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Friday, Dec 18, 2009
Assassin's Creed II - Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC [$59.99]

Despite its slow beginning hours, Ubisoft’s follow up to Assassin’s Creed makes up for its poor early pacing with its commitment to adding more variety and depth to the franchise. Combining the visceral pleasures of free running and precision stealth kills with thought provoking plotting that considers the dichotomy of faith and reason in the Italian Renaissance, Assassin’s Creed is audacious in its willingness to tackle topics that few mainstream video games have done more than graze: religion and philosophy. Not many games would charge the protagonist with assassinating the Pope in the heart of the Vatican. Oh, and then follow up that sequence with musings on the mysteries of cosmology.


Ubisoft has taken full advantage of the medium’s ability to create worlds from the ground up and taken to recreating historical periods that are often not those focused on in contemporary gaming environments. Does the world need another game set during World War II? Instead, the first game allowed the player a view of Damascus during the time of the Crusades. Now players explore the streets and canals of Venice at the height of the Renaissance. Visually astonishing, both thoughtful in its narrative and brutal in its gameplay, Assassin’s Creed II is one of the best games of the year.


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Friday, Dec 18, 2009
Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper - Dreamcatcher - Windows Vista XP [$19.99]

Jack the Ripper’s story hasn’t been solved, which makes it prime fodder for such fictionalization.  It’s the rare “based on a true story” tale that doesn’t have a predetermined ending. It is all of this backstory that makes Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper such an interesting play experience.  For an adventure game to work as an immersive experience, it has to draw the player into its world; for such an experience to be effective when so much of it is drawn from either real-life experience or a well-known body of fiction, attention to detail is paramount.  Happily for adventure game fans, it seems Frogwares has done its homework. Given Holmes’ opposition, it should be well understood that the game’s not a laugh riot, but this is one of that rare breed of adventure games that simply doesn’t need humor to succeed—it simply begs to be played, and while as an adventure game its appeal ceases once it ends, it’s the type of game that will have you thinking about it long after you’ve finished it. Meaning this is the gift for the gamer on your list; just don’t plan on seeing them until New Year’s.


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Text:AAA
Friday, Dec 18, 2009
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 - EA Sports - Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Sony PSP [$74.95]

The man and all the controversy aside, let’s focus on the athlete, or at least, the athlete-in-a-game. Graphically, this looks terrific, with enhanced water, terrain and trees. I’m happy to report that this is the first version of Tiger Woods to get skies right. They are beautiful and dynamic, and even include, finally, haze. The spectator models and animations have also been given long-overdue attention. Playing this game is finally the visual treat it should be. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 may be the most fully-realized sports game EA has ever made. It has nearly everything one could want in a golf game.


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Text:AAA
Friday, Dec 18, 2009
Tim Burton’s Tragic Toys for Girls and Boys [$15 per set]

Tim Burton’s line of toys makes it into the inner child category because sometimes, it just sucks being a kid. Launched by Dark Horse to coincide with the filmmaker’s career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the characters in the four sets of PVC toys all come from his book of poetry, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories. In classic Burton fashion, children are represented as ostracized freaks, such as Stain Boy, Toxic Boy, Junk Girl and The Pin Cushion Queen. It is a good bet that when we were children, we’ve all felt like Jimmy, The Hideous Penguin Boy at some point or other, and the memories from that time stick with us. So give these gift as a way of saying, “Hey, I like you even though you used to feel like an oyster boy.” [www.momastore.org]


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Thursday, Dec 17, 2009
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC [$59.99]

If you have played Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare then Modern Warfare 2 will probably feel like more of the same. But developer Infinity Ward has struck upon a formula for action that works and change for the sake of change would only bring disaster. The new additions are mostly minor, but they’re all improvements. The campaign doesn’t shy away from exploring some dark themes, and the result is a story that weighs on you even if there are some plot holes. The multiplayer simply gives you more of what you want: more unlockables, more perks, more killstreaks, more challenges, more ranks, and as a result, you’ll be upgrading something nearly every round. Finally, the new cooperative Spec Ops contains some of the most satisfying and frightening firefights of the entire game. The game is an evolution of a proven formula; it’s more of the same, made better.


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