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A great game is born

November 12, 2008|Pete Metzger | Metzger is a freelance writer.
  • Exploring the vast wasteland of a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., is one of the best features of the stunning "Fallout 3."
Exploring the vast wasteland of a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C.,… (Bethesda Softworks )

The overall theme of Fallout 3 is unlike any in the history of video gaming: It's all about childbirth.

The moment your customizable main character is born in a futuristic bomb shelter outside Washington, D.C., you realize you're in for something different. And being taught to control the toddler version of him or her at the start of the game and learning as she does is possibly the most original tutorial in all of gaming.

As she grows up, attends school and comes to accept her surroundings, she learns that being a "Vault dweller" is a comfortable thing.

That is, until her scientist father decides to leave the safety of the community and venture into the post-apocalyptic wasteland that awaits outside. It's not pretty out there, you've always been told, but too bad: Dad's actions have forced you to leave.

Like exiting the security of the womb, once outside, the world is full of danger, darkness and horrors beyond your wildest imagination; mutants, raiders, giant bugs and rabid dogs are just a few of your problems in 2077. The engrossing game-play and magnificent graphics, combined with generally small load times, make it all truly spectacular. After you begin, it's hard not to want to explore more, a hallmark of a great outing like this one.

As in any good role-playing game, the choices you make for your character growing up influence how and what she does best later. Plus, the controls are simple and intuitive; and the game's great "Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System" lets you target a specific part of an enemy during battle.

Yes, a lot of what Fallout 3 does can be compared to last year's amazing Bioshock, but the detail and precision with which this game was made shouldn't be missed.

Grade: A (Awe-inspiring)

Details: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms; $59.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language, use of drugs)

This imitation isn't so flattering

Now this is an attack of the clones.

Saints Row 2 is such a complete copy of the Grand Theft Auto series it should have just been called GTA 5. It doesn't get any more blatant than this.

From the open-world environments to the crime-infested streets, even down to the various radio stations that can be tuned in to while driving a stolen car, SR2 does all the things GTA does, only a lot more poorly. Technical glitches, lousy writing and worse voice acting drag SR2 down.

The lone bright spot is the ability to create a fully customizable character with which to venture into Liberty City, oops, Stillwater. Seeing your characters appear in the cut-screens wearing whatever you've dressed them in is a nice touch, but not enough to warrant playing this plagiarism.

Grade: C- (Customizable characters are good; everything else isn't)

Details: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms; $59.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, sexual content, strong language, use of drugs)

Killers for hire in Central Africa

The back of the box that holds Far Cry 2 boasts that the game's story about a mercenary hired to kill an arms dealer in Central Africa plays for 50 hours. But after just a little playtime, we were convinced that if all of the really exciting parts were added up, the count would be closer to five hours.

FC2 features a big, beautiful African countryside to explore in an open-world setting. Unfortunately, getting between the places where things happen takes a ridiculously long time and requires driving cars that are remarkably easy to crash, forcing you to complete the journey with a long, boring walk.

How did the game that offered so much promise at this year's E3 game convention turn into something not very inviting?

Take away the lush landscapes and you're left with a standard "killers for hire" story with subpar voice acting, poor writing and below-average levels of excitement.

Grade: C- (Choose Fallout 3 instead)

Details: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms; $59.99; rated Mature (blood, drug reference, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language)

Wii can all make a cacophony

Wii Music is a perfect illustration of Nintendo's new mantra: Anyone can play. In this case, it's musical instruments.

By moving the Wii remote or by pushing some buttons, even the musically challenged can pretend to play a jazzy rendition of a song such as the Monkees' "Daydream Believer." Playing the trumpet, for instance, is as easy as holding the controller to your face, as you would an actual trumpet, and tapping two buttons to the beat of a metronome.

Although it's incredibly easy to make sounds, it's very difficult to make actual music. Without basic musical skills (most important, rhythm), the sounds that the cute little Miis pound out are more like a full-scale aural assault than anything pleasing. To compound matters, each performance can be saved into a music video to relive the horror over and over again.

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