Graphics, game play make 'Metroid' a holiday thriller
By Marc Saltzman
So many games, so little time. As the holidays approach, video-game companies have delivered dozens of new titles for both consoles and computers. Here's a look at a few of the better releases. All of these titles are rated "T" for teen (13 and up).
"Metroid Prime" Nintendo for GameCube. $49.99. **** 1/2 out of 5. www.nintendo.com
It's been eight years since the last "Metroid" game, but this sequel is worth the wait thanks to its slick game play and 3-D graphics.
"Metroid Prime" is not only one of the best console games of the year, but it's one of the best-selling titles, too. Nintendo says it has sold more than a quarter million units in North America its first month of availability.
"Metroid Prime" once again stars a gutsy heroine, Samus Aran, who must investigate the nefarious activities of the Space Pirates on space station Tallon IV. This time around, the adventure is played from a first-person perspective, so all the action is seen through Aran's eyes.
Like past games in this series, she dons a high-tech spacesuit and visor and can roll into a ball to access hard-to-reach game areas. Aran also has access to familiar "Metroid" weapons such as a Wave Beam and Freeze Ray.
"Splinter Cell" Ubi Soft for Xbox. $49.99. **** out of 5. www.ubisoft.com
The latest installment in the popular Tom Clancy-inspired video game series is now available for the Xbox platform. The Windows CD-ROM version will follow Jan. 21.
In "Splinter Cell," players strap on the boots of a highly trained secret operative named Sam Fisher, who must infiltrate terrorist positions, acquire critical intelligence and exit undetected.
Sound easy? Think again.
This 20-hour action/adventure requires cunning and stealth to help accomplish the varied and increasingly challenging missions. Consider this game the "anti-3-D shooter," where players will be rewarded for being covert and tactical rather than shooting everything in sight.
Ubi Soft has done a fantastic job of creating tension and suspense with its clever use of lighting and shadows, not to mention how much fun it is to sneak up on unsuspecting opponents. Fisher is quite agile and graceful and can perform a number of stealthy moves such as shimmying across wall ledges, scaling fences and climbing hand-over-hand across pipes that hang from the ceiling.
"Splinter Cell" is a tough but highly enjoyable game, especially for those looking for more than just a no-brainer blast-fest.
"Earth and Beyond" Westwood/Electronic Arts for PC. $29.99. **** out of 5. www.earthandbeyond.com
The world's first online role-playing galaxy challenges players to take control of a starship and interact with thousands of other players in a persistent, ever-evolving adventure.
Like other massively multiplayer games, "Earth and Beyond" has no conclusion, but players strive to reach level 150, at which point they become mentors to newbies.
While some online role-playing games are mainly about fighting, players in "Earth and Beyond" can advance by accumulating wealth by buying, selling and trading with others or by exploring the far reaches of space in their ship.
New missions, plot lines, characters, monsters and sectors are regularly added to "Earth and Beyond" so the game play stays fresh and is open-ended.
Graphics are stunning, with 3-D planets, black holes, nebulae and asteroid belts that pepper the deep blackness of space. Also, the spaceships are all built to scale; players will sense the size difference of a puny freighter while pulling up to an enormous space station.
The game includes 30 days of free play. After that, it's $10.99 to $12.99 (depending on the pricing plan) to continue adventuring in this alternative universe.