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2007 Gift Guide

Stuff My Virtual Stocking!

There is no lack of worthy video games this year, so which one should you get the gamer in your life?

 

The line waiting is over and reality has set in: Any system you want, from the Nintendo Wii, the PlayStation 3, X-Box 360 Elite or even a Windows Vista equipped super gaming computer is accessible as long as you’ve got the cash. But the question remains after all the hype: “Was there any reason to have shelled out for these gaming devices in the first place?”

If my Christmas list is any indication, the answer in most cases is an emphatic yes.

So listen up, anyone who has me, or any jacked-up gaming geek age 10 to 99, on your Christmas list: We need help this year keeping up with the best games out there, ’cause there are just far too many for us to possibly afford on our own.

The most reliable gift of the season has to be Guitar Hero III ($59.99). Available for all the major consoles, this old standby rock & roll video game is back in its third installment. Although little has truly changed in the world of Guitar Hero, most gamers with a thirst for rock glory will want to see this under their Christmas tree. This year, wannabe rockers can jam along with Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins and the Rolling Stones by themselves, or test their rock skill against players around the world thanks to a new online mode.

Things aren’t as clear-cut as they used to be in the world of virtual rocking. Members of the original creative team that assembled Guitar Hero have returned with Rock Band ($59.99, or $170 for special edition), a game that thoroughly outdoes Guitar Hero in delivering a fun musical gaming experience. Rock Band lets you rock out with a Fender Stratocaster, instead of Guitar Hero’s Gibson SG, but besides that you can also sing and drum along with all the biggest bands. The game has a steep price tag of nearly $200 if you want the guitar, microphone and drum set all at once, but it changes the spirit of musical video gaming away from the competition of Guitar Hero and more toward cooperation, as three people can play different parts of the same song in Rock Band. The drumming in Rock Band is so addictive and in some ways realistic that a number of drummers I have spoken to say they can’t help but jam on it. I even hope my girlfriend—an aspiring drummer—might give it a try before we acquire a nonvirtual kit for her.

So what is there for non-rock gamers this Christmas season? Too much!

For those mature gamers who can be impressed with the scope and artfulness of a video game, Assassins Creed (59.99, available for Xbox 360 and PS3) will absolutely knock their socks off. Assassins Creed puts gamers smack in the middle of the vibrant virtual world of Damascus, where citizens mull about involved in their daily routine while you eavesdrop on them. As a trained assassin you dart about unseen, over rooftops and through alleyways, while desperately trying to stay unseen and unheard until you can finally complete your assignment and dispatch your victim.

Again this year, the Xbox 360 has a lock on the market of intelligent adult-themed video games, thanks, not only to the vaunted Halo 3 (59.99), but also to two quirkier titles. BioShock (59.99) is a first-person shooter game with a twist unlike any other before it. Drawing heavily from the writing and philosophy of Ayn Rand, BioShock introduces the player to an underwater utopia ravaged by a lack of morality that has left its population evil and deranged. Creepy and disjointed, BioShock, like Assassins Creed, is a work of art. Mass Effect (59.99) has been referred to by multiple reviewers as a “space opera.” This role playing game delivers a sense of adventure, drama and urgency that most story based games can only hope to achieve. What is perhaps most interesting about the game is that it forces players to make large moral and tactical decisions.

For the most die-hard, no- nonsense, first-person-shooter lover in your life, there is only one game that will truly please them: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare ($59.99), available for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. COD4 is the perfect guy’s game, full of contemporary war scenarios and advanced weaponry sure to get the blood pumping and wrists twitching. Shoot through walls! Toss frag grenades! The kiddies should stay farrrrr away from this one. (Mom, it’s OK to get this one—and all of the aforementioned games—for me!)

—David King

dking@metroland.net

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