The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Legends are not born — they are painstakingly created over time. Nintendo took four years to create this epic adventure game, the crown jewel of the recently-released Wii console. It was time well-spent, as Twilight Princess will compete with earlier Zelda games for "best of all time" honors. As in earlier incarnations, adolescent teen hero Link returns to rescue the princess. But this time, she's trapped in a mysterious "Twilight Realm." What makes this adventure different is Link's ability to change into a wolf and use his beastly abilities to better navigate dungeons, defeat enemies and collect clues and other items. The Wii's motion-sensor control system is also a new twist. To swing a sword, the player actually swings the game controller. It's especially handy with ranged weapons like Link's bow and arrow. To target an enemy, simply aim the controller at the screen and press a button. It's so simple and effective that other game controllers immediately feel like antiques. Link's horse also gets a workout; mounted combat scenes rank among the highlights in this lengthy adventure. Visually, Twilight Princess is eye-catching, especially on HDTV. The GameCube version is scheduled for release later this month. It's a near-perfect game for young adventurers, or those who are young at heart.
Call of Duty 3
Xbox 360; PlayStation 3
Capturing the chaos of war has been the hallmark of the Call of Duty franchise, and the latest offering in the powerful World War II series ups the ante in dramatic fashion. From the battlefields crawling with enemies to the skies filled with planes, the action is incredibly convincing. For history buffs, the game takes place as 1944 Allied forces are working to surround and destroy the German Seventh Army and Fifth Panzer Army in the "Falaise pocket." Veterans of the series will immediately jump into the trenches of France and join the Allies as they attempt to blast the Nazis back into the history books. Familiar first-person shooter combat controls are largely unchanged, but a new hand-to-hand combat mode — in which enemy soldiers try to wrestle the rifle out of your hands and bash your skull in with it — is startling and exciting. Missions feel too familiar, and that's the game's most serious drawback: We've all fought this war before, and the game feels a bit stale. But, hey, it looks good. Enemy AI has the occasional hiccup, but on higher levels the game is still challenging. Multiplayer mode takes the war online, where players can become American or German soldiers on about 10 well-designed maps that feature working vehicles, such as Jeeps and tanks.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance
Xbox 360; PlayStation 3
Comic book villains want to control the world; comic book fans want to control their favorite superheroes. Ultimate Alliance comes to the rescue by giving players power over more than 20 stars of the Marvel Comics universe. There's an odd assortment to choose from — Spider-Man, Wolverine and Captain America are joined by less-than-famous Luke Cage and Ghost Rider. Pick a team and get ready to save the world because Dr. Doom, a familiar nemesis of the Fantastic Four, is up to his old, evil tricks again, and he's got plenty of help from an army of super-villains.
Assemble a four-hero team, create a team name and logo, and limber up the button-smashing muscles because this game is a hack-and-slash workout. Each hero has standard melee moves (punch, grapple), but the real joy comes in mastering the heroes' special combat abilities, such as Spidey's webs. Slinging Captain America's shield is particularly effective and fun. As missions are completed (and villains defeated), the heroes become more powerful and can purchase upgrades to their powers, such as more damaging punches, or new costumes, which also make the heroes more mighty. The entertaining plot unwinds as a veritable who's who of the Marvel universe make cameos. The voice acting is uneven, and some of the dialogue is corny, but comic fans will jump at the chance to don a cape and go toe-to-toe with evil. As Ben Grimm (aka The Thing) might say, "It's clobberin' time!"
Resistance: Fall of Man
Sony Computer Entertainment
This standard-bearer of the PlayStation 3 launch titles does not disappoint. Resistance begins much like the now-standard World War II first-person shooter but quickly evolves into something more ambitious. The plot, set in the 1950s, has a War of the Worlds vibe — an alien race known as the Chimera has taken over Europe. Players assume the role of an American soldier engaged in a final defense of the continent. The control scheme is standard first-person shooter fare, but the motion-sensitive PS3 controller is used effectively; tilting it left brings up the area map, shaking it throws an enemy (or flames, if you happen to be on fire) off your back.
Graphically, the game is as impressive as one would expect from a US$600 gaming console, but the real magic reveals itself when the dozens of enemies and other moving objects fill the screen and the action never stutters. What sets the game apart from WWII shooters are innovative weapons and enemies. One of the earliest guns (taken from the enemy, naturally) allows a homing "tag" to be set on an enemy. Once tagged, the player can seek cover, aim in the enemy's general direction and be assured the firepower will find its target. The intricacies of this and many other weapons must be mastered to complete the game. Enemies run the gamut of frightening abominations — spidery creatures run creepily along walls and ceilings — each with a particular weakness that can be exploited with the right weapon. Co-op mode allows a local friend to join the battle. Online play is free, and up to 40 players can join the fray at once.
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