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Xbox 360: Launch Games

Mark Bemenderfer and Gary Hotze | Monday, February 6, 2006

Call of Duty 2

The “Call of Duty” franchise has established itself as one of the premier World War II first person shooters on the market, which is no easy task in that crowded market. “Call of Duty 2” had many expectations placed upon it before it was released, and while not as fresh as the original, it is one really one of the first WW II games to give that feeling like the bullets are flying by and the enemy is close at hand.

Graphically the game is up there with best of the launch titles. Buildings crumble and tanks lurch thru the snow or desert in the game’s many diverse campaign locations in a pleasing way. There is the feeling that no game at this point has really tapped into what the Xbox 360 has to offer. The level design is fairly wide and open and there never is the sense that the character is following some sort of narrow path.

Where this game really shines however, is with the A.I. Enemies duck and cover, fall back when the odds are against them or surge forward when they see a decisive advantage.

The members of the accompanying squad are also fairly intelligent. Most of the time they are more than just vacant polygons, as they communicate enemy position, curses, taunts and orders.

Out of all the games that are available for the Xbox 360, “Call of Duty 2” is probably the best of the launch lot, at least in terms of consistency.

Overall rating: A-

Perfect Dark Zero

With almost six years having past since the original Nintendo 64 hit and spiritual successor to “Goldeneye,” one would think that developer Rare would have a polished killer-app on their hands. Unfortunately, “Perfect Dark Zero” is not that killer-app that the Xbox 360 needs.

In terms of story, the game takes place prior to the original game. It fails to engage or have relevance, and the cheesy dialogue and poor voice acting in cut-scenes leaves much to be desired.

The single player campaign is marred by the awful level design. However, the developers seem to have been aware of this fact. After wandering around aimlessly on the same level, even on harder difficulty levels, the game plots a big trail of flashing blue lines and arrows on the ground to lead to the final destination.

The graphics are a mixed-bag at times. The images shine, literally, and the game has a plastic sheen to it that takes some getting used to. There are also frame rate issues, making the game run at only 30 FPS most of the time. The character design is at times cartoonish as well.

Multiplayer for the large part is where feel the game redeems itself. Its laundry-list of features is longer and better than “Halo 2.” Online, the game includes currently up 32 players to each game and the much touted online Co-op did make the cut. Strangely enough, enemy AI is much more competent and stealthy than in single-player.

Playing the Dark Ops and various multiplayer options online and offline really has that old “Goldeneye”/ “Perfect Dark” feeling well.

Overall, it is a solid if not above average first person shooter, but it could have been so much more of a complete and consistent experience.

Overall rating: B+King Kong

Quite simply, this game is a rush to play.

There are two modes of play, the first of which is one where the player assumes the role of the scriptwriter from the movie, Jack Driscoll. Being merely human, the dangers he faces on Skull Island prove to be massive and life threatening. The first time a player faces off against a dinosaur can be a gripping, tricky experience.

Some small arms can be acquired, but unlike most first-person games, ammunition is extremely limited. This forces gamers to become acquainted with the most popular weapon on Skull Island, the spear. Throwing a spear feels surprisingly realistic, as it falls over distance due to gravity, and creatures react accordingly when hit. Some of the most exciting encounters occur with only a spear in the player’s grip.

The enemies in the game vary from giant insects to the dinosaurs themselves. Minor creatures in the movie, such as the giant bats, play a much larger role in the game.

Playing as King Kong makes up the other mode of gameplay, and this mode presents one of the most unique, exciting experiences seen in recent video game history. He truly feels and behaves as the player would expect, and fighting off giant dinosaurs is an experience most gamers will not want to miss.

The other characters in the movie are present, and rendered well. Jack Black’s character looks, acts and sounds realistically, adding to the game’s immersive qualities.

Overall, “King Kong” is a blast to play, and a real treat for any fan of the movie. Other gamers would be remiss to avoid the game as well, since it’s truly a unique experience.

Overall rating: A-

Comdemned: Criminal Origins

“Condemned” is probably one of the best-looking launch titles on the Xbox 360. As first-person survival horror game, blood splatters in a fantastic fashion and bashing the heads of foes in results in concussions that are both thoroughly detailed and wonderfully realistic.

The atmosphere of “Condemned: Criminal Origins” is very chilling and there are a number of moments of sheer terror. Playing the game in the dark, or alone for that matter, is not recommended.

The game’s main character, Ethan Thomas, is an FBI agent who is quickly thrown into the underbelly of a rotting city while pursuing a sadistic serial killer. As the game progresses Ethan begins to question his own sanity and hallucinate, which plays nicely into the engrossing story.

Ethan’s gun is lost early on in the game and the weapons obtained later on have little ammo to work with. Instead, Ethan must rely on pipes and objects found or ripped from walls. In melee combat all of these items have pluses and minuses.

Level design is fairly good, and features scenes like rodent infested department stores and long forgotten subways. Despite this, however, the game gets a little repetitive towards the end as Ethan closes in on the killer. It seems that even hacking a murderous hobo’s arm off loses its charm after while. Also a downside the game is fairly short – it only took a handful of hours to complete the first time through.

The designers put a lot of collectibles to find in “Condemned,” but just don’t expect to be playing long into the late hours of the night – not that the heart could take it.

Overall rating: B-