Season’s greetings! The holidays are in full force and, as previous years have shown, it’s a great time to be a gamer. Developers have been known to save many of their top titles for the end-of-the-year shopping splurges brought on thanks to holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever else you happen to celebrate, and this year is no exception. So for this final edition of Geek Squad for the year, let’s delve into five games that have come out in the past few months that will act as the perfect stocking stuffers for any gamer you give them to.
Borderlands (360, PS3, PC)
If you’re a fan of the “Diablo” series or any other dungeon crawler for that matter, “Borderlands” is right up your alley. A hybrid of sorts, “Borderlands” is a first-person shooter that incorporates many role-playing game elements, which should already get you interested. You take control of one of four different characters, each with his or her own unique abilities and strengths to aid you as you explore the barren planet of Pandora, completing quests, shooting down enemies, collecting loot, and searching for a cache of valuable alien artifacts known as “The Vault.” Completing quests and defeating enemies reward you experience to level up, which makes your character stronger and gives you skill points to allocate between three different skill trees, augmenting the abilities of your character and specializing them even further. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game are the items you can acquire – “Borderlands” contains a system that procedurally generates the attributes of all obtainable weapons, resulting in a total of over 17 million possible weapon variations. And with a level cap of 50 that will span you through roughly two playthroughs, “Borderlands” has enough going for it to keep you glued to the screen this holiday season.
Assassin’s Creed 2 (360, PS3, PC)
The original “Assassin’s Creed” made splashes when it hit the scene in November of 2007, and its sequel is seemingly doing the same two years later. I won’t go too deep into the story for the sake of spoiling the original, but “Assassin’s Creed 2” primarily puts you in the role of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, an Italian man in the 15th century who resorts to the ways of the assassin in order to get revenge on those who sent his family to their death. While the original was a great game, various flaws held it back from realizing its full potential. “Assassin’s Creed 2” pretty much takes all these flaws and does away with them while adding on enough to make the game more than a worthy successor. Remember how falling into water used to be instant death? Well, this time around you can swim. Repetitive combat? New moves and new weapons. Same old boring missions? Much more variety in missions, and a whole lot of them to go through. An upgradeable villa that serves as your base of operations, hidden locations to explore, a fame system, and so much more – “Assassin’s Creed 2” is sure to give you your fill of raw, unfiltered stealth action.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)
It’s been more than just a while since we’ve seen the last 2D “Mario” platformer grace a home console, and “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” serves as a welcome reminder to what we’ve been missing out on. The sequel to “New Super Mario Bros.” on the DS, “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” represents a return to form for the series and stands as a testament to the fact that the same old formula is just as captivating as it used to be since the days of the NES. Nintendo has spiced things up, however, with a few new additions. First-time powerups include an ice suit that lets Mario shoot ice balls to freeze enemies, a propeller suit that launches Mario into the sky when you shake the Wii remote, and a penguin suit that allows you to slide on surfaces, shoot ice balls, and maneuver effortlessly through the water. Collecting star coins hidden within each level gives you the option of unlocking videos that reveal secrets, teach tricks, or show off some serious skills. Oh, and then there’s the best part of the game – multiplayer. For the first time ever, up to four players can go through the game either cooperatively or competitively. I personally prefer the latter due to how frantic it gets, but both options are brilliant additions. Bottom line, if you’ve got a Wii, “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” is the way to go.
The Beatles: Rock Band (360, PS3, Wii)
I’m not going to bother reciting the same sappy speech that’s been heard a million times about how great The Beatles are and how their music transcends generations – I’m simply going to say that “The Beatles: Rock Band” is the perfect purchase for any fan of their music. The game features 45 playable tracks by The Beatles featured in a story mode that takes you through their career, stopping at all the big venues along the way. High scores unlock pictures and videos from the band’s past, adding into the historical aspect of the game. Unlike other games in the series, “The Beatles: Rock Band” features the ability to have three separate inputs for vocalists as opposed to the usual one, allowing for three-part harmonies. And with downloadable songs to expand on the game’s already hefty library, “The Beatles: Rock Band” is both a worthwhile party game and an exemplary chronicle to one of the historic bands of our time.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (360, PS3, PC)
Once upon a time, Infinity Ward created a game within the “Call of Duty” series known as “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.” Little did they know just how popular the game would become, and it was soon decided a sequel would be made, cutting the game off from the original series and setting it up as the first of a new spin-off series. Now, after much anticipation, the sequel is out and it seems to have lived up to the hype. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” is divided into three sections: Special Ops, Campaign, and Multiplayer. As you would expect, Campaign is the game’s single-player story mode, which definitely kicks things up a notch compared to the original. New to this version is Special Ops, which contains 23 independent missions that can be completed by yourself or with a friend, each with three varying difficulty levels. But the mode that most people have their eyes on is Multiplayer – going online, gunning down other players, and gaining upgrades. “Modern Warfare 2’s” multiplayer mode features more game types than the original, more perks, more weapons, more levels, more everything. A new system is in place that rewards players for getting certain kinds of kills – headshots, revenge kills, and more. Players are also now able to edit what kinds of rewards they can get through kill streaks, leading up end-all-be-all: a nuclear missile that ends the game and awards your team a victory, obtainable at 25 consecutive kills. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” is the game that everyone is talking about, and for good reason.
No matter what kind of game you’re into, there’s sure to be something that will tickle your fancy this holiday season. In closing, happy holidays, have a great winter break, and game on!