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XBOX 360: the rest of the lineup

Gun

Publisher: Activision

Developer: Neversoft

Release Date: November 2005

This ambitious merger of open-ended, Grand Theft Auto design and a brutal Wild West setting could be gaming’s next big thing. You’re a brooding cowboy with a brave new world to explore: the American West at its most lawless and enchanting. You’ll discover your manifest destiny while fighting from horseback across vast prairies, hijacking strumpet-filled stagecoaches, and surviving deadly saloon shoot-outs.

Gun hails from a veteran development team (Neversoft, the guys behind the megapopular Tony Hawk games), and we’re definitely impressed by the scope of the game. Still, we’re a bit let down that the 360 version doesn’t look too terribly different than the Xbox one. But even if the visuals aren’t mind-blowing, at least solid design and gameplay should make it one of the deepest launch titles.

Condemned: Criminal Origins

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Monolith

Release Date: November 2005

If shooting, racing, and football just aren’t your thing, maybe Sega’s offbeat crime-adventure hybrid Condemned will keep you cozy this winter. In the words of Producer Dave Hasle, “Criminal Origins is the unique combination of a gritty first-person action game set in the tense atmosphere of a psychological thriller.” Prepare for a blend of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay gameplay (first-person exploration and fisticuffs with grimy hobos) and CSI-inspired sleuthing (get ready to spray some luminol and dust for prints). You do holster the occasional pistol, but strictly limited ammo makes this feel more like a survival-horror escapade than a run-n-gun first-person shooter.

Peter Jackson’s King Kong

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Ubisoft

Release Date: November 2005

The man behind the Lord of the Rings flicks will make the oversized ape cool again with this can’t-miss holiday film, and he’s working closely with Ubisoft to assure that the videogame version of his brainchild doesn’t suck.

Kong offers two distinct types of gameplay: First, you portray heroic Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) as he tackles unruly jungle beasts in a first-person shooter-adventure hybrid. These paranoid encounters with bloodthirsty dinos give way to an altogether different experience: acrobatically swinging, jumping, and grappling as monstrous Kong himself. Think Prince of Persia, only you’re the size of a house. Amazingly, this lovely 360 game looks nearly as sweet on Xbox and PS2....

Bound for 360?

OK, these titles haven’t been officially confirmed yet, but trust us—they’re on the way.

Halo 3 • Microsoft

Splinter Cell 4 • Ubisoft

Fable 2 • Microsoft

Forza Motorsport 2 • Microsoft

Rygar 2 • Tecmo

Shadowrun • Microsoft

Mercenaries 2 • LucasArts

True Fantasy Live Online • Microsoft

Marvel RPG • Microsoft

Frame City Killer

Namco’s oddly titled shooter casts players as Crow, a badass hitman tasked with taking down a deadly terrorist in a futuristic East Asian metropolis. Assassinations and car chases point to a deliberate Hitman-meets-Grand Theft Auto recipe, yet the Hong Kong aesthetic and trigger-happy gameplay should hopefully separate it from the sea of mediocre GTA clones of the past two years.

Of all the “launch window” games still slated to hit shelves by year’s end, this one’s particularly dubious. Visually, it’s all over the place: Some environments look lifelike while others appear sparse, and the character models seem to be hewn from plastic. Of course, graphics aren’t everything, and perhaps the final product will come together.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

EA’s street racing phenomenon evolves again with Most Wanted—a far different beast than the previous two best-selling Underground games. This time, the road rage takes place on brightly lit highways in gritty, industrial environments, and you’re more interested in blazing past the cops than installing neon ground effects. Moving up the ranks of the cops’ “black list” requires plenty of offensive driving, and you’ll learn to navigate the nooks and crannies of the game’s massive, open-ended environments before ascending to the coveted “most wanted” spot.

Since this game also hits the current-gen consoles this fall, the 360 version doesn’t deviate too far from the source. Even so, expect upgraded visuals, slightly more realistic physics, and more responsive enemy A.I. compared to its last-gen cousins.

Big in 2006

The fun’s just starting: These titles will grace the Xbox 360 next year

Kameo: Elements of Power

“It’s not a collect-a-thon,” Microsoft’s Ken Lobb says about this colorful fairy-powered adventure from Rare—a developer notorious for making games based on nab-every-doodad busywork. That’s not to say Kameo, which has you guiding a sassy fairy who morphs into different monsters, doesn’t give you things to grab. She’ll find coins to buy more health and fruits to power up her creatures, but it’s all optional.

So instead of collecting, the focus here is on puzzle solving and combat. Lots of it. You’ll plunge on horseback into four massive battles—the largest in videogame history—set on fields crammed with thousands of jostling enemies. It’s a powerful display of the Xbox 360’s hardware hutzpah. We’re just not so sure grown-up gamers will be down with game’s kiddified visuals and story line.

Quake 4

Does developer Id Software really need to keep making both Doom and Quake? Couldn’t you just shoot aliens and demons in the same game? Actually, in the wake of Doom 3’s dark, claustrophobic vibe, maybe a trip to Quake’s planetside shootin’ is in order. This time, you’re invading the nasty Strogg homeworld, and you’re not alone—a Halo-esque group of A.I. squadmates fights alongside you. Expect a deeper story line, plenty of cinematics, and a twisty plot that finds your hero amassing superhuman powers. Factor in some creative new weaponry, vehicles, and hearty online multiplayer, and this dark horse could make a big impact on 360.

Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

While you were out, Tony Hawk games got all high-concept on us—here, you’re a Podunk skate brat trying to bust into the gritty L.A. skate scene. The series’ trademark humor remains safely intact, but Wasteland does sport a more realistic tone than the cornball THUG games. Pioneering skaters, artists, and skate-scene musicians add a bit of history to the grindin’ action. Los Angeles also provides an impressive, interconnected, free-roaming environment. No levels here, just sandbox-style Grand Theft Auto–inspired missions you can complete at your own pace. It’s solid fare as usual, and the 360 version edges out its current-gen relatives in the visual department...though not by as much as we’d hoped.

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.






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