MEMBER PROFILE FOR sw0rdfish-XBA

Total Reviews: 19
Average Overall Score Given: 7.98947 / 10
Total Forum Posts: 166

Reviews
Wargroove

I’m a big believer in not reinventing the wheel. Why solve a problem that someone else has already successfully solved? Now, refining that wheel, for say, Formula 1 race tracks to increase your lap speed by 1/1000th of a second... that I’m on board with! That’s precisely what developers Chucklefish games has done here with Wargroove, only instead of shaving off 1/1000th, they’ve obliterated the lap record by a few seconds. From the developers of Starbound, Wargroove is a turn-based, tactics style game with retro-esq graphics, a familiar feel, clever twist and a punishing late game that turns the right knobs even if they can cause pain.

If you’ve played Advance Wars, or Final Fantasy: Tactics then you’ve seen this style of game. A battlefield that you have to maneuver like a chess board, with individual units of different types with different movesets, abilities, attack rules etc, in a turn based environment where your opponent is trying to do the same thing... trying to outsmart you.

You’re playing as one of four factions, and while the factions have different unit types and names, they all have the same type of the same units. For example, they all have a soldier type, they all have a giant type etc, and the vulnerabilities don’t change. You’re also fighting over the same resources on the map, and the benefit of each resource is the same for all factions. There are villages and buildings to fight over on the map which generate resources for you to spend, and to help heal your units up during battle.

Also like most games of this style, there’s the familiar 'Rock-Paper-Scissors' type mechanic, where certain units are strong against a certain other units but weak against a third. For example soldiers are effective against archers but vulnerable against spearmen, and archers are effective against spearmen and spearmen are effective against... Ok, you get the idea.

My favorite mechanic in Wargroove is the “critical hit”, where if executed, guarantees a critical hit on the enemy. Each unit has one and each is different. For example, if the archer attacks without moving, or the trebuchet attacks at max range, or if your spearmen are beside each other. These abilities play a huge role in the planning and execution of the tactics you attempt to use in each battle. You’re going to do a lot more damage, and have a lot more success if you can set up your units to land critical attacks more often than not.

Where things differ are the commanders. Each faction has 3 commanders that will be in battle with them. The Commanders have special abilities, called grooves, that if used correctly, can significantly swing the tide of a battle. Things like reanimating dead units, or healing auras can obviously be really useful in the middle of a full out 5v5 unit battle.

Before I had played and decided to review Wargroove, the word in the sandbox was that this game had a steep difficulty curve, and that combined with the time commitment for each missions, often lead to a frustrating and often un-enjoyable experience. To that I say, put your training wheels back on, and ride up and down the driveway. This is a big person’s game, and you aren’t it! While I agree that the difficulty does ramp up in some areas, it’s that difficulty that makes the game fun to play; you’re not here for the story. I mean, it has one, but whatever, you’re here for the mental challenge.

A game of Chess can take a long time to play, and when you make a wrong move, you’re punished. You don’t get to take the move back, and you don’t get to have backups built in to allow you to still win the game. You lost, you messed up, learn and get better. I am HORRIBLE at this game, I can’t count how many times I got too aggressive with my commander, though they were safe, and then he or she (or it?! Woof!) got surrounded and was dead before I had a chance to do anything about it. Which in Wargroove is a game over. You can’t lose your commander, or your base, or it’s over.

I spent a lot of time thinking about those instances, and I can honestly say they were my fault. I didn’t learn from my past mistakes, got impatient and paid the price. If you’re not here for that, why are you here, right? I play tactic games to have my logic and tactics stressed and tested, and that’s exactly what you get. I’ll knock the game for not giving me a chance to undo moves that I do by accident, which happened a lot with misclicks when I took advantage of its Play Anywhere feature. If I haven’t made another move, I should be able to undo a move, if only a limited number of times, to account for the fact I have fast stupid fingers and make mistakes all the time. However, I know that, so again, I should take my time. Lesson learned.

I think what makes Wargroove a must play for “fans of the genre” is its difficulty. It’s a challenge, it’s not a mindless jog through the park.

Another feature I loved the idea of, even if it’s not something I personally would spend a lot of time with in Wargroove was the multiplayer ability to share and create maps, scenarios, campaigns and stories that others can play through. It has a built in tool-set to potentially give you endless supply of the game to play. Admittedly that isn’t my forte, so I didn’t spend a lot of time with their creation tools, however they seemed varied and flexible enough to create some really engaging content. I’ll definitely be playing some community made content once I get good enough to not fail 3 times per map!

So as you can see, Wargroove quickly becomes a nice little package, and for a pretty reasonable price too. A meaningful and challenging campaign that doesn’t just lay down in front of you and count the hours, a potentially endless bucket of user created content all with great polish and a nice little soundtrack. Combined with the Arcade mode which is just a string of 5 battles in a row against a set scenario, the replay value of Wargroove is off the charts.

The Way I See It: If you’re looking for a challenging and engaging turn-based tactics game and you aren’t afraid to get slapped in the face for your hubris, this game should be on your list.

Suggestions: What a fantastic package. So much value and opportunity. Most importantly fun!

You definitely need to get an exit game button on the Windows 10 Play Anywhere version... only way I could close out on my PC was ALT-F4 or tab out and close the window. But that's a minor complaint!

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 R.U.S.E.

There are two things most strategist gamers love. A table covered in pieces representing their massive army, slowly flanking an enemy company trying to hide while they setup an ambush on another side of the world and of course, a good old fashion real time strategy video game. R.U.S.E., the new World War II game developed by Eugen Systems and published by our friends at Ubisoft, takes all these elements, and throws them together to make a solid RTS game that takes awhile to get going, and requires a great deal of patience at times, but if its your style of game... You might be in for a treat.

At it's core, R.U.S.E. is a RTS the employs the standard mechanics you'd expect, but when you start to dig a little you find a rather deep game reliant on a lot of strategic planning and well executed ruses, hence the name. One of the aspects of R.U.S.E, as the name suggest, has a system in place that really changes things from the way you would normally play an RTS. A ?ruse? is a skill that you can make use of to help spoil the plans or your enemy in a variety of ways. Some of them are designed to give you a little extra information that could help turn the tide, others help hide information from your enemies and help you disguise and attack and finally some are designed to be all out bluffs designed to fool your opponent into thinking one thing, while you?re doing the other.

Battles play out on a large scale battlefield in which you can zoom right out and see the big picture, displayed as a table top war game with units represented by stacks of chips similar to your typical war based board games. Zoom right in and you're able to control individual units and micromanage a certain section of the war. For example you could be planning an ambush on an unsuspecting enemy squad in the north and leading in a squad of bombers in the west, while fortifying a base in the south. It's a great mechanic, and one of the most interesting parts of the game.

There are definite concessions made to make up for the large scale scope of the game, with pretty regular graphics and detail on the units, buildings and land in general. They're far from horrible, but as I like to say, they're nothing to write home about. The pacing of the battles themselves are a slightly different from your typical RTS. Perhaps fitting when you take into account the era the game is representing, battles are long and drawn out, moving slowly and relying heavily on your ability to understand and read what your opponent is doing, and adjusting plans that are already well under way in an attempt to outsmart and defeat the enemy, instead of just simply overpowering them.

On the heels of the best of the game, comes the worst... Unfortunately it's the single player campaign. Starting with some lack luster voice acting, and ending with some poor pacing, the single player campaign is tough to get through. They pull the old bait-n-switch by giving you a huge arsenal of tools to tease you with just how powerful you can be, and then they take it sly away! Sadly it takes a long time to get even close to that level again, and by then I'd just a about had enough. I felt like I spent the rest of the game chasing that big moment that never arrived. The campaign walks you through the game not directly holding you hand and can give you some punishing lessons if you don't implement the correct strategy, or don't time your "Ruses" correctly, you'll quickly see your army falling apart, and the end is not far behind.

The start of the game, after they pull the aforementioned bait-n-switch are painstakingly slow, it's worse than watching paint dry, but if you can get your way past it, and ignore a thing story line with 3rd rate acting, you will find yourself wrapped up in some rather intense battles, which can be very satisfying when you watch a well laid plan come together, or watching your opponents plans get foiled by some solid planning.

By the mid point of the game, things get easier, and your planning and proactive approach can be ignored for a more responsive one, and I felt that it really took away from the strength of the game, and let's players off a little too easy later on, which is a little backwards.

If you manage to find your way to the end of the campaign, or even if you don't, there are AI skirmishes and online head to head PVP combat options available to you. In typical RTS fashion you have a variety of game types and maps available to you, suited for one on one, two on two, free for all and so on. The factions, in this case countries, are all fairly similar to each other, and make it easy to go from one to the other with just slight advantages and disadvantages to each one.

Overall Eugen Systems delivers an RTS with a solid core, and fantastic gameplay execution but fails to make it shine through a completely forgettable single player campaign. Of course there?s more to games these days than it?s solo game, and for those willing to see past it?s one major flaw there is a very compelling and fun multiplayer experience waiting for you. Even the AI skirmishes can keep you entertained while you try to hone your skills and develop unbeatable strategies. R.U.S.E is an intriguing take on a well established genre where thinkers and strategists will rise to the top, and those unwilling to plan a head, will quickly find themselves in the middle of a perfectly executed ambush with no hope of coming out alive.

The Way I See It. If you like outsmart your opponent, and are tired of the same old RTS, R.U.S.E. should be right up your alley!

Overall Score: 7.7 / 10 Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

When I think of fighter jet combat games... I think of two things; dogfights and explosions. That?s exactly what H.A.W.X 2 delivers, and probably where it should have stopped.

Tom Clancy?s H.A.W.X 2 is the newly released ?Aerial Warfare? game from our friends over at Ubisoft. In it you?re thrust in the middle of a worldwide story of betray and covert operations in a Modern Warfare style of story telling where you?re hoping around into different scenarios and story lines which are supposed to come in a somewhat understandable fashion, and while it?s far from horrible, it comes up a little short. Further to the point, the cut-scene style methods are nothing to write home about, and feature some average cut scenes that aren?t distractingly bad to watch, but disappointing none the less.

Aside from that, you?re going to get what you expect. Some 20 missions that you have to work your way through that offer some variety to spice things up, but unfortunately the only ones that are fun, are the ones where you?re flying around a fighter jet. This game misses bad when it tries to steer away from what it?s good at in an attempt to keep it from being monotonous and dull by introducing missions that are exactly that. Controlling UAVs and marking objects or manning a mounted machine gun is pretty boring when all you want to be doing is blowing MIGs out of the sky! Some missions have you taking off and landing, and again while not horrible additions, it?s pretty simplistic, and come off feeling like tacky add-ons.

When it?s sticking to what it?s good at, H.A.W.X 2 does a pretty great job. The controls are as responsive and simplistic as you would want from an arcade air combat game, and don?t get you all tied up in something more geared towards fans of a simulators. Dogfighting is as awesome as you would expect it to be, and getting tone, and blowing the enemy in front of you out of the sky doesn?t get much more satisfying than this. You?ve got a wide variety of planes to fly in and work with, and while they aren?t drastically different from each other, it?s still fun to get a fresh coat of paint now and then right?

My only complaints in this aspect of the game are the really dodgy AI decisions and some downright horrific ground collision detection. The AI features some real inconsistency and ramps up from downright stupid to incredibly frustrating and annoying by the time you?ve finished the game. I had a few dogfights with one enemy go more than 8 minutes, and while some of it might have been my lack of skill, they did seem to be pulling out all the stops! On timed missions, spending all of your ammo and missiles on an enemy that drops flares faster than the Lions? receivers drop passes becomes very frustrating, and I?m not a fan of making missions difficult by introducing long and unnecessary chases that have little danger, and rely on a little too much luck to end them. The collision detection is pretty poor when you get near the ground or cliffs and makes the parts of the games that require a tight squeeze, kind of brutal. On more than a few occasions, I was pretty sure I had a ton of room, and the next thing I knew, Kablowie!

Multiplayer has some welcome changes from it?s predecessor. The game features a few different types of modes including on-the-fly ( pun intended! ) co-op where you can drop into a game, and then drop out to go grab a Snickers, as well as some all out team battle with up to 8 players fighting it out in the skies dogfighting it up! The co-op can be done in any of the game?s modes, campaign, single missions or straight up arcade mode shoot ?em up!

The game features a now familiar ?perks? system where you can level up and unlock new planes and abilities for your planes. It?s not exactly deep, but it gives you something to work on while you?re playing the game. Abilities include things like increasing the strength of your plane, or shortening missile lock time which can help you get the edge on your opponent before he drops the hammer and runs home to mommy!

The graphics and the sound of the game, are pretty spot on though I?ve got some complaints there too. When you?re flying high, everything looks great. The planes, the sky, the ground ( don?t stare too long or you?ll hit it! ), all look fantastic. It breaks down a bit when you get a closer look, but I?m sure that?s at the expense of better frame rate, and lets face it, it?s probably a good trade off. The previously mentioned cutscenes look ok, and they do the job of delivering the story. They?re far from award winning, but as I?m mentioned a few times, that?s not why we?re playing H.A.W.X.

The music and sound are pretty spot on. They did a great job of adding to the moment by ramping the music up or down, and the sound of weapon fire, or your enemy meeting his maker is awesome.

All in all H.A.W.X 2 delivers on what you expect from it, and falls short when it tries to mix things up. It?s still a very decent campaign despite it?s downfalls, but it definitely loses points on the replay scale as frustration, staleness and some weird quirks are going to keep you away from certain missions. It?s always fun to blow stuff out of the skies though, so it?s definitely worth checking out, and pick it up if you played and loved the first, because it?s still quality there.

The Way I See It. Try before you buy, at the very least you?ll have fun doing that!

Overall Score: 7.2 / 10 Dead Rising 2: Case Zero

If your idea of a sweet Friday night is going around with a baseball bat covered with nails, or a rake attached to a battery and smoking zombies in the head by the dozens, then boy do I have a game for you. The best part about it? It?s only going to set you back 400 points.

We?re quickly approaching the September 28th release of Capcom?s Dead Rising 2, developed by Blue Castle Games. In anticipation of the release of the sequel to 2006?s zombie massacre Dead Rising, Capcom has released what some are calling a paid demo, but I assure you this isn?t the case.

Case Zero takes place two years after Dead Rising, and three years before the events that will unfold in Dead Rising 2. Besides giving us a quality arcade title, the goals of Case Zero are to introduce Chuck Greene, the hero-to-be ( or not to-be... ha! ) of Dead Rising 2, and demonstrate the new weapon combination feature new to the sequel.

First, the game. For 400 points, there?s a lot of it! You?re stranded in a small town just outside of Las Vegas with your daughter in desperate need of some ?medical attention? in an area crawling with brain hungry zombies. The town by the way isn?t going to be a part of Dead Rising 2 proper, so it?s extra content not just a small segment of the final map if you will. As has come to be expected, you have a certain amount of time to complete a number of goals and get the hell out of dodge, before you get eaten, your daughter ?turns? for the worse or the military shows up.

Along the way you can do some, none or all of the quests you come across in order to make some money, gets some tips or just save some lives, and the choice really is up to you. If you so choose you can stand in the middle of town for the entire day, and just beat the ?life? out of zombies till the military arrives. Of course you then have to suffer the consequences of your actions which ultimately determines which of the multiple endings you receive. After that, load it all up and start again! This time with your level, and skills in tow, again, what you?ve come to expect from Dead Rising. The coolest part of it all, is once you?re done, and Dead Rising 2 hits shelves, you?ll be able to import your save into the game, and start at whatever level you?ve reached ( Max 5 ).

A run through of the story takes about 3 hours, if you manage not to die over and over. You can save the game by running into one of the many save spots, and I recommend you do so, because if you don?t, and a you die, you will lose everything up to your previous save; so save often! The short amount of time it takes to run through the game may seem short, but as mentioned, Dead Rising is nothing if not using multiple play-throughs to level your self up and then come back and kick ass and take names while finishing a more difficult story arc. I actually spent three separate nights playing through the game once each night in order to get different achievements, different endings and find different weapon combinations... oh yeah and killing some zombies!

Speaking of the weapon combinations, Dead Rising 2 proper, and Case Zero both implement this new method of picking up normal weapons, duct taping them together and creating all sorts of fun zombie killing tools such as Electric Rake, Boomstick ( Shotgun & Pitch Fork ), spiked bat and about 5 more that I won?t spoil for you. Running around and seeing what matches adds to the fun! It?s made easy by the icons used to depict items that can be combined with other items to make a new weapon combo. It?s not just new and interesting ways to flatten zombies either! Using combo weapons to kill zombies increase the amount of Prestige Points, or PP, you get from each kill, and PP is Dead Rising?s XP and more PP means more LVLs. KK? ( That?s levels BTW )

Bottom line here is that not only has Capcom and Blue Castle Games delivered a quality game but they?ve done it at an incredible value that can be enjoyed not only by fans of the game, but those on the fence about picking up Dead Rising 2.

The Way I See It: This is a great opportunity to see what Dead Rising 2 is going to give you, and it?ll cost you less than lunch! Buy It! Play It! Enjoy!

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 Shank

Shank is a side-scrolling beat-em-up brawler, new to the Xbox Live Arcade title from Klie Entertainment. It looks great and plays well, but comes up a little shallow.

In Shank you're on a mission to, stop me if you've heard this, save the girl and take revenge. You're equipped with an arsenal of weapons including guns, bombs, a chainsaw and a gatling gun or two. The gameplay is a pretty straight forward set of button mashing and combos that allow you to do different things such as pounce on an enemy, stab him once or twice, shoot him in the head with a shotgun, and then chainsaw him, in the face. They work fairly well with the occasional hiccup but it's one of the game's strong points. There's lots of options and variety in the combat, and it's fun to work your way around the enemies' weak points or if you're feeling lazy you can just hit them with a grenade and move on.

While there was nothing inherently wrong with the combat system, it quickly becomes tedious and repetitive, and I found the game started relying more on frustrating you with tricky over-complicated situations rather than throwing something new at you. It's fun to go crazy beating the living crap out of everyone and everything you come across and knocking off 100 hit or more combos, and some fun and challenging boss fights, but there's only so much of that I can do.

The style of the game is fantastic and the story, while maybe cliche was clever, interesting and at times good for a laugh or two. Shank is a cross between a grainy old movie and a comic book, and it pulls it off well. Throw in some trash talking, cursing and a lot of blood, and you've got what Shank has going for it. As I mentioned, the get revenge and save the girl story line is over done, but it doesn't take away from the game at all. It's got enough to help keep you chugging along through the aforementioned tedium and frustration to find out what happens next.

The co-op mode is probably the most disappointing part of Shank to me. Two near-identical characters laying the smack down all over the screen quickly becomes confusing, chaotic and not all that fun. Piled on top of the repetitive issues already mentioned, after playing through the single player the co-op is forgettable if not ignorable.

Shank is sure to have its fans, and it's not an outright bad game. Fans of beat-em-ups should find a lot of ass kicking to do, though at the 1200 point price tag, its not something most players are going to be looking for, especially considering the other options in the Arcade catalog at the same price. If you try the demo, and you're having fun it's worth playing through it, just realize the game isn't going to give you much more than that outside the story, its just more of the same.

The Way I See It: Promising and good lookin' but lacks depth and value

Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 DeathSpank

What happens when you take the man behind the classic adventure game ?Monkey Island? and blend it with an action RPG? You get DeathSpank; Hothead Games? newest title, and latest creation of game designer extraordinaire, Ron Gilbert.

Tagged as Diablo meets Monkey Island, DeathSpank is a straight up Hack and Slash action RPG with plenty of both! You are DeathSpank, and your goal is quite simply to acquire ?The Artifact?. In one of many jabs at classic RPG story lines, DeathSpank goes out of it?s way to poke fun at the whole cookie-cutter RPG genre, while being one itself. Item names, quests and even the main story line are littered with laughs and while not uncontrollably R-O-F-L funny, the dialogue has enough in it to make L-O-L now and then.

The gameplay is solid! Being able to assign weapons to each of your four face buttons (X,Y,B,A) DeathSpank makes the hacking and slashing accessible and fun. Alternating the attack sequence through the different buttons builds ?combos? and thus increases your damage multiplier as you litter the battlefield with corpses, loot and of course, money!

At it?s core, DeathSpank is a loot game. Most of your time is spent working on quests and killing baddies in order to increase both your level and your armor. A welcomed function for me was the ability to check off a box that always equips the best armor, which allows you to worry less about micromanaging your gear, and focus on lopping off more demon heads! With a variety of weapons and attack options you?ve already got a lot on your plate just finding the different ways you can kill mobs.

While we're talking about time management, running back to towns and vendors is a thing of the past! In your inventory is a Grinder that grinds up unwanted items into Gold! I never liked having to manage bag space and decide which items to keep and sell, and which to leave lying around and now I don't have to!

Another aspect of the RPG that DeathSpank has simplified is the character customization. Following each level you?re able to pick a card that lets you run faster, hit harder, block more etc, allowing you to gear DeathSpank to the way you play. It isn?t very deep however, and by the time you?ve come around to the end of the game, you?ve collected all the cards and DeathSpank is all he can be.

The graphics are pretty stunning. A very interesting and different art style lends itself perfectly to the game. Different environments, enemies and weapons keep the game looking fresh the whole time you?re in there.

I enjoyed my time with DeathSpank though I found the game a little tedious at times. The pacing is good, and there?s always something to do, but really you?re not getting a vast variety of quest. At their root, they?re all the same. Kill X of these, collect Y of those and then bring them to person Z for more loot.

A big draw has to be the comedy aspect, and as I mentioned there?s plenty of it, though a lot of it on the corny side that will make you groan. It also comes with what I like to call "the girlfriend co-op". Sparkels the Wizard can be played by a second local-player, and can help DeathSpank out in some minor ways by doing things such as healing or picking up some dropped loot. He doesn't level on his own, and is just generally playing a supporting role and can hop in and out at will.

DeathSpank succeeds at what it set out to do, it gives you some laughs, makes a mess of mobs and keeps you busy for a few hours. I?m not entirely convinced it?s worth 1200 Microsoft Points but it?s a solid XBLA game, and if you?re looking for something down this aisle, the value should be there.

The Way I See It: Try It, Buy It, Laugh :)

Overall Score: 8.2 / 10 Green Day: Rock Band

Most people will know by the title of this game if they want to buy it or not. In case you're still undecided, let me help you out. Do you like Green Day? Do you like Rockband? If you've answered yes to either of those questions you're probably good to go pick it up and you'll have fun. Green Day:RockBand is Harmonix's return to the band specific Rock Band game. What worked so well for The Beatles is once again the format for this go around with; in case you're not catching on here, music from Green Day. I think the big distinction that needs to be made here, is that unlike The Beatles:RockBand( TB:RB ), Green Day's version requires a stronger prior connection to the band.

Growing up wearing out my copy of "Dookie", is definitely what draws me to this game, however the trip through the game is not quite the epic story-telling journey that TB:RB was. For starters you only get 3 different venues, and while they're three important venues, and they do the job of conveying the era and mood for the band's music of the time frame, it's a little disappointing. It doesn't take from the presentation of the game, however, as the actions of the band, particularly drummer Tré's stage walk-abouts, are a perfect representation of the punk trio. Another glaring difference between the two is the set-list. Green Day:RockBand will give you just about any Green Day song you would ever want in RockBand, save for the ones already released as DLC ). Included are complete albums of Dookie, and American Idiot with various hits from Insomniac, Nimrod, and Warning, as well as the conclusion of 21st Century Breakdown to complete the album once coupled with the DLC. The best part of it all is that for an extra $10, you can export the entire 47 tracks for use with RockBand 2, something that was left out of The Beatles' version. It important to note that you can get a version of the game, called "Green Day RockBand Plus" which includes both an export code and 6 Green Day DLC tracks, which would complete your 21st Century Breakdown album. It's only an extra $10, so if you plan to buy all the DLC and Export the tracks, the Plus edition is the way to go.

The game is packed with bonus content that fans of the band are going to love. There's a ton of video footage, pictures and audio tracks that you unlock while playing the game that give you a glimpse into the bands journey from young marijuana loving teens, to today's punk-musical veterans.

Removed from The Beatles' format is the inability to change the song. Green Day RockBand allows both the whammy bar, and the drum fills to be your own creation, and actually alters the song. I felt it was a key component to put back in, as Tré has been known to go a little wild from time to time on the drums, as show evident by a number of drum solos you come across over the course of a play through. The Career mode is similar to The Story mode in TB:RB in which you are able to take a trip down memory lane along side the band and see the way they shaped their careers and how it all unfolded for them. One of the most interesting aspects for me here, was witnessing the changes to the bands music as they go along, in both complexity, and style. Quick Play mode is also available, with all tracks unlocked from the get go. The aforementioned export pack is the way to play these bad boys, mixing them into your library makes the game an option even for those DLC collectors who just want the music, and don't care about the band. 47 songs would cost you about $100, so even after the export fees you're ahead.

I found music from like-eras a little repetitive to play, so it was refreshing to see that right out of the gate, the career mode allows you to jump in to any of the venues and start the first set of that venue. So I was able to jump in and play some high tempo Dookie, and then head on over to some ballads from 21st Century Breakdown and then kicked it up a little with over 9 minutes of Jesus of Suburbia!

The overall difficulty of the game is pretty much spot on with RockBand in general. Like the Green Day, The Offspring and Blink 182 songs already available as DLC, the high tempo nature of the genre can make for some grueling challenges, no more-so is this true, than on the drums. I am far from a RockBand drum guru, but I can generally do ok on the hard drums. Not the case with Green Day RockBand. Your hands are doing two different things, and the bass pedal a third and my co-ordination stops well short of the tempo these songs demand of you. I was able to hold my own in all levels of the guitar/bass and found the singing to be a little on the easier side, specifically when dealing with the two and three part harmonies, much easier than with the Fab Four. I dared not venture to the land of expert drums.

As I mentioned, Green Day RockBand is going to appeal the most to fans of the band. While I felt that The Beatles' RockBand had a broader audience appeal, and that one of the strengths of that game was it's ability to introduce a whole new generation to one of music's most important bands, the same is not true for Green Day, at least not at that level. Even as a moderate Green Day fan, I grew a little tired of some of the catalog, something I think bigger fans of the band definitely won't feel. That being said, it is undoubtedly the complete package in terms of what it is. I can't think of anything else you could get out of the game without packing in Billie Joe Armstrong himself.

The Way I See It: A good collection of music, from a great band that translate well to RockBand. Buy it if you like the Boys from Berkeley

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Rocket Knight

Up in the air! It's a bird... it's a plane... it's Sparkster!

Rocket Knight, released on XBox Live Arcade by Climax Games, is the latest in the adventures of Sparkster the Opossum and a revival of the classic Rocket Knight side scrollers that were released for the Genesis and eventually the SNES way back in the day!

Sparkster is the hero in this little side-scrolling "2.5D" platformer where he takes on droves of evil pigs and wolves in what seems like an attempt to save his people. Armed with his trusty jetpack, and sword, he makes his way through 14 stages of baddies and bosses in both your typical side scrolling levels and some cool flying levels where Sparkster takes to the air and flys into combat against wolves on hand gliders, flying boats and pigs armed with rocket launchers. You have a full arsenal of attacks at your disposal including a flying drill attack which you can use to bounce off walls and reach higher points or shoot projectiles or just plain old swipe away with your sword.

The difficulty levels in the game varied, aside from the fact there are easy and hard settings. When I first started playing I was having a pretty easy go of it, but that quickly changed when I hit the first boss level and depleted my lives and some continues. I found the fight pretty gimmicky and ended up having to sit in a corner deflecting bombs till 4 hit him. Now I'm far from an ace at these games, but what went from a kids' game quickly changed into a pretty challenging sequence, then back to child's play again. This happens a few times in the game where the game quickly ramps up it's difficulty for a boss, yet on the flip side and future bosses are a breeze.

There was a lot of variety in the levels, aside from the aforementioned flying & side scrolling style, the levels each added different puzzle aspects that you had to figure out, or road blocks that made the levels slightly more tricky. From moving platforms, to switches that changed beams of energy you couldn't move through to destructible environments, it was a nice mix and I didn't find myself doing the same thing over and over again... unless I died! One thing I'll note is that like many arcade games these days, it relies heavily on the nostalgia of the original titles, and if you don't remember them, or never played them you're left with a certain feeling of "Why am I doing this". It's lacking that certain punch that makes looking forward to the next level non-existent.

The levels can be played on both adventure, and free play modes that allow the players to challenge each other on leader-boards with both time, points and collection of items. While I like the replayability that leaderboards give the players, this isn't the type of game you're really going to want to be challenging your friends at. One play through was more than enough for me. Also, a word of advice, have your Xbox connected to live when you're playing as the game is going to remind you after EVERY level that your score won't go on line, unless you connect it now!

They've done a sweet job of the visuals as the updated graphics sure look great!

You're pretty much getting what you expect from an XBox Live Arcade title. A short game that can provide you with a few hours of fun and maybe a laugh or two along the way. Where I take issue with the game is in it's price point; 1200 Microsoft Points is pretty steep for this game. You can definitely find some better value on the arcade and it's a shame someone through they could make a killing on this, because it just isn't the case, even for those fond of the series in general.

They Way I See It: It's a decent revival of an old title, but at 1200 MS points it's really not worth the price of admission.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Blur

1 part Mario Kart, 1 parts Geometry Wars, 3 parts Project Gotham Racing. That's the recipe for Bizarre Creations latest Arcade Racer Blur. Labeled as "Powered-Up Racing", it's clear that Blur is the result of a very experienced racing game development team. The racing aspect of the game, is pretty much what you'd expect from a race made by Bizarre Creations, not too sim-like, but far from over-the-top arcade driving where you can just bounce off of walls, cars and drift around corners without consequence. Hit the wall or go off the track and you're gonna pay for it.

The first thing you'll notice in Blur is just how great it looks. The cars, the tracks, the background looks great, and it makes for a perfect backdrop to the racing, and that's where the Geometry Wars comes in, also a Bizarre Creation game. Projectiles, attacks, bombs, crashes, all scream Geometry Wars bright and colourful nature. They did an awesome job of contrasting the real places and cars with the over the top weapons that make for an on screen party of colours. I find that blowing your opponent away, or shooting at him from a distance is so much more gratifying when the mayhem you produce is shiny! Especially when he's driving a BMW or a Dodge Viper!

The single player game is a mixture of racing types, which I'll get to in a second, all of which have different objectives you have to meet in order to get "lights" which are the key to unlock further levels, tracks etc. Each level is a series of events, dominated by one "Rival" which requires you to clear events as well as meeting a set list of demands in order to go one-on-one against them. The demands are in-event goals such as wrecking a certain number of cars, winning x amount of races or completing any number of a vast array of objectives based on the Rival's personality. The event types range from straight up racing, to demolition events or flat out time trials. Beat the Rival and get their car, and their special mod that you can now apply to the cars in your collection.

Every event also has two secondary goals. A set number of Fans you must acquire from the race, and a "Fan Run" which are a set of gates you have to drive through without missing any in order to make the fans happy. Fans are a secondary currency, if you will, in the game. The more fans you get, the more cars you unlock. Fans are also the "score" in which the game uses to compare results with your friends over leaderboards on each event. You can can even pick a certain friend to be your "rival" and you get a more heads-up look at that friend's scores, times and so on, while you progress through the game. Completing each of these extra goals grants you a light that again help you unlock further levels and events in the game.

Fans are gathered through pretty much every action you accomplish in a race. Drifting, passing, jumping and straight up dominating a race will score you more and more fans! Nothing however will score you more fans, than using power-ups that are found all over the track ( hello!? Mario Kart ) to blast your competitors into next Tuesday! Ok well, maybe not, but at least into last place! The power-ups are what make Blur what it is. It take the game from being a decent, but tedious racing game and turns it into all out Armageddon, especially on the first few corners of a race with 20 plus cars in it. Look out! You get your classic combat racing power-ups like Nitros, bombs ( Mines ), red-shells ( Shunts ) and they've come up with a number of others like pillars of lightning in front of the leader or a shield to help protect you from the carnage. The game defiantly encourages you to have some strategy with the power-ups as most of them can be used not only as an offensive weapon, but also as a counter to another attack you're trying to avoid. The well balanced rock-paper-scissors aspect of the power-ups introduces a skill and strategy aspect into the use and conservation of them. You can only have three at a time, so chose wisely! As previously mentioned, the bright and colourful graphics introduced by the mayhem, and the power-ups themselves definitely is a welcome addition to the game, and quite frankly turns Blur into a more grown up Kart racer that I know you spent hours playing with your friends!

Now it's clear that Blur was designed to be a game of competition and combat with friends, strangers and anyone who picks up a controller. Both the single player, and the multiplayer. I've already mentioned the leaderboards, and friend-rival features, so let me hit on the actual multiplayer aspect. Blur features a "perks & loadouts" system, along the lines of Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer, wherein the more you drive and the better you do, the more cars and modifications you unlock. Things like extra shields, extra strength or an extra power-up to start the race. All of which you can tune and re-tune before each race begins. Like the single player, the multiplayer works on collecting fans and while the goal is obviously to rack up wins, not winning can still net you a lot of fans, which can further your level online.

If I had one complaint to levy, it's the way progression through the single player starts to plateau and the difficulty ramps up. It got hard to keep doing the same races over and over again with the only real different being the intelligence of the AI, and the speed of the cars. It's definitely a common issue with a lot of racers, and while Blur doesn't do it worse, it doesn't do it much better. Unfortunately infinite tracks, infinite configurations, and infinite cars just isn't possible. That being said, it takes very little away from a game that gives a ton of value, and load of enjoyment, plus luckily you have some multiplayer action to freshen things up a bit, then you can head back in to show those Rivals who's boss!

The Way I See It: A fun, challenging, "grown up" Kart racer that looks great, sounds great and plays great too! Pick it up!

Overall Score: 8.7 / 10 Red Dead Redemption

Sandbox Game? Check! Run around killing anyone you want? Check! Rockstar Games? Check! The Wild Wild West? Check!... wait what? That's right! Rockstar Games brings us something the gaming industry has been deprived of for a long long time. A top notch, quality, open world game that we've come to expect from them, in a setting that's been aced in all entertainment mediums save for this one. Till now. In Red Dead Redemption, you're John Marston, a former gang member forced to track down your once-friends-now-enemies in one of the greatest settings for story telling, the old American West.

The Good!
Read Dead Redemption does a lot of things good. Firstly, the story is entertaining and interesting and keeps you moseying for more! You've been sent out to hunt down your former brother in crime by the government. It's not an epic story, but it's got enough to chew on and keep you going. Aside from the main story there is plenty else to do in New Austin. In true "wild west" fashion, you never know what to expect around the next bend. Thieves, armed bandits, wild animals, gambling and just straight up wanted men, all of which could see you face down in the dirt pretty quickly. On top of dying, you can spend a vast amount of time acquiring money, hunting animals or playing poker, horseshoes, liars dice and more, all in an attempt to get through the enormous amount of challenges, and side quests presented similar to the Grand Theft Auto series.

One of the things Rockstar absolutely nailed is the environment and atmosphere the game creates through it's stunning visuals and perfectly suited soundtrack. Sitting in town listening to a single harmonica play, or standing in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by howling coyotes, you're never short on ear and eye candy! I've never been really big on "It has to look great", I could be happy with "it's good enough", however it's clear they went to great lengths to get that authentic look and feel while you're our riding. It's almost like you're there.

Once you're done playing with yourself, there's only one real way to experience the wild west; with a posee! Red Dead Redemption's online modes are a complete game in and of themselves. Typical deathmatch, and capture the flag style multiplayer are one option for you, and they start off with a Mexican Standoff where you're all standing in a circle and suddenly, your'e all opening fire! However, where this game's multiplayer really shines for me is in the Free Roam mode, which is an online "lobby" of sorts, gone mental! Free Roam is exactly what it sounds like, you're free to roam around New Austin doing pretty much anything you want with or against your friends. From this mode you can go into the cities and launch game types, depending on the settings of the free roam you're in. What's really cool however is that you can join posees with your friends, which is a temporary "clan" or sorts and you can run around completing different challenges together (that are not the same as the single player ones), attacking other posees or just generally terrorizing citizens and becoming public enemy number one. There's little in terms of story telling, however as I mentioned doing the challenges available, like clearing gang hideouts, accumulating large bounties on your head, or collecting different items give you plenty to do with your friends.

When it comes to your reputation, again the way of the old west is king. People talk, and your Fame and Honor can grow both positively or negatively, and affects how the people of the world interact with you. Killing people, doing jobs, challenges, helping strangers, and the decisions you make in general, all affect both your Fame and your Honor which in turn affect things like prices of good, or if store keepers will even do business with you. It allows you to play through the game as you like, by being the killer turned "nice guy" who helps old ladies find their husbands to a cold soulless individual out to get the job done by any means necessary, and all the roads in between.

The Bad!
Not much to really gripe on, though there are definitely some things I felt were lacking. The typical Rockstar Game character movement is present in the game, and while it's far from horrible, it does make the multiplayer as well as any delicate maneuvers a little cumbersome. The movements and controls just don't feel as fluid as I'd like them to be, it makes falling off roofs, and running into walls and doors happens a little too easy, especially on your -and-run-off-cliffs horse.

Next on the complaints list is how often the story telling gets fractured by all the interruptions. John Marston is a very patient man apparently. It takes quite awhile before you really start getting down to business, and while I see why they went this way, I felt they could have done a better job of pacing. There are some rather long stretches where you're running around helping everyone and their sister just to get a small piece of information that probably could have been procured with a gun to the head or a stack of cash. It feels like John is being a little too helpful looking for a payoff that keeps getting put off by one thing or another. Another aspect of the story telling that bugged me were the times where there some banter between the characters either while riding together, or just general standing around, meanwhile there is clearly something strange going on ahead, but the characters don't make mention of it until they're right on top of it. For example, at one point early in the game I was riding with one of the characters who was chatting about something they've already told me a few times, and right infront of us I could see a large amount of smoke but wasn't sure if it was a graphical error or not because the character wasn't acknowledging what was clearly evident.

Lastly, the Free-for-all multiplayer modes are fun, but they got old for me pretty quickly. There wasn't anything there to keep me wanting to play it, and the janky controls and movements made killing each other rely a little too much on luck once we got into close range combat. There were also a few games for me of the Capture the Flag style called "Money Grab" where the bags of money ( flags ) weren't re-spawning properly, and the game just turned into a pointless game of killing each other in a small amount of space. Needless to say I died quickly and often.

Are any of these game changing? No... just a little annoying.

The Ugly!
So you're probably expecting the worst part of the game now right? Well the fact is there really isn't anything ugly to gripe about. If I had to describe something as "ugly" it would have to be the sometimes unpolished graphics and glitches that come about far too often. It wasn't rare to come across enemies stuck below the ground, trains speeding down the tracks with their "passengers" left behind floating above the ground, horses pulling buggies down the road only the buggies, reins and driver are floating above my head. Again there's nothing that breaks the game, at least not yet, and it's not something that stops me from enjoying the moment and the game as a whole, it's just a little on the ugly side and feels like it could have used a little more polish.

In the end, if you haven't played or at least looked into this game, you need to do yourself a favor and do it! It's the perfect setting for a video game set in an open world and it's done by arguably the best team to do it, and they definitely pulled it off. Red Dead Redemption is exactly what you'd expect from the Old West and brings you on an adventure you're going to enjoy every step of the way, either on the path they've set out for you, or on the one you carve yourself! Months of gameplay and challenges lie ahead in a game that brings entertainment, value and good old fashion cussing! And I sirs and madams, couldn't be enjoying myself more.

The Way I See It: Buy it!! Buy it now and mosey on over and wrangle up some cows! It's great!

Overall Score: 9.5 / 10 FIFA World Cup 2010 South Africa

In sport there are few tournaments that match the spectacle that is the FIFA World Cup, in fact I'll argue that there are none. The FIFA World Cup is a near 3 year tournament that involves over 200 nations from around the globe. Its popularity, legacy and size are enough to garner its own game in "2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa"; EA Sports newest football; errr... I mean Soccer game. With many different game types and features, from qualifying with your favourite country, full online tournaments, to specific scenarios you can try to overcome, the real question many Soccer fans have is if the release of a World Cup specific game is needed in addition to the yearly FIFA game already released by EA Sports. This gamer is skeptical.

As I mentioned, this version of EA's soccer game provides players with one distinguishable difference from FIFA 10, and that's the World Cup Tournament. There's no leagues, no region cups, no championship tournaments; just one major run at soccer, and arguably, sports greatest trophy. You choose your country of choice and starting from either the qualification round or the group stage of the World Cup Finals, you make your way towards the ultimate goal. It's important to note that if you start from the finals, you can only use one of the 32 qualifying teams. If your goal is to lead Turkestan to glory, you'll have to start from their regional qualifications and move your way through. You can play friendlies on your way if you're so inclined in order to mess with formations and lineups. Once you've proceeded past the group stage in either scenario, you're able to kick off individual matches from that stage of the tournament.

The now standard "be a pro" feature finds it's way into this game as well, only it's called Captain Your Team. Just like Be a Pro, you can control one of the thousand Internationals already in the game, or you can create your own from scratch and have at it. I didn't enjoy this too much as there's a lot going on on the pitch, and controlling just one player put me a little too out of touch. It wasn't horrible, just sometimes a little lonely out there. I found the game much more enjoyable when controlling complete aspects of the game.

A new and interesting game type is the promise of scenario type games called "Story of the Finals" in which actual game situations from this years World Cup will be uploaded as DLC and you'll be able to take control of the action and try to reverse the real-life fortunes, or misfortunes, of this years tournament. I'm interested to see where this leads and what type of situations present themselves. I've never been a big fan of scenarios in sports games as I prefer to create my own great games, though I can see how fans of that game type will enjoy taking a crack at accomplishing what reality couldn't.

This game is beautiful! Once again EA has made improvements to the graphics and overall animation of the players, the crowd the field and so on. After spending an entire weekend playing match after match with a group of friends I still found myself stepping back and admiring just how awesome it looks. The players themselves also look great and they're looking more and more like their real life counterparts with each iteration. Of course if you have FIFA 10, you know this already. One aspect that has been changed is the players physics. Gone are the days of running through a downed player, or passing the ball through the referee. Player momentum affects the way the ball plays off them, as well as the way other players play off them. It's a welcome dose of reality as far as I'm concerned.

The penalty shot mechanics have been overhauled for this iteration of the game, and I found this to be one of the more frustrating parts of the game. In reality, a penalty shot in soccer is as close to a sure thing as you're going to get in any sport. You have a massive net and you're 12 yards away. The keeper is at a large disadvantage and usually, they're guessing. The mechanics of taking the shot in FIFA World Cup are such that it's very difficult just to get the shot on target. After an entire weekend of playing, none of us were hitting the net with consistency. The tutorial available does a decent job of helping you along the way, but it's still a rather difficult skill to master, which for a penalty kick just didn't feel right. The same is true for free kicks. Getting a set play to go the way you want it to take a lot more effort and practice than I would like. I'm not looking to score on free kicks, but at least getting them near the mark now and then would be nice. It's not a deal breaker by any means, but it adds some frustrations.

The big question to me with this game was, as someone who has FIFA 10 already, what is the major benefit to getting this version? The answer to me was there is none. There is a fantastic, polished, beautiful game here and for people excited about the World Cup or those who passed on FIFA 10, you're going to be very happy with the game, but owners of FIFA 10 can definitely let this one slide by, you really don't need both. Most of the gameplay is the same, and if you really want to, you can update the rosters and run through a World Cup tournament on your own with FIFA 10 and you're not going to be missing much. Playing with your friends is the same thing, while we had a complete blast playing this game in a group of soccer fans, we had just as much fun playing FIFA 10... and we scored more penalty shots.

The Way I See It: A solid and beautiful game trying to take advantage of soccer mania that's about to hit the world. If you don't have FIFA 10, this is a great buy! That's a big IF though.

Overall Score: 8.2 / 10 Tecmo Bowl Throwback

I was never a huge football fan growing up. I had a interest in following the Miami Dolphins (Thank you Ace Ventura) and I paid attention to the sport, but I was far from die-hard. That being said, I spent a ton of time playing Tecmo Super Bowl (1993) on my SNES and loved every moment of it. Enter one of the latest editions to the XBox Live Arcade, Tecmo Bowl Throwback, a graphics updated version of the 1991 classic. Don't worry, one hit of the button and you're back in 1993 on your 13" TV and all the glory of 16 Bit graphics.

"Hut, Hut, Hut, Hut, Hut, Hut, Hut, Hut, Hut, Hut, Hut, Hut"

Tecmo Bowl Throwback is modified version of the Tecmo Super Bowl released on the SNES in 1993. They've redesigned the entire graphics engine to be in line with today's HD standards ( thank god ) yet the rest of the game's features are untouched, leaving you with that nostalgic feeling we all love to revisit. If that nostalgia isn't enough for you, at almost any point during play, just tap the right bumper and the game switches back to it's ultra pixelated 4:3 version that reminds you of just how bad "good graphics" used to be. Yet while ugly, it's pretty cool.

As I mentioned the gameplay and speed is untouched, so you can still drop back 50 yards and throw a 95 yard pass, kick a 90 yard punt and the defence still gets that unexplainable burst of speed when you're about to break for a 90 yard run. And yes, you still fumble every fourth run when it's raining out, and running backs go down with injuries every second game. It was important to leave the gameplay untouched, as the nostalgia is exactly what is going to draw you to the game, and while it starts to wear off after awhile, there's enough here to keep the game reasonable in terms of value. Don't be expecting some deep football arcade game, it's still the same four pass, four run playbook and the defence pretty much just guesses at what play you're going to run... guess right and it's Sack Time!

EA and the NFL's exclusive deal comes up to bit us all in the rear again. Tecmo Bowl Throwback, unlike it's '93 counter part, has no NFL or NFLPA licensing so you're stuck playing as Miami, with blue uniforms and a Killer Whale on your helmet or Washington in black with lightning bolts. While it doesn't affect the game at all, it would have been nice to have the names we know and love in there instead of the generic ones. Of course video games is a big business and one again money trumps our enjoyment slightly, but I digress, that topic is for another day.

Overall you're going to want to pick this one up if, like me, you played the original till the cartridge broke. If you didn't, and you have some strange affinity to see how football games used to be made, this is a fun little arcade style game that you can pickup and play in 10 minute increments. At 800 Microsoft Points, the value is there, but only if you're going for the nostalgia or you have 800 points burning a whole in your Xbox. If you've never played the series, you can probably find something of a little more value in the Arcade that isn't going to rely on your childhood memories to keep you coming back.

The Way I See It: Tecmo Bowl Throwback is exactly what it claims to be, a throwback, and a great title to go back to and get that 1993 feeling all over again.


Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Haggard, Sweetwater, Marlow and the Sarge are back! Dice & EA's Battlefield: Bad Company 2 brings you more of the same, tweaks it, refines it, and then injects the multi-player with some much needed fixes to make an all around solid and enjoyable military shooter, with a few bumps in the road that makes things slightly bumpy.

The campaign once again puts you in the shoes of Preston Marlowe in "Bad Company" and makes it's way through a solid 8 - 10 hour run in search of the origins of a secret weapon being developed to be used on the United States. If you played the first Bad Company, then you pretty much know what to expect here, which isn't a horrible thing. I really enjoyed my run through the campaign, however I was a little disappointed to see that at the end of the day, it's really just more of the same. They refined a few of the mechanics that were good, but not great in the first game, for example building demolition, but didn't really give you enough instances to make use of it. In fact I did most of my destruction once an area was cleared and my squad mates were just standing there looking at each other waiting for me to move... which brings me to my next point.

There's a lot of funny banter between the characters, again similar to the first game, however some of it is relegated to these odd stationary moments after a fight sequence where you're all standing around and you can sit there and listen. Once you move forward they'll follow your lead, or occasionally just warp in front of you to take up positions in the next "scene". It's pretty evident to me that Dice made these moments for a number of reasons; firstly, you can explore the area looking for new weapons you haven't collected yet, or com-units that need to be taken down ( read: collection achievements ) and secondly, trying to highlight so of the humour as it's easy to miss when you have a stationary machine gun unloading on you or the building you're hiding in. Now while I can appreciate this, it makes one of the best aspects of the game, the humour, camaraderie and fluid "real world chatter" that this squad indulges in, very easy to miss, which is a real shame. If you're the type that investigates every little corner, then you're going to catch these for sure, but players who like to b-line it through games are definitely going to miss out on these gems, and mark my words... they're worth the wait. Haggard being schooled on his current location ( South America, not South Africa ) had me laughing so hard I had to pause the game.

The weapon collecting, and allocation of ammo boxes, and supply crates was something I found a little refreshing. I'm all for making games tight on ammunition when there's a good reason for it, but if I want to empty my 8 RPGs into the house by the water, it shouldn't make the next 8 levels hard to get through! Being able to move through an enemy encounter in so many different ways ( around houses, over houses or even through them! ) means the tools you need might be different at every turn. Having the supply crates, which allow you to change your primary and secondary weapons to anything you've collected, make for a less frustrating time of changing tactics or game play style on a certain encounter. If something isn't working, pick up a couple of different weapon types, and try again!

Where the value part of the equation comes in, is the multi-player. If you've played Battlefield games before, you're going to be fairly familiar with this environment. One of the knocks Bad Company took on it's first release, was the overall lackluster multi-player and it's pretty evident that Dice put a thick coating of polish on it for the sequel. You can choose from one of four class types ( Assault, Medic, Engineer, Recon ) and help fight some very strategically oriented maps in one of three basic game types. Conquest (standard Battlefield multi-player), Rush ( Attacker-Defender ) and Squad Deathmatch. The more you play a specific class, the more ranks you'll gain and the more tools you'll have available to you. For example I started out as a Medic, but I couldn't do much healing for a substantial period of time, so unlocking all the kits and all their tools is going to take you some time. They did a fine job of balancing out the utility of each of the classes, and a well balanced group is sure to do some damage in the field ( to both buildings and opponents faces alike! ).

The overall presentation of Bad Company 2 was another aspect of the game that I appreciated. A lot of different environments are presented to you during the campaign, as well as some excellent work with sound both in the campaign and the multi-player. Near misses with RPGs slow down your response times, and leave a nice resonating sound in your head and running inside a building with an assault rifle firing on all cylinders echos off the walls as you'd expect it to. It really made me stop and shoot up the inside of a few shipping containers :o). There's some graphical and physical hiccups along the way, but I think it's pretty much unavoidable when you have this much of the environment damageable. For example, one level has you caught in a major snow storm where exposure for any length of time is going to kill you, so you're put in a situation where you're clearing from house to house to make your way in from out of the cold. Naturally there are some enemies along the way, and if you happened to bring your RPG you can just demolish the walls in the house you're moving into next as to easily see the enemy however that house, which now has no walls, will still keep you warm from the extreme cold! Kinda not how houses without walls work.

At the end of the day, fans of Bad Company, and the Battlefield series are going to get more of what they expected, new players should be pleasantly entertained and those who didn't enjoy the boys the first time around, probably won't enjoy them this time either.

The Way I See It: A solid campaign with the always enjoyable Battlefield multi-player action is something everyone should enjoy!

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 Fret Nice

Fret Nice is one of the newest Xbox Arcade titles. It's developed by Pieces Interactive and it's a 2D platformer with quirky graphics that promises to "Rock Your World", however... Even the interesting graphics can't save a game that starts with a brutal title, and ends with the horrible execution of a decent idea.

You're a musician, and you're running around the levels collecting musical notes and such for points. All the while you're obliterating enemies by jumping in the air, and then pressing a sequence of buttons that "match" the enemies in order to defeat him. However, it's not colour coded, or simple "press X, Y, B" rather the enemies are black blobs with X number of eyes, X number of ears and X mouths and when you jump in the air, pressing different controller buttons produces a bubble over you head that is supposed to match the enemies. If they match, the enemy dies. It's nothing overly complicated, and it gets boring real fast. Not to mention that if you put a few too many eyes or ears, you still kill the enemy... so when you get bored, it just becomes a button mashing nightmare.

The design of the levels are meant to be re-playable, however it often leads to a very confusing situation where you're not sure if you're supposed to be jumping on the drums ( to get tossed in the air ) or if you can jump on a certain ledge or if it's just part of the background etc... It all leads to a very distracted experience as you fumble you're way through it all. I'm assuming the theory behind it is that you can come back, replay the level over and over and get better at it, and post faster scores and reach hidden areas... but really, no one is going to do that to themselves, and if they did it's probably borderline self torture, and they need to see someone about that.

While it was boring, and repetitive I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt that someone somewhere would like it... and that's when it happened. The boss fight.

Now I'm somewhat of a completionist, and I like to explore all the areas of a level in games, even ones that are timed, and I passed a section that looked like I could go "in" a building or something, but I'd just disappear behind it, and then couldn't go any further. So back to where I was headed, and that's when the boss spawned... a pile of the enemies all rolled together, with masks on ( so I couldn't see what sequence I had to play! OH NO!! ). I jumped, I smashed buttons, I ran away, nothing was stopping him.. I was back at the building that I tried to go in, and the ball of enemies rolling in on me... SPLAT. Continue? ( Do I dare? )... I pressed start and suddenly I was INSIDE the building... the background, or rather foreground disappeared and I was running away, inside the building that apparently now I can go in. Next, a hole, with what looked like a ledge on the other side, but the screen wouldn't scroll any further. "Great now what?!" I jumped, I smashed more buttons and he kept coming... and I died... again... Continue? ( Why me?!?! ) I pressed start and poof... I feel down the hole. Dead? Nope! that's what I was supposed to do. I landed on a skateboard that I powered by pressing X! and NOW the boss fight starts... matching "riffs" with the enemies ahead of me, and smashing X to keep myself ahead of the rolling ball of baddies with masks! Basically I kept jumping and smashing the buttons in order to match everything, no skill, just mashing and I was getting combos and kills and staying ahead of the Ball-O-Baddies until I reached the now familiar end of level helicopter and I flew away. Level complete.

If that little anecdote confused and frustrated you... go drop 1200 points on this game and get a sense of frustration, boredom and just plain stupidity.

The game gives you the option to play with a guitar controller if you have one, but it's even more broken. I tried doing it that way at first, since it was a "music" game, but that is definitely not the better option. You tilt the guitar to jump and then press your "riffs" but they include the buttons that make your character move ( Yellow and Green ). So I hit yellow to make an eye for example and I would start floating away from the enemy I was trying to kill, and get too far away and it would fail. I'd have to jump OVER the enemy, and then play the riff so then I wouldn't float out of range. It was just an all around frustrating experience.

We've come to expect some really good value and entertainment from arcade games. Developers and publishers ( Shame on you Tecmo! ) should know that they can't get away with releasing crap anymore!

The Way I See It: Horrible controls, busted gameplay and a frustrating experience. Give the points away to someone before you spend them here!

Suggestions: What the CRAP!?

Overall Score: 5.1 / 10 Lazy Raiders

Lazy Raiders is the new XBox Live Arcade title from Sarbakan Game Studio. It's one for the action/puzzle genre fans out there. In it you enter the levels with Dr. Diggbone, or your own avatar, and guide him through 80 levels of puzzles trying to recover the 16 Lost Relics. When I say guide, I mean guide... 'cuz Dr Diggbone don't walk! Instead you throw him around the levels by rotating and flipping the maze, collecting gems, idols, and "The Golden Pick" in each level in order to advance, all the while avoiding boulders, flames, traps, thieves, snowballs, ice pits, moving platforms and on and on!!! It's pandemonium, and it's fun!

Like all puzzlers, there's plenty of reason to go back and replay the levels such as collectibles and flat out time trials to see who gets it done the quickest. And of course you have the now standard Leaderboards to keep things between you and your friends interesting. Look out competitive types!

As I mentioned, the game comes with full Avatar support, so instead of throwing the doctor around you can throw your Avatar, which lets face it... (s)he's mostly just standing there, taking up space on your Dashboard, you may as well put him to good use! For it's troubles, (s)he will unlock some Avatar awards that they can proudly display to brag about being tossed around mazes as a Lazy Raider


One of the features I enjoyed seeing was the accessibility of the tips & hints. You can get them from the menu, the loading screens ( if you're paying attention!! ) and in-game while you're throwing things around. For those who like a challenge, the tips are easily avoidable so you can show the world your brain-power and figure it all out yourself. I wouldn't expect any cookies in the mail for it though! At the start of the level, you're able to sit back and create a plan of attack, the time won't start until you make your first move, which again is pretty helpful! Don't fear making mistakes as a wrong one is easily rectified with a quick press of the back button, and you aren't punished for restarting levels!

For my tastes the difficulty level was perfect... it definitely gets challenging as you go along, and while I didn't breeze through every maze, I generally finish them after one or two tries if not on the first. The fun is in going back and doing it better! Oh those leaderboards!! There aren't many achievements, as is standard for an arcade title, but trying to finish a map faster than the developer is going to keep you busy I'm sure! ( No YouTubing!!! )

At 800 Microsoft Points, this game is a steal for fans of the genre, and those new to it a like. It's a perfect Arcade title, and a joy to pick up and play all at once, or in little doses over time.

The Way I See It: It's fun, tricky, fast paced, and even has a few laughs! Oh! and did I mention fun?! Buy It! Play It! Love it!

Suggestions: Fantastic game! It's the exact thing I think gamers look for in Arcade titles, and the price point is perfect.

Keep em coming!

Overall Score: 8.7 / 10 Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment

It's reunion time! Talk about digging one up! Konami returns to the Vandal Hearts franchise after a nearly 10 year hiatus. The Japanese turn-based RPG that started out for the Playstation almost 12 years ago, with a sequel 2 years later, returns with a prequel, Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment in the form of an XBLA title! The question is does it still hold up after all these years? Does it justify the 1200 Microsoft Points? Lets find out.

As mentioned the game is as a prequel to the original, putting you in the role of Tobias, one of the many orphans of "The Great War". You're at school, learning your arts when out of nowhere ( shockingly! ) bandits attack your village, and very quickly the fate of the lands are in the hands of you and a few of your classmates.

The Good. The game does a great job of sticking to it's roots. Battles place you on a grid style of map and give you goals to meet for Victory such as who must survive the fight, and the enemies that need to be killed. There are a variety of different battlefields, as well as some creative mechanics, such as rolling rocks towards a gate to break it open, or killing the enemies before a character dies, that mix the fights up and keep it interesting.

As you progress through the game, your skills increase as you use them. That is to say for every melee attack, your melee skills go up, and for each spell cast, your magic skills go up etc... This allows you to decide who's going to fill which class role for your group, and you're able to equip each character with the items that will benefit them the most. I prefer the system more to the XP / talent point style of play as it's simple, and more intuitive which is a good fit for this game, you don't need to be putting more time into skills and specs than you are into playing the actual game. It doesn't require you to scroll through 100 melee option to increase your caster's Mana pool for example. The graphics, sounds and plot all fit the bill, they're enjoyable, well done and definitely a plus to the game.

The Bad. Don't start a battle if you have a plane to catch... because you're probably going to miss it. The overall pace of the game is "laid back" to put it mildly. The Battles themselves take a long time to get through, especially when they start including upwards of 20 bandits. I once spent a fair amount of time just watching bandits move around the screen and attack me while I wondered when I was going to get another turn, only to make 2 moves and then sit and watch for another lengthy amount.

The process of actually making moves can be a little tricky as well, with a number of button presses to do something as simple as switch to ranged weapon or use an item. I felt they could have made use of a number of the unused buttons available to them rather than rely on the old system of scrolling through menu options for each character... it's vintage and nostalgic, but so is walking uphill both ways to school, and I'm pretty sure we all stopped doing that.

Another annoyance for me was the save system. It's a manual system that gives you the option to save here and there, and what struck me as just silly was that should you decide not to take that choice, because say you plan on playing for awhile longer, and then two battles down the line you are defeated you end up having no option but to load your last save point. Unheard of? no... but how hard is to offer the player to retry the failed battle? Having to go back and redo a 20 minute battle you have already won because you didn't want to save seems like excessive punishment for getting your rear handed to you.

Lastly... if I ever see those loading screens again, it'll be too soon! Some of them were longer than the story telling screen that follows it, only to go back to a loading screen right after it! Again... nostalgia I don't need.

The Way I See It: An enjoyable visit to an old friend that you liked so much, and didn't need to be reminded of his annoying qualities. If you like the genre & series, you should give it a go!

Don't Forget!: Demos are free

Suggestions: Player convenience goes a long way. I find the constant menuing, loading, and waiting, just takes away from an otherwise solid game

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks

Ben 10, for those not familiar, is an action cartoon that runs on The Cartoon Network where a boy finds a wrist device that is attached permanently to his wrist allowing him to transform into 10 different alien forms, and like all cartoons, he ends up saving the world doing it. It's important to know this going in, and it's also important to get some background on show as the game doesn't do a great job of filling in those blanks. I spent the better part of this adventure scratching my head trying to find out who was who, and where I was going. This game is definitely geared towards fans of the series, and if that's you, I think you're in for a treat as the game puts you in control of the action. Those on the other side of the fence will find a game with a spotty story, and a lot of time spent watching a cartoon rather than playing the game.

Lets start with the good. From what I can tell the game sticks pretty well to the show, which has to be the point. Players already entrenched in the story of Ben 10 will have little trouble keeping up. The game puts the player in control of Ben Tennyson, the series star, and his morphing inducing wrist watch, The Omnitrix. The world is ending, and you're their last hope... well, you and your cousin, sarcastic friend, grandfather, the time traveling professor who keeps appearing on queue and The Plumbers, whomever they are. Vilgax, the evil alien nemesis of Ben 10 is invading the earth, and the only way to stop him is to travel back in time and stop Vilgax before h gets started. They spend a lot of time advancing the story using cartoon cut-scenes but I had two issues with them. They're long, which is ok for this type of game, but they don't do a great job of filling in the non-fan of what's going on... so again, if you're not familiar with the story lines, you're lost and getting frustrated. Second, some of the cooler things, like killing off one of the first bosses, is actually done in a cutscene, I worked hard to get his health down, and then the game finishes him for me!

Moving on! As you go about traveling to different planets on your faithful alien ship called... um... "Ship" you're faced with puzzles and obstacles that require you to use the different abilities from each of your aliens to get past. They do a good job of showing the ropes, and then leaving it up to the player to figure out what to do next time a similar puzzle comes up. While they do get a little repetitive, and I found myself walking for long periods of time with an occasional "hit the door with the fire" puzzles, there was some variety that kept it fresh enough.

Where the game really broke down for me was on boss fights... there are puzzles built into them, however they're really poorly designed. For example one of the early fights was against two snakes... I'm blasting away with fireballs and there's nothing happening. I stood in one spot for literally 5 minutes and nothing was hitting me, they kept swiping at me, and snapping at me and nothing. I'd fire back at them w/o moving... nothing. I kept noticing these green clouds from the snakes, the same ones on the doors I was blasting but it wasn't doing anything, until I moved. Once I moved to another spot, and timed the fireballs perfectly, I damaged the snake. There were lots of instances of combat where it just didn't make sense, and I can easily see players getting frustrated. Suddenly my laser beams do no damage, my fireballs do no damage, but if I ignite the gas coming from the around the bosses, I score big time. I'm familiar with the old "you have to shoot him in the eye" type of boss puzzle, and that's not what this was, and this wasn't the only instance of it. Clearly my special powers should be damaging bosses or enemies, but because it's not the right way, it doesn't work. They missed the mark on the boss fights by trying to make them too simple, they make them boring, drawn out and often frustrating.

I hate to rile on complaints, but there are a few more that are really game changers. They have this hint system that pops up and tells you what to do now and then, but the sound of the guy talking it just brutal. They've recorded things like "the B Button" or "right trigger" outside of the line being spoken, obviously to make it easier to port to different consoles, but it just sounds so broken and cheap. Hurts the presentation quite a bit. The other is the constantly appearing "Point of Interest". Again, it's a hint system that just hinders more than aids at times. When a Point of Interest comes up, the game asks you to push the LT, and it moves the camera as to highlight a certain ledge, pole or car and let you know that "Hey... you need to interact with this thing". The problem is, on many occasions these Points of Interest are on the other side of a building, or in another room through a window etc... and pressing the LT ends up highlighting something that isn't even relevant. I spent a good amount of time trying to get up on a ledge that I though I needed to be on, when it turns out the Point of Interest was actually a pole, on the backside of the building I was trying to climb, and only once I got around the corner did the camera seem to highlight the correct point. Same with a lift that was outside a room I was in, but the LT was highlighting a computer I though needed to be smashed. Couple with some odd behavior around boxes that I can sometimes climb, and sometimes can't or ledges that I can sometimes grab and sometimes can't and ramps that appear out of thin air... it's an exercise in frustration to figure out just where to go next, which shouldn't be the case in the game of this nature.

If you can get by the glitchy camera and learn to work the hint system to make sure it's pointing to the right place, fans of the game should be able to enjoy their time with Ben 10. It's not very difficult, and there is health items inside every breakable piece of the environment so unless you fall down a well, dying isn't going to happen to often. Enemy swarms appear through your adventures through the puzzles and having a wide range of aliens to do away with them breaks up the monotony of walking around solving the same puzzle for a minute stretch. I wound up find a group of favourite aliens, and used them over and over again, though the achievement system involves achievements for killing 150 baddies with specific aliens, so there's an added reason to switch and try them all, which if you care about those things, is a great way to keep you interested in moving forward.

The Way I See It: A fun, simple though at times frustrating romp through the adventures of Ben Tennyson which will keep young fans of the series entertained, and the rest a little lost and confused.

Overall Score: 6.8 / 10 NHL 10

September brings a few things... The end of summer, the start of the school year and a new version of Electronic Art's yearly hockey franchise, NHL. With the way EA pumps out their sports franchises it's important that they introduce new and improved features and not just a fresh coat of paint, and some flash and splash here. This year's iteration, NHL 10, has a plethora of new features the question is are they worth the price of admission.

The game ships with the now standard game types, Be a Pro, Be a GM, Play Now ( quick game options ) etc... however there are some welcome additions this year. "Go for the Cup Now", "Playoff Run" and "Season Run" have been added to
give the player more choice over the long and sometimes tedious "Be a GM" mode which puts you at the helm of an NHL franchise, where you're able to build the rosters, draft players, make trades, change the lineup, set ticket prices,
coaching options, hire staff and of course... play the games, and you get to do this for as many seasons as you can churn through.

The playoff and season runs are trimmed down versions of the "Be a GM" mode with the mode lasting only one season, or playoff run respectively. "Go for the Cup Now" drops you right into the Stanley Cup Finals in a best of 7 series for Lord Stanley's cup with whatever team you choose against whomever you want. These modes are available for clubs in the NHL, AHL and many of the European Leagues so you can go for the Calder Cup or any of the other championships available. Coming from someone who doesn't always have the time, or attention span to get through more than one season, I love these additions. They offer more options for players who don't want to micromanage multiple seasons, and just want to play through and win the cup, without taking away anything from players who want more.

Now the important stuff... gameplay mechanics. While much of the game remains the same, which is a good thing, they've added some really strong features that definitely make the experience more authentic. The first is "Board Play" which enables players to shield the puck along the boards, kick-pass the puck out to teammates amping up that real hockey feel. Players can go into the corners and pin opposing players against the boards forcing them to use their teammates in a classic "puck cycling" style. Another change is the intimidation factor EA has added. The more aggressive and physical you are with things like fore-checking, puck pressure and finishing off checks
causes the opposing players to become intimidated which may result in a bobbled puck, bad pass or the classic bail-out when they see you lining them up again.

Throw in a little bit of scrumming around after the whistle, another new addition, and you'll have your opponents shaking in their skates! Don't take it too far though, the referees are watching, and they'll toss you in the sin-bin for roughing if you get a little carried away.

The fighting system has been completely revamped. Their new "First Person Fighting engine" puts you into first person mode face-to-face with the NHL's "Tough Guys"... or not so tough guys. My first fight had me as Tomas Plekanec against Sergie Gonchar... none the less... it was a doozy, that I lose.

The controls are pretty straight forward, and give you a better sense of being involved in the fights. I found older versions of fighting never felt quite right, and I'd just mash buttons only to end up on my butt with a splitting headache. You can even tug on your opponents jersey and land a bone rattling uppercut sending their helmet flying! Come out on top and enjoy a nice boost to your team's energy. You're still sitting for five though. While it's not a game changer for me, as I try to stay out of the fights, tough guys should find this a breath of fresh air when they decide to drop the gloves.

Along with these, EA touts over 200 gameplay mechanic changes that are designed to improve the realism of the game and allow it to feel like a real hockey experience. Things like improved goaltender AI, precision passing allowing for banked passes off the boards or simply dumping it in and chasing is down. Missing the mark with a pass? No big deal. Players will stick out their skates and hands and pull in those errant passes just like pros. These were some of the first things I noticed when playing the game. They definitely add that extra level of authenticity and realism which makes for a more engaging game of hockey where students of the game can really push the limits of strategy by breaking out of the zone with a bank pass off the glass, simply firing a shot down the ice to kill the momentum, call a time-out and regroup and much more. With the on-the-fly strategy changes that the game has always featured, you can show off your coaching side with last minute changes to defend a lead, increased pressure to try to get back into the game or simply adjust the AI of your team to suit your play style.

Another step in creating that authentic feel comes from the crowd. Star players get booed in opposing team's arenas, fans bang the glass during board play and they break-out the towel waving for the playoffs! In my Be a Pro career I was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks, and noticed immediately that whenever Luongo made that big save, the fans responded just like they do at GM Place with a resounding cheer.

Speaking of the Be a Pro mode, when you start off your career, you're given the option of playing in the prospects game in which you can raise your draft ranking and go higher in the draft then you currently sit. I moved up from
15th to second. Just play your role, and try to get taken first overall. I'm pretty sure being on for two goals against is what kept me from going number one... The Islanders are gonna be sorry for passing on me! Against a small, but welcomed addition.

Some changes come in at the GM level. There is a much deeper amateur scouting system in play, and you can throw players up on the trading block and see what other GMs are offering. Player's trade values move up and down depending on their performance on the ice, so you might have to get that player scoring again before you pull the trigger on the big trade. For the hard-core hockey fan, the Be a GM mode continues to offer a ton of customization options for players to get really engaged with their team and run their favorite team through up to 25 seasons!

Also revamped is the Be a Pro "hub" labeled "The Hockey Shop". From here you can modify your Pro, from the equipment he's using to the colour of his eyes. As you play through the game, you'll unlock content such as new sticks and skates that you can use to further customize your look. Different equipment have different amount of "boosting slots" that allow you to put "Boosting Packs" into them to improve attributes like your skating, your
shooting etc. The packs can be earned, or if you don't want to spend time unlocking them, you can go onto the marketplace and buy them with some Microsoft points.

Overall, the changes made definitely add to the game. They haven't reinvented the franchise, but they allow players to be more engaged and offer that authentic feel in gameplay, team management and knocking each others heads off. As the old adage says, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!", and the NHL franchise continues to be a solid one where players can expect to enjoy the sport they love, at a level of depth and complexity that they choose.

The Way I See It: An increase in authenticity and realism with gameplay changes make this year's edition worth the price of admission for hockey fans of all levels.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 The Beatles: Rock Band

When Harmonix decided they were going to create a band specific version of Rockband, based on the most popular and influential bands ever, they knew they had to create more than a game... they had to create an experience.

Now let?s get right to it... I can't remember the last time I enjoyed an entire gaming experience this much... every aspect of the game... The music, the story, the challenges, the extras... I just want more.. all the time.

Being a ?The Beatles? fan my entire life (disclaimer!), I?ve always loved the music but I?ve never been ?obsessed? with them so to speak, not that there is anything wrong with that, but since I didn't "LIVE" the Beatles, I had to experience them through cassette tapes ( remember those? ), and then CDs, watching the movies, and hearing the stories. The Beatles:Rockband is a completely new way for fans to experience the Fab Four, and it does an unforgettable job of it!

There are two ways to play this game, Quickplay, which allows players to jump right into the game, alone or with a group of friends, online or off, and play any one of the games carefully chosen 45 song track list. Pretty much on par with other games in the Rockband franchise, only all songs are unlocked from the get-go!

Of course where this game shines is the Story mode; taking players on a journey through the iconic careers of John, Paul George and Ringo. It starts off where the band did, at The Cavern Club in Liverpool England, and takes the long and winding road (I had to!) all the way to their now infamous final performance on the rooftop of the Abbey Road Recording Studio. During the journey, players make stops at memorable band performances including The Ed Sullivan Show, Shea Stadium, and Budakon. From there it shifts into the recording studio echoing the group?s decision to stop doing live concerts. Rather than being satisfied with showing the boys lounging around the recording studio, the game presents dreamscapes specifically tailored to the song you?re currently playing. From the underwater tones of ?Yellow Submarine?, the imaginary tour of Sgt. Pepper and the psychedelic world of ?Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds?. It?s an incredibly glimpse into a crazy 10 years of Beatlemania. Throughout the story mode, players are rewarded with pictures, videos and other tidbits that add to the glimpse into The Beatles.

Now I know what some of you are thinking... ?What if I?m not a fan??. While fans of The Beatles will definitely get the most out of it, there is plenty here for fans of the Rockband series, and who knows... by the time you?re through the story, you might be singing a different tune.

While a lot of ?The Beatles? music is fairly straight forward and thus translates to a fairly straight forward note chart, there are moments of brilliance in the music that bring some very complex sequences. While the hardcore player might not be overly challenged there?s enough here to keep players of all skill levels interested. Overall the difficulty is definitely tempered, an attempt to keep the game open to a broader scope of player, however the difficulty definitely takes a big step up once you go expert. The good news is that if you?re not being challenged, you have the upbeat, catchy and very familiar songs of ?The Beatles? to make sure you?re having fun! Which I believe is the point! For those not familiar with The Beatles, this game can bring the essence and magnitude of just what ?Beatlemania? was to a whole new generation.

The Beatles: Rockband introduces some very welcomed additions to the Rockband gameplay, the biggest of which is the addition of 2 extra microphones in the form of vocal harmonies. This allows for up to 6 players to enjoy the game or challenge players to play an instrument and sing at the same time. Some songs have up to three singing parts, each with it?s own differently coloured note guide and part meter as well as separated lyrics for a lead singer, and backup harmonies; a fitting addition for ?The Beatles?. If it all sounds a little complicated, fear not there?s an excellent set of tutorials to guide you through the harmonies mechanics as well as all other aspects of the game.

Some other mechanics that I think are worth mentioning and I hope become standards to the franchise going forward. No Fail mode can be activated from the band selection screen for easy on-off access when you?re playing in a party setting. For those getting the collectors edition which includes the new instruments, they?ve updated the firmware on the Start and Guide buttons to stop those of us who drum like Animal from hitting the buttons with our flailing drum sticks, pausing the game unceremoniously in the middle of a solo. If you do manage to pause it, or if mom comes in to interrupt, they?ve added a 3 second count in once you un-pause similar to Guitar Hero World Tour. Also new are Leaderboards for players to compare their scores against other players on their friends list! This is a welcome addition for those of us who can?t shake that competitive edge. The game also includes Achievement tracking lists similar to those you find in games like Gears of Wars 2 and Shadow Complex to help players track their status on certain achievements. Not all changes are here to stay I?m sure, the whammy bar no longer changes the sound of the song, and the drum fills are gone, both changes no doubt requested by Apple Corps, The Beatles record label, however I?d classify those changes as addition by subtraction.

As is the norm for Rockband games, Harmonix and Apple Corps have already announced upcoming DLC in the form of complete albums, though you will be able to purchase songs individually from each. ?Abbey Road?, ?Sgt. Pepper?s Lonely Hearts Club Band? and ?Rubber Soul? are the first three slated for release ?soon?. Us XBox addicts are graced with exclusive DLC right off the bat with "All You Need is Love" track available for download only on the XBox with proceeds going to the "Doctors Without Borders" organization.

The Limited Collectors Edition comes complete with the game, a microphone stand, a mic, wireless Ludwig branded drums with a ?The Beatles? kick scrim for that vintage look, and Paul McCartney?s signature Hofner Bass, to ?authentic scale?.

Harmonix definitely revolutionizes the way band specific games are done. They?ve built a loving tribute to an iconic band which should provide hours of enjoyable gameplay and extras for fans of The Beatles, and Rockband a like!

The way I wee it: Buy it. Play it. Love it, and then play it again and again!

Overall Score: 9.1 / 10

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