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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Games making a splash at X06
Microsoft is hoping that a new round of games for its Xbox 360 console will be good enough to topple Sony as it prepares to release the PlayStation 3 in the US and Japan.

The BBC News website highlights the games stealing the limelight at the X06 Xbox event in Barcelona.

GEARS OF WAR

Gears of War
Gears of War offers heavy duty action

Gears of War is a giant bazooka of a game for Microsoft as the company prepares to go head-to-head with Sony's PlayStation 3.

This is a game that appeals to players who like their games loud, violent and relentless.

You play a disgraced marine who is released from prison to help mankind fight an alien horde called the locust who have taken control of large parts of the planet.

The visual style of the game is breathtaking - mixing the production values of a graphic novel with a gothic horror movie.

Some may argue that the palette of the game is limited and its true there is a lot of grey but the design of the world is unmatched in action games.

Only the initial level of the game has been shown to journalists but it is a frenetic, adrenaline-filled ride.

Seen from a third-person perspective the game has introduced some novel touches including a cinematic-mode; when prompted you can choose to get a more widescreen feel to the action.

The idea works very well because it adds another dimension to the game without removing you from the action at large.

Elements such as camera shake when your character is crouching and running also gives the game the feel of documentary footage.

But this game is all about guns and grenades and plays very well indeed: Grab a gun, find cover and start shooting.

The enemy AI seems solid and the locust soldiers will happily leap over a wall and smack you on the head if you are crouched behind getting your breath back.

There are some concerns about variety as the opening level is little more than running and gunning.

But this looks to be the biggest weapon in Microsoft's arsenal this Christmas.

Gears of War is released on 17 November in the UK. Other countries vary.

FIFA 07

Fifa 07
Fifa has gone back to the drawing board

Every year it is the same argument - Fifa versus Pro Evolution Soccer (PES).

And every year the critics favour PES while the game buying public choose the latest Fifa title.

For this year's Fifa release the developers have gone back to the drawing board - re-writing the game's graphics engine, animations, the artificial intelligence and the ball physics.

First impressions are that the re-write has done a world of good. Fifa has always felt more of an arcade title than PES but now it is much closer to a simulation.

Players feel responsive, the animations are authentic and even the ball no longer feels like it is attached to the players' feet with a piece of string.

Shooting has always been Fifa's weak point but now it feels under your control and not a pre-determined exercise in button pressing.

Throw in the usual Electronic Arts' polish - from user interface to music and commentary and it is a strong package.

Fifa 07 will also have real world football results, text news on your favourite team and even podcasts to download within the game.

Perhaps this year Fifa will win over both the critics and the consumers.

Fifa 07 is expected to be released before Christmas on the Xbox 360.

ASSASSIN'S CREED

Assassin's Creed
Assassin's Creed offers stealth and sword play

The team behind the excellent title Prince of Persia: Sands of Time have shifted their attention to the time of the Crusades in the middle ages and the murky, cut throat world of assassins.

Promising historical authenticity, the game puts you into the character of an assassin who must carry out his merciless work undetected.

The game harnasses the power of next-generation machines with populated towns and villages in which crowds react to your behaviour in a life-like manner.

The scores of people wandering the streets get startled, frightened, angry and can even panic en masse creating new obstacles for a fleeing assassin, hell-bent on escaping the clutches of soldiers.

Your character can navigate the rooftops of towns, leaping from building to building and scaling walls, swinging from beams and window sills with amazing grace and fluidity.

The realism of the character model is startling at first because it is so life-like and has been modelled on the modern-day "free-running" phenomenon.

Only a demo of the title was being shown to journalists so it is hard to judge how simple the controls are but if it manages to combine freedom of movement with ease of use then Assassin's Creed could be a breakthrough in game design.

Assassin's Creed is to be released in 2007 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

FORZA MOTORSPORT 2

Forza 2
Forza Motorsport 2 is gunning for the top racing title

Microsoft took full advantage of recent news that Sony's rival Gran Turismo title for the PS3 would only come with a handful of cars with which to drive and the others being available for download.

"We will ship the game with 300 cars and more than 70 tracks on the disk," said Xbox chief Peter Moore.

High definition was always going to suit racing games that thrive on realism and Forza 2 is one of the best-looking titles for Xbox 360.

Racing tracks are not the most interesting places visually so the developers have made all the little details as authentic as possible.

Grass on tracksides is three dimensional rather than flat, tyres leave rubber marks on the tarmac, crowds react to events and the cars sustain damage.

The developers say they want to turn racing game fans into car freaks and car freaks into racing game fans and so have pitched the driving simulation at a level of realism that will appeal to both.

Forza's unique selling point has been the ability to customise your car and to create a unique livery for your machine.

The livery editor for Forza 2 has been revampled so that cars now have tens of thousands of different visual styles, emblems, colours and logos that can be applied.

You can race your unique car online and take photos which can be posted to websites, blogs and even your mobile phone.

Forza Motorsport 2 is to be released in 2007.




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