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Last Minute Shopping Guide: 2004 — Day Three

By Michael David Sims
22 December 2004 — Monday was all about comic books and DVDs, Tuesday saw nothing but Nintendo products... well, and the PSTwo, and today — the third day of this feature — I will give you last minute gift ideas for multi-system titles as well as the PC.

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Multiple Systems
Burnout 3: Takedown
Age Recommendation: all
Systems: PlayStation 2 and Xbox
Best For: racing fans; adrenaline junkies
Description: I'm going to quote myself from my review of Burnout 3: Takedown: "Following in the footsteps of the previous games in the series, the point of Burnout 3: Takedown is to crash, causing as much damage as possible. The more cars you wreck, the higher your points and more cars you unlock. That's it. Death and destruction are rewarded, and it's a bloody good time!" This is one of those rare gems that will even entice gamers who aren't so fond of the racing genre — mostly because the game isn't so much about racing, but crashing.

Def Jam: Fight for NY
Age Recommendation: 18+
Systems: GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox
Best For: fans of rap and wrestling
Description: Screw the blind Mortal Kombat love, Def Jam: Fight for NY is hands down the best fighting and wrestling game of the year. It has no rival — not even its predecessor or the much hyped SmackDown! vs. Raw — and will challenge even those who have mastered Soul Calibur II. With an innovative Create-A-Character mode (mug shots); a story that has you battling rappers in Cage, Inferno and Window matches; and a powering-up system that involves Henry Rollins as your trainer, there's no reason not to buy this game for a loved one. That is, if they're over 18. Four-letter words are spread around like gonorrhea at a weeklong orgy, and sexual innuendoes are just as plentiful.

Madden NFL 2005
Age Recommendation: all
Systems: all
Best For: armchair quarterbacks
Description: Is a description really needed? The Madden series is the undisputed king of football games, and — after the announcement that EA and the NFL have struck an exclusive five-year deal — will be for years to come.
Online Play: Both the PS2 and Xbox versions have online capability, but the GameCube version does not. Keep this in mind when choosing between systems, especially if your beloved gamer craves online competition.
Note: The GBA and DS versions are slightly different than their home console counterparts.

Mortal Kombat: Deception
Age Recommendation: 18+
Systems: GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox
Best For: the bloodthirsty
Description: Setting my hatred for the Mortal Kombat franchise aside, the latest sequel is the best one to date. Featuring improved graphics, interactive environments, and new modes of play (including chess), Deception will surly fit nicely under almost any tree.

NFL2K5
Age Recommendation: all
Systems: PlayStation 2 and Xbox
Best For: armchair quarterbacks
Description: If Madden is the king of football titles, the NFL2K series would be the upstart after the throne — or it would be if it weren't for that damned EA/NFL deal, which makes NFL2K5 the last of the series until at least 2011. Forgetting all that, the major reason you'll want to nab this game over Madden is the price. Coming in at a mere $20, NFL2K5 makes the perfect stocking stuffer.

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
Age Recommendation: 18+
Systems: all
Best For: every-freaking-one
Description: The sequel to the hottest game of 2003. That's all you need to know. Everyone will want this. So buy it.

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
Age Recommendation: 18+
Systems: all
Best For: owners of Metal Gear Solid; Tom Clancy readers
Description: The Splinter Cell series has always been about stealth and more stealth. If you know a gamer who wants to run-and-gun, then this game isn’t for them. However, if you know a gamer who uses patience as a blanket and fancies himself a black ops spy, Pandora Tomorrow has his name written all over it.

Viewtiful Joe 2
Age Recommendation: all
Systems: GameCube and PlayStation 2
Best For: every-freaking-one
Description: Describing Viewtiful Joe 2 isn't the easiest of tasks. Suffice it to say that VJ2's side-scrolling elements and super-hard gameplay make it perfect for old school gamers, whereas its flashy colors and sleek graphics will draw in the modern sect. And while there are sexual innuendos and, as stated, the gameplay can be quite difficult, it's one of the few titles that — like Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door — can be enjoyed by gamers of all ages.

X-Men Legends
Age Recommendation: all
Systems: GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox
Best For: comic book geeks; RPGers
Description: Quoting myself once again: "This is supposedly an RPG featuring over a dozen X-Men, and while it does allow you to control and level-up a team of mutant heroes it's more of an action game than anything else. Nonetheless, it's a solid gaming experience with a story written by (get this) actual comic book writers.... For comic book fans (and to a lesser extent) RPG fanatics, this is a wet dream come true."

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PC
City of Heroes
Age Recommendation: all
Best For: comic book geeks; RPGers
Description: We all know them. I guarantee this. We all know at least one person who's so into comic books that they actually want to be a superhero. Somewhere in their brain that line between fantasy and reality has been blurred beyond recognition, making adamantium claws and alien children raised by kindly Kansas farmers a truth. For them, I wholeheartedly suggest City of Heroes, which will allow them to live out their wall-crawling dreams online.

Doom 3
Age Recommendation: 18+
Best For: horror and sci-fi freaks
Description: How many times have I quoted myself? "Flickering lights and grey hallways, the disembodied cries of babies and glowing pentagrams, attacking demons and zombies, moans and distant footsteps, severed limbs and strewn corpses are more than enough to frighten even the staunchest gamer..." That's Doom 3 in a nutshell for ya. While not the best first-person shooter of the year, it will provide enough entertainment and frights for quite a while.

EverQuest II
Age Recommendation: all
Best For: hardcore gamers
Description: Good or bad, it's a very big deal when a video game makes the news. (For those of you out of the proverbial loop, it was dubbed EverCrack due to its highly addictive gameplay.) And EverQuest wasn't so much a game as it was a phenomenon. With millions of subscribers worldwide, Sony has a surefire hit on their hands with the highly anticipated sequel.

Far Cry
Age Recommendation: 13+
Best For: hardcore gamers; Rambos
Description: A surprise hit of the year, Far Cry — like the upcoming Half-Life 2 — allows players to solve problems in a variety of ways: run-and-gun, stealth, strategy, etc. The real story of the featured game, however, are the graphics. Whereas most first-person shooters are set on alien worlds or post-apocalyptic cities, Far Cry is played on a "you've got to see it to believe it" lush tropical island with crystal clear water and swaying trees.
Suggestion: If you're torn between Doom 3 and Far Cry, this writer suggests Far Cry — but I'd choose Half-Life 2 before either of 'em.

Half-Life 2
Age Recommendation: 18+
Best For: horror freaks; hardcore gamers
Description: Game of the year. That's what will be printed on the box in just under two weeks. Anyone who disputes this either hasn't played it or is stupid. It's that simple. Offering the best graphics to date, a compelling story, multiple ways to complete each task (RE: run-and-gun, stealth, strategy, etc.), and memorable characters — including a robot "dog" — Half-Life 2 is the must-have game of the year. And is quite possibly the best game ever.
Power: To play Half-Life 2 gamers must have the latest video cards and a very powerful machine. So be aware that your gaming loved one might not have a computer than can handle it.

Rome: Total War
Age Recommendation: all
Best For: history buffs; hardcore gamers
Description: Remember what I said about games making the news? Rome: Total War does that one better. Its engine is being used to recreate battles for programs on the History Channel. Think about that for a moment. A respectable cable channel that is all about presenting history as accurately as possible is using a video game to bring its viewers visuals of decisive battles. Having said that, if you know a history buff — and I'm sure you do — this is the present for them.

The Sims 2
Age Recommendation: all
Best For: would be gods
Description: What can be said about The Sims franchise that hasn't already been said? Best selling PC game of all time. Addicting. Unlimited downloadable content. Too many expansion packs. Patience and meticulousness required. Willingness to be a god — benevolent or malevolent. With The Sims 2, gamers are offered a new experience — in both the visual and gameplay departments. For the first time ever, PC gamers will see their sims in 3D and will watch them as they grow from newborn babies to unruly teens to parents themselves and finally to grandparents who will sadly pass away. Additionally, parents can pass on there DNA — which includes not only physical attributes but also desires. As with before, patience and meticulousness are required and this game is an acquired taste, but most players will find it strangely satisfying to shape the lives of their virtual sims rather than actually live their own.

World of Warcraft
Age Recommendation: all
Best For: hardcore gamers
Description: In a bold move, developers Blizzard shifted the latest Warcraft title away from it real-time strategy roots so as to make it an MMORPG akin to EverQuest II. And, like EverQuest, WoW allows players to take on the role of a human, elf, dwarf or any of the numerous species to complete quests in its unique Tolkien-inspired realm.
Suggestion: If you're torn between EverQuest II and World of Warcraft, I'd suggest WoW. However, this might be one of those occasions where you'll simply have to ask the receiver which one they'd prefer.

Did you ever start to write something thinking it was going to be of a certain length, only to realize it was much, much longer when you actually got into it? That's what's going on here. What was supposed to be a one day piece has since turned into two... then three... and now, as I look at this, it will span four days.

Having said that, tomorrow I'll bring you — my last of the last minute shoppers — final ideas for both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

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Day One :: Day Two :: Day Three :: Day Four


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