Is Microsoft’s next-gen game console your new home-entertainment hub — or
are we just playing games here?
The New Games in Town
by Drew Thompson
For all its new tricks, the Xbox 360 is still a gaming console at heart. And since every game for it supports either the 720p or 1080i high-def format, is 16:9 widescreen, and has Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, your home theater can become the ultimate gaming setup. So be sure to grab these reference-quality titles, due out by the end of 2005.
- Call of Duty 2 (Activision) You've probably played so many World War II games that you feel like marching in a Veteran's Day parade. But this first-person shooter recaptures the excitement of putting on your uniform for the first time. One of the most dazzling things 360's processing power brings to the game is super-sized environments. The enormous battlefields give you a variety of ways to complete missions instead of having your hand held the whole way. Sure you can go in guns blazing, but you can also advance under the concealment of smoke grenades or loop around and surprise the enemy from behind. It's up to you. Axis troops in the first Call of Duty seemed pretty crafty at the time, but now they're sitting ducks compared with this game's Mensa candidates. Fortunately, your squad mates are just as smart. And their chatter isn't just for ambience anymore since they can tell you where enemy gunfire is coming from. (For more, see our December 2005, review.)
- Project Gotham Racing 3 (Microsoft) Are Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Aston Martins out of your price range? For 60 bucks, Project Gotham Racing 3 puts you behind the wheel of picture-perfect recreations of these and other high-performance cars. If you thought the first two games in the series looked realistic, consider this: while each vehicle in Project Gotham Racing 2 was made of about 8,000 polygons, each one here has more than 80,000 polygons. Your proving grounds - New York, Tokyo, Las Vegas, and London - are the most lifelike cityscapes to grace any game. (Check out the buildings' reflections on the cars' Turtle Waxed exteriors.) Also, thanks to the horsepower under Xbox 360's hood, a soft blur effect creates an unsurpassed sensation of speed. And who needs a rear-view mirror when the surround sound tells you which side the competition is trying to pass you on?
- Peter Jackson's King Kong (Ubisoft) Kong is a polygonal prince on all consoles, but the Xbox 360 version is king. As incredible as the GameCube, PS2, and Xbox versions look, they're like camcorder bootlegs compared with the 360's cinematic 720p presentation. You'll feel like you're in the movie as you fight for survival from the first-person perspective of an overwhelmed Jack Driscoll (played by Adrien Brody). And when you're injured, instead of watching a health meter dwindle away, your vision blurs and the musical score grows more ominous. Prevent yourself from becoming the bite-sized treat of one of Skull Island's overgrown beasts, and you'll get to go ape as Kong himself, taking on T-Rexes and other predators from an empowered, third-person - er, primate - perspective.
- Perfect Dark Zero (Microsoft) I've only played a few short demo levels, but I'll go out on a limb and say that this futuristic first-person shooter from Rare will follow in the footsteps of the same developer's GoldenEye 007 - one of the most-beloved games of the genre. As sexy superspy Joanna Dark, you'll have a variety of 28 high-tech weapons to choose from. For example, one gun can be turned into a motion sensor that explodes when an enemy enters its perimeter. Another doubles as a holographic projector that emits a Doppelgänger to baffle your opponents. And Zero's environments expand and contract automatically based on the number of people playing over Xbox Live, so you'll never feel like you've been locked inside an Ikea store after hours.
- Madden NFL 06 (EA Sports) Say goodbye to the cardboard cutouts that packed virtual sports arenas in the past. 3-D fans are just one of many features that make this a must-have for early adopters of Xbox 360. The players are shockingly realistic, detailed down to the warning labels on their helmets, and you can see what's going on in individual seat levels of the stadiums. At some venues, like San Fran's Monster Park, you can even see where the sun has caused certain sections of seating to fade. Thanks to the widescreen aspect ratio, you'll learn what it feels like to have Peyton Manning's sideline-to-sideline field of vision. Instead of having you look down on the action from the broadcast booth, the game keeps you on the field, enveloped by the roar of the crowd and the reverb of the stadium announcer and referee. The Dolby Digital mix also makes sure you can hear the footsteps of a defender coming up on you from behind - and that you feel the impact when you hit the turf hard.
Back to Homepage
What's New on S&V