A friend called the other day and asked (as I paraphrase): Why does every TV ad for a video game look like it's the end of the world, like we're all going to die in a fire of blood? My answer: Because this is the most apocalyptic season for games I can remember.
And these aren't just little games. The three newest Armageddon-esque sequels include "Gears of War 2" (the most anticipated game of the holiday season); "Resistance 2" (the biggest sequel for the PS 3 this year); and "James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace."
None of these games is evolutionary. They look, sound and play like previous "Gears," "Resistance" and "Bond" games. But they're pretty great, if flawed.
‘‘Gears of War 2,’’ ‘‘James Bond 007
Like the first "Gears of War," the sequel is a gorgeously drawn action-adventure with film-like scenes. Few games look this finely detailed. But mostly, the purpose of "Gears 2" is to provide massive amounts of bloody, bloody killing.
The plot: You delve deep underground - planet interiors resemble "Aliens" and a nasal cavity examination - in search of aliens trying to extinguish humanity in the future.
Your character is the size of Schwarzenegger, so you're a big lumbering dude who shuffles slowly, hides behind corners, and peers around to shoot creatively ugly villains with disgusting bodies and sharp teeth, armed with tusks, claws, grenade launchers, flamethrowers and on and on.
It takes a repetitious mess of bullets to kill uglies. You shoot and shoot, and they come and come. That's acceptably entertaining, although online battles (perhaps the biggest selling point) move almost too slowly to deal with, and wait times to load online have been awful at 15 minutes for me.
But if you loved the first "Gears," this sameness will please you. The gore is unfathomably blood-splattery and yucky.
"Resistance 2" is a less realistically-drawn, more comic-book version of sci-fi. This sequel is set in the "alternative history" of the 1950s. Imagine if aliens took over Earth and transformed humans into horror-beings via a virus.
You trot the globe, shooting aliens and horror-humans, blowing up alien eggs that look just like the ones in "Aliens." "Resistance 2" has the best weapon, a shotgun that fires two rounds at once. Blam-blam. That comes in very handy for quite good, online multiplaying battles.
Since we're talking shooting sequels, "James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace" isn't all that different than previous "Bond" games, although it does add a touch of "Hit Man" sneaky kills.
It combines storylines from both "Casino Royale" and the new "Quantum" movie. You shoot bad guys in airports, towns, construction sites, on trains, underground bunkers, and many more locales. I love how fast you run, though this is a great game for casual players, less challenging for hardcore gamers. And "Quantum" has a surprisingly spry and endearing online multiplayer, with quick spawns and deaths that come in just a bullet or two.
All three of these games make your adventure a set path. They force you to go down this corridor, and that one, as if you're inside a glorified arcade game or a trip to Universal Studios. Although, the last time I checked, you couldn't blow somebody's head off to save humanity at Universal Studios.
("Gears of War 2" by Microsoft retails for $60 for Xbox 360 - Plays fun and deep, though the pacing is lumbering. Looks phenomenal. Challenging to very challenging, depending on settings you choose. Rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence, strong language. Four stars out of four.)
("James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace" by Activision retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wi; $40 for PS 2; $30 for DS - Plays fun and fast-paced. Looks very good. Challenging to very challenging, depending on settings you choose. Rated "T" for alcohol reference, mild language and violence. Three and one-half stars.)
("Resistance 2" by Sony retails for $60 for PS 3 - Plays fun. Looks very good. Challenging. Rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence, strong language. Four stars.)