Battling with the big boys

When Sony showed off the capabilities of its newest system -- the PlayStation 3 -- at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2005, one game had nearly everyone talking.

The short video, presented without explanation, was an amazing futuristic war game with visuals that exceeded anything that could be done at the time. Quite simply, we couldn’t believe our eyes; there was no way a game could look that good. Surely the footage had to be some kind of pre-rendered clip, not actual in-game footage.

When it is finally released on Feb. 27, will Killzone 2 be that great, once-in-a-lifetime game everyone is expecting it to be?

Sadly, the answer is no.


Don’t get us wrong. K2 is still an amazing war game that belongs alongside the other big boys in the future war category, such as the Resistance and Gears of War franchises. It is technologically flawless and a sight to behold.

Unfortunately, it’s really not much different from the rest of the aforementioned titles that came out last holiday season, save for the frustratingly different default control setup (which can be changed to a more standard setup without much trouble). Fight the bad guys, drive ‘em back, blah, blah, blah. We’ve played this a thousand times before.

Though Killzone 2 does look better than most, it ultimately fails to live up to the insanely high expectations that had been created for it -- and that’s a shame.

Grade: A (The same high level as its predecessors, but little else)


Details: PlayStation 3 platform; $59.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)

Wasting such great potential

All the elements are there to make Afro Samurai one of the best games ever: a fresh, comic-inspired visual style; funky, original characters; good controls; a great soundtrack supervised by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan; even the voice of Samuel L. Jackson in all his uncensored glory.

As if to prove that even the best ingredients still require a great chef, Samurai is so horribly assembled it quickly becomes apparent that the game is flawed to the core (and not just because you can slice people in half in a big, bloody mess).


Besides the atrociously confusing level design that seems as if it was created to force you to walk in circles, and the miserable sound mixing that sets some of the characters’ voices at full scream while others are at whisper levels, when we tested it out, Samurai suffered from a giant glitch near the conclusion of the first battle that ended the fight abruptly and caused the game to inexplicably skip ahead.

All the money spent on those billions and billions of billboards advertising the game and the animated film on DVD would have been better spent on some quality control.

Grade: A (for visuals and story), D-minus (for level design and sound mixing)

Details: Xbox 360 and Play- Station 3 platforms; $59.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language)


Killing zombies and looking good

Another recently released gory samurai game is the Japanese import Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad.

Here’s the setup: Two shapely sisters have to fight off wave after wave of angry zombies, determined to eat brains or whatever it is zombies do. By swinging their mighty samurai swords, the sisters can slice the zombies in two. And, as in most cheesy horror films, even that won’t stop the zombies; their legs and waists attack on their own.

Oh, and did we mention that the older sister wears a skimpy bathing suit that would fit right in with the ones in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and that the younger sister is dressed in full Japanese schoolgirl attire, pleated skirt and all?


Yes, Onechanbara is truly that ridiculous . . . ridiculously great!

Sure, it’s bloody beyond belief and equally as sexist, but man, is it hard to put down! Horrifying and hysterical at the same time, Onechanbara is button-mashing fun that redefines the term “guilty pleasure” for gamers of legal drinking age.

Grade: A (Awesomely awful!)

Details: Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii platforms; $39 to $29.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, language, sexual themes)


Get the yellow blob moving

LocoRoco 2 is a bright, colorful game that is so simple even a 6-year-old can easily pick it up and start playing. The warm, happy music and cheerful characters are so sweet it’s impossible to play without a smile on your face.

By using the two shoulder buttons on the PlayStation Portable, gamers tilt the screen to control gravity, making the LocoRoco, a little yellow blob, roll down a hill or jump over a ledge. By eating more flowers, the LocoRoco grows in size and is able to better fight off the smog-like Moja army that threatens the peaceful harmonies of its world.

With a new multiplayer mode and new mini-games to break up the action, LocoRoco 2 is infectious fun at a great price.


Grade: A-minus (Bouncy blobs of fun)

Details: PlayStation Portable platform; $19.99; rated Everyone (mild cartoon violence)

Battlefield moves to a new realm

If you liked the epic battles of the great Star Wars Battlefront series but wished you could fight off Sauron’s minions instead of Vader’s Stormtroopers, then The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is for you.


Identical in nearly every way (with four choices of class, the addition of unique playable heroes, and the same objectives and game play), Conquest offers the same thrills with a fancy new paint job.

Though it’s technologically sound and avoids becoming repetitive despite its “complete this simple objective” core, it’s just not anything super original. (One unintended happy point: The four classes -- warrior, archer, mage and scout -- remind us of the good times spent playing the O.G. battle game Gauntlet.)

Grade: B-minus (Haven’t we played this before?)

Details: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS platforms; $59 to $29.99; rated Teen (violence)