Best video game gifts, gaming gifts, Beatles Rock Band, Arkham Asylum, New Super Mario Bros
Stuff to Buy Channel / Bullz-Eye Home
This year has been surprisingly quiet when it comes to blockbuster video games, but with a certain Fab Four hogging most of the headlines, several other titles crept their way into the hearts of gamers everywhere. True, there have been an unusually high number of sequels this year, but even as some developers played it safe with more recognizable properties, others took major risks and delivered some of the most innovative games of the last decade. Below you'll find a list of our favorites, as well as a few that we can't wait to get our hands on. The pickings may be a little slimmer than last year, but there are still plenty of great titles to choose from.
Follow further into the steps of your ancestors and learn more about the society of assassins in "Assassin's Creed 2." In this latest chronicle of the "Assassin's Creed" saga, you play as Ezio in Italy during the Renaissance Era. This one promises to be even better than its blockbuster predecessor, with all new additions to the combat system, upgradeable armor and a notoriety system. These are only a few of the new amazing features you will find as you run, climb, swim and even fly though the beautiful backdrops of Florence, Venice and Rome. You have a huge arsenal of weapons at your disposal, such as hammers, single and dual swords, and a small gun, and if that wasn't enough, the all-new disarm system allows you to use your enemies' weapons against them. Even with all these new toys, Ezio is sure to have his hands full with all new challenges and enemies to face, and an improved AI that is sure to keep you on your toes.
DC Comics-based games have a long history of being of generally poor quality, so "Batman: Arkham Asylum's" greatness came as a big surprise. Its dark images are amazingly well complimented by the superb use of lighting effects as you fight through Arkham Asylum's dark hallways, battling enemies from Batman's past like Killer Croc, Bane and his notorious arch-nemesis, the Joker. The battle system does a great job of humanizing the Dark Knight by showing you that he isn't amazing because he's a walking tank, but because he's as smart, as he is agile. Just a few strong hits can send Batman down for the count, so you really have to make use of the game's surprisingly smart counter system if you want to make it out alive. The detective mode, which allows you to search for clues and assess the situation before rushing into battle, is a welcome addition to the game. This isn't just a great DC game – it's one of the year's best games period.
Undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated games of the year, "The Beatles: Rock Band" actually met our astronomical expectations with a visually stunning tribute completely deserving of the same unique identity that the band brought to its amazing, decade-long career. Though most games tend to never live up to the hype thrust upon them, Harmonix did such an incredible job creating a one-of-a-kind experience that many people have even purchased consoles for the sole purpose of playing the game. Of course, it helps when you're the greatest rock band of all-time, but while playing the music is certainly a joyous occasion, it's the way in which it's all brought to life that makes it so amazing. This game bleeds the very spirit of the Beatles, from the psychedelic dreamscapes to the energetic playfulness of their earlier films. Any Beatles fan would be crazy to not pick this up; or to be completely honest, any fan of music in general.
Many gamers have been waiting with bated breath for "Borderlands" for years. Well, they can breathe easy, because it's finally hit store shelves, and it was well worth the wait. "Borderlands" takes you to the planet of Pandora in search of a mythical vault said to contain fortune, power and fame. An amazing first-person shooter RPG, complete with drop in/drop out four-player co-op, four different character types to choose from, and a jaw-dropping amount of weapons with randomized loot drops, "Borderlands" offers you the opportunity to enjoy the experience of sitting around the TV firing off rounds at raiders and acid-spitting dogs to bring in the holiday cheer. The cel-shaded "Mad Max"-style game will have you and your friends playing for hours on end, and with even more content planned, you can be sure this will be enjoyed well past the New Year.
Who would've thought that Jack Black would be behind one of the best games of the year? While the actor's movie career has floundered as of late, his involvement in Tim Schafer's latest critical darling is one of many reasons why "Brütal Legend" is such a success. The variety in gameplay is exceptional – ranging from hack-and-slash action and RTS-style battles to open-world adventuring and racing – while the story benefits greatly from Black's voice work and some really sharp writing. There are also a few twists and turns along the way, but it's Shafer's rich fantasy world that really makes the game such a memorable experience. Heavy metal obviously plays a large role in "Brütal Legend," and it can be seen in everything from the album cover art style to the umlaut in the title. Oh yeah, and did we mention that industry vets like Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy and Rob Halford all play pivotal characters in the story? You might want to break out the big speakers for this game – you know, the ones that go to 11.
Easily one of the most anticipated titles of the year – hell, maybe even two years – "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" has arrived just in time for the holidays. "Call of Duty" once again leaves the bloody and over-tread battlegrounds of World War II for the diverse environments of Brazil, Siberia and Afghanistan with an all-new, original story. The action-packed single-player mode has been blessed not only with brilliant new graphics, but also a fantastic score from Hans Zimmer. For those who only care about the sweet music of clip after clip unloading, there are also a slew of new weapons for your choosing. The franchise has even found a way to raise the bar once again for online multiplayer, thanks to new customizable options including 15 different kill streak rewards you can unlock. If that wasn't enough, there's also the new Spec-Ops mode, which focuses on co-operative play. There are 23 missions to challenge you, with plenty of replay value as you and a friend try to collect each of the three available stars for every mission. While it appeared impossible to meet the seemingly insurmountable hype surrounding the game, Activision has somehow found a way to deliver yet another masterpiece.
In an era when games are rarely taken seriously if they don't have guns, blood or naked hookers, "Ghostbusters" proves that you don't need a Mature rating to be amazing. You get to join the team as a new Ghostbuster who they call, aptly, "Rookie." The game revolves around a completely original story and acts as the de facto third installment to the film franchise. Most of the cast comes back to lend their pipes to their digital personas, which really helps make the game feel more realistic. Just like the movies it's based on, "Ghostbusters" offers a great balance of story, special effects and classic witty banter. You'll even get to play around in a lot of the classic locations from the movies (the Ghostbusters' fire station acts as your home base). While it may have taken a lot more tears, time and heartache than most games have to go through to get released, it was all completely worth it and will be enjoyable to fans old and new.
It may seem a little too soon to release a sequel to last year's zombie kill-a-thon, "Left 4 Dead," but even though the game still hasn't gotten old, we'd be lying if we said we weren't looking forward to a fresh batch of levels. This time around, the action takes place in the Deep South as a group of survivors battle their way from Savannah to New Orleans. Along with five new campaigns, the game also boasts new weapons like chainsaws and cricket bats, and an all-new multiplayer mode called Scavenge. Of course, you'll still have an army of Infected hot on your trail – all at the command of the in-game director – but now you'll have to deal with things like weather changes as well. Just like most Hollywood sequels, "Left 4 Dead 2" promises to be bigger and better than the last, and considering that the original already delivered such a satisfying experience, this one's going to make your brain explode. That is, if the zombies haven't already eaten it.
With the holidays, comes the nostalgia of the ones that came before. Some of us have memories of opening up a Nintendo Entertainment System and being treated to two pixilated brothers stomping on mushroom men and turtles. Well, Nintendo aims to give those memories to a new generation with "New Super Mario Bros. Wii," complete with beautiful visuals and new power ups and levels to enjoy. As an added bonus, the game has moved from two players taking turns to allowing four players to play at once. The new competitive/co-operative mode is sure to fill your holiday with laughs, side-by-side with family and friends – and in the end, isn't that what the holidays are all about? The Wii just underwent a price cut, and with "New Super Mario Bros. Wii' retailing $10 under the now standard $59.99 price tag, it should bring a little joy to your wallet, too.
Creating the immensely popular "Gears of War" franchise apparently wasn't enough for Epic Games, because they had to go and show off on Xbox Live Arcade as well. "Shadow Complex" may not look like a typical XBLA title, but that's exactly why it's so damn good. A 3D run-and-gun side-scroller designed in the same vein as "Super Metroid," "Shadow Complex" takes the fun of 16-bit gaming and modernizes it for today's audience. Power-ups and upgrades keep the gameplay fresh and exciting, while the graphics are far superior to anything else like it on the market. Some may look at the steep price tag and scoff, but when you consider that you're getting a guaranteed five to six hours of play time (something that not even most full-priced games can offer these days), it's a deal that's too good to pass up. Though you can't technically purchase a hard copy of "Shadow Complex" to give as a gift, you can pick up a themed gift card designed to nudge the recipient in the right direction.