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Game Profile
 Written by Glenn Wigmore  on February 14, 2006

Specials: Love hurts, love scars...


With Valentines Day right around the corner, many people are contemplating ways of getting romantic with their significant other. While we'd probably fail at helping you with that, what can be provided are the necessary games you should be getting intimate with in the next few months (maybe your squeeze is down with games, meaning this could be helpful). While you're out buying roses, chocolates, cards, and apologetic trinkets, consider slapping down some pre-order dough on some of these games?

Nothing quite says ?I love you? like a spin kick to the head; thankfully, Street Fighter 2: Hyper Fighting is being re-released onto Xbox 360's Live Arcade service this March. The quintessential fighting title of the early 90s made an impression on gamers upon its release, and it still is used in many game competitions and tournaments in order to cull the gaming elite from the masses. The reason this upcoming Live Arcade version is so anticipated is that it will feature fully integrated multiplayer support over Xbox Live. In the touted ?Quarter Match,? players will put up their virtual quarters to queue their position in line; this system is meant to emulate the old arcade feeling of waiting around a single arcade cabinet. This lobby / spectator system will allow up to 16 players to participate, with non-combatant players being able to chat with each other, razz the combatants, and view other players' gamercards. With the added bonus of achievements and leaderboards, it's easy to fall in love with this old flame, once again.

They say it's pretty superficial to fall in love with someone for their looks, but falling in love with the visuals of Fight Night: Round 3 on the Xbox 360 (also available on PS2, Xbox) is pretty easy to do. With some of the most ?next-gen? graphics seen yet, EA Chicago's high-octane boxer looks to blow previous games out of the water with its great detail and cinematic presentation. The first pillar of the game's visual strength is the omission of any HUD; this means that the game looks strikingly cinematic and has an enhanced level of immersion since you have to pick up the strength of the opposing boxer based on his posture, cuts, and punch speed. The boxers themselves have amazing detail, complete with sweat and blood that accurately flies off of their head, and some of the most amazing looking skin seen in a videogame. The lighting really helps complete the package, as ambient light sources reflect off of the boxers' bodies, gloves, and trunks with frightening accuracy. The aforementioned visual splendor shouldn't overshadow the inclusion of online support and a greatly enhanced career mode, both of which should add some substantial value. This one has the looks to kill, no doubt about it.

It has been hard to love the Driver series in recent years, but the franchise has been going for a good while now, and with three iterations under its belt, the developers are now looking to put the series on a different path. This new direction includes nixing the principal character from the previous games, Tanner, and also changing the setting to 1978 New York. Now taking the role of ?the Kid? (did the people at Reflections play Prizefighter on Sega CD one too many times?), you must work your way up the underworld ladder as a driver-for-hire and earn your ?rep.? This game style seems directly inspired by the Grand Theft Auto series, as well as the recent Need for Speed: Most Wanted in that you can work your way up towards the kingpins in a dirty underworld. Driving will once again be put front-and-center (deviating from the shooting action found in DRIV3R), and the missions will be much more open-ended ? again, akin to the GTA franchise. The Driver series has, arguably, been on a decline through its duration so it is the hope of Atari and Reflections that this fourth game finds the rhythm that the first title so effortlessly displayed. Could this love be rekindled?

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter represents the official third game from the people at Ubisoft for this franchise, but there have been many other supplementary releases that have populated the series. Even with the dearth of titles, the series has been easy to love, especially since it combines online mayhem, near-future political intrigue, and some great military weaponry to great effect. With GR: AW, Ubisoft is adding a whack of new visual tricks to make the experience much more realistic. Soldiers animate more believably in this release, and the lighting and explosion effects seen in the urban-Mexico locales look to plant your jaw firmly on the floor. The new cross-com HUD system should allow for maximum awareness on the battlefield, and it really adds a futuristic feel to the interface. For those who are in love with co-op, GR: AW looks to provide in that area, as 16 players can participate in a unique co-op over Xbox Live. Co-op action is great entertainment when done right and it is great to see Ubisoft championing this cause into the next-generation. Things looked shaky for this game a while back, but now it seems clear, again, why people go head-over-heels for this franchise.

Many seem infatuated with the buxom heroine of the Tomb Raider franchise, and it looks like they'll get another chance to ogle her as the release of Tomb Raider: Legend is right around the corner. This release looks to offer some insight onto the previous exploits of Lara Croft, and you will participate in some flashback sequences that outline key events in her past. You also revisit some sequences that you play through in flashback, but once you find them in the present, they have had substantial changes (like taking place entirely underwater). Lara will have access to some new devices in this adventure including the remote analysis device (RAD), as well as a magnetic grappling hook so she can get her Batman on. Many sequences in the game will also take place ala Dragon's Lair, requiring a button press ? when prompted ? to execute a scripted animation that will keep Lara moving. While many people who played the original Tomb Raider probably fell in love with it for the wrong reasons (two large reasons, in particular), Tomb Raider: Legend looks to make this a ?true? kind of love.

Star Wars has yet to really break through in the RTS front, but that all appears to change with the advent of Star Wars: Empire at War on the PC. The game will allow players to get into the action from the Rebel or Empire perspectives, and this provides a unique game experience, either way. The space-based map system allows for a bevy of options on how to deploy forces on the various worlds; this includes hiring bounty hunters, sending out probes, stealing technology, and leaving garrisons to fortify planets. Ground fighting is looking quite action packed and allows for straight-up action that trims out the resource gathering of other RTS titles. While the action on the ground is looking to borrow from some of the blueprints laid out by Star Wars: Battlefront (point-to-point battling), it is the space battles that should really get gamers' hearts palpitating (Palpetining? There's my nerd joke.) These sequences are very cinematic and immediately call to mind sequences from the six feature films. There's always the risk of a big learning curve for these sorts of titles, but the love of Star Wars should compel any card-carrying geek to feel the force of this one.

While it's pretty common knowledge that there's no love in war, this isn't dissuading Ubisoft from releasing Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII on multiple platforms in March. Primarily geared for the Xbox 360 and the PC, this squadron-themed action title looks to pick up where Crimson Skies left off. There will be plenty of bombing runs and high-altitude gun fights to get your blood boiling, plus all of the action can be taken online for some adversarial, team-based, or cooperative action. The distinct look of this title is quite arresting and it calls to mind some of the lighting and saturation effects used for Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Because of these techniques, the game sports a very ?aged? and ?worn? look, but this is all for the benefit of the style and feel that Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII is striving for. You can tell love is in the air when you hear the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire? oh yeah.

If you're a fan of RPGs its hard to not love the Shadow Hearts franchise. Both installments of this cult series have balanced the usual RPG drama with a healthy dose of wacky humor and memorable characters, setting it apart from the usual clich?s and rehashed plots, while still keeping it traditional enough for your average gamer. It's never going to topple Final Fantasy in mainstream acceptance, but perhaps it's best that way...it's always good to love those goofy niche games. The tradition continues in Shadow Hearts: From the New World, due on PS2 in just a few weeks from XSEED Games, the new darling of the genre. While the game moves to the West after spending time in Europe and Asia, the same quirky and lovable humor is here, along with a fantastic cast of off-the-wall characters who truly escape the typical RPG typecasts, even though there's no returning names from the past. It's a busy year for role-players, but Shadow Hearts: FTNW has the potential to be the most loved of all.

Everyone loved Tetris when it first took the world by storm when it launched with the original Game Boy in 1989. So it'll be like a reunion with an old sweetheart when Tetris DS comes to the DS March 20. Featuring ?themes? based off of classic NES games such as Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid, Tetris DS will appeal to the geek in all of us. Ten-player wireless play (with one game card!) and four-player Wi-Fi Connection play means everyone will get a chance to prove their Tetris mettle. New gameplay modes (including one using just the stylus) meet classic Tetris charm to finally make the DS a complete handheld juggernaut.

It might be hard to believe, but Jack Bauer has been in love no less than three times over the course of 24's run. So it'll be easy to love him right back when the oft-rumored 24: The Game finally becomes a reality in the next few weeks. Nearly the entire cast is on hand to provide their voice to the proceedings of what happened between seasons two and three of the intense series. Cambridge Studios has said that a lot of major events will happen during this new day including Chloe and Kim's beginnings at CTU, Chases first case with Jack and the hunt for President Palmer's would-be assassin. We'll also finally get the chance to stand in Jack's shoes as he tortures someone for information, what's not to love about that? As a final cherry on top, many of 24: The Game's 100 missions are timed so that the entire game will clock in around 24 hours long. So let's hear some love for the Baddest Man on the Planet and his first foray onto the PS2.

Japanese gamers love their DSes, making it one of the fastest selling consoles in that country's history. And when the DS Lite ships later this Spring you can expect lots of them to upgrade or buy one for the first time. So it's only fair that in April we American gamers will be getting Japan's most popular DS game, Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day. Part of Nintendo's ?Brain Training? series for adults, Brain Age attempts to marry learning and gaming in the most natural way yet. The game further takes a ?pen and paper? concept to gaming by forcing students to hold the DS sideways like a book and requiring all answers be penciled in with the stylus. A collection of minigames at heart, Brain Age will require students to master word memorization, counting and reading. If that's not enough, Brain Age will also include the first DS rendition of the puzzle game everyone loves, Sudoku.

So in the end we love more than one, what can I say, we gamers have big hearts.



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