Retail Titles

Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns

When Donkey Kong Country hit the Super Nintendo, it changed the face of the video game industry forever. With its 2.5D graphics and its platforming perfection, there was no doubt in our minds that DK had much more up his sleeve than simply hurling barrels at Mario. The game also presented a significant challenge to gamers of all backgrounds and experience level. All of these traditions from the original Donkey Kong Country have been carried through with the latest release, Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Nintendo Wii.

The game is, much like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a huge nod to nostalgia-seeking gamers in their 20's and 30's. From the enhanced graphics and the new game mechanics, however, the title definitely brings enough new to the table that it doesn't feel like a simple rehash of the successes of a game that came out three generations ago.

When you begin playing, you'll notice that Donkey Kong Country Returns features some amazingly well-done updated versions of the original Donkey Kong Country tunes. The familiarity will be enough to draw in fans of the original from square one, which is something that Nintendo really needs to capitalize on if they hope to keep up with the improved motion sensing of the other consoles in this generation.

The concept of the game has remained largely similar as well. You run from left to right, simply trying to make it to the end of each level. If that's not enough for you, another well-known concept from the series has been carried into this title as well. Throughout the game, there are unlockables and hidden items galore. You have the original K-O-N-G letters to find, then you also have puzzle pieces, secret passages, and a whole lot more to worry about as you make your way through each individual levels. It's because of this that completionists will find a lot to like in way of replayability.

Even if you aren't a completionist to that level, the level design will certainly leave you satisfied with just making it through the levels alive. There is no way around it, this game is tough. You will die a lot throughout the course of the game and you will definitely be engulfed in a severe fit of rage more than a few times.

The fine line that Nintendo always seems to tread in its first-party titles is the line of whether your in-game deaths are fair or not. Sure, some of the New Super Mario Bros. Wii levels were frustrating, but none of them were unfair. That same notion applies to Donkey Kong Country Returns. While most of the platforming levels are manageable and rather fair, there is a pretty sizeable amount of vehicle-based levels that feel downright unfair and will have you throwing your Wii Remote across the room. While the old adage of "practice makes perfect" certainly applies to these, it feels like many of them are trial-and-error, which is fine to an extent.

Even though the game may sound like an outright winner from the synopsis of taking the winning formula behind the Super Nintendo series Donkey Kong Country and giving it the New Super Mario Bros. Wii treatment, it is far from perfect. Aside from the frustration you will feel from the vehicle levels, the biggest issue is definitely the control scheme. The developers, for whatever reason, felt it so incredibly important to force the player to utilize the Wii Remote's tilt and shake functionality, that they didn't include the ability to use the Gamecube controller or even the Wii Classic Controllers.

This definitely steals away from the retro experience and the forced use of the motion controls feel just that way. The way the motion/shake controls work in normal gameplay is that if you shake the controller when you're standing still, Donkey Kong will slam the ground, which will destroy things on the ground or stun nearby enemies. If you are pushing the D-Pad in one direction, Donkey Kong will rolls in that direction if you shake the controller, which will knock some enemies off the stage, or at least off their feet. The final variation is if you're pushing down and you shake the controller, Donkey Kong will blow in that direction, which is useful for unveiling hidden bonuses and defeating fire-engulfed enemies. The issue is that the D-Pad will sometimes be finicky, which will cause a lot of unnecessary harm to Donkey Kong. The issue certainly could have been remedied had the developer allowed for the use of those aforementioned controllers.

A big different between this incarnation of Donkey Kong Country and the original series is the health aspect of the game. in the original title, each player was able to be hit once and they were dead. It worked fine for that title, but with new challenges presented in Donkey Kong Country Returns, the developers felt it necessary to implement a two-hit health system, which allows for more mistakes at the cost of a more difficult game.

The highlight and purpose of this game, for many, will be the co-op multiplayer. The mode operates very much the same as the co-op for New Super Mario Bros Wii, but with only two players at a time. In Donkey Kong Country Returns, player one controls Donkey Kong and player two controls Diddy Kong, much like the co-op in the original Donkey Kong Country. While co-op experiences generally tend to keep characters fairly equal in terms of base skills, Donkey Kong Country Returns actually makes Diddy Kong, and thus player two, the much more useful character. Not only can he shoot peanuts (which ends up not doing a whole lot), he can also utilize a jetpack, which comes very much in handy in the more difficult platforming stages.

In single player mode, this is also utilized. You can only control Donkey Kong in single player, but as you bust out Diddy Kong, he jumps on your back and you gain all of his abilities as well. It works like a power up for doing well, much like the laser sword in the original Legend of Zelda titles. It is weird always controlling Donkey Kong, even after unlocking Diddy, however.

Donkey Kong Country Returns represents a load of nostalgia, a ton of platforming challenge and a world of unfulfilled potential. The game may be one of the top titles of the year for the Wii, but the controls can be frustrating. With a little bit less reliance on the Wii gimmick, Donkey Kong Country Returns could have been the best title on the Wii, but instead, it may just have to settle for the year's best. It fails in comparison to New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but almost any update will. When all is factored in, Donkey Kong Country Returns is well worth the price of admission for all 2D platforming fans and a great pickup for fans of the original Donkey Kong Country.

Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops

Who would have thought that after last year's enormous Modern Warfare 2 launch, that the Call of Duty franchise would continue to reach new heights? Nobody expected Black Ops to sell better than Modern Warfare 2, but to everyone's surprise, the game actually ended up selling 5.6 million copies in the US in the first 24 hours of its release. Not only is that 900,000 more copies than Modern Warfare 2 sold in its first day, but the game was selling out everywhere, including the rarely-sold-out Amazon. The game has now been established as the largest entertainment launch of all-time, but does it have the substance and staying power to live up to that daunting title?

Much like its predecessor, Modern Warfare 2, the game contains campaign and multiplayer modes. The campaign for Black Ops takes place during the Cold War, which allows battles to take place across many places and times. This is apparent, even at the beginning of the game, as the first few parts of the campaign see you in locations such as the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Try as it may, however, the campaign of Black Ops simply cannot amount to the overall epic stature of Modern Warfare 2. The story may be much more realistic and diverse, but, really, how do you top Washington D.C. being invaded and overthrown? Sure, interacting with the likes JFK and Nixon was pretty cool, but it definitely lacked where Modern Warfare 2 excelled.

For those still wondering, yes, the phenomenon known as "Nazi Zombies" that started in Call of Duty: World at War, is back as well. For those unfamiliar, the zombie mode, the mode places players in the center of a barricaded area. You can reinforce the areas and salvage weapons, but most of all, you'll be fighting off increasingly difficult waves of zombies. The mode is still one of the best modes of any game in recent memory. It remains one of the most fun versions of this new wave of survival modes found in shooting games, easily beating Gears of War's Horde mode and Halo's Firefight.

The main draw for many in the Call of Duty franchise, however, will always be the online multiplayer. Luckily, Treyarch has outdone themselves in this regard. The multiplayer is arguably the most well executed it's ever been in the series. There were many that complained about various issues from Modern Warfare 2, but it seems as though many of those have been fixed.

There are a few issues, however. Some of the reasons we found ourselves tearing our hair out over multiplayer stems back to the killstreak rewards. The ones we hate in particular are the dog and the RC Car rewards. The dogs, which were annoying in World at War, are even more hate-inducing now. They are more difficult to overcome and they tend to kill the player in one strike, rather than pouncing on a player, allowing them to fight back.

The RC Car, which is obtainable at a very low killstreak level, making it as commonly found in multiplayer as the spy planes that give away enemy locations. These RC Cars feel overpowered and way too common. Sure, if you can find a player hiding in the corner using the RC Car, it's an easy kill, but more times than not, you'll be stalking another player, when you suddenly hear a "whheeeeeee" then see an explosion and you're dead. It's enraging at times, but we aren't sure yet if the issue is that it's overpowered or we just haven't developed an effective strategy to deal with it yet.

Treyarch also takes a bit of a different approach to leveling up than we've seen in the past. This time around, rather than instantly unlocking certain killstreaks and guns at certain levels and milestones, you will be able to pick and choose which unlocks you want to obtain, based on experience points you earn while playing through. This makes it feel much more rewarding to earn these new abilities and gives a player incentive to press on.

Speaking of giving the player incentive to continue playing, you are also now giving the chance to take on "contracts", which allows you to try and complete certain tasks in a certain amount of time for a lump sum of experience points that you can use to level up. These range in difficulty, but usually aren't very easy to accomplish. They can be weapon or situation specific, and there are an abundance of them, so there is always going to be incentive to keep playing to earn these points.

There will always be those that complain about little things here or there, but when it's all said and done, Call of Duty: Black Ops is a phenomenal game that deserves to have the successful launch that it has earned. After Modern Warfare hit the market, people sort of assumed that Infinity Ward was the superior Call of Duty developers. With Black Ops, however, Treyarch has definitely made a case for themselves. The campaign may not be as epic, but it is more well thought out and tells a better story. The multiplayer is the best we've seen in the series and the zombie mode is just icing on this very well constructed cake. Black Ops is a definite contender for game of the year and deserves to be mentioned alongside the greatest first person shooters of all-time.


Review: Sonic Colors

Look, we all know that the Sonic series isn't quite what it was at one point. During the Genesis years, Sonic was THE series. He was the obvious number one competitor to Mario and his attitude mixed with his fast-paced gameplay actually made him the favorite of many for several years. He has had some serious difficulty in his transition to the 3D realm, however. The Sonic Adventure series was fun, but definitely lacked polish in some areas. From there, it just went downhill with Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog (which we personally loved!) and all culminated with the disastrous effort known as Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). Even Sega's reimagining of the series, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 left many scratching their heads (it certainly did that to us).

That isn't to say there haven't been moments of redemption for our favorite blue blur. Sonic Unleashed was certainly a step in the right direction, despite some of the tedious levels that were associated with the downright silly WereHog mechanic. Now, Sonic Colors, which many are calling the game that is bringing Sonic and his furry companions back to glory, has hit the Wii and as die-hard Sonic fans for the better part of two decades, we could not be more excited! We've learned to be cautiously optimistic with Sonic as of late, so we find ourselves stuck asking, will the title stack up to the hype, or will it go the route of the previous two Wii Sonic releases?

The first thing you'll notice when you start your game of Sonic Colors is, well, the colors. The game is beautifully designed and certainly lives up to its name. From the level design and setting, to the various effects that Sonic can use through those very levels, the beauty of Sonic Colors is consistently impressive and never dull. The title seems as though its pushing the Wii's power to the limit, however. We continually caught ourselves wishing that we could experience the title in true high definition, but that does not mean it's not one of the best looking titles on the Wii currently.

Another thing you'll notice is that the entire game gives off a kind of Mario Galaxy vibe. The game takes place in an outer space setting, and for much of the game, the background features a planetary view, so that might be the bulk of the reasoning behind that vibe. The other reason is certainly the soundtrack, particularly that of the title screen. The soundtrack has a very epic sound to it, which is definitely reminiscent of that of Mario Galaxy.

The setting of the title is a giant amusement park in outer space that Dr. Robotnik (we still hate the name Dr. Eggman) has designed apparently in order to atone for his past transgressions. He makes it very public that this is his logic and it is in no way associated with any diabolical scheme that he has. This message comes across as very obviously inaccurate, but definitely sets the tone for the rest of the game's dialog.

The dialog is something that Sega has definitely finally gotten right within the Sonic series. In the past 15 years, Sega has tried to move the dialog in Sonic games from being anime-esque, to taking itself way too seriously, to even unsuccessfully taking a page out of Final Fantasy's page with Sonic 2006. The dialog in Sonic Colors is masterfully tongue-in-cheek. The characters spend the entire time goofing on each other and cracking jokes in the style of old-school Saturday morning cartoons. Sure, it may get a little too goofy at times for the tastes of many adults, but for kids and adults that just want to play a fun Sonic game, the dialog is the best it's been in the series.

Another change that has definitely affected the game for the better has been the navigation between the levels. Rather than having Sonic and friends run to a hub within an open world, as we saw in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Unleashed, they took a page out of Nintendo's book and just made hub maps, much like was seen in games like Donkey Kong Country and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This means that characters will have no trouble accessing the exact level they want to access and there is non-stop action, aside from the well-executed cutscenes.

The gameplay is, quite simply, the best Sonic has ever been in 3D. He can sometimes feel as though he's on skates and the action can come at you too fast at times, but there is no doubt that the gameplay doesn't get in the way of the fun, as it has in past titles. Sega has even realized that some people just can't get into platformers that use the Wii Remote, so players have the option to use the GameCube controller to play the title. We still aren't incredibly fond of the awkward design of the GameCube controller, but it will definitely please those that don't like using the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. Due to this dynamic, we are curious as to why Sega chose to not bring the title to the PS3 and Xbox 360 as well.

As Sonic progresses through the levels of the game, he'll come across various types of aliens, or Wisps. These aliens, which he is bent on saving from Dr. Eggman, enable him to use special powers. From a laser-like shot that allows him to blast through a portion of a level, to an orange rocket powerup that shoots Sonic high up into the air, the power-ups are always fun to use and feel like they are anything but a novelty.

The largest issue that has plagued the Sonic Team since Sonic's transition into 3D is the issue of level design. From the issue of of the camera getting in the way to the over abundance of instant kill bottomless pits, players have become unnecessarily frustrated with the overall design. With Sonic the Hedgehog 4, players and critics applauded the branching level design, but Sonic Colors is the first 3D game that we can honestly say has excellently designed levels.

The levels see Sonic running from point A to point B as fast as he can, which really gives the game an old school feel. To top that notion off, the game also has a large number of 2D or 2.5D levels that work better than anything we saw in Sonic 4. The sense of speed and the excellent platforming dwarfs that of Sonic 4 and Sonic Colors also got the homing attack right, which is something Sonic 4 neglected to do. In fact, the only thing that Sega didn't quite do right in this regard lies in the fact that the later levels tend to throw a few of the cheap deaths at the player.

One incredibly cool thing that Sega added to this title is something called a "Sonic Simulator". It's accessible the same way any of the levels are in the story mode, and allows for multiplayer. The player chooses one of several levels in a level select that is styled like the classic arcade machines from 80's. From there the player will be placed in a virtual training style of world that looks very similar to the Animus training modules found in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. From there, the player will race through the levels trying to get the highest grade possible. This works very well in multiplayer and gives that old school feel that we got from Sonic 3 multiplayer.

Sonic Colors is a game that fans will hopefully give a chance. After the massive hype of Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Sonic Colors seemed to get somewhat buried commercially since it is only for the Wii. After games like Sonic Unleashed, Sonic and the Secret Rings, and Sonic and the Black Knight, we were honestly just waiting for the gimmick of Sonic Colors to present itself. While the Wisp aliens provide an interesting dynamic to gameplay, we wouldn't consider it a gimmick per se. Instead of a game that uses a gimmick as a crutch to poor design and gameplay, Sonic Team seems to have received the fans' message loud and clear.

Sonic Colors doesn't rely on petty gameplay gimmicks to sell the title. Instead, Colors brings to the table an excellent gameplay engine, great level design, expedited level select that allows for nonstop action, beautiful graphics and some very entertaining interactions between characters. If Sega is able to successfully turn the Sonic franchise around and bring it back to it's heyday with the next few releases, Sonic Colors should be looked at as the point that brought it back from the brink and put it in the right direction.


Review: Wii Sports Resort

When the Wii was released, each system came with Wii Sports, a game which was meant to show off the console's motion-sensing capabilities, as well as it's ability to market towards the casual gamer. The game was a smashing success in the casual market, but at the same time, it exposed some of the flaws that the Wii Remote possessed.

The main issue was that the Wii Remote did not possess one to one motion sensing, something that Nintendo recognized and attempted to remedy with the Wii Motion Plus accessory. What better way to market the new accessory than to make it mandatory for and bundled with two of the most anticipated Wii titles of the year, Wii Sports Resort and Red Steel 2.

The concept of Wii Sports Resort is simple; take the winning formula that was introduced in Wii Sports and expand it based around the Wii Motion Plus accessory. Nintendo decided that they wouldn't completely scrap the games list from the original, but rather make a couple of those games more accurate based on the technology.

Back from the original are Golf and the ever popular Bowling, but the main attraction will obviously be the new additions. New to the Wii Sports line-up are Wakeboarding, Frisbee, Archery, Basketball, Table Tennis, Power Cruising, Canoeing, Cycling, Air Sports and the new most popular Wii Sports game, Swordplay. Each of the titles does a great job showcasing the new accessory.

One of the most hyped of the new mini-games was Archery. In this game, the player holds the Wii Remote vertically with the Nunchuck at the side. Mimicking the motion of pulling the back end of an arrow back, the player pulls the Nunchuck towards them while aiming the arrow as they would a real bow and arrow. The motion feels incredibly natural and works better than any other mini-game on the disc. Players will also encounter varying wind conditions and distances that will require alterations to a possible winning formula that they craft up.

Another hyped mini-game on the disc was the Swordplay. Ever since the first time anyone picked up the Wii Remote, they envisioned it as a sword of some kind, whether it be a Lightsaber or otherwise. Unfortunately, the first Red Steel title failed in its attempts to emulate the sword-fighting motion. The issue turned out to be the hardware of the Wii Remote, so with the Wii Motion Plus, Nintendo has decided to try its hand at sword fighting to please the masses. It works rather well, though sometimes the Remote will get a little confused and won't translate your movement in real life perfectly to the game. Though those moments can prove frustrating, the goods far outweigh the bads in this mini-game. Nintendo assumed that players might resort to spamming swings at their opponents, and while that may work a lot of the time, they instilled a fighting system that will usually reward strategy over spam.

Another game that works well is a game that has been somewhat fantasized about since the inception of the Wii; table tennis. While tennis has worked alright in the previous iteration of Wii Sports, table tennis adds another spin to the game. With the new one to one motion tracking, players can put spins on the ball like never before and it works very well. Other than the slightly different serving motion, the game controls very much like the popular tennis minigame from the first Wii Sports.

Outside of those games that work best with the new accessory, there are a few that range from being good to forgettable. The first thing you will do in Wii Sports Resort is to skydive to the island where all of the games take place. During this free fall, you'll fly through hoops, link up with other Miis and do tricks as the Wii Remote controls very well the body of the Mii one to one. As you link up, the Miis will smile and a photographer will free fall next to them and snap a picture. As the skydive ends, you'll form up and land on the island safely. The skydive looks great and plays even better, but it fails to do anything more than serve as a pretty tech demo and introduction to the Wii Motion Plus.

Frisbee, Power Cruising, Airsports, Golf and Wakeboarding fall victim to the curse of the majority of the titles of the original Wii Sports game: they play great and are fun, but get old quick and don't bring enough to the table. Airsports is probably the closest to achieving vertical movement in the hierarchy of the best minigames offered in this title. Either way, each of these minigames serve as interesting tech demos and work amazingly in the party setting.

The two minigames that don't quite achieve what players hoped they would are certainly canoeing and cycling. The titles work well enough, but they don't utilize the power of the new accessory as well as they should. The canoeing can't help but feel more like a chore at times and often-times the Mii will actually stroke on the wrong side. When the motion sensing works well, the game is fun to play, but it can lead to various frustrations when competition between two or more players is introduced into the formula.

The final minigame left to cover is the ever-popular bowling. The game was definitely the most enjoyable in the first Wii Sports title, and it continues to be a blast in Resort. The core part of bowling remains very similar to the original, but there has been a lot of content added. There now exists a few minigames within this minigame. In one game mode, you'll find yourself going up against over 100 pins at once. This adds a brand new spin (no pun intended) to the bowling and also helps the game retain it's title as a great party game.

Visually, Wii Sports Resort looks great. The game implements the Miis flawlessly into the various situations, which was an original draw to Wii Sports. It's always fun seeing your Mii playing the numerous sports featured and the fact that you can see other Miis in the crowd during many events is a great bonus and definitely adds to the fun. Since the setting of Resort is an island, the game is beautifully (and very blue-fully, as you can see in the screenshots here) rendered and shrouded in the tropics.

Overall, Wii Sports Resort reverts back to the issue that plagued the original title, which was being nothing more than a glorified tech demo for the Wii itself, but with the addition of Motion Plus, as well as the extra content to the returning sports, the purchase can be justified. The title will definitely do well in party situations and it really shows off the potential that this new accessory has. Only time will tell if the Wii Motion Plus will be a successful or failed venture, but as far as this title is concerned, the Motion Plus is very successful.

Review: Goldeneye 007

One thing that has always seemed to struggle a bit on the Wii is a genre that should definitely excel on a console that uses pointer technology: the first person shooter. Sure there have been a few gems here and there, but overall, controls have been clunky and imprecise and players have glanced over them and yielded to the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 for their first-person shooter needs.

Just like the Nintendo 64 in the 90's, the Nintendo Wii is looking at Goldeneye to bring the system's first-person shooter genre into the forefront away from the other consoles. Sure, Nintendo 64 was trying to bring the market from the PC to the home console market, but the analogy is still more relevant than ever.

The game follows the same general storyline of the Goldeneye film, but as you know, they updated the game to feature Daniel Craig's James Bond, rather than Pierce Brosnan. This is much more than an aesthetic change, though. Craig's Bond is a little more rough and tumble and a little less refined than Brosnan's imagining, some events that don't necessarily drastically change the plot, have been updated to better reflect Craig's version of Bond.

The game is chocked full of nostalgia. From the difficulty levels, to the level design, to the multiplayer, everything feels like a true sequel to the original Goldeneye game for the Nintendo 64, which is something the previous generation's forgettable Goldeneye game, Rogue Agent failed to achieve. The first level in this game is even the Dam, which is based on the original game's starting level of the same name.

Sure, the level designs have been updated to be less simplistic and more engaging than it's Nintendo 64 source material, but fans will definitely recognize the continuous nods to the classic title. The multiplayer is definitely the most obvious nod, as it features many of the classic Bond characters that players were able to utilize in the original Goldeneye game. The multiplayer feels loyal to the original, but it is definitely limited to the capabilities of the Wii itself.

Visually, the game is one of the better looking and sounding Wii titles. The character models look very true to their film counterparts, but the level of detail is obviously lagging behind the competition that exists on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The main issue that was found in the visual department was the brightness. While calibrating the brightness, the screen instructs that the player should adjust the brightness so that the "Goldeneye" logo is barely visible in the black area of the calibration screen. It was found that on a high-end Panasonic plasma television, that the player would be required to turn the brightness of the screen, as well as the brightness of the game itself, all the way up in order to see the logo as instructed. This is a huge issue, as plasmas generally have a higher contrast and more vibrant colors, so it is unclear if the game would be playable if the player is less able to adjust the brightness.

Control-wise, the player has four options. The first, and defaulted option, is involving using the Wii Remote like a wand and then holding the Nunchuck with the other hand. The second option is for the player to place the Wii Remote and Nunchuck into the first-party Wii Zapper. The Wii Remote controls where the player looks and aims, with the crosshairs aiming and eventually moving the screen as the crosshairs reach the edge of the screen. This works well for the most part, but can become an issue if you are attempting to aim for a target near the edge of the screen. The controls are only as good, in this case, as the player's hand is steady, which makes the feeling more true to life than most shooters.

The big downside that we had with this control scheme is that we couldn't use our Nyko Pistol Wii Remote glove, due to the fact that the trigger actually hits 'A' rather than 'B' and there was no control option for such a setup. This was an issue with the House of the Dead franchise as well, so it's not to be held against this title, but it is more appropriate to levy this against the peripheral itself. We're just saying it would have been nice to have found a control scheme to work with this piece of hardware within the game's robust control selection screen.

The third and fourth options allow the player to use the Gamecube and Wii Classic controllers respectively. When using these options, the controllers function much like controllers in first-person shooters from other consoles, where the left stick controls player movement, the right stick controls the way the character looks and the triggers/bumpers are used for weapon control. This might seem like the method of choice for players that would like to play the title like a standard first-person shooter, but there are definite downsides to using these layouts.

The biggest and most universal issue with this control scheme is definitely the limitations of those controllers themselves. Shooters always felt strange on the Gamecube, so the fact that it feels slightly awkward playing this title on a Gamecube controller is no surprise. If you opt to play it on the Wii Classic Controller, you will have to deal with the struggle of playing a first-person shooter on what essentially equates to a Super Nintendo controller.


You can get a limited edition Classic Controller in specially marked Special Editions of Goldeneye 007. It would have been amazing if the Classic Controller included with the Special Edition was based on the Nintendo 64 controllers, but now we're just nitpicking. Sensitivity is another problem that was found, but that can definitely be remedied by adjusting the sliders within the options menu. The only other issue that exists with using the standard controllers is that you cannot use the "lean" move that is useable with the Wii Remote control schemes. This doesn't really come in handy with the single player campaign, but can really work to the player's advantage in multiplayer modes.

Looking at Goldeneye 007 for the Wii and comparing it to the groundbreaking title that is this game's namesake on the Nintendo 64 is unfair. This title isn't an incredibly innovative title, but it is as important to the console as the original was for the Nintendo 64. This game shows that a good first-person shooter can exist on the Nintendo Wii. The only issue with Goldeneye 007 is that it is limited by the very console it is raising up. If this game were a generation-wide release, rather than just a Wii title, this title could potentially rival this week's release from the Call of Duty franchise both in popularity and quality.


Instead, we are stuck to using the Wii Remote controls or using awkward control schemes on standard controllers with graphics that aren't comparable to those shooters found on more powerful machines. If you own a Wii and you've been looking for a shooter that will use the Wii's power to the fullest, look no further than the quality title that is Goldeneye 007. The biggest accomplishment that this game can claim, however, is that it is not an embarrassment to the Goldeneye video game franchise and that it can be viewed as a worthy recreation of a legendary and fabled video game.

Review: Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor was once an illustrious war franchise on the previous generations of consoles. The games were very well received and were genuine competitors with the Call of Duty franchise. Fast forward into this generation of consoles, and the Call of Duty franchise rules the war genre with a totalitarian iron fist. Nary a single quality title has challenged the throne of the Call of Duty franchise since the dawn of this generation. Just when it appeared a chink could be in the armor with Call of Duty 3, Activision released the now classic title, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The title brought the war genre out of the 40's and into the present day in a big way. The title set the bar for any future titles in the genre and has yet to be matched, except arguably by its incredibly cinematic sequel, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Now, just when it appeared that nobody would be able to match the sheer strength and popularity of the Call of Duty series, the Medal of Honor franchise suddenly threw its hat into the ring once more. The initial title showed a modern war setting with a promise of a cinematic experience that looked to match that of Modern Warfare 2's film-like storytelling.

The game's engine is very much based off of DICE's other Call of Duty-competitor, Battlefield: Bad Company 2. In fact, if you didn't know any better, you might think you were playing a DLC pack for Bad Company 2. This is good because we absolutely loved Bad Company 2, but it also makes it difficult to justify the purchase of this title at full price if you already own that title.

This was definitely felt during the beta testing phase where fans complained that the multiplayer was essentially taken from Bad Company 2. Luckily, DICE and Danger Close tweaked the title to provide a different multiplayer experience. The multiplayer is squad based and forces players to take on the roles of Snipers, Riflemen, and Spec Ops. The great thing about these classes is that they force the players to craft their strategies completely around what class they take on. In a move that is taken straight from the Call of Duty multiplayer modes, players can earn killstreaks, which allows players to call in airstrikes or mortars in order to inflict more damage to the opposition. Players also level up and earn more weapons, much like in other games. While the multiplayer mode isn't quite as padded as the one found in Modern Warfare 2, the community seemed much more mature and goal-oriented, which leads to an inevitably better experience.

Now, to be clear and completely fair, though the gameplay is similar, the flow and story of this game is completely separate from the Bad Company franchise. Bad Company is much more about a tongue-in-cheek story about a group of knock around guys fighting in a war, while Medal of Honor is a very serious and realistic take on the current war in Afghanistan, starting directly after the events of September 11th, 2001. In fact, this title might be the most realistic title ever released on the subject matter of war.

That realism is definitely a plus, but at times it can hurt the title in terms of what it was trying to accomplish in competing with Modern Warfare 2's cinematic feel. Sometimes the realism actually prevents the title from achieving a level of epic-ness due to the "movie moments" being lesser. It has yet to be seen if players want a realistic account of a day-in-the-life of a soldier in Afghanistan, or they want a cinematic adventure of jumping through the ice-covered mountains, but as far as sales are looking right now, it's looking like fans prefer Modern Warfare 2's style of storytelling.

Bad Company 2 looked absolutely gorgeous, and Medal of Honor carries on that tradition. The character models look fantastic and the environments have a very gritty feel to them. Now, this game definitely falls victim to the typical war video game issue, where, due to the setting, the colors in single player tend to focus on brown and gray hues, which can be tiresome and boring to play through. Luckily the game is fast-paced enough to not let the player get bored at looking at the scenery and the multiplayer maps take place in a variety of locales, so you can break it up a bit that way.

As far as other aspects of the presentation, you can't get much better than Medal of Honor. The sound is phenomenal. As you make your way through the various missions, you'll hear conversations, you'll hear music of the culture and you'll hear battles off in the distance. The environment definitely feels as though its alive, which is a major key to why it succeeds in its presentation. One of the coolest moments comes as you realize that the gunshots echo based on where you are, which is somewhat surreal the first time you notice it. It's just little things like that which make Medal of Honor great as far as sound and graphics go.

Medal of Honor is, by all accounts, a good game. It suffers from the oversaturation of the market and the fact that it is trying to be realistic and cinematic at the same time. The overall experience is a blast. The battles are as intense as we've seen in war games and the firefights are strategic and realistic. The only issue is that there might not be a place for this game in the Modern Warfare dominated market. We hope this isn't true, because without competition, there is no drive for progress. Medal of Honor comes off as slightly bland and unnecessary, but the game is great on its own terms. If you are a fan of Bad Company 2 and are itching for more like that, look no further than Medal of Honor. If you are a fan of Modern Warfare 2 and are looking for something thats more like a film than a documentary, maybe check out games like Mass Effect 2.

Review: Rock Band 3

When Harmonix told us that we'd "be surprised by how big Rock Band 3 is", we were all skeptical, yet we were ready to be blown away. While we knew a little bit about what Rock Band 3 was going to accomplish, we had no idea as to what we were in for. With the announcement that the game would not only perfect the formula that has made them one of the heavyweights in the gaming world, but also actually take strides to teach players how to play real instruments, we realized the magnitude of what this game could mean.

The first thing you have to look at with a game such as Rock Band 3 is the massive list of improvements and additions that the game has over its predecessor, Rock Band 2. Rock Band 3 takes the core gameplay elements of Rock Band 2, which many feel to be the top in the genre, and adds one of the most robust list of features ever seen in any sequel of any genre. The additions range from small to enormous and impact the player's experience exponentially.

The biggest, and most heralded additions are obviously the new instruments and the impressive Pro-Mode. This time around, instead of simply keeping the instruments locked at vocals, guitar, bass and drums, Harmonix has filled a much-needed gap with the addition of the keyboard. The five instrument scheme works amazingly within the Rock Band formula and the keyboard peripheral is made of very high quality. With the keyboard, players can use the realistic keys to play in normal mode, which consists of the classic five colors found on other instruments, or they can play it in Pro-Mode, which assigns nearly every key a scrolling indicator that makes the player actually work to learn to play the keyboard as an instrument.

Pro-Mode isn't limited to the keyboard, however. Pro-Mode also works for every instrument in the game. For Pro-Drums, you attach cymbals to your Rock Band 2 or 3 drum kit. Then, once you select how many cymbals you have attached (anywhere from one to three), you'll be forced to not only hit the cymbal when it's time to hit the cymbal, but you'll be required to hit the correct cymbal. The way the game indicates this is instead of scrolling rectangular notes at you, cymbal hits will show as circular. This definitely takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you will find that Harmonix has completely revitalized the fun of drumming. As someone who lost interest in Rock Band drumming several years ago, I've now found that drumming is in tight competition for my favorite instrument in the platform.

If drums and keyboards aren't really your thing, but you still want to learn a thing or two from this game, you can purchase a Pro-Guitar and learn how to play the various Rock Band 3 songs on guitar and bass. The great thing about Pro-Guitar and Pro-Bass is that they are actually played on guitars that have real frets and use all six strings. For Pro-Guitar the game will replace the five colored rectangles with six strings that have a special tablature language that signals what fret and string must be pressed and plucked for individual notes and different shapes that show what chords must be played in the higher difficulties.

There will be two models of Pro-Guitars released for Rock Band 3. The first guitar, the Fender Mustang, consists of partial strings where you strum and uses touch-pad technology on the frets. This will, more or less, simply simulate playing a real guitar, while the Fender Squier, which comes out in 2011, will be a real guitar that is functional within the game. Unfortunately, neither Pro-Guitar controller has been released yet, so we have been unable to use this features as of yet.

For you vocalists, you aren't completely left out in the dark. Though there may not be an official "Pro-Mode" for vocals, there have been a few significant upgrades which will make the experience much better. The biggest addition is certainly the harmonies, which have been brought over from The Beatles: Rock Band and Green Day: Rock Band. While it still remains that all three mics used in the harmonies must be on the same machine due to the slight lag that is created through playing online. This may seem like a minor detail, but there are very few casual players that have three mics lying around, as well as two friends that would want to harmonize with them. The other improvement that vocals has seen is the fact that the "shaky-arrow" glitch, which made the vocal arrow shake and fall outside of the vocal bars, has been fixed and is no longer an issue.

Outside of the really innovative Pro-Modes, there lies the classic mode, which made Rock Band famous in the first place. While this mode is largely the same as what we played through in Rock Band 2 from a gameplay standpoint, the layout of which you select your playstyle has been vastly improved. You can choose to "Play Now", which lets you opt to play through quickplay or complete several road challenges to increase your stardom, or go on to the career mode, which will allow you to progress through hundreds of goals separated across the five instruments and their Pro-Mode counterparts. As mentioned before, the entire setup and menu system is very intuitive and feels miles beyond anything we've seen on either the Guitar Hero or Rock Band side prior to this game's release.

Before you get to rocking, however, you need to create your characters and edit your band. The logo designer is pretty much the same as we saw in Rock Band 2, only with different designs. Once you have a logo and a name for your band, you can choose to create characters to put in the band. The character creator has progressed from Rock Band 2 as much as any other feature of the game has. Now, instead of simply choosing a face, skin tone and body type, you can go into a full-on edit mode where you can stretch and warp the face in nearly any way you see fit, much like we've seen in sports titles and Guitar Hero titles.

Once you create your character, you can dress them up in any accessories or clothing items you want. They did go a questionable route of including shirts from bands like The Doors and The Who, which you must pay $1 of real money to be made available for your character to wear, but you don't have to go that route if you don't want to. If you don't feel like going through the character creation process for four members of the band, you can always appoint stand-ins from the ready-made characters that we've come to know from the previous Rock Band titles. The only issue here is that there is no way to easily define what character plays what instrument, so if you want one guy to play guitar while your character sings, you have to jump through various hoops to achieve that.

Once you're ready to rock, you can navigate through the aforementioned menus to select the song, goal, or road challenge that you want to play. The best part about these three modes in this game is the fact that they are all integrated into progressing your band through their careers. This is something new to the genre. Before, if you wanted to gain more fans for your band, you had to play through World Tour mode, or if you wanted to achieve goals, you played different goals in career mode. Now, you can achieve goals and gain fans all at the same time. Even in Quickplay, you will gain fans for performances. This idea really meshes with the idea that you are here to "start a band and rock the world". As you progress through gaining more fans, you'll see cutscenes of your band. They start simple with your band sitting in a diner and deciding on a name, and work their way up to getting ready to run onto stage at a huge music festival. These also really add to the overall feeling of the game itself.

The most simple mode is Quickplay. All you do here is go through and play the songs you want to play. It's as simple as that, but Harmonix has taken this simple idea and created an enjoyably simple experience. Now, if you're a DLC hoarder, you don't have to go through the over 2,000 available tracks to find the one you're looking for. Now, you can sort by nearly any method you can think of. You can sort by song name or artist name like in Rock Band 2, but now you can sort by multiple options at a time. So if you want to only find country songs that you've gotten four stars on guitar and start with the letter "L", you can find that song immediately. There's even a new feature that allows you to rate any song, including on-disc tracks, so you can sort songs on songs that you really like. If that sounds like too much of a hassle, you can create a playlist and save it, so if you and you're friends like to play the same ten songs every time you get together, Harmonix has got you covered here.

With the Road Challenges, you will work you're way from being a locally touring band to touring the world by playing different sets at different establishments. These sets range from a pre-determined list of three tracks from a particular artist that you have in your library, to you playing to the interests of the crowd at that bar, club or venue. Either way, you'll always have a choice of whether you want to choose a custom set of classic rock songs, a three-set of Blink 182 songs or a random three-set of Nu Metal tunes. Another thing that Road Challenges implements is a system that awards "Spades" in addition to stars on songs. Spades are bonus currency that unlocks more venues to play and extra challenges. They aren't earned simply by playing well, however. You'll be given a random task at the beginning of the set, such as activating overdrive as many times as possible, or getting as many streaks as possible, or even nailing individual sections of the songs while you play through them. As you earn more spades, you'll unlock new tours that you can take. Touring will see you selecting a tour route and going across the country or even the world on those routes. Harmonix did an excellent job of creating a addictive feeling of being rewarded through this mode.

The final main mode is the career mode, which is essentially turned into the "My Goals" mode. In this, you'll be given hundreds of goals that are both general and instrument-specific. Some are tied to achievements and trophies, while others are simply tasks to shoot for within the game itself. The title does an amazing job of tracking your stats and accomplishments and lets you know exactly how far or close you are to achieving each and every goal set forth. This mode makes you incredibly prone to the "just one more hour" syndrome that every game, music or otherwise, should strive for. You can't begin to count the number of times you're ready to quit, but you see how close you are to achieving a goal, so you play another set. Each time you achieve a goal, you'll also unlock new customization items, as well as earn more fans. Goals aren't just tied to this mode, however. As mentioned earlier, everything is highly integrated, so if you achieve a goal in Quickplay, you'll be notified and it will be crossed off the list in your "My Goals" section.

Of course, every music game ever created is made or broken by the group of songs available. Lucky for Harmonix and lucky for us, the game with the most features ever seen in a music game also has the most robust library of songs. There are 83 diverse tunes on the disc with hundreds of tracks that can be imported if you are an owner of previous Rock Band titles, and a DLC library that stretches beyond the 2,000 song mark. With the recent release of The Doors' Greatest Hits and the promise of greatest hits releases from huge artists like Bon Jovi and Billy Joel, Harmonix shows absolutely no sign of slowing down or shying away from the model that has made them thrive in the music genre.

There is one thing that must be realized for anyone that is reading this and is thinking about delving into the Rock Band series for the first time due to the praise that this title is receiving. All of this entertainment comes at a very high price. If you are starting from scratch and want to get the full experience, you can expect to pay well over $1,000 in order to get all of the instruments, the game, and a decent amount of downloadable content. This is a very steep price for new players to the series and something that is definitely a commitment that many people will need to shy away from in this economic climate. Luckily, there is enough to do on just one instrument to justify the purchase of the game with just one instrument to start out.

Rock Band 3 is by no means a perfect game, but it really gets closer than anything we've ever seen in any genre. The graphics are improved over the previous title, the feature list is almost as robust as the song list, and incredible strides have been made to improve the series over the last two years. If every series took the Rock Band approach and improved their series by this much with every sequel, the gaming world would be a much better place. Rock Band 3 is, without a doubt, the best and most complete music game we've ever seen and will certainly be looked back upon as the game that turned the music genre away from the abyss of normalcy and the business-as-usual mentality.

Review: Fallout: New Vegas

War never changes. Those same words that fans heard at the beginning of previous Fallout titles echo through the introduction of Fallout New Vegas as well. Not only does that saying provide excellent commentary to the nature of mankind, but also to the nature of Fallout New Vegas. That is, not much has changed since Fallout 3. While all of the spectacular visual and gameplay based elements remain from the previous title in the franchise, it is, in fact, a double-edged sword.

The game takes place in a different location altogether, but it certainly has that trademark Fallout feel to it. The world looks desolate; scoured by nuclear war and all but conquered by gang members. Without a doubt, this trademark is the defining aspect of the franchise, so while it might feel repetitive and taken from previous iterations, the Fallout franchise knows how to create a mood better than any other series out there.

With the environment really being the biggest difference between this title and Fallout 3, it really means that the environment in Fallout: New Vegas needs to step it up a lot in order to differentiate itself from that of its critically acclaimed older brother. As far as the environment is concerned, the setting can be hit or miss. At times, it can feel like you're playing an apocalyptic version of Red Dead Redemption, since much of the game's setting takes place in the desert, but other times, such as when you go through towns and such, you'll see the life that helped make Fallout 3 not seem as empty as you thought at first glance.

Unfortunately, these interactions are more spaced out than in Fallout 3, so you can go a long time without talking to anyone if you so choose. Once you do meet up with individuals, however, the title uses the same style of conversation trees found in Fallout 3. Most of the time this method works, though sometimes glitches will occur and certain options will not be selectable. We'll get into the glitches of this title later on, however.

One of the huge disadvantages this game has when compared to Fallout 3 is that you aren't provided with as much back story for your character when you are cast into the role. In Fallout 3, you literally controlled your character from birth. You learned about what a big deal leaving the vault was, you learned about how important your device, the Pip-Boy, was, but most importantly, you learned to be emotionally invested in your character.

In Fallout: New Vegas, you start out as an adult that is left for dead in a shallow grave. While the introduction to New Vegas is much more cinematic than the introduction to Fallout 3, it takes much longer to feel that same connection to your character, if you ever achieve that connection at all. While we didn't expect Bethesda or Obsidian to take the same route of Fallout 3 and recycle it for New Vegas, it is certainly worth pointing out.

Another theme that has been migrated over from Fallout 3 is exploration. This game, and this franchise really, is almost 100% about exploration. There is little linearity in the title, unless you are trying to simply play through the story mode, at which point, you will experience the expected linear plotlines. What is great about this title is that, like its predecessor, Fallout New Vegas allows the player to complete side missions in any order. If you want to take your level 1 character with terrible weapons out into the area that has Deathclaw, the most fearsome enemy in the wild, colonies and take them on, you have that option. We can tell you from experience that this is a bad idea, but if you feel so inclined, go take on the Deathclaw Alpha Male with your handgun.

While often times we feel that open-world games really tend to give you a false sense of freedom to make the game seem longer, in special games, like the Fallout, Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption franchises, open-world sandbox type of design is perfected to the point that you will enjoy your exploration of the known world more than you will enjoy the story itself. This is why we can't encourage you enough to try to explore every nook and cranny in this title. Just like in Fallout 3, there are some serious "WTF" moments that will make you either laugh or groan audibly.

The gameplay is still the same style as the previous title. You can choose to play as third or first person perspective, but we prefer first person. In the third person mode, the game has always felt a little clunky to us. With first person, the gunplay is not nearly as accurate as it is in shooters like Halo or Call of Duty, but it is easier than when in third person. If you still don't like the aiming mechanics, you can utilize the V.A.T.S. system, which will calculate your chances of hitting the specific part of the target by factoring in several variables, such as distance, the character's proficiency with his/her current weapon, accuracy of the current weapon, angle of the targeted area, and even the size of the targeted area. All of these factors will give you a percent of how likely you are to hit the area before actually pulling the trigger, so if you want to go for the headshot, but you only have a 23% chance of hitting the head, you might want to aim for the leg or chest if those areas have a higher percentage.

In addition to the missions and exploration, players can also participate in side games that includes utilizing the various features found in the casinos, such as Blackjack and Caravan, which can net you serious money, or end your run at riches, just as they can in real life.

Fallout: New Vegas is certainly a large enough title to warrant being a standalone retail game, rather than DLC for Fallout 3, but the features might not quite back that up. The game is built on the exact same engine that was used for Fallout 3, so the differences are fairly negligible when it comes to the core experience. There are a few new features, such as being able to recruit multiple companions to assist you with a mission, rather than just the one that you could recruit in Fallout 3, but other than that, the features list doesn't really impress all that much.

The only major issue with Fallout: New Vegas is really the amount of glitches found in the title. While it's true that most of the glitches are minor and not game breaking, we've heard reports of players defeating the final boss by having him stuck behind a rock, as well as reports of players being unable to load saved games. Even the non-game breaking glitches have the potential to ruin the experience for one reason: immersive-ness.

The title really builds upon the notion that the game has a setting that the player will be able to find themselves completely immersed in. While this works most of the time, when you see an enemy run into the corner and stand facing that corner while you unload on him with a revolver, it kind of takes you out of the experience. Issues with not being able to advance in the title or being able to skip over missions altogether due to the conversation options being glitched have also been reported. Luckily, Bethesda has released one patch already and is working on another that will hit "soon".

Fallout: New Vegas is directed at those fans that played through Fallout 3 and couldn't get enough of the story arc. The title will definitely please those fans, but may leave many disappointed. With its spectacularly open environment, players could play the title for hours without ever completing a main mission. While everything good about Fallout 3 was migrated over, everything bad, like glitches and sometimes poorly structured missions, were as well. Fallout: New Vegas doesn't live up to the lofty expectations set forth by its predecessor, Fallout 3, but it is definitely a worthy title for those looking to dive back into the post-apocalyptic United States.

Review: Metroid: Other M

After the unbelievably successful Metroid Prime trilogy, Nintendo decided to enlist the assistance of Team Ninja, who are best known for their contributions to other well-liked series such as Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive to assist with the next evolution of the Metroid franchise. While some parts of this game shine and feel as though they are an updated version of the classic title, Super Metroid, not all of the changes and updates feel very welcome.

The first things that fans will notice is the stylistic change that has taken place in the visuals. In the Metroid Prime trilogy, Samus' first venture into the 3D gameplay, the visuals were realistic and very Halo-esque. With Metroid: Other M, however, there is a definite influence of Team Ninja. Everything looks a little exaggerated, as the graphics are in Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden, so they take a little bit to get used to. One thing that will remain familiar to Metroid fans is the theme of darkness.

As far as the quality of graphics is concerned, the game looks good, but it definitely suffers from the lack of HD capability on the Wii. The game truly looks like a higher end Gamecube game, showcasing some great color and contrast in the scheme, but in the end, they just don't pop off the screen as they do on titles from earlier on in the PS3 and Xbox 360 lifespan. Add that to the jagged edges that some characters will have in their outline and you have a title that looks good compared to other Wii titles, but pales in comparison to titles on other platforms.

Another area of this game that is heavily influenced by Team Ninja is the gameplay. Samus runs through the levels much like Ryu from Ninja Gaiden, athletically speeding through the levels and acrobatically jumping from platform to platform. While this is not unlike the earlier Metroid titles, the comparison can be traced back to not the way Samus is controlled, but how she feels when she is being controlled.

While the third person controls are tight and fitting for the game, those that do not like the controls in the Ninja Gaiden franchise will not like this change. The biggest issue comes when players switch to the often-used first person mode to target specific enemies or objectives. While this is the type of thing that the Wii should excel at due to its one edge over the 360 and PS3, this add-on to the core gameplay just seems forced and unnecessary.

It really has nothing to do with the first person view itself, to be frank. Instead, it has to do with the fact that it feels counterintuitive to be play the whole game with the controller sideways, then suddenly point the remote at the screen. That's not all that happens when you point the controller at the screen with the Wiimote, however. Once you make that slightly awkward transition, the camera will rush forward and the player will be required to find their bearings under the new view. It may sound nitpicky, but it definitely has the potential to give the enemies that are currently attacking an advantage.

Really, the only part where this game is anything but average is the story. The story features a much more feminine version of Samus. We hear about her struggles with being the only girl soldier and her difficulty in dealing with authority. The biggest downside has to be the voice acting. The characters will sometimes sound more disinterested than anything. While the story can be whiny, it has certainly been blown out of proportion.

One thing that has brought this game a fair amount of heat has been the so-called sexist undertones of the storyline. The game, despite the controversy, isn't sexist. As mentioned before, the game features a storyline that does, in fact, deal with sexism and the idea that its tough being a female soldier, but the game itself certainly isn't.

The part that has brought a lot of attention towards this subject is a part where Samus refuses to use her missiles and bombs until the man gives her permission. What the people stirring the controversy neglect to mention is that this man is the commanding officer and that she does it out of respect for his mission. The story may not be the most appealing to some, but it certainly isn't sexist.

All in all, Metroid Other M might be getting a bit of a bad reputation just because it is in the series that has constantly put out classic game after classic game. The game is a very average experience with a slightly below average story and some way above average moments that will stick with you. Fans of Metroid might be disappointed, but fans of the action/adventure platforming genre will definitely want to check this out.

Review: NBA 2K11


Do you like Michael Jordan? Well, it doesn't matter if you like Michael Jordan! 2K Sports' Visual Concepts has gotten into bed with arguably the greatest athlete (all sports withstanding) ever. Does this holy matrimony work in the end? Yes, yes it does.

When you boot up the game for the first time you'll be presented with what can be called a Michael Jordan fan's orgasm of a moment. Assuming that you're well aware of the lore Michael Jordan carries with him, the first glimpse of the game is Michael running out of the old Chicago Stadium tunnel as very familiar music plays from the stadiums sound system as the crowd goes wild in anticipation of MJ joining his team on the court. The camera follows MJ out the tunnel and you're put immediately into the throws of the 1991 NBA Finals with the Chicago Bulls vs the Los Angeles Lakers.

Scottie Pippen with his famous flat-top fade is all there, as well as Horace Grant with his "scubaman goggles". Additionally the commentary is on point with tons of references back to 1991 stats and other random quips. Mind you, this isn't an all Bulls affair once you complete all of the Jordan Challenges and soared through the rest of the Jordan specific experience Visual Concepts has tailored. All of the teams that come along for the ride via the Jordan Challenge as Chicago Bulls opponents can be selected for regular exhibition play as well so you can get your Carl Malone or Larry Bird on at anytime.


Where the overall game shines is in the details. Even in the pause menu, faded in the background of the buttons on screen you have Lebron James clutching his newly adorned Miami Heat Jersey from the infamous "The Decision". Pause the game again and you'll be greeted with yet another image of someone else from around the league. Occasionally, while taking the ball up the court stats of the current ball handler will make it to the lower third stat breakdown so you can see how that player is doing so far. Again, a very subtle inclusion, but something that adds that little touch to the presentation. 

During any given game what you'll immediately notice if you've played any of the previous NBA 2K titles is the dramatic improvement in the defensive play. Passing lanes are covered in such a way that it will require you to rethink the way you play the entire game. No more are the passes to players who are clearly out of position only to magically still receive the ball even if their back is turned to the play viable anymore. Lazy passes will get stolen. If you're thinking about passing the ball up court, think twice or maybe even four or five times before you make that pass. If you go into this game thinking old habits will roll right into 2K11 you will be frustrated beyond belief when pass after pass is tipped or straight up stolen time after time. An issue found when going into the paint a few times though is that your player will literally get stuck and not be able to shoot the ball even if you have driven into the paint only a few feet from the basket. Commanding your player to pivot is the only response that still works if this happens. It's something that is extremely infrequent ( and hopefully just a bug), but nonetheless is infuriating when it does happen.

Again, when was the last time you played a basketball game and actually had a 'kicked ball' happen? That's the amount of detail found in NBA 2K11.When was the last time you saw a computer controlled team get a back-court violation called on them? Never, right. The AI in the game makes mistakes which really adds to an experience that feels authentic.


Then there's My Player. And as you'd expect, My player is where you can create a player and draft him onto your team of choice assuming you get that far through the Draft Combine that is now included in the game and not a separate experience as in the past with your created player. The usual is all there, like creating the physical appearance, play style for every possible signature move, what type of eye brows your doppleganger will have down to what brand of shoe (including various styles offered by the selected brand) you want to parade around in.

Expect to put a good deal of time into creating your player if you at all care what he looks like. If options are what you like, that is exactly what you get. Unfortunately all is not rosey. During this entire process the "2K insider" will popup on the bottom right side of the screen with random and mostly off the wall comments and quotes from figured around the basketball world. Calling this annoying after only the 3rd time hearing it is a brash understatement. Whoever okayed this needs to be slapped on the wrist hard.

Collecting up to 40 different JORDAN shoes is also apart of the overall process. Complete drills and other accomplishments and you'll get rewarded by being able to equip certain special items. While in a Jordan Challenge you may notice Michael Jordan with his signature shoes on, but the rest of the players on the court are wearing current day Jordan shoes. A weird omission for sure, but a small distraction it definitely is. During a quickgame or NBA Today game you'll get previews for upcoming games that are on the real NBA Schedule so you can play them on that day for yourself which is now a staple of the 2K Sports games all around in general, but the interface has been overhauled this time around. Some may not like it, some will.

One of the often omitted or just plain skimped on portion of any sports title is the Half time show. There's no Chris Berman like genius like the fabled NFL 2K5, but instead you're greeted with the majority of advertising you'll see in the game as highlights from the first half of the game and around the league are recapped. The entire thing is draped in the colors and logo of HP in the guise of the HP Halftime update. Much like certain other brands in other games (*cough* Snickers *cough*) you will see HP ALOT. 


There's a 'see who's online' option in the menu much the same as some other titles so you can page through your friends list without having to step out of the game into the friends list of the system (Dashboard/XMB) which is becoming somewhat of a standard. Then there's the nail in the coffin for virtual sports gamers everywhere in the direction of whether you should pick this game up. Relegated to the PC only for the longest of times in sports games was a feature that allowed you to save and quit mid-game. NBA 2K11 has this feature on a console and it is glorious. Have something interrupt your b-ball action like "real life", so what. Pop into the menu, select 'Save and Quit', and feel at ease as you load your saved game for when you return to the court at a later time.

When it comes down to it this game is not for the faint of heart looking to just throw the ball around from time to time. Basketball fan's will literally get all hot and bothered by the sheer amount of detail found in NBA 2K11. Whether you're a Jordan fan or not, you'll be given a taste of what so many consider the golden age of the NBA with some rather convincing recreations of basketball yesteryear.

Pickup and Play modes are there (NBA Black Top), but the meat of the game is in its astoundingly good simulation of the NBA. With today's technology and know how, this is easily the best simulation of basketball you are going to get.