Plugged In

NEW RELEASES: ‘Halo’ to the Chief

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Well, today’s the day gamers around the world have been waiting for — the launch of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360. Judging by the number of people lined up outside local GameStops on Monday night, chances are most of you have already begun to finish the fight. For the rest of you, here are a few Halo 3 videos to give you a taste of what you’re missing.And be sure to check back later this week for our full review of Halo 3.

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REVIEW: ‘John Woo Presents Stranglehold’

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John Woo Presents Stranglehold

Every self-respecting action movie fan has heard of legendary Hong Kong director John Woo, whose credits include everything from “Face Off” to “Mission: Impossible 2.”

Now Woo has set his sights on video games, and the result is every bit as compelling as anything he has ever captured on film.

John Woo Presents Stranglehold is the spiritual successor to “Hard Boiled,” the intense shoot ’em up that helped introduce Woo to the U.S. audience. Chow Yun-Fat reprises his role from the film in Stranglehold, lending his voice to the gritty Inspector Tequila.

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Console war? What console war?

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A question:
Can you call it a console war if one side refuses to put up a fight?

The latest sales numbers released by the independent market research firm NPD Group were announced recently and the news wasn’t good for Sony. Again. The recently repriced Xbox 360 outsold Sony’s PlayStation 3 by more than a 2-to-1 margin in August. Worse yet, sales of the PS3 — which also recently received a price cut — fell roughly 18 percent from July. Sales for the Xbox 360 jumped 63 percent over that same period, thanks in large part to its aforementioned price cut.

Of course, neither console could keep pace with Nintendo, which sold more than 400,000 Wiis in August. But as Nintendo likes to keep telling everyone, it’s not competing against Microsoft or Sony. Another reason for Microsoft’s sales boost was undoubtedly the arrival of Madden 08 and BioShock, the top two selling next-gen software titles for the month. Only one PS3 title, Madden 08, cracked the NPD’s Top 20 list of software sales.

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With the first full week of the NFL behind us, it’s officially time for football. And time for football video games. Since I’m a little late to the party with these reviews, I thought I’d go ahead and condense all three major gridiron releases for the Xbox 360 — NCAA 08, Madden 08 and All-Pro Football 2K8 — into one take. Consider this your one-stop shop for all things pigskin.NCAA 08

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The good: Deep dynasty mode featuring a revamped recruiting model; smooth gameplay and a ton of new animations. The bad: No alternate uniforms; poorly implemented menu system. The bottom line: If you’re a college football fan, there’s no good reason not to pick up NCAA 08. EA Sports’ game is light-years ahead of last year’s offering, and the improved frame rate really quickens the gameplay and puts control back into the user’s hands. That’s a good thing. Score: 8.5/10.

ALL-PRO FOOTBALL 2K8

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The good: The best gameplay of this year’s releases; plenty of create-a-team options; online leagues; great assortment of football legends. The bad: No NFL license; no dynasty or career mode; graphics not up to par with other 2K Sports titles. The bottom line: The spiritual successor to NFL 2K5, this game overcomes the lack of real NFL players or teams by offering the goods where it counts most — on the field. The choice to go with former NFL stars works great and provides a nice bit of nostalgia for longtime football fans like myself. Score: 8.5/10.

MADDEN 08

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The good: The best next-gen Madden experience to date; fleshed-out franchise mode and owner’s mode; gameplay is tight and responsive; emphasis on weapons adds a strategic element. The bad: Gameplay plagued by an abundance of turnovers; no online leagues; CPU doesn’t challenge calls. The bottom line: Chances are, if you’re a football fan you’ve already picked up your copy of Madden. If you’re still on the fence, rest assured that this isn’t the same steaming pile of poo that we’ve had to play the past two seasons. Madden 08 is actually fun to play. This franchise finally seems headed in the right direction. Also, don’t dismiss the Wii version of Madden 08. The motion controls are tight, the new Family Play mode is great for beginners and the mini-games are plentiful. Score: 8.3/10.

The great escape

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I’ll try and keep this short and sweet. I’d like to apologize for the lack of updates lately. It’s not that the gaming world has ground to a halt — there has been plenty to talk about over the last week or so. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to write about them.You see, my mother-in-law is battling lung cancer. For much of the past month, she has been hospitalized and on a ventilator, fighting for her life. Obviously, some things are just more important than video games reviewing.

While gaming has taken a back seat to real life lately, I have gained a newfound appreciation for the escape that video games provide. Being able to jump into a game of Madden or BioShock after a trying day has helped keep me sane these past several weeks. God willing, I should be back to updating this blog regularly very soon. Until then, thanks for understanding and keep on gaming.