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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Microsoft sued over Halo 3 "Consistent" crash

Master Chief better get a good lawyer to go along with his plasma gun.

A San Diego resident who recently purchased Halo 3, which stars the pistol packing super soldier, has filed a lawsuit against Microsoft - alleging that the company released a faulty product that frequently crashes when played on the Xbox 360.

In court papers filed this week, Randy Nunez charges that Halo 3 "consistently causes the Xbox 360 to crash, freeze, or lock up while the game is being played."

Along with Microsoft, Nunez also is suing Bungie, which developed Halo 3 along with Microsoft and recently spun off from the software maker. The action was filed in U.S. District Court in Southern California.

Nunez said he purchased a copy of Halo 3 at a Gamestop store in San Diego in mid-October. When he tried to play it on his Xbox 360, the system "repeatedly locked up, froze and/or crashed," Nunez said in court papers.

The lawsuit contends that the problem is widespread, and that Microsoft and Bungie haven't taken any steps to fix it.

"Although faced with repeated and mounting consumer complaints and inquiries concerning this operational flaw in Halo 3, the defendants have failed to recall Halo 3 or otherwise remedy its failure to function on the Xbox 360," the suit alleges.

As a result, Nunez charges that Microsoft and Bungie are in violation of consumer protection laws. Nunez is asking the court to give the suit class action status and is seeking unspecified damages.

Microsoft and Bungie have yet to file a formal response to Nunez' allegations.

Halo 3 smashed video game industry sales records when it debuted in September. It took in more than $300 million in sales during its first week on the market, including $170 million in first-day receipts.

Check our Halo 3 contest, u might win a free Halo 3!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No Guitar Hero 3 guitars till next year

Those looking forward to a Christmas of co-op fake guitar action will be disappointed to hear that standalone Guitar Hero 3 wireless guitars will not be in the shops until early next year.
That leaves rocking PS3, Wii and every-other-platform gamers with the choice of buying another copy of the game to get their two-player action on, or buggering it off altogether until after the mince pies have gone away.

UK outfit is being shy as to whether Europe is in the same situation. We're guessing we're not going to find standalone guitars until next year either.

Xbox 360 and PS2 owners can take refuge in the fact that old GHII controllers will work just fine with the latest instalment,

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ubisoft Reveals Rainbow Six Vegas 2

Ubisoft has announced a sequel to last year's tactical first-person-shooter Rainbow Six Vegas is in the works, and it's coming as soon as March of next year. Additionally, Free Radical's PS3 exclusive shooter Haze has been delayed into early next year, despite the recent confirmation of a December release date. The news all comes as part of Ubisoft's financial report for the first half of the fiscal year, which according to Gamastura shows their sales up 52% to $372.86 million, and profits up 12% to $44.8 million.

"Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas took the gaming world by storm in 2006 thanks to its technological advances and gameplay innovations," said Ubisoft President and CEO Yves Guillemot. "We are convinced that Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2 will remain a pioneer in the highly competitive first person shooter genre, bringing more of what Rainbow Six fans love to the table."

Ubisoft Montreal is once again developing the sequel, set to arrive only a little more than a year after its predecessor. Compare that to Ghost Recon:Advanced WarFighter 2, however, which came almost exactly one year after the original.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Microsoft begins Xbox live bans!

It appears that Microsoft is bringing out the ban hammer once again. According to a thread on an Xbox-Scene forum, users are having their Live wrists slapped left, right, and center due to "bad discs" (i.e., non 1:1 copies of games).

Initially, the problem seemed to be modified DVD firmware, but it now appears the cause is due to game data that isn't properly copied, or has been "touched" in some manner. Keep in mind, these are console bans, as opposed to Live account bans, which is a minor amount of good news.

The forums are abuzz with profane indictments of Microsoft and calls for heads on platters (okay, it's not that bad) -- but mostly everyone is just waiting to see where the next hit will come from. You've been warned, folks.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Xbox 360 fall update feature listed leaked

According to reports, a member of the official Xbox forums posted up the entire list of what can be expected in this Fall's Xbox 360 dashboard update, however his original post has been deleted from the official Xbox site. Anyhow, check out the full list.

Compatibility with 3rd party wireless controllers
Compatibility with messenger pad
Xbox Live Vision firmware upgrade, sharper image filtering
Many more Vision Cam settings
New screensaver settings - when away from Xbox 360, screensaver will play for optional time, before screen goes dark
New Xbox Live Arcade blade - where you can download, play and learn about Xbox Live Arcade
Brand new “web based adver-games” flash games which aren’t downloaded, but are playable bite sized games, accessed via new Xbox Live Arcade Blade
New Screensaver option in Themes and Gamer Pics option in Marketplace blade
New functionality with Messenger, works with chatpad
New XNA Game Launcher for those that have the program, new options
New language, time and date settings
New “advertising opportunities” in gameplay
Xvid support
New “favourites” option via Xbox Live Arcade, can rate according to preference
IPTV Functionality - support for TiVo like PVR options. Will be able to record TV direct. Options include source by channel, director, actor and distributor
Filter friends list, will be able to filter friends via games
New clan support - will be able to launch clan games direct from dashboard, can “fold” friends into new clan category in friends list
Better translations in settings and other options for Japanese, German and Spanish languages
New quick option to delete via X Button in memory viewer.
Option for having downloadable In-game content not inform when completed download
Option for having video content not inform when completed download
Faster settings for viewing unfinished video content downloads
New option in Games tab - beta and others, will be launcher for MMO and multiplayer betas
New option in Marketplace Games tab, search by letter, can be inputted via text pad or console
Smarter game settings - you can be messaged via publishers about new in-game content for your games
Picture in picture functionality for DVD Drive and some other updated settings
Improved USB Keyboard settings
Improved voice chat settings in game and from dashboard
Faster response times to Redeem Code settings
Option to play a Redeemed Code game straight after redeeming code
Console will now recognise low Hard Drive space, will inform you immediately if can’t download current item, will automatically download next available that is able.
Increased space size for gamerpics and dashboard themes
Themes can now be animated
Themes may now have sound effects
Better slideshow capabilities, new options added. New sound effects and integration with Hard Drive/ PC music capable.
New estimated timer for downloads, informing how long download will expect to take.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Xbox 360 help Halo 3 giveaway!

XBox360Help is having a FREE HALO 3 giveaway! Yes, that's right; a free copy of the critically acclaimed game, Halo 3!

There are no strings attached, folks; its just an e-mail raffle. Simply send an e-mail with the subject line of "I want to win a free Halo 3" to:

On the 21st of December, XBox360Help will randomly choose an e-mail address from all respondents.

To receive the prize! Send us an email as soon as possible to get a chance to WIN a FREE HALO 3!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Major Nelson warns Xbox Live Cheaters

Larry Hryb, Director of Programming for Xbox Live and better known to gamers as Major Nelson, warned gamers about sharing account information and tampering with one's Gamerscore or Achievements.

In a blog post, Major Nelson warned that, aside from being a violation of the terms of service, sharing account information could result in a loss of that account.

He added that if players “employ some nefarious techniques to artificially increase [their] Gamerscore or obtain achievements by manipulating the Xbox software without playing the game,” their Gamerscore could be removed or their account and/or console might be banned from Xbox Live.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Xbox Games Now Downloadable on Xbox 360 Marketplace

Timed to correspond with the five-year anniversary of Xbox Live, Microsoft has announced it will begin adding original Xbox titles to the Xbox 360's Live Marketplace for users to download to their hard drive.

Xbox Live first burst onto the scene in 2002, a year or so after the release of the original Xbox console. Since then it has gained around eight million users, completely dwarfing any other non-PC online gaming service.

On December 4, Microsoft will release a firmware update for the Xbox 360, which will include in part the ability to download specially chosen Xbox games from the Xbox Live Marketplace. Confirmed titles include Crimson Skies, Fable, Psychonauts, and of course Halo. The games will be priced at 1,200 Microsoft points ($15).

"On its fifth birthday, Xbox Live truly is the place for hanging out with friends and enjoying downloadable TV shows, movies, videos, game add-ons and now downloadable Xbox games on demand," said the Microsoft VP in charge of Xbox Live John Schappert.

It edges up the competition over digital downloads between Microsoft and Sony. Sony's Playstation 3 online store has been noted for its inclusion of full-length, high-capacity games including the PS3 game Warhawk. Xbox Live previously had been relegated to cheap, small casual game titles.

Microsoft will also be celebrating the five-year anniversary by awarding 500 Microsoft Points to anyone whose current Xbox Live account dates back to 2002. Additionally, beginning tomorrow, all users in the US will be able to download Carcasonne, an Xbox Live Arcade title, for free.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beowulf Preview and Trailer

Roar and gore. It' the two words that have been left lodged in our grey cells following a recent eyes-on event with Ubisoft's Beowulf.

Roar, because Beowulf's a shouty fellow with obvious anger management issues who is surrounded by thanes constantly yelling the Norse equivalent of "Beowulf FTW!"

Gore, because it's gratuitously violent. With gratuitously violent knobs on.

The game is a tie-in with Robert Zemeckis' forthcoming Beowulf movie - which in turn is based on the ancient Epic poem - and naturally borrows scenes from the flick while also featuring the notable voice acting talents of the likes of Ra
y Winstone (Beowulf), Anthony Hopkins (King Hrothgar) and Brendan Gleeson (Wiglaf). But rather than reprise just the movie in videogame form, much of Ubisoft's game focuses on a 30-year period in the fictional life of Beowulf not covered in the flick. It is, if you will, Beowulf: The Lost Years.

Boiling the game down to its bare bones, it's a third-person action-adventure steeped in Norse mythology that deals with a lead character (accompanied by a group of thane buddies) who is struggling to perform heroic, righteous feats while battling inner demons. In gameplay terms, this ongoing fight for Beowulf is represented by the player being able to switch between two types of play styles - Carnal and Heroic, both of which can be upgraded RPG-style during the game.

Carnal is akin to Beowulf unleashing berserker rage. On-screen, the world is overlayed with a tinge of red, the sound becomes muted and the violence ramps up to over-the-top mode. An already violent game, suddenly the lead character is ripping off heads, crushing enemies' chests in with knee stomps and causing gore-filled carnage with melee weapons. When the beast is let loose, no one is safe from Beowulf's ire. Both friend
and foe can be cut down in an orgy of wanton destruction.

On the flip side of the coin, Heroic mode is Beowulf creating slightly less bloody mess while strapping on goody-two-shoes. In this mode he can bo
ost the morale and combat effectiveness of comrade thanes during combat and order them to do his bidding via a simple command system.

Want that conspicuous, giant round stone rolled out of the way to reveal a cave entrance? Easy. Order your thanes and they'll shove it out the way with a testosterone-filled yell of hurrah. Well, as long as you succeed with the simple, timed mini-game t
his involves, that is.

Order Beowulf from

By design, playing in Heroic mode presents more of a challenge when stacked up against Carnal. Carnal is more seductive, an easier path to walk, helping you out of seriously sticky situations; and, at the risk sounding too much like Yoda, we'll shut up there. At this point you might expect us to start talking about a moral system impacted by the choice of play styles, except there isn't one. What you get instead, we're assured is key NPCs questioning you're actions if you revel in Carnal, but precisely what effect this has on the game overall we've not been shown.

However, what we do know is that a) there are two endings to the game depending on which of the Heroic and Carnal styles you plump for most overall and b) if all the thanes that accompany Beowulf die - the player can kill thanes when Carnal - then it's a trip to the game over screen.

It can also have a negative impact on missions if care isn't taken, as we discovered. We'd watched as Beowulf fought, fought and fought some
more, scaled cliff walls Tomb Raider-style, discovered hidden weapons in niches in rock-faces and fought more some more, but were then privy to a scene requiring the character to rescue hapless virgins from great, stomping ugly trolls and sacrifice.
Carnal mode was engaged in favour of Heroic at this point in time and, in a moment reminiscent of God of War, a sequence of timed button presses performed found Beowulf leaping onto troll necks to beat them severely around the back of the head. But in a 'whoops' moment in the heat of general melee, the lead character's sword accidentally sliced through one of the virgins. Bet she didn't see THAT coming...

Speaking of God of War, Ubisoft drew the eyes-on preview to a close by firing up the first of six main boss fights that feature in the game. And it could have been lifted straight out of a Kratos adventure.

Beowulf, muscled like a maiden's fantasy, stood defiantly alone on a small piece of land jutting out into the sea, and had the unenviable task of defeating a giant green serpent spewing up from the depths with just his bare fists and kicks.

Suddenly one serpent is joined by another, their heads snapping forward and giant pointy teeth attempting to sink into human flesh. But an opportunity suddenly presented itself in the shape of timed button presses, which saw Beowulf leaping up onto a serpent's neck, ripping a massive horn out of its back and ramming it home into the beast's head - with plenty of blood spurting, naturally.
Xbox 360 Beowulf trailer:

Then we assume it was a case of rinse and repeat, but the demonstration ended before the battle's climax. Oh well, And that concluded the end of our observation of Beowulf, with the red of blood left imprinted on our retinas and the sound of shouting Vikings ringing in our ears. The game's out next month on Xbox 360.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Supreme Commander confirmed for Xbox 360 in 2008

Officially confirming statements by Chris Taylor of Gas Powered Games, publisher Aspyr Media has announced that PC real-time strategy title Supreme Commander is in the works for Xbox 360. Vancouver-based Hellbent Games, founded in 2006 by former Rockstar Vancouver/Barking Dog Studios designer Christopher Mair, will be handling the port.

Due in early 2008, the Xbox 360 port of the game will feature newly-created units, maps, multiplayer modes, and interface and HUD elements. Xbox Live-based online multiplayer will of course be supported.

"We believe that we¹ve raised the bar for RTS gaming on the PC and now, co-developing with Hellbent Games, we know that we can do the same on consoles," said Taylor in today's announcement. Last month, Taylor characterized Xbox 360 as "the platform of choice for moving stuff from the PC." He acknowledged the strategy genre's control interface obstacles on consoles, but stated, "we're getting closer and closer to that touchdown."

Aspyr will be publishing Supreme Commander on Xbox 360; it will be the company's first game for Microsoft's current-gen console. PC version publisher THQ does not appear to be directly involved.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Need for speed: Prostreet release

Compete at the highest level of street racing with Need for Speed ProStreet. It's no longer good enough to simply rule your local neighborhood; you need to dominate on a global stage. Build the ultimate battle machine, take it to multi-disciplinary showdowns and pit your skills and reputation against the world's best street racers. Every dent, every scratch and every crumpled body panel is a battle scar, proof of your commitment and competitive mettle. This is your chance to prove that you have what it takes to be crowned the next Street King. Need for Speed ProStreet is the realization of the raw power, visceral aggression and intense rivalry that embodies street racing culture.


  • Real, Adrenaline-Fueled Racing—Experience the raw power of street racing with a brand new physics engine, and intuitively refined AI.
  • Dominate Across All Racing Disciplines—Prove yourself in four distinct styles of racing: Drag, Drift, Grip, and the all-new Speed Challenge.
  • Ride the Edge of Disaster—One wrong move, and witness the consequences of your mistakes via truly advanced and comprehensive damage capturing technology.
  • Performance Drives Results—Choose from hundreds of real-world, aftermarket parts and see the impact of visual Autosculpt technology on performance - all in real time.
  • Redefining Competitive Social Play—Redefined online features amp the spirit of competition and create for the ultimate showdown.
  • Share your Tuning Capabilities with the World—The all-new Blueprints feature allows you to upload your visual and performance customization settings online. You'll be credited each time your design is used to dominate a race.
Need for speed: Prostreet is to be released on the 11th of November, Preorder your copy at

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Family Timer" The new feature added on December update

Coming with the newest Xbox 360 dashboard update in early December, the "Family Timer" will allow parents to set a limit to gaming hours; notifications will warn the gamer periodically of the time remaining. This new feature headlines the joint initiative between Microsoft and the PTA called "PACT": a family contract "intended to foster family discussion surrounding screen time guidelines."

Manage Play Allowance Screen

"As a leader in interactive entertainment, it's Microsoft's responsibility to provide parents with tools they can use to manage their children's video gaming and online experiences, and we have made that a priority from the very start," Microsoft's Robbie Bach said in a statement.

The PTA, of course, agrees, and CEO Warlene Gary noted that "as times change and technology advances, the role of the parent stays the same in raising a safe, healthy, and successful child. PTA is proud to partner with Microsoft to provide parents with more resources that keep them involved in their children's lives."

In-Game Timer Notification

This will be sort of a disaster for some kids who will be forced then to quickly save the game before it automatically turn off, would that be a good step or a non needed one??

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Scene it? Review and Trailer.

Scene it game is making its way to Xbox 360, complete with four newly crafted (and by "newly crafted" we mean that they blatantly ripped off Buzz's controller design) controllers.

The real question with Scene It? isn't whether it's fun, because it is, but instead it's whether or not you should spend the extra twenty bucks on converting to the Xbox 360 alternative when there are already a bevy of board game options available.

A big point of contention that 360 owners are obviously going to be gabbing over for awhile is the controllers that come packed in the game.

Yes, there are four of them. Yes, they use infrared lights to communicate with your console, and yes, you do need to attach a new IR port to receive the signal. Why are they handcuffing 360 owners to the limitations of infrared technology rather than using Microsoft's proprietary wireless technology?

Our best bet is to cut costs. The additional IR dongle also allows you to keep your 360 in an entertainment center behind a closed door and simply run the receiver's wire up to ten feet away from your system. It's just a hair shorter than the wired controller's cable, so there's a good bit of freedom.

The Big Button Pad also is fairly flexible and doesn't need to be pointed directly at the receiver. The manual reads that you can be up to 15 feet away, but ours functioned properly from more than 25 feet so chances are you won't have any issues. There's also a good bit of freedom when it comes to pointing the Big Button Pad at the IR port. We were able to point our pad directly up and even tilted slightly opposite the direction of the port and could still answer questions. Just so long as there's no solid object sitting in between you and the receiver things should run smoothly. There's no question that bona fide wireless support would have been preferable but we understand the decision to leave it out and are happy to report that the IR port does indeed function well.

But does the Big Button Pad actually push Scene It? on Xbox 360 forward from what the DVD game offers? Surprisingly yes, it does. It's fun to have something different than a standard DVD remote in your hands, passing it between players, and will definitely make the game more accessible to those who have never played an Xbox 360 game before.

Not only do the controllers function just as they should, but the gameplay within Scene It? is actually pretty damn fun. For as much ridicule as I've taken for defending this game over the last few days everyone who has actually picked up a controller and given the game an honest chance has come away with at least a small grin on their face.

There are three basic modes: short play, long play, and party play. Short and long play are essentially the same game, but short play will run you around 25 minutes, whereas long play is around an hour depending on how good you and your posse are. Short play contains three rounds, with three different puzzle types (five questions per type) per round whereas long play has five puzzle types per round.
Check Scene it? At the Xbox 360 help store.
Party play is the most disappointing of the modes, as it's the one that requires you to have four players taking part. You can play with three people, but the computer will assume that there is a fourth so you'll be sitting idle as the clock ticks down waiting for someone to buzz in on the fourth controller. Granted, if you're at a party you'll likely have at least four people to play with, but if you aren't the most popular kid on the block it would be nice to have the option to play with fewer.

The short and long play are where you'll spend most of your time, and both perform extremely well once you factor out the annoying announcer and the unneeded cutscenes that are intended to set up the game. One of the features that separate the Xbox 360 version from what you've been playing since 2001 is the fact that Microsoft's system keeps track of which of the 1,800 questions you've seen already.

That means that you won't have a repeat for quite some time. When you do get a repeat, and we have, it'll likely be in the movie clips section of the game. is Scene it? constantly taking you into the "screening room" and showing off the different movie clips that it holds, far more often than any other game mode. Luckily there's no set cycle of questions, so just because you get one repeat set of questions doesn't mean that you'll have already played the subsequent bunch.

Even though the gameplay won't blow anyone's hat off, there are plenty of puzzle types that stay fun throughout the experience, which is exactly why Scene It? can be looked at as an overall success. It doesn't try to be more than it is. It's a party game through and through and you and your movie buff friends--or even casual fans--will have a blast yelling at each other and obsessing over every question that comes along. Time factors into the score you get for each correct answer and games do come down to 30 or 40 points (out of a total of around 40,000) on occasion so you can imagine the amount of tension that can bring to a household.

The game designers also did a good job of crafting questions and puzzle types for different types of players. Some types are geared towards more creative thinkers, others are geared towards analytics, and then there are strictly memory-based games. That means that you could play with four friends, through four games, and it's entirely within the realm of possibility that there could be a different winner each time.

The biggest downside to the gameplay is that there is essentially no Xbox Live integration. This game would have been perfect to play with friends or random people from across the country, or at least have the ability to download new questions for a fee from Microsoft's online service. As it stands there doesn't seem to be anything of the sort, but that's not to say that they couldn't release a patch that opens up online functionality later on.

Xbox 360 Scene it? Trailer:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare review

They say war is hell. Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare takes you to the very depths of Hades.

The long-awaited COD4, IW's follow-up to the excellent Call of Duty 2, is a jarring, intense, and gripping take on war in the new millennia. The enemies are smarter, the weapons are deadlier, and the grenades all too plentiful. COD4 will shake loose your fillings and have you begging for more.

But as any Call of Duty fan can tell you, the people at Infinity Ward are skilled storytellers and masterful scenarists. It's because of this that Modern Warfare finds itself in the company of movies like Black Hawk Down, rife with intense portrayals of serious and complicated situations that, though perhaps not entirely realistic, still convey to the rest of the nonenlisted world how war might feel: completely f***ed up.

The premise is loosely based on several volatile political situations on the other side of the world: A bloody coup occurs in an unnamed Middle Eastern nation that is fed up with Western influence and perceived imperialism. A Russian ultranationalist offshoot is trying to influence the outcome and use the Arab state's upheaval as a distraction for more nefarious and immediate plans. It's as much CNN as it is recent seasons of 24 -- events and timelines obviously exaggerated for effect. The story unfolds from an unapologetic "us versus them, and they are wrong" perspective, with little time spent on the larger philosophy of war. And that's fine, because it's ultimately a story about how soldiers execute their orders: efficiently, without question, with no room for pulpits.

Get your Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare from, click here.

Call of Duty is one of those roller coaster-type games, where you sit back and let the game guide you down one hopefully thrilling path. But the trick to pulling off a successful linear shooter is breaking the player away from the rails every so often, and that's accomplished by making encounters engaging and avoiding repetitive situations. Jumping between American, British, and Russian troops worked well in Call of Duty 2 and the same method applies for COD4. You alternate missions under British SAS and U.S. Marine Corps command, but both squads are linked by attacking the same ultimate goal from different angles, and because of that variance, it always feels like what you're doing is a vital part of winning the war (without developing into the stereotypical one-man army).

Moonlight rescue missions, frontal assaults and panicked extractions, sniper infiltrations and assassinations, ambushes and support roles, small teams and big squads...even though you're using the same guns and grenades throughout the entire game, every objective you're told to complete is a different exciting experience.

A mission begins with your squad moving through the countryside and taking out enemy positions. It's tense, and the firefights are frequent. But halfway through, you're transported high in the sky on an AC-130 gunship, peering through a black-and-white scope at small dots on the ground. The fancy graphics and sound disappear, creating an odd sense of security as you continue guiding the squad to its objective by clearing the path ahead with the AC-130's massive guns. The calm, nonchalant radio chatter of the airplane's operators replaces the screams for help. And then you're back on the ground in the thick of it -- an excellent example of the game manipulating your expectations of the series. When they're done well, scripted sequences work.
Unless you're playing on the Hardened difficulty setting, for that's where the scripted nature works against the game. Thanks to the more powerful enemies and less powerful armor, Hardened is always a challenge, and frequently a repetitive frustration. The checkpoint system is almost perfectly laid out, but there are certain "brick wall" areas that overwhelm you with punishing enemy fire and little recourse. Repeated attempts reveal enemy patterns and behaviors, and once you can anticipate that it feels like a shooting gallery. You start out impressed with the unknown combat scenario, but that feeling gives way to "and now two guys will run through this door..." In short, play through on Normal the first time for medium challenge and maximum enjoyment of the set pieces, and then challenge your skills later.

Just as the campaign is a satisfying thrill, COD4's multiplayer is treated with equal craftsmanship. A party system fueled by a wealth of playlists of differing maps and modes provides for near-endless entertainment, and a combination leveling/in-game achievement system keeps the carrot at the end of the stick. From levels 1 through 55, there are various rewards to unlock: new weapons, attachments, camouflages, and "perks." These perks are extra abilities that you can grant your character that give you certain advantages. Stopping Power makes your shots more powerful, Deep Impact allows for better bullet penetration through materials, Last Stand lets you draw your sidearm when you've been shot for a final attempt at revenge...other perks allow you to carry more ammo and grenades. And for every weapon, there are challenges that you can complete to unlock further upgrades. Most boil down to "shoot enough people," but there are more interesting challenges, like shooting down enemy helicopter support.

Xbox 360 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in game play video:

he best way to contain so many options is by total character and class customization. The Create-a-Class feature lets you differentiate your weapon loadout and perk assignments dependent on the situation. There are default classes like "Assault" and "Sniper," but this is the best way to employ your rewards in the game's various multiplayer modes. With 55 levels of progression (and multiple passes through the ladder -- you can surrender all of your unlocked stuff and start over with an emblem of honor), it can be daunting for those starting out at the bottom. You don't get much cool gear or perks, and you'll likely be trounced in the first handful of games by guys who can run faster and shoot better than you. But advancement is quick, and you'll get new guns, better sights, and more valuable perks soon enough -- and that quest for better gear is when the addiction sets in.

With proven mechanics, brilliant visuals and sound, a satisfying campaign, and robust multiplayer, COD4 is one of the best FPS packages of the year -- no small feat, considering the competition.