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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 December 2005, 09:56 GMT
360 games struggle to make the grade
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

The launch games for the Xbox 360 from Activision and Sega are a mixed bag, with some faring better than others in the transition to the next generation.

CALL OF DUTY 2 (ACTIVISION)

Call of Duty 2 screenshot
Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 7
Enduring appeal: 7
Overall: 7.5
The World War II veteran from Activision has become one of the best-selling games for the Xbox 360 and with good reason.

It has everything gamers wishing for an intense war game could desire, with the sound of bullets whistling past and the ground shaking from enemy bombing.

The 360 edition is essentially a souped-up version of the PC version of the game. But it proves a worthy outing for the battle-hardened franchised.

Call of Duty 2 looks great on the Xbox 360. In particular, the smoke effects are remarkably realistic.

With so much lead in the air, gamers are likely to find themselves regularly reaching for the smoke grenades to get through the ruins of a Russian city or the dunes of North Africa.

The game pushes the audio capabilities of the Xbox 360 to create a maelstrom of war sounds that is certain to annoy the neighbours.

For all its merits, Call of Duty falls short of being a classic title. The gameplay quickly becomes repetitive and suffers from a linear design.

Gamers may feel frustrated that they are being led by the nose to achieve an objective, before they can move on to the next one.

Despite these qualms, the game stands out as one of the best titles available for the Xbox 360 and hints at just how much power there is beneath the hood of Microsoft's new machine.

QUAKE IV (ACTIVISION)

Quake IV screenshot
Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 7
Enduring appeal: 6
Overall: 7
The world of Quake IV will hold few surprises for the veteran of games such as Doom.

It is hardly surprising that the game looks just like Doom 3 on a high-end PC, with crisp graphics and dazzling lighting effects, as both share the same technology.

But the debut of the gory sci-fi shooting fest on the Xbox 360 offers little to set it apart from the PC version of Quake IV.

The game boils down to getting hold of the biggest, meanest gun and blasting your way to victory.

Yes, the action is intense and the violence is visceral. And yes, there is a twist in the story of the marine battling alien invaders.

But the novelty of walking down a dark corridor and blowing away alien nasties quickly wears off.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the online multiplayer element. While other games are exploring the potential of Xbox Live, this one is simply a remake of the PC multiplayer game, Quake III Arena, which dates back to 2001.

The biggest weakness of Quake IV on the Xbox 360 is that there is nothing that experienced gamers will not have seen before.

GUN (ACTIVISION)

Gun screenshot
Graphics: 6
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 7
Enduring appeal: 6
Overall: 6
The world of the Wild West is poorly represented in games and Gun does little to fix this.

The Western third-person action adventure from Activision is a kind of Grand Theft Auto set in the 1800s, with horses taking the place of cars.

But the title on the Xbox 360 does not live up to its promise and graphically, it is a huge disappointment. On a standard TV set, there is little to distinguish the 360 version from its older Xbox cousin.

In terms of gameplay, this involves a mixture of shooting, horse-riding, some more shooting and solving the occasional puzzle.

The overall feel is of a decidedly average title for the Xbox 360 and one only for hardcore fans of Westerns.

CONDEMNED (SEGA)

Condemned screenshot
Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 7
Enduring appeal: 7
Overall: 7
It takes a brave gamer to venture into the disturbing world of Sega's Condemned. The first-person horror adventure title for the Xbox 360 is guaranteed to have players on edge as it plunges them into a brutal underworld of crime.

Condemned owes much of its look and feel to David Fincher's Seven, with dark, green and grey environments reminiscent of those in the film.

Graphically, the game is beautifully detailed on the Xbox 360, with a chilling degree of photo-realism which helps to create an eerie atmosphere.

This is not a game for the squeamish. Most of the action involves visceral hand-to-hand fighting using a variety of weapons, from crowbars to sledgehammers.

These intense fights are where Condemned is at its best and worst. The pain of a blow is convincingly conveyed as the screen turns red and the vision is slightly blurred. But the fighting controls require a degree of timing which is tricky to master.

The game also involves a degree of investigation, using an array of hi-tech toys. Unfortunately these parts of the game are mechanical and uninteresting.

All too often, it feels like you are simply going through the motions to get to the next stage of the game.

Condemned succeeds in creating an unsettling underworld where terror lurks in the shadows, but is less convincing as standout Xbox 360 game.




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