Best Games Halfway Through 2006
World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 (PS2, Xbox, PSP, PC) – The World Cup only comes around every four years, so watching games and replays of the action might get you hankering to play the virtual counterpart. While 2006 FIFA World Cup has all of the national teams and players, WSWE 9 has the best gameplay. You’d trade official licensing for great game mechanics any day, right?
Star Wars: Empire at War (PC) – For you PC jockeys that want to spend some time tuning your brain instead of your reflexes, the strategy game based off the George Lucas realm is one of your best bets. All the Star Wars fans with a suitable computer already have it, so why not jump on the bandwagon and blast some rebel scum? Well, I suppose you could play as the light side, too.
Fight Night Round 3 (PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360) – Whether you’re playing it on the older systems or the Xbox 360, Fight Night Round 3 is the only – and would most likely be the best if there were any competitors – boxing simulation around. While the career mode and falter and the in-game advertising is egregious, sometimes you just want to pound on someone for a few rounds. Read The Review
Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords (PC) – While Civilization IV came out in 2005, strategy buffs will get a kick out of GC 2, which closely emulates the PC hit with great results. Taking the tried-and-true formula to space and adding an in-depth ship customization system only scrapes the surface of this great game. Augment this with the fact that the title has very clean programming and doesn’t require a supercomputer to play, and you have another game to play just… one… more… turn.
Lord of The Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth 2 (PC, Xbox 360) – Real-time strategy games are huge on the PC – this is the second on this list – and LoTR: BFME 2 is as good as its acronym is long. Although tons of gamers have already perfected their hotkeys and tactics, expect a brand new wave when the title hits the Xbox 360. Can Electronic Arts perfect RTS controls for consoles?
MLB ‘06: The Show (PS2, PSP) – With the stumble that was MLB 2K6, Sony’s offering is your best choice - if you have a PlayStation 2 or a PSP. Watching summer ball could pique your interest to run your own season, career, or playoffs. While the graphics won’t blow you away, the deep voice-overs and animations will. Read The Review
Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (PS2, Xbox, PC, Xbox 360) – Keep in mind that this is for the Xbox 360 and PC versions only, as the other iterations stunk. But if you have Microsoft’s next-generation machine, GR: AW will blow you away with slick visuals, sound and gameplay - a complete package, even more so when you factor in the vicious online play. Expect a late June download to add four more missions to the online co-op campaign that take place in an entirely different setting.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360, PC) – Best RPG in quite some time. No other game has created such an interactive, freeform world while offering hundreds of styles to play. Action fans can wade deep into dungeons and hack their way to glory, while hardcore RPG fans can tune their skills in alchemy and conjuration magic to poison their blades and create armies of undead minions. In most games, when you walk into any given house you see things on the desks and walls. Well in Oblivion, every single item in the world can be moved, picked up or interacted with. See an apple on a shelf? Pick it up, eat it, or put it into a potion. See a random person walking down the street? Pickpocket him, talk to him about the latest news in the game world, or just kill him and take his things. If you can do it in real life, you can do it in this game. If you are a completist, expect to spend over 100 hours to do every single quest and storyline.
Hitman: Blood Money (PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, PC) – Speaking of freeform, the best assassin game around is back and arguably better than ever. Adding new mechanics like making more money for completing your missions silently and spending it on various upgrades, Agent 47 must travel various sinful cities like Vegas and New Orleans to complete contracts. Add in the ability to finish missions in hundreds of ways and one of the coolest ending sequences in quite some time, and you have a great summer game.
Daxter (PSP) - Here’s a game you can actually play while getting a tan outside. From the storyline of Jak and Daxter comes a spin-off starring the furry sidekick. This title exemplifies what makes the PSP a great handheld machine with some great platforming action and tons of extras to collect.
Metroid Prime: Hunters (DS) – The heavily-delayed title finally got a chance to shine on the Nintendo DS. While the controls might cause a cramp on the old DS, the release of the DS Lite will make this first person shooter highly sought after. With a solid single player story and some fast wireless play, the newest Metroid is easily one of the best games on the system.
Tetris DS (DS) – It’s been a while since a true-to-form Tetris game came out for a handheld. While it offers some killer modes never seen before, this is high-resolution Tetris with awesome background music at its best. Include the multiplayer gameplay and you’ll be humming the Russian theme all day long.
Suikoden V (PS2) – If you don’t have $100 to plunk down on the first or second game of this series – yes, that’s what average eBay auctions are doing for Suikoden I and II – you should get the fifth title in the series. Hailed by fans as quite possibly the best overall, this traditional RPG will offer a great time and a long storyline to keep you busy.
Kingdom Hearts II (PS2) – Disney and Square Enix team up again to bring you a conglomeration that equals a great game. Sure, the first few hours are more convoluted than the ‘vis-a-vie’ speech in Matrix: Reloaded, but after all of that you are left with a great action game with RPG elements. Don’t forget the levels modeled after Disney movies and awesome cameos that make Mickey look like a bad-ass.
Odama (GameCube) – Unfortunately, GameCube has gotten little love recently. Still, hose who keep rocking the cubical system can play this weirdly-awesome pinball game that has you using said game mechanics to beat armies with a giant rolling ball. It even has a microphone to give simple tactics to your own men – just don’t crush them!
Tomb Raider: Legend (PS2, PSP, GameCube, Xbox, Xbox 360) – Lara Croft is back in a solid game. Yup, you read that right – there is actually another good Tomb Raider game out. She’s taking all of t he consoles by storm at the moment, so why not at least give it a rental if you aren’t entirely convinced.
Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day (DS) – Might as well keep that grey matter flexing, even during the summer. A quick five-minute play of this game a day will prevent that summer hangover in September. And if not, being reminded you have the brain of a 78 year-old should be convincing enough that it’s time to hit the books. Read The Review
New Super Mario Bros. (DS) – Mario and Luigi are back for their best game since Super Mario 64. With tons of levels and extras, including multiplayer modes, New SMB will be one of those titles you just pick up and play for months to come. Read The Review
MotoGP 4 (PS2, Xbox 360) – For the hardcore racing fans, simulation comes on two wheels with MotoGP 4. Featuring ridiculous graphics on the 360 and some painful-looking crashes, MotoGP 4 will urge gamers to perfect their lines and take it onto Xbox Live for some heavy competition.
Table Tennis (Xbox 360) – No room for a table? Look no further than Table Tennis from Rockstar. With great graphics and intense multiplayer modes, you should be hearing ‘ping’ and ‘pong’ all summer long. Read The Review
Well, there you have it. Don’t say there’s nothing good to play during the summer – they’re just already released. The best thing is that most of these games can be found on the cheap side used, so get searching for whatever interests you and get ready to work on that inversed tan.
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