Spittin’ Game: Holiday Edition, Part I

Saints Row 2


PlayStation 3


If you make it past the multiple screens of character-creation options (obsessives could spend 20 minutes modifying the bridge of the nose alone), Saints Row 2 offers a different experience from the Grand Theft Auto franchise from which it was Xeroxed. While San Andreas and GTA IV marked a move toward mature and complex storytelling over (or actually through) the infamous gratuitous sex and violence, Saint's Row 2 veers down the road less respected with juvenile humor and over-the-top savagery. In your quest for gangland supremacy in the city of Stillwater (definitely not in Oklahoma), you’ll commit insurance fraud, escort prostitutes, and hose down churches with human shit. These and other equally ridiculous side missions earn you the respect you need to challenge rival gangs and law enforcement-agencies. You'll also shoot your way out of a murder trial, take hostages out of a bank, and murder drug lords in overly elaborate ways. At times, this decidedly different approach to the sandbox cop-killer genre seems to be executed nearly as well as Rockstar's interactive crime noir. Unfortunately, SR2 can't match the technical miracles of GTAIV, and you're left roaming deserted streets, I Am Legend style, spending minutes at a time looking for cars to steal or people to kill. The game is also infested with mostly harmless but irritating clipping glitches and some infuriating lock-ups. But ultimately you'll keep rebooting and replaying, because GTAIV doesn't let you spray the suburbs with raw sewage.


Far Cry 2


PlayStation 3


This game is almost too pretty to stay mad at, but the lack of save points becomes a real deal-breaker. The setting's changed from a tropical island to undeveloped Africa, but the Far Cry series is still nearly all eye candy. You play as a mercenary hired to facilitate a revolution in war-torn Central Africa. The grassy plains, fertile river basins, and shadowy green woods are all beautifully rendered, but lazy environmental interaction leaves the experience on the wrong side of the uncanny valley, and an extremely limited amount of save points often requires you to replay 20 or so minutes of fighting anytime you die, leading to more frustration than acceptable for a next-gen game. The inspired brush-fire physics look incredible, even if a little piece of your inner liberal dies every time you set the Serengeti ablaze, but the visual awesomeness isn't enough to justify the stiff gameplay and inconvenient save system.




Mortal Kombat vs. the DC Universe


Xbox 360


Get ready to settle that old dispute over who would win in a fight between Sub Zero and Batman, the scientific way – two fights out of three. The half-ass explanation about wormholes or something bringing the two universes together is probably not nearly as interesting as the actual story behind the negotiations that allowed this insanity to happen. The cut scenes are beyond unnecessary, but the fighting is surprisingly seam-free. Batman, Superman, the Flash, and even Captain Marvel and the Joker all make for wonderful Kombatants while staying relatively true to their comic-book selves. The combo system has never been more user-friendly; it gives you a list of steps for most special moves. Even so, the more complex combinations still require practice I’m not willing to do and timing I’ve never been able to grasp to execute. Complaints about the neutered Kombat — DC heroes, who do not kill, only perform non-fatal “brutalities” on their nearly fallen opponents, and the fatalities for the other, less-principled characters have been toned down to secure a Teen rating — are somewhat justified, and MK's somewhat clunky, cheap-tactics-based fighting system gets tiring, but fanboys and casual fighting gamers will want to grab this when it hits the bargain bins.          

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