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One blast after another

November 18, 2009|Pete Metzger

Modern Warfare 2 is absolutely worth the hype. It's not for nothing that, after coming out last week, the game promptly saw record sales.

It has a remarkably well-thought-out single-player mission that seamlessly switches from stealth action to intense infantry-style battles; co-op missions that give gamers the chance to complete objectives for higher scores; and a multiplayer mode that continues its dominance over all other online games. In short, MW2 is the best game of the year.

First, the single player: A Russian madman has framed the U.S. for a massacre (reenacted in chilling detail) that leads to a spectacular invasion of American soil. As a member of a stealth team looking to uncover the truth, you must sneak behind enemy lines and extract personnel and information. Concurrently, gamers assume the role of an infantryman assigned to drive back invading forces in the Washington, D.C., area. Though the environments of the stealth missions are well-done in their own right, there is nothing as spine-tingling as seeing the National Mall under attack by all kinds of invading forces.

Then, the co-op: An all-new mode in which a gauntlet of some of the best stuff from the single-player missions awaits solo gamers or players with partners.

And lastly, the mother of all, the multiplayer mode: It has more customization and better weapons (such as being able to call in a missile strike upon unsuspecting enemies), as well as the ability to "borrow" the weapons and abilities of the person that has been dominating you. If the online battles of the first MW were a giant time suck for many, then this is an all-out war on our free time.

Grade: A+ (Hands down, the game of the year.)

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


Ratchet's Future is looking good

A hallmark of the Ratchet & Clank series developed by Burbank-based Insomniac Games is its technological superiority. The developers always seem to hide loading screens and eliminate downtime.

Then there's the game play itself. The adventures they've created starring the furry, little Lombax and his mechanical sidekick are always witty, well-scripted and -acted, and full of great action and moments.

The final installment in the Future story arc, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is no exception. It's an engrossing outing that is exciting and easily accessible; gamers from ages 8 to 80 will find something to enjoy. Whether it's the exploration of various interstellar worlds, spaceship battles or a huge array of imaginative weapons, A Crack in Time has it all. It's easily on the short list of best games of the year.

Because the action stays exciting without being too violent, it's also a good fit for younger gamers, yet manages to be cool enough for adults.

Grade: A+ (Nearly flawless.)

Details: PlayStation 3 platform; $59.99; rated Everyone 10+ (animated blood, comic mischief, fantasy violence).


DJs, prepare for tricky handiwork

It's too bad that the controller isn't as good as the concept in DJ Hero, the latest music simulator game to hit stores.

Using a 7.5-inch wireless turntable modeled after the classic Technics 1200, wannabe DJs tap one of three buttons (or use the fader and pitch knob on the attached mixer) at the right time, just as in the granddaddy of them all, Guitar Hero. Cutting and mixing has never been more accessible. And with ridiculously cool mash-ups (such as the Beastie Boys mixed with Queen!), the sounds couldn't be fresher.

But what gets frustrating is that it's really hard to keep your fingers on the buttons while scratching, which leads to missed timing and low scores. As anyone with real-life DJ experience will tell you, the best way to scratch is to slide the turntable as gently as possible, or else the record skips and the crowd groans. In this simulator, the best way to pull off the dreaded blue button scratch (the innermost button on the platter) requires hands that are closer to "meat hooks": very forceful and heavy.

So yes, this is only a simulator, and as with Guitar Hero, just because you can play the game doesn't mean you can play the instrument. But it would've been better if they could have figured out something a little more realistic.

Grade: B+ (Brilliant concept and tunes, not so brilliant controller.)

Details: All platforms; $29-$59.99; rated Teen (mild language, violence).


A new story out of Liberty City

It's nice to see Rockstar Games take full advantage of Liberty City, the amazing sandbox it created. The New York-inspired collection of boroughs makes the perfect stage on which to set an endless amount of crime-ridden stories.

That's exactly what Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City does. It gives us one entirely new story line called "The Ballad of Gay Tony" as well as the previously released biker epic "The Lost and the Damned" all on one disc, and set in the familiar confines of Algonquin and its surroundings.

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