Far Cry 2 - 360, PS3, PC
We'll miss original protagonist Jack Carver and his mutant superpowers, as well as the first game's lush tropical setting, but the majority of Far Cry 2's differences are definite improvements. New features like weather, fire, disease, wild animals and day/night cycles behave realistically, as well as seriously affect gameplay. And since you can choose your own hero, your own allies and your own priority for tackling missions within miles of open-world African savannah, the shooter should have a ton of replay value. Too bad the weapons, characters and story don't inspire... anything.
Fracture - PS3, 360
We wanted to like this. Really, we did. The game's PR reps were so friendly and earnest, we feel really bad about what we're about to say. But here it is: Fracture takes a simple, compelling gimmick - the ability to deform any part of the terrain with special weapons that raise it, lower it or make it erupt with giant spikes - and puts it at the center of one of the dullest space-marine shooters we've ever played. The weapons feel weak, the hero is an unremarkable goon with a buzzcut and the enemies are just an unending cavalcade of masked, incredibly tough bullet-sponges. The environments are unappealing, the puzzles don't mesh with the super-repetitive action and after about five minutes, we just wanted to walk away. Sorry, Lucasarts, but this feels like RTX Red Rock all over again.
Gears of War 2 - Xbox 360
This sequel doesn't just stick with the successes of the first game - it supersizes them. The enemies are scarier, with Locust armies swarming the screen, some of them skyscraper-sized. The world is grittier, with entire cities in danger of utter destruction. The multiplayer is crazier, with never ending modes like Horde. Most importantly, the gore is, well, gorier. Who can say no to bloody chainsaw duels, rotting meat shields and torque bow decapitations? Bigger, better and more badass indeed.
Halo Wars - Xbox 360
The controls are simple – I was almost immediately jumping between my base and soldiers, constructing units, researching upgrades, and calling in airstrikes from the Spirit of Fire (my orbiting mega-ship of death). Eventually I had a couple Spartans, an Elephant, and a decent army of Marines and Warthogs, so I launched a full attack on the Covenant bases. The game must have been set on “easy-as-all-hell” because I tossed aside two bases without much issue. My Spartans commandeered vehicles and my Warthogs fishtailed into Covenant infantry - a few touches which indicate how closely Halo Wars replicates the Halo experience.
There wasn’t a whole lot of strategy involved aside from “build some stuff and send it over,” but it’s clear that I was playing a very simple skrimage match, and there is room for depth in the campaign. And hell, I had fun making stuff blow up.
Killzone 2 - PS3
Finally, a PS3 game worthy of the "Killzone" name! Just be glad the name isn't "Resistance" or "Gears of War", because then this would totally fall short. It's boring, from the all-gray graphics to the level design (hey, another warehouse!) to the set pieces, which involve such exciting things as blowing up a small bridge or opening a very large door with a hand crank. Yes, it's chaotic like a real war zone, but being a poor man's Call of Duty just isn't going to cut it.