A Holiday Gaming Guide

34935-xboxps3wii-thumb-200x193-34934.jpg

So it’s another year of holiday gaming as parents try and figure out just what they should get their kids (or themselves), and I’m willing to bet that a console might be on the minds of those willing to camp out storefronts in Black Friday or battle each other for the last copy of Super Mario Bros. Wii left on the shelves.

With Sony’s new pricing policy for their PS3, Xbox 360 bundles, and the Wii joining the moneymaking fracas, it’s as if it were launch day all over again.

A few days ago while browsing, couple had asked me what kind of games they could get their thirteen-year old daughter on the Xbox 360 and told me what kind of titles she loved to play. They were buying an Xbox for her because her brothers were living elsewhere and wanted to keep her connected, but were wondering what she could play on her own.

After hearing them gush about Guitar Hero, I pointed out Beatles Rock Band. They said she already had it for another system. I asked if she liked to play first-person shooters or sports games and they said no.

I didn’t know what to tell them, only that it was tough finding something for their daughter’s tastes on the Xbox 360 that wasn’t a first-person shooter or a sports game…both of which they said she was not interested in it, but her brothers were. In the end, they opted to get a flat screen TV instead. But if she had been a huge shoot ‘em up fan like her brothers, she’d find more than enough to be happy about on the system.

Her particular needs were very specific, but the question remains the same for many parents and newcomers unfamiliar with all of the gaming jargon that kids, and perhaps as many adults, speak as a second language.

So here’s a little help from Tech-Out on what to look for when you head out into the busy shopping season and are trying to decide which console, and what extra games, you want to bring home.

34938-ESRB_ratings-thumb-180x166-34937.gif

The ESRB
One thing that concerned parents should know about right off the top is what the ESRB is.

ESRB stands for “Entertainment Software Rating Board” and has been in place since 1994 to give an idea of what a particular game might be like, much like movie ratings, and works with many partners to help keep consumers informed on what they are buying.

On the front and back of every game is a label that, at a glance, can tell you whether or not a title is ideal for whoever you are buying it for. “E” stands for Everyone while titles with a lot more violence or adult content may be rated “M” for Mature.

In this way, parents who might not know anything about games at all can immediately know whether or not buying Condemned for their precocious ten-year old might be such a good idea.

One area that the ESRB cannot regulate with ratings, however, is the online experience and believe me, anything goes online. It’s the wild west out there and with voice chat, anyone with a mouth and headset can say pretty much anything they want and often do. Fortunately, most games and systems offer ways to silence the noise. Or, in the Wii’s case, you won’t have to worry about chat at all since it doesn’t support it, period.

You can find out more about the ESRB at their official site.

————————————————————————————————-

Where will most of those you know be?
If you’re expecting to play with friends and family online, one other question that you might want to ask is just where they will be. Will they be on a PS3? Or the Xbox 360? This is a particularly important question for gamers hoping to hook up in a game of Modern Warfare 2, only to find out that everyone else they know is on another console.

Despite the game (and many others) being available for both the PS3 and the Xbox 360, neither will the two ever game together, forcing many to pick sides.

Now for the systems!

————————————————————————————————-

The PS3 – for the Blu-Ray Gamer
+ it has a blu-ray player, built-in wireless network adapter, and integrated ethernet
+ it can play on the internet using Sony’s free service (internet provider costs not included)
+ it has a large selection of unique games; can purchase older games online for download
+ relatively open for tinkering and customization
- new models have no backwards compatibility
- bluetooth controllers somewhat flakey; sealed battery
- lack of RPG titles

The PS3′s new price point has made it an incredibly tempting offer for many that had been sitting on the fence on whether or not they should get one. Now that it’s $299, it puts it in the range of both its rivals for your wallet. But is it a good buy?

It is for several good reasons, some of which have to do with the bundled specials that this along with the Xbox 360 and Wii are being sold with. Other reasons lie under its intimidating hood that techies can get excited about such as a replacing the hard drive with nearly any off-the-shelf laptop drive, built in wireless, and its slick cross-bar menu system. It’s a solid system with a lot of potential. I would probably label this the “geekiest” system out of the bunch because of all of the options that it gives you to play with.

The Hardware
Having a blu-ray player act as a game console is a compelling reason for many videophiles to seriously consider the PS3 as a solid option, especially if you want to add to the HD experience at home by hopping onboard the blu-ray bandwagon.

34940-playstation-3-game-console-thumb-180x112-34939.jpg

It also comes with a spacious hard drive, a built-in wireless adapter, four USB ports, HDMI port, and an ethernet port. The hard drive can even be upgraded with an off-the-shelf notebook drive and supports external USB drives, too.

Unfortunately, the current models that are available (like the new slims) lost the backwards compatibility with disc-based PS2 or PS1 games anymore. They used to be, but that feature was eventually dropped to save on costs, although several PS1 and PS2 classics can be purchased online and downloaded for play. So, be sure that if you have a PS2 to not throw it away yet unless you’re not going to miss out on playing any of your older games later on.

It also comes with a wireless controller, a really short USB cable, and no headset. The battery life on the controller isn’t bad and easily lasts eight or more hours without charging.

It can play on the internet
PSN is a free service that allows everyone to play each other online whether it is with Modern Warfare or Killzone 2, and it isn’t bad. Free is fun, but aside from the nearly worthless feel of Home as a glorified chat area (unless you’re in Japan…they have concerts and funky free things like leeks and R-Type ships), it’s not a bad way to keep in touch with your fellow gamers online.

Free updates continue to add in features to the system, though, and you can update it either online or with a handy USB stick to speed things along by downloading the update first. Downloadable themes are also available to dress up the PS3′s menu screen and Sony even provides tools for you to create your own if you want to stretch your creative legs on the PC. Much like being able to swap out your drive for an off-the-shelf model, Sony has worked hard to make many options feel as open as possible for its owners who like tinkering.

34957-ps3_home-thumb-180x136-34956.jpg

You can also browse the web with it, but let’s face it, if you have a PC, that’s going to be the better choice. Its social tools may not feel as diverse as Xbox Live’s, but its cross media bar (or XMB) is a lot cleaner and feels much more functional and direct than the growing clutter of Live’s blade system. The other nice thing about it is that it’s a consistent design choice with its PSP as well which can also tie into the PS3.

It can also be used as a nice media center if you have a PC in the house set up to serve out music, movies, or whatever else you want to watch on it. It also has Netflix services allowing you rent and download movies to the console, in the same way that you can with the Xbox 360, and it has a well laid out and extensive online marketplace.

The Games
The lifeblood of any system is in its games and the PS3 has as impressive selection as the Xbox 360 does, although it took it awhile to reach that point. It has plenty to pick from whether you are a fan of FPS games, action, or sports. Unique titles like Uncharted 2, Killzone 2, and the upcoming God of War III also make the system extremely appealing and cross-platform hits like Modern Warfare 2 provide even more enjoyment. The only question is whether or not your friends will also be on a PS3.

34966-Infamous-thumb-180x101-34965.jpg

For RPGers, though, it’s still struggling which is ironic considering that in the last generation, they were one of the reasons for owning a PS2. There are a a few unique titles such as Demon’s Souls and multiplatform releases like Eternal Sonata and Enchanted Arms, but not much else to look forward to aside from Final Fantasy XIII, but even that is coming out for the Xbox 360.

One thing that I’ve noticed with the PS3 is that its online games don’t shy away from high player counts. Killzone 2 which is a lot of fun, can pack 32-players into a map. There’s also Resistance 2 which can cram sixty players into a map for a real war. The upcoming M.A.G. from Zipper Interactive will feature 250 players at one time in a game, so if you’re looking for heavily populated games, the PS3 doesn’t seem to have much of a problem in providing those options.

So why do I want this instead of an Xbox?
It has a built-in blu-ray drive, a wireless adapter, and a solid library of great games. EA Sports games fill the PS3′s library in the same way that they stuff the Xbox 360′s along with big names such as Modern Warfare 2, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band. You’ll also find a few unique games on the system that won’t make it over to the Xbox 360 such as the upcoming God of War III, an hardcore RPG such as Demon’s Souls, electrified superheroics with Infamous, the edge-of-your-teeth adventure of Uncharted 2, and Sega’s unique cell-shaded strategy game, Valkyria Chronicles.

Personally, I like the PS3′s smaller controllers and the slick XMB interface also makes it easy to get to where I want to go, but that’s just me.

So why do I want this instead of a Wii?
The Wii won’t play movies and you won’t find the kind of action packed titles that the Xbox 360 or the PS3 have an abundance of. Besides the visuals and the strong online gameplay component, the PS3 also has many other titles that cater to the “hardcore” crowd that love first-person shooters and sports games with the kind of eye candy that places them right on the sidelines. Although the Wii may have the same sports titles available to it, they won’t look nearly as good or have the kind of online experience that the PS3 or the Xbox 360 easily cater to.

Games to get for the PS3

  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Perhaps the best action adventure title to come out in years, this is simply a must-get title for armchair explorers that love discovering lost treasures, the feel of participating in Hollywood-style action, and taking part in some of the most imaginative globe trotting that you might see on a console. Engaging characters, witty banter, and plenty of incredible action that will literally leave you dangling on the edge of nothing are just some of the ways the game will try to make things interesting for you. Just check out our review. Rated “T” for Teen.
  • Infamous – Casting you as a reluctant super-hero with electrified powers leaping from your fingertips in a city wracked by a devastating attack, Infamous’ relatively open world and hero/villain mechanic delivers plenty of fun action and a great story as you decide how naughty or nice you want to be. Gliding across tracks powered by electricity while zapping enemies had never been as much fun. Check out our review here. Rated “T” for Teen.
  • Killzone 2 – An epic, sci-fi shooter that takes you into the front lines as they drop you and your team into the capital of the enemy to stage a last ditch attempt at stopping an interplanetary war. Huge set pieces, brutal firefights, and a great story keep the bullets flowing in this game. From fighting in the bowels of the capital to the wastes and with a strong multiplayer component, it easily shows off what the PS3 is capable of doing. Rated “M” for Mature.
  • Valkyria Chronicles – For the strategy set, this third-person tactical game with cell shaded art style and anime inspired backdrop is one of the most unique titles to appear on any console. With a leveling system and customizable tank along with a strong story and memorable characters, Valkyria Chronicles can provide plenty of fun for players willing to take a chance on it. Rated “T” for Teen.

————————————————————————————————-

Xbox 360 – It’s a war out there! Are you ready?!
+ great selection of games; can purchase many Xbox originals for download online
+ shooter and sports gamers will find a lot to play with here
+ great social tools
+ backwards compatibility with most Xbox games
- Xbox controllers won’t work with the 360
- somewhat noisier than the PS3 or the Wii
- wireless networking is extra

The Xbox 360 is a system geared for plenty of action. First, it has two huge FPS franchises that have helped to define its offerings more than anything else: Gears of War and Halo. Add to that a large number of sports titles and a surprising number of RPGs, and it has something for (almost) everyone.

It’s also a very social system thanks to Microsoft’s drive over the last few years to make it a single point of entry into the wild world of voice chatting, avatar customizations, and movie watching. While it doesn’t have something like Sony’s Home, the simple accessibility of its tools seamlessly make it a non-issue.

The Hardware
Aside from playing games, the Xbox 360 can also play DVD movies and older Xbox games through software emulation. Although not all of the older titles are supported, enough are to seriously consider pitching your old system (unless you happen to be into modding). The new models also come with an HDMI port and can scale up to 1080p making it an good choice for videophiles.

34942-xbox-360-versions-thumb-180x121-34941.jpg

It comes with a built in ethernet port, although you will need to purchase a wireless attachment to connect to your wi-fi hub. As for storage, the system comes with several flavors. The Arcade pack comes with no hard drive. Although it is the cheapest of the bunch, its best avoided since having a hard drive provides more options for you to expand the Xbox’s capabilities especially if you want to take it online.

The most recent releases are the Elites which come with 120GB and 250GB drives along with a headset and a handy ethernet cable for networking.

One thing of note is that it’s pretty noisy which might impact on where you want to place it or, if you have a large enough drive, you can even opt to install games on the system to avoid the noise the disc makes while spinning away in having you avoid wondering if it’s going to take off and launch an attack against your couch.

It can play on the internet
Out of the three systems, Xbox Live has some of the more advanced social tools available to gamers not because of how well they keep you connected with others but how easy it is to work with them as well as Microsoft’s aggressive push to bring even more to their console in this area. For example, both the PS3 and the Xbox offer Netflix services, but only on the Xbox 360 can you and your friends (as long as they have the same subscription) watch the same movie without having to be in the same room as an online party.

34964-xbox360avatar-thumb-180x101-34963.jpg

Even without the customizable avatars, its party system, integration with Twitter, ability to view and manage friend lists, and even watch a movie together online easily demonstrate Microsoft’s deft use of its technical leverage from its diverse disciplines. Seriously, the company that runs most of the world’s PCs should know something about this internet thing, right?

Voice over the network isn’t bad over the included headset. On the downside, this is also one of the causes for the number of articles written everywhere else on the decline of online civilization. If you thought forums were bad, just wait until you start hearing the same things come out from the mouths of kids too young to know what ESRB stands for. Fortunately, there are options to turn off the noise on the console and keep it only between friends.

Everyone can create what is called a “Silver Account” to sign up with on Microsoft’s online service which is free, but it comes with restrictions. Many new demos are usually restricted to Gold Members only for a time and things such as leaderboards and multiplayer won’t be available until you pay the annual $50 USD fee. It’s only a one time charge, but you’d be surprised at how some people that would spend as much money as they do for gaming bristle at hearing it.

In addition to this, Microsoft has also made strong efforts in supporting independent developers in providing a way for them to get their own creations online through their marketplace. Burgeoning developers hoping to program and create their own games might want to look at the Xbox as a potential way to get their work out there.

One particular focus of its network capabilities is in connecting to a PC with a media server set up on it in much the same way that the PS3 can. Both systems, if they can see your PC and if it has been set up to serve out content, can stream video and music from it.

34944-GOW-thumb-180x100-34943.jpg

The Games
The Xbox has a great selection of games spread across action, adventure, sports, and shooters and with a massive base of installed systems and the push for multiplayer options, odds are good that someone you know will be waiting to challenge you on the Xbox. Nearly anything that a sports lover or an action addict wants is available on the system. Two of the most popular franchises, as mentioned before, are Gears of War and Halo and are only found on the Xbox 360 (and to a lesser extent, the PC).

RPG fans, in particular, will find that it also has a decent number of these in the form of Tales of Vesperia, Infinite Undiscovery, Blue Dragon, and Lost Odyssey. And the thing is, these titles are Xbox 360 only.

Just what is an RROD?
Microsoft had extended the warranty of its units to include any failures of up to three years associated with the dreaded “Red Rings of Death”, the pattern of lights on the console that flash when a critical fault is detected (i.e. it breaks).

While it’s not something that you might hear (or even encounter) about, it is a good idea to look over the documentation and register your system with Microsoft if only for the coverage. Microsoft has come a long way in trying to make their hardware much less prone to RRODs, but it’s hard not to read stories about this on the ‘net or from friends that have already experienced it.

I had to replace mine once already and I’ve read stories of others doing the same thing two or three times. But it’s something to note that Microsoft’s service has been quick to turn my system around. In my case, mailing it back to them and having them send it back to me was as easy as placing a phone call.

Why should I buy this over a PS3?
Aside from having a large library of games along with backwards compatibility that the newer PS3 models don’t have, the Xbox’s online features are definitely a strong selling point for social gamers that like to tie into games with friends or share their exploits with others.

The included headset and easy-to-use interface makes it simple for anyone to get online. Although to really get the most of out the system requires an annual fee of $50, if you’re a gamer that’s willing to spend $60 on a new game every now and then and are already hooked up to the internet, it’s an investment that will pay itself back.

Why should I buy this over a Wii?
For the same reasons that you should buy a PS3. Both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 have many reasons to cater to the HD crowd and the number of sports titles and effect-heavy action titles easily make them the most obvious choice for those with an eye for visual fidelity. It may sound like that these two can only paint pretty pictures on your television, but with gameplay that makes the most of what you will also be watching to enhance the experience across the board for most titles, it’s hard to deny what your eyes and your reflexes will be enjoying.

Games to get for the Xbox 360

  • Gears of War 2 – This sci-fi, third-person shooter will pit you in a desperate war to hold off the Locust, humanoid ravagers from below determined to sink every city into the deep underground. Gory action, furious firepower, incredible graphics, and relentless one-liners make this one of the defining games on the system. Multiplayer is a blast to play, especially Horde Mode, which pits you and several other players against waves of Locust soldiers in a bid to see how long you can survive. Rated “M” for Mature.
  • Forza Motorsport 3 – Racing fanatics will find 400 customizable cars from fifty of the world’s manufacturers waiting for them in one of the best simulators available on the console. Not only are there plenty of tracks and cars to play with, but you can even customize your car using the in-game paint feature to spray your own logo and look for everyone else to see when you challenge them online in a pink Hello Kitty-mobile. Check out Dead Pixel Live’s review by contributor, Derrick Hopkins, for a unique look into the game. Rated “E” for Everyone.
  • Halo: ODST – For first-person shooter fans, this is a spinoff of the popular Halo series. ODST puts you in the shoes of a trooper sent into the enemy infested streets and alleyways of New Mombasa, there to find out what happened to your other teammates. It also has multiplayer and plenty of maps and modes to play through, ensuring that the fun doesn’t end once the campaign is finished. We’ve also got a review with all of the gritty details. Rated “M” for Mature.
  • Tales of Vesperia – For the RPG crowd, this is an epic, anime-styled adventure filled with great characters, an expansive story, and plenty to see and do across its sixty or so hours of fun. With a score of unique skills available to each member of your party, customized battle commands, engaging personalities, and a charming, light-hearted atmosphere, Tales of Vesperia is sure to provide role players with an unforgettable adventure. Rated “T” for Teen.

————————————————————————————————-

Nintendo Wii – Get off the couch!
+ cheap, family friendly gaming system
+ unique, full motion control system
+ home to Nintendo exclusives like Zelda and Mario
+ backwards compatibility with Gamecube games and controllers like the Wavebird
- very few “hardcore” titles to get excited about
- lots of shovelware on the shelves

As the cheapest system out there as well as being the exclusive home to Mario and Zelda, the Wii sold like hotcakes leading to retail shortages and profiteering on Ebay for nearly an entire year following its launch. Its cheap price, unique motion control system, and an included copy of Wii Sports had also provided plenty of reasons for everyone to pick one up and start boxing, jumping, and golfing as soon as it was hooked into their televisions.

But for hardcore gamers, that is, those that have grown up with shooters, RPGs, sports games, and most everything else that the last few generations of hardware have given us, it was a surprisingly weak option to consider even with its top tier titles.

It might not be as focused on ‘hardcore’ gaming as the Xbox or the PS3 are with their own high-profile titles, but there’s not doubt that it’s a system that encourages everyone to try it out and play together.

34946-nintendo-wii-console-thumb-180x180-34945.jpg

The Hardware
The basic console is nothing special with a maximum resolution of 480p which is fine for most as long as you’re not expecting it to show off your newest flat. Its drive cannot read DVDs, although Nintendo has mentioned that it is working on releasing a newer model that can play them. For the more technically savvy out there, though, there are a few unofficial mods that claim to work this into existing systems…as long as you’re willing to void your warranty while doing so. Among its console peers, this is the one most focused on being a game system and little else.

The biggest thing about the system is its motion control system which is a lot of fun to play with once you have the right game to use it with. Consisting of two controllers, the “nunchuk” and remote, these can be interchangeably used for its games and many titles make great use of them. New attachments, such as a balance board for Wii Fit, also expand its functionality to make it more than a simple game system.

It can play on the internet
The Wii has both an ethernet port and built in wireless making it capable of connecting to your network in either fashion. Its Wii Shop allows you to purchase and download older games under its Virtual Console section or those specific to the Wii from WiiWare. For gamers looking for some old-school fun, the Wii offers a surprising number of titles spanning systems from the Commodore 64 and the Sega Genesis to the Nintendo 64 making for an impressively diverse collection.

34961-wii_channels-thumb-180x99-34960.jpg

There are also games that make use of the Wii’s connection to the internet allowing for some competition, but its method for linking together friends is far from ideal. The friend code that it uses is the most cumbersome way to go out of the three systems and shows no sign of any improvement in the future, so I hope you have a notepad ready for when you want to link up with someone.

Players looking to engage in massive deathmatch-style games online with the Wii are also going to be sorely disappointed. The Wii is ideal for playing with others in the same room, though falls far behind both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 on the wire.

The Games
The majority of the Wii’s titles seem geared towards a new term that has come into its own in this generation: the casual gamer. The Wii has an impressive selection of titles that seem to be geared more towards a wider audience than in catering to specific genres as both the Xbox 360 and PS3 tend to do, but that also means that there are quite a few unique titles to be found here as well.

34954-nsmbw_1-thumb-180x96-34947.jpg

Nintendo has always been focused on providing fun experiences for everyone and the Wii is no exception. Workout nuts will likely find its motion control oriented software to be an interesting addition to their routine while would-be space soldiers shoot up bad guys with Dead Space: Extraction.

There is also plenty of fun to be found in titles such as Boom Blox, Super Mario Bros, and Wii Sports Resort. EA has also made significant efforts in bringing their latest sports games over to the Wii, so sports fans on the system won’t feel left out when they hit the gridiron with Madden or the greens with Tiger Woods.

You also won’t find Nintendo staples such as Metroid, Zelda, or SMB on any other system. It might have a lot of garbage on the shelves, but when gems show up, they’re consistently some of the best and most unique titles that anyone can play.

The problem with quality also reminds me of the CD-shovelware scene of the early nineties when the medium began taking off. It seems that Nintendo has let any developer with two cents to rub together access to their hardware, producing a number of awful titles aside from those backed by Nintendo and its first-tier partners. If you doubt what I’m saying, just take a look at articles debating whether Nintendo should reinstate their Seal of Quality and ask why they exist.

Why should I buy this over an Xbox 360 or a PS3?
It has a very family friendly library of titles to choose from based on ESRB ratings alone. Both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 have nearly three to six times as many Mature rated titles as the Wii which some parents might be a little leery about especially if they don’t know how to read an ESRB label (never underestimate the power of being uninformed). There’s a reason why there was an outcry from certain Wii owners when the Mature rated, Madworld, came out on “their” system.

By having such a casually oriented, and generally safer gaming selection for younger gamers, the Wii can easily provide much less of a headache for parents while at the same time getting them to enjoy the same games along with them. The quality might not be there for many titles, but you can’t go wrong with Bakugan Battle Brawlers or Boom Blox.

It’s unique control system is also another compelling point especially for those that simply want to get up and do something while playing a game, adding a level of interaction that simple analog controllers don’t have. Only make sure you wear that safety strap otherwise you might end up pitching that remote through your brand new Christmas present.

Games to get for the Wii

  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii – What would the Wii be without a Super Mario Bros. game? This is the newest title out featuring everyone’s favorite Italian plumber and brings all of the platforming fun to the motion controls of the Wii. Players can even cooperate together in the same level, throwing each other up and over obstacles and tackling challenges as a team. Not too difficult for “casual” players to get started with, but has all of the challenging fun that “veterans” will remember. Rated “E” for Everyone.
  • Metroid Prime Trilogy – First person, sci-fi shooter based on the legendary Metroid series now all in one package. Combining elements of adventure, exploration, and where every discovered weapon only makes you stronger as you turn into a ball to get into inaccessible areas or wield powerful tools to clear your way through, this galactic tour de force is a title that shouldn’t be missed on the Wii. Rated “T” for Teen.
  • Boom Blox Bash Party – In a collaboration between EA and Steven Spielberg (yes, that Spielberg), the sequel to the first game delivers all of the crazy fun that had made it popular. The concept is simple: knock down things, or try to keep them from falling as you smash your way through puzzles. Players can even create and upload their own puzzling levels online and best of all, its fun for everyone. Rated “E” for…Everyone.
  • Dead Space: Extinction – An “on rails” shooter where the game does most of the driving, this eerily atmospheric sci-fi adventure will throw you into an alien mystery where few will manage to survive as you shoot your way through the horror that awaits beyond. If you ever wanted to relive Aliens, this could be what you want. It’s also notable for its sharp graphics that few thought possible on the Wii as well as managing to be as fun as its namesake on the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Rated “M” for Mature.

————————————————————————————————-

Must get games to get for most any system:
Although exclusivity isn’t quite dead, many top notch titles are cross-platform releases. In other words, you’ll find many of the most talked about games available for most every system out there. Here are a few:

  • Modern Warfare 2 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) – This is probably the defining FPS of the year for anyone looking to shoot up plenty of bad guys along with the endless hours waiting to be spent within its addicting multiplayer. Unlockable weapons, perks, and a variety of ranks await you when you go up against the world while its largely forgettable single-player provides enough of a warm up to get started with. It may not be as much of a bargain for PC players, but on consoles, it’s worth the price of admission. You can check out our sand encrusted and bullet riddled review here. Rated “M” for Mature.
  • Sports Games(PS3, Xbox 360, Wii) – Madden NFL 10, NBA 2K 10, and even FIFA Soccer 10 are available on all three systems and provide plenty of excitement for sports-minded players hoping to do more than shoot bad guys all day long. EA and 2K continue to prove that they have what it takes to entertain their sports fans with every iteration, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about picking up any of these for the sports fiend in your household. Rated “E” for Everyone.
  • Dragon Age: Origins (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) – Do you need stats? Do you love rolling up new characters for hours on end? Do you know what armor class means? Then Dragon Age might be for you. Classically styled fantasy coupled with a hardcore party combat system, lengthy story easily spanning seventy hours of adventure, and more side-quests than you can shake a journal at await would-be heroes within Bioware’s latest magnum opus. Check out Todd Kistler’s review on how he survived to save the world. Rated “M” for Mature.
  • Brutal Legend (PS3, Xbox 360) – If you love rock ‘n roll and heavy metal from the eighties and believe that Ozzie Osbourne is pure evil and Jack Black can save the world as the ultimate roadie, then this game has your name tattooed on it. Featuring what could be one of the greatest soundtracks in an action adventure game outside of a Guitar Hero or Rock Band title, the crazy characters, imaginative world ruled by heavy metal, and humorous story help create one of the most unique titles to arrive from the “new” EA. Here’s our rockin’ review for your perusal. Rated “M” for Mature.
  • Street Fighter IV (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) – Capcom’s legendary fighter is back in 3D with plenty of cell shading, recognizable names from Ryu to Zagat, and online capabilities matching up would-be pit brawlers with anyone else around the world that dares to challenge them. For the fighter fan in your family, you can’t go wrong with Capcom’s standard bearer. For PC players, especially, modders are already hard at work in adding a few custom tweaks to the game…like Mr. T or Hulk Hogan. Rated “T” for Teen.