Ben Berry - Staff Writer
Next to a console launch season, this is easily the best ChristmaHanuKwanzakkahs in years in terms of top notch games and products on the market. Below are the 6 things I'm hoping are under my tree on Christmas morning.
(Xbox 360) - $169.99 - The first of two no-brainers. Yes, it's expensive, but that's what makes it an ideal gift for gamers everywhere. As a gift, it makes playing the game a lot less guilty of a pleasure. After playing it at PAX, this has been the game I have been looking forward to most this holiday season. Even without DLC, you still have to play it through 4 times just to cover all for instruments.
(Xbox 360) - $59.99 - The second no-brainer. An epic RPG/Mystery that makes the sandbox of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion look like the size of an actual sandbox. Throw in an amazing conversation system, and the best human on alien loving since Kirk was putting it down in the Captains Quarters on the Enterprise, and you have one amazing game.
Sony PSP Star Wars Battlefront Entertainment Pack
(PSP) - $199.99 - The lighter, more toned PSP with a white shell sporting Darth Vaders grill on the back, and bundled with Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron? Yes, please. While I'm still not a proponent of the UMD media, Sony has truly improved the PSP and by throwing in Star Wars icon, made it a must buy.
Super Mario Galaxy
(Wii) - $49.99 - The platformer of all platformers is back, and looks fantastic. Simply put, it's one of the best reasons to not be playing something on your 360 this fall.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
(Xbox 360) - $59.99 - While it lacks Rainbow Six: Vegas' cover system, and does some things maybe not the way I'd do it, it's still a heck of a LAN/WAN multiplayer game.
John Deere: Harvest in the Heartland
(DS) - $39.99 - You're really getting the virtual farmer in your family a Best Buy gift card for $45, because this game hasn't been street dated. But in what amounts to Harvest Moon with more realistic farming action (plus cool green tractors), you can go from gardener to master of the combine.Elliot Bonnie - Staff Writer
(Xbox 360) - $59.99 - This epic space opera is the next step for RPG fans. Real time action, great voice acting, and a gripping story are among the many reasons to check this game out. This is a must have for Xbox 360 owners.
(Xbox 360, PS3) - $59.99 - Mixed reviews of this title haven't turned me off one bit. The game is not perfect, but it is impressive and quite enjoyable. You owe it to yourself to check out the fresh control scheme, gorgeous graphics, and seamless animations.
Call of Duty 4
(Xbox 360, PS3, PC) - $59.99 ($49.99 for the PC version) - I really can't say a bad thing about this game. If you like shooters you need to play this game. The single player is a little short, but it is an experience like no other. The multiplayer will keep you glued to your seat well after the holiday season is gone.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
(DVD) - $19.99 - This DVD doesn't come out until late January, but you could pre-order it for yourself or a friend. The King of Kong is a documentary that centers around the journey of an average family man who sets out to claim the record setting high score in the arcade game Donkey Kong. The film is full of colorful characters and hilarious scenes. You don't even need to be a fan of video games to enjoy this one.
Renegade Game Chair from Ultimate Game Chair
- $299.99 - Every gamer knows you need a nice place to put your butt while you are saving the universe or destroying your friends in COD4. Look no further than the Renegade Game Chair from Ultimate Game Chair. Yes, it costs more than the price of a Wii, but this chair has it all... speakers in the headrest, massage mode, MP3 and headphone jacks, cup holder, and also extra storage compartments. Can you really put a price on all of that?
Assorted Gaming Clothing from Kryptonite
- $17.99-$44.99 - Kryptonite lets you show your true colors wherever you go by giving you some awesome comic, video game, and film inspired clothing. From Zelda t-shirts to Halo hooded sweatshirts, Kryptonite has you covered... literally. Sean Colleli - Staff Writer
2007 was an incredible year for gaming, and most of it was crammed into the last four months or so. Here are some great games to keep you and your loved ones warm this winter. Some of them are brand new, others are hits from earlier in the year that you might’ve missed. As an ex-Nintendo fanboy, I’ll advise you on their stuff mostly, but don’t be surprised if a few other consoles show up.
Yes, Nintendo’s shiny white box is still a great gift idea. It has more strange, unique and approachable games than any other console, even if they’re behind the times in the graphics department. It’ll also play every GameCube game, and its Virtual Console download service lets you play classics from the NES, SNES, Genesis and other old systems. The Wii is relatively cheap at $250, so it’s the economic option too. If you know someone who already owns an Xbox 360 or PS3, they probably won’t mind getting a Wii to round out their console selection, and with Super Mario Galaxy out just in time for Christmas, the Wii is pretty much a must-buy for most gamers. There’s just one problem—Wiis are still difficult to find, so if you happen to find one in the wild, don’t hesitate to pick it up. Odds are someone in your family will want it.
Super Mario Galaxy
I might not be as impressed with this game as the rest of the gaming press, but it’s still an amazing title. It’s the best platformer on the market now, period, and with so much gameplay variety you’ll be getting your money’s worth. Mario Galaxy is a no-brainer for any Wii owner, and if you’re giving someone a Wii this Christmas, Galaxy is the best game to give along with it.
Geometry Wars Galaxies
Mario isn’t the only one cruising the cosmos. The Xbox Live Arcade hit is back, expanded into a full game with multiple levels and a co-op mode. This one is a great idea for more casual games, or family members who have fond memories of 80’s arcades.
Trauma Center: New Blood
Here’s one of those unique games I was talking about. The latest entry in the Trauma Center series is a great sequel and a lot of fun, but novice gamers will probably be frustrated by the steep difficulty curve. Like its predecessors, New Blood is very, very difficult on its hardest setting, and pretty challenging even on easy mode. This time you can play with a friend and save patients as a team, which oddly enough makes New Blood a great party game. Trauma Center New Blood is one of the Wii’s most creative, and most satisfying games this holiday.
Guitar Hero III
This is the first Guitar Hero game on the Wii, so if you haven’t gotten into the series yet now is a great time. GHIII does a few things to the established formula that don’t feel right—a few main characters have been removed, and the art style has been changed dramatically. Otherwise, it’s still addictive and fun, and the list of songs has a lot more master tracks this time. Expanded multiplayer modes make GHIII a great party game, although you won’t be able to buy extra guitars until early next year. Speaking of which, the wireless Gibson Les Paul controller is the best RedOctane peripheral yet. The Wii remote plugs into the guitar body, to handle wireless communication and motion sensing. As a bonus, it even rumbles during star power. GHII is a perfect gift idea for any Wii owner, even if it’s a bit pricey at $90.
Every Wii owner needs Nyko’s ChargeStation. Nintendo decided to forgo any recharge solutions for their console, and Nyko’s offering comes to the rescue as the best charger on the market. It has two custom battery packs that hold about 25 hours of charge, and two battery doors padded with comfortable rubber grips. When you’re not using your Wii remotes, just drop them into the charger. LED indicator lights let you know when your remotes are juiced up and ready to go. For 30 bucks, the ChargeStation is a deal and an absolute necessity for Wii gamers.
--$130 regular, $150 bundled with game
If you know someone who still doesn’t have Nintendo’s popular little handheld, the holidays are a perfect excuse to get them one. Nintendo just released two special edition bundles—one is a gold, Triforce-stamped model that comes packed with Zelda Phantom Hourglass, and the other is a metallic pink one that comes with Nintendogs. These bundles go for $150, but a regular DS Lite costs $130 and comes in black, white, pink, and a new red and black variety.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
This is another game I wasn’t too thrilled about, mainly because they tampered with the Zelda formula, but my small qualms aside it’s still a solid Zelda game. It’s completely controlled with the stylus, which lets you make notes on your map and engage in touch-sensitive puzzles. Phantom Hourglass is a perfect introduction to the Zelda series for casual gamers, but the touch controls and low difficulty will leave stalwart Zelda players wanting more.
Cooking Mama 2: Dinner with Friends
The strangely addictive Cooking Mama series continues with a more substantial sequel. This game is surprisingly difficult, and offers a lot of gameplay options and recipes. Multiplayer is included for competitive cooking. This one might be a better choice for younger gamers, but to be honest I was somewhat disturbed by how long I played it.
Brain Age 2
Nintendo’s second brain training game is a good choice for people who want to sharpen their mental acuity, and judging by its sales numbers, a lot of people are using it. It’s popular with casual gamers and boomers, and offers a wide variety of mental exercises and challenges. Brain Age 2 also comes in a bundle with the red and black DS Lite and a special carrying case, for the price of $150.
Even after seven years on the market, the PS2 is still selling well. Its voluminous selection of games makes it a good investment, and many of those games are the best of last generation. PS2s cost the same as the DS Lite--$130—and with the Playstation 3 dropping its focus on backwards compatibility, it isn’t a bad idea to pick up a PS2. If you still don’t have one, that is. There haven’t been a lot of new games for it lately, at least not of any note, but it’s the only console that can play Guitar Hero 1, and it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Metal Gear Solid or Grand Theft Auto series.
Most of the other GN staff will probably suggest this, but I’ll give it a shout out just for the heck of it. Orange Box is one of the best deals on the market right now; you get Half Life 2 and its expansion packs, Episodes 1 and 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. In my opinion Portal justifies the purchase alone, but the rest of the package is excellent too. If you know a serious PC gamer with a decent gaming rig, buy them Orange Box. Chances are they already have it, so make sure to ask first.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
I’d only buy this game for serious gamers, the kind who go to LAN parties and spend weekends on marathon Counter Strike sessions. Quake Wars takes planning, strategy and teamwork to enjoy—it’s a little more complex than your average shooter. That said, it’s a lot of fun when you have about ten people together to play it. If you know a social gamer who is also a team player, Quake Wars is a perfect fit.
System Shock 2
The game industry is falling all over itself about Bioshock, and the rest of the GN staff will probably recommend it in this guide. So, I suggest that before you buy Bioshock, find an old copy of System Shock 2 on Ebay somewhere. Shock 2 is Bioshock’s ancestor, and came out in 1999. In my opinion it does everything Bioshock does, plus more, and about 50% better. Bioshock looks great and has a lot of hype behind it, but there’s no hiding that it’s a stripped down Shock 2 with some more shooting for the Halo fans. I didn’t hate Bioshock, I was just very disappointed by it (sequels are supposed to be better than the older games), so if you’re buying Bioshock for a loved one, get them System Shock 2 as well. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the history lesson, and the magnificent, moody, and damn scary experience that is System Shock 2.Kolby Kappes - Staff Writer
- ArmoryTech.com (Multiple) – $14.99 - This controller organizer works perfectly. I picked up lotwo of them for my living room and the wife no longer complains about stacks of game controllers lying around
Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows
(Xbox 360) - $19.99) – The only way to share your wireless 360 accessories on the PC. I’ve started using my 360 wireless headset on Teamspeak with this and it works great.
(Xbox 360) - $169.99 – It’s expensive, it’ll take over your living room – but it’s the most fun I’ve had playing video games with my family. Your wife and kids will want to play as much as you do.
A Steam Account
(PC) – Never lose another disk, never patch another game, get achievements and enjoy the best head to head gaming experience this side of Xbox Live.
Super Mario Galaxy
(Wii) - $49.99– Finally a game I really want to play on the Wii that uses the controller to perfection. My Wii had been gather dust for months but since Galaxy came out it’s getting a workout
(PC) $49.99 + monthly fee – An MMORPG that feels more like a 3rd person shooter. Don’t like the slow pace of your typical WoW adventure? Tabula Rasa has you running, ducking for cover and generally having a fun time.Dan Keener- Staff Writer
Renegade Ultimate Gamer Chair
(Multiplatform) - $299.99 - The renegade Ultimate Game Chair is one of the most delectable items someone can add to their gaming rig. It allows for a comfortable experience while sitting on your ass for hours at a time.
Cup holder? Check.
Storage drawer? Check.
Bass, Speakers and the ability to hook it up to any gaming device from a PSP to a Nintendo Wii? Check.
Did I mention that it has hooptie style blue neon underneath when the bass is rumbling? Nuff Said!
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
(PS3, Xbox 360 and PC) - $49.99/$59.99 - Although this is one of the most hyped titles of 2007, it easily fulfilled its promise. The cutting edge graphics and intense gameplay remain elite in the tradition of the Call of Duty franchise.
However, the multiplayer is what sets this apart, maybe even more so than Halo 3. I am looking forward to 2008 and what the next installment may bring now that the franchise is out of WWII.
(Multiplatform) - $26.99 (12/10 close) - Activision has become one the behemoths in the Video Game Publishing world and has an array of All-Star Franchises to prove it. The stock has remained high, and should continue to surge as long as future Call of Duty and Guitar Hero franchise games remain elite. In addition, the future could be brightest due to the acquisition of Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing series) and the launch next year of James Bond game franchise and a sequel to Madagascar.
Microsoft/Nintendo Wii Point Cards
(Xbox 360 and Wii) - $19.99 - These gifts are a must have for any console owner to keep ahead of the Digital Download revolution. At 1,600 and 2,000 points respectively, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii owners will be stocked up to grab some of the favorites that will be hitting Xbox Live Arcade and the Wii Shopping Network come next year. While Sony has publicly scoffed at the whole virtual points thing, giving these cards out as Holiday gifts illustrate a great way to utilize the virtual cash and increase the revenue stream. For some reason I don't think little Johnnie is going to believe that Santa left his Visa to purchase a few games directly from the Playstation Store....
Able Planet LoSt-CaUzE Gaming Headphones
- (PC) - $149.99 - The LoSt CaUzE gaming headphones from Able Planet have some of the best sound quality I have ever had on my ears, whether for gaming or just kicking back and listening to music. The frequency response gets into high-end subwoofer levels and the sound detail allows you to hear things that will give you a distinct advantage in any multi-player game mode. Not to mention, the $149.99 is peanuts compared to many other noise-cancelling headphones I have tried. The Able Planet versions were superior superior to most of them that are priced well north of $200.
Xbox 360 HD-DVD
(Xbox 360) - $179.99 - Why? Simply it is the cheapest HD-DVD or Blu Ray player that is available on the market. It appears that neither format is going to "win" anytime soon (if ever), so it is finally safe to take the plunge. In addition, anyone that purchases it will get up to eight free HD-DVDs (King Kong in the box,2 free at purchase and five by mail-in-rebate), which is around a $200 value. Free = good...Tyler Sager - Senior Staff Writer
First up, the “If they don’t have it yet” category:
(PC, Xbox 360 - $50-60. Just picked up this gem myself, and I have no idea why I waited so long. I don’t often do shooters, but this one is striking all the right chords.
(PC, Xbox 360) - $40-50. I still get a fit of the giggles when thinking about this one. It may not appeal to everyone, but corralling those mischievous little imps to do all the dirty work was a complete blast for me.
Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword
(PC) $30. For the strategy fans out there, a huge expansion to the franchise. If you want them to be a part of the holiday festivities, be sure they don’t open this one until after all the socializing is done. A wonderful time-eater.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
(everything but PS3) - $20-30. I’ve been having a great time with this little “match 3 meets RPG” game, with the red-eyed work days to prove it.
Next, the “would be happy to see it under Tyler’s tree” list:
(PC) - $50. I caught a demo of this at GenCon, and I’m thoroughly intrigued. I like the lack of black-and-white morality, I enjoyed the combat system, and I positively salivate at the sheer size of this thing.
Half-Life 2 Orange Box
(PC, PS3, Xbox 360) $50-60. One of the few other shooters ever to grace my systems, I really enjoy the Half-life series. And since I haven’t picked up many of the titles packaged in this bundle, it’s a great deal.
And a great gift for any PC gamer:
A Totalgaming.net subscription
(PC) - $70. With this subscription, gamers will get access to oodles of great games they may have missed over the last few years, as well as being first-in-line for great upcoming titles such as Sins of a Solar Empire and the latest Galactic Civilizations expansion, Twilight.
And finally, the “…but you can’t plug that in!” selection:
Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery
(boardgame)—compatible with most kitchen tables, $60. This one’s been getting great reviews, and while I only got a quick demo of this one, it looks to be a great addition to the gamer’s library. I’ll be adding it to mine if it doesn’t show up in my stocking.
Starcraft: The Board Game
(boardgame)—this one might overwhelm smaller horizontal surfaces, $80. While this game is a bit too fiddly for my tastes, lots of folks are having a blast with the tons of pieces and innovative game play that manages to catch the feel of the RTS fairly well.Charles Husemann – Editor in Chief
The nice thing about being the editor is that I get to see what everyone else picked and then add to it. Since everybody has already covered Mass Effect, Rock Band, Bioshock, and Call of Duty 4 I’m going to make a few other suggestions.
Dual Shock 3 controller
(PS3) - $59.99 @ Play-Asia – If you’ve got a PS3 owner in your life you can score major brownie points by importing one of the new dual shock controllers from Play-Asia. The US version isn’t due out until next year but the software to support rumble is already available.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
(PS3) - $59.99 – This is one of the best games that came out this year and some of the most fun I’ve had in a game all year. The game has a great plot, fantastic dialog, and a nice mix of gameplay that doesn’t get old.
(Xbox 360) - $59.99 – I like trivia games and John and I had a bit of fun playing the game a few weekends back. The game has a great sense of humor, good questions, and an easy to use interface. It’s not for everyone but it’s something you’ll want in your collection for when you have non-gaming company over.
(Xbox 360) - $29.99 – I like the Chatpad because I really dislike having to use the standard “soft” keyboard that’s built into the Xbox user interface. It’s also convenient for those times when I forget to log out of Messenger and have to tell people that I’m not ignoring them, I’m just playing Rock Band.
(PC) - $49.99 – So the dialog is a bit rough around the edges but that doesn’t take away from one of the best, most original PC RPG’s to come out in years. With over 100 hours of game to go through it’s also one of the best values on the market.
The Orange Box
(PC) - $49.99 – Skip the console versions and get the PC version of the Orange box through Steam. For the money you get Half Life 2 (best game evah), Half Life 2 Episode 1 and 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal (one of the most innovative games of the year). If the gamer in your life doesn’t like this bundle there is something fundamentally wrong with them.John Yan - Senior Hardware Editor
Foxconn GeForce 8800 GT
(PC) - $250 - Nothing says gaming like one of the best video cards out there and nothing beats the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX card right now. The Ultimate may be a tad faster but it's not going to give you the performance for the value. The new 8800GT offers the best price per performance ratio and can come close to the speeds of cards $100 more in price.
Logitech G9 Laser Mouse
(PC) - $99 - If you're going to game on the PC, you need to have a quick and accurate mouse. The Logitech G9 offers you a great number of features and you can customize it to your satisfaction with weights and outer shells. It's one of the best mice out there today.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat
(PC) - $50 - It's been a while since the Call of Duty series was on the PC and it's back with a bang. The game's incredibly detailed and has both is great fun in both single and multiplayer. It's nothing new but does everything right.
Dell Media Center with Cable Card
(PC) - $1260 - Cable card equipped media centers have been pretty expensive up until now. Dell offers a dual tuner one that's pretty reasonable and if you're like me who don't have much time and have to record a lot of TV then this media center will be up your alley if you want to record digital and HD broadcasts. I still wish you can just purchase the tuner by itself but this is the first time the prices fell reasonably for a media center with digital tuners.
Randy Kalista - Staff Writer
Art, music, literature, clothing, and games. The half-dozen items I’ve listed sew together a veritable haute couture of gaming culture. Surround the gamer in your life with 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets of gaming goodness.
Assassin’s Creed Limited Edition Art Book - $24.99 - It’s quite possible that the gamer on your Christmas list was one of the 1 million+ people that bought Assassin’s Creed in its first week. That gamer may have even sprung for the official game guide. But the limited edition art book might’ve fallen by the wayside, which is a shame considering the bold realism and real-world historicity informing this gorgeous collection.
LoSt CaUzE Gaming Headphones - $149.99 - The absence of a microphone is a deal-breaker for online gamers; but if that isn’t a factor, then these beauties will deliver piping hot vocals, sound effects, and soundtracks directly to your eardrum. It’s a top performer in planes, trains, and automobiles, though it handles turbulent nights at home with equal aplomb.
Mass Effect: Revelation - $7.95 - This is the prequel novel to the game that will be on every single RPG awards list for 2007. Written by Drew Karpyshyn, Lead Writer for Mass Effect, this book is easy to digest (it’s no sci-fi neo-classic, but give him a break) and uses a momentous series of events to tie together an encyclopedic universe of information from the game.
Games for Windows Magazine Subscription - $19.97, 12 issues/12 months - Stupid name, stellar magazine. No other print publication writes more intelligently on the topic of PC gaming (except perhaps the UK’s fantastic Edge magazine -- but that annual subscription is a doozy). I even spend 90% of my game time on consoles now, versus PC, and I still can’t part with my monthly GFW.
Aperture Laboratories Test Subject T-Shirt - $21.99 at CafePress.com - Arguably the best game of the year, Portal fans will donate themselves to science in order to get an Aperture Laboratories shirt. The only thing that might top this gift is to have Jonathan Coulton himself sing “Still Alive” at your next birthday party. With a piece of cake.
The Orange Box - (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) - $49.95 - Half Life 2. Team Fortress 2. Portal. Even if you have no clue what type of games your Secret Santa recipient likes, they’ll enjoy something in the Orange Box, and it’s likely they’ll surprise themselves in the discovery.