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Hardy2
November 08, 2006

Game Dork


In The Line of Fire

Soldiers are being subjected to a bloody, bodies-strewn battle terrain in a foreign landscape. Mired in a muddled mission, they turn a corner and see a buddy killed. Death looms and screams. Imperiled troops just want to come home alive. The ultimate goal: Bring our American heroes home.

This is the gist of "F.E.A.R.," a remarkably spooky adventure of little battles. As a crack shooter, you are walking, always walking, firing away at enemy soldiers who appear from nowhere, swift like ghosts. You're haunted by hallucinations of the dead and the sound of their wailing.

Larger objectives in the field seem meaningless. You wonder what you're fighting for, except your own life. Any turn of any corner in a building, say, or a yard could put you face to face with a murderous foe. And you never have sufficient body armor.

"F.E.A.R." is a cool, addictive, sleek pile of action, if shooting is the name of your game. It's also mildly creepy, but fear must be overcome. Franklin Roosevelt said, "All we have to fear is fear itself." Done and done. It's easy to have virtual courage if you know you'll be resurrected every time you die.

Fear is also a motivating factor in "Bully;" you play as Jimmy, a newbie in a high school for delinquents and bullies. You can't succumb to the intimidators or they'll pummel you. It takes nerve to engage in what could be simply called domestic fistfights and slingshot battles.

"Bully" was produced by the makers of "Grand Theft Auto," Rockstar, which has yet to produce a bad game, as far as I know. But "Bully" is not a "GTA" kill-fest. Like "GTA," you accomplish upwards of 60 main missions, plus dozens of side missions. You flip burgers, stop "Fatty" from getting beat up by jerks, break yard gnomes and vie for a carnival Teddy bear for a date.

Also, you attend classes. In chemistry, you push a series of buttons to make firecrackers. In English, you play a form of word scrabble. Odd, yes.

And the plot is not wholly unrealistic. Bullies do lurk in unexpected cases. Recently, Rush Limbaugh mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's disease while picking a political tussle. Fox told ABC News he wouldn't fight back aggressively, since it doesn't do any good to take on a bully on the attack.

"What's the point? You're not going to change his mind. You're just probably going to get a nosebleed," he said. "So why bother?"

Those are sane words for life. Insane for video games. There are many nose punches in "Bully," and avoiding them, and avoiding administering them, is futile. Unfortunately for Jimmy, but fortunately for the fun of the game, you can't escape punching nerds, preppies and jocks who terrorize you with fear mongering and tough shoves.

It's all a big, cinematic entertainment that leads, unpredictably, to a more peaceful Jimmy. What's that? Peace is the ultimate goal of a bloodless, violent video game? Yes, well, all self-destructive conflicts should end eventually.

("Bully" for PS 2 — Plays fun. Looks very good. Challenging. Rated "T" for crude humor, language, sexual themes, use of alcohol and tobacco, and violence. Three and one-half stars out of four.)

("F.E.A.R." for Xbox 360 — Plays fun. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence and strong language. Three stars.)

Used Game of the Week

"Katamari Damacy" is one of the craziest little games of the past few years. A sequel to the also-fun "Katamari," the point is this: You are the Prince of the Cosmos, and you must roll a big ball around the Earth. Yes. You roll a ball. That's it.

The ball picks up all kinds of stuff. Cars, cows, bikes and pretty much anything that gets in your way. Once you collect the items, they turn into stars. It is bizarre, but fun. It's selling for less than $20 in used game stores. It's available for PS 2. It's rated "E" for mild fantasy violence.

(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone;" "T" for "Teen;" "M" for "Mature 17+")

New And Coming Soon

"Gears of War" is one of the most acclaimed games of the year — if not the most anticipated title of 2006 — even before full reviews have come out. It's a highly stylized, horror/sci-fi shooter with huge guns for playing solo or against multiple players online. The Nov. 7 release retails for $60 for Xbox 360. It's rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence, strong language.

"Call of Duty 3" is a sequel in a fantastic series of World War II games, offering sharp-looking battles for play alone or online against others. The Nov. 7 release retails for $60 for Xbox 360; $50 for Xbox, PS 2. (It comes out soon for PS 3, Xbox 360 and Wii.) It's rated "T" for blood, language, violence.

"Marvel: Ultimate Alliance" is the first PlayStation 3 game to become available, even though the PS 3 machinery doesn't come out for a few weeks, and even though there's a limited number of PS 3's coming out this year. "Ultimate Alliance" groups together Spider-Man and other heroes for action role-playing. It retails for $60 for PS 3. It's rated "T" for mild language, violence.

"Guitar Hero II" is the sequel to one of the best interactive games of all time. You buy the game, or buy the bundle that comes with a toy guitar, and you push buttons on the guitar when the TV screen tells you to, to play rock songs. It retails for $50 for PS 2, or $70-$80 as a bundle. It's rated "T" for its lyrics.

"SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2" is a sequel to a great PSP war game. It's an action-shooter that makes the gamer play very tough battle missions. It retails for $40 for PSP. It's rated "M" for violence.

(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone;" "T" for "Teen;" "M" for "Mature 17+")

Top 10 New Games

Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, according to retailer Blockbuster. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

1. "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent" (Ubisoft) for Xbox 360; also available for Xbox, PS 2, GCube; rated "M" (blood, language, violence)

2. "Scarface: The World Is Yours" (Vivendi Games) for PS 2; also available for Xbox; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language, use of drugs)

3. "Tiger Woods PGA Tour '07" (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for Xbox, PS 2 and PSP; rated "E"

4. "Madden NFL '07" (EA) for PS 2; also available for Xbox 360, Xbox, GCube, PSP and DS; rated "E"

5. "Bully" (Rockstar) for PS 2; rated "T" (crude humor, language, sexual themes, use of alcohol and tobacco, violence)

6. "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon" (Midway) for PS 2; also available for Xbox; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence)

7. "Tiger Woods PGA Tour '07" for PS 2

8. "Scarface: The World Is Yours" for Xbox

9. "Madden NFL '07" for Xbox 360

10. "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon" (Midway) for Xbox; also available for PS 2; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence)

(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone;" "T" for "Teen;" "M" for "Mature 17+"

Top 10 Rental Games

Here are the Top 10 best-renting video games, according to retailer Blockbuster. Games are listed by title, company, the gaming system and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

1. "Bully" (Rockstar) for PS 2; rated "T" (crude humor, language, sexual themes, use of alcohol and tobacco, violence)

2. "Destroy All Humans 2" (THQ) for PS 2; also available for Xbox; rated "T" (crude humor, sexual themes, strong language, violence)

3. "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent" (Ubisoft) for Xbox 360; also available for Xbox, PS 2, GCube; rated "M" (blood, language, violence)

4. "Madden NFL '07" (EA) for PS 2; also available for Xbox 360, Xbox, GCube, PSP and DS; rated "E"

5. "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon" (Midway) for PS 2; also available for Xbox; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence)

6. "Scarface: The World Is Yours" (Vivendi Games) for PS 2; also available for Xbox; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language, use of drugs)

7. "Destroy All Humans 2" for Xbox

8. "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (THQ) for PS 2; also available for Xbox, GCube, DS; rated "E 10+" (cartoon violence)

9. "Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy" (LucasArts) for PS 2; also available for Xbox 360, Xbox, GCube, PSP; rated "E 10+" (cartoon violence, crude humor)

10. "Family Guy" (2K Games) for PS 2; also available for Xbox, PSP; rated "M" (mature humor, partial nudity, violence)

(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone;" "T" for "Teen;" "M" for "Mature 17+")

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