Microsoft called yesterday the biggest day in the history of entertainment, and after months of hype and anticipation Halo 3 finally has arrived. But what if shooting aliens and playing as an iron-clad warrior isn’t exactly your thing? Let’s face it, playing as the socially awkward Master Chief for 11-20 hours might not be everyone’s idea of the perfect gaming experience. And while Halo 3 is a good enough game there are plenty of alternatives if you get sick of a linear shooter with annoying little aliens. So if saving the world yet again sounds painfully dull, we offer some alternatives for getting the game on.
Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII
Platform: PlayStation3/Xbox 360/PC
Sure Master Chief may have his convertible Warthog to drive and that powerful suit (which has to smell bad at this point; we’re just saying), but wouldn’t you rather soar like an eagle than fight on the ground? Blazing Angels 2, the sequel to the highflying aerial combat simulator, features 18 new missions that include daredevil dogfights, stealthy bomb runs and just over-the-top gameplay. While the physics are more arcade-like and forgiving than Flight Simulator the action is truly intense.
Blazing Angels 2 features more than 50 authentic planes and prototypes including the Gotha Go229, DH Vampire F Mk1, Meteor, Me 262 and Me-163 “Komet.” And while flight games typically feature generic ground terrain, you’ll get to fly low to the hard deck and buzz over Cairo, Red Square, Rome and head over the Alps and Himalayas to dodge those pesky mountains that can end your flight all too quickly.
This one is also from the Indiana Jones school of military history as you battle those vial Nazis. Don’t look for realistic Battle of Britain combat, but rather flights around Zeppelins (which weren’t used during WWII we should add) and against enemy missile bases. And who says Halo 3 has good multiplayer? Blazing Angels 2 features 16-player free-for-all, co-op and squad-based missions. Time to take to the wild blue yonder.
It all began more than 15 years ago as SimCity, the real-time city management simulation, and then about a decade ago morphed into the phenomena known as The Sims. Here you could control the lives of virtual people. For some this was a little too close to home (and no one wants to have better sim-lives than their real ones), so now the designers have created MySims, where you can take part in a more cartoony version of the Sim world that lets players guide these digital life forms through every day tasks in most surreal ways. While this game is much more kid focused, it is one that will surely be loved by all ages.
Much of the gameplay is clearly aimed at tweens, or those creepy people that like playing games for tween, but it is manages to be compelling in a strange way. You can build and customize an entire town, design items and even your own Sims (which will surely give Nintendo’s own Mii’s a run for their money). No doubt this will be a hit among those stoner gamers. But it does beg the question if games like this one are making us wait for Spore!
Platforms: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360
Move over Tony Hawk, there is a new board master on the block, and you can can hit the half-pipe, perform ollies, grinds and catch some air. And while you obviously shouldn’t look for Tony Hawk, other professional skaters including Danny Way, Chris Cole, Mike Carroll and Rob Dyrdek are present in SKATE, and in the game if you make the right moves in the game you can land on the cover of Thrasher magazine.
Experience Hawk fans shouldn’t expect another button masher either. SKATE features an innovative “Flickit” dual analog control that lets you perform skill-based tricks, and makes for more intuitive gameplay. While this might take some getting use to, the controls do feel much more natural and lifelike. OK, in fairness it has been more than 15 years since I’ve actually been on a real skateboard, but Tony Hawk never captured the moves quite like the real thing, so SKATE feels like a trip back in time – and since there is no way I’d get on a real board, this will do just fine!
Sony Computer Entertainment America
Platform: PlayStation 3
Now we’re not saying the Master Chief isn’t a brave warrior. He’s taken on the Covenant almost single handedly, he’s the savior of Earth, and he’s survived falls that… well, just don’t seem survivable. But does he ever really get up close and personal with the badguys? Maybe if he wielded a big sword we’d have a little more respect for the guy.
Nariko, the fierce, red-haired warrior from Heavenly Sword doesn’t need any power army to bring the pain with a really big sword. But this being another over-the-top video game it isn’t just any sword. In fact that’s the irony of the game, and the sword of the same name. This sword wasn’t meant for a mere mortal, even one as scantily clad and attractive as Nariko, and when wielded by one drains the user’s life force. Thus Nariko must embark on a campaign against the evil King Bohan, and take down the enemy before the sword kills her.
Fortunately Nariko doesn’t have to go it along in this third-person fantasy action adventure, as her adopted sister Kai, a child-like warrior who is extremely skilled with a crossbow, will help bring pain and suffering to Bohan’s forces. And as with Halo 3, we’re impressed with the story telling of Heavenly Sword, which actually begins with the final battle and tells the tale in a series of flashbacks from the past few days.
So would you rather watch Master Chief in his smelly armor shoot things, or play as two badass chicks looking to bring justice to the world?