Oh, so this is how a war game should be done. Give us spectacular, edge-of-your-seat warfare action and graphics that border on unbelievable. Seamlessly mix in a story line with unexpected turns and a variety of weapons, even a "smart bombing" aerial assault like those seen on CNN. Add to that an immersive multiplayer mode that will be this year's answer to Resistance, the PlayStation 3 online staple released last year.
Besides being the best war game to date, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is also one of the best games of the year.
Reinventing itself after a successful run as a WWII simulator, the COD series now switches to modern times and modern problems. Gone are the beaches of Normandy; now the war-ravaged cities of the Middle East and battle-scarred forests of Central Russia are the theaters of operation. Unlike other war simulator series -- we're talking to you, Medal of Honor -- COD4 feels less like a sequel and more like a whole new direction of action-packed combat. The fresh approach, coupled with the familiar controls, is something to behold.
And besides more intense action than should be allowed, COD4 is technologically amazing. The story line goes on at the same time the near photo-quality visuals and game-play load, an unprecedented feat.
War may be hell, we've just found heaven.
Grade: A (Amazing! Nothing short of perfection.)
Details: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo DS platforms; $59.99 to $29.99; rated: mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language).
A barbarian's intoxicating effects
Sure, Conan plays an awful lot like the hit God of War franchise of video games, and most of the battle scenes slow down and showcase the gore just like the hit movie "300" did. So why is a game that is so unoriginal so hard to put down? Simple: Playing the sword-swinging barbarian helps unleash the inner 13-year-old in all of us. The comical violence (enemies' limbs go flying when hacked) and beautiful dames who need saving (all the while asking, "Where are my clothes?") feel like an adventure torn from the pages of the classic adult comic "Heavy Metal." It's simple, comfortable, R-rated fun.
Grade: A (Awesomely guilty pleasure).
Details: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms; $59.99; rated: mature (blood and gore, intense violence, nudity).