The videogames everyone wants for the holidays

By Jae-Ha Kim and Misha Davenport
Chicago Sun-Times
December 10, 2004

Video games aren’t just for kids anymore. The Entertainment Software Association’s most recent data shows the average age of gamers is 29. While many games still are marketed for the kiddies, video gaming these days is hardly child’s play.

So whether you’re trying to chill out a few hours before heading out to your office party, dining with in-laws or looking for something your significant other won’t return this year, here’s our picks for grown-ups who like to play around. And remember, if you are intent on getting any of these games for children, please remember these rated “M” titles are not appropriate for anyone under the age of 17.

THE MUST-HAVES:

If you don’t already own Madden NFL 2005 (Rated E and available for all consoles from EA Sports, $29.99), Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rate M for blood, gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content and drug use. Available for the PlayStation 2 from Rockstar Games, $49.99) and Halo 2 (Rated M for blood, gore, language and violence from Microsoft for the Xbox, $49.99) — any or all are sure to make gamers’ seasons bright.

GAMECUBE:

FIFA Soccer 2005. Soccer fans will get a real kick out of this game, which presents realistic players in awesome stadiums. As with real soccer, game play can get a little slow if players aren’t cooperating. But once you figure out how to maneuver your team and get them to use their heads-literally-to score, you’re in for a good time. Includes more than 350 official teams and an option allowing gamers to create your player to bend it like Beckham. (Rated E for everyone. Electronic Arts, $49.99) -Jae-Ha Kim

Mario Power Tennis. Once you get past the cute characters and colorful presentation, “MPT” is a surprisingly realistic sports game. For those who pride themselves as being weekend warriors on the court, you’ll love the ability to lob, slice and topspin on your volley. In addition to the traditional clay and grass courts most of us are used to playing on, there’s alternative court types offering new challenges (you try going 30-Love on a court with convey belts, for instance). Go ahead. Tell yourself you’re buying this one of the kids. When they’re tucked away asleep, we’ll see you courtside. (Rated E for cartoon violence. Nintendo, $49.99) -Misha Davenport

Call of Duty: Finest Hour. War is never anything but intense, so it’s fitting this game captures the realistic unknown of fierce battles. “Call of Duty” allows gamers to view war from the perspective of British and Russian soldiers, as well as Americans, during World War II. You have to be careful, though, because your brothers in arms actually may contain an enemy. Choose your own weapons-pistols, grenades and super powerful sniper rifles. (Rated T for Teen. Activision, $49.99) -JHK

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. If you’re looking for the best game released for the GameCube this year, look no further. This sequel has female bounty hunter Samus Aran dispatched to investigate the disappearance of an entire squadron of marines. Before long, she is sucked into a war between two alien beings -the Luminoth (light beings, so they’re the good guys) and the Ing. The Ing have driven the Luminoth almost to extinction. As Samus, you try to even the odds in this action game. (Rated T for animated blood and violence. Nintendo, $49.99) -MD

Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within. The sequel to last year’s critically acclaimed sleeper hit picks up several years after that game. Having released the sands of time, the Prince is now being hunted by a creature responsible for guarding the timeline. The only way out of the mess is to go back in time and prevent the sands of time from being created in the first place. It’s a good thing the Prince has time-traveling abilities on top of his gravity-defying acrobatics and sword-wielding skills. All royals should be so lucky. (Rated M for blood, gore, intense violence and sexual themes; Ubisoft, $49.99. Also available for PC, PS2 and Xbox) -MD

Viewtiful Joe 2. Capcom’s blend of action and anime is back with one major difference. Joe’s girlfriend Silvia -reduced to the cliched role of damsel in distress in the first game- gets to kick major butt in the sequel. You can actually swap between Joe and Silvia at the touch of a button -pretty useful because Silvia can do things that Joe can’t. To paraphrase a line from the game, it’s girl power-a-go-go, baby! (Rated T for cartoon violence. Capcom, $39.99. Also available for PS2) -MD

PLAYSTATION 2:

Katamari Damaci. In this bright, technocolored fantasy, you roll a ball around, collecting object. As the ball grows in size, so do the objects you’re able to pick up. Reach a certain circumference before the timer expires and you’ll get to watch your ball launch into space as a replacement for the stars the king of the cosmos (your dad) destroyed on one of his benders. It’s quirky, infectious fun for all ages. (Rated E for for mild fantasy violence. Namco, $19.99) -MD

Need for Speed Underground 2. As far as racing games go, this one will make you feel like a grown up version of Speed Racer-skilled, but still a little perplexed about why people can’t play fair. Here, your rep is everything. So when a rival tries to top you, it’s to your benefit to do whatever necessary to stay ahead of the game. Literally. And if that means driving a little dirty, then so be it. (Rated E for everyone. Electronic Arts, $49.99) -JHK

EyeToy: AntiGrav. Interactive gaming your thing? Then the EyeToy is your best friend, helping to create a “you were there” feeling. This extreme racing game dares you to navigate a hoverboard through a setting filled with antigravity launch pads and skyscrapers (perfect for that perfect grind!). (Rated E for everyone. Sony Computer Entertainment, $49.99) -JHK

Killzone. The first time I played this, I was startled at how quickly my character was shot dead. Yeah, this is just a game, but it still hurts.  Dark, ominous and hopefully as close to war as any of us will ever get, this isn’t for the weak of heart or those who are slow with the trigger. (Rated M for realistic blood, violence and strong language. Sony Computer Entertainment, $44.95) -JHK

GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. James Bond has nothing on this 00 agent gone wrong.  Better suited for a life in crime, he’s recruited by Auric Goldfinger in a battle against Dr. No. Is this agent as bad as he seems-or worse? The storyline is infectious and the graphics are sharp. I couldn’t figure out if I enjoyed the gameplay more or the cosmopolitan settings our antihero frequents. Regardless, this game rocks. (Rated T for teens. Electronic Arts, $49.99) -JHK

PC:

Half-Life 2. Who knew the world of science could be so much fun? The followup to “Half-Life” picks up with research scientist Gordon Freeman trying to rid the world of alien beings intent on destroying life as we know it. Indiana Jones has nothing on Freeman, who uses brains and brawn (and a little bit of “MacGyver” ingenuity) to figure out how to save the human race from extinction. (Rated M for mature. Sierra, $49.99) -JHK

Pacific Fighters. Airplane buffs will love this game, which allows you to fly a variety of fighter jets and World War II bombers. Landing on aircraft carriers will give you an idea of how difficult it is for real-life pilots to jettison onto a relatively small space. But the real thrill is when the Allied squads face the elite from Japan’s air force. (Rated T for teen. Ubi Soft, $33.99) -JHK

Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile. There’s a certain flair to this game that will appeal to players who liked using Legos as a kid. Like SIMS, the characters here interact and have free will (or as much as they can have in a videogame). How they interact can play a detrimental role in the city you create for them. (Rated E for everyone. Myelin Media, $39.99) -JHK

XBOX:

Dead or Alive Ultimate. Tecmo’s ultimate martial arts fighting game is actually two games for the price of one -Dead or Alive and Dead or Alive 2.  Both games have been enhanced and now feature online play. So, you can work your holiday aggression out on strangers instead of your family.(Rated M for sexual themes and violence. Tecmo, $49.99) -MD

Fable. Ready to create your own fable? Gamers are provided with a bare bones storyline (a young boy sees his parents murdered and is taken in by an academy that trains heroes) and then fill in the blanks by completing missions as they see fit. Of course, your in-game decisions impact both your character’s look and the environment around him. Healthy doses of humor keep this role-playing simulation fresh .(Rated M for blood, strong language and violence. Microsoft, $49.99) -MD

 

 

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