GR’s Holiday Gift Guide ’05

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Oh, the weather outside is frightful… which is just one more good reason to stay inside, light a fire and waste away the Winter with some games. And boy, what a bountiful season it's been. With so many options, what do you want for Christmas / Hannukah / Kwanzaa?

Lucky for you, we at Game Revolution feel confident that we know what you want better than you do.

Welcome to our 9th annual Holiday Gift Guide. Stop stressing and start clicking!

This year we're proud to offer three ways to buy your games – quick links to our most excellent buddies at Amazon.com, Ebay.com and Pricegrabber.com so you can do all your game shopping without braving the bad weather, long lines and rude clerks.

Each product listed on the following pages should be considered well worth your cash, games that we ourselves will likely buy for our loved ones using our very own measly video game reviewer pay. We tried to focus on brand new games released over the past three months, but occasionally you'll find an older game here that we simply couldn't stand to neglect. Every product recommended in the Gift Guide has been thoroughly tested and reviewed and is currently available at retail. There is no pre-release hype here.

The guide will be continually updated until December 23rd – if you don't know what to buy by then, you're beyond our help. Be sure to check back often as new games are added!

 

 

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It hasn't exactly been a flagship year for PC gamers, so by all means, make sure to grab the good ones before that fancy rig of yours becomes outdated.

F.E.A.R.

Publisher: Vivendi
Genre: First-person shooter
MSRP: $49.99
Sure, it's got a silly acronym, but F.E.A.R. still managed to scare us silly. The gloriously chaotic destruction requires a good computer, but if you've got the horsepower, this is the must-have PC holiday buy. Just get that creepy little girl out of my dreams.
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Battlefield 2

Publisher: EA
Genre: First-person shooter
MSRP: $49.99
If you or or yours is more interested in massive, epic firefights than frights, it doesn't get any bigger or badder than Battlefield 2. Great graphics and even greater gameplay highlight an outstanding gift for any would-be warrior.
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World of Warcraft

Publisher: Blizzard
Genre: MMORPG
MSRP: $29.99
We know, we know – it came out at the tail end of last year, so what the heck is it doing in this year's gift guide? Well, it still rules, filled with a billion updates since its release, and if you know someone without it, you need to change that.
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Guild Wars

Publisher: NCSoft
Genre: Online RPG
MSRP: $29.99
But chances are you already own World of Warcraft, so how about a cheaper alternative? Beyond the purchase price, the fun, pretty Guild Wars charges zero monthly fee and allows you to play online. We like that math.
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The Movies

Publisher: Activision
Genre: Sim
MSRP: $49.99
Amateur directors and starving actors can't possibly miss The Movies, the world's finest filmmaking simulator. Hire and fire talent, build sets and scrutinize every red cent in an effort to create a dominant movie empire.
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Whoever said the current-gen systems are on their last legs hasn't played many video games this year, because the PS2 is crawling with terrific software. So many games, in fact, that we had to be unusually selective here. Witness the cream of the crop.

Shadow of the Colossus

Publisher: Sony
Genre: Adventure
MSRP: $39.99
Each year sees at least one awesome game that typically goes overlooked at retail; we don't want that to happen to this outstanding adventure. Dark yet beautiful, sad yet heroic, this is an essential buy for fans of artsy gaming.
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God of War

Publisher: Sony
Genre: Action
MSRP: $49.99
It might have shipped back in March, but it's still this year's best action experience on the PS2. Help the heathen warrior Kratos bring down the gods with style, grace, and more whipping than you'd find in a Devo video.
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Dragon Quest VIII

Publisher: Square/Enix
Genre: RPG
MSRP: $49.99
It wasn't a stellar year for PS2 role-playing…until Dragon Quest VIII showed up and blew everyone away with its breathtaking style, enormous length and and rewarding gameplay. Fire good!
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Guitar Hero

Publisher: Red Octane
Genre: Sim
MSRP: $79.99
If you're willing to splurge a little, go ahead and drop coin on this shredder of a sim. Not only do you get addictive and wickedly fun gameplay, but you also get that awesome guitar controller. Perfect for the wannabe rock star in your life.
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We Love Katamari

Publisher: Namco
Genre: Action?
MSRP: $29.99
We roll from the most expensive to the most affordable in this insane, addictive sequel to last year's sleeper hit. Push your ever-growing ball through the world to pick up, well, everything. And this time, it gets weirder.
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Resident Evil 4

Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Action
MSRP: $39.99
Zombie activists rejoice – Capcom's brilliant port of their Gamecube hit focuses on more than just slaughtering the defenseless undead. Chances are you'll turn into a zombie yourself after staying up all night with this thriller.
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SOCOM 3

Publisher: Sony
Genre: Action
MSRP: $49.99
Xbox gamers might have more online options, but PS2 gamers can enjoy one of the best online shooters anywhere with the third iteration of SOCOM. Looking for a ton of weapons, vehicles, maps and competition? Then you want this game.
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NBA 2K6

Publisher: 2K Games
Genre: Sports
MSRP: $29.99
EA has sewn up the football race, but 2K Games dominates the paint with NBA 2K6. Dunking on its competition with cool new controls and unrivaled delivery, this is the only b-ball game you need.
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The Warriors

Publisher: Rockstar
Genre: Action
MSRP: $49.99
It takes some serious muscle to overpower the curse of the movie license, which might explain how this stylish, exciting brawler beats its way onto this list. Come out and play – we promise you won't get hurt.
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Burnout Revenge

Publisher: EA
Genre: Racing
MSRP: $39.99
No racing series quite matches the frantic energy of Burnout, so consider the most recent version to scratch your itch to shift. Tons of modes, tons of speed, tons of crashes – simply tons of vehicular fun.
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Its big brother might be stealing headlines, but that boring green box still packs a wallop, especially when armed with any of the following weapons.

Battlefield 2: Modern Combat

Publisher: EA
Genre: First-person shooter
MSRP: $39.99
Finally sick of Halo 2? Maybe it's time for a tune-up, and we can't think of a better engine than this excellent multiplayer fragfest. Well worth your measly rations.
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Far Cry Instincts

Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: First-person shooter
MSRP: $49.99
If going military isn't your vibe, maybe going animal is. This top notch transition of the PC hit adds all kinds of cool gameplay elements, wrapped in an engaging world and sealed with great multiplayer. Unleash the beast.
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The Warriors

Publisher: Rockstar
Genre: Action
MSRP: $49.99
It takes some serious muscle to overpower the curse of the movie license, which might explain how this stylish, exciting brawler beats its way onto this list. Come out and play – we promise you won't get hurt.
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Burnout Revenge

Publisher: EA
Genre: Racing
MSRP: $39.99
No racing series quite matches the frantic energy of Burnout, so consider the most recent version to scratch your itch to shift. Tons of modes, tons of speed, tons of crashes – simply tons of vehicular fun.
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Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action
MSRP: $19.99
Our favorite Xbox game for the first half of 2005 makes a great holiday buy, especially considering the low price tag. Sam Fisher's cat and mouse multiplayer is still an unrivaled, nerve-wracking experience.
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Psychonauts

Publisher: Majesco
Genre: Adventure
MSRP: $39.99
All this violence getting you down? Then analyze yourself in this quirky, creative adventure from the mind behind the Monkey Island series. Thanks to the varied gameplay and genuinely good script, your brain will thank you.
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Jade Empire

Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: RPG
MSRP: $19.99
This also might be a bit on the older side, but at a mere twenty bucks it's a role-playing steal. Embark on a journey through fantastical Eastern worlds in an effort to save your master and hone your martial arts skills.
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The number one question on everyone's mind right now isn't whether or not Brad and Jen will ever get back together (a pox on your soul, Ms. Jolie!), but whether or not they should drop the hefty bag of coin required to take home a new Xbox 360.

Our answer?

No. Or yes. How about maybe!

Okay, here's the deal. The $300 version comes without a hard drive, which means no backwards compatibility, not to mention the fact that if you want to save any games you'll need to spring an extra 40 bucks on a memory card. It also fails to come with wireless controllers, which are resoundingly cool. So join us as we toss this half-assed idea out the proverbial window.

Now then, if you already own an HDTV, you might as well suck it up and go for broke, literally, by buying the $400 'real' version of the 360. We have heard no official word yet from Sony or Nintendo regarding the release of their next-gen systems, so assume you've got some time to enjoy the 360 before getting jealous of another console and mindlessly joining the console wars. Plus, those graphics do indeed r0x0r your b0x0r.

If you don't own an HD TV, it's a much harder sell. The games look and play just fine on regular televisions, but by and large the differences are quite notable. You'll constantly wonder if a game would look better on another TV, obsessively questioning your purchase until you slowly go mad. That's unhealthy. We advise against that.

Then there's the matter of the games themselves, which at this point are a little underwhelming. The graphics routinely rock, but the number of ports is astounding (12 out of 18) and the number of brand new gameplay modes and styles suspiciously low. If you judge your hardware on the software that accompanies it, you might want to wait a bit. Remember the PSP and DS launches? You probably have a good three or four months before more serious 360 games start demanding your attention.

All that being said, if you're one of the lucky 400,000 who happen to own a 360 already, then here's our current list of games worth buying. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Project Gotham Racing 3

Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Racing
MSRP: $49.99
Not only is PGR 3 a great racer with the most robust online functionality of any Xbox 360 title, it's also one of the few games that retails at a manageable 50 bucks. We like that combination, and we think you should, too.
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Condemned

Publisher: Sega
Genre: Action
MSRP: $59.99
There are quite a few first-person games for the 360, but Sega's disturbing Condemned stands out as our favorite thriller. Couple twisted imagery with brutal gameplay and you get an easy buy. Not for the kids, though.
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Need for Speed Most Wanted

Publisher: EA
Genre: Racing
MSRP: $59.99
If you prefer speedy style over sim substance, look no further than the awesome Most Wanted. Tight visuals and all kinds of fun, engaging events make this the best cop chaser since Steve McQueen.
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Perfect Dark Zero

Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: First-person shooter
MSRP: $49.99
Though this outrageously anticipated fragfest didn't quite live up to the hype, it's still a very good game. Considering its plethora of addictive online modes, this should prove to be one of the most lasting of launch titles.
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Let's see…no new Zelda, no new Metroid, no new Mario adventure game…ouch. Never fear, though, there are still some decent buys for Gamecube types.

Resident Evil 4

Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Action
MSRP: $39.99
Leon's having a bad day, but you''ll have a great one if you invest in this riveting, gorgeous survival-horror romp. The Gamecube – and video gaming in general – simply doesn't get any better than this.
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Fire Emblem

Publisher: Capcom
Genre: RPG
MSRP: $49.99
Past meets present in the first console version of this renowned handheld series. Fire Emblem is a deep, pretty and solid turn-based game that should satiate the burning in any role-player's belly.
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The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

Publisher: Vivendi
Genre: Action
MSRP: $49.99
We all know Hulk smash, but Hulk also kick ass. A terrific engine and copious carnage lead to his most memorable battle yet.
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Don't let that PSP gather dust! Though we haven't seen quite as many high-quality PSP games as we had hoped, there are still some really great buys for owners of Sony's wee machine.

GTA: Liberty City Stories

Publisher: Rockstar
Genre: Action
MSRP: $49.99
The always controversial, always open-ended and always devilishly fun GTA hits the PSP and becomes the biggest game on the little system. It's also a really solid recreation of the console games, so don't hesitate to pocket it.
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SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo

Publisher: Sony
Genre: Action
MSRP: $39.99
We're not sure how Sony managed to get the sweet Wifi multiplayer working so good in SOCOM for the PSP, but when we're gleefully blasting away people who live in another state while sitting on the can, we don't really care.
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Burnout Legends

Publisher: EA
Genre: Racing
MSRP: $49.99
Criterion's racer motors on to Sony's handheld like a runaway train, barreling over its competition without even tapping on the brakes. Superb depth and visuals complement that patented Burnout gameplay.
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Lumines

Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Puzzle
MSRP: $39.99

That old thing? Yup, that old thing.

Still the most addictive game for the PSP, Lumines is the best of the early launch games and remains a key ingredient in any respectable PSP library.

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We vaguely recall complaining about the lack of good DS software a few months back. For that, we should be flogged. But first, we shall repent by suggesting the following groovy games for your dual-screen machine.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike

Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Strategy
MSRP: $34.99

How cool is the DS version of this Game Boy Advance classic? Cool enough to be our hands-down top choice for a great DS buy. Deeper than an ocean and smarter than most gamers, this is what war is good for.

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Mario Kart DS

Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Racing
MSRP: $34.99

It has become increasing clear that there is no stopping Mario, and so long as he stars in games this good, we're cool with that. Plenty of tracks and WiFi play make it impossible to resist this thoroughly enjoyable racer.

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Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

Publisher: Konami
Genre: Action
MSRP: $34.99

Hardcore gamers know the value of a sweet Castlevania game, which is precisely the way to describe this doozie. Staying true to its roots with beautiful graphics and robust item and soul collection, this is one vampire that doesn't suck.

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Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time

Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: RPG
MSRP: $34.99
The Brothers Mario make their way through time in this absurd, brilliantly written role-playing gem. You'll laugh out loud while digging the compelling blend of strategy and action gameplay. An easy recommendation.
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Meteos

Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Puzzle
MSRP: $29.99
No handheld library is complete with an addictive puzzler, and Meteos pretty much does the trick with clever gameplay and bright graphics. Smart multiplayer and good use of the stylus to boot.
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The following suggestions should be considered complementary gifts, not the whole shebang. Good lord, you ARE planning on buying them games, right?

Gamefly Subscription

MSRP: Varies
Let's face facts: if you actually spent the money on every game you were interested in buying, you'd be too broke to afford food, and therefore wouldn't live long enough to play 'em. As an alternative, we at the Revolution suggest checking out the rental service Gamefly, which for a monthly fee lets you rent as many games as you can handle without going blind. This isn't some weird cross promotion thing – we actually use the service ourselves and find it unbelievably useful. Hopefully, you and yours will, too.

Hook me up, GR!

 

D-Skin Protective Disc Covers

MSRP: 20-Pack for $19.99

No, it's not a condom for your games. Well, actually, yeah, it sort of is. These innovative little plastic covers attach to any disc, be it a DVD movie, audio CD or a video game, and effectively protect the data side from being mercilessly scratched by your annoying kid brother. The cool part is that discs run just fine with the D Skins attached, meaning you don't have to swap 'em on and off. And if a skin gets scratched up, you can just replace it with another one, which costs a helluva lot less than replacing, say, a $60 Xbox 360 game. At essentially a buck a pop it's not the cheapest way to go, but since when is insurance cheap?

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1 GB Pro Duo Memory Stick

MSRP: $79.99
If you own a PSP and you don't have a 1 GB stick, we have no idea why you own a PSP. It's just the right amount of memory to carry a nice load of music or even some movies (wink wink) in your pocket. Though 2GB sticks are available as well, they currently cost as much as the PSP itself.
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