The 2008 Holiday Video Game Guide, Part II

(Editor's Note: This is the second part of a short series reviewing video games. To read this series from the beginning please go here. The first part deals with single-player video games.)

by Phil Kehres*

Special to iVoryTowerz

If you’re more the social type — or you’ve finally tired of holing up alone in your mom’s basement with no human contact — grab your headset, some buddies (real or virtual), and what’s left of your dignity and jump into one of this year’s excellent multiplayer games.

At the head of the pack, there’s Gears of War 2 (rated “M” for mature, available on Xbox 360 and PC), the follow-up to 2006’s smash hit. Gears 2’s story, a marked improvement over the first, follows a group of soldiers representing humanity’s last hope, entrenched in battle with a deadly horde of subterranean creatures known as the Locust. Gears 2 is bigger, badder and better than its predecessor in virtually every way. The graphics and level design set new heights for Xbox 360. The attention to detailed paid to each one of the game’s diverse creatures, weapons and environments is simply breathtaking. The two-player cooperative campaign mode provides unparalleled entertainment. Players take on the roles of grizzled soldier Marcus Fenix and his comrade Dominic Santiago as they mow through the Locust with a vast cache of weapons, from the fan-favorite Lancer — an assault rifle with a chainsaw bayonet — to new gadgets like mortars and poisonous ink grenades. Gears 2 also features a barrage of multiplayer online modes. Most notable is the new “Horde” mode, where you can team up with up to four online friends and fight through fifty waves of increasingly powerful enemies. You’ll be hooked in an instant.

If you’re not a fan of sci-fi, check out the latest in the popular war shooter series Call of Duty: World at War (rated “M” for mature, available on Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and PC). CoD:WaW features a return to the series’ World War II roots after a brief foray into modern warfare (2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare). You’ll fight as a U.S. Marine and a Red Army soldier throughout the game, taking on Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire. CoD:WaW features cooperative play for the first time in franchise history, allowing for two-player split-screen offline or four players online. Additionally, CoD:WaW offers one of the deepest online modes available, allowing players to unlock new ranks, weapons and attributes for use in an array of online scenarios.

Lastly, for those less interested in wielding a virtual arsenal, there are the new installments of the popular music simulation games: Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour (both rated “E” for everyone and available on Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii). GH:WT, like both iterations of Rock Band, now features drumming and singing. The four-player functionality (both online and off), in combination with the extensive set lists full of master recordings, new online modes and greatly enhanced character and band customization in each game provides for near endless party entertainment. Really, either game could serve as an excuse for a party in and of itself. For extra fun, add plenty of eggnog.

So if you’re in the mood to be a little social, skip the awkward Secret Santa exchanges this year and head straight to your couch for some grade-A entertainment. And if you insist on shopping, why not return that ghastly sweater and pick of one of these great titles for the good little boys and girls on your list?

(To read this series from the beginning, please go here.)

*Phil Kehres is one of the authors of Excuse Me, Is That Your Blog?

(The promotional screenshot from Rock Band 2 for Xbox is from Harmonix Music Systems. To see a trailer for Guitar Hero: World Tour, please check below.)

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