Video Game Reviews – March 2010

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Salem and Rios: a nightmare for hired goons everywhere

Army of Two: The 40th Day
EA Montreal
Reviewed on: Playstation 3
Also on: Xbox 360
Street: 01.12
What was your favorite aspect of the first Army of Two?  For me it was the sense of camaraderie that came from the co-op gameplay.  That, or pimpin’ out my guns in gold, silver and mahogany—that part was sweet too.  If these aspects are what appealed to you too, then Ao2: 40th Day is a must-play.  Every aspect of the co-op shooter gameplay mechanic has been polished to a squint-inducing shine.  Read carefully: 40th Day has the single best cover shooter mechanic ever invented. Fuck your Gears of War, and double fuck your Mass Effect 2 (you know it takes a lot for me to say that).  But seriously, the fluid ease with which you take cover and fire in this game really just reduces other cover shooters to quivering puppies fear-pissing in the corner. Of course there’s a catch, and the catch is this: 40th Day has zero story.  I can sum up the plot in four words: “Shanghai is exploding, escape!”  The feeble morality choices presented us are as 2D as they come and really they feel like an apology to the player for not having more characterization.  Well, apology accepted, EA Montreal.  If you have to cut out aspects of your sequel to give sufficient development time to what really matters (gameplay), so be it.  Maybe Army of Two 3 will be the total package.  Until then, gameplay on this title is near-perfect and I have the option of a leopard print AK-47.  What’s not to like?  –Jesse Hawlish

Dirt 2
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: PC, PS3
Street: 09.08.09
There aren’t many racing games worthy of a complete play-through—especially for the Xbox 360, which doesn’t have any of the Gran Turismo titles. If you’re sick of playing the Need for Speed games, Dirt 2 is challenging enough to hold interest for any player but not so difficult as to cause frustration. Most importantly, the translation from real-life racing to video game racing is downright amazing. There are plenty of moments during race types, especially the trailblazer races, when you’ll be cringing with your controller in a tight grip, completely engrossed in the experience, almost feeling like if you crash, you’re going to sustain injury somehow. For fans of the first game, which utilized some of the same no-holds-barred race types, or Codemasters’ other racer Grid, you’ll see the lovely flashback ability that you can use if you total your car or truck or buggy, or if you just plain screw up during a key moment of the race. You can essentially rewind and attempt to fix your error. Dirt 2 offers straightforward intensity and aggressive off-and-on road racing based more on substance than style, no worrying about drifting points or even bumping into fellow racers, just down and dirty outright racing glory. –Bryer Wharton

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
Reviewed on: Nintendo DS (Exclusive)
Street: 12.07.09
You’ve played Zelda before. You’re Link. She’s Zelda. She gets kidnapped. You have to rescue her. Go to a dungeon. Get a new weapon. Kill a giant monster. Repeat until Ganondorf is dead and order is restored. The formula hasn’t changed over the years, but holy fuck are the Zelda games fun, and Spirit Tracks is no different. Set 100 years after Link’s previous DS outing, The Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks features the same intuitive controls and addictive gameplay that has made the series, and particularly the DS entries, so much fun to play. Oh yeah, and Zelda gets killed at the beginning of the game. Kinda. She’s your ghostly guide for most of the game, and can even possess some enemies, but it really sounds cooler than it is. This is the kind of game that you can play for hours at a time and not realize just how much time has passed in the real world. Some of the game is still tedious and irritating (traveling by a train is no more fun than traveling by boat) and you’ll surely look like a jackass blowing into your DS to play Link’s magical flute (if you don’t do it the Demon King wins!), but Spirit Tracks is a lot of fun, even if it isn’t a vast re-imagining of the Zelda universe. –Ricky Vigil

Salem and Rios: a nightmare for hired goons everywhere I like my women like I like my coffee: incorporeal and hesitant.