EA Sports, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 **1/2
Like most boxing games, this one relies on timing, skill and memorizing button combos.
Basically, you turn this on, pick a venue to fight in, and go. (If you want, you can upload an image that will help to create a fighter in your likeness.)
Never miss a local story.
You win by knocking your opponent down three times, or by filling up your “facebreaker” meter and pulling off your special move. You'll quickly discover that every character's attack style has strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited.
There are tournaments and cool head-to-head play options, but this is the rare game that I felt could be a little easier. Even the softer levels are a bit tough.
If you get a little too jab-happy, the computer will adjust to punish you for it. The computer fighters also execute “death” moves efficiently, and its combos – called “stun attacks” – can temporarily leave your character, rather Glass Joe-like, open to punishment.
“Facebreaker” has potential, but could use a little smoothing over if/when they decide to do a Version 2.0.
AGE OF RECKONING
Electronic Arts/Mythic, for the PC **1/2
I found this so-called “epic” title a little less than epic. It's got all the makings of a blockbuster – huge worlds, great characters, solid storyline – but everything just moves too slow. It's like trying to pass on I-85 in a Yugo. You press the gas pedal but not much happens.
The story, as I said, is actually pretty cool. A plague strikes “The Empire” and turns regular people into flesh-eating mutants. Eventually, the mutants and the remaining humans go to war.
Each group has tanks and other weapons, and as your side progresses, you earn action points that allow you to pull off a multitude of skills (just don't use the “flee” button to escape trouble too often, because it drains your action points).
This game gives you the feeling of really being in a fight. And it's incredibly deep; “Warhammer” is designed so you can't beat it quickly. But I have to be honest: I'm not sure I'd have the skill – or patience – to wade all the way through this.
DIGIMON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Namco Bandai Games, for the
Nintendo DS ***
Another good game for America's No. 1 handheld. As the new Digimon Tamer, you go after the strongest and most dangerous Digimon in the wild.
Once you capture the Digimon, you train them for more than 50 competitions. How you train and treat your Digimon will change the way they fight and act, and there are more than 200 digi-characters to interact with.
Namco says there are 25 hours of gameplay here. Some good gamers might get through before that, in which case a rental might suffice. But it's definitely worth a look.