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Review: LEGO Batman

I won't lie to you: I'm a huge Batman fan. A Bat-freak, you might say. From collecting comics and watching The Animated Series ad infinitum to camping out for tickets to the midnight showing of new Bat-films (barring the Joel Schumacher travesties), if it's Batman, I'll give it a shot.

So great is my Batman fanaticism that I purposely skipped LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures in order to maintain my anticipation for LEGO Batman. The two properties may seem unrelated, but the truth is, I knew full well that despite all the Batman lore that Traveler's Tales would no doubt cram into a Gotham built brick by LEGO brick, taking in too much of the LEGO action game formula would kill Batman's fun factor quicker than a whiff of the Joker's deadly gas. As I predicted, LEGO Batman is immense fun -- if you can look past the LEGO formula's reoccurring flaws that should have been fixed after the first LEGO Star Wars.

Gallery: LEGO Batman

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Hands-on: RACE Pro



To say that Sweden-based developer SimBin is kind of good at creating simulation racers would be akin to saying that Shigeru Miyamoto has marginally influenced the direction of video games. Racing, quite frankly, is SimBin's forte. With almost as many accolades as Mario Andretti has championship wins, SimBin has truly mastered the PC as their platform of choice on which to create realistic racing simulations.

That's all well and good, but how will such a thorough level of authenticity transfer over to the Xbox 360, a device with fixed hardware and eight buttons of input? SimBin's answer comes in the form of RACE Pro, a simulation racer developed specifically for the Xbox 360, and one we took for a test drive at a recent Atari press event.

Continue reading Hands-on: RACE Pro

X3F Review: Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution


History teaches that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (or "The Gandh" to his pals) was an influential spiritual and political leader of India, a man whose pacifist ways solved many political problems. According to textbooks, kissing babies, implementing civil disobedience for causes such as poverty, and being an all-around nice guy were Gandhi's favorite hobbies.

That's what history says. So there I was in 2024 A.D., trying to bring the Greeks to greatness while mostly minding my own business, and Gandhi decides to show his dark side. Let's be allies, he said. We'll share technologies, he said. Family barbecues, he said. Next thing I know, Gandhi and his lackeys have Sparta, my main science city, completely surrounded by tanks and bombers, the Americans took back New Orleans by overcoming my tank with a catapult (it was a really, really big rock) and Cleopatra decides to stab me in the back by taking the 1200 gold I paid her to attack the Indians for 10 turns and signing a peace treaty with The Gandh after only five turns!

All of that, and why? Because my trigger finger was slick with sweat and accidentally nuked India? Big deal! I said I was sorry!

If there's a video game that better demonstrates the medium's potential for non-authorial storytelling better than Sid Meier's Civilization, I've yet to play it. Rewriting history to my design always proves more fun than decapitating zombies or battling any number of demons. For years, the appeal of Sid Meier's "One more turn!" opus has been enjoyed primarily by PC gamers with ten-plus hours to kill if they want to experience a complete campaign.

Probably to the chagrin of significant others across the globe, Firaxis Games released Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution in early July, a Civ developed specifically for consoles that, while not as deep an experience as any PC version of Civilization, is more than enough to captivate couch-bound gamers looking for something more involved than the never-ending stream of FPS titles.

Continue reading X3F Review: Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution

X3F Impressions: Deer Hunter Tournament


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Donnie Clay crawled as quietly as possible through thick lines of vegetation. He paused as his head broke free of the brush. In front of him was a jumble of hoof tracks that criss-crossed in every direction. Smiling, Donnie pressed a button on his Xbox 360 controller. "There's a tracking system in Deer Hunter Tournament," he said. "If you find deer tracks and aren't quite sure what they are, you can press a button which will orient you to the track."

Now set on the proper course, the producer of publisher Atari's Deer Hunter Tournament rose to his feet and continued to creep quietly forward. His high-caliber rifle, gripped in gloved fists, was equipped with a thermal scope.

A tracking system, and a scope capable of reading heat temperatures? Yes, Bambi appeared to be doomed -- so long as Donnie was able to claim him faster than legions of other eager hunters.

Continue reading X3F Impressions: Deer Hunter Tournament

X3F Impressions: Smash Court Tennis 3


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No one likes riding in the middle of a car's backseat area. You're sandwiched in, crushed from one side and into the other regardless of which way the driver has to turn, and worst of all, the position is often associated with a derogatory term for the female dog.

If you're cunning, though, the role of middle-backseat passenger can be used to harness the strengths of both your fellow rear passengers for your own good. Forge a temporary alliance during one turn so that you and one passenger crush the other against his door. Then, on an opposite turn, revoke the ceasefire and cause much harm to your former ally.

Namco Bandai's Smash Court Tennis 3 makes similar use of its middle position against its two primary competitors, SEGA's Virtua Tennis 3 and 2K Sports's Top Spin 3. "You've got Virtua Tennis at the arcade end of the spectrum, and you've got Top Spin at the Simulation end," explained Smash Court Tennis 3 producer David Geudelekian during a recent preview event. "Smash Court Tennis very intelligently tows the middle ground. You can jump right into the game and [within] 30 seconds, you can play an arcade-style match: lots of powerups, sensitive aim. But there's also a really deep experience if you want more of a simulation."

Continue reading X3F Impressions: Smash Court Tennis 3



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