Best video game gifts, gaming gifts, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Gears of War 2, Madden, Mario Kart, Wii Fit
Stuff to Buy Channel / Bullz-Eye Home
It's been two years since the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii were released to the masses (and a little longer for the Xbox 360), and now that they've had some time to show what they can do, the next-gen console war is officially on. Thankfully, you won't have to worry too much about which is the better system come this holiday season, as this is shaping up to be one of the best lineups in years. From blockbuster sequels that'll have you on the edge of your seat (and even one that will get you up off your seat) to no less than six different music titles, there really is something for everyone on your list.
After the incredible success of the original "Rock Band," it was pretty much a guarantee that we'd see a sequel released in time for the holidays. Sure, there are other games that offer a similar experience (like Activision's "Guitar Hero: World Tour" and Konami's "Rock Revolution"), but none of them come close to matching the perfection of Harmonix's "Rock Band" series. The game's sequel doesn't feature very many changes other than a few tweaks, but then again, there wasn't a whole lot from the first installment that needed changing. You'll find yet another solid set list composed of old (The Who's "Pinball Wizard," Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way"), new (System of a Down's "Chop Suey," Panic at the Disco's "Nine in the Afternoon"), and everything in between, while the still-growing collection of great downloadable tracks ensures you'll never run out of new material to master.
Every once in a while, a game comes along that's so unbelievably awesome, it's virtually impossible to put down once you've started playing. Two years ago, that game was "Gears of War," and now its sequel has taken the art of the chainsaw one step further. The original "Gears" was all about kicking ass and taking names, but "Gears 2" offers a far richer experience, including a story that's emotionally invested in its characters and has graphics so visually stunning that you'd swear you were watching a Hollywood action movie unfold before your very eyes. Every level feels like a cinematic set piece, and most of the time, they play like one too. What's perhaps best about the game, however, is that even when you've squeezed every bit of entertainment that you could possibly get from the single-player campaign (including playing it all over again in co-op with a friend), there's still endless fun to be had online. We'd like to say that every game type is just as good as the other, but once you've experienced a game of Horde, you'll be hooked forever.
Every football nut in the universe would love a copy of this game as a gift. That is, assuming they haven't already snagged one when it was first released. This is still the only fully licensed NFL game in town, and this year's version builds upon the success of last year's game, while tweaking some of the minor annoyances of that same experience to more than satisfactory levels. The real "Madden" freaks love to take their games online, however, and this is where "Madden 09" doesn't disappoint. EA threw plenty of depth into this year's iteration, allowing for more than just the usual roster updates and player trades. Someday, perhaps, we'll get back to the days when more than one company was allowed to create an NFL-based video game, but until then, this one's still got plenty of life in it.
Some people enjoy relatively short video games that take about 10 hours or less to complete. Then there are those who don't mind clocking in upwards of 60 hours or more. If you're one of the gamers who falls into the latter category, chances are "Fallout 3" is the game for you. This long-awaited sequel featuring a post-apocalyptic world, a "vault" full of underground citizens in need of water, and a decimated Washington, D.C., challenges its players to not only play along with the main theme of the game, but also to take their time exploring the vast wasteland available to them. Like its last huge hit, "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion," Bethesda Softworks has created a huge world for gamers to immerse themselves in, fully loaded with characters of every stripe and subplots that could fill a book as long as "War and Peace." In fact, consider "Fallout 3" to be a modern equivalent of that very tome. Any gamer wanting to spend countless hours doing what he or she wants while being part of a rock-solid story will love this game.
Everyone loves shooting zombies, but the idea of actually getting to play as one is what separates "Left 4 Dead" from every other survival horror game on the market. Created by the geniuses behind "Half-Life 2," "Team Fortress 2" and last year's surprise hit, "Portal," the game teams up four players as a group of survivors trying to make their way to safety from a horde of aggressive zombies. The catch is that no game follows the same path twice, so while you may "win" using a certain strategy one time, that doesn't necessarily mean that the same strategy is going to work again. Of course, for as cool as the co-operative multiplayer campaign may sound, the real fun behind "Left 4 Dead" is found online, where four human players face off against an army of dead that also includes four player-controlled zombies. It might not be the next "Resident Evil," but until the latest chapter of Capcom's popular series arrives next year, "Left 4 Dead" will fulfill the needs of even the most diehard zombie fan.
Maybe you've seen the commercials for this game or read plenty of the hype surrounding it in various video game mags leading up to its release. Even if you haven't, this holiday season gets nothing short of a blockbuster with "Mirror's Edge," a fully-loaded action title featuring a futuristic world where couriers, known as "runners," traverse the landscape high in the air, jumping from building to building. You play Faith, a runner whose sister has been murdered, and who must figure out the mystery behind her death. Lots of chases at dizzying heights and combat ensue. "Mirror's Edge" is a pure adrenaline-fueled title, and is sure to please those who can't get enough blockbuster popcorn movies during the summer months
It's been a long time since the release of a new "Mortal Kombat" game actually meant something, but following the announcement that the eighth installment would feature DC Comics characters as playable fighters, you just knew it was going to cause some controversy. Despite the fact that its Teen rating means that Fatalities (or Brutalities if you're playing with a DC superhero) have been toned down considerably, "MK vs. DC" is still lots of fun thanks to the addition of new characters like The Joker and Green Lantern. And even though the Fatalities aren't as brutal as "Mortal Kombat" fans are used to, the game is still a pretty violent affair. Characters show signs of permanent damage like blood and bruises, while clothing and costumes can be ripped or – in the case of something like Scorpion and Sub-Zero's masks – broken. It's certainly not the best fighting game in the world, but the gimmick behind "MK vs. DC" is more than enough to make this a favorite among "Mortal Kombat" fans and comic book geeks alike.
A year into its life and people are still playing Infinity Ward's stunning "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare." The game bested even the "Halo 3" monolith for its terrific online play. When word came that developer Treyarch would be working on the next sequel, some gamers were worried. They needn't have fretted for a minute, though, as "Call of Duty: World at War" is just as engaging and exciting as its predecessor. This is quite a feat, considering the series has been taken back into the days of World War II, which every good gamer knows has been done to death countless times. The solo game is still relatively short (yet satisfying), but the meat of the game remains within the multiplayer online modes. They took their pages from Infinity Ward's book and threw in a few new ideas that also work well. So fans can rejoice and know that they can now enjoy two titles that will keep them from seeing sunlight for months on end.
Last year's "Scene It?" game brought the popular board game experience to the Xbox 360 console with four "big button" controllers thrown in, to give it a game show-like feel. For those who got tired of the "board" aspect of the original game, the console version was a godsend. Now, a year later, the game receives its first update with thousands of new questions and movie clips, plus the ability to play online, which is perhaps its greatest asset. Once again, you no longer have to have real friends in the same physical space as you to enjoy a game. Heck, you don't even need "friends!" Squash your rivals with glee as you flex your movie trivia muscle. Available with and without four big button controllers. Just the thing for the trivia fan on your list.
The original "Animal Crossing" was one of the few truly innovative games available on Nintendo's GameCube. Now the game lands on the Wii and brings back a lot of what fans of the first game loved so much. It plays in real time and multiple players can play within the world and effect other players' experiences within the game. But this time around, the animals get to travel to the big city. Yes, consider this game to be the equivalent of when The Sims received the "Hot Date" expansion pack and got to leave their comfy suburban streets. When the animals reach the city, they can go to comedy shows, go shopping, and more. You know, the full-on city experience. It's still cute, it's still engaging, and gamers of all ages who love their Wiis will love this game. So make them happy with this sure bet of a great holiday gift.
Sorry, no car jacking or prostitution in this racing game – just banana peels, red shells, golden mushrooms and lightning bolts. The latest incarnation of the wildly popular "Mario Kart" franchise also introduces the most devastating blue shell in the game's storied history, along with several new racers, a slew of sweet courses and, best of all, an option to trade in your four wheels for two. Long-time fans will likely prefer the precision handling the new bikes offer, but whatever your vehicle of choice, there's no doubt that the first "Mario Kart" edition built for the Wii is the series' best yet, thanks in large part to the available online mode. No longer are you limited to dominating the computer in one-player mode; now, just hop onto Nintendo WFC (Wi-Fi Connection) and race players of all skill levels from all over the world. Nintendo's first (and long overdue) foray into online play isn't without its bugs, but these very minor annoyances stand as the sole mark against the latest – and greatest – "Mario Kart" release.
You've heard all about "Wii Fit." You know how quickly the game flies off the shelves. You may have even been swayed by this incredibly compelling reason to buy it for your significant other
. But if you haven't actually played the game, you're probably wondering what all the fuss is about. The truth is, "Wii Fit" will be one of the coolest games of all time to some people, but others will be bored after a few weeks, maybe days. It all depends on expectations. Those who intend to use the game as an excuse to get off the couch will be more than happy. With aerobics and strength exercises, balance games and yoga poses to keep you active, and the balance board tracking your weight and keeping you honest, you're more likely to make time for "Wii Fit" than you would a treadmill. But those thinking the game is loaded with tons of cool games will be disappointed. And those looking for an easy way to slim down and bulk up are fooling themselves. Excuse the cliché, but "Wii Fit" is what it is. For those squarely in the first group, it's a great gift. For anyone else, there isn't much replay value once the novelty wears off.
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell once sung that there ain't nothing like the real thing, and for the most part, they were right. But in this year's economic downturn, there also ain't nothing like saving money, and "Hasbro Family Game Night" does just that. Collecting digital versions of six popular board games (Battleship, Yahtzee, Boggle, Connect Four, Sorry! and the all-new Sorry! Sliders) in one package, the family-friendly Wii title offers the same fun at more than half the cost. Okay, so it's not exactly the same
fun (shaking the Wiimote isn't the same as shaking a Yahtzee cup with dice), but all of the games included are so simple that you really don't lose anything in the transition from board game to video game. Plus, "Hasbro Family Game Night" includes a host of unique twists (like Connect Four Power Chips and Reverse Yahtzee) that help spice up the traditional rules everyone is used to, as well as fun minigames that increases its replay value.