Steve Garlo

The 2006 edition of Madden for the Xbox 360 left a very sour taste in the collective mouths of the gaming community. It was just bad, and Electronic Arts made no attempt at hiding the fact that the company rushed out a poor product in order to take advantage of the young, supple next-gen early adopters who were eager for some pigskin action. NCAA Football 07 represents EA’s first real football offering since Madden NFL 2006 for the next-gen platform, and fortunately, while Madden was a steaming pile, NCAA is a solid offering to the gridiron gods.

Sadly, like Madden before it, NCAA 07 for the 360 has inexplicably been stripped of a number of features, though their absence is likely only to bother those who have followed the franchise for a few years. The most notable loss is the ability to make your own school, which EA has completely removed this year. Granted, the list of schools to choose from is ridiculously long, but a lot of people found joy in creating something zany like the Lakeside Barking Beavers and bringing them to national stardom. The other notable mode missing from the game is the Race for the Heisman. This is not a big loss to the game as the mode wasn’t anything spectacular to begin with, but it still represents yet another thing stripped from the game by EA.

Missing modes aside, it’s really all about the gameplay on the field. Paragraphs could be wasted discussing the dynasty mode and going through 60 seasons with a single team, but that is neither here nor there. If the whole game were put into a pot of boiling water and cooked down to its basic elements, you would end up with a cauldron brimming with delicious gameplay. It just keeps getting better and better each year. The hits are harder, the passes are crisper, and the animations are better. Hell, even the fans seem more rabid. In a road game where the other team has the momentum, there are a hundred thousand fans screaming for their team to get back into game. And it’s not simple for the added ambiance; players are more likely to make big plays when the crowd is worked up. EA has done a magnificent job taking all of the blood and guts of the college game of football and pressing it onto a round wafer that can be read by your Xbox 360.

The graphics are, of course, head and shoulders above the other versions of the game, as well as past iterations, and generally look deserving of the A

Every four years an event happens that unites the world in a common goal. No, not the Olympics, as that happens every two years. The goal is winning soccer’s World Cup. Hooligans from all over the world flock to stadiums by the hundreds of thousands to cheer for their home nation. It’s a spectacle of balls, grass, kicking, flags, and fun. America may not be known for its soccer, but those that can find pleasure in the savage ballet that is European Football(American Soccer) will find a lot to love in 2006 FIFA World Cup, even if we don’t call the sport by its proper name. Not too long ago, EA released a completely mediocre soccer game with the FIFA title in it for the Xbox 360, but this latest game could not be further from that lackadaisical effort. Every facet of 2006 FIFA World Cup has been improved: The graphics are fantastic, the stadiums and players are all rendered beautifully, the gameplay has been tweaked to new, dizzying heights, and the action has been sped up to a near perfect pace.

The only glaring omission from this title is any type of franchise or season mode. This game is basically exactly what it says in the title: The World Cup tournament. It has some historical games that you can play, and you can practice or go online in ranked and unranked matches, but the guts of the game is the tournament. Every country you can imagine is represented with its full World Cup roster intact. If you want to try and get The Ivory Coast to the championship match, it is possible with World Cup 2006. The depth of the teams available is thrilling.

The whole game plays faster than FIFA 2006, as here EA has managed to set the perfect pace for soccer. Plays in the box are exciting and tense, and mid-field play is equally well done. The moves your players can do are not as plentiful as in Winning Eleven, the other notable representative of video game soccer, but this game caters more to the casual soccer fan, not the raving loony soccer maniac. Stealing the ball, for example, is all a matter of position. Moving close to the ball carrier will initiate some bumping, and hopefully knock the ball away. It is cleverly simple, but very deep in its execution.

The Xbox 360 is not the only system to see 2006 FIFA World Cup either, as the game has also found a home on the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and original Xbox. Besides the changes in online play and weaker graphics, the core gameplay remains the same, and the overall game is a solid addition to any sports lover’s library. The biggest difference between the games is the price tag. The next-gen offering demands a $60, while over version come in at half of that. Ultimately it comes down to the question of how flashy visuals and extra achievements me to you. Either way, if you consider yourself a soccer fan, you should probably be out buying this right now. Remember, the World Cup only happens every four years.

Score: 88%

Playing Blazing Angels, the first word that comes to mind is A

Boxing has long been heralded as the sport of kings. Two men locked in combat, each with nothing but their fists and wits to defend themselves from the man standing across from him. Both men intent on destroying each other with vicious punches to the face and body. It is a brutal ballet, a deadly dance, and some other witty alliteration too. A good fight leaves the fans on the edge of their seat, watching two conditioned athletes trade blows, building to the inevitable peak when one man crumples to the canvas from a perfect shot, his face a tragic mask of its original self. Fight Night Round 3 goes above and beyond the call of duty to recreate this moment perfectly. The knockout is what the game is all about. The moment when your uppercut lands squarely on the chin of your opponent and you see his lifeless body collapse to the ground feels perfect, and you feel like a champion. No other boxing game has ever recreated this so faithfully.

Without a doubt, the first thing you will notice when playing Fight Night is the graphics. They are simply breathtaking. The boxers are rendered beautifully and look almost exactly like their real world counterparts. The sweat pours off in an amazingly realistic manner. While this may sound like a minor detail, it really makes the whole thing look A

Area 51

June 7, 2005

Every once in a while a game comes along that is expected to succumb to failure even before it is released. In the case of Midway’s Area 51, most had already labeled this title as a doomed prospect, destined for a life in the bargain bin. However, in an effort of true heroics, the development team has managed to put together a fantastic first-person shooter. The game throws down the chains of its generic light gun arcade past and in so doing takes on a whole new dimension of gameplay involving solid teamwork, mutant on mutant combat, and a spooky, at times startling atmosphere.

Much of this atmosphere is owed to the game’s impressive visuals. Regarding the PlayStation 2 version, Area 51 sports some of the impressive graphics yet seen on that platform. The entire game, from the snarling aliens, to the destroyed remains of the secret base, are presented in glorious high-resolution. Particle effects and highly detailed textures all lend to the realism of the presentation. The lighting effects are wonderful and blend seamlessly with the surroundings to create an atmosphere of insanity as the player’s character fights his way through an army base overrun by mutant soldiers and aliens – all hell-bent on killing both he and his team. And unlike what players experienced in another higher-profile FPS, this time they can actually use their gun and flashlight at the same time as it’s mounted on top of their rifle. This means that if a player turns the corner and catches something moving out of the corner of their eye, they can actually see it as they blast it to shreds.

In terms of audio, Area 51 steps up to the plate with crisp aural joy that creates a sense of fear as a player moves through the generally dark base. The background ambiance puts this game over the top, as a player will hear muffled clangs, screams, breathing, gun fire, and all other manner of sounds one would expect to hear in an alien infested war zone. Many times the player will find themselves turning and shooting at nothing based on something they hear, which really adds to the whole sensory experience of the game. However, there is one fatal flaw to the audio of the game, but fortunately, it’s not enough to ruin the experience… David Duchovny. Sure, he is famous for his role in X-Files, which one can say has a lot in common with the story in Area 51. However, his dry and oftentimes boring delivery is out of place for a character who is fighting to survive, watching his friends die, and trying desperately to escape from hell. Duchovny tells the narrative like he is sitting on a park bench sipping lemonade. There is no sense of urgency or panic in his voice, and his tone never changes regardless if he is talking about his teammate being killed, or darning socks with his grandma. (That last part may or may not actually be in the game.) Other notable voices in the game include shock rocker Marilyn Manson, who plays a grotesque telepathic in a jar of green ooze. Granted this is possibly not all that far removed from his day to day life, but in all fairness he pulls off the part of an the insane psychotic quite well.

The story, however, is something altogether different. Imagine taking every conspiracy imaginable, putting it in a blender with aliens, David Duchovny, Marilyn Manson, robots, milk, cyborgs, clichA