GR’s Holiday Gift Guide ’06

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Ho-ho-ohmygosh it's been a busy holiday season, what with two new console releases, dueling portables, and our favorite video game consoles suddenly growing movies and television shows. But be wary, dear reader, not all of it is worth your dear dollar. 

That's why we've sailed the turbulent holiday seas, and charted this map to a very merry Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa / Festivus / Decemberween.

So welcome to our 10th annual Holiday Gift Guide. We stressed out, so you wouldn't have to!

Like last year, we're proud to offer three ways to buy your games – quick links to our most excellent buddies at Videogamecentral.com, Ebay.com and Pricegrabber.com so you can compare prices, make ludicrous bids and wind up buying games for yourself, all without leaving the dark, dank confines of your room. Who loves ya?

The games and tchotchkes on the following pages should be considered well worth your cash, games that we will probably give to our loved ones, especially since we got them for free. 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 couldn't stand not to mention. 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 22nd – if you don't know what to buy by then, you'll probably wind up getting singing fish at a gas station somewhere. Be sure to check back often as new games are added!

 

 

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Is it just us, or is it very 2005 in here? Fortunately, that was a good year, and 2006 is even better with sharper graphics, more modes, and lower price tags. 

Company of Heroes

Publisher: THQ
Genre: Strategy
MSRP: $39.99
In a year with lots of sequels and expansions, only one game was awesome and original. With incredible graphics and tight play mechanics, this truly is "The Great War".
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Battlefield 2142

Publisher: EA
Genre: First-person shooter
MSRP: $39.99
What a difference 200 years make. Instead of battling for the mother country in zeroes and Bradleys, you're battling the mothership in hovercraft and mechs. But trust us, going online and pwning with your friends is timeless.
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Dawn of War – Dark Crusade

Publisher: THQ
Genre: Strategy
MSRP: $27.99
With a massive, new Risk-style campaign that can be played by any of the seven races, two of which are new, and one of which is comprised of robotic space-zombies, Dark Crusade will enslave your spare time with or without a copy of Dawn of War.
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Neverwinter Nights 2

Publisher: Atari
Genre: RPG
MSRP: $39.99
This one takes us all the way back to 2002. It's a fine sequel to a great game, has new multiplayer tools, and is easily the best PC RPG in recent memory, though it's hardly a night unlike any other.
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Medieval II: Total War

Publisher: Sega
Genre: Strategy
MSRP: $44.95
It's been a strong year for strategy games, and Medieval II might be the strongest of the bunch. With epic battles and a staggering amount of detail, this may be the one game to rule them all.
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World of Warcraft

Publisher: Blizzard
Genre: MMORPG
MSRP: $19.99
If you know a gamer who owns a PC, this is probably what they play. If they don't, you should buy it for them, especially if you never want to see them again.
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Even with the PS3 hitting store shelves and Wii players hitting each other, the strongest arm on the playground still belongs to the PS2 this holiday season. Don't believe us? Look at these staggering hits.

Okami

Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Adventure
MSRP: $35.95
The magnum opus of the now defunct Clover Studios, Okami is the definitive sleeper hit – no one knows about it, and everyone should. With matching water color graphics and a brilliant paint-brush magic system, this game is literally a playable work of art.
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Bully

Publisher: Rockstar
Genre: Action
MSRP: $38.99
The most controversial game since Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Bully will only make you question authority when it asks you to stop playing. It's just like being a teenager again, except fun.
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Guitar Hero 2

Publisher: RedOctane
Genre: Rhythm
MSRP: $79.99
Last year's platinum sleeper hit returns for an encore with cooperative play, a practice mode and awesome new songs like Misirlou and Trogdor, as well as a slick red guitar (or you can just get the game). This time, they really do want you to play Freebird.
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God Hand

Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Action
MSRP: $29.99
This wacky brawler was Clover Studio's final fight, literally. With tons of crazy moves, over-the-top characters, and a near budget price tag, this sleeper hit smacks of quality. Way to go out swinging, Clover.
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Final Fantasy XII

Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: RPG
MSRP: $39.99
Square Enix hates saying goodbye, it's the only explanation for twelve Final Fantasies. And who can blame 'em? Instead, say hello to a hundred more hours of adventurous RPG bliss.
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Lego Star Wars II

Publisher: LucasArts
Genre: Action
MSRP: $39.82
Has there ever been a less likely winning combination than Star Wars and Legos? Sorry hookers and coke, you count as very likely. And if you get this game for Christmas, you'll very likely have a blast. These are the droids you're looking for.
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What's big, black, and harder to find than a single girl who plays video games? That's right, Sony's waffle iron from hell, the PS3. If you pick one up, make sure and sell your second kidney for these two hot games.

Resistance: Fall of Man

Publisher: Sony
Genre: First-person shooter
MSRP: $57.99
This action packed shooter blends a World War II setting with an alien invasion story into one of the most gorgeously confusing packages since Anna Nicole Smith lost all that weight. If you own a PS3, you have to have this game.
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Fight Night Round 3

Publisher: EA
Genre: Boxing
MSRP: $59.99
Fight Night Round 3 is a big fish in a small pond right now on the PS3, but with its solid controls, stunning graphics and smart new first-person perspective, it's a whale on any scale.
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Last year, the 360 seemed a dubious prospect with its short list of launch titles, limited availability and confusing 'Core' versus 'Premium' models, making this holiday season a 180 degree turn for the better. With an awesome library, reasonable price tag and tons of movies, TV shows and demos available on Xbox Live!, this system is hitting its stride at just the right time.

Gears of War

Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: First-person shooter
MSRP: $59.88
The cream of the 360 crop, this game rises to the top of our list for its bloody visuals, innovative controls, excellent cooperative play and, of course, chainsaws. Fickle online matchmaking is the only thing that stands between this game and world domination.
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Rainbow Six Vegas

Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Tactical shooter
MSRP: $58.88
In spite of its name, this game is far from a gamble. With even better mechanics than Gears of War, the best online versus play for the 360, and a cool face-mapping system, Rainbow Six Vegas is a sure bet.
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NBA 2K7

Publisher: 2K Sports
Genre: Racing
MSRP: $58.88
This is the closest you can get to actually playing a televised game of basketball. Lifelike animations, photorealistic graphics and a roster full of modes, features and options combine for the video game equivalent of the 1992 Dream Team.
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Dead Rising

Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Action
MSRP: $58.88
Think you have a high threshold for the shambling dead? This game will put your devotion to the test, with more zombies than you can wave a hockey stick at, or an electric guitar, or anything else you can find in the mall. We just couldn't get enough.
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Splinter Cell Double Agent

Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action
MSRP: $58.88
Sam may be getting a little long in the tooth, but his latest is still one of the season's best for the 360. With a solid campaign and revamped online multiplayer, Double Agent is another Mission Accomplished for Ubisoft's veteran voyeur.
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Depending who you ask, the Wii is either a revolutionary step in a brave new direction or a Gamecube with a dangerous controller. In our opinion, it's an innovative alternative to spending a ton of cash…with a dangerous controller. It lacks the polygonal punch of its rivals, instead letting you punch at the screen, possibly even through it.

But the Wii has more going for it than random accidents and family room bloopers. Straight out of the box, Wii Sports is addictive, universally enjoyable and free, plus there's a nice selection of classic NES, SNES, Genesis and N64 titles available through the user friendly Virtual Console service.

Nintendo is back.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Adventure
MSRP: $49.99
It won't do your homework, turn lead into gold, or fix your broken television, but it will entertain you for hours and hours as you save Hyrule, bash skeletons, and solve mind bending puzzles. If you own this game, you should probably get a Wii, too.
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Rayman Raving Rabbids

Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Party
MSRP: $49.99
Possibly the best party game since "King's Cup," Rayman Raving Rabbids is great with large quantities of alcohol and people. But remember, alcohol, a Wiimote and your plasma screen TV will mix, so please, play responsibly. And by that, we mean at someone else's house. 
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Sony's little wonder is slowly but surely building an impressive library, so clear some porn off your memory card for these excellent new additions.

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

Publisher: Konami
Genre: Action
MSRP: $38.88
The best game yet for the PSP, Portable Ops features an awesome campaign, great online play, and an outstanding collectible system. There is no escaping this snake's powerful coils, nor should there be.
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Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror

Publisher: Sony
Genre: Action
MSRP: $38.88
We aren't sure what's more surprising: that Sony didn't simply port an older Syphon Filter, or that this might be the best game for the PSP, ever. Great things really do come in small packages.
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Daxter

Publisher: Sony
Genre: Action
MSRP: $38.88
This essential PSP action game comes from the new Ready At Dawn Studios. And after a few minutes of this game's seemless, streaming single player campaign, you'll be ready to play it morning, noon and night.
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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

Publisher: Rockstar
Genre: Action
MSRP: $48.88
This isn't our favorite GTA, but it's still one of the best PSP games around with excellent 80s music, ultra-violence, and top notch voice acting. It's a vice worth picking up.
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Tekken: Dark Resurrection

Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: Fighting
MSRP: $38.88

Yet another surprisingly solid version of a Playstation classic, Dark Resurrection is almost everything you could want in a portable Tekken.

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Gitaroo Man Lives!

Publisher: Koei
Genre: Rhythm
MSRP: $38.88

Gitaroo Man wha-? Well, he rock battles with diabolical musicians for the fate of the world, and even finds time to serenade a lovely lady or two. It's a rhythm game with a sweet story, a quirky gem for your PSP.

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The DS is quickly flying off shelves, but new games aren't coming as rapidly as the quirky system is going. Still, the year produced a few fine two-headed offspring, so without further ado we present:.

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime

Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Action
MSRP: $34.99

Rocket Slime is about a slime named Rocket (go figure) who must engage in tank warfare to rescue the kidnapped members of the slime kingdom. It's weirder than it sounds, and offers the best versus play on the DS since Advance Wars. Get slimed.

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Elite Beat Agents

Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Racing
MSRP: $34.99

Developed by iNiS, the guys who made Gitaroo Man Lives!, this is another wacky rhythm game with an infectiously funny plot, starring, of all people, male cheerleaders. Gimme a WHY?!

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With micro transactions invading our systems like so many little green men, our only hope may be the gift cards we find in our stockings, *hint hint.*

Gamefly Subscription

MSRP: Varies
But before getting to funny money, allow us to expand on the virtues of not paying the MSRP for a video game, ever. This can be done with a little help from Gamefly. Functioning just like Netflix, this service lets you play all the games you want, without pawning your girlfriend's jewelry or donating blood until you inevitably shrivel up and die. You have nothing to lose, except the games themselves.

Hook me up, GR!

 

Live Marketplace Points

MSRP: 1600 for $19.99

Xbox Live! isn't just how you play online anymore, especially since November 22nd, when the service began selling individual television episodes and feature length films. While the service isn't as robust as On Demand cable, it's only been active for three weeks, and remember, Microsoft has more money than God. Not to mention all the demos, arcade games and other random things a person can buy on Xbox Live! Twenty bucks can either buy your friend/nephew a fraction of a game (Thanks a lot), or a few games and maybe a TV show or movie. The future of unimaginative gifts is now.

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Wii Points Card

MSRP: 2000 for $19.99

Same basic idea as the Live Marketplace Points, except their conversion actually makes sense (100 Wii points = 1 dollar), and instead of spending them on episodes of Jericho, you can buy classic NES, SNES, N64, Genesis and TurboGrafx-16 games through Nintendo's Virtual Console service, including the original Legend of Zelda, Altered Beast, Bonk's Adventure, Gunstar Heroes, F-Zero and Mario 64, for between 500 to 1200 points. Clap if you like VC!

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World of Warcraft Trading Card Game

MSRP: Starter Deck for $19.95

Perfect for the WoW fan in your life, provided you can pry their cold, claw-like hands from the mouse and keyboard long enough to actually check a stocking. When they do, they'll be pleasantly surprised to find not only a great CCG (collectible card game), but several cards that can be redeemed for actual in-game items, such as the sleek and desirable turtle mount. Trust us, it's faster than it looks, and guys pretending to be chics dig it.

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