Reviews in Pelit 2005

187 Ride or Die (Xbox) (Ubi Soft) With its unresponsive driving and boring-as-hell shooting, Ride or Die is nothing more than a cheap attempt to capitalise on the ever-so-cool gangsta attitude.

1944: Battle of the Bulge (PC)(Monte Christo) is a nice little real-time strategy on a subject that has been too popular in the past couple of years. Many aspects, especially campaign mode and pathfinding algorithms, should be a lot more polished.

Ace Combat: Squadron Leader (PS2)(Namco/Sony) is a light but very enjoyable flight sim with great weapons and a well written story. It is technically flawless and the best Ace Combat game so far.

Act of War: Direct Action (PC)(Eugen Systems/Atari). A stunningly beautiful real-time strategy with a powerful campaign and lots of fabulous action, although the AI is a bit on the silly side. Still, heartily recommended.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS) (Intelligent Systems/Nintendo) has a very simple set of rules, which means the game is fast and addictive. Some AI would be nice, though.

Age of Empires 3 (PC)(Ensemble Studios/Microsoft) does not let you down. The game is as polished as it can get. Great for people who love multiplayer matches.

Alexander (PC)(GSC/Ubi Soft) is not a very good game, although some battles can be quite impressive. Voice acting is simply horrendous, the game is riddled with bugs and has lots of annoying little things that creep up every now and again.

Alien Hominid (PS2)(Behemoth/Zoo Digital Publishing) is a fun and fast-paced 2D side scroller. The graphics are nice and everything runs smoothly, but the game is extremely difficult. Be warned.

Alpine Skiing 2005 (PS2)(49games/RTL Playtainment) is a decent enough game about, well, alpine skiing.

American McGee's Scrapland (PC)(Enlight/American McGee). Wonderful in presentation, original in style. Sadly, the action (outdoor fighting) sucks and ruins what otherwise would have been a good game.

Anarchy Online: Alien Invasion (PC)(Funcom). Another solid add-on for one of the best MMORPG's currently on the market. This time the content is clearly aimed at organisations, but newbies and lone wolves are not totally forgotten either. Next on my wish list: upgraded character graphics, please.

Another Code: Two Memories (DS)(CING/Nintendo). A very light, but brilliantly designed adventure game. For experienced gamers it is too short and easy, but casual gamers will no doubt enjoy it very much.

Area 51 (PS2)(Midway Austin Studios/Midway) is a traditional 3D shooter that borrows elements from Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Halo 2 and Metroid Prime. An awesome game? Not quite, but decent enough.

Armies of Exigo (PC)

Astro Boy (PS2)(Sonic Team/Sega) is a refreshingly pure-hearted superhero in these decadent times. Unfortunately the game itself lacks in substance and is perfect only for the kids in the family.

Atlantis Evolution (PC)(The Adventure Company/Dreamcatcher Interactive). A point 'n' click adventure with fresh ideas and a good storyline. However, the game is full of stupid problems, like stick hunting, and the voice actors are quite bad.

Axis & Allies (PC)(Timegate Studios/Atari). A very basic real-time strategy with AI issues. Although everything about it has been seen a million times before, the game is still pretty entertaining from time to time.

Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood (PS2)(Paradox Development/Eidos) has serious weapon-related AI and collision detection problems. The arenas and the movement system are surprisingly good.

Bard's Tale (PS2, Xbox)(inXile Entertainment/Ubi Soft) tries to be funny but the jokes are far too obvious. As a game it stumbles upon the same mistakes and cliches it makes fun of. Poetic justice, if something.

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean (GameCube)(Namco). A beautiful role-playing adventure with an above-average plot and some novel ideas. The otherwise interesting combat system relies a bit too much on luck, but overall Baten Kaitos is definitely one of GameCube's top adventures.

Batman Begins (PS2)(Eurocom/EA Games). Could anyone take less risks designing a license action-adventure? Nice graphics and sound, but super simplistic gameplay. Also super boring.

Battalion Wars (GameCube)(Kuju Entertainment/Nintendo). Fun while it lasts. The game mechanics are simple, but they work well. It is a shame there is no multiplayer option and that the game does not last very long. Still, one of the best light war games on the GameCube.

Battle of Britain 2: Wings of Victory (PC)(Shockwave Productions/Gmx Media) waits for a patch to make it steadier. A great campaign system and a very interesting flight model provide lots of good single player action.

Battle of Bull Run Take Command: 1861 (PC)(Mad Minute Games/Activision Value). Civil War games are not usually very good, but The Battle of Bull Run is an exception. It is a historically accurate, superb game. Its only downfall is the lack of multiplayer modes.

Battlefield 2(PC)(DICE/EA) is an excellent modern-day multiplayer FPS. The game has an amazing atmosphere and the arcade-ish gameplay makes it fun to play.

Battlefield 2: Special Forces (PC)(Electronic Arts). How did we ever manage without a grappling hook and a zip line?

Black & White 2 (PC)(Lionhead/EA) is better than its predecessor, but what the player gets is tedious and simplistic. Instead of a challenge, there is a three-unit real-time strategy without the strategy. The creature works rather well, though.

Blitzkrieg 2 (PC)(Nival/CDV). A good WW2 RTS, but suffers from the same problems the first one did.

Blitzkrieg: Rolling Thunder (PC)(Nival/CDV) is still fun, but enough is enough. Concentrate on Blitzkrieg 2, please.

Blood Will Tell (PS2)(Sega). A decent samurai and sword action game based on Tezuka Osamu's Dororo manga. It is a little bit repetitive and the dated gameplay is disappointing. A few fun monsters, though.

BloodRayne 2 (PS2)(Terminal Reality/Majesco) qualifies fine and well as a Barbie for boys, but as an action game it is dull and mediocre, and sinks into the oblivion where it belongs. Pretty graphics, though.

Boiling Point: Road to Hell (PC)Boiling Point: Road to Hell (Deep Shadows/Atari) will someday be a finished, good game. However, early betas should not be released, even if the second quarter is closing.

Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer (PS2)(VIS Entertainment/SCEE) is a well-made action-adventure. Beautiful graphics, good gameplay and a bunch of fresh ideas offer pleasant times for adventurers.

British Airports (PC)(Just Flight) enhances the standard airports greatly. Unfortunately Vol. 6 models airports in Northern England, which is quite uninteresting.

Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood (PC)(Gearbox/Ubi Soft). More like an add-on than a real sequel. Despite that, Earned in Blood has better AI and is overall better than the first one. The best WW2 team leader game at the moment.

Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (PC, Xbox)(Gearbox Software/Ubi Soft) is an excellent game. It is superbly written and researched. The situations and characters simply feel real.

Burnout Revenge (Xbox, PS2)(Criterion/EA Games) is an excellent and unbelievably fast arcade racing experience. The constant over-the-top crashes are hilarious. It is a bit easy, though.

Buzz The Music Quizz (PS2)(Relentless Software) is fun, but short-lived entertainment for video game illiterates. The buzz controller is a fun, although an unnecessary contraption. Enjoyable despite the horrible Finnish dubbing.

Call of Cthulhu - Dark Corners of the Earth (Xbox)(Headfirst/Bethesda/2K Games). An atmospheric thriller marred by a constant need for repetition. Gunplay feels a bit tacked on.

Call of Duty 2 (PC)(Infinity Ward/Activision) has near-perfect visuals and great gameplay, but suffers from a serious case of same old, same old. Where is the innovation?

Call of Duty: Finest Hour (Xbox, PS2, GameCube, N-Gage)(Spark Unlimited/Activision) is too linear and short, but it has a nice atmosphere to it and many enjoyable missions. Poor graphics and moronic companions detract from the experience, though.

Capcom Fighting Jam (PS2)(Capcom). A dated 2D beat 'em up for purists only.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)(Konami). Instead of "Dawn of Sorrow" the subtitle could have been "A Good Reason to Buy DS."

Champions: Return to Arms (PS2)(Snowblind Studios/Sony Online Entertainment). The sequel to Champions of Norrath offers a neat and entertaining package of addictive hack 'n' slash action - but is it really that difficult to implement a proper story?

Championship Manager 5 (PC, PS2, Xbox)(Beautiful Game Studios/Eidos) is a big disappointment. The game engine is simply awful, and the tactic books can be thrown out of the window along with the game cd.

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay - Developer's Cut (PC)(Starbreeze/Tigon Studios/Sierra/VU Games) is an exciting mix of FPS, stealth, fighting and adventure all rolled into one great looking package.

City of Heroes (PC)(Cryptic Studios/NCSoft). An original superhero MMORPG that has excellent character creation and a well-designed world. Gameplay is quite combat-intensive and the game lacks sufficient content to stay interesting for longer periods of time.

City of Villains (PC)(NCSoft/Cryptic Studios) is a fine action-oriented MMORPG, but a lot of the promise in the game is still just promise. Fun on its own right, but hopefully the integration with City of Heroes will be successful.

Close Combat: First to Fight (PC)(Destineer/2k Games). A mediocre tactical FPS that falls a little short on most categories. A more polished UI, better graphics and enemy AI would have done this game a world of good.

Codename: Panzers Phase Two (PC)(Stormfront/CDV) is a run-of-the-mill real-time strategy that is saved by its story driven campaign mode. Next time, some actual strategy, too, please.

Cold Fear (Xbox)(Darkworks/Ubi Soft) has one of the most engaging environments ever. The stormy sea is the real protagonist as it is always present and always threatening. Otherwise a run-of-the-mill survival horror game.

Cold War (PC)(Mindware Studios/Dreamcatcher). Decent sneak-and-shoot FPS. The Cold War theme is refreshing and the X-ray camera rocks. Unfortunately the game is lacking in the AI department and never builds enough tension to really pull you in.

Cold Winter (PS2)(Swordfish Studios/Sierra/VU Games) has the most impressive physics engine seen on consoles thus far, but the game does not take full advantage of it. The action is straight-forward, but engaging, and the whole game has a nice cinematic feel to it. One of the best shooters for PS2.

Concorde Professional (PC)(Just Flight). An excellent simulation of the first and only supersonic passenger jet. Modelled after the real aircraft with painstaking detail. Truly an enjoyment to fly. A two hour dvd documentary about the Concorde is a nice bonus.

Conker: Live and Realoaded (Xbox)(Rare/Microsoft) never received the attention it deserved when it was released on the last days of Nintendo 64 as Conker's Bad Fur Day. It is not as good as the cult status would make you think. Despite problems with camera and controls, constant barrage of foulmouthed jokes will keep you entertained.

Constantine (Xbox, PS2)(BITS Studio/Sci/THQ) is a bit too dark (as in "no light"), linear and uninventive. It is also strangely entertaining.

Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars (PC)(GSC). A great combination of real time strategy and turn based larger campaign. Its greatest achievement is the complete lack of micromanagement.

Crash 'n' Burn (Xbox)(Climax/Eidos Interactive) is an unbelievably frustrating arcade racer with big crashes and loud noises. The game does not require an ounce of skill, it is all about luck. Why on earth do the cars get so easily destroyed?

CRC 2005 (PC)(Invictus Games) is a promising driving game with lots of good bits (nice graphics, interesting physics), yet it is let down by rugged controls and boring races.

Crimson Tears (PS2)(Capcom). A decent enough beat 'em up adventure with interesting roleplaying elements. It is way too repetitive, however.

Dancing Stage Unleashed 2 (Xbox)(Konami) is a very good dancing game. There are a lot of single and multiplayer options, but the songs are a bit too techno-oriented.

Darkwatch (PS2)(High Moon Studios/Ubi Soft). A decent shooter with a vampire-western theme. More Sergio Leone and Halo, less Serious Sam and techno-steam-punk-funk, and it would have been even better.

Darwinia (PC)(Introversion Software) is so stylish it looks like art, but surprisingly it is also a very good game. Hopefully Darwinia gets the attention it deserves.

Dawn of War: Winter Assault (PC)(Relic/THQ). Dawn of War's game mechanics should be the role model for the whole stagnant RTS genre. Boosted with Winter Assault, Dawn of War is pretty much the best action-RTS ever. Tyranids next, please.

Day of Defeat: Source (PC)(Valve) looks very professional. It is hard to believe that it is just a mod. The action might be too fast for the weak hearted so keep your pills close by.

Dead or Alive Ultimate (Xbox)(Tecmo/Microsoft). Calling a revised version of a five-year-old game Ultimate is a stretch, even if you do add a flawless multiplayer mode and propably the most beautiful graphics seen on Xbox. Fine effort.

Deadhunt (PC)(REL Games) needs more varied gameplay, more polish and more graphic deaths, but it is still good mindless fun.

Delta Force: Black Hawk Down (Xbox, PS2)(Climax/Novalogic) is an average and slightly dated shooter with an interesting background story. The PS2 version is inferior, I would not even dare call it the same game.

Destroy All Humans! (PS2)(Pandemic Studios/THQ) has a nice 50's space-alien-communist-paranoia theme and good audiovisuals, but the actual content fails to impress. The game has boring missions and repetitive gameplay with emphasis on the wrong things.

Devil May Cry 3 (PS2)(Capcom) is a great sequel packed with speed, style and deep gameplay. Be warned, though, the game is incredibly hard, especially in the beginning.

Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat (GameCube)(Nintendo) really makes the most out of the bongos controller. A fun platform adventure.

Donkey Konga 2 (GameCube)(Namco/Nintendo) is surprisingly funny rythm action game. The bongo controller is definitively a must.

Doom 3 (Xbox)(Activision/Vicarious Visions). Scares you like no other game when played with headphones or home theatre sound, and preferably sitting in the dark. Best enjoyed alone.

Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil (PC, lisälevy)(Nerve Software/Activision) delivers more of the same Doom experience. Doom 3's ubiquitous darkness and monsters that spawn behind your back have not gone to hell where they belong. But would it be the same without them?

Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil (Xbox)(id/Activision) offers more graphical splendour and Doom-ish fun for fans. Multiplayer options are still just so-so.

Dragonball Z Budokai: Tenkaichi (PS2)(Spike/Atari). What a nice surprise! A 3D beat 'em up that is both loyal to its license and fun to play. Technically impressive, too.

Dungeon Siege II (PC)(Gas Powered Games/Microsoft Game Studios) is an entertaining hack 'n' slash which does not really lack anything except originality.

Empire Earth 2 (PC)(Mad-Doc Software/VU Games) relies too much on its gameplay (taken from Age of Empires and made obsolete by the Total War games). There are fresh ideas in the multiplayer mode, though, such as shared war plans. New citizen management significantly reduces bean counting.

Enigma (PC)(Puntosoft Interactive/Tesseraction Games). Realism and playability are nicely balanced in this naval warfare simulation featuring dozens of playable U-boats and surface combatants. Do not let its storyline based on alternative history scare you away.

Enthusia Racing (PS2)(Konami) is a solid, enjoyable driving game with great graphics. The controls are good and the RPG-ish level system makes the experience feel fresh.

ESPN NBA 2K5 (PS2)(Visual Concepts/Sega) is an entertaining realism-oriented basketball game. A franchise game in both good and bad.

ESPN NFL2k5 (PS2)(Visual Concepts/Sega) is an addictive football game with awesome gameplay, although the practice mode should have been more detailed. The franchise mode is very close to the real thing.

ESPN NHL 2k5 (Xbox)(Kush Games/Sega). A hockey simulation for game consoles that is too much like its predecessors. The online leagues are welcomed but the franchise mode needs improvement.

Eve Online: Exodus (PC)(CCP/Crucial Entertainment). A visually stunning spacefaring game that is still radically different from mainstream fantasy games. Even after Exodus it is still a bit lacking content-wise, but getting steadily closer to being a massively multiplayer Elite. Definitely an acquired taste, though.

EverQuest II (PC)(Sony Online Entertainment/Ubi Soft). A modernised sequel to the MMORPG classic. The basic idea is pretty much the same, but the new class system is good and the game looks awesome. Content is rather fluffy, although it is easy to get into and a lot of fun to play.

Everybody's Golf (PS2) (Clap Hanz/SCEE). The latest baby in the Everybody's Golf family is a superb golf game. Smooth controls, happy characters and a pleasantly fast pace make this a sure hit with golf fans.

EyeToy: AntiGrav (PS2)(Harmonix Music Systems/SCEA) makes the player a game controller in a futuristic hoverboard racing game. Excellent idea! When it works it is lots of fun, but unfortunately sometimes it does not work.

EyeToy: Kinetic (PS2)(London Studio/Sony/Nike Motion Works) is a competent physical training application. Too bad the EyeToy camera needs so much light.

EyeToy: Monkey Mania (PS2)(Sony) offers colourful fun for the whole family, especially for kids. You cannot go wrong with a monkey game.

F.E.A.R. (PC)(Monolith Productions/Sierra) is frighteningly good. The close-quarters combat works extremely well and so does the storyline. On the downside, the level-design is rather drab and the system requirements are downright deadly.

Fable: The Lost Chapters (PC)(Lionhead/Microsoft) expands the original Xbox Fable with new adventures, equipment and other stuff. The PC conversion is beautiful and an all-around fine piece of work, but the main plot is still too short and the world does not feel alive.

Fahrenheit (Xbox, PS2, PC)(Quantic Dream/Atari) is made with feeling. The game itself is quite simple and short, but the story folds out in a great way. One of the best games of 2005 so far.

Falcon 4.0 Allied Force (PC)(Graphsim). Finally a Falcon 4 that works as advertised straight out of the box. Includes the best features of the Falcon mod-community along with numerous new features. Superb work.

Fantastic 4 (PS2, Xbox)(Activision/7 Studios) makes both comic book and film fans happy. There are no problems with presentation, but after a million fights you are willing to give peace a chance.

Far Cry Instincts (Xbox)(Crytek/Ubi Soft) is stunningly beautiful, but the straightforward nature of the single player mode starts to annoy after awhile. The AI could use some work, too.

FIFA 06 (Xbox, PS2)(EA Sports) looks great and has a fabulous atmosphere, but feels too much like a video game and not enough like football. Where are the Finnish teams?

FIFA Manager 06 (PC)(EA Sports). The second best manager game is most entertaining when coaching a major club like Barcelona. Career mode is dull. And why are there football matches in Finland in February?

FIFA Street (Xbox, PS2)(EA Sports BIG). The Street family grows but FIFA Street fails to impress with its blocky animations and the constant out-of-control feeling.

Fight Club (Xbox)(Regency/Genuine Games/Vivendi). The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.

Fight Night Round 2 (Xbox)(EA Sports) is an excellent boxing simulator. A few more minigames would not have hurt, though.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (GameCube)(Intelligent Systems/Nintendo). A couple of small tweaks makes the game even better: stronger horse units and better character customisation. The only disappointment are the bland graphics, GameCube could do much better.

Football Manager 2005 (PC)(SI Games/Sega). The king is dead, long live the king.

Football Manager 2006 (PC)(Sports Interactive Games/Sega). Simply the best. Easy to play, hard to quit. Still too clinical. Where are the Gazza's of the simulated football world?

Formula One 2005 (PS2)(Sony) offers everything a F1 game should offer. Everything works just fine and feels authentic. Making yourself a F1 driver with EyeToy is a nice bonus.

Forza Motorsport (Xbox)(Microsoft Game Studios) is an excellent racing game. The performance classes tighten competition nicely. Move over, Gran Turismo!

Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich (PC)(Irrational/Digital Jester/VU Games). The handling of source material is excellent: plot, sound acting, characters, Secret Origins and all. Sadly, the game is pretty generic, and the lack of friendly AI makes the real-time gaming tedious. As you are forced to pause the game continuously anyway, why not go the turn-based way and add some tactical meat?

From Russia with Love (Xbox)(EA Games) is a rather straight-forward action game. There are a few minor quibbles, but on the whole the action is smooth and frantic. Looks, sounds and feels like Bond.

Full Spectrum Warrior (PS2)(Mass Media/Pandemic Studios/THQ). The PS2 conversion of the puzzlish war game tries its best, but the game is just too big to conveniently fit inside a console.

Gary Grigsby's World at War (PC)(2by3 Games/Matrix Games) tries to make large-scale turn-based strategy simple, but the result is too abstract. All good things are hidden and the interface is simply horrible. It takes a lot of patience and time to enjoy this one.

Geist (GameCube)(n-Space/Nintendo) is the kind of game the Gamecube needs. The idea of a wandering spirit works fantastically and is fun to play, but as a shooter Geist has nothing to offer.

Genji (PS2)(Game Republic/Sony) is a beautiful beat 'em up adventure. The simple counter system is a nice idea. A bit short and easy, though.

Get on Da Mic (PS2)(A2M/Eidos) is a nice idea that does not work. There are plenty of great rap songs there but when you actually try to play the game torture begins.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (PS2) (Atari/Bandai) is an average action-adventure. One for the fans.

God of War (PS2)(Sony) looks stunningly beautiful, sounds fantastic, plays like a dream, and has a great atmosphere. Even with the jumping-rotating-knives-hell nightmare in the end, it is still one of the greatest action adventures ever.

Gran Turismo 4 (PS2)(Sony) is the most involving driving experience ever. Even without the promised improvements (online play, better AI) it still manages to impress and will offer gameplay for months. The photo mode is a blast.

GT Legends (PC)(Simbin/10Tacle/Atari). It is a beautiful thing when a game seems to pull all the right strings. The cars are absolutely stunning and the way they handle makes each of them feel unique. Driving has rarely felt so good.

GTA: Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas (PC, Xbox)(Rockstar Games) is neither PC nor up to general PC standards, but damn great fun anyway.

GTA: Liberty City Stories (PSP)(Rockstar). Short version: It rocks! Longer version: Sony PSP's killer application has arrived. It is GTA as we know it. Fantastic!

GTR (PC)(Simbin/Pan Vision). As hardcore as a driving simulation can get. Driving feels very natural and but where is the excitement and atmosphere of the real races?

Guild Wars (PC)(ArenaNet/NCsoft) is a great online RPG with no monthly fee. Requires real skill unlike its competitors.

Gun (Xbox)(Neversoft/Activision) makes no excuses in its brutal retelling of a classic western story. The atmosphere of the gunfights is expertly created. GTA style free-roaming world fits the game well, and overall it is a magnificently fun, if a bit short, experience.

Harry Potter ja liekehtivä pikari (Xbox, PS2, PC)(Electronic Arts) is nothing more than a bunch of minigames that suffer from an awkward camera system.

Haunting Ground (PS2)(Capcom) is a good-looking puzzle-oriented horror game. It has an innovative panic system and a dramatic storyline. The adventure and the puzzles are well balanced, which makes Haunting Ground a very enjoyable experience.

Hearts of Iron 2 (PC)(Paradox/Pan Vision) takes a totalitarian approach to warfare. It is not just about men or machines, but economy, supply and politics, too. This just might be the most finished, solid game from Paradox yet and is heartily recommended to those enjoying grand-scale strategic wargaming.

Heroes of the Pacific (PC, Xbox)(IR Gurus/Codemasters) is beautiful and rather fun. Some missions are a bit too tough for their own good.

Hot Wheels Stunt Car Challenge (PS2, Xbox)(Climax/THQ) is a funny action-oriented and widely varied driving game. Surprisingly polished, but delivers fun for a couple of days only.

Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile (PC)(Tilted Mill/Sega) is a very good city building game with many fresh ideas. The cities feel alive thanks to the citizens who are always on the move.

Imperial Glory (PC)(Pyro Studios). A great concept, but the game suffers from its poor AI. Also, the balance between diplomacy and war should have been improved.

Incredible Hulk: The Ultimate Destruction (PS2)(Radical Entertainment/Vivendi Universal) makes you really feel the power of Hulk. Destroying everything is fun, but in the long run it tends to get a bit boring.

Jade Empire (Xbox)(Bioware/Microsoft Game Studios) is blessed with a first-class story and some great dialogue and voice acting. The RPG elements feel a bit too simplistic, but the game is much too interesting to let that bother you.

Jak X: Combat Racing (PS2)(Naughty Dog/SCEE) is a solid arcade racing game that plays a little bit too much on the safe side.

Joint Operations: Escalation (PC)(Novalogic). A nice offering of new toys and maps, but why on earth did you break the teamwork by giving us such an abundance of motorcycles? Now nobody wants to board my Blackhawk anymore.

Kameo: Elements of Power (Xbox 360)(Rare/Microsoft Game Studios) looks stunning and contains some really clever gameplay. The game is really fun to play although some of the puzzles make no sense at all. The condensed co-op is a real downer.

killer7 (PS2)(Capcom) tries too hard to be hip. The stylish visuals and the sound design are undeniably cool, but at its core the game is just a straight-forward lightgun shooter without a lightgun.

King of Fighters: Maximum Impact (PS2)(SNK Playmore/Ignition Entertainment) is a decent enough beat 'em up. There are not any major faults, but there are not any really good ideas, either.

Kult: Heretic Kingdoms (PC)(3D People). An action roleplaying game with a good storyline is something you do not see every day. A good effort from a small developer, but when competing with the giants of the industry Kult loses in almost all other areas except the plot.

La Pucelle Tactics (PS2)(Nippon Ichi/Koei) is a very competent tactical RPG. There is nothing too revolutionary, though. A bit of a Disgaea 2, then.

Legacy - Dark Shadows (PC)(Razbor Studios/GMX Media) takes adventure games to a new level. With new, I mean "my God, I have never seen anything this bad" and with level, I mean a crappy bottomless pit.

Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (GameCube)(Nintendo) is an excellent multiplayer adventure. The levels are suitably compact and the team-based puzzles are interesting.

Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA)(Capcom/Nintendo). Link returns once again, this time equipped with a nosy cap on his head. The game is a bit on the short and easy side, but in every other respect it is an excellent action-adventure.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (PC)(Amaze Entertainment/Activision) is a standard movie game for kids. What a pity, the movie promised more.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (Xbox)(Amaze Entertainment/Activision) is a standard movie game for kids. What a pity, the movie promised more.

LMA Manager 2005 (PS2)(Codemasters) is an addictive football management simulation. The match engine is awesome, but tactically the game is too simple.

Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth (PC)(EA Games). Great! The AI issues that plagued the European review version are long gone. Last year's second best RTS. The only thing lacking is modelling the morale of the troops.

Madagascar (PS2)(Activision). An engaging adventure with charming critters.

Madden NFL 06 (PC)(EA Sports) is an excellent football game. However, the expectations were a little higher this year knowing that there will not be any rivals. The new passing system is a little step forward, but only a little.

Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome (PS2)(Nippon Ichi/Koei) does not bring new innovations to the genre but is nevertheless a great strategic RPG with deep and addictive gameplay and lots of hilarious characters.

Mario Party 6 (GameCube)(Hudson Soft/Nintendo) is a nice multiplayer game for newbies and veterans alike. It is simple yet suitably challenging. The microphone-based minigames are hilarious. But where is marioke?

Mario Power Tennis (GameCube)(Gamelot/Nintendo). A great tennis game despite the overly gimmicky special arenas and extra game modes. The AI plays too predictably, too.

Mario Superstar Baseball (GC)(Nintendo) is a fun and easy-to-play sports game for the whole family. You can feel and see the Nintendo touch everywhere. What a nice experience.

Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (Xbox, PS2)(Nihilistic Software/EA Games) is a pretty average beat 'em up. There are some annoying control and camera issues. And the imperfects? Boring!

Mashed: Fully Loaded (PS2, Xbox)

Matrix Online (PC)(Monolith/Sega) fails to impress. There are some nice, although half-baked ideas, but overall the game is boring and mediocre, and has many design flaws. And it does not even look that good.

MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf (Xbox)(Day 1/FASA/Microsoft) has a solid single player campaign which is fun while it lasts. The multiplayer mode suffers from match-making difficulties but is still a blast.

Medal of Honor: European Assault (PS2)(EA) is an honourable war game that has nothing to be ashamed of. There is plenty of killing and the action looks and sounds like the real thing.

Megaman X: Command Mission (PS2)(Capcom) is a traditional roleplaying adventure with Megaman trimmings.

Mercenaries (Xbox)(Pandemic Studios/LucasArts) is a frantic military action game that does not hold its punches. Great graphics, sounds and atmosphere. The AI could have used more work, though.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2)(Konami) combines all the best aspects of the previous games into a solid whole. With stylish, entertaining and versatile gameplay, great story and excellent pacing this a sneaking mission not to be missed. The camera is often frustratingly clumsy, though.

Meteos (DS)(Q Entertainment/Bandai). Tetris re-visited for the 100th time, but this time it is worth it. Fast and furious rain of little cubes drown you before you notice and it drives you mad - and makes you play the game over and over and over again.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GameCube)(Retro Studios/Nintendo) feels a little bit too familiar for the first half of the game. Still, it is one heck of a game with huge vistas to explore. The multiplayer section is a bit of a letdown, though.

Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition (Xbox, PS2)(Rockstar Games) is a very good arcade racer. The incredible speed and freeform routes are the major high points. The tuning options are excellent, too.

Mortal Kombat: Deception (Xbox)(Midway). You cannot blame Midway for not trying, as Mortal Kombat: Deception is packed with content with kombat chess, puzzle kombat and a disappointing adventure mode. It almost manages to inject new blood into an increasingly stale franchise.

Moscow to Berlin (PC)(Intex/Monte Christo games) is a mediocre RTS released for the fourth time with new graphics. No fifth time, please, at least not without some major changes and a real campaign mode.

MotoGP 4 (PS2)(Namco) plays basically just like the previous games. The simulation mode is the heart of the game, although it is very difficult to master. Best of the series so far.

MotoGP Ultimate Racing Technology 3 (PC)(Climax/THQ). The new extreme tracks are a welcome addition, and the game looks as good as ever. The AI drivers are a bit too harsh when it comes to collisions and ramming the player off the track.

Movies (PC)(Lionhead/Activision) is a whole lot of fun. Managing your own studio is a real blast, although things tend to get a bit too simple and straight-forward at times. Creating movies from scratch is intuitive and strangely addictive.

Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits (DS)

Musashi: Samurai Legend (PS2)(SquareEnix) is much too slow and repetitive to be the fast-paced action-RPG it tries to be. Not exactly bad, but not much fun, either.

MX vs ATV Unleashed (PS2)(Rainbow Studios/THQ) is a somewhat old-fashioned driving game with nice controls. Unfortunately, driving games today should offer something more innovative to really stand out.

NBA Live 06 (Xbox)(EA Sports) is an enjoyable basketball game for the most parts. Superstars add freshness to the offensive play with their scoring ability. Stiff animation and poor camera work are minor problems.

NBA Street v3 ( PS2)(EA Sports BIG) is a good arcade basketball game - smooth, entertaining and great to watch.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Xbox, PS2, PC)(EA Games) is a decent enough racing experience. The police chases are excellent fun, but where is the proper civilian traffic?

Neo Contra (PS2)(Konami) is a traditional and extremely addictive shoot 'em up. Its twisted humour is hilarious. A few more levels would not have hurt, though.

NFL Street 2 (PS2)(EA Sports BIG) is a little too complicated for an arcade sports game. Maybe it is the sports - perhaps it is just too alien for a European mind.

NHL 06 (PC)(EA Sports) is a lot of fun, but not that much has happened since the last time. AI has huge problems in its own zone because it cannot maintain a controlled defensive line-up.

NHL 06 (Xbox, PS2)(EA Sports) is a lot of fun, but not that much has happened since the last time. The AI players have great difficulties especially in defence and maintaining a controlled defensive line-up is next to impossible. Nice atmosphere, though.

NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 2005 (PC)(Sports Interactive/Sega) should have secured the rights to Finnish Elite league, otherwise it is a brilliant hockey management game.

Nintendogs (DS)(Nintendo) truly is a man's best friend. Woman's, too.

Oddworld Stranger's Wrath (Xbox)(Oddworld Inhabitants/Electronic Arts) is a weird combination of a 3D-shooter and a platform adventure. It is beautiful and works extremely well. The best Oddworld game so far.

Operation Flashpoint: Elite (Xbox, PC)(Bohemia Interactive/Codemasters) looks dated, but offers unprecedented freedom on the battlefield. The combat is fabulously realistic as are the environments. Minor problems and a handful of bugs creep up every now and again.

Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors (Xbox)(From Software/Sega) offers a stunningly beautiful fighting frenzy. It is frustratingly difficult at times, but also rewards persistence and experimentation. You will break a sweat just thinking about all the action.

Pacman World 3 (PS2)(Blitz Games/Namco). Pacman goes 3D and offers decent 3D platform fun for young audiences.

Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell (PC)(People Can Fly/Dreamcatcher) is more of the same old good Painkiller. I absolutely love the new sniper-auto-polegun. The underground tunnel levels are lame, but otherwise the level design ranges from mediocre to fine.

Pariah (PC)(Digital Extremes/Groove Games). A generic sci-fi shooter that is short and not much fun to play.

Perfect Dark Zero (Xbox 360)(Rare/Microsoft Game Studios) comes surprisingly close to being perfect. When the game flows, the action is really sweet. The stealthy parts are much less enjoyable.

Peter Jackson's King Kong (Xbox, PS2)(Ubi Soft). A stunningly atmospheric action-adventure that makes all the right moves. It is intense, scary, exhilarating and pure joy to play. One of the best games so far this year.

Phantom Brave (PS2)(Nippon Ichi/Koei) is a fantastic turn-based tactical fighting RPG.

Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness The latest Pokémon (GC)(Genius Sonority/Nintendo) goes back to basics and melts your heart as easily as before. If only there were some depth and new ideas, Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness would be a true gem.

Polarium (DS)

Pop Life (PC)(Monte Cristo). A mediocre Sims clone that would not get past Simon Cowell without getting some harsh feedback.

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (PS2)(Ubi Soft) is an excellent action-adventure. Not perfect, however. It is basically more of the same and the ridiculous trap tunnels are anything but believable. And where is the widescreen support?

Pro Evolution Soccer 5 (PS2)(Konami). Once again, the best football game gets even better. The controls are dangerously complex, though. If the trend continues, hardcore gamers will get a previously unseen advantage.

Project Gotham Racing 3 (xbox 360)(Bizarre Creations/Microsoft). PGR 2.5 would have been a more suitable name, since there is not that much new. The drop dead gorgeous graphics make the game a wet dream for sports car enthusiasts. Easy to handle, beautiful to look at. I can live with that.

Project Rub (DS)

Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly Director's Cut (Xbox)(Tecmo) is a chilling adventure that makes your skin crawl. The new FPS mode is simply great and makes playing the game much more effortless.

Project: Snowblind (Xbox, PS2)(Crystal Dynamics/Eidos Interactive) looks and sounds awesome, plays really, really well. The controls are among the best I have seen on a console platform. Good cinematics, plot, atmosphere... A top game.

Pure Pinball 2.0 Redux - American Pinball Reborn (PC)(Iridon Interactive/Nordic Softsales). Playable and looks good, but the excessive number of ramps sometimes hides the ball. Too bad one table from the Xbox version got dropped.

Pursuit Force (PSP)(Bigbig Studios/SCEE) is fast and furious, but much too tough at times. The strict time limits will not allow any mistakes, which can lead to mind-numbing repetition. Looks great, though.

Quake 4 (PC)(Raven/Activision) is a pleasant surprise. Since I never liked Quakes' hyperactive online play, I am quite satisfied with the entertaining single player campaign.

Ratchet: Gladiator (PS2)(Insomniac/Sony) is more of a shooter than a platformer, which is a little surprising. The new weapons are not as hilarious as before, but everything rolls on smoothly. A great game with good variety in multiplayer options.

Resident Evil 4 (GameCube)(Capcom) is an excellent horror adventure. It is actually scary and that is no small feat for a video game.

Resident Evil 4 (PS2)(Capcom). The PS2 version has slightly uglier graphics and slight framerate issues, but the horror adventure itself is just as good as it was on the Cube.

Rfactor (PC)(Image Space Inc.) A superb racing simulation that is primarily intended for mod communities and multiplayer racing. Single player mode suffers from a lack of tracks and cars.

Robotech: Invasion (PS2)(Vicious Cycle/Global Star Software) is a sub-par FPS. The auto-aim and the objective arrow help too much. The only high-point is Jesper Kyd's music.

Robots (PS2)(Sierra Interactive/Fox Interactive) is a basic license game with no new ideas. As a traditional platformer Robots can be annoying and too difficult.

Rome: Total War - Barbarian Invasion (PC)(Creative Assembly/Sega). Despite the short list of new features, Barbarian Invasion complements Rome: Total War perfectly.

Rumble Roses (PS2)(Konami) is a competent show-wrestling game with sexual overtones.

S.C.S. Dangerous Waters (PC)(Sonalysts/Battlefront) hits the mark. The new non-sub platforms add a tremendous amount of interest and works wonders for the multiplayer mode. I hope to see add-ons with even more surface units.

Sacred: Underworld (PC)(Ascaron). A rather substandard and short add-on to a decent Diablo clone. Fans of the genre might like it but others should not bother.

Saint Seiya: The Sanctuary (PS2)(Dimps/Bandai/Atari). Stiff controls and shallow gameplay make this beat 'em up one for die-hard Saint Seiya fans only.

Scaler (PS2)(Global Star/Take-Two Interactive) is a competent platformer. The fast rollercoaster rides and the various lizard forms are fun. Too bad the levels are too simple and straight-forward.

Serious Sam 2 (PC)(Croteam/2K Games). Fun non-stop action. Sound effects are too tame and the weapons are not very original. Not very good as single player, but the co-op online game rocks.

Shadow Hearts: Covenant (PS2)(Aruze/Midway) is an interesting RPG. The judgement ring fighting system and the semi-realistic surroundings are the major high points.

Shadowgrounds (PC)(Frozenbyte/Plan 1). Excellent budget-priced action game. Looks good, plays well and sounds awesome.

Shark Tale (Xbox)(Edge of Reality/Activision) has a sense of humour and everything works just fine. But it is so by the book that there is really nothing to write home about.

Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer's Call (PS2)(Atlus/Ubisoft) is an entertaining and highly atmospheric, although at times extremely challenging, RPG. The interesting storyline and deep gameplay make it one of the best RPG titles on PS2 this year.

Sid Meier's Civilization IV (PC)(Firaxis/2K Games). No more micromanagement, diplomacy is finally easy to understand and combat is more rational than ever before. The graphics for camouflage units and advisors seem to be only half-finished, but it is still the best Civilization ever.

Sid Meier's Pirates! (PC)(Firaxis/Atari) is as magically playable as its forefather was in the ancient times.

Silent Hunter III (PC)(Ubi Soft) might as well be called "Das Boot - the game". Not only does it simulate the hardware realistically, the atmosphere is so thick you can almost slice it. This is exactly how simulators should be made to attract the casual crowd as well as the hardcore sim nuts.

Sims 2 (PS2)(Maxis/EA). As fascinating as ever with new and improved possibilities. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Sims' lives tend to get more exciting and interesting than your own?

Sims 2: Yliopisto (PC)(Maxis/EA Games). The first add-on to Sims 2 paints a pretty picture of the party-heavy student life. The new influence system, career studies and mounds of extra stuff make it a worthwhile expansion.

Sims 2: Yöelämää (PC)(Maxis/EA Games). A nice romance and party oriented add-on for The Sims 2. Does not add to the basic concept as much as University did, but at least it gives a lot of new things to do with your little computer people.

Ski Racing 2005 (PC)(Coldwood/Jowood Productions) is an addictive alpine skiing game full of thrills. The authentic slopes, including legendary Kitzbuhel, make it a great experience. Too bad the game lacks a proper slope editor.

Ski Racing 2005 (Xbox)(Coldwood/Jowood Productions) is an addictive alpine skiing game full of thrills. The authentic slopes, including legendary Kitzbuhel, make it a great experience. Too bad the game lacks a proper slope editor.

Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves (PS2)(Sucker Punch/Sony) is an enjoyable platformer that is all about sneaking. Running around mindlessly and smashing everything will not get you anywhere. Full of great details.

Sniper Elite (PS2, PC)(Rebellion/MC2) is much too static and scripted and requires unearthly patience. What is the point in stalking if no one does anything without the stalker doing something first?

Soldiers: Heroes of World War II (PC)(Best Way/Codemasters). One of the biggest surprises of 2004 became a whole lot better with the latest patch that included innovative and fun new multiplayer modes. We want more!

Sonic Gems (PS2)(Sega). Another Sonic Collection. Mega Collection Plus was good value, but this one is a disappointment. Why were not these included on the Mega Collection? Sonic CD is a nice Sonic game, though.

Soul Calibur III (PS2)(Namco) is a beautiful, balanced and technically solid beat 'em up. The character editor and the light strategy elements are nice additions. Too bad the game does not save versus statistics.

Space Rangers 2 (PC)(Elemental Games/1C Company) came from out of nowhere and immediately made it to my top 10 favourite games list. Great storytelling, excelle, nt gameplay and much to do and explore. You have got to love it.

Spartan: Total Warrior (PS2)(Creative Assembly/Sega) is a very good beat 'em up adventure with hundreds of simultaneous enemies. Too bad the awful Athens-level is a major pain in the backside.

Spitfire (PC)(Just Flight). A whopping number of different Spitfire models complete with individual performance and graphics. A must for Spitfire fans, others might want to check out the free add-on Spitfire for FS2004.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (PC, Xbox)(Ubi Soft) offers more of the same great stealth action as the two previous instalments. This time it is smoother and even more playable than before, but the story is still virtually non-existent. The co-op mode is a great addition, it just needs more missions.

SpyToy (PS2)(SCEE/Sony) is a joke. A bad one. Even kids do not like it. Avoid at all costs.

SSX On Tour (PS2)(EA Sports BIG) is an excellent addition to the SSX franchise. Beautiful scenery, interesting tracks and a lot of different race types. The multiplayer options are not so hot.

Star Fox: Assault (GameCube)(Namco/Nintendo) looks good, but is not much of a challenge. On top of that, some aspects of gameplay are a little rough around the edges. A good choice for beginners, though.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (PS2, Xbox)(LucasArts) is entertaining but much too short. The camera angles are awful and the action itself is a little too hectic. Duels, however, are nicely done.

Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed (PC)(Sony Online Entertainment/LucasArts). The long-awaited add-on for Star Wars Galaxies pretty much delivers what was promised. Space combat relies on player skills rather than character abilities, which is a refreshing change compared to most MMORPG's.

Star Wars Republic Commando (Xbox, PC)(LucasArts/Activision) is standard fare. The weapons are seriously underpowered and the enemies are as uninteresting as they come. The command system seems very simplistic at first, but turns out to be one of the game's strong points.

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 (Xbox, PC)(Pandemic Studios/LucasArts) is a hardcore Star Wars fan's dream come true. Decent solo game with playable jedi characters, furious space fights and awesome net play. What else can you ask for? As a PC game Battlefront 2 is a technically lacking hyperactive bunnyhopper. Again.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords (Xbox)(Obsidian Entertainment/LucasArts) tries much too hard for its own good. The writing is mostly passable, but dialogue lacks the feeling and nuances of the original, hence the game is morally much more black and white. The combat is also much too easy. It's still good fun for some of the time, though.

Star Wolves (PC)(Xbow/ExcaliburPublishing) features a good mix of space combat and roleplaying elements, but the dull characters and the horrible pathfinding mechanics keep it from achieving greatness.

Starship Troopers (PC)(Empire) pits Marauder Chief against a whole bug empire, randomly assisted by a handful of ineffective Troopers. Technically, the large swarms of bugs are impressive, but otherwise the game looks dated and sounds weak. The fun comes mainly from the game's respect of its source material. The boss fights are incredibly tedious, though.

Still Life (PC)(Microids/Ubi Soft) is a very intensive manhunt with a variety of puzzles. It uses the same graphic engine as Syberia I and II, which is to say the game is simply beautiful.

Suikoden IV (PS2)(Konami). Not exactly a bad RPG but not a particularly good one, either. On the plus side, the story is OK and has a couple of interesting characters, but the overall atmosphere is bland and uninspired.

Super Monkey Ball Deluxe (PS2)(Sega) is a huge and solid compilation of old monkey ball mayhem. The PS2 version looks a little bit dated and dull, yet the simple gameplay shines as brightly as ever. The bonus games are also fun.

SWAT 4 (PC)(Irrational Games/VU Games). An excellent game, but should have been far more ambitious. Now it is like update for SWAT 3. How about at least a decent wounding modelling?

T-72 Balkans on Fire! (PC)(Crazy House/IDDK/Battlefront). Three never-before playable Soviet-era tanks, deformable terrain and buildings and realistic ballistics are nice features, but the game needs a patch to smooth out the various technical and control problems.

Tales of Symphonia (GameCube)(Namco) is a very good RPG adventure. The structure is too conventional and the storyline is nothing special, but the real-time combat system is great.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Melee (PS2)(KCE Hawaii/Konami) makes you want to cry. What a lame excuse for a 3D fighting game.

Tekken 5 (PS2)(Namco) is an excellent beat 'em up. It is not the most original, but who cares when everything works this well.

Tenchu: Fatal Shadows (PS2)(K2/From Software/Sega) is completely out-of-date. Sneaky ninjas do not even have to sneak. Someone has been lazy when making this sub-standard game.

The Suffering (PC, PS2, Xbox)(Midway/Atari). A decent horror FPS that is let down by its poor control scheme. The PC version looks a bit dated, but sound is used well throughout.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour (DS)

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 (PS2)(EA Sports). There is really very little to complain about. After my first hole-in-one I am still desperately chasing another one despite the odds. Highly addictive.

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge (PS2)(Capcom, Buena Vista/Capcom, Buena Vista) has an excellent atmosphere and great characters straight from the fantastic movie. The game itself is an average 3D action-adventure.

TimeSplitters: Future Perfect (PS2)(Free Radical Design/EA) is an intensive 3D shooter with a twist or two. The plot does not make much sense, but it is entertaining.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 (PS2)(Ubi Soft) rejects all the good Ghost Recon trademarks, like free-form missions and a decent save system. This does not affect the robust multiplayer game, though.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike (Xbox)(Red Storm Entertainment/Ubisoft) is an enjoyable tactical FPS. Although an add-on, it offers more content than many full-priced games do.

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (PS2)(Activision/Neversoft) is a good skateboarding game, but cannot live up to the high expectations. The gameplay is still outstanding, but the game suffers from a lack of fresh ideas and a way-too-short story mode.

Total Overdose (Xbox)(Deadline Games/SCi/Eidos) is excellent. It is frantic, funny and violent, but in a good way. If you like GTA and Max Payne, you will love Total Overdose.

Trackmania Sunrise (PC)(Nadeo). An addictive arcade racing experience with lots of personality and many surprising elements. Fun, fun and more fun.

TT Superbikes (PS2)(Jester Interactive/XS Games) is technically almost flawless, but extremely difficult to master. It is too hard for casual gamers, but fans are gonna love it.

Two Thrones: From Jean D'Arc to Richard III (PC)(Strategy First Inc/Paradox Entertainment) tries to be a medieval game, but is nothing but ancient and out-of-date.

UEFA Champions League 2005 ( Xbox)(EA Sports) has its moments, but unfortunately not on the pitch. The radio show and the good commentators just are not enough to make a football game enjoyable.

UEFA Champions League 2005 (PC)(EA Sports) has its moments, but unfortunately not on the pitch. The radio show and the good commentators just are not enough to make a football game enjoyable.

UFO: Aftershock (PC)(Cenega/Altar). Much better than Aftermath. Geoscape and RPG elements are excellent. Tactical fighting is far better than before, but still needs some work. Battlefields should be generated randomly, and structural damage is not good enough. Take Silent Storm for a role model, please.

Ultima Online: Samurai Empire (PC)(Origin/EA). The latest Ultima Online expansion offers two new classes, ninja and samurai, and a renewed guild system. Otherwise the game is pretty much the same. Veteran UO players will enjoy, but if you are new, Samurai Empire is not the easiest way to begin.

Ultimate Traffic (PC)(Just Flight). A must for Flight Simulator 2004. It transforms FS's deserted airports into the busy hubs they are in the real world.

Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict (Xbox)(Epic Games/Microsoft) is technically a very impressive FPS. The single-player game is dull, but the fast and high-flying Live games promise to more than make up for it.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (PS2)(Frontier/Konami) saves your rainy day. The game is sometimes a little confusing when there is no way of knowing what to do next.

Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines (PC)(Troika/Activision) understands the cunning basics of its source material, but needs a more dramatic and engaging story. It also focuses too much on fighting especially towards the end. Unfortunately, the fighting system is a joke and the game is very, very buggy. You cannot even finish it without resorting to console commands.

Wario Ware Touched! (DS)

Vietcong 2 (PC)(Pterodon/2K Games) looks like it fell out of the ugly tree and hit more than a few branches on the way down. The frustrating gameplay does not really enhance the game's charms. The switch from the jungles of Vietcong 1 to the overused urban setting of the sequel is a serious mistake.

Viewtiful Joe 2 (PS2)(Clover Studio/Capcom) reminds you of its predecessor: an entertaining action flick with nice special effects and some amazingly innovative puzzles. Not recommended for those who do not like huge level bosses and playing the same episodes again and again.

Without Warning (Xbox, PS2)(Circle Studio/Capcom). A smooth shooter with no surprises. Best in small doses. Not bad, but not brilliant either.

World of Warcraft (PC)(Blizzard/VU Games). Three months of my life already wasted and many more probably going down the drain. Thanks a lot, Blizzard.

Worms 4: Mayhem (PS2, PC, Xbox)(Team 17/Codemasters) is one of the best turn-based strategy games on the market. The single player mode is not so glorious, but with friends the game is a real blast.

WRC Rally Evolved (PS2)(Evolution Studios/Sony) is an enjoyable rally game. Interactive events add excitement while the co-driver delivers the humour. Not so realistic, but fun to play.

Wrestlemania 21 (Xbox)(Studio Gigante/THQ) does not really offer anything new, except improved graphics and a new storyline. That is not enough, really, but wrestling fans will probably still like the game.

WWE: SmackDown! vs RAW (PS2)(Yuke's/JAKKS Pacific/THQ) is an entertaining show-wrestling game. There is nothing truly new, though. Time for a real update?

Xenosaga II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse (PS2)(Monolith Soft/Namco) is a good RPG with a brilliant story and a great cast of characters. However, the battle system is too slow-paced and not very flexible.

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (Xbox)(Activision/Marvel) is a great action-RPG. It has a very good selection of heroes and superpowers. The clunky inventory system needs improvement.

X-Plane 8 (PC)(Laminar Research/Graphsim/Horizon Simulation ltd). While lacking in 3D-cockpits and graphics quality, X-Plane's flight model is second to none. The game can be modified and extended almost without limits. Home cockpit builders, be adviced: you can get UDP data out as well as in. Did I mention FAA's Commercial and Airline Transport Certificate qualification?

Yoshi Touch & Go (DS)

Zoo Keeper (DS)

Zoo Tycoon 2 (PC)(Blue Fang Games/Microsoft). A nice, sunny, feel-good game. Best in free mode with unlimited funds.

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