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RECENT VIDEO GAME RELEASES: Ghost Recon 2; Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within; X-Men Legends

December 26, 2004

"GHOST RECON 2"

THREE STARS
out of four stars

Ubisoft for Xbox (also for PlayStation 2), $49.99. Rating: T (Teen).

"Ghost Recon 2" is likely to irk die-hard fans of the original simply because the sequel brings some hefty changes to the series. But don't hate it because it's different, for when it comes to "Ghost Recon," change is a good thing.

Most noticeably, Part 2 shifts the play perspective from first-person to a third-person, over-the-shoulder view (though you can still play first-person if you really want to). Not only does this swap lend a greater sense of character to your ghost squad, but it actually helps with gameplay. Now you know if you're really hiding behind that bush -- a welcome change when one bullet can take you down.

More alterations for the better: The visuals have been greatly improved. Nice touches abound, from the shimmer of the water to the sway of the grass. Your squad's dynamic has also changed, and now is very similar to that found in the "Rainbow Six 3" games. You can get your computer-controlled team moving by barking out orders into your Xbox mic. Want your buds to blow up a tank? Say "attack vehicle," and they'll tear it up like it's paper.

The campaign mode is a rather vanilla assignment set in the near future in North Korea. As with most Xbox shooters, the real prize is online gunplay, and the vast array of multiplayer modes found in "Ghost Recon 2" deliver thrilling white-knuckle battles. You can play cooperatively with your friends (including playing the game's campaign missions) or square off in any number of competitive modes (deathmatch, hostage rescue, base siege -- your typical online warfare). You can even split your TV screen and play online with up to four players per Xbox.

Ultimately, I think, "Ghost Recon 2" changes the series for the better by making the game more approachable for a larger audience (the revamped graphics and perspective really help). But in a glut of military shooters the changes aren't radical enough to make it truly exceptional.

By Ryan Huschka, Detroit Free Press

"PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE WARRIOR WITHIN"

FOUR STARS
out of four stars

Ubisoft for Xbox (also for PlayStation 2 and PC), $49.99. Rating: M (Mature).

The last "Prince of Persia" installment was a stellar "Arabian Nights"-style platformer in which moving the character was sometimes more challenging than the combat itself. It was a work of art, and a strong runner-up to my choice for game of the year last year.

But sales of the last "Prince" were disappointing .

Now the prince is back, and he's darker, madder, more adult and more angry. And once again, I'll tell you: Buy this game. It's fabulous.

In last year's installment, the prince loosed the Sands of Time, glowing dust that turned all the castle servants into monsters and generally messed up the prince's world. He spent the game killing off bad guys, making impossible leaps, spins and turns and re-collecting all the Sands, which coincidentally gave him power over time -- slow motion, rewind, fast forward, visions, you name it.

Well, now it turns out that his little adventure has loosed an even darker enemy on the world, one that plans to annihilate humanity. That has the prince racing to erase time itself, to remove the series of events that resulted in this dark foe being released.

The prince has gone from an "Aladdin"-style teenager to a grim, angry young adult. He's even more beautifully drawn than before, and this year's installment adds a much better combat system.

The action is smooth and fast, and this year's bad guys are definitely smarter. That makes the prince a harder nut to crack, which should also attract more adult gamers.

I'll tell you again: This is one of the best games of the year. It has a terrific storyline, fabulous graphics, wonderful moves and some stunning cinematography. Please go buy it. You'll be happy you did.

By Heather Newman, Detroit Free Press

"X-MEN LEGENDS"

THREE STARS
out of four stars

Activision for GameCube (also for PlayStation 2 and Xbox), $49.99. Rating: T (Teen).

I liked this game for its intensity, its strategy and the superpowers that the good guys you control -- the X-Men -- use to defeat the evil Brotherhood and save the world.

The X-Men and the Brotherhood have things in common: They are mutants living in secret societies. The human authorities don't like mutants, and they don't realize that the X-Men are on their side.

In this game, you control four X-Men at a time out of 15 characters you can use for different missions. You choose the best players depending on their powers and how they work in the environment of each mission. For example, a character called Iceman can put out fires with his ice attack.

As players gain experience for their characters, they become more powerful, releasing more mutant powers. When you attack a bad guy, a little bar appears at the top of the screen that tells you the health of the enemy.

The graphics are solid -- you can see everything you need to see. Controlling the camera view is easy and helps you play. One thing I didn't like is that the X-Men are all the same size. In a dark cavern, you can't tell friend from foe.

The sounds are good and change with each level, keeping you focused on what's ahead.

Up to four people can play at the same time, each controlling one of the four X-Men. It isn't a separate game; you play in the same areas with the same level of difficulty.

In each mission there are Xtraction points, places where you can take a timeout to regroup. You can save your current game and move to a different saved game, you can visit Forge to buy or sell extra powers or you can go to the Danger Room, which is like a training school for X-Men.

The game is rated Teen for violence and blood. I didn't see any blood, and the violence was fairly mild.

Overall, this was a game I didn't want to stop once I started.

By Craig Campbell, 11, for the Detroit Free Press


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