Video Game Reviews – October 2010

Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4
Traveller’s Tales/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also on: PS3, Wii, PC, PSP, DS
Street: 06.29
Since the Lego game phenomena started with Lego Star Wars, the franchise has boasted some of the best co-op games for kids and adults alike. I initially picked up Lego Harry Potter because my daughter is a huge HP fan, but I ended up playing the majority of it with my wife, as I have with all of the Lego games. Even though they’ve caused huge arguments, the games have always been fun. Lego Harry Potter follows the movies more than the books, and compared to past Lego games, it has a massive amount of gaming content and is packed with many treats for Harry Potter fans. In a greatly valued attempt to stave off arguments, the co-op mode has added split-screen, but only to a point—your character needs to be in the same area as your partner, but you can do your own exploring without yelling at them to come where you are. Though the new split-screen mode is helpful, it’s much harder to unlock new characters this time around: You actually have to find little Lego bits of each hidden character when you return to previously beaten levels. The changes are good and bad, but it’s still a great co-op game and I’m sure I’ll be snatching up whatever Lego games come about next. –Bryer Wharton

Metro 2033
4A Games/THQ
Reviewed on:  Xbox 360
Also on: Playstation 3, PC
Street: 03.16
I thought I’d go back a few months and talk about a game that, in my mind, has ‘future cult classic’ written all over it.  IGN (the Pitchfork or New York Times of the videogame industry) has a number of offices around the world.  Compared to the main U.S. staff, IGN’s Australia staff and UK staff consistently give lower scores and more critical, often pseudo-erudite reviews to their games.  This time around, the critical staff at IGN’s UK office found much more to appreciate in Metro than the yanks did, largely because the game’s experience is simply more nuanced than it is badass.  Nothing in this game holds your hand.  Turn on subtitles because the story, while compelling and consistent, is subtle and difficult to follow.  Ran out of bullets? Should’ve conserved more when the mutants attacked—time to put your bowie knife skills to the test.  How much breathable air do you have left? Check the analog timer on your wristwatch, and don’t forget to take off your gasmask before a firefight, or it’ll get cracked.  The devil’s in the details in Metro, but so is the game’s singular brand of entertainment.  Surrounding the survivalist gameplay is a world that feels surprisingly populated and believably lived-in.  Production values are much higher than you’d expect from a little game like Metro.  If you’re skilled in the FPS genre and you can enjoy a linear, storied campaign, then this journey through the post-apocalyptic Moscow subway deserves a backward glance.  It has excellent pacing, pitch-perfect tension and enough atmosphere in every set piece to make Master Chief blush. –Jesse Hawlish

Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty
Blizzard Entertainment
Reviewed on: PC
Also Available On: Mac
Street: 7.27
Say it with me. Starcraft. Say it again. Staaarcraft. Staaarrrrcrrraaafft. Doesn’t that feel nice? Yeeah. For longer than any fanatical gamer could possibly remember, Starcraft 2 has been but a slight glimmer on the distant horizon of gaming goodness. Halo came and went, with two equally mediocre sequels to follow. World of Warcraft revitalized countless millions of online gamers’ hearts. Even Duke Nukem Forev— oh wait, never mind. The point is, the wait is finally over. Jim Raynor hath returned. Wings of Liberty is the first installment of the Starcraft 2 trilogy. It follows the Terrans’ intergalactic horseplay with the other familiar races: Zerg and Protoss. While WoL still boasts thirty missions just like its predecessor, all of these ones are playable only as the Terran. This doesn’t mean that it is a shorter game: I found this campaign much more engaging than the original. Missions were varied, ranging anywhere from zombie invasions to train heists. Sometime in the not-so-near future, a Zerg-based expansion pack titled Heart of the Swarm will be released, followed by Legacy of the Void, where the Protoss finally get to shine. While the multiplayer feature doesn’t knock my socks on my ass, it’s still very fun and endlessly addictive. All three races can be played in games ranging from one-on-one skirmishes to hour-long 4v4 planetary wars. A 5-tier ranking system has also been introduced in an attempt to try and match you with similarly skilled players. With such a long and detailed single-player campaign mixed with the endlessly replayable multiplayer aspect, Wings of Liberty does not disappoint. If you haven’t yet immersed yourself into the world of zealots, firebats and zerglings, it’s certainly not too late to start now. –Ross Solomon