon upgrade. But, here?s the kicker, the first one to cycle through all 20 weapons, wins! Second is ?Sharpshooter?, the way this one works is that every player starts with the exact weapon, then the weapons cycle every 45 seconds. Each kills earns you a perk bonus, if you die you lose it. Player with the highest score wins.

Here?s my personal favorite: ?One in the Chamber? where everyone starts with one bullet in the pistol and three lives. Once you shoot the one bullet, it defaults back to a melee weapon, the knife. But, if you kill an opponent with it, you get a new bullet. Player with the highest score wins. Lastly, ?Sticks and Stones?. Everyone gets a crossbow, ballistic knife and a tomahawk. Highest score wins. The catch is, if you tomahawk an opponent, you bankrupt that player?s points. They?ll have to start from zero and work their way back up the score board.

Most of these modes don?t depend on the last guy standing, but rather a final score and that?s the most interesting part.

My personal favorite part is the ?Combat Training?, why? It adds a new dimension to the multiplayer aspect of the game. If you?re like me, you eventually work up the courage to go play online. With absolute certainty I will get my butt handed to me on a silver platter as well, why? Because I don?t have a bottomless pit of time to play Call of Duty and learn all the maps and the little hiding spots they offer. Neither do my friends since they have kids, wives and busy lives too. So, going online to play people that have a lot more time than I do doesn?t interest me.

With ?Combat Training? think of it like Call of Duty with bots, just like Unreal Tournament lets us do. You customize the match the way you want, select any of the multiplayer maps, grab some friends, drop in some stupid (or smart) bots, and learn the maps and maybe have a living chance online against the Call of Duty hardcore crowd. You can also do all this in a co-op setting too.

Co-op playability in games is what I personally look for. What?s nice about Black Ops is that they?ve given us two additional treats besides just ?Combat Training?. The first and obvious one is ?Zombies?. Just like World at War, it unlocks once you?ve completed the single player campaign, but here?s how it works. You are dropped into a map (The Pentagon or Haunted House), and have to prevent the zombies from busting in, similar to Horde mode on Gears of War 2. Wave after wave, you have to beat and shoot off the undead and plug up the holes in the wall (by holding the X button) they are pouring out of. When I played the game at the review event in Los Angeles, there were only two levels though I?m sure this will get some additional attention in the near future in the form of some DLC. But, I personally thought two levels weren?t enough to quench my thirst. I?ll keep my fingers crossed.

The very special item they?ve added is ?Dead Ops Arcade?. What is it? It?s an easter egg within Black Ops. Think of it as a free arcade game bundled it, but it?s a ton of fun. It?s a mix between Smash TV, Robotron, and Gauntlet. It?s mindless zombie killing fun; I love it! The other easter egg is the inclusion of the Zork text based adventure game, since Activision owns the publishing rights: why not!

The way to access the easter eggs is you press the left and right triggers very quickly at the opening menu (where you start the campaign). Then our hero will stand up, you walk over to the console and type ?doa? for Dead Ops Arcade, or ?zork? for that game. There are more unlockables, but I?ll let you guys figure it out and talk about them in the forums.

Conclusion is Treyarch had very large shoes to fill, and let me tell you they passed with flying colors, erasing any doubt that I ever had about them making the next Call of Duty titles for years to come. Run out and get this game soldier!

Overall Score: 9.6 / 10 Darksiders

I introduce you, the first game of 2010; Darksiders. Something interesting has happened this year though. Most of the publishers have all held off releasing their epic titles after the holidays. Why? Because of a little game called Call of Duty. These are dreadfully big shoes to fill, and a gutsy move to say the least. Also keep in mind that THQ wasn?t the only one, others followed suit. So, you end up with a mad rush of games after Christmas, and the lineup is quite long. It?s the first of its kind since I?ve been running

Much to my surprise, not a whole lot of knowledge existed out there for the game. Why? Is it bad marketing? No. I think I understand why though. The game is so many things, that you can?t say it?s ?blank?. Vigil Games and THQ are really treading new ground here.

In Darksiders, you play the ?excessively large body with a small head? guy called War, he is essentially one of the four horsemen. The journey begins with the earth being ripped a new one, and as much as this is all cool?it?s a little too early. Now, it?s your job to figure out what happened. You quickly discover that it?s one big fat conspiracy going on between heaven and hell, and you?re somehow stuck in the mix.

Since it was mostly your fault that earth was blasted a little too soon, you are resent back down to earth stripped of your arsenal of divine powers. But, as you quickly discover there?s absolutely nothing left on earth. Everyone is dead, the buildings are completely unlivable. Essentially?it?s a massive wasteland. Your primary goal is to figure what the heck happened and prove your innocence by kicking some ass and taking names. As you adventure through the game, you witness these conflicts between the angels and the demons and most importantly, that?s how the story is pushed along. You clearly see what?s going on with this complex situation; oh and, they all want you dead.

Alright, I?m not going to sit here and spoil the story for you here, but if you?re thinking for one second you are going to finish Darksiders in a six to eight hour time frame, you're kidding yourself. Be prepared to be immersed into a movie quality storyline. There? I said it. They should take this story and make a movie. There are so many sub-plots such as demons pissed at each other. People love to watch stuff like that.

The mechanics and gameplay of the game remind me of several different ones actually, the main being Maximo; originally released for the PS2 by Capcom. But my simpler description or mix rather, is comprised of these titles?.there?s s a little Tomb Raider for the adventure, environmental puzzle solving, a little World of Warcraft for the RPG and quest (without the yellow exclamation marks) elements, and finally a little of Lost Planet for the ?larger than life? boss battles -- and if you bring your nose up to it you?ll smell a hint of God of War. This carefully mixed recipe of game ideas, and the icing of a good storyline make for a very unique and fun gaming experience, and I love unique.

As you progress through the game, you land weapon skill upgrades, hence kicking more butt. The control scheme is actually quite intuitive. It?s fast and furious. Let me warn you that you are going to do a lot of monster killing.
War?s weapons are probably the most impressive I?ve seen in more recent times. Mustering through on what seems to be an endless sea on combo moves, can prove to be quite the challenge. The game teeters on being a button masher, now I like button mashers, they make me look good! But, I have one pet peeve, why is the Right Button (RB) the dash and block move? Who knows.

Throughout the game, I came across quite a few ?WOW? moments, but the one that stood out was the one scene that you end up in a subway area, and this huge worm-like monster grabs a complete subway car, and tries to pull it into this smaller hole on the side of the level, very cool animation sequence!

On the difficulty side of things, the game is tough. Not in a bad way. Hell, I?ve been playing on the ?Apocalyptic? (The hardest) setting, and let me tell you, it?s quite the challenge. Batman Arkham Asylum?s hardest setting wasn?t near as hard; this is hard. I would strongly recommend playing on the easy or normal setting at first. As I was playing through the game, I couldn?t shake this nagging notion in the back on my mind. I kept asking myself the same question??Did I choose the right moves (or combos) to purchase from Vulgrim ?? After several hours, I discovered that it all worked out in the end. The more monsters you slay, the more soul credits you obtain. The only tip I can give is buy powers or power-ups that suit your playing style. Period.

Overall the gameplay of Darksiders shines of a very polished experience, not many complains here. It?s like an itch?you gotta go back and scratch that itch!

Graphically, everything looks incredible beside the fact of a bit of tearing while looking around (I?m assuming it?s an engine thing); mind you it?s not a game killer, but it does get increasingly annoying. Environments, textures, and character models all look top notch!

In the sound department, the in game musical score totally suited every moment of the game. I?m not an audiophile or anything?the sound did its job, it immersed you into the story depending of which scene was on screen, accenting all the mood and encounters. Very well done.

Overall, Darksiders has a crap ton of content, and it has quickly become a new and exciting intellectual property for THQ. Also, if you?ve got kids, make sure they are in bed when you pop this puppy in. If the rest of 2010?s game lineup looks anything like Darksiders, it?s going to be a damn good year! Highly recommended, don?t let this one slip under your radar. Can?t wait to see Darksiders 2!

Overall Score: 8.6 / 10 MX vs. ATV: Reflex

If you?ve been coming to for while, it has become obvious that I am a Motocross game nut. I?ve played them all. Why? Because I rode in the past, and completely love the sport.

THQ and Rainbow Studios have been pioneers and trailblazers in this gaming niche, but over the past few years they really didn?t innovate anything new with the technology all that much. Let me tell you my friends?that?s all changed now.

When I first heard of the ?reflex? control system, I couldn?t help but to think??How are the controls really going to be?? And also asked myself, will the game franchise lose its fun factor that it always had? These were crucial questions that needed to be answered. It would either make me jump right in, or make me run for the hills.

Then the day came where I got my hands on the game, and to be perfectly honest, at first I didn?t adapt terribly well to the new control system, I sucked. I literally had to break out of my comfort zone that I had built over the years. I was pretty darn good with the old control system, and I now sucked at the new way. My ego was taking one hell of a shot.

I have to admit, it?s a pretty ballzy move on THQ/Rainbow Studios? part to completely overhaul their tried and true control system, with this one. It?s a completely new direction for the franchise. While I was playing on live I had all the people messaging me asking, ?Kam, how does it control?? ?Do you like it??

I proudly answered ?Yes, it?s better, and hell it?s a lot better than the old way.? But, I?m hoping the old motocross game loving community will give it a chance. Because it does take getting used to, and in contrast I?ve seen people that have never played a single motocross title, be good at the game right away.

To add the whole dynamic, they?ve also added the long awaited terrain deformation system. I remember people asking this cool feature back when they created Motocross Madness 2, and I remember their response. ?Are you guys crazy? Do you guys have any idea what kind of CPU and graphics power that would take?? Those days are now here. For those of you that have no idea what this is..The terrain changes dynamically with every lap, and forms ruts in the process, and those can be broken and so on.

When I spoke about adding a new dynamic, I mean this. Imagine, just getting used to the ?Reflex? control system, then after a few laps on a soft terrain track, you start having to actively use the new control system. I can tell you, both controller sticks get well used!

The sounds, this aspect of off-road titles always bothers me. Why? Because, video games never seem to get this part of the game right. I?m not a sound designer, nor an engineer. Plus, and I can?t imagine what sort CPU power is would take to mimic a small engine to the point that sounds as good as the real thing. Luckily, they?ve made huge strides in this department over the last title. The bike sounds were just wrong in Untamed, no, I?ll rephrase - broken. The sounds in Reflex are lot better, but not quite 100% there yet. They are getting close!

The game?s multiplayer mode has been completely overhauled. No more dropped hosts, it will auto relocate a new host, while racing. If you start a private session you have to ability to race up to 12 racers total (you plus 11) and queue up to 5 tracks, so when you?re done one, it will automatically load up the next set of tracks.

There?s also a new thing called playlists. Gone are the days of not finding a national race to be in, the server (yes they have a server now) automatically rotates a selection of tracks based on what you like to race. For example, if you only like to race Nationals, then you race a national. The server takes care of that! Yes, folks they are getting this multiplayer thing down! Yay!

Another new item is your ?Motocard?. What does it do? In simple terms, it keeps track of all your racing experience. You?re probably saying, so? If you race against someone that has been racing with the game for a while, and you beat them in a race, then you?ll get more experience towards your Motocard experience. And you get less if you lose, etc? Now at the end of the day, does a person get any bozo buttons for their hard earned efforts? Not terribly sure. We?ll see what Rainbow has in store for us.

I?ve become a huge fan of the Nationals, heck I?ve always loved racing Nationals in these games. But, with the new Reflex system, just makes it that much better.

As for Supercross, they?ve nailed it. Finally. They even hired David Lee/ David Olejniczak (the deap voice guy) to voice over a lot of the game?s introductions. But, they should have only used him in small doses, maybe only at the beginning of each race. The deep voice guy gets annoying after a while. Maybe, 80% Jamie Little and 20% David Lee?
Little tip here: As far as the Omnicross goes, put the bike and quad away. Otherwise, you?ll get killed. They are animals!

This is the count on the tracks, 3 Free Ride environments, 8 nationals, 8 Supercross, 6 Omnicross, 6 Freestyle courses, 4 Champion Sport Tracks and lastly 6 Waypoint courses, that?s a total of 41 tracks/courses. Good bang for the buck here.

Just when I thought an off-road title couldn?t get better looking. The attention to detail is quite remarkable. They?ve even got fresh tractor tracks, so that it has that freshly groomed smell to it! Makes Untamed, look like a kids drawing, no kidding. The only thing I wish they would of added was simple weather effects, like rain or snow. It was there in MX vs. ATV Unleashed. I imagine that it came down to managing CPU cycles. But, ultimately the graphics are simply stunning.

Here comes the bad. There?s only one, it?s the left to right collision physics. When I?d find myself being hit by another AI rider, or land in the tough blocks, the bike does some strange things. But, the bike?s interaction with the terrain is really good. This only seems to occur when another bike or object comes into the picture. I?m really hoping THQ or Rainbow Studio will consider releasing a patch to fix this problem. But, it?s not a show stopper.

The official word from THQ on DLC is this??THQ will be supporting MX vs. ATV Reflex post-launch with a variety of downloadable content. The DLC is currently in development at Rainbow Studios, and will include new tracks, gear and vehicle skins. Release dates have not yet been determined.?
So, it?s definitely good news on the DLC side of things, unlike Untamed, it?s actually coming this time! YAY!

In conclusion, MX vs. ATV Reflex has been turned on its head; it?s a completely new animal from all past motocross titles from THQ and Rainbow Studios. The game looks incredible, but that perfect combination of terrain deformation and reflex controls, make a great combo. I?m really anxious to see what they have in store for us as far as downloadable content. Maybe some old favorite tracks from games past. Call of Duty does it, why not tracks! Personally I?m not interested in paying for gear, just another track to ride on. MX vs. ATV Reflex is now the new standard on what motocross gaming should be!

Overall Score: 9.1 / 10 Tony Hawk: Ride

As a kid I never really did the skateboarding thing. While other kids were doing that I was too busy riding my motocross bike. Then it occurred to me, the skateboarding community was just like us dirt bikers, how? We craved and actively sought after that adrenaline rush, yes, we were junkies. Not to mention considered the crazy people of the planet. But, then a little event called the ?X-Games? was born that changed everything. Then both sports became mainstream, for better or worse.

One of the most notorious stars to emerge from the skateboarding community is none other than the man himself, Tony Hawk. Besides having a really cool name, the guy was simply the best athlete at that time. He has managed over the years to single handedly give the sport (yes, I said sport), not only the boost of acceptance that it needed, but respect. Again, skateboarding wasn?t even considered a sport.

The natural outcome has been the birth of Skateboarding video games; they were becoming more in demand and still coming of age. Activision and several others jumped onto the band wagon, and tried to make the best skateboarding titles available. Good ones and really bad ones. When Activision got a hold of the Tony Hawk name, they?ve managed to publish some of the most legendary skateboarding titles of all time.

Over the years, the traditional partnership has always been Activision and Neversoft, and they?ve managed to corner the skateboard video game market by innovating, and pushing the technology that attempted to best represent the sport. But, there was always something missing. The board.

This year, we welcome a new dawn into the skateboard gaming community, a revolution. Tony Hawk Ride. It was developed by Robomodo, they are a relatively new company based out of Chicago. They?ve taken a radical new and unique approach to the franchise. A ballzy move quite honestly. They?ve engineered a peripheral that actually lets you stand on a plastic skateboard shaped peripheral or controller. It lets you bust out all the moves that you?ve got hidden in that inner thrashing dude. Well, most of them. It houses sensors all the way around the board, to simulate grabs, and the new style mode.

Let me attempt to try and explain how ?Ride? feels. For those of you that share my worst inner gaming fear?you will not be caught dead on a Wii Fit. Well, Ride is the answer, and it makes the Wii Fit look like a door stop! This could very well be the coolest answer to getting into shape, and more fun.

Ride is extremely easy to play. You put some batteries in the board, put it on the floor. Load the game, get on the board, play the game. The whole thing is really elegant, and the board appears to be very durable. I think the only way someone will break this thing, is being over 500 lbs and doing a real Ollie with it. Even that I?m not sure if that will kill it.

When I first played the PAX demo of Ride, I thought that it was a purely linear skateboarding title, but much to my surprise it isn?t. There is a free roaming mode called Free Ride.

Where the game really shines is the ability to play multiplayer locally, not all at once or anything just One player at a time. Players challenge each other by doing as many tricks as possible within a certain set path. The game starts becoming sort like a grunge match, good times, good times.

The game brings you to various locals, like Southern California, Chicago, Tokyo, Frankfurt, and New York each sporting its own unique characteristics and all playable. And you can play, as Tony Hawk, Mike Vallely, Stevie Williams and several others, 15 in total. It?s too bad you can?t take your Xbox Live avatar out for a spin, the Wii version seems to have the ability to do so. Come on Activision, try and give some love to us Xbox 360 folks!

You can also, play multiplayer via Xbox Live, I have a little tip?you might wanna pick up a wireless headset for this one. Simply because the amount of body movement you?re going to do is nuts. You?ll end up killing more headset than any other game, if you don?t.

Graphically, the game looks pretty good, although it could be better. From a graphic design standpoint, the game looks good, but from a graphical technology standpoint, it?s just not up to today?s gaming standards.

In conclusion, Activision seems to be a strong believer in unique hardware gaming experiences, examples like Guitar Hero, DJ Hero and now Tony Hawk Ride. The idea is genius, and a great way to get off the couch and learn a thing or two of the skateboarding sport. Plus, break the monotony of gaming with the generic controller. Ride is the type of game that you have to warm up to, but then is suddenly sucks you into the excitement and you catch yourself trying to beat your last run of tricks, or speed run.

There?s not much else I can really say about Ride, they?ve introduced a whole new controller, and that changes everything in a good way.

On the lighter side, if you have kids like I do, they are going to just love this game. Plus, Tony Hawk himself has poured his heart and soul into this game, and his family loves it, and he loves it, and the people that were not skateboarders love it. Ride is a simple and addicting game for literally all ages. There?s no shooting, no swearing, nor half naked women, just good wholesome clean fun, plus you looks cool in the process!

My fingers are crossed, and I?m seriously hoping that Activision follows the same model as the Guitar Hero series, and let us keep the board kit we bought with Ride and use it on the next few Tony Hawk titles.

Overall Score: 8.3 / 10 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

On our well loved and sometimes excessively used Xbox 360, things all got started with a killer launch title called ?Call of Duty 2?. This was Infinity Ward?s launch title on the next-gen console and it literally knocked everyone?s socks off. It had a great single player campaign, and incredibly addicting multiplayer action, and finally a history lesson. Two years down the road, they literally blew us all away once again with the released of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. This game truly had a next-gen feel to it, and once again had a great single player campaign, but the difference was the setting, they completely did away with the World War 2 theme. The multiplayer action in this title simply just made people buy the Xbox 360 just had us begging for more.

In the next few paragraphs...I?ll attempt to map out the various facets of the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and why it?s really a top contender for game of the year once again. Now, you?re probably asking yourself, ?Is this game really that much better?? ?well, just when you thought it just couldn?t get any better; Keep reading.
(If you?re worried about spoilers, then you might want skip to the bottom)

Single Player Mode

I honestly think Infinity Ward really pride themselves on giving the player an epic cinematic and incredibly immersive storyline. There are three acts in MW2, with five to seven level or chapters each.

The first thing I would like to point out is that there are a lot of bad people and backstabbers in this game! The story gets tossed around in several different directions that make the story that much more engaging. At one point you are asked in the game if you want to skip the more offensive moments. This really adds a whole new dimension to the COD series, why? Because you always end up playing the good guy, you point the gun at the bad guys, pull the trigger and you rinse and repeat. I won?t spoil anything here, but don?t skip them!

At first I honestly had no clue what the devs really meant; hell, we?re talking about Call of Duty here! Nor did I know what they had planned for me. Little did I know what was coming. Get this, you are quite literally dropped in to the role of an undercover terrorist. Honestly when I played through that part, I was left in a state of confusion? Do I blend in and kill the poor Russian citizens in the airport? Or do I just follow these guys and not shoot anyone? (Maybe there?s an achievement for that). Oh, by the way, if you try and be the hero and take out the terrorists you are with, they?ll cap you like old yeller, so forget about it. Anyways, the reason you?re there, is to dig up important information about these goons.
Another great single player moment are the snow covered areas, why? It made the northern woods of Canada look bleak. Not only is there a nice variety of stealth, assault, sniping, but a shear awesomeness of brutal mow-down action. Also, you get to take a incredibly fast snow machine out for a spin and take out bad guys while driving.

MW2 overflows -- In a good way -- with several ?holy crap? moments. They completely immerse you in the hot seat of all the action. At the beginning of the Oil Rig level, you start off the level inside some sort of underwater military vehicle along with your soldier buddies, it looks simply incredible. You then show up on the scene underwater ready to take out the soldiers standing guard. Another moment is getting into the Chopper Gunner, and cutting down the museum of World War 2 with the mini gun, just leaves you with a big smile on your face.

I could go on and on here about the single player, but the truth is the game mechanics in MW2 are pretty the same as COD4. I played through the single player campaign on hardened in about seven and a half to eight hours. Let me tell you that the story is nothing short of spectacular, and there?s enough variety in each level to keep things interesting. All these key people and elements, that you encounter throughout the game all converge at the end to give you the most satisfying ending to a game. Period.

Special ?Spec? Ops Mode

The second aspect of MW2 is the new coop mode, where you and a friend team up to run through and complete various single level mini missions. The difficulty can be set from Regular to Veteran, and you can also complete them solo if you dare to do so.
One of the levels you team up with a friend to protect them from the sky while one of you hops into the chopper with the extra large mini gun and the other runs thru the streets of a suburb and tries to make it to the pickup point on top of a burger joint. Another one is a simple snow machine race against your coop buddy.
I played thru a few quite missions to get a good vibe out of the spec ops game mode. Let me tell you, this is my new favorite part of the COD series and new favorite coop game mode. More hours of gameplay!

Multiplayer Mode

Ah the long awaited multiplayer mode. If you loved the multiplayer in COD4 and purchased your console based on the fact that all your friends own and play the crap out of this game; my friends, you?re in for one hell of an awesome treat.

The online matchmaking has been greatly improved, and what makes this even cooler are the new weapons in kill streak. There are unlocked as follows?

3 Kills UAV
4 Kills Care Package
4 Kills Counter UAV
5 Kills Sentry Gun
5 Kills Predator Missile
6 Kills Presicion Airstrike
7 Kills Harrier Strike
7 Kills Attack Heli
8 Kills Emergency Airdrop
9 Kills Pave Low
9 Kills Stealth Bomber
11 Kills Chopper Gunner
11 Kills AC-130
15 Kills EMP
25 Kills Tactical Nuke

If a players gets five kills in a row, they have the ability to unleash the Sentry Gun or Predator Missile. If that wasn?t enough, if a player gets 11 they unleash the Chopper Gunner or the AC-130, and the mother of all kill streaks is 25, this unleashes the Tactical Nuke, yes, you read that right, a big ass nuke. This baby ends the multiplayer match instantly. All the players see is this light coming down from the sky (in rocket form) and comes flying down in the distance to later impact the earth and instantly blind and kill the entire map. If a player gets a hold of this thing, they simply deserve to put anyone out of their misery, because more than likely you?re playing with a bunch of noobs.

Just when you thought, ?Hey, how can Infinity Ward make a great multiplayer experience even better? Or can they?? Let me tell you they took the bar that has set the standard in multiplayer action over Xbox Live, and raised it to a whole new level.

There are no official announcements on DLC (downloadable content), but rest assured its coming. I personally would like to see some more of the old COD4 maps converted to some Spec Ops or multiplayer maps.

Finals words: MW2 is essentially three great games rolled into one. Single played campaign is awesome, Special Ops is fresh, and Multiplayer is addicting. There are only a few minor things I would have liked to have seen. And let?s be clear, that this is NOT a show stopper and should not prevent you from buying this game, I really mean minor. The following ?would have likes? are simply based on the fact that even though Infinity Ward didn?t develop World At War, it doesn?t have a coop campaign mode. The other missing link is a ?look around the corner? system, like they have in the real military, like a mirror, or a snake cam to see enemies around corners.

Modern Warfare 2 is sensational, and sets a very high bar in the Call of Duty series. Well done guys!

Overall Score: 9.7 / 10 Lode Runner

Most young readers / gamers are probably asking themselves..."What the heck is Lode Runner ?", "Is it like Halo, or Gears of War?" Hmmm, no, not quite, but what it was, is just as popular.

Let's start from the beginning...Back in the 80's when Back to the Future, and Max Headroom were king, games were programmed by single individuals. Lode Runner was no exception. This game was completely designed, programmed by one guy named Douglas E. Smith. Soon after was picked up by a publisher called Broderbund Software back in 1983. They were same people behind such releases as Choplifter, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, Karateka and Myst. These cats would actually give EA a run for their money back then!

How cool was this game ? Lode Runner was literally one of my first gaming experiences. I was 12 years old, and it was me and my buddy huddled around the Commodore Vic-20, taking turns playing, and before we knew it...quite a few hours had gone by. The game honestly had it all, fast easy to jump into gameplay, as for the graphics and sound...well...we played it on a black and white television with mono sound. That didn't matter to us, why? Because, the game has the most important element in a game, addicting gameplay.

Why was this game cooler than other game out at the time? First off, it was playable at home, so my parents didn't freak out, simply because I wasn't (on what they thought) hanging out at the arcade filled with quarter poppin' drug dealers, and excessively loud music. I was playing games at home in a relatively safe environment.

Lode Runner was also advanced in the level creation department, it was probably, if not the first game to have an easy to use level editor included with it. You have to remember this creative aspect or the do-it-yourself approach to gaming was basically in its infancy. Sadly, we had to save levels we created on a cassette drive.

Ok, enough history...

Lode Runner is back in on the Xbox 360 arcade, and hosting all the really cool historical features I detailed above, plus featuring a very cool new coop multiplayer mode, 272 brand new levels, five other gameplay modes, high-definition graphics and five unique environments. In one of the environments, they also have an interesting mechanical level that changes as you get near objects and switches that really changes the level and makes it more interesting. My favorite was the volcano environment; they have mines that let you blow crap up, to help progress to the next level.

Lode Runner also makes good use of the 360's controller by using the triggers for determining the direction of your digging. Let me explain, to dig left while running you use the left trigger, and vice-versa for the right. In the old days this left and right stuff was really hard.
Let me be perfectly honest, I haven't played every variation of Lode Runner from years past, and I don't know what they've brought in from the Nintendo or the coin-op versions. I just know that our Xbox version rocks, period. The younger audience members might want to at least try the demo.

Why? The basics of this game should be a building block for a lot of (so called AAA titles) games out there. This is simple addictive gameplay at its best. Do yourself a favor, and buy Lode Runner for the mere 1200 Microsoft points. Why? Because you are not only playing a great game, you are playing a part of gaming history.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Shadow Complex

Epic is known for their landmark titles such as Unreal, Unreal Tournament, and the Gears of War series.  But, mainly for developing the most beautiful and popular game engine out there.   Wait a minute…who is this recently acquired “Chair” developer? They are the geniuses behind the arcade title called Undertow.  How can I put it? Epic Games and Chair Entertainment got married, and Shadow Complex is the baby.  Where does Shadow Complex actually stem from? No clue! Seems like a new universe.

The Shadow Complex story begins with you (Jason Fleming) in some sort of power suit saving the president from being killed.  But then the story shifts gear, with a cut scene (in an arcade title?), away to you and your girlfriend Claire in the woods of Washington. Then things decide to go bad, and she gets captured by the bad guys. Now, enough about story, how does it play?

Keep in mind that the game was made by the same folks that created Undertow. So, you will notice suddle parallel similarities between the two. With the left thumbstick you maneuver our hero, and you aim with the right thumbstick, sort of like Robotron. The right trigger, is shooting of course, the right bumper you are going to use lot, it's to fire your hook, launch missiles, toss grenades, and much more.; This title at first glance seems like a “run-of-the-mill; side scrolling (nearly 2-D) shooter, but it cleverly gives you the ability to take out enemies in the third dimension, and the game seamlessly switches between the two.

This title is not your run and gun arcade title. It's a complex mission based, action adventure game.  The entire layout of the game world is neatly laid out in a grid/maze-like matter.  It's easy to find your way around, with a large amount of trigger-based puzzles, but equally easy to get lost.

One of your objectives is to assemble the suit that you are seen with at the beginning of the story.  This is when you really start kicking butt, one of the highlights is when you start running crazy fast.  Incidentally, you unlock an achievement to cross the entire lake in hyperspeed….good times!

Just to give you folks an idea, I was able to muscle my way thru the game on normal in about 7 hours.  But, I’ve only scratched the surface, the replayability is really high for this game as you can go through it over and over.

Shadow Complex is an excellent value for 1200 Microsoft points.  It could easily pass as a full boxed product (At a discount of course).  Hell I’ve seen worse original Xbox titles.

Do I recommend this arcade title? Of course, it's great bang for your MS points. Enjoy!

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Pure

There once was a development studio called Climax Brighton, they made games like ATV Off-Road Fury 3 (not one and two), then Disney came along with their better ?mouse? trap and now they are called Blackrock Studios. None the less, Blackrock, or the team rather, has a descent past reputation of building descent off-road titles.
When I first received the demo of Pure back in August, I was a little hesitant on writing a preview. Why? Because these racing titles tend to be, hit and miss, especially in the online racing department. Luckily for Pure, I immediately was attracted to the game. But, the better part of my conscious told me to wait and see what lies ahead with the rest of the game. The online multiplayer, the career mode, handling, etc? these were crucial questions that I really needed answered before going bananas over this game.

Then finally the final retail version showed up on my doorstep, I have to admit I was excited. Since, the last off-road title I played was MX vs. ATV Untamed. (see our review)

First off, keep in mind Pure doesn?t have free roaming environments like MX vs. ATV Untamed and the ATV Off-Road series, it?s more of a linear type racer such as Forza, or Outrun. Don?t get me wrong, you can take alternate routes on the numerous tracks, but the wide spectrum of free ride just isn?t there.

You start the game off in the ?World Tour?, which is basically the career portion of the game. Each series has anywhere from four to seven events within a total of ten series. Within those series you get to choose between the different types, such as Races, Sprint and Freestyle events. After you choose a rider, this part is essentially what type of riding attitude you want and rider model. There is no real different between the various riders, as far as abilities and skills.

Here comes the fun part, building your bike. If you hold the ?Y? button, it will auto construct a random ATV for you. This is nice and fast if you want to get a jump start on the game. As you progress in the game, you?ll be able swap out various parts on your ATV to make it handle better or go faster. Depending on the amount of patience you have, this can get tedious. But, fortunately this part is not as in depth as Forza 2, where you start to split hairs. Pure, is meant to be fast and arcade-like. You start by fitting your ride with a D class motor, these puppies are SLOW, but the more you play the better upgrades you get, sound familiar?

As I played though the game I quickly discovered on some tracks (like 5%) it was feast or famine. What I mean by this is?if you are pulling tricks when you are suppose to and were close to winning a race, you probably are going to place in the top three positions. If you are losing, and crashed a lot, or got hung up on a rock you might as well start the race over, there?s a very slim chance of catching up and winning the, this was more apparent on the Sprint tracks. Thus leaving you in sixteenth place and that doesn?t cut the mustard.

I found the racing and freestyle portion of Pure were the most fun overall. With Sprint there was just too much too fast. If you messed up, was famine. I imagine online it?s a lot more fun, but in single player against the AI, it needs to be looked at closer by the devs.

Where the game really comes alive is online. Pure is able to pull off an awesome sixteen player Xbox Live experience and it didn?t hiccup once! This is the first online off-road title that I?ve seen support that many racers on the starting line. Blackrock Studios has essentially captured what it?s like to race against a lot of people online, the only pet peeve I had with it was that everyone didn?t start in a straight line together, ATVs are scattered all over the place on the start. An interesting thing to point out is that, if someone decides to drop out of the race it doesn?t ruin the race for everyone else.

Like in all games, there are flaws. The large flaw in Pure is the AI. There were several occasions where we?d all sixteen of us would take a jump and they?d bump me off the track in mid air, or land on me. Or simply drive me off the sides. Other times, the AI would cut me off like they had eyes in the back on their heads. Come on guys.
Graphically, Pure looks simply amazing. The graphics are not only beautiful, but they run at an extremely high frame rate. The attention to detail is awesome; the mud splashes on the ATV look great! On a personal level I wish you could deck out your guy in some real racing gear, from what I was able to tell?you were stuck with the back-woods redneck look permanently. With the exception of a few un-lockable costumes as you progress through the game.
The music in Pure is pretty good, seems to fit the style of game that it is. But, the ATV sounds just aren?t there, I?m not sure what they are riding there at Blackrock Studios. Pure is not the only game that suffers from the same problem, MX vs. ATV Untamed had out of control revving sounds. Personally, I don?t know if there is a fix for these type of issues, but I know that today?s consoles have enough horse power to deliver a realistic ATV or motocross bike sound. Unfortunately, the ATV sounds like a lawn mower.

I?ve played numerous Off-road titles, from Motocross Madness to 98% of off-road on the market today. Looking past the various flaws of the game? Overall, I highly recommend Pure. It?s a pile of fun online against some friends.

Overall Score: 8.6 / 10 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Since Bioware?s Kights of the Old Republic, we?ve all been longing for another good, deep Star Wars story to get lost into. Well, at least I have been! With titles, like Full Throttle and Sam and Max no longer in the picture...waiting for another great title from the San Francisco Lucasarts developement studio has been a nail biting experience to say the least.

How is Star Wars Force Unleashed to HUGE fan of the series? Well, folks without letting any cats out of any bags here?that wait is over for now, our prayers have been answered. Read on.

In SWFU, you play the role of Darth Vader?s secret apprentice code-named ?Starkiller?. Which is voiced by the actor Sam Witwer (he?s been in a couple of episodes of Smallville and CSI), while his real name isn?t very cool, Galen Marek, he?s still the new kid on the block.
He is quickly joined by a humoristic robot sidekick named Proxy (Eat your heart out Jarjar!)? I guess the force can?t really help you in the humor department. Besides, the goofy sidekick, you meet a fine young lady named Juno Eclipse, played by the actress Nathalie Cox (she played in the film Jumper, anyone see that?), she also works for the dark man too, she?s not funny, she drives your ship. The adventure kicks off were you both set off into the sunset to kill off some of those pesky Jedis. The End. Just kidding.

The story is told between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. If you?ve been living under a rock, you have some homework to do. SWFU is a very intriguing story wedged between the two movies, with some colorful characters and very interesting plot twists and turns. It?s top notch; I?d even go as far as saying it might make a good animated mini-movie someday. On a side note, an individual named Sean William wrote a novel based on the game?s storyline, and it spent a few weeks at #1. As the dark lord would say? ?Impressive, most impressive?.

On to the meat and potatoes of the game, the gameplay of SWFU is actually pretty good, after playing quite a bit of Too Human in the past few weeks, the enemy targeting reminded me a lot of that. Force grabbing an enemy, and then tossing him is all too easy. On the larger enemies, it uses what I like to call the ?simon-says--button-sequence? trick. Press ?Y?, then ?X?, etc? Personally, I?m not too fond of this method of gameplay, why? The player has a tendency to watch the button sequence, rather than the intended glorified cinematic fight. Afterwards, we look up and the whole thing is over. So, the value is unfortunately very low. But, the ?bad-ass? feeling you receive after remains. Now, the reference I made earlier about KOTOR, well, it plays nothing like it. SWFU, is actually more of an action/adventure title, reminded me a lot of God of War on the PS2. Can you tell, I miss KOTOR?

Speaking of feeling like a bad-ass, at the beginning of the game I spent quite a few minutes force pushing wookiees off the wood bridges. Hell, I even unlocked an achievement called ?Bossk? ? ?Defeated 200 Wookiees on Prologue?. Man, that felt good. I meant killing the wookiees, not getting the achievement. Other high points in the game, was taking down the humongous star destroyer with the force. They sure pitched the game correctly, ?Kicking ass with the force?.

In the controls department it felt really good. Executing all the various crazy force combos available to you, was a little tough to remember. But, you can always refer back to the purchase menu for the exact button sequence. The game also encourages you to solve various environment puzzles by using the force, in one level you have to align some rotating rings in a set time limit in order to get thru a tunnel with a massive laser beam shooting thru it.
The visuals in the force unleashed are simply beautiful. According to Lucasarts they hired the help of ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) for the character animations. Good use of the force there George! Each character is beautifully rendered with every nuance of the actor?s uniqueness. Including facial expressions, and mannerisms. From watching the web docs on Marketplace, man they really came close to reproducing the real life actors. Well done!
Let?s not forget the very familiar sounds of John Williams original score. It?s cleverly threaded throughout the game, along with all the authentic light saber and environmental sounds. Which entirely immerses you into the whole Star Wars experience.

The total amount of hours to finish the game from beginning to end on the Sith Warrior difficulty, was about eight hours. Grant it, I was blasting through the game at that point.

I?m currently going back thru the game on the Sith Master (highest) difficulty to max out all my achievements. Yes, the completion achievements are recursive, so you?ll unlock all of them if you finish the game on the highest difficulty.

Here?s the bad, which actually isn?t ?show stopping? bad. First off, in the past Lucasarts has been relatively unsuccessful in putting together a solid Star Wars title. SWFU is a full redemption, since KOTOR! I also ran into a few minor camera issues, and the rare invisible wall throughout the game. Unfortunately, the problems were not reproducible, so trying to send Lucasarts a bug list was out of the question. Also, when you die the game reloads every single time, I?m sure this is done to refresh what?s in the memory, but it was a little annoying. Especially, when you?re kicking butt, you just want to head back to the action. Besides, the game never crashed on me once. Good solid game.

Overall, SWFU is a great concept and does belong in your Xbox 360 collection, especially if you are a Star Wars fan. It smells, tastes, feels like a genuine thing. So, run out and pick it up.

Suggestions: Coop mode would have been cool.

Overall Score: 8.7 / 10 MX vs. ATV: Untamed

The Motocross and Off-Road genre has always been a personal favorite of mine. It's not until recently that the masses have seen the true fun factor in these games. THQ/Rainbow Studios has always been one of the leading pioneers in this category, plus they've single handedly carved their own niche in these genre of games for the past ten years. Quite honestly speaking, if it wasn't for ATV Off-Road Fury on the Playstation 2, the general public would still be in the dark ages when it comes to these games.

THQ/Rainbow Studios has now released their next generation experience called ?MX vs. ATV Untamed? (MVAU). With a brand new graphics engine, good?ol vintage game modes and a significantly better online multiplayer experience, things are looking good. Really good in fact.

One of the first things returning fans will notice, are the menus, they don't ask stupid questions anymore. No more bad dreams from MX vs ATV Unleashed, where? ?Are you sure you want to load your profile?, and, ?Are you really sure you load your saved game?? Talk about, Windows Vista syndrome. Much better guys! The menu interface is just more intuitive.

The single player experience is spent mostly in the X-Cross Tournament section of the game. Why? That's where you, as a racer, can experience every facet of the game. Additionally, you'll get to purchase all the swag, aftermarket parts and bikes you want. While spending my hard earned loot, I found myself spending countless hours with the bike and rider customization portion of the game. When you jump online, this is where you're going to make your rider and bike unique. Very addicting.

But, from I was able to figure out, buying all this stuff is purely cosmetic. None of this stuff makes you go any faster or grab more air. It just looks better. It goes like my friend Fernando would say, "It's better to look good than to feel good" - "You look marvelous!" There is a performance tweaking section, but these are more/less bike behavior options.

Let's move on to the graphics department. Some of tracks look great and some look average. Texture-wise some just weren't given a lot of lovin'. For example, on the track "Split Oak", the off-track textures are very flat. But, the majority of Supercross and Supermoto tracks look great (i.e. Clearwater) on the other hand so I'm not really sure what happened there. Unlike their previous MX titles, the developers would actually create each individual unique track.

The Supercross tracks finally feel like they are in a real stadium. Again, this was absent because of a technological limitation. Thank goodness that barrier has been broken.

The ecosystems in some of the outdoor environments seem to be somewhat non-existent or very low. Again, comparing this title to the previous ones (MX vs. ATV Unleashed), at least they had forests! This gave those tracks the illusion of the great outdoors. I've personally built Motocross Madness 2 tracks with more trees. It almost seems like?"One step forward, two steps back". It's too bad, You would think next-gen system would be able to handle a real forest this day in age. Once again, maybe it's a simple case of a technological limitation, but not a show stopper.

While constantly comparing the old with the new, and digging deeper into MX vs. ATV Untamed; I'm starting to think the developers went with a more realistic setting for the game, rather than a borderline fantasy-ish vibe to the tracks. Personally, I miss racing thru a Mayan environment, or an old logging camp. Why? At the end of the day, we are playing a video game after all. Maybe they could try and bring back old Unleashed tracks to download off marketplace?

On a technical note, the game finally runs at solid sixty frames per second, unlike pervious MX games which were were locked in at thirty. This makes a big difference in order to give the player the sense of speed. Well done!

In the sound department is where things get shaky. Primarily the bike sounds and environment sounds. Here's a bike example. You come into a corner, the bike sounds good. You hit the brakes to do a power slide, your bike still sounds good. You pop the clutch to accelerate out of the corner, and the bike still sounds great. You start to accelerate out of the corner and about ten to twenty feet out, the bike sounds burst into a screaming over-revving madness. The bike sounds from the previous MX games were fine, other than the sound variance going over the "Whoops". Here's a track example; on "Split Oak", I would hear a crowd cheering me on, and I look around, I see no crowd. Sadly, this is the area where the game looses most of its points. But, at the end of the day these quirks are not show stoppers; you can always plug in your Zune and listen to tunes on the other hand.

I don't usually include bits about achievements, but THQ/Rainbow Studio has included a few humorous ones that give out absolutely no points. Like the "Clean Freak" achievement. Stay with your bike in the water for about a minute or so. You clean off your bike. Bam! An achievement! Watch the credits to the very end! Bam! Another achievement! Too funny, we can never have enough of those darn achievements. Cool stuff.

As stated earlier, the multiplayer is a bazillion times better than MX vs ATV Unleashed ever was. Seriously, folks. The final score of this review, was totally dependent on the simple fact if THQ/Rainbow Studios was going to mess up this portion of the game or not. Also, the longevity of this game will be determined if it worked or not. Simple. MX vs. ATV Unleashed was just broken. With MVAU, I was able to race online with MVAU with twelve (12) THQ peeps, they were on a mission to prove to me that there was nothing to worry about. Thanks guys! The worries have been put to rest. Rider collision detection is spot on, sometimes, too spot on! It just works. The only thing I noticed was if you did get slammed into (t-boned), it sends you flying a little too far than normal. But, like a real race, the first corner (In order to get the "Holeshot") is always messy, but it's always good to see a nice pile up. The lobby system of MVAU is quite ingenious, while you wait for you opponents to show up, you can practice on a sort of "practice track" setting. At least this way you not sitting around looking at the ceiling waiting for others to show up or hit "ready". I personally would have liked to of seen a bit of randomness here, especially if this game takes off online, riding this same practice track will get old.

They brought back Tag! (Whoever had that idea, give them a raise!) Yay! I remember in the hay day of Motocross Madness 2 (MCM2), the community played this mode to no end. It's really good to see that they are bringing back the things that just work. Tag, in this incarnation looks really cool, when you are "It", your rider has these "Ghost Rider" flames shooting out the back of his helmet. Looks freaking awesome! Other online "Mini Games" as they are categorized, include a tron "lightcycles" game mode called "Snakes", where you ride around and leave a trail of sorts, and you try to avoid other people's trail. The dynamics of this is that it's not two dimensional like Tron, you can actually jump over and sneak under the beams to avoid them. Piles of fun!

MVAU supports all of the Xbox Live features we've come to love, plus the game supports LAN play too! It's about time this feature was added. So, plan on inviting your friends over for a supercross night! Great job!

The real hope is that THQ/Rainbow Studios rolls out downloadable tracks to last us until the next release. I'm not talking about cheap gear downloads. The game does have thirty tracks (twenty indoor and ten massive outdoor), that should keep us all busy for a while. Personally, my time was spent with the Enduocross tracks.

Christmas is upon us and racing games are far and few between this time around, not counting Dirt; MVAU is so far the only open air off-road game for our Xbox 360. And if you're not into PGR 4, or Forza 2, then ask Santa for MX vs. ATV Untamed. It's a lot of fun for all ages.

Overall, MX vs. ATV Untamed is an incredible improvement over its brothers and sisters that got released in the past. Any true motocross or off-road fan will gladly welcome this "next-gen" experience. With great new multiplayer modes and all the technical improvements to this game. THQ/Rainbow Studios has listened to the community, and delivered. Well done!

Overall Score: 9.1 / 10 Assassin's Creed

When Ubisoft first announced Assassin's Creed in Los Angeles at E3 ?06, people were literately in sheer amazement as they left the demo room. Unfortunately for Xbox fans, at the time it was rumored to be a PS3 exclusive. Anticipation was already at an all time high based on the fact that the talented Montreal development studio was at the helm. The game showcased a unique storyline, and an uber cool character who was mysterious, fast, stealthy, and dangerous! What more could we want? Plus, based on the studio?s past accomplishments, we knew we were in for a treat. One year later at this year?s E3, Jade and Silent Bob (a.k.a Patrice) demonstrated the game once again, but this time with a more intimate and in person presentation, and on Xbox!

Everyone I spoke with at the show was in awe at what they had seen. But what did I think? Honestly, I was dying to get my mitts on this puppy, but wasn?t really sure if I?d ever get to play it before its actual release to the general public. I knew right then that I
needed to rush over to the Ubisoft booth and ask my Canadian public relations rep if they had a playable demo. She said, ?Stephen, we know you?ve been dying to play this game. Do you wish to play?? I quickly replied, ?Does Bill Gates burn money?!?!?

As I ran to the television monitor like an anxious five year old (the controller shaking in my hands), my jaw dropped to the floor. They literally had to kick me off the demo kit; and this was back in June!

First off, I will not dive into the unique storyline of Assassins Creed. Why is that you ask? There?s just no need to. You?ll quickly discover the reasons why you?re an assassin, and it really doesn?t downplay the overall gameplay. Let?s just say I wasn?t expecting this type of story so it was a nice surprise indeed.

What can be said though is that you play a character named ?Altaïr?, a young assassin that has some major issues, in the year 1191 A.D. The game starts off with a cut scene that sees Altaïr getting in a whole lot of trouble for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. As his punishment he loses all his weapons, basically starting you from scratch and doing various trivial tasks for your head honcho. To define the way Assassin?s Creed feels and plays in a few words is interesting. It?s a little bit Prince of Persia (Ubisoft Montreal), a little bit of Splinter Cell (Ubisoft Montreal), all rolled into one very unique gaming experience. Personally, I think this mixture makes for one bad-ass game.

There are main contact locations in every city, at a place commonly called the "Assassin?s Bureau". These are a central returning point throughout the game, and the NPCs there send you on various tasks and missions. And if you?re in need of more tasks, climb a high building in the city and ?synchronize?. This will give you a ?bird?s eye? outlook on that particular area, and allow you to pick up more.

These tasks or quests range from picking pockets, eavesdropping, interrogating, and last but not least, assassinating greedy lowlife scum bags. These scum bags are all the same throughout time, they want to rule the world because the current one sucks. The icing on the cake comes AFTER you?ve finished one of them off. You must get the hell out of that situation, because everyone is now running after you. RUN!

While you?re making your escape for cover, there are various ways to stealth yourself. The game?s unique level design let?s you plan, or rather quickly improvise how you make a clean getaway. Scaling walls, or jumping from rooftop to rooftop, it?s totally up to you how you ?get the hell out?. There are just so many options for escaping at your disposal. For example, as you make a run for it, climb a building and hide in grass drying hut (not sure what these things are really called), and wait out your pursuers. The game gives you that much freedom. Also, the buildings are designed in such a way that if you can reach it and grab it, you can climb it. No hidden walls or invisible barriers here.

The NCPs (not the guards) in the game are incredibly poor (financially), and there is always some stupid citizen that comes and crimps your assassinating style and gets in your way. They either beg for money, or generally come to you at the wrong time, making your assassination attempt all the more difficult. You can take the sorry begging individual out, but be prepared to suffer the consequences in return.

I?ve heard a few people concerned with this game being very RPG-like, but don?t worry, as its not really like that at all. As you complete quests, you unlock more abilities, receive more weapons, and are given more tasks and missions. But it?s in no way an RPG, as it?s not that deep, nor do I think it was developed to be one either. The controls in the game are very intuitive, easy to control, but hard to master; especially when you?re attempting to fight large groups of enemies towards the end of the game.

Graphically, the game is absolutely stunning. If I?m not mistaken, Assassins Creed uses a highly modified Unreal 3 engine, and it?s very polished. Every building is crafted with attention to every little detail, and that is a little scary. Each of the five very large cities is uniquely designed, and possess their own look and feel. For example, in the poor areas of Jerusalem, the buildings are not as tall as the rich areas of the city. The sheer power of our beloved Xbox 360 , renders out the game?s massive cities from a bird?s eye view. I want to let you guys on a little secret; I suffer from severe vertigo. Assassin?s Creed has helped me deal with that, especially when I?m about 600 feet up on the roof of a cathedral. All in all, two thumbs up.

In the sound department, the details are very nice. Large crowds near the town?s center really helps make it feels like you are cutting thru a lot of people in order to get to your target. The music of this game, as is the soundtrack is very immersive. Well done.

There are so many nuances in this game that it?s impossible to tell you about them all. Basically, it?s all about not attracting more attention to yourself than needed. The replay value of the game is quite high, as you can go back and collect a variety of little flags, similar to how Orb collecting worked in Crackdown. This is good for all the achievement junkies out there.

In closing, Assassin?s Creed is a masterpiece; a true gem. It deserves a place in any serious gamers? collection. Even though it?s strictly a single player experience, it is a fresh and much needed title in this over crowed sea of average next-gen games. All I have to say is thank you Ubisoft Montreal.

P.S. Did I mention that Altaïr is a terrible swimmer?

Suggestions: More Assassin?s Creed in the future!

Overall Score: 9.6 / 10 Viva Piñata

How do I start writing this review? Oh, I know?.This is the part where I fully admit that I?ve never been so wrong about a game, ever. Folks, I?m man enough to admit that I?m totally in love with Viva Pi?ata, and man, do I ever feel like a total Horstachio?s Ass (Little Viva humor there!) for being wrong about it. Why? Because, you have to understand that I saw this game at E3. I looked at it, I laughed at it, said a few unfair things and then moved on. It just seemed to me like a uber childish, and shallow game. Oh fudge, wrong again!

Never in a million years that I?d expect that this title would later on, come back and lure me into it?s Pi?ata lovin? goodness. I?m willing to bet you guys have never read a more personally involved game review intro? Probably not.

Anyways, on with the review. It?s so easy to judge Viva Pi?ata against it?s rather unsuccessful Rare bothers and sisters. But, believe me that it?s not Perfect Dark Zero, nor Grabbed by the Ghoulies, so please try do NOT make that obvious mistake. Although, I though Kameo was a rather good game, Viva Pi?ata in my opinion, smokes it.

If you?ve ever played games such as Animal Crossings or Zoo Tycoon, then you?ll feel right at home with this game. But, I must warn you, give it a couple of hours before judging it. The main objectives of Viva Pi?ata range from micro managing your way thru your garden growing plants, building shelters and babysitting various pi?atas, so that you can make piles of chocolate money, and level up your gardening skills to no end.

Why is this game so HOT? Because it just appeals to such a broad spectrum audience, period! Unlike Gears of War (Which I also love dearly), I have to wait until my twenty-two month old son goes to bed before I can start playing that bad boy, the wife doesn?t seem to think that chain sawing an alien in front of him is cool, I don?t see what?s she?s talking about (Just Kidding). Viva Pi?ata on the other hand, I can play whenever he?s around, and to some level it?s educational. He?s at the age that he can just barely talk, so I really enjoy hearing him say monkey or snake! He just loves to watch the humorous animals changing into various colors and evolving in to different breeds also. It?s the perfect Dad game!

I don?t think the game will get me watching the television show that?s on the air now, but the game should give me enough insight to see if I should let my son watch it. I don?t know if Microsoft was thinking in that direction, but it?s true. Plus, from what I was told, the show also gives tips for the game, that?s nice.

The bad stuff: I?ve had this dead Bunnycomb in my garden since the beginning of the game, and can?t select it and get rid of it. I?ve cleared everything around him, you name it. It?s strange stuff. This is isn?t a 100% perfect title, but honestly it?s so close. Another annoyance, is that the game chokes when it loads or auto-saves anything at all, this is especially frustrating because there?s a lot of that going on. I double checked this with fellow Viva Pi?ata gurus, and some have the problem and some don?t.

The game progresses by gaining levels in your gardening skills, from what I heard that you can go all the way up to level 80, and then some!

On a side note?I have to share with you the most horrible death of a fellow Pi?ata. I got a local visit from a dude called Professor Pester (a.k.a The Pi?ata Mafia), and he whacked my $6800 Cinnamonkey, man was I ever pissed! I just thought I?d get that off my chest. Now back to the review...

The most surprising part about Viva Pi?ata is that once you've gained higher levels of experience, you keep them. Even if you start a new garden. Which means you carry over all you coins and all the items you've unlocked during the course of your previous gardens, so you don't have to start that all over again. Killer!

In game interface is simple, well thought out and very easy to navigate. Extremely intuitive, well done. Some people have complained about it being a little cluttered. But, everything can?t please everyone.

As I was writing this review, I ventured online to check out the local community. I found two very helpful sites. The first one is called,, this site catalogs everything Viva Pi?ata, game tips, the television show, even the MP3 of the theme song! The second one is the Viva Pinata Forums, here you can trade , talk to fellow gardeners. And the folks at both these place seem very cool.

Graphically, this game looks marvelous, it doesn?t have the dark realistic look that Gears of War pushes, but Viva Pi?ata pushes the 360 to a more ?bubblegum-ish? look, bright colors, simple shapes, again, not gears but great looking graphics non-the-less.

In the sound department, the theme song of the television show and game is !&%$@#* catchy! Overall, the in game ambient sounds are actually pretty good. I?m not a sound file by any means, but the sound really does a great job into making you believe that you have a living breathing garden full of Pi?atas.

The bottom line is, do not miss this gem in disguise in your Xbox 360 game collection. Get ready to be laughed at by your Gears of War jocks, but just remember you will have the last laugh when they start talking to you about The Tower of Sour! This is why Microsoft acquired Rare, because they have the ability to create rock solid creative titles like Viva Pi?ata.

Suggestions: For the love of god, please fix the auto-save, screen choppyness glitch. This is extremely annoying, because it does it way too much. Also, you've got a winner here, the possibility of making Live downloadable content, or an expansion pack or a sequel would be a great idea! On the Xbox Live front, the ability to show off your gardens to other gamers would also be a neat feature, so that other gardeners would be able to check out your layout.

On a final note. The way I look at it, Mexicans wack Pi?atas with an old broomstick handle, Americans wack'em with baseball bats, us canadians since we don't have much experience with these things, we'll just use a hockey stick of course!

Overall Score: 9.6 / 10 Xbox 360 Video Game System

Overall: This is a great piece of engineering marvel, the whole thing. I honestly have nothing bad to say about this thing. Xbox Live, enterface, controller, user-friendliness. Great job Microsoft!

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Gun

Back in 1997, Lucasarts came out with a title called ?Outlaws?, it gave us one of the first (from memory) old west action/adventure first person shooter on the PC! Unfortunately, there was some sort of dry spell for a few years with nothing of this genre in sight. Then , in 2002, Atari decides that they should bring it back, thus creating ?Dead Man?s Hand?, that showed us that the Unreal engine was not just for futuristic titles, it was released for our beloved Xbox and PC. Shortly thereafter, our ?problem child? Rockstar released ?Red Dead Revolver? soon after, which coined a matrix shooting-style for killing bad guys. These are all commercial products, but there were also a few free western style Unreal mods, released for the PC thereafter, free is good!

Anyways, enough with the history lessons...These types of games seem to have a few things in common, cowboys, prostitutes, gold digging, prostitutes, killing Indians, more prostitutes, oh, and a great story line. Although, the plots all seem to have the same sort of ?Hey, you killed someone I like, now you must die!? theme, they all seem to still draw us in anyways. I guess there?s a Clint Eastwood ?wanna-be? dying to come out of the closet in all of us after all.

Gun, what does that title mean? It doesn?t say very much actually. Well, it involves a weapon like most games. In this case it involves an old one. Have I sold you on this, yet? I didn?t think so. Keep reading.

GUN is a spaghetti western gone digital! And it tastes good! The game starts you off with a nice little hunting trip with your dad (so you think), where he trains you in the art of gun slinging! YAY! He takes you hunting for quail, wolf, elk, and then the wolves come back, etc?Oh and bear too. It?s harder than it looks boys and girls. Trust me. I never thought pulling out a gun at 600 mph could be this tough and fun at the same time. Then, all of a sudden the game takes a turn for the worse. All of which, ends your little hunting trip pretty quick.

The story consists of you playing a character named Colton White, and that your supposed father gets killed, and he tells you with his last breath to seek out this girl (prostitute) in Dodge City, and ask her about a coin he just gave you. Don?t worry; I?m not giving away any spoilers here. The game pushes you thru mission after mission, but the interesting part is that you have the option of taking to a wide variety of side mission in order to receive; you guessed it, gold/cash. The gold/cash (like most games) allows you to buy better crap like guns, ammo, etc?.

A few things in this game that I want to point out before I forget, the developers got the horse ridding thing down. It feels right. Going fast, going slow, turning, etc... It also holds true (not that I was there or anything) to the social lingo of that area, nobody was politically correct back then. So, if you are offended by racial comments and stuff, just remember, you are playing a historically accurate title here. The developers here were NOT trying to offend people like other publishers try to do.

The game has a pretty good free roaming world, which some titles of this genre seem to ?cheap-out? on. Don?t get me wrong here, you can?t ride off into the sunset or anything, it is a linear title, but they do a good job of making you believe it?s not.

While equipped with a bow during the course of the game it made me feel I was playing Turok or something, this is not a bad thing, but it was a weird feeling not seeing a dinosaur run by.

At this point of the review I did not have a chance complete the entire game (Due to all the XBA updates). But let me tell you that the graphics look pretty sweet at 720p High Definition; unfortunately, the character models are kind of low in the polygon department. I noticed every once and a while a bit of ?gun shaking?, or character seizures on the up-close cut-scenes, but this was not a show stopper. Overall, the cut-scenes could have been a bit better. The in-game graphics looked very nice though, it was hard to tell if they just ported over the models from the Xbox version or not. Trust me I was lookin?!

In the sound department, the in-game sounds were very polished. Although, the soundtrack was kept at low key, what I mean by this is that they really didn?t play up the spaghetti western flavor of music. It would have been nice to have a more western-ish whistling and guitar flavored variety of tunes in there. I think it would have helped the player (me) get more into mood for this game. But, again, overall this was not a show stopper, so it faired out.

Lastly, GUN is a really attractive Xbox 360 launch title; even though the game suggests that you are playing the role a ?son of a bitch? every once and a while. I highly recommend dropping your hard earned cash on this exceptional Activision & Neversoft title, if you are into this western-ish genre or like games with a good story. It?s for you.

Suggestions: My notes to the developers, I would have liked to have seen a multiplayer shoot out of some sort in the game, or a draw between two players, to see who the fastest one is. But, I think lag was the main reason these didn?t make it in, maybe next time. Enjoy!

Overall Score: 9.2 / 10 Jade Empire

My kung-fu is stronger than yours.

We all like martial arts movies right? I mean when at 2am we are flipping around the channels and you see a grainy movie with guys jumping around like maniacs kicking outlaws and bandits in the head we all stop right? What is it about those movies? The plot seems to be superficial but yet we can?t turn away. BioWare has obviously been staying up watching late night TV. With their previous successes they really had their choice of game. They could have made any game they wanted, and Jade Empire is the result.

Ok, I want to get something straight right off the bat. If you are looking for a replacement for Soul Caliber with non-stop action and fights, you are looking in the wrong place. This is first and foremost an RPG. There is a lot of conversation in this game as it is a story driven game. It is an ancient oriental universe that is brought to life in stunning colour and style. With scroll stands, and books scattered about the world with even more information on the world your character inhabits the world really does have the depth that a lot of RPGs lack. It is an incredible deep and well developed world. The fights are meant to further develop the story and advance the plot, not to show off that new demon transformation style you just picked up. Each conversation that you have with an important NPC is well written and you actually have intelligent, meaningful answers as opposed to the drivel that is normally prevalent in these ?choose your response? games. Each of these responses during combat will move your character along either the Open Palm, or Closed Fist paths. This isn?t quite the good and evil that you experienced in KOTOR, the answers that you are presented with aren?t as easily identified as being blatantly Open Palm or Closed Fist. Although I have not finished the game (yet) there are supposed to be three endings, one for each Open Palm and Closed Fist as well as an ending for a neutral character. Indecisive gamers of the world unite, finally an ending just for you. Your alignment will also affect what styles open up to you later in the game.

When you sit down to create your character you can pick from one of six templates, three male, three female. There isn?t any customization that you can do to the look of your character in here unfortunately but each of the six characters is very well animated and detailed. If you want to customize your character more you can get in and change each of your three stats, Body (gives you Health), Spirit (gives you Chi) and Mind (gives you focus). You can also choose the martial style that you start with as a new character. One of the pre-generated characters will do the job nicely though. Unlike other RPGs, it is more about how you choose to develop your character rather than how your characters is initially build that matters the most in the game. Health is just that, hit points. Lose those and the fight is over. Luckily you have a built in healing system, just hold down the white button and you will trade your Chi for health. No clunky potions or other items to collect. Chi is also used to generate more damage with your strikes with Chi Strike Mode and to power your Magic and Transformation styles. And finally Focus. Focus applies to your weapon styles. Each strike you make drains some of your focus, and once it is gone you have to switch back to your other basic styles to continue with the combat.

The fighting system is deceptively simple. There are only two attack buttons, regular and power attack. No joystick button combos like in most fighting games. The depth appears when you start linking together styles. To start with you get a martial style (your basic attack) and a support style. The support styles tend not to do much in the way of damage, but slow or hold your enemies instead of damaging them. Later magic, weapon and transformation styles all open up. With the limited experience that you gain as you level you never have enough experience to spread around to all your styles. I think there will be replay built into the fact that you can go about combat in so many different ways and spending your experience differently will completely alter how you go about your fights. Picture a fight with a boss and three minions. You open with your ice magic style, and freeze the boss to keep him down for a couple of seconds. Fire a couple regular shots at one of the minions to knock his health down a bit. Change to your staff weapon style. Fire a couple of hits on a minion again, then when they close in, hit all of them with your area of affect spin move and knock them down. Quickly switch to your regular martial attack, flip towards one of the downed minions and take him out as he is getting up. A couple more flips and take out a second minion. Switch to Shadow Thief, and while avoiding the boss, drop a couple hits (not doing any damage) on the remaining minion to recharge your chi, then drop him with a power attack from your martial style. Switch quickly to Heavenly Wave (a support style) and slow the boss with a flurry of blows. Now change to your Toad Demon style (where you actually change shape into a massive toad demon) and lay the smack down on the boss. I found that if you stick to one style through an entire fight it takes a much longer time to win (if you go at all) By switching from style to style the combat becomes dynamic and fluid. If you are having difficulty or too easy of a time in your fights you can change the difficuly of the game anytime during play as long as you are outside of combat. So if there is a single fight that you can?t seem to get past, you can lower the level, win the fight, then return to your adventures at the previous difficulty.

Luckily you won?t be in these fights alone. You will be able to have a large number of followers that you will encounter during your adventures. You will only be able to have a single follower with you at any time, but you will be able to switch freely between them at most times. Each of your followers will have different abilities and will have greatly different effects on your fights. You can have them take one of two tactics, Attack or Support. In attack mode the follower directly enters combat. Some of the enemies will focus on them and ignore you. In this mode they can be hurt and eventually lost from the fight. You can also put your follower on Support. In Support mode each character sits just outside of the area that you are fighting in and meditates. Your enemies completely ignore them and they can take no damage. The nice thing is that while meditating they will somehow increase your combat ability. Dawn Star, the first follower that you receive, when put on Support will greatly increase your Chi regeneration. This is very effective in combat, as you will always have some Chi to help with your healing. Other followers do things like give you health regeneration, or increase your damage in weapon mode. How you go about using your followers is up to you. I tended to leave them in support mode so I got to lay the smack down on the greatest number of bad guys.

The music in Jade Empire is well done. Orchestral music rises up at the appropriate times, and gives the game that movie feel. The in game sounds are straight out of those martial arts movies that we all know and love. As for voice acting there is a massive amount of dialog in this game. If a line is delivered by an NPC or follower it has voice acting to go along with it. And there is a TON of dialog in this game. It certainly is not the absolute highest quality of voice acting, sometimes giving a bit of a campy feel but doesn?t detract from the game at all. The ambient sounds are top notch, the water cascading off of the rocks or the whistle of wind through the trees.

Jade Empire is an RPG of the highest quality. Everything is done well from the tip of your top knot to the soles of your butt kicking shoes. Some people may be intimidated by the massive amount of reading and conversations that you come upon in this game, but serious RPGers will revel in it. With the different paths available with Closed First and Open Palm the replay ability on this game seems high. I would recommend anyone who enjoys a good RPG to run to the store and pick this game up.

Notes to developers: I would put a feedback screen somewhere in the menu system. Occasionally while merrily clicking on the buttons I would skip over a part of a conversation and there was nowhere I could go back and check out what I had actually said or heard. Also, some of the maps are a bit on the small side and sometimes it gave you the feeling that you were on a set of rails as opposed to freely exploring a massive environment.

Overall Score: 9.8 / 10 Star Trek: Shattered Universe

TDK Mediactive and Starsphere is the latest publisher/developer to release a game with Star Trek in the title. Most know that Star Trek games are either a hit or a miss, with more misses than hits. TDK Mediactive and Starsphere teamed up to make a Star Trek game based on an original series episode called ?Mirror, Mirror?. ?Mirror, Mirror? was the episode that the Federation was evil and the Klingons were the good guys.

Starsphere elaborated on this episode and did a ?what if?? with Captain Sulu and the Excelsior and Commander Chekov commanding the Enterprise, which I thought was decommissioned at the end of Star Trek VI, again this is a ?what if...?. Star Trek: Shattered Universe was born. Shattered Universe?s warp core breached on arrival with a substandard plot, poor gameplay, mediocre graphics, and humiliating voice acting from two Star Trek icons. Pass this game by, Trekkies may want to play it for the Trek aspect of it, but use the money to buy a DVD or better Star Trek game. Throw this one in the bad Trek game pile.

You are no name pilot under the command of Captain Sulu, voiced by George Takei. The Excelsior is called to the rescue of the Enterprise, commanded by Chekov and voiced by Walter Koenig, which is caught in a space anomaly. The rescue goes wrong and both the Enterprise and Excelsior are pushed to the other side of the anomaly. Suddenly you and Sulu are on the other size looking down the barrels of the Enterprise. Evil Chekov is out to destroy Sulu and the Excelsior. Sulu and crew are aware that things have changed around them when they went through the anomaly, but haven?t affected their memory. Not fazed by the Enterprise?s threats, Sulu commands you to defend the Excelsior in your fighter. This kind of reminds me of the old Star Wars X-Wing and Tie Fighter games, fighters defend capitol ships. Eventually you are victorious and fend off the Enterprises? attacks. Thus this begins the trek for Sulu to get his crew back to their normal universe, going from one tedious battle to another with pointless additional task to survive in the alternate universe.

Sulu sends you out on 19 missions to, for the most part, defend the Excelsior. You start out in a stock fighter brought over from the normal universe. As you go, you can get up to 25 different fighters ranging from stolen alternate universe fighters to Klingon and Romulan fighters. All fighters have the same basic weapons, phasers, bolt weapon which is a short phaser burst, and photon torpedoes. Phasers are going to be the only weapons you will probably use during small fighter combat since the targeting system isn?t advance enough to get a lock on your target. The only time you will use your photons is when you are attacking a capitol ship. Targeting systems are poor and you never lock on to a target with your weapons. Targeting certain systems of your enemies would make me feel like I?m actually trying to accomplish something instead of flying and shoot??.flying and shoot??take damage??.flying and shoot. Determining if your target is difficult because the HUD shows enemies targeted as a green ship with a revolving red halo, friendly targets, green ship with a green halo. The green ship in the targeting area shows the current state of the targets hull. The ?sensors? are of no help. Sensors only show ships and nothing else like planets or asteroids which can make battles difficult running in to objects you can?t see. Speaking of objects you can?t see, the ?sensor? map is very tiny, so it?s pretty much useless. Piloting your ship really feels like you aren?t going anywhere, even when you have an object in your sights you feel stationary and movements seem like you zoom in, zoom out. This makes the gameplay stale and you quickly lose interest in Shattered Universe. Thrusting around during battles is all the maneuvering you can do. It?s more green light, red light flying. Nothing you can do will make piloting these fighters interesting. It would be nice to have controls over all your systems, boost your shields, more power to the engines, something to break the mind numbing gameplay. Control over your allies would have made a big difference since you are not the only fighter Excelsior has. Having the ability to tell them to cover your !&%$@#* or attack this target would make a huge difference in this space sim.

The missions are not any better. You will have to defend the Excelsior the majority of the time. Endless squads of fighters, I mean ENDLESS. There are missions that will take 30 minutes or more to complete. The mindless AI doesn?t help too much. Fighters and Capitol ships will target either you or the Excelsior. Most of the time they will not come close to hitting you with their weapons, but there are time where they can?t miss and knock you silly. Usually that happens near the end of a mission or when your objective is coming close to completion. This can be really frustrating because you will go deep in to a mission and get destroyed by an AI that has been able to touch the whole mission. Fighters will just circle you in a programmed pattern, stop, turn around and fly right towards you and then do it again and again. The constant waves of fighters take away from any other objectives you may have. Battles become more of an irritation than anything, same thing over and over and over and over and over again.

Graphically, Shattered Universe looks great, till you start playing the game. Then you see the true beast behind the beauty. The CG cutscenes look more like claymations than CG. Cutscenes are supposed to help tell the story, but this makes you think, ?Gosh, that looks horrible?. Capitol ships look great till you start going in to battles. They look like stationary backgrounds in space and rarely move during combat. Battle damage is cool but not when other parts of the ship take damage that you aren?t even shooting at. Being able to target a part of the ship and blowing a hole through the bridge would have been an added benefit. Explosions are just a big bright light and nothing special, there is no debris left behind. But you will have to haul !&%$@#* away from the ship before it blows or your fighter will be destroyed. Your fighter can take a lot of damage, but it doesn?t show. Enemy fighters will start venting plasma at least, but even they don?t show any damage till they explode.

George Takei and Walter Koenig doing their own voice acting is the only high point of this game. Fans of Star Trek love these two guys; it?s a shame that they are involved with this title. Their performance in this game keeps me from taking a sledgehammer to the Shattered Universe DVD.

In battle sounds; phasers, shield hits, explosions are dull and eh. With all the Trek material out there to base a game on, you think sounds from the Trek shows or movies could be used in a game like this.

The soundtrack is Trek-like. During the CG, the soundtrack adds the Trek flair for a stick situation. In game battles, the sound track is muffled by the constant button mashing of your controller.

Suggestions: Starsphere needs to either watch the Trek series and movies, or catch a clue they are just like many other developers out there that failed to use the Star Trek genre to make a decent game. With all the material out there, how can in game stories be so bad? Take notes from the Star Wars X-Wing series if you want make a fighter based Star Trek game and mix it with the best Star Trek flight sim, Bridge Commander, and you might have a game worth playing.

Overall Score: 3.0 / 10 Soul Calibur 2

Before you say, ?It?s about friggin? time that posts their SC2 review up!? Let me explain why... First off, we didn?t want to give birth to a half-ass review of such a great game! Most (like ~75% of them) of the other gaming sites cranked out reviews in only a few days. I?ve even seen a few sites with theirs ready in only a few hours, and only covered the ?skin-deep? arcade modes of SC2. There was no way they could complete the entire ?Weapon Master? mode, even with an early preview build. Go Figure!

When it came to the Soul Calibur series, I considered myself a longtime fan. Whether it was at the arcade or the Dreamcast versions, this fighter had it all. Half a zillion killer moves, what more could a video game junkie ask for? It was just the best thing out there at the time! Fortunately, it still is!

Most people will have a tendency to compare SC2 to the other combat titles out on the market place. Like Dead or Alive 3 or one of the Virtua Fighter incarnations for example. I?ve played all three fighters; let me tell you that SC2 is by far the best one to date, bar none. And on top of that, I?m sure that 95% of my Xbox Addict colleagues will agree with me on this one; it delivers what most games fail to do, give the user a ?kick-ass? gaming experience.

As you read through my review, you?ll quickly discover that I got into this game hardcore style, and that is why boys and girls it took so long to pump out this SC2 review. I really wanted to write a thorough review of SC2, because it simply deserves it.

Overall, on the surface SC2 seems like your ordinary ?run of the mill? arcade fighter with not much to offer. Luckily, it?s not. If your friends didn?t like it, more that likely they?re not fighting fans, or you?ve been sadly misinformed. SC2 is a deep, complex fighting title for all three next-gen consoles, but in my opinion, it runs the absolute best on the Xbox console and has the coolest extra/unique character out there, Spawn.

Now for the game play, the real meat and potatoes of SC2 is the ?Weapon Master? mode. This is where you fight your way through over 60 missions with nothing but your brains and brawn, and sometimes even twice! It took me several hours (just ask my wife) to get myself up to a level 74 character (That?s a Silver Edge master to you kiddies out there). You?ll spend most of your time collecting gold through your various quests and missions, and if you?re really lucky you can purchase bigger and better weapons in the process. Weapons range from ones that regenerate your health, give you better ?Soul?.

Each of the 20 unique characters in SC2 has their own unique set of skills and weapons. From big ugly green ogres with huge axes (and asses) and chicks that are annoyingly crazy fast! But, once you?ve found that unique character that makes you look like you?ve been studying martial arts for 20+ years, then you ready to kick some ass! Most of you are probably wondering which one I ?specialized? (a.k.a. served you a can of whip ass) with, well, it was Kilik. He was the one that I was most comfortable with. All of the characters in SC2 are simply awesome. All you need to do is find the one that is just right for you. A couple of time I?d use the female version of Kilik, Seung Mina. And found that?.well?.one word?weak.

As I got towards the end of the ?Weapon Master? mode, I found myself with nothing left to purchase and the AI really had me swearing at the television a couple of (ok, quite a few) times. Meaning, it was getting harder, and the AI was kickin? my butt! In SC2, you won?t find yourself with the ?Rocky upper cut? cheat, and beat the game with one single move.

The eye candy in SC2 is what makes it stand out from all the other fighting titles out there; it?s not that it looks more realistic, or has more blood. In fact it has no blood, none. But, rather it boasts a special unique visual flavor to it. They honestly really didn?t leave out too many details out to dry in this sucker. Right down to the last facial animation sequence, which you can playback later on.

The motion capture in SC2 looks so !&%$@#* real; this is from a person like myself who has watched Kung Fu movies since I was knee high to a grass hopper. Don?t get me wrong here, 50% of the moves in SC2 totally over the top and are migrated from the last version of Soul Caliber. Don?t take my word for it, just watch the ?Exhibition Theater?, and watch those guys go! It really shows off the silky smooth motion capturing of this title. Awesome!

The only tiny problem I had in the visual department was the arenas. They didn?t seem have the feeling of being immense. Now, I realize that you must have constrained arenas in fighting titles or else you?ll have people running for their lives all the time. But, you can trick people into thinking that the fighting areas are huge, and on that avenue I think Dead or Alive 3 has succeeded in delivering this illusion.

The audio is what had the most trouble with. But, I won?t kill the overall score because of this. Not all of it was bad. The music was fantastic. The part that got on my nerves the most was Kilik?s line when he yells out??Sister, show me the way!??What the hell does that mean? Are we singing a Styx tune here? I?m sure the Japanese developers were rolling their eyes with this wacky translation job. I later discovered that you can turn on the Japanese voices in the game, which sounds more powerful. Thank god!
I have no idea what the hell they are saying (even with subtitles), but it just sounds better. They should do a better job hiring people to translate this stuff. Don?t get me started on bad Japanese translations!

The music and sound effects in SC2 were actually the best parts of the audio, the music was extremely well written, and is able to keep you in the mood (a fighting one) throughout the entire game, and I think that?s what it?s there for. Now, don?t get up and beat up your little bother, no matter how fun it is!

The sound bites were also on the right track! I couldn?t believe my ears when I heard Kilik?s cheat ?rip-off? bamboo staff weapon even made a different impact/contact sound! Great job guys!

Suggestions: Final words: If you are a fighting game lover of any kind, and you are finding yourself debating, or picking needlessly on your little brother?do yourself a favor a buy this title. It?s worth every penny.

Overall Score: 9.8 / 10 Midtown Madness 3

First off, I would like to let you all know that I personally consider myself somewhat of a Midtown Madness freak/expert, due to the fact that I?ve been playing and creating content this fabulous series since version one. The way I got so deeply involved with it was, that I slowly found myself wanting to build additional cars for the game. Next thing I knew, I was building a 1982 Delorean DMC-12 for both Midtown Madness 1 & 2 and spending countless hours figuring out 3D Studio MAX, and testing the car on and offline. Much to my chagrin, I slowly discovered the massive amount of cheaters that were out there, people hacking the car files to the point of not wanting to play online anymore. This is where hopefully the Xbox and Xbox Live has finally hepled to solve that annoying problem that we all faced in the past - Cheating.

This version of Midtown Madness has been developed by the famous Digital Illusions, makers of great titles such as Pinball Fantasies for the old Amiga and the more resent Rallisport Challenge. The previous installments of Midtown were developed by the talented guys over at Angel Studios, who were quickly snatched up by Rockstar games after the acclaimed Midnight Club. This version of the Midtown Madness series features a nice pile of brand new options, and Xbox Live baby! The two most noticeable features are that the graphics look incredible and a pile of new single player games to choose from. The career mode, this is where you should be able to unlock most, if not all of the cars in the game. MM3 lets you pick from over 30 cool vehicles such as a garbage truck, a taxi cab, a bus, a Austin mini and few others!

What?s truly remarkable is that Digital Illusions has done a wonderful job retaining the essence of the previous Midtown Madness titles. Although they are not the original developers of the previous two Midtowns' (PC only), they?ve still successfully managed to keep that unique and high-end ?over-the-top? unrealistic gameplay we?ve all come to love.

My overall impression of the game is that, even if you don?t have Xbox Live (where the game truly shines), you?ll still have a great time exploring the two huge cities and watch people jump out of the way while you cruise at high speeds on the sidewalks.

The controls are extremely easy; they use the same control scheme that most other Xbox driving titles have adopted. Let me make this clear. If you are looking for a car sim (a.k.a. APEX), you are looking at the wrong game. The physics system is so ?out there?, ?over-the-top?, unrealistic and exaggerated that it really let?s the uniqueness of the game really shine through.

The single player modes range from a variety of over 50 missions and 14 careers, from being a pizza delivery man, a limo driver and even a cop. This really forces you to love the crappy cars as you must shuffle through all of these in order to get those cool unlockables.

But where you're going to get the best bang for your buck (as stated above) is with the all mighty Xbox Live gaming modes. The classic ?Cops and Robbers? is back. For those of you who are new to the series and don?t know what it is, imagine capture the flag but with cars. Rabbit is a new mode, where you have to steal the rabbit (don?t ask) from the other guy, but when you're all playing with a super slow vehicle like the cement truck, it's pure slow fun!

The Xbox Live in-game voice ?trash-talking? feature in Midtown 3 is really cool in that it uses a type of positional audio. Meaning, that if you are clear across town, you won?t hear the others in the game yapping away until are about a few blocks away. Now that?s cool!

Also, just sit tight, because where the old series of the game really came alive is with all the add-ons! Back in the day, users created their own cars, and even whole cities! It's safe to say that in the very near future Microsoft/Digital Illusions will have downloadable new cars, and possibly some new courses for the checkpoint races, and maybe even a new city for Xbox Live subscribers.

The reason that I?m giving MM3 high marks on the replay value is that the city is full of hidden short-cuts and insane killer jumps that you?d never take in real life. This is why we play games kids!

Near perfect, is all I have to say about the graphics! Let me tell you that the Midtown Madness series has never looked better! This is the way this game was truly meant to look. They really seem to have pushed the Xbox to the maximum with this one though the game doesn't drop any frames at high speed or even while the screen is filled with cops and pedestrians. On a side note, if you look very carefully you?ll see the odd person walking on the sidewalk with an Xbox package in their hands, talk about details!

The sound is great, Dolby Digital 5.1 all the way! You hear people yelling at you in French, and people telling you ?turn your lights on?. And let?s not forget, the unique sound that your car makes smashing into trees at 60 miles per hour. OH! And popping the occasional fire hydrant.

The game does support in game soundtracks, and let me tell you this?there is nothing more beautiful than listening to Joe Satriani?s ?Surfing With The Alien? while blazing through the streets of Paris with your Mustang, now that just rocks!

Suggestions: I can?t really think of anything right now. Awesome work!

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis

After 10 years since the first Jurassic Park movie came out
someone finally stepped up to make a worthwhile game that actually brings a little pride to the title. Unlike back in the day when somebody decided to make a shameful Jurassic Park game for the shameful Sega console where the objective of the game was to literally slaughter dinosaurs to death. This
time around Konami has decided to add a much needed element; strategy.
Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis is a Sim game much like Sims Theme Park and Roller Coaster Tycoon. In Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis you must also create a theme park. Well look at the title (Jurassic Park), it is practically screaming for a game of this genre. Konami also decided to add missions in the game but the real addictive part is trying to maintain your park and not so much the missions.

Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis is very slow at the beginning just like any other Sim games. I had to use the in game step by step tutorial mode which is really well done. It'll teach you the essential elements that you need to start your theme park in a matter of minutes. Once you actually start a new park this is where it starts to get interesting. You just have so much to do at a time that you might want to keep a little note pad and a pen close by. First thing you have to do is get some of that cash flowing so you can start the formation of the new park. The process of getting the cash to start flowing is an involved one, with many interconnected threads, which can make the first few years of park operation a frustrating, tedious, and disappointing affair. In order to actually breed your first dinosaurs, fossil digs must be funded and ripe sites selected. The fossils are then shipped to labs, where the dino DNA is extracted, but several batches of fossils must be collected before enough viable DNA can be harvested to create your first attractions (50% to be exact). Once you're ready to begin production, the over grown reptiles must be provided with food, water, shelter among the underbrush, vaccinations against nasty dino epidemics, and a proper enclosure to keep them from killing amongst each other. But there are little tricks you must learn along the way to help manage you dinosaurs healthy life. For example, you can put several different kinds of trees but some trees can be hazardous to certain dinosaurs health.

Managing your dinosaurs is only half the battle you still have the park's human inhabitants to contend with. Most of the guests in your park are pretty fussy. Some of them like to see enormous T-rex's snack on little helpless cows and goats while others enjoy watching there favorite herbivores wonder around the plains so you have to keep everyone happy, therefore you must create several different types of dinos. There are 25 different species to pick from so it won't be that hard. While you have to keep you guest entertained they all expect to be kept well-fed, well-rested therefore you must answer there needs one again. You have to add of those rest rooms every now and then, and don't forget those restaurants and Chip stands. But don't forget, customers like to have everything nice and tidy therefore you will have to manage a staff to come clean stuff up once in a while. But with all this said there is a few restrictions in the game that I wish didn't exist for example you can only have a certain amount of dinosaurs in your park. But these limited restrictions don't really affect the gameplay that much. And let me tell ya, the replay value in this game will keep bringing you back for seconds. As if that is not enough there are still missions to undertake if you need a different challenge. They are a good distraction, but not too rewarding. I enjoyed more playing God in the main mode.

The Best part according to me in "Operation Genesis" is the
exquisite visuals throughout. Your eye candy will be tingling from the shear
depth of every little detail on every little element. The landscape is
dotted with all kinds of ambient plants. Water effects are well detailed.
And all the dinosaurs are just as impressive. A herd of dryosaurs skittering
across the plain chirping at one another, or a ceratosauras stalking her
prey, looks amazingly authentic. And larger dinosaurs bending trees as they
come marching by, this game has a particularly nice feel. All the dinosaurs
move fluidly, with elastic skin, colorful markings, and little blockiness.
If you didn't have to build a park, the game would still be worth the
purchase. The camera movement enables you to zoom in and out without losing quality. You are able to swing 360 degrees easily, which is smooth and
efficient. Also all the menus are nice and very easy to use.

Their roars, grunts, slurps, and growls are all very realistic as if
they had been recorded directly off one of these nightmares back in the
day..way back in the day. And I love the sound of when a tornado comes
roaring threw but the after math isn't pretty; lot's of cleaning up to do. Sometime character will talk to you, giving you hints, warnings, and instruction. The soundtrack is the best though. The game has 10 original John Williams's tracks from the movies including the very catchy theme song.
You've gotta' love it.

Suggestions: After playing this game, I don't think I will even think I'll
ever lay eyes on rollercoaster tycoon again even if it did just launch onto the Xbox not to long ago. I think I will stick with this game. Well I'm a bit mad at the creators; they are making me spend all my time playing when I should really be doing homework. Joke, great game, my hat is off to all of

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Kung Fu Chaos

This WILL BE/IS Microsoft?s butt-kickin? sleeper-hit for 2003! Microsoft and Just Add Monsters have truly outdone themselves!

The game is based on you being a (probably hungry) Hollywood actor in a cheap 70?s style kung-fu film, with beautiful graphics and superb sound Kung-Fu Chaos is what Fusion Frenzy should have been. Trust me, this game is a hoot to play! The rather annoying ?wanna-be, Hawaiian shirt wearing? film director will have you rolling on the floor in laughter. Invite all your friends over to play, because they are in for a massive treat! This party genre is relatively new overall, but KFC (not to be confused with Kentucky Fired Chicken) seems to have combined a spectacular overall package that will keep you coming back for more! Don?t be fooled, this game is also very addictive in single player mode.

The head-to head feature of KFC is hilarious! With eight players to choose from, (The ninja being my favorite) each character has their own set of moves and combos and the movie sets range from Titanic to many others.

To be honest I played this game at E3 and it was bad?but this final build of the game has left me breathless, it has really come together well.

Do yourself a favor until E3 2003 comes along, (in the flavor of the director)??You buy this game! NOW! But, you?re not as good as me!? Yahhhhaaa!

Now with scenes that are called??The Legend of the Drunken Bastards?, this really sets the mood and describes the humor perfectly that exists is in this game.

The gameplay is super fun and easy to jump right into. You pick up the controller and just play! (The manual can stay on the floor.) The fighting system is surprising very good, with its combos (which you learn along the way) and special moves. KFC hold a good pile of mini games keeps you coming back for more. As I said above, this awesome mini-game/fighting title is best playing with a pile of your buds. So, grab the phone and invite them over. Trust me! A play a few rounds of the featured team-play modes in the game. You?ll laugh your !&%$@#* off.

Each character has his or her own unique special array of moves, which really adds depth to the game. You go from one scene to the next trying to ?impress? the director (He is a LITTLE picky), if you do what he asks or come up with a fight scene that looks awesome he rewards you with stars (you?ll see when you get the game). Which in turn, will make or break the movie.

It?s really hard to nail down what game type this really is because it hosts mini-games, fighting scenes, and a few more fun filled aspects. So, I will not try to categorize it. It?s just plain fun, and that?s what a good video is all about.

The heart of this game and each character is based on how much you can humiliate the others on screen, if you hold the left trigger while fighting you will ?bitch talk? your opponents. Therefore, giving you stars, when you get three stars. Watch out! Pull the two triggers and watch your character launch his or her fists of fury! This comes in especially handy when there are a lot bad ninja on the screen running after you to kick your butt into next week. You?ll see.

I was able to unlock almost everything, but I only got a ?Sleeper-Hit? ranking overall?bah! Last level was still locked.

Overall the game rocks, and you WON?T be tossing your controller anytime soon.

This used the Xbox?s great graphical kung-fu powers, to really add a unique cheap movie feel to it. With movies sets with water, things look fantastic. This where you see the Just Add Monsters uses the Xbox?s graphic power to crank out a smooth looking game.

Not a single frame was dropped with this game while I played, given that there really was a lot of things happening on the screen.

Although the visual aren?t anything to get your jaw dropping, but they are quite nice, overall the visuals rock!

There?s not much to say?it has the song ?Kung-Fu Fighting? by Carl Douglas, and the very familiar sounds of cheap kung-fu movies from that era?oh ya, it?s the theme song from ?Enter the Dragon??but this game is not that bad, it?s just a mood setter.

Each character has a unique set of voice acting and fighting sounds and the voice acting in these games are getting better. Did I mention it was in 5.1 Dolby Surround? Oh well, it does is it all good!

Suggestions: Xbox Live level downloads, and multiplayer co-op mode would have been nice.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb

?We meet again Doctor Jones!? Indy made his first appearance in video games back in the Atari 2600 days (I think), but I?d rather not bring dark light on a superb new Indiana Jones game from Lucasarts! Gamers that have played Buffy: The Vampire Slayer will feel right at home with Indy (It uses the same engine). And superb is right, this game will grab you by the neck and take you on an adventure that you?ve always craved on the Xbox! Indy style! Things very different with this re-introduction of an Indy game to the public, and now on the Xbox (and PC)!

The Xbox has been hurting for a title of this genre since its very beginning, and IJ:ET has everything; graphics, the unique ?Indy? sound, awesome storyline and a very successful property license. IJ:ET encompasses everything that is cool about the movie trilogy?Indy?s whip, the hat, Harrison Ford?s voice?.the whip comes in handy in the most strangest places. But, hey?it works and it?s all good! IJ:ET basically put you (the gamer) right in Indy?s shoes!

Final word?.The Emperor?s Tomb is everything a killer Indiana Jones game should be, period.

The gameplay is smooth and silky. With awesome level design and the fact that they captured that unqiue Indiana Jones thing (whatever it is). I imagine wasn?t an easy task, but they (The Collective/Lucasarts) have pulled it off without a hitch. The combat system is well done, with its unique lock-on system makes kickin? butt a cake walk.

Now for the very small, but oversee able pet peeves, I sometimes had trouble getting the whip grapple onto the crocodile heads (You?ll see what I mean when you buy the game), and switching weapons really fast is not there. No game is 100% perfect; Indy comes awfully close to being one though. This is a near perfect game for the Xbox.

Can you say Xbox graphics?!?! WOW! This is a visually stunning game with its huge environments that are beautifully rendered. Two thumbs up. Everything moves fast and smooth on the screen, never saw a single frame hiccup. Not much else to say hear, but...

Overall the visuals are awesome! A-la Indiana Jones!

First off, let me talk about Indy?s voice. Most developers mess this right up; they tend to hire these cheap imitation voice actors.

But, I guess Lucasarts got someone that could talk just like Harrison Ford (great job!)?Mind you at the time of this review all I got was a early build and could check the credits to see it really was him, but it doesn?t matter because it sounds JUST LIKE Indiana Jones or rather Harrison Ford!

And, let?s not forget the musical score of John Williams (the genius) which really completes the overall sound package. Excellent Work!

Suggestions: Keep up the good work!

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance

For those of you who have already played MGS2: Sons of Liberty for the PS2, then you?re pretty much familiar with MGS2: Substance for the XBox. For those not familiar, this is an action/stealth game which plays out over two chapters. The first is the very short tanker chapter in which you assume the role of Solid Snake, the hero of past Metal Gear games, and currently a member of the activist group Philanthropy. Philanthropy?s goal here is to help raise the public?s awareness of the powerful Metal Gear weapons ? giant mechs capable of wreaking much havoc and destruction. In the second, much longer chapter, you take control of newbie special agent Raiden as he infiltrates ?Big Shell?, a huge cleanup plant where the President has been taken hostage by a group of terrorists.

This is a very cinematic game. Very often you will just be sitting back and watching conversations unfold between the characters of the game as they communicate through the ?codec?. Visually, all you see is a green tinted screen with talking heads. Other times you may be treated to much better cinematic cutscenes as the story unfolds. And it *is* a story, so the game is very linear. This isn?t to say that you don?t have any degree of freedom ? you are free to move from room to room, but you?re not really going to get all that much further plot-wise until you progress down the (one) correct path.

Now, for those of you wondering how MGS2: Substance compares to Splinter Cell, know that this really is a different style of game. Although you play as a special agent character in both, MGS2: Substance definitely sticks to the action side of things. For example, you can take quite a number of injuries before dying, especially at the lower difficulty levels. Also, the enemies? field of vision is really quite limited as is the distance they can see. Often times, you can be standing in what appears to be plain view right in front of them, but they are somehow oblivious to your presence. Even so, the gameplay itself is still really quite fun and varied. Stealth is definitely a big factor, and there are many wonderful ways in which you can avoid being detected as well as hide the unconscious (or dead) bodies of your enemies. Combat can take place from the usual 3rd person perspective view, or you can switch over to first person if you need to tweak the accuracy of your shot. Keep in mind, though, that you cannot move while in 1st person perspective ? this game obviously was not meant to be played as a frag-fest. One thing of particular note ? there are multiple difficulty levels. MGS2: Substance will cater to either the newbie player, or to the veteran ultra-elite assassins out there - very nice.

The real bonus for you Xbox owners out there is all the extra VR missions. During the actual game, Raiden refers to his VR training, and now we can see what those missions were actually like. Here, you go through many levels offering many different tactical situations using all the different types of weapons throughout the game. As you succeed in progressing through these levels, more will be opened up to you, as well as hidden characters. All these extra VR missions are perfect for a ?quick-fix? adrenaline rush when all you?re looking for is a bit of action and not so much plot and story. Also, your performance during these missions is rated, so there?s another reason to keep on playing ? try to better your rating and become the ultimate stealth/killing machine.

: The only real complaint that I have about the graphics is that there was no attempt at improving the visuals for the more powerful Xbox platform, which is a shame. However, what it?s already got is still pretty !&%$@#* fine. Even though this is a game which was originally released a year ago, it still manages to hold up very well by today?s standards. There?s some very nice detail in here ? for example, the rain and wind effects when you start the game off on the tanker are really quite breathtaking. The motion-capture animations, simply put, are excellent. The characters move with such fluidity that it?s easy to forget that you?re not watching live actors. Not to mention the fact that there are so many animations as well. There is a multitude of things that you can do to interact with the environment, and it all comes off looking extremely realistic. Then there are the cut scenes ? again, the animation is fantastic, and is often done in such a cinematic way as to make it look as if you were watch a feature film at times. One little thing though ? there is a motion-blur technique that seems to be used throughout all the cut scenes. I?m not sure whether Konami decided to do this originally on the PS2 because of hardware issues, or simply as artistic value. In any case, the effect got ported over to the Xbox version as well. It does tend to jump out at you - whether you like it or not is just a matter of taste.

Now here is where the game kicks some serious butt. First of all, there is an excellent and very fitting musical score which was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams. This is the same man who is responsible for writing music for such Hollywood films as Armageddon and The Rock. The music always fits the mood perfectly. It?s very subtle ? kind of a peripheral character as you sneak around quietly. As things pick up, though, and the action intensifies, so does it. It?s always adapting itself perfectly to the situation at hand. If anything contributes to the overall cinematic feel of the game, it?s definitely the musical score. The voice acting, too, is very well done. Although the overall plot itself may seem a little over-the-top and cheesy with all the twists and turns, the voice acting certainly carries it off very well. Since so much of your time in this game will be spent just listening to the story, it?s a good thing that the voice-acting is done so professionally. Let?s also not forget about the sound effects. Again, we have a top notch job here. From the sound of Snake?s footsteps as they splash the water on the deck of the tanker, to the weapon sounds ? everything is extremely well done, and those with Dolby Digital setups should especially be in for a treat.

Suggestions: Hmm, maybe a less convoluted plot next time? Geesh, my head?s still spinning! Otherwise, great job.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Phantom Crash

Tokyo has been abandoned and relocated. Air pollution and economic disaster have left it in ruins. What better way to make use of Old Tokyo than to have mechs (called scoobees here) battle it out for supremacy as a form of entertainment for the masses? In Phantom Crash, you take the role of a pilot of these hulking yet surprisingly quick and agile scoobees. Starting off with just enough cash to buy yourself one scoobee, you can start ?rumbling? in the arenas against the other pilots to win prize money and advance yourself in the ranks to become the top scoobee warrior of all time.

If you were to judge by the back cover, you?d probably assume that the game would be very dark and serious, but it actually takes a light-hearted approach in its anime style ?quest? mode. Most of the time when you enter a location, you are treated to some form of a social gathering with your scoobee friends. Actually, it?s more like you are forced to wade through a lot of irrelevant dialogue. Now, I certainly don?t mind being presented with small amounts of information every now and then in an action game of this type (and none of this is actually spoken ? it?s all just displayed as text). Just enough can provide a good sense of atmosphere especially with such a wide variety of characters. Too much, however, just starts to become irritating. Unless you?re completely hardcore about knowing all the intimate little details of everybody?s life, you?ll just wind up cycling through all the bits and pieces in order to carry on with the game.

Control defaults to a third person perspective, although you can switch it to first person if you desire. The left stick controls turning as well as backwards and forwards movement ? the right stick is used for pivoting the torso to aim. The right and left arm weapons are controlled by their respective triggers on the gamepad, and the shoulder mounted weapons are controlled by the ?Y? and ?B? buttons. ?A? is used for jumping, and ?X? for camouflage. This layout ends up working quite well ? the controls are pretty much what you?d expect and therefore end up being very intuitive.

If it?s a classic mech ?sim? that you?re hoping for then you?ll definitely want to be looking elsewhere - this game is about fast and furious action. For vehicles that weigh several tons, these scoobees certainly respond quickly. The pace is usually very frantic, and you?ll have to keep moving in order to stay alive. Once your mech has been destroyed, though, that?s it for the day. You get your prize money for your victories, and then have to pay for any repairs done to your own scoobee. Also, during a match you have the option to quit early while you?re ahead ? this will cut back on expenditures for repairs. If you return from battle with a profit, you can then use your winnings to upgrade the components on your scoobee, thereby becoming a greater threat in the arena.

Unfortunately, this all runs in a very cyclical manner. Too soon it becomes very monotonous and there is nothing much extra to really keep you coming back for more. If you truly enjoy the frantic action in the arenas, using tactics to stay alive as long as possible, then you will most likely get a lot of enjoyment out of this game. Many, however, will probably find that the overall flavour lacks spice.

: First of all, the graphics for the menu interface are pretty slick, both in their look and presentation. The images during the ?story? part of the game, however, leave quite a bit to be desired. The various characters that you meet throughout the game are composed of nothing more than a few low-res images ? each one is basically a different depiction of the mood the character is in. The CHIPs (little electronic programs which you can purchase to aid you during combat) aren?t even *that* much ? they are just one little picture of an animal. It would certainly have been nice to see some more animation put into these characters seeing as how you are forced to see an awful lot of them. If you are a fan of anime, though, you probably won?t mind the overall look. It has its charm, but it was rather lacking in detail.

The scoobees, on the other hand, have a good amount of detail put into them. There are nice little graphic touches here and there. If you fire off a missile, or quickly dodge to the side, you will see the little flames from the thrusters responding. The camouflage is the coolest effect of all, warping the view of the scoobee ? looking somewhat similar to the effect you see on a cloaking Romulan or Klingon ship on Star Trek.

I?d have to say that my biggest beef with this game aside from the excessive ?storyline? would be with the environments. First of all, there are only *four* arenas in which to play, and this includes the extremely mundane training arena. Second, they are really not all that impressive to look at. Design is not bad, and I have to give a thumbs-up to the AI in making good use of it. However, textures are very bland. There is just not enough detail to go around. Couple this with the overall monotonous nature of the gameplay, and it gets too boring too soon.

There are a good variety of sounds throughout the game. Each scoobee has its own beeps, missile alerts, and so on. The action can get so frantic at times, however, that it can often become difficult to discern the effects, and so they often don?t end up providing you with as much help as they could.

The music in Phantom Crash is rather impressive as it boasts many, many tracks that you can choose to listen to. Having a distinct Japanese anime flavour to them, there will be those who will love them, those that hate them, and those that just don?t care. However, there are just so many tunes to choose from, and they are often done so well, that it?s hard to imagine that you won?t find at least *something* enjoyable to listen to.

Suggestions: Many more environments, many more mech designs, and much less ?talk?. The story is too inconsequential to have this much dialogue. This could have been so much better if the amount of effort put into the music had also gone into the environments and scoobee variety.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Serious Sam

The way I see it is that everybody needs at least one game of this genre in their library for any particular system. And Serious Sam fits the bill perfectly. Sure, it?s a bit on the mindless side a lot of the time (its about monster-hunting after all), but as long as your library isn?t inundated with games in this genre everything is cool. And not only does the thing look amazing, it?s another great multiplayer game that you can play with some of your buds. Especially the cooperative mode; you?ll have you hands full with the thousands of monsters you find there, I promise. I found Croteam over-the-top approach to the first person shooter to be more appealing then anything else. One reason why this shoot?em up title is so fun, is that the character?s (Serious Sam?s) has an overly useful arsenal. The game has a great variety of weapons for you to equipped which brings a lot more intensity to the big brawls. There are only a few things I was disappointed in this game, and one of them was the replay value. It?s just not there. But I guess Croteam makes up for this when they decided to add several dozens of levels to play in and I had some difficulties going threw it on normal therefore the lack of replay value doesn?t really bother me that much. Rather than bore you by pretending Serious Sam has a story of any importance to the game I?ll summarize it as follows: Aliens attack, all hope is lost, you fight good. You get sent back in time to stop the Aliens in ancient Egypt. But don?t let this put you off, Serious Sam is all about that often forgotten concept in games nowadays, Gameplay.

Serious Sam is not a game that requires much of the observation skills, hearing or other such nonsense. Serious Sam is more a case of move from scene to scene killing everything that moves, for everything that moves in Serious Sam is quite certainly trying to kill you. Serious Sam features the seemingly generic cache of weapons that must be available in order for a game to quality as an FPS game. These generic weapons being the Pistol, Shotgun, Double Barrelled Shotgun, Machine Gun, Grenade Launcher, Rocket Launcher and Mini Gun. Other than these the game features some other semi-original for an FPS game weapons such as the Star Wars type Laser Cannon and a massive Cannonball firing... Cannon. Assuming you've played any other FPS game around the usefulness of each weapon will be fairly apparent, e.g. Shotguns are powerful up close, tend to lose accuracy over distance & take time to reload, while the Mini gun takes time to spin up, isn't too accurate over distance & is best used against large enemies, or a large group of enemy. Weapons must also be reloaded, depending on how many rounds it can hold, although some need no reloading, e.g. Laser Cannon & Mini gun. The only thing lacking with the guns is the secondary fire mode we've become accustomed too in games like Unreal Tournament. That said the game is more of an arcade style FPS game than one that needs the burden of learning key combinations or something to that effect. Overall the weapons aren't anything special, you've seen them all before in a 100 other games at least already. One of the reasons Serious Sam functions so well as a co-op game is its economic approach to map design. There are no intricate jumping sequences, no timed arcade challenges and no extended interactions with A.I. characters or the environment; rather, Croteam escorts people from one combat situation to the next, most of which occur in vast outdoor areas and large, open courts. The developers do include several switch-throwing and item gathering quests to give the proceedings a sense of structure and form. The best one comes late in the game as Sam gathers four pendants and places them on an altar while fighting a growing regiment of dogged alien s !&%$@#* . It comes at the end of an exhausting level and sets the stage for what is perhaps the most memorable boss encounter ever in a 3D action release that has to be seen to be believed. In fact, that sums up Croteam?s debut title as a whole.

Co-starring with Sam is a graphics engine that was programmed with a considerable amount of care and technical expertise. The engine is something of a minor miracle because it does the impossible -- renders high-resolution maps that are colossal in scope and then places dozens of enemies onscreen. The sense of scale is tremendous; launch a missile and its trail seems to fade into the distance forever before expiring in a pixel-sized explosion. However, there are compromises: The actual visual texture of Serious Sam is somewhat washed-out, with the buildings and landscapes being painted in drab sepia tones. The design and animation of the enemies are decent, but most of the creature models are less detailed than those in similar titles. Still, I do not see these trade-offs as negative, because each one allowed Croteam to create the relentless broad-scale action that?s the selling point of this product. Besides, the art design and lighting are top notch, even if the desert and ancient tomb motifs grow old, and the engine comes with a lot of visual bells and whistles, such as particle effects and environment mapping. Pentium II users with decent graphics acceleration should be able to run the game without so much as a hiccup, even when a dozen bulls are stampeding toward Sam while four bio-meets fire in missiles from the distance and three arachnoids sitting atop elevated columns equip their chainguns. This, all while explosions and debris and monster gibs ignite the screen in a spectacular manifestation of sci-fi violence.

Remember how important sound was to the Doom series? The snarling imps, the sonic punch of the shotgun and the high-pitched scream that accompanied each frag enhanced the character of those titles. Sure, good sound effects are still an important part of interactive entertainment, but current game audio is sometimes all soulless technique and zero spirit. Serious Sam returns to the basics; whether it?s the maniacal blaring of the headless soldiers or the deep rumbling that signals the arrival of a bull, the line-up of clear, recognizable sounds are crucial to Sam?s survival because the effects prompt him to start the appropriate defensive maneuvers. In addition, hearing the grinding gears of a regiment of bio-mechs when Sam?s health has dipped into the red zone instills a powerful sense of dread. However, the weapon and creature sounds should have been more robust, and the 3D audio is not that well-executed; a stampeding bull sounds the same whether it?s far off in the distance or staring into Sam?s open-mouthed scream. Since the action surrounds Sam, the audio should have been programmed to better indicate the bearing and location of moving objects. And the music is not so much of master pieces itself; it does not help inspire the gameplay very much.

Suggestions: Great job Croteam, this is a perfect over-the-top fps I?ve been looking for. But since I?m supposed to add suggestion I?ll due just that. It?s a very minor suggestion but maybe pay a bit more attention to the music and sound fx to add a bit more intensity to this title. But other than that great job guys?.uh and add chicks!

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

Now I don?t hand out perfect 5?s like it was candy, when we saw a private showing of Ubisoft?s Splinter Cell with my fellow staffers at the Microsoft booth at E3, our jaws dropped. Kevin, Chris and I immediately freaked, we said ?This game better not be just a pretty face! Otherwise it will be a huge letdown!? Well folks, it?s WASN?T. Although the game does have its small drawbacks (what game doesn?t), you can easily overlook them. Before I started writing this review I wanted to get pretty far in the game before telling you guys about it. I did complete the Abattoir level (that one was a doozy), and now I?m at the second part of the Chinese Embassy, the game has a nice steady climb of difficulty. This game will be a console seller this holiday season and you don?t need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. Tell your friends, ?If you own an Xbox, you SHOULD own two titles Halo and Splinter Cell?. NO question. If they ask questions, slap them on the head (lighly). Finally, if you see any bad reviews on this page, simply ignore them (trust your fellow xboxaddict staffers), because the only reason that someone would not enjoy this game either they have a huge complex of military practices or just plain stupid.

Now, the game for the most part the game is jam packed full of beautiful kodak moments, and it also has its ?Why the f*** did it do that for?? moments. The controls are very intuitive and I believe it was custom tailored for the Xbox controller. I None the less the game does have a few little pet peeves, on some levels, when you are crouched in front a crate sometimes (only sometimes) you can?t get back up. Weird. Anyways?the weapon switching system in the game has been really well planned out, when you are in the heat of battle?the game doesn?t fall short. I really can?t wait to see what Ubisoft has in store for us with the Xbox Live content. Aside from its very few quirks, Splinter Cell is a fantastic game bar none, and you don?t need to be a military expert to work these weapons or understand them. The big thing that puts SC at the top of my rankings is that you have the choice to complete mission as you please. If you want to go in and shoot all the enemies, you can or just ?tip-toe? your way thru the level you can. Bottom line is?if you run out of bullets you can still finish the mission, without having magical ammo boxes appear out of nowhere. Two thumbs up!

If Leonardo DaVinci were alive today this game would bring tears to his eyes! Splinter Cell simply IS the best looking game on the Xbox. This aspect of the game is what EVERYONE was talking about at E3, you don?t need to be a brainwashed PS2 or Gamecube user to see that Splinter Cell is the bomb. It makes extremely great use of the Unreal engine and Xbox hardware and the attention to every detail in SC is staggering. You use the dark as your friend, you can have an enemies walk right up to you (within reason) and he won?t even see you. The character animation is beautiful, I?m not sure if Ubisoft used motion capture or not, that split jump looks painful. Eeck. When you move Sam Fisher near a light source that?s moving, the cast shadow moves along with it. Those hi-tech military grade night vision and thermal goggles makes you feel important and stuff! Simple nice. Without being bias Splinter Cell is the best looking game on any console. Well-done guys!

The developers of SC have successfully set an excellent overall mood throughout the game. You have times when a soldiers get spooked a little bit, the music changes. When you are being ?Mr. Hero?; you get nice ?hero? music. The musical score in SC is your run of mill Tom Clancy orchestrated set of tunes. Nothing like listen like listening to patriotic music before you head off to save the day. It really sets things nicely. Just like the movies! Excellent work, loved it.

Suggestions: Besides having a near perfect game on your hands. If you guys are thinking porting this title to the other console, this will only sell more Xboxes. The only version I can see living up the sheer beauty of this game, is the Windows PC machine running fairly highend hardware.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Toejam and Earl 3: Mission To Earth

The main objective of ToeJam & Earl III is to retrieve the twelve albums of funk which have been stolen from the Funkopotamous (also known as Lamont). You take control of one of three alien characters ? ToeJam, Earl, or newcomer Latisha. Each one has their own particular advantages such as better speed, jumping ability, and so on. Utilizing the art of Funk-fu as your main weapon, you must travel through various hub worlds, each containing a number of levels. These levels are randomly generated and can probably be best described as ?islands? in the sky. Along your journey you will collect various items, such as power-ups in the form of presents, food for health, and musical notes for a special ?funky? attack. Ultimately, you must defeat the ?Anti-funk? lest the world suc !&%$@#* b to all that is not funky.

As far as style goes, this is one of those games that you will probably either love or hate. If you?re into bizarre, off-the-wall characters and environments, and like to put your brain on pause for awhile, then this game will probably suit you just fine.

You move your character around using the left analog stick, while the right stick controls camera movement and zooming. The characters jump/fly using A, use their Funk-fu with X, throw musical notes with Y, and bring up the presents menu for health and power-ups with B. Control of the characters is very tight, and the camera movement is also very well done. If the viewpoint isn?t quite to your liking, a flick of the right trigger will quickly reposition it behind your character ? quick and seamless.

The gist of the levels is pretty much the same throughout the game ? unlock and collect presents for special abilities and power-ups, convert the humans to the funky side by attacking with your funk-fu or by throwing musical notes at them, and escape through the elevator once everything else is done. During levels, you will often have to travel from one island to another. This can be accomplished by jumping (with spring shoes), flying (with the Icarus wings), or even teleporting. I do appreciate the fact that although there are no obvious boundaries at the edge of the islands, you don?t just automatically fall off them when you get too close. Rather, you are given time to save face and pull back while your hero flails about in an attempt to regain balance.

As to the actual art of Funk-fu, you will often come across certain enemies who have a higher ?belt level? than your character, and as such, won?t be affected by your inferior Funk-fu attacks. Thus, you will have to rely on throwing musical notes at them to convert them instead. Of course, the catch here is that the musical notes must be collected throughout the levels and are in a limited supply. The two different methods both seemed to work well, and I never really found myself lacking musical notes when I needed them. The more humans you manage to convert, the more points or experience you receive, and once you reach a certain amount, you then become eligible to advance your Funk-fu belt level by speaking with a wise man.

If this all sounds relatively uncomplicated, that?s because it is. As I?ve stated above, you definitely won?t need your thinking caps for this one, boys and girls. This is for those of you who are looking for a fun(ky), mindless romp ? and not much else.

The graphics are a hit and miss. On the one side, we have wonderfully colourful and detailed worlds to explore. However, the draw distance is rather limited, and seeing as how much of the game plays out through travelling from island to island, this certainly gets irritating after awhile. Animations of the main characters are wonderfully fluid. The enemies, however, don?t seem quite as well done by comparison. There just doesn?t seem to be quite enough detail put into them. On the one hand, I suppose that their simplistic design, and the hyperactive way in which they move about fits the quirky mood of the game, but on the other hand, smoother animations and more detail is almost always a better thing, no? It?s not as if the Xbox is incapable of pulling this off, either.

Something that I didn?t particularly enjoy was the FMV sequences of the three heroes dancing to rap music during a lot of the loading segments. The designers probably intended this to be some form of entertainment to hold our attention while the game loads the next section, but I found it to be more obtrusive than anything. I realize that many of you out there probably could not even care less, but I enjoy continuity. If I see Earl jump into an elevator to take him back to a grassy knoll, then don?t suddenly pop up with a video of all three of them suddenly together bustin? some moves downtown for seven seconds. Stick with the program, people!

One would assume that a game which places such extreme importance on funk, funkiness, funkification, or not being swayed to the dark side of the funk, would certainly make an attempt to utilize that particular style of music well throughout. While the tunes that play during the course of the levels have a certain degree of funkiness to them, they certainly don?t stand out as anything spectacular. It?s very disappointing that there is actually no licensed funk music to be heard especially considering how many times they throw the word around in this game.

The Gospel Choir is not a bad touch. Each time you enter a new level, these three ladies sing a little tune about it ? giving you a bit of an idea of what to expect ahead. The quality of the singing is excellent, and although it?s done in FMV, it?s much more fitting than the out of place FMV dance sessions.

The heroes and other characters will spout off various one-liners throughout the game. While they are mildly entertaining at first, they quickly become repetitive, and consequently, annoying. It seems that every single time you come in contact with another character, a comment is made. I would have preferred that the chances of a comment being made were significantly less. The sound effects throughout are pretty standard fare. As I?m writing this, I can?t even recall one effect that stood out ? not the best of signs.

Suggestions: Ditch the FMV loading screens. Also, the game?s style is all over the map ? if it?s supposed to be all about funk then use it!

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller

Most people will say that gaming isn't exactly a contact sport, but I can tell you from experience that, if you get too carried away, your body will pay the price. Be it from a lack of sleep, leaning into a big turn in your favourite racer and falling out of your chair, getting in a fist fight over the last free controller, or refusing to stop in the middle of a 4/4 tie in a best of 5 match of Halo for the violent thunderstorm outside your bedroom window, there's more than one way to put the hurt on yourself via video gaming. I've experienced all of the above at least once, but my personal favourite and perhaps the most common video gaming injury, would have to be a malady induced by severe button-bashing, the blister. Ah yes, chronic gamer's thumb. Before Crazy Taxi 3, I can't remember the last time I played a game 'till my thumbs hurt. After Crazy Taxi 3, however, I was hard-pressed to ever recall a time where my entire hand hurt. Moreover, I am quite certain I can't recall a time where I was in that much pain and decided that just "one more game" couldn't make things any worse... And the thing is, severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and a touch of Gamer's Arthritis aside, I couldn't have called this one any clearer from a gameplay standpoint if I had a crystal ball. Crazy Taxi 3 was born for your Xbox, and if you have one ounce of gaming appreciation in your bodies, you'll skip the rest of this rant and go directly to your nearest retailer and pick it up. On the other hand, if you're a sceptic who's had the misfortune of being influenced by various reports that would be so naive as to label the game "simple" and "repetitive," allow me a few quick moments to open up your mind to the gaming brilliance that is Crazy Taxi 3. Choose you driver, hop in your convertible cab and hit the road. Engine roaring; tear through the hills of fictitious cities while dodging traffic, cable cars, people and time. Power slide through turns, jump off cliffs and out of parking garages, and test the limits of your reflexes to become the ultimate Crazy Cabbie. Oh yes, this game will try the limits of both you nerve and gaming ability. Put simply, Crazy taxi is quite possibly the most deceptively complex title I have ever played from a gameplay standpoint. As you progress through the game's ratings scale by picking up and delivering passengers as quickly as possible, you will slowly but surely realize that there is much, much more to the game than delivering your fare from point A to B.

Sega's Crazy Taxi was a runaway hit when it premiered on the Dreamcast so many years ago, and in my opinion It?s still going strong especially on the all mighty Xbox. The control scheme in CT has managed to create an innovative system not unlike the best console fighters in that it is both demanding and dynamic enough to make every single gaming experience one that will both challenge and reward you in ways that will quickly remind you why video games are so much fun. Some of the crazy moves you can bust out on the street are pretty innovative themselves such as the crazy dash, crazy hop, crazy drift. In the main menu you have the choice of picking out of a few modes. The normal mode will allow you to take to the streets of one of the three cities ( West Coast, Small Apple and Glitter Oasis) and pick up and safely deliver fares while busting crazy maneuvers will give you more crazy money. A time limit is the biggest nemesis -- it constantly counts down and the primary way to extend it is to successfully drop off patrons, so the speedier the driving the better the outcome. But there is also different modes you can start a shift with a certain fix amount of time. There is also a Crazy X mode were you can find plenty of mini-games for example there is bowling, baseball, football just to name a few. Each mini-games will help you to execute your crazy tricks to a greater degree. Also the more mini-games you complete you will unlock some special feature some of which are very helpful. It's all very familiar to the old Crazy Taxi owners.

Sparks fly, phone booths crumble, pedestrians dive out of the way, cars flip. You'll see it all in Crazy Taxi and thanks to the game's amazing visuals, all will want to see it, as well. I can't recall the last time a game has drawn in this many on-lookers, much less the last time this many non-gamers simply had to put down their work and give it a go. Everyone from Accounting to the fun-deprived Power Students had a sit-down with this game, and the mass of addicts often exceeded 10 or more eager gamers. If you're looking for a show-pony for your Xbox, this is an unquestionably good choice. More importantly, if you're looking for a game that packs an almost infinite supply of replay ability, Crazy Taxi knows how to deliver. Though many were concerned that an arcade title such as this would have trouble when making the transition to the big green Xbox , Taxi comes through in a major way. As I said earlier, the mini-games are awesome. The fact that you have to be one hell of a driver to get to the top of the "money list" on either course will easily keep you busy for a good 30-40 hours. Not to mention that beating your records in CT is the most competitive single-player experience ever. It's just the type of game you can set down for a few days and instantly come back and be as into it as you were the first time you got that S-license. Aside from the spotless control and awesome visuals, the presentation in Crazy Taxi is quite cool. The level design is absolutely spectacular, all three maps will floor you with their level of detail and ingenuity.

The soundtrack has managed to make its way home from the arcades intact, and nothing seems more fitting than the tunes of The Offspring while you're practicing a little road rage. The sound is also top notch, with a bunch of voice samples. Though with this type of game, you'll hear a lot of the same stuff, the samples don't get old easily and I?m still hearing new ones. My favorites right now are the priest who tells you "you're one hell of a driver" and the valley girl who says you're "hella fast. Cracks me up! Passengers will comment on your skills, and if you're too out of control, they will whine and complain. It is pretty funny, and certainly helps to keep you focused. Overall, the audio package is one of the best for an arcade driving game I've ever seen.

Suggestions: I can't stress enough how addictive this game is. For such a simple concept, we're shocked that after 20 hours plus I still can't get enough. My hat goes off to the Sega team.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon

The legendary kung fu master is none other than Bruce Lee, and is back and he?s alive! Really? No, not really. But, he's alive in the virtual world called the Xbox, and someone sadly has pissed him off. So, now he?s on a mission to avenge his father?s death! Sounds incredibly typical? Well, this one?s on the fence?it is and it isn?t. First, let me explain. The overall story has it?s moments but for the most part it?s very good.

His father gets killed by people that had nothing else to do on that particular day, blah, blah?.you get mad, and you beat the bad guys until they disappear into digital nothingness. But, on the other hand, underneath the ?typical? storyline, there?s a very unique approach to a fighting game, you travel your way thru levels and collect tokens to ?buy? yourself more skilled moves. This part really seemed to me a little too ?arcade-ish?, and they could have done this part a little different. This game is an adventure game, thus hardly having the arcade appeal some of you may be looking for.

I honestly had high hopes for this game. I saw Dead or Alive 3, and thought to myself, ?Man, if the Bruce Lee game looks and plays as good this, I?m there!? Sadly, I was left a little disappointed.

Overall, Bruce Lee: The Quest of the Dragon is worth checking out for any true fan of this legendary martial artist. But, if you are looking for Bruce in a Dead or Alive 3 context?sorry, you are looking in the wrong place.

The innovative multi ?bad guy? combat mode in the game really helps, it allows to fight multiple opponents at a time. In games in general multi-opponent combat systems have always fallen short due to the fact that your character would have to rotate 360 degrees to fight and that would be hard to pull off. And you?d always end up getting your $@# kicked.

Bruce Lee?s developers really tried with this system to bring a different light to your ?typical? fighting game, by adding average storyline and beautiful graphics. Most fighting games have a one-on-one fighting system, which has proven to be very effective, but when more people jump in the picture and start attacking your butt, things get shaky no matter what fighting game you are playing. And unfortunately Bruce Lee: The Quest of the Dragon falls into this trap, but not in a terrible way.

I found myself mostly button slapping, there wasn?t much technique here. And the other ?bad guys? stood around and watched when you and another guy are fighting. Weird.

The game was surprisingly challenging even though it was a ?button slapper?, but I couldn?t hit those things fast enough. Thus, the gameplay is good, but repetitive.

Can you say ?Holy Xbox Graphics!!!?, the graphics will leave you without a doubt breathless, now don?t get off your seat just yet. They are not ?Hunter caliber? graphics, nor on the same level as Halo, but they are very nice! But, I?m not sure if all this hoopla will make you run out and buy this title. Animations are very nice, and look extremely realistic. Overall, the graphics rock!

Hayyyyaaaaa !!!!! The sound rendered in full lush Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, not every game on the Xbox boasts this killer sound combo. You hear everything, the cry of Bruce, the environments. Also, the music is quite good, with a cool little Bruce Lee rap track to keep you in the mood. Overall, well done!

Suggestions: More like the one-on-one fighting games.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Fifa World Cup 2002

FIFA World Cup Soccer is in its own right, a very solid game. While not completely flawless, this is a game that can be enjoyed by a ?true futbol? fan at any level. Upon starting, you will find that the game is limited to just two playable modes. Understand however, that the difference between the game modes in this year?s version and years past is not laziness on EA?s part, instead it simply provides the player the opportunity to become much more involved with just the 2002 World Cup- The central event, and focus of the game. These two available modes are: ?Friendly? and of course, the ?World Cup Tournament.? In a friendly match, the user is allowed to choose his/her team, the opponent, the stadium, and of course the standard time of day settings. Unfortunately though, World Cup Soccer doesn?t offer a selectable weather option; which is really too bad- those snow-bound and torrential downpour matches in earlier versions were always fantastic fun. In the tournament mode, the user chooses a team from a qualifying selection of 32 teams from across the world (plus eight or so other selectable teams that just barely missed this year?s WC cut) who are then seeded into eight different groups. Each of these teams then competes against the others in its group in an effort to earn as many points as possible to advance through the next several rounds, and eventually into the World Cup Final. The overall presentation of this title is both smooth and easy to navigate. Cool bonus features include a few videos featuring John Motsen and others, a number of extra ?All-Star? teams that can be unlocked for use in friendly matches, and also a video segment that covers the creation of this game. One area however that I was not especially pleased with, was the occasional ?buggy? computer AI. Something that occurred a bit more frequently than I would like to have seen is computer controlled players running in the opposite direction of a ball passed straight to them, and yes sometimes (though rarely) this included the keeper as well- Overall though, I have to rate this title very highly, despite its lack of options and the few quirks in the gameplay and AI. I suppose if I had to sum up my experience with FIFA World Cup Soccer in one word, I?d have to offer an emphatic: "GGOOOAAA

The gameplay is what really sets this disc apart from so many other Soccer titles spanning across numerous platforms. I have personally been a fan of this series for (going on) two World Cups now (the other being Road to the World Cup: France ?98), and as with every other new version in this series, FIFA World Cup continues to make improvements with regard to its playability and control. The game allows you to select between four difficulty settings, which include beginner, amateur, professional and world class. The first two are almost entirely indistinguishable from one another, while the third and forth settings become exponentially more challenging. If you?re going to get serious about playing this game, I recommend spending as little time as possible on the easiest setting and move directly into amateur, just to feel out some strategies. Or if you want, you can just delve straight into the mid difficulty in preparation for the World Class level? A place where you?ll think twice about lacing up without your shin-guards. The most notable change in the overall in-game action is the use of the cross, or centering pass. In past versions, it was commonplace to take your fastest wing, boost him up the side of the field until he reached the pitch between the outside line of the goal box and the sideline, and then mash the cross button. Typically, this maneuver would yield a solid entry lob to a waiting Roberto Carlos, who would blast the ball through the net with a spectacular diving header or bicycle kick on 7 out of 10 tries. Well, all that has changed now, and in my opinion- for the better. Gone are the days of double digit scoring, and subsequently many of the ?arcade? aspects are out of here as well. While crosses can still be preformed, they are now left much more to the user to execute- the player is now wholly responsible for not just kicking the cross, but putting either right or left spin on it as well. Other enhanced gameplay features include adjusting the power of a shot or pass, a feature that is determined by how long the respective button is pressed. Basically the emphasis in this year?s version focuses much more on groundplay than on airplay; which effectively makes it much more realistic. Another really cool new element offered in this year?s version is the ?Star Player? feature- As we all know, virtually every team in every sport has a superstar player, or players- These are your crunch time guys that can do things better than everyone else, and get it done in clutch fashion. In this game, a ?Star Player? will (appropriately enough) have a star icon over his head as opposed to the arrow that ?Normal? players have. When you get the ball to this player, a streak will flash behind him or the ball depending on what his enhanced ability is; for example, if he is an all-world passer, there will be a white streak behind the ball, and it will also travel more crisply, and accurately to its intended target. Really knowing your team and its players? abilities will really help you out greatly over the course of the game. Again though, be warned before engaging in the hardest difficulty setting without having mastered the new control scheme! While the control differences are not altogether mind-numbingly different, they will take some getting used to, even for fans of past games in this series like myself.

The graphics in this game look very nice. The character models all look proportional and real, and some of them strike an alarming resemblance to their real life counterparts. The stadiums (modeled after the real Korean/Japanese stadiums that will be used in the real World Cup) look absolutely fantastic. The crowds are lively, and as always, they come equipped with their native flags? Yes, even the Hooligans are there to represent. There are two places however, where I feel that the visual presentation of this game could be improved, this is in: 1) The Framerate, and 2) In the faces of the players during certain animation sequences. The framerate, while generally solid, can get a little herky-jerky during long airborne passes that cover large distances across the field. While this doesn?t directly affect the gameplay itself, it does become an annoyance that could have been eliminated with just a little more tweaking during development. It doesn?t occur often at all, and more than anything, this is just me picking apart an otherwise outstanding Soccer disc. With regard to the players? faces, they do (during some post-goal celebrations) tend to look a little less than human (mouths especially). Also, the collision detection could be better- The players tend to pass right through one another during certain celebrations as well. Again though, I must note that none of these shortcomings really has much of an impact on the way the game is played. Because this is an officially licensed FIFA product, all of the names, teams and jerseys are there, and to that end- in fine fashion. Overall, the animation looks great, and the visuals as a whole give you a feeling like you?re actually sitting there in front of the ol? Trinitron, watching the US get swept out of the first round? Again.

Terrific! All around, this is definitely one of the brightest points for an already bright game. The commentary provided by John Motsen and Andy Gray is quite similar to other year?s versions in this series. I?m not writing this to suggest that it?s bad at all- in fact, just to stress how good it?s been all along. Motsen keeps the on-the-field action sounding good, while Gray provides his own unique brand of color commentary- especially when it comes to a player embarrassing himself one way or another. Another fantastic feature of the audio is the crowd noise; cheering, whistles, boos, and team-specific chants all make the enormous stadium audiences seem that much more real. Even the players on the field get into it; you?ll occasionally hear the banter between a few of them, using their native tongue (or something close to it) to express varying emotions and excitement about in-game situations. The musical interludes within the game also seem very appropriate. These range from the very serious dramatic sounds of an ESPN Classic highlight reel symphony, to more of the upbeat, energetic tunes we?ve grown so accustomed to hearing in this series. The drawbacks in the sound department are few, but as in most sports games, the commentary can occasionally grow a bit stale and repetitive, especially under certain situations in the game. Aside from the repetition in commentary, EA offers us a very nice sounding game that really brings to life what it?s like to be on a field before 30,000 onlookers- but as they say, ?It?s in the game!?

Suggestions: Fix up both the framerate, as well as the computer AI. Adjust the faces on some of the players as well. I understand the lack of options in the World Cup version, but next time, please, please, please, add more match types! This could well be one of the greatest Futbol titles of all time, had there been country-specific leagues or even the ability to qualify for the tournament. A season or training mode would have really pushed this game over the top. One thing that I really missed from the N64 version was to create crowd and drum noises after a goal? I know it seems hokey, but is there anything more rewarding than pounding your buddy through the pitch, and then hammering on a drum just to let him know ya won 4-0? Anyways, as others have already mentioned, a create-a-player feature would have been nice, especially considering that personal customization has been a large part of this franchise since the N64 days. I know that this final request is a bit of a stretch, but another cool feature to include would be the Dynamic Player Performance model used in Microsoft?s NFL Fever 2002 and the upcoming NBA Inside Drive 2003. Soccer is largely based on hot streaks by certain players- Representing such a thing from game to game would really do this beloved sport right. All-in-all though, you?ve got a fantastic title here. FIFA World Cup is a great simulation that any Soccer Loving, X-Box owning fan should take a look at. Keep up the great work!

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding

Snowboarding. It?s what I live for. Every time I see the snow beginning to fall in November I get a little fuzzy feeling in my stomach. And no it?s not because of what I just ate or who or the fact that I tend to get hairballs. It?s because I know that from that date on and until the end of March, every spare moment of my time (that?s not used up drinking or making an !&%$@#* out of myself) is dedicated to Snowboarding. So I?m here today to give you a review on the Xbox?s first Snowboarding game Amped. And ya I know it was a launch title and this is what April and everything, but hey give me a break I was Snowboarding not playing videogames for the past five months. So anyways onto the game.

Well Amped is quite different from a lot of Snowboarding games. It?s more realistic then arcady but it does have its outrages moments. I guess you can?t really say if this is a sim or and arcade Snowboarding game. So I?ll just call it a pretty freaking good Snowboarding game. The main objective to Amped is to cruise around the gigantic slopes (which it has many) and bust some tricks weather for yourself, your friends, your foes, or the media. It?s all about building up a good rep in Amped. By doing so your skills will increase, you?ll be able to ride on more mountains (5 in total but each have tons of lifts), you?ll get free gear from sponsors. And hey even pretty pictures and videos of your riding will be displayed on various magazines and videos. Neato! Well now that I told you the concept of the game lets get into the game itself. The game acts really weird on you sometimes. In terms of control it can either be really anal or really forgiving. It?s almost like the game is hung over at times and becomes violently moody on you. But like any other violent relationship, you?ll learn to love it. The controls while kind of like Tony?s also have a little SSX Tricky to them to. You tweak using the trigger button, use the analog stick and three buttons to do grabs and you use the other button to grind. Sound a little weird? That?s because it is. The game took me a good half-an hour to get used to and I was still face planting all the time. Which brings me to another down turn in this game. The learning curve is just plain non-existent. It?s not a curve it?s a cliff. This game toke me at least a good two hours to get decent at and I still wasn?t that great. Time and patience is the essence for this game, but if you have both of them trust me they?ll soon pay off. So now all you have to do to actually enjoy this game to it?s fullest is to take a lot of time and breaths while playing it at first and make sure you don?t throw your controller through the screen. Once you get these two factors down however, the game becomes almost second nature. You?ll beadle to carve beautifully, bust out wicked tricks and ride everything like nothing. There?s a lot to do in this game and should last well into the next Amped (if there is one).

All I gotta say about the sound is dag!! 150 tracks are cramped into this puppy. And that?s not including the fact that you can use you own MP3?s in the game. There is an excellent selection of tracks in this game. With 150 of them there?s gotta be something for everyone. I was very impressed with their emo selection. They?ve got to such greats as The Anniversary, The Get Up Kids, and Yellowcard all on one game. Heck I thought I was one of the only people to ever hear and enjoy these guys and now I find them in a videogame. Whodya thunk it? Well besides the music selection the sound effects are also done pretty well. Soft and hard landings sound as they should. Riding various objects such as branches and rails all sound distinct from one another. And hey there are even some good shouts of pain coming from the falling boarders. Oh and I almost forgot, there are some really funny voice samples in here. When I first started playing the game and was falling everywhere, I heard from a distance another boarder yell ?Hey! Why don?t you take up skiing!? and boy did I almost pie my pants. Anyways, Amped does what Microsoft has been promoting. They actually did a good job on the sound department. I guess all these separate processors in the Xbox are being put to good use after all.

Well this game sure is purrty. Boarder animations while a little on the stiff side move and swivel in a very believable fashion. It?s just cool seeing your boarder?s torso twist when you?re performing a 50-50 grind. Boarders are well detailed and every article of clothing right down to the stitching looks like its real life counterpart. It?s almost sickening the amount of customization you can do in this game. There are even tons of great Snowboard labels to equip your boarder with. Brands like Nixon, Dragon, Sessions, and Volcom are all here for your Snowboarding pleasure. There is also a big list of pro-riders in the game who all look pretty close to their real life duplicates. You can plays as great such as Jeremy Jones, Mikey Leblanc, Jason Brown, and Bobby Meeks. But on to the most beautiful part of Amped. The mountains are literally breathtaking. There is no draw distance in this game what so ever. You can be at the top of the mountain and beable see the bottom if you look hard enough. And that?s not saying that the hills are small. No they are massive. You can go almost everywhere. Through freshly groomed pipes and slopes to the powder filled backcountry Amped has got it all. Each and every mountain is detailed pretty much right down to every flake of snow. It?s almost brings a tear to your eye. Just gorgeous!

Suggestions: Fix the learning curve!! The controls can be a bit more precise and more forgiving and better laid out. Throw in a few more tricks. Add good multiplayer modes to the next game, not that HORSE style game that?s in this one. Online would be a dream come true! Besides these things amazing job! Microsoft impresses me more and more with every release. That is as long as they don?t release another Fuzion Frenzy, but that?s beside the point.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Spy Hunter

Now, if you are my age (31), you have fond memories of playing Spy Hunter at your local arcade or on your "adored" Commodore 64. Retro games seem to be making a huge come back these days, on various platforms with remakes of Ghosts and Goblins/Maximo (Capcom), Defender (Midway), Gauntlet (Midway), or brining back the entire Pac-Man (Namco) family, it's all good. For whatever reasons that the general public wants these "classics" back, none the less they hold a very special place in all our gaming hearts! Now for starters, I'm a huge James Bond fan, and having only this title to give me the only spy sensation on my Xbox...I'm there with bells on! Overall the game is well put together, especially the music and Midway has decided to put together one extra special touch the Xbox version that the other "ports" don't have...the classic arcade 2D version of the game for you to enjoy and love all over again, without all the cigarette burns on the arcade unit.

You'll need to fully complete the game in order to unlock the classic version of Spy Hunter or simply type in ?OGSPY? to unlock it. Talk about taking a walk down memory lane.

The small things that dent the overall rating of this title are as follows: One, you must complete all the objectives per mission in one shot. This makes it really hard to clear off all the levels, thus making you stuck on the first few levels. You have to repeat the level/mission all over if you've messed up one objective, it doesn't add them on as you complete them. This sucks. Second, the levels are too linear. You can't wander off by accident, thus making you a perfect spy. Ya right!?!?! I'm a BIG fan of the Spy Hunter franchise, and if you are a spy fan of any kind. I would highly recommend adding this title to your Xbox collection.

Now, Spy Hunter moves along very quickly on the screen, it almost has the same speed sensation, polished look and feel as Rallisport Challenge. Aside it's small pitfalls; Spy Hunter is a true blast to play. The controls are very easy to use, but I don't know how many times I've accidentally engaged the turbo system by pressing the "X" button twice, this was very upsetting because when you look at Spy Hunter in it's basic form, it's a driving game...they could have thrown the turbo on the black or white button or one of the triggers. Very bad.

This control scheme is different than the other racing/driving titles. I would have liked to have seen the gas on the right trigger and the brakes on the left. The physics in the game aren't too bad considering the vehicle travels from land the water. The car turns into a boat, then a motorcycle, very nice! The car hosts all the toys, oil slick, machine guns, it's got it all!

The gameplay overall needs work, but it's nothing you can't live with. But, some things need to be fixed on the next version.

Now as much as hate to say it, this is 95% a PS2 port. But, Midway was very clever in giving Xbox owners a little more. But, this tid bit of goodness will only appeal to an older audience. Because they've included the classic arcade version of Spy Hunter. Yes, the classic arcade 2D top scrolled version of Spy Hunter is only available exclusively to Xbox owners. But, unfortunately this wears thin fairly quickly, giving the game (the new one) an average overall graphical appeal. But, we should all be grateful that third-party publishers are bring games to the Xbox. If it weren't for them, the Xbox would be much less than it is. In our forums, I constantly see people talking about leaving the ports off the Xbox, but what they don't realise is that third-party publishers' support is very important to the future of the Xbox. Now, back to the game...The in game animation sequences are a little on the "low budget" side. Why? Because when you see animation in games like Silent Hill 2 or even Dark Summit it leaves you to wonder...what happened?

Now the graphics on the Xbox version of Spy Hunter are good (yes, even though it's a port). Whatever the PS2 can crank out, the Xbox does it better by at least 50-80%? Bar none. Making thing look that much better on the screen. Overall, use some of the Xbox's special graphical features, please. It still looks good.

Unfortunately, the game doesn?t host Dolby Digital sound. This is what I meant by taking advantage of the Xbox. Beside the superior sound quality not being there, the sounds in this game it sweet, extremely well done. It captures the spy sound (whatever that is), and makes you ready for action, with a taste of mystery along with it. It also has a remixed version of ?Peter Gunn? by Saliva, which the music video is also included on the game disc (you have to unlock that too). Once again, Midway has put together a nice package.

Suggestions: Larger area would be a very good addition to this game. The courses are in my opinion laid out for you. You can't wander off a street in the middle of the city. You are always magically kept on track.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Knockout Kings 2002

Well, EA Sports has beaten the other publisher out of the gate, with the Xbox?s first boxing title. Is it good? Hell ya!

Knockout Kings 2002 is the kind of game that really helps you get though those days when someone has thrown you over the edge. Besides, its therapeutical features, KOK 2002 features such celebrities as the great Mohammad Ali (One tough cookie), Trinidad, De La Hoya, Holyfield and Lennox Lewis just to name a few. I?m seriously not the kind of person to watch professional boxing on television, nor on Pay-per-view, but I really enjoyed this game! My brother and I had a blast beating the crap out of each other. Which speaks highly for the multiplayer aspect of the game.

I found it funny to watch you and the other player charging each other, and start (without delay) pounding the crap out of each other! And watching the other boxer fall in slow motion to the ground?.too funny.

As for single player, I proceeded to create myself a ?custom? boxer and see how far I?d get. Much to my surprise, it was not easy to beat the boxers, in order to reach the top. I also found that the game was true to life, that your boxer is retired automatically, if he sucks. When you win fight, you are awarded points to ?boost? your boxers traits, thus you have to make sure that you distribute your points to speed, power and other boxer traits evenly.

The only thing I can find annoying with KOK 2002 is the frequent loading times. It seems to loading almost after everything. They need to fix that.

Overall, despite the loading times?Knockout Kings 2002 is a boxing game I can truly recommend to anyone that likes this genre of game. I truly enjoyed Knockout Kings 2002!

The controls on Knockout Kings 2002 for the Xbox are very responsive! And the controls are in the EA Sports, EA Big tradition, when the game loads you are displayed with a complete chart of the controls. Let me tell you, you?ll start pounding in no time, and look like an expert right out of the gate! Left trigger is to block, and the right trigger is to do a upper-cut combo, and the other buttons are for your punches. The black button also allows you to your boxers ?special? move, which is usually a move of death. The white button is the button that if you abuse it too much, you?ll get booed off the ring! It a ?low-blow? move, I will not into details, but you very well imagine what it means.

You even have the ability to ?taunt? the other boxing, which can upset you opponent, and maybe get under their skin. From what I?m told boxing is a head game, not a game of strength (which I?m sure doesn?t hurt to have).
Overall the controls are super-easy to jump into and the gameplay is quite fun!

Now, right off the bat you can tell it?s a PS2 port, but none the less it lives up the Xbox?s standards of good graphics. The boxer?s skin even shines in sweat, and you?ll even catch your boxer throwing a little sweat when you get a blow to the ?old-melon?.

The attention to detail is quite remarkable in this game. They got it down to loosing your mouthpiece when you get a punch in the mouth, ouch! And, you actually see it flying out of you or the other boxing?s mouth. Overall the graphics are not 100% up to Xbox standards, but none the less they are quite acceptable.

Now the sound is a mixed bag. The sound effects are as realistic as we all know about boxing, which in my case is not very much. But, the if you have a Dolby Digital set up in your living room, you will hear the sub-woofer box kick in when you get a few shots to the head. The game does support true Dolby Digital right out of the box! Woohoo!

As for the music, well, I?m not a rap lover, nor I don?t hate it. But it seems out of context in this game, maybe it?s just me. I was really hoping a more ?Rocky-like? soundtrack. But, during game play you forget about all of that. You don?t hear the rap over and over. Overall the sound is fantastic (Dolby Digital), and the music is ok.

Suggestions: Online playablity, and less loading time on the Xbox version. Other than that keep up the good work!

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams

First off, let me tell you that this is a game that will ACTUALLY give you the creeps. Period. Now, maybe it?s just me, but when I saw the very first boss in the apartment complex, and what it did to that poor dead body. Eeccck! Silent Hill 2 is the first game (that I have seen) to have an excellent deep storyline and have the abilities to scare the pants off ya. This game is not all picture perfect glory with, its laughable voice overdubs. None the less, it still manages to pull you in with its captivating story for more and more of that pure zombie killin? goodness.

On the darker side of the game, the controls did leave me upset from time to time, but it still managed to be an excellent game overall. Now bare in mind, that I had never played the pervious instalments of Silent Hill. But, this sequel (new to me) gives you enough back-story to bring you right up to speed. Otherwise, I would have been totally lost. The game hosts huge levels, almost everything in the game is intractable, and the characters in the game each have their own little personality. Which from time to time get you all paranoid wondering if their going to jump ya! All of which make this game a fantastic package and XBA recommendation. Silent Hill 2 is not for the Halo, nor the DOA3 player. It is a game for that special person that likes to sit down and absorb a game, and totally emerge himself into the deep ?creepy? storyline. This game delivers that perfectly.

One thing I must point out for Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams is not for a younger audience (13 years old and younger) and it is rated ?M? for mature. This puppy is creepy and dark! Bravo!

The gameplay is easy to jump into, with lots of running around, zombies to extinguish and watching a ?movie-like? cut-scenes give this game its overall lasting appeal. As I said before, thank goodness, you can change your controls settings to a 2D or 3D orientation; otherwise, this game would have gotten a much lower score. The puzzles in the game are relatively hard, yet sometimes super simple. This is not a bad thing, because it gives a sense of accomplishment.

Also, something I had trouble with object collision. The game would behave a little on the weird side when I?d get too close to objects.

WOW! Did these guys use the Xbox or what ?!?! Hell ya! The game paint fantastic visuals all over the screen. The way the one little flashlight is all you have in the dark apartments, creates the proper mood to leave you with shivers up and down your spine. The lighting effects are extremely beautiful (Ya right?in a horror game), when the character (James) has a simple little flashlight attached to his coat, which only lights up each room with a tiny spotlight. Very nice. I found the fog to be a little too ?pea soup? thick at times, but when you are running around in the small town of Silent Hill, the fog makes you see things. Weird. But, it?s all good and part of the horror theme of the game!

Ahhh,?.Konami came through on this guys, Dolby Digital audio, what more can up hard-core Xbox lovers ask for ? The sound is the game is what brings this game to the next level, when you hear footsteps, people screaming and the wind blowing (Ok, call me a woos). All these elements give the give its overall ?creepy-ness? feeling to it, that the developers tried to achieve. Fantastic job boys!

Suggestions: Fix the controls system and object collisions.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 TransWorld Surf

Now, I stepped into this game thinking is was a Tony Hawk Pro Skater game on water, well, it?s not. Not that it makes this a bad thing?(Here it comes) But, this genre of game in my opinion, you have to be able to just jump right in. In this one you can?t, the game suffers from a weird control system, which I will explain later in the review and the trick are really hard to pull off. See, in games of this genre, Tony Hawk, SSX, Dave Mirra you can just pick up the controller and go! With Transworld Surf you need the manual nice and close in order to get all ?rad? and stuff.

Looking past its shortcomings, Transworld Surf looks fantastic, I sometimes load up the game just to show people what the Xbox can do, real looking water! This game is a borderline simulation, bar none. It needs more of an SSX ?over-the-top? gameplay to appeal to more people.

To pull tricks off in this game is hard, too hard in fact. I couldn?t pull off tricks in this game to save my life! And had no troubles with games like Mirra, SSX Tricky and Tony Hawk?a tutorial would have been needed here?step-by-step like SSX Tricky, a simple tutorial to make me a surfin? dude would have rocked, but unfortunately I struggle to pull of a simple board grab. Also, in the other games, you swear that I actually do these things on real like (not really) which in turn makes you feel like you actually progressing in the game. The control scheme in Transworld Surf, is extremely weird. The nine different locations in the game really add to the overall lasting appeal of the game. In a nutshell, Transworld Surf doesn?t appeal to a board range of people, so be careful.

The visuals and sound are where this game shines the most. The water looks real. Best water award (if there was such a thing). The surfers are a little too reflective, all the time for that ?out of the water? look. But, despite this games controls short comings, the graphics are simple breath taking. Angel Studios generates some of the most amazing looking games in the world, and their graphic department is world class. They took full advantage of the bump mapping capabilities of the Xbox. Bravo, on the graphics guy!

Now, the icing on the cake on this title is that it supports customs Soundtracks! This is a major point scorer in our books here at Angel Studios used the Xbox?s power to its fullest, the graphics and now the sound. The music selection that is included in Transworld Surf has been hand picked to suit various music loves, but like stated above, if you don?t like it, you can change it. Bands included in Transworld Surf are Missing 23rd, Bueno, No Motiv, Fhonic just to name a few.

The attention to detail on the ambient sound, like the sounds of the wave crashing, and the seagulls squawking their little brains out, give you the sensation that of those flying sh** houses is gonna, well, you know. Overall sounds are excellent.

Suggestions: If you make another version of this title, add a tutorial. A step-by-step matrix stop motion-like explanation of the controls and show people on how to actually pull off tricks, might actually make this game super fun. And, put this game over the top like SSX Tricky, make the character do crazy sh**! This is what makes SSX Tricky very fun.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 ESPN NFL Primetime 2002

With the NFL Season being over and me losing 20 bucks on the Super Bowl, I have been in great denial for the past two weeks with no football to watch at all. Sure there was the Pro Bowl this past Saturday, but that?s not football?that?s just a half-assed excuse for a bunch of ?all-stars? to have a free trip to Hawaii. Anyways so you could expect how primed (cheap pun) I was to get my hand on ESPN NFL Primetime. A few minuets after I began to play the game (as the Giants) I swear my controller took more of a beating then my defensive line was. After witnessing my offensive plays being executed in the worst ways and not gaining a yard after four tries, my defensive line took to the field. And they were just as stupid as my offensive line. I was playing against the Titans and boy a clash of the Giants/Titans (what ever you want to call it) this was not. In Madden 2002 I can take anyone to school, but in this game I was the schoolboy. My teams AI executed every play I tried like a monkey was controlling them. A stupid monkey! I could not stop the receivers for the life of me. Every play was a first down for my opponents but for stupid reasons. But I sucked it up and put quite a few hours of play into this game for you people so I could write this review. So you better enjoy it because I went through hell for you people!! On to the review.

I didn?t think that there was a development house who was worse at making football games then 989 Sports but Konami, congratulations!! You take the cake!! And what a disgusting cake it is. Anyway let me tell you way this game is so horrible. Let?s see where to start. Well first off you can?t break a tackle. If you get in close range to any defender no matter his size, consider yourself down. This problem also prevents you from attempting to run through any holes in the defensive line because if you come in within a yard of defender your down. This alone brings the gameplay down significantly because breaking through the defense either by running through holes or shacking off a defender is half the fun of football in the first place. There are four gameplay modes in Primetime; you can choose an exhibition game, a tournament, franchise mode, or practice. There is no season mode separate from franchise mode, which is a big downer in my opinion. It would be great if you could just go through a regular season without worrying about the financial or coaching aspect of the game, but that is not the case here. The running and passing game in Primetime in also another problem. There have been times where the game just decided to run my team?s play by itself without letting me control what was going on and it didn?t even pull the play off successful. But when the game does let me control my plays it doesn?t handle that well either. The control seems to ignore me sometimes and not command my player to run when I?m pushing forth on the analog stick. And this is the single biggest flaw in Primetime; the control is severally flawed. Doesn?t this developer realize that control is the basis for any good game? I mean especially for a football game when your QB is being rushed by two defenders you have to be able to be in control at all times. I must however give this game its dues when it comes to the franchise mode itself, which was done very well. You are given the total control over trades, moves, and free agent pickups from the draft to the post season. But there is a very weird flaw in this game that allows you to trade a quarter back of say Drew Bledsoe?s stature with a quarterback of Darnell Dinkins stature. There is also a nice create-a-play feature, which allows you to give routes to all of your players, which gives you endless possibilities as far as plays go. There is also this cool game feature where it lets you create your team?s game plan and create successful game strategies for the year. You can even determine how long each of your players stay on the field in the preseason, which affects how they play later on in the full season. Now these three features are all great additions to the game and I know that for the past few sentences it sounds like I?ve been warming up to this game a little, but I can assure you cool modes aside, this game is better left to be a coaster!

I must say that this game does look better then it plays?but no by much. Player?s faces are distinguishable but blocky and stretched. Their bodies are deformed and don?t even come close to matching their real life counterparts. The animations are stiff and the players move most of the times in a slightly robotic manner, which can be quite humorous at times. Another sever flaw in Primetime?s animation department is that when the ball is thrown if it is any where remotely near the receiver hands it will magically appear there even if was seven feet away from him. All of the NFL?s current team?s are present, with all uniforms, stadiums, and cheerleaders. But they seem to lack the same detail that can be seen in better football games such as Madden. Another weird part of this game is that all of coaches look the same, which really takes you out of the NFL atmosphere.

Prime Time features commentary from ESPN broadcasters Tom Jackson and Chris Berman. The commentary was actually executed quite well with tremendous depth in the knowledge department. Tom Jackson will tell you pretty much everything that you need to know about every major player that is on the field and Chris Berman does some excellent play-by-play job that it sounds like it was taken directly from an ESPN broadcast. The sound effects on the other hand are a bit to be desired. Besides the odd grunt or smack sound there hardly any sound effects in here. And seeing how the Xbox has superior sound capabilities to any other system, sound effects are something a developer should do a half-assed job on.

Suggestions: : For God?s sake fix the control, the collision detection, smooth out the animation, add some sound effects, add a season mode, re-haul the graphics engine, and redo the player AI. Keep up the good work on the franchise, create-a-play, and game plan mode though. Bottom line: Fix the gameplay itself before you try to add any cool new features!!

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Mad Dash Racing

Eidos and Crystal Dynamics have delivered a very exciting Xbox launch title. This game supports one to four players of pure racing action, thus making a very good ?party? game. What I mean by a ?party? game is that although it has a single player option, this game comes alive when you hook up four controllers and race against three other of your good close friends. You race with the choice of up to nine characters, which all have their own strengths and weaknesses, and they all race in some really big and beautiful environments. But, unfortunately the single player mode is not quite there. The idea of the game is really good but this title should have been released when Microsoft?s online solution goes online it would have gotten more shelf life that way. Luckily, the game will keep you coming back for more in the long run, Eidos has teamed up with the controller companies Thrustmaster and Mad Catz that have on the memory unit a saved game that unlocks a special character to this game, which I think makes the game last a little longer than most. Overall, it?s a great first Xbox attempt by Eidos and Crystal Dynamics.

Like I said before, this is a really fun game! But you need another or a few human beings to play with you. The controls are sometimes very easy to get used to, and other times you can?t seem to pull off. Like the Rail Grind, and Zip Line?.I always had trouble doing these manoeuvres. But, you don?t NEED these to get the most fun out of this game and besides most people can just jump right into the action, without really needing to refer to the manual every time they need to pull something off.

The graphics of Mad Dash are excellent, the worlds are big, and the frame rate is consistent. The more people you play, the slower the frame rate. This also happens when you play games like this and Halo. There is always something moving on the screen, tumbling rocks, lava, water, monsters trying to stop you?all kinds. Overall the graphics are nice, but could be a bit better.

Dolby Digital Sound what more can a guy ask for? For those of you that don?t have this setup, you are truly missing out on the Xbox?s true powers! The environments are full of different sounds, and you can hear it all. Let?s just hope all their Xbox titles are Dolby Digital. The soundtrack is also another great feature of this game, with band like Fatboy Slim, Propellerheads, The Crystal Method and few others?.this I like! Real games, real bands!

Suggestions: More variety in the characters, online or LAN racing in the next version would be nice. Keep the big bands coming.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Arctic Thunder

I really think that Midway staff members come from ?The Great White North?, why? Because they seem to make the best arcade-like titles from us winter folk, the previous Xbox title NHL Hitz 20-02 and now this one, Arctic Thunder. This game is a high-speed snowmobile combat game. Period. It doesn?t have a deep story, like in a stretched-o
lled soap opera. Now, at first glance you might say, ?What? Snowmobiles and rockets???Where I live, there are snowmobiles EVERYWHERE; it?s big business here, thus, making this game fit right in! The game has 19 sleds to choose from (which you have to unlock), and enough levels to keep you coming back for more. The first thing that hit me about this game was the way they make that snowmobile go REALLY fast, when you pick up the super boost power-ups (The green arrows). The controller starts vibrating, things on the screen get blurry, WOW! This was the first game that really gave me the speed sensation. Arctic Thunder is definitely an extremely fun title, and if you like snowmobiles and loved the Mad Max/Road Warrior movies. Then this game will make an excellent addition to your Xbox collection. Trust me.

When you get your friends over with four controllers?this game ?walks the walk, and talks the talk??EVERYBODY has fun, and that?s important in a good game. It?s hard enough to make the game fun for one person, but for 4 that?s a little harder, this game delivers. Its controls are very nice, and easy to get used to. There is no funky button pressing here. You pick up power ups at extremely high speeds, that go faster, or shield you snow machine, or grab another player with a big hook, pure fun here boys and girls! The menu system is very easy to get around; this probably comes from Midway experience at the arcade. But, unfortunately the game has it?s minor flaws. One is, the levels are a little hard to unlock (thank god for cheat codes). Second, you can slam into a wall at 150 miles per hour, and the guy is still on his machine. The controls are very easy and responsive, which is very important for a high speed game like this.

Now for the visuals?this game is a straight port from another platform, graphically. It?s not Xbox native. I?ve never seen the arcade version, but these visuals are not up to Xbox standards. Nothing wrong with that, but they could have thrown in some of the Xbox?s special graphical features, like bump mapping for the snow. NHL Hitz 20-02 looked a lot nicer in my opinion. You won?t say, ?Wow, Arctic Thunder has super graphics?, nor will you say ?They are horrible?, but they are just not using the Xbox?s fullest potential. The Xbox CAN do more a lot more! I imagine Midway?s got great looking Xbox titles brewing up for us in the near future that will remedy this. Overall the graphics are average.

The sound has a very obvious, but great arcade sound to it, which I think make this title what it is, an arcade snowmobile combat title. There is unfortunately no Dolby Digital 5.1 surround on this title; it would certainly be a nice feature to add in future versions. Think about it, passing another rider, while going really fast on the green power-ups in surround. The snowmobile sound itself is ok, not perfect but simply ok. But, when you are like me, and hear snowmobiles all day zipping by your house, you know what these machines sound like, thus becoming more picky. Overall the sounds are a tad below average.

Suggestions: I can?t say this enough, online, online and online would make this game sweet! Midway hasn?t let us down in the past, I know they are gonna crank out killer Xbox titles in the near future.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Max Payne

Now I?ve played the PC version, and the Xbox version is cleaner, smoother, and better looking. Bar none. Besides having a weird save game feature on the Xbox version, Max Payne should be added to your game collection if you like games like Halo and Munch?s Oddysee (yes, I said Munch?s, for it?s story-like gaming experience). For those of you that are new to this title, be warned, it is NOT for kids?take my word for it. The story of Max Payne is very appealing and mysterious, which in my opinion makes a good game. But, if you?ve played it on the PC before you?ll get bored fast.

The story in Max Payne is your typical ?Hey, someone killed my wife, now they must die? type story. This is all good, but the complete game sucks you right in and keeps that little Xbox controller in your hands right until the end. It's a near perfect title.

The interaction with EVERYTHING in the game makes Max Payne a fantastic title. You can open taps on sinks, open lockers, buy something from a vending machine and much, much more. The developers have thought of everything, you could even turn the TV on and off! The controls on one hand are nice, but take a little getting used to. I?m a ?mouse/computer first-person shoot?em up? type of guy, so doing all of this with the Xbox controller took some heavy practice, but it?s not that bad.

The one thing that really got to me was something that had nothing to do with the game itself, but with saving your game while you are playing. It is not like the PC, it only allows you to save to the Xbox?s hard disk, and you only get to save about four games. In addition, there are no options to save to a memory unit.

The ?Bullet Time? feature in this game, is as most of the reviews below state, is straight out of ?The Matrix?, it comes awfully handy when a room full of thugs need to die and you only have a Beretta. (-:

The other pet peeve I had with Max Payne was the ?Gone Crazy? part of the game, where Max has to walk on this white line and get out the craziness environment. I kept falling off the edge, with the Xbox controller this part was a pain because the character doesn?t go in a straight line very well. But again, this minor glitch can be overlooked as it doesn?t damage the game?s fun ness.

The graphics look pretty much the same as on a PC with a GeForce 256 card and a 800Mhz Intel machine. They are extremely smooth, and this puppy only dropped a frame or two during a movie animation?but not during gameplay. The storyboard/comic book style was very interesting to see in a game, it would clearly outline what was going on.

Overall, I was very impressed with the graphics.

The sound is better than most games on the Xbox, the detailed sounds of the environment, the guns, the people, the music; and it is all put together in one nice package. The wife crying, and the baby crying, all these different sound set the mood perfectly for the game. Overall, the sound rocks and it won?t let you down. Especially, in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

Suggestions: Fix the game saving section. Other than that a sequel will be most invited.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Airforce Delta Storm

If you enjoy beautiful high-flying jet action with an arcade twist, then Airforce Delta Storm is the game for you. I extremely enjoyed this game despite its few flaws and weird qwirks. Thus, be warned that this title is not a flight simulator; it is a 100% pure arcade jet fighter game! The one feature that stood out for me was the wide range of planes you can choose from, this is quite remarkable, over 70 of them and there are four (4) missions to wet your appetite. You will either love this game of hate it. I personally like (stand in the middle) it 50-50.

A very interesting aspect of Airforce Delta Storm was the fact that they don?t glorify the jet plane crashes, this is a little weird and shocking at first, but I find that this unique feature to the game is very inviting. Honestly, we do not need to see a plane crash. In addition, it is an easy way to get out of rendering/creating a crash sequence?LOL

Overall I really enjoyed Airforce Delta Storm and worth your money. It might be a renter, if you are not sure. But honestly, it?s a huge pile of fun!

The gameplay is good, but I can see this title getting slammed for not being closer to a simulator. This is not an entirely bad thing, but there is unfortunately not much depth in Airforce Delta Storm. It?s a pure arcader shoot?em up, and that?s what Konami is good at delivering.

You start things off in the briefing section, where you are briefed on your missions, should you choose to accept it. Shortly after you?ll be presented with a small world map, from there you complete various missions, to allow you to move up to the next one. This part is very clear and easy to get around, very nice. Then comes to good stuff, the full 3D, a-la Xbox combat screen, this at first will leave you in awe!

The air combat is fast a furious. However, I find that some missions a little on the short side.

When you are done shooting down your enemies, you get to watch an instant replay of the battle you have just finished, this feature get old very quickly. I always wanted to exit the instant replays; it drove me crazy after a while. I could not find a way to turn this off, unfortunately. They should add this.

The controls are a little limiting, meaning that there is no real afterburner power-up. Well, there is a sort of afterburner feature, but not in the arcade-exaggerated way. This would certainly add to the fun factor of this game, maybe in Airforce Delta Storm 2. Who knows.

The game makes awesome use of the Xbox?s graphical power, using lighting and shading to it full advantage. There is even heat waves coming from the back of the plane that give it that realistic exhaust look. In addition, the plane itself looks to the average joe as real as it gets. The jet even gets burn marks when you are hit by other jet fighters. This game never dropped a frame! Overall, the graphics look amazing! Well done!

The sound effects are nice, although I?ve never been in a real jet fighter plane, the environment sounds are really nice. This game is in true Dolby Digital 5.1, which makes the game even more fun as a rocket from another jet fighter zips pass you.

The music, well, it was ok. During option selection in the menu system, you get a nice Top-Gun like soundtrack, but while in the game you wish the music was more on the fast side.

Overall sound is fine. But could be better. We know that music for a game is hard to make.

Suggestions: Eject cockpit feature in order to survive, a way to turn off the instant replays at the end of your battle, a more dynamic afterburner power up, to get that extra burst of power.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 MX 2002 Featuring Ricky Carmichael

First off, let me tell you that this game is a lot of fun, especially multiplayer. I love most motocross games, in any form. Unfortunately, for MX2002, I consider myself a motocross video game expert and this title falls short on a few jumps. Second, I know that the Xbox can pull of way better graphics than what?s in MX2002, and I believe this game has to live up to live up to what?s already been out on other platforms. Examples like, Motocross Madness 1 and 2, Motoracer 3, Motocross Mania, just to name a few. Thus, each game in this genre should be better than the next, right? I honestly think that MX2002 uses only 30-40% of the Xbox?s true graphical power. But, if you are like me, you?ll play this game just because it?s a motocross game. (-:

The bigger pet peeves I had with this game were four things. The bike physics, the AI riders, the graphics, and the sound (not the music). The bike physics did some weird stuff, one time I took a jump and accidentally landed backwards, well, the bike kept going forward, hmm? And another time I landed the bike sideways, and the bike, and then the bike magically stood back up, and I kept racing (lucky for me), but this was not good. Now for the AI (Artificial Intelligence), as my friend put it: ?Rubberband AI?, you can try to get ahead of the other computer riders, you can?t. No matter how many times the computer falls and crashes, you take one crash; the computer catches up in a snap. The multiplayer aspect of MX2002 is a lot of fun, nothing like lapping your friend. (-: Thank goodness that THQ bought Rainbow Studios, and maybe now we?ll see a awesome motocross title.

The graphics, when games like Motocross Madness 1 (Windows PC) are over 4 years old, and worked on a lesser graphical chipset (Voodoo 1) than the Xbox! Then, you get a brand new motocross game in 2001; you notice right away that this motocross game is of far lesser quality visually, all I could say was ?Shame on Pacific Coast and Lighting Co.! It should have been at least to the level of graphical quality that Motocross Madness 1 was. This game has no shadows in the environment, so it is hard to distinguish the different height levels in the terrain. The graphics details are important on sections of the track that have higher and lower sections side by side.

The sound department is not as bad as the graphics, but I have raced real dirt bikes in the past, and I know what they sound like. MX2002 doesn?t sound much like the real thing. I do not know where they got their dirt bike sounds, but to me it seems like they took no effort on getting a real 125cc sound and a real 250cc sound, and actually listening to how they sound, yes, they do sound different. It?s not even in Dolby Digital 5.1! Come on! Use the Xbox?s power! The music selection is right on the money, it really sets the mood of the game well, and it pumps you up very nice! Nice job on the music!

Suggestions: Fix the graphics. Add terrain shadows, and better water. Go to a real motocross race and listen. Then fix the sound. Online racing would be nice!

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Dark Summit

Overall, this game is a lot of fun to play, period. I started with the normal practice missions, then slowly worked my way to ?trying? to complete the missions. Well, let me tell you it not that easy. The game has a few ?unique? missions, like knock the turkey off the picnic table (don?t ask), and hard task of pull off some sick combo tricks. It is a unique approach to the snowboarding genre, but the need to be ?this? original is tad far fetched. Aside from it small shortcomings Dark Summit is a fantastic game. Nice sounds, great graphics and relatively easy controls to jump into the game right away, and very addicting. I had a hard time pulling off the crazy tricks that they were asking, and I did not get into the game to unlock everything. However, I am putting my snowboard gaming abilities aside. Nice game.

The controls at first are easy to get used to, but in order to pull of the big-ass sick tricks you will need to whip out the booklet for those, and then you have to take your shoes off and get your toes to get some extra button action going. I am not coming down on the game, but the massive cool combo tricks are a little too hard to pull off, especially a few of them within the missions. To do the easy tricks, they are easy as pie, and a pile of fun! Now for the mountain itself, the whole idea of putting green and red glowing goo pits on the mountainside, it seems a little out of context to me and those land mines. I can see what the developers ?tried? to do, a creative and different snowboarding experience. That?s exactly what they did, but if you are a hardcore snowboard gamer this title might seem a little weird for you, and if you want a simple and realistic mountainside, and not have a few green goo pits in your way. This game would not be for you, but for the non-avid snowboarder gamer like me, it rocks.

What can I say ?!?! I love a game with good graphics, and good use of the Xbox?s power, this game does exactly that. Dark Summit looks sweet, period. The lighting is excellent; the models look fantastic, and even the turkey on the picnic table looks real. THQ paid close attention to details here. The frame-rate is (in my opinion) going at least at a nice 30-40 frames per second, in which this type of game really benefits from. Two thumbs up for the graphics!

You people have to remember I am playing these Xbox games on a Sony Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound system (complete with a woofer box), so the sound had better be good. Dark Summit?s gameplay music gets old fast, it is creepy and all, but not very exciting. I had to turn it off after a while. The sound effects are very nice; they hold their own going down the hill. Overall sound effects are good, but the music is bad.

Suggestions: Loose the goo pits and the land mines. And a sequel would be welcomed.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2

Dave Mirra is currently one of BMX freestyle champions on the planet. The man is up there with Tony Hawk, Matt Hoffman and Ricky Carmichael, and this game falls into that category. For those that love high flying stunt action from titles like Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2x, MX 2002 and Amped then you?ll love Dave Mirra Pro BMX 2. I?m a big fan of these sort of games, thus, when it comes to reviewing them, I?m a little more picky than your average "joe". Dave Mirra 2 has great overall package to keep you coming back for more! This game will make an excellent addition to your "Extreme" collection of games. If you played Dave Mirra 1 for the Dreamcast, the Xbox version is 20 times better, trust me!

I had piles of fun checking out all the cool tricks you can and couldn?t pull off in this game. I tried Can-cans, backflips, flairs and a pile more. A person can spend many hours checking out every inch on this game, but you can still have fun just jumping in. This game is hard to master; I played and played to unlock the other levels with no success. It is tough to unlock the other levels, but what the hell, that are why we have cheat codes. The controls are easy to get quickly familiar with, making the game fun. Unlike some other titles on other consoles, games of this type could be a major pain. This game does not ask you to include your toes for button pressing. Simple and nice.

The visual are stunning! You can tell that extra TLC has been taken to bring this title to the Xbox. It almost has a Tony Hawk 2x feel to it. The look of the buildings, the cars, the grass, the bikes and the characters are truly well done. On the first level, you can actually notice the blades of grass. WOW! This is not just another cheap PS2 port. Nice going Acclaim!

The soundtrack has been carefully hand picked with the sounds of the coolest grunge bands. I mean the music selection fits the style of the game; it does an excellent job getting you in the mood the bust some sick air. Sound effects are good, what more do you want? (The sound of a person on a bicycle and a few cars and birds) Hmmm?but all is good in this department. Overall the sounds rock.

Suggestions: Easier way to unlock the other levels. Or maybe it's just me.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Nascar Heat 2002

This is one amazing NASCAR game! This title is much better than NASCAR Thunder from EA in my opinion. And it supports multiplayer (Yes, even on the new Gamespy), this is where this game scores big with me! The other night I had a few friends over here; they were simply amazed at the graphics, sounds, and the overall feel of the game. ?It looks real?, they said. ?I?m getting one of these?, a friend of mine said. Need I say more? This game is an excellent choice for an avid NASCAR watcher, the speed freak, or simply a gift.

The game play it is excellent. Controls very nice, we even hooked up our Thrustmaster NASCAR Pro Victory Wheel even with a steering wheel. WOW, this is a pile of fun. I don?t remember when a NASCAR game was this cool. If you are using a regular Xbox controller, it does a nice job. It?s your standard, right trigger gas, left trigger brake arrangement. You also get a super nice sensation of speed, which I find a lot of games don?t execute properly; these guys hit the nail on the head. If you are going buy a NASCAR game, get this one. If you don?t like the racing games that go round and round, this is not for your Xbox collection. But if you get it as a gift, you?ll still enjoy it. But, invite some friends. Overall the fact that it?s not a simulation is cool.

Graphics are very good. You see the actual car model dent. You also see smoke and fire coming from the other cars. When there?s an accident you hope to dear god you don?t smash in to another vehicle. I never got that feeling from a NASCAR game. Honest. The lighting is bang on the money! You pass under the fence with your car, the shadows cast onto your vehicle. WOW! This game leaves you breathless, no bull. One small graphical thing I thought would have been nice is a better choice of skins or paint jobs.

True Dolby Digital, what more do you want? You pass someone on the left hand side, you hear it. Someone is bumping you from the back; you hear it (Even the scraping). The clarity is amazing. There?s not much music, but when you are travelling at 150 miles per hour. You don?t have time to listen to music. But, none the less, the intro music is done well, which I find the only thing wrong with this game, but this is easily fixed in a sequel. Overall the sounds are sweet.

Suggestions: More skins/paint jobs. Better soundtrack or the option to use the Xbox?s soundtrack feature. You?re on the right track folks! Keep up the good work.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2x

For the record, this game is NOT just a PS2 or Dreamcast port, like some others games coming to the Xbox. It takes advantage on the Xbox?s powers, networking and graphics. Hear me out, I own Tony Hawk 2 for the Dreamcast, so for someone to just add ?X? on the end the title, it better be good. Let me share with you what they?ve added, 5 new levels, plus all the levels from Tony 1 & 2!, plus a multiplayer module (you need the system link cable), and many people already have started playing up to 8 skaters online via GameSpy!, and 4 players split screen. The skate park editor has also been improved which includes female skaters and few other things. The graphics have gotten a total kick in the butt that takes full advantage of the Xbox killer graphics power. Overall, this is a great buy for people have either never played the Tony Hawk series, or the hardcore fan. You won?t notice much if already own or played lots Tony Hawk 2 on any other console, except for the new levels.

In the tradition of the Tony Hawk series the consoles are very easy to get familiar with, even if you?ve never stepped on a skate board in your dear life! The part I really like about this game is that you can look good, even if you are not! Thus, you must do the big trick to get the big points. Small tricks mean small points?so you must go big or go home! Personally, as I said before I?ve never been on a skate board (once and fell on my a**), but this game is not a simulation-type game. Thank god! I?ve haven?t played this multiplayer yet, but I can?t imagine this being a pile of huge fun like Halo to play multiplayer. The idea of hanging out with your thrashing dudes, bustin? some air, online. Hmmm.. Maybe it?s just me. But, none the less, this game is really fun.

At first glance it looks just like the Dreamcast. The graphics is where you noticed why they brought this title to the Xbox. The grass is rendered beautifully, and if you get close enough, you?ll see each blade of grass. WOW, the Xbox does pop out fantastic visuals. The level that really shows off the Xbox?s true power is the bar level, where the disco light bounce all over the place, very nice indeed. My Dreamcast never was able to do that. The game also appears to push at least 30 frames per second very easily. All and all the graphics rock!

The sound, what do say about the sounds? Hmmm?the music is good, not great. It gets a little monotonous at times. The sound effects are good, but I honestly don?t know what a person sounds like dropping at 50 feet from a roof. (-: Overall the sound is in my opinion average.

Suggestions: Can't wait to see Tony Hawk 3. Different levels, and maybe some commentary from Tony himself?

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 NHL Hitz 2002

When I got NHL Hitz 20-02, I honestly didn?t know what to expect, living in northern Ontario Canada a person cannot escape the wrath of HOCKEY. I involuntarily grew up on hockey, and I?m getting married with someone that loves hockey. So, I?m stuck. (-: Putting all the hockey-ness aside, I enjoy watching hockey on television. NHL Hitz 20-02 captures not the exact aspects of hockey, but the feel and excitement of hockey. Loading up this game, I first thought that it was broken, 3-on-3? I went through the settings, and found nothing. Then, I read the back of the game box, and there it says??Exclusive adrenaline-style 3-on-3 gameplay?? Honestly, I said to myself (before playing it)...?Here we go, another cheap hockey game?, boy was I wrong. This game rocks! This game is not a simulation.

The gameplay is very fun! This game captures the joy and excitement of hockey, with the fights, the smashing through the glass, EVERYTHING. The player even catches on fire, as he gets more and more goals, this to me is why some people watch hockey. The controls are a little weird, but it?s nothing new playing a sport genre game. Selecting player to player, works like most sports titles. This game is really fun multiplayer. The single player mode is a little too hard to play, and a tad boring. Hockey needs to be played with friends, so you can curse at them when you get your butt kicked. The overall package of this game is very nice, my father in law recognized every single player, and that sparked his interest right away. The man (father in law) watches hockey all the time. He also found it weird that the arena was very small. His suggestion was to make the arena a bit bigger, also you can skate from one end of the arena to the other in a few seconds. Oh well.

The graphics are very well done. Reflections in the ice appear wrong, and there is a shadow and a reflection in the ice. I?m just picky I guess?What impressed me the most was the actual three dimensional crowds! Mind you the arena isn?t very big, but the overall visuals make up for that. The beautifully rendered players are very nice, also when you score goals on a regular basis, the player catches on fire! Unfortunately, not many hockey games pay attention to this, but when players skate lots on the ice, the ice skate marks look fake. Please fix this. Overall nice, nice and nice! Well done.

The announcer guy, he has to go! The announcer?s voice does get on your nerves after a while, what?s weird is the ones on TV don?t. Kudos to the announcer that says...?The Montreal Canadian? the proper way, this is a nice touch to the game in order to show that the developers wanted to stay true the hockey. Slap-shots, ahhh, slap-shots, are extremely well done. Overall the sounds are good!

Suggestions: Get the ice to wear properly. Options to go 5-on-5. Options to have larger arenas. Keep up the good work!

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Test Drive Off-Road: Wide Open

This game is from the makers of Midtown Madness for the PC, what happend? This game is an obvious port job, meaning that it came from another console with lesser abilities, and it shows. The AI is so bad...that it ALWAYS tries to run you off the road when you pass. Very fustrating! Be careful buying this game...if you don't mind that it's a port from another console and the AI will get you fired up. Sure, buy it. I've played many off-road racing games, and this one could have been so much more. The game play concept is very good, but delivered in a weird way. Angel Studios doesn't have a reputation on putting out games like this (Scratching my head). You want a off-road title that is better, get 4x4 Evolution 2 (It's a port too, unfortunately).

The overall controls are very good, and truck physics are believable...but the AI stinks. The AI makes passing almost impossible....they kamakazee into you every single time. This game has tremendous potential, but suffers alot with it's annoying qwirks. If you plan on playing this with AI, but with other real gamers, it's a pretty nice game. Sometimes when you try to climb a hill the traction goes out the window, it feels like the truck is climbing a hill of ice. The nice parts of this game are the variety of levels, stadiums, vast outdoor terrains, make this game not a dust collector right away. Don't get me wrong, this will keep you entertained for a while...but not a long time.

Graphics could be so much better. The 3D truck models are very well put together, and they appear very accurate. The environments just don't seem that well done....there is a lot of pixelization going on here on the terrain. The waterfalls in Yosamete need to look like the DOA3 waterfalls....100 times better than the ones in the game. The Xbox has the power use it. Some of the environments are very cool, and very nice, but it needs more attention to details. Also, the trucks even get dirty after a while...very nice touch.

The trucks have a really weird sounds to them...I've never for one driven a truck through piles of mug....the the motor sounds at higher revs sounded fake. The soundtrack selection is quite good, the tunes keep you rocking throughout the terrain and races. The stadium environment sounds are quite good, it feels like you are in a big arena. Very well done on that.

Suggestions: Use the Xbox's powerful graphical potential. No more PS2 ports...the PS2 is a year old. 3D model crushing on collision. Dirt could wash off when you go in the water.

Keep the soundtrack...improve the sounds.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee

Don't play this game, unless you want to be sucked in by a game! For a lack of better words, "This game is INCREDIBLE". I honestly don't know how else to put it...the folks over at Oddworld Inhabitants did a fantastic job putting together this package. When they say this game needed to come to a 3D world, they weren't kidding! The characters, the story, the graphics, the music, the sounds, the gameplay and the immersion, are simply outstanding. This very dark, unique and creative environment is well thought out to keep you hangin' on for a long time! Buy this game!

The overall gameplay is very well done, you can play thru many parts without a simple peep at the manual. There are all kinds of little helpers along the way to guide you on your path, on finding Munch! The controls are simple and easy to use. The camera movements are excellent, thus you don't bounce all over the place trying to find yourself with the camera. Overall, the game play is very well put together. The small thing that got on my nerves is the camera rotation orientation was backwards for me. And the character sometimes ran too fast, when you had to be careful in certain situations. But these small shortcomings doesn't effect the overall gameplay that much.

The visuals are STUNNING! The water, the smoke, the skins...EVERYTHING has extremely well crafted. The attention to details is quite remarkable! The use of the Xbox unit's graphical abilities is used very well....stuff almost looks real. And I'm a pretty picky person visually.

The sound effects, the musical score are also extremely well crafted. Every crack, fart, tip-toe, dog growl and speech is done well within contex, not over-done. Bravo! The music soundtrack is very "movie" like in Dolby Digital 5.1...the Floor woofer even kicked in on some parts! The sound quality will not let you down.

Suggestions: Sequel, sequel and sequel...the Oddworld is a very unique and creative environment. Keep up to good work! Don't fire the sound and graphics people.

Overall Score: 10.0 / 10 Dead or Alive 3

What can I say? I love fighting games, I love good graphics, and I love women! This is an all inclusive package. The levels are big, bold and beautiful. You jaw just drops when you see this game for the first time. You can see that this game is influenced by real kung-fu movies like "Drunken Master", "Crouching Tiger", to name a few. This game definately captures the martial arts vibe in a HUGE way!

The controls are very responsive, which helps a lot with this type of game. The movements are accurate, not sloppy. As far as the storyline, it's very weak, if you are looking for a deep emersive story, it's not here. But, it has a hint of a story...I don't think this was the object of the developers, to make a fighting game with a BIG storyline to it....besides when you are fighting there is no time to absorb a story. Stay Alive (Isn't the title name a little bit like that?) !!!

Wow, wow, wow and WOW! Visual the best looking game on the Xbox at this point in time, given they are the first ones out of the gate on the Xbox. It will be a while until some other game tops this one. The visuals have a anime-like look to them....I really don't think the developer were trying to make it look real. Simply put AMAZING GRAPHICS!

The sound...what can I tell ya?!?! It's people fighting, I noticed that if you slam someone into a wooden door or wall, it sounds just like it (Like I've done that before...) !!! The environment sounds created a really good sensation of vastness, especially on the cliff level.

Suggestions: Online fighting! Head-to-head matchs would be nice. Don't fire the graphics guy, nor the programmer.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Cel Damage

This game reminded my a lot of the Quake series, not for how it looks, but how it plays! This is all good, cartoons duking it out, with large axes (my fav), gunships, mini-guns, black holes (hole of death as I like to call them) and much more. At first I thought this games was way too fast, but after a while I got used to it. Thereafter you become thankful of the speed. You can also slow things down in the options section. This is a kick-ass game if you are into the "deathmatch" thing, but if you are looking for a deep story....You're looking in the wrong place.

The way to get the most out of this game is to invite a few friends over for a good cartoon spanking! It's a party-type game in my opignion, this game will keep going and going. When you turn on the insane mode, things move very fast on the screen, it's almost un-playable. Thus, you only use this if you have 15+ hours into the game. The overall gameplay is excellent, giving you a small variety of characters to choose from, more would be nice. But the selection is good. (Maybe in another version of the game) Last but not least, larger levels would have been nice...I don't know if this was a Xbox limitation, this gets crazy when people are shooting all over the place, and there is nowhere to hide. But overall gameall is sweet!

The graphics are amazing for what the game really is...a cartoon 3D shoot'em up, slash'em up! It does all of this without missing a beat. I was told this puppy flies at a crazy 60 frames per second! Another cool thing I noticed playing the game is that when a player gets (pardon me here) shopped in half, the 3D model of the car, splits the car on that angle precisely. WOW! Is all I have to say, don't change too much here! Keep it up!

The sound effects are on the money! When you drop off the cliff it makes that "ziippp!" sound on the way down, just funny as hell! But the music is in my opignion is in the wrong on contex, it's just not crazy enough. I was expecting a Looney Tunes or Ren and Stimpy like soundtrack, but it just wasn't there. Like I said before the sound effect of the machine guns, baseball bat, ray guns (freezer) are spot on in my opignion.

Suggestions: Online playability! Online playability! Online playability! Online playability! Better soundtrack and larger levels! Keep up the amazing work!

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10

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