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Press Start: March 2008 -- Love What You Play

In this month's "Press Start," Peter "The Rizk" Rizkalla checks out Devil May Cry 4, The Club, Geometry Wars: Galaxies and Battalion Wars 2. [Insert Funny Line Here]

Here we are with another new episode of Press Start. Right about now you're all probably thinking, "C'mon Pete, say something witty like you normally do." Or, "Pete's gonna come up with a new gag about chest hair or body odor or something. He always cracks manly jokes like that." Well folks, I could come up with something funny, but right now I want to focus on the matter at hand. We got a great lineup of games this month and all of them are good enough to eat!

Veteran publishers like Capcom and SEGA have come out strong this month and giving any of these games a try is definitely time well spent. It's time again to take a real good look at what the greatest industry in the world has to offer us this month. So (here it comes), grab yourself a soda or beer or whatever; guzzle that sucker down, and don't be afraid to let out pressure from any exit you got as you take a ride on this month's issue of Press Start!

Devil May Cry 4 is the first DMC title to be released on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Also, DMC4 starts off with a new character named Nero, rather than the ever-famous star Dante.

Devil May Cry 4 for the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360 and PC; Publisher: Capcom; Developer: Capcom; Release Date: February 5, 2008; ESRB Rating: M for Mature; Genre: action/adventure; Players: 1; Support: N/A; Online: N/A

Big Swords... Cool All right, you bunch of maggots! Let's see if you've been paying attention. Now what does -- Bobby, stop messing around! What does Coach Pete always say makes a great game? You can always tell if a game is great when it gets you hooked; when you find yourself going back to the game to play it over and over again. Now can any of you piles of toad slime tell me if you've played Devil May Cry 4 yet...? You haven't!? That'll be 20 laps after practice!

Just by reading the name of this game, you can tell that the first Devil May Cry was so good that it spawned three sequels. If you've played the first three Devil May Cry games on the PS2, then you already know how awesome this franchise is (well... all except number 2). Devil May Cry 4 is the first DMC title to be released on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Also, DMC4 starts you off with a new character named Nero, rather than the ever-famous star Dante.

The game starts out with some amazing-looking cinematics showing Nero fighting through a crowd of demons on his way to church. Nero's friend... girlfriend... whatever, Kyrie, is singing in church and Nero gets to the church just as Kyrie is barely finishing her song. The head priest begins to give the sermon and Nero seems bored, as he does nothing but listen to his music through his headphones; that is, until a mysterious man in a red coat comes crashing through the huge glass ceiling and shoots the priest right between the eyes. Now anyone who has ever even heard of Devil May Cry will recognize the man in the red coat as the main character of the DMC series, Dante. You then take control of Nero and get into a crazy fight with Dante.

Red Coats... Cool Controlling Nero is outstanding and fluid. Movement is absolute when using the analog stick and there are buttons assigned for slash, shoot and grab that can all be re-arranged at any time. The lock-on feature is back and helps make combos even more fantastic. Nero starts off with a series of combos and, like in previous DMC titles, more moves can be unlocked; however, unlocking moves in DMC4 is a lot more player-merciful this time around. In previous DMC games you spent red orbs, and only red orbs, to purchase items and unlock new moves. Now in DMC4 you only use red orbs to purchase expendable items like green health stars and gold continue orbs. To unlock moves you must spend Proud Souls. Proud Souls are awarded to you based on how well you completed a mission or how spectacularly you died. Once you use Proud Souls to unlock a new move and then you decide that you don't like that move (here's where it gets cool) you can then refund your Proud Souls and unlock a different move! All throughout the game there will be opportunities to switch out Proud Souls for a different move list every time!

Controlling Nero is outstanding and fluid in DMC4. Movement is absolute when using the analog stick and there are buttons assigned for slash, shoot and grab that can all be re-arranged at any time. Courtesy of Capcom.

Later in the game you will also be able to take control of everybody's favorite demon slayer, Dante. Dante's moves are equally as awesome, with some very familiar moves making a return from previous DMC games including Devil Trigger mode. The guys at Capcom are no slouches when it comes to detail; not only do Dante and Nero look amazing, but the environments that you encounter look absolutely stunning. Missions in DMC4 will have you venturing through places like the dusty streets and enormous Victorian buildings of Fortuna, as well as dank rocky caves and the beautiful yet eerie cathedral -- and all this is done without a single hiccup in framerate. Monsters are just as amazing, with exceptional lighting and detailed fire effects going into some gargantuan-size bosses. The animations are not only satisfying to the eye, but also surprising; after wearing down a boss the opportunity will present itself to actually manhandle the boss. Watching Nero toss around a boss that is many times his size is not only "out of the blue," it's also freakin' cool.

Big Guns... Do I Really Have To Say It I do have a few problems with Devil May Cry 4. The story sometimes falls into a typical anime-esque formula, with the main character looking somewhat effeminate yet acting hot-tempered, and Kyrie being the typical damsel in distress who constantly feels the need to lovingly say Nero's name at every turn. Thank God the action doesn't feel like a typical anime; I am really glad that Capcom didn't try to "amaze" the player with overly done, super-huge, flashy one-hit super maneuvers and instead put in some real effort to put together some really well-done fight choreography in the cinematics.

I am not too keen on both main characters looking so similar. I know it’s part of the story, but Capcom already went this route with Devil May Cry 3 and I would have loved to see them mix things up a bit. However, Nero and Dante are by no means the same character. Devil May Cry 4 has some of the most satisfying gameplay of any next-gen title. It's so great to see someone finally put some effort into making a traditional action/adventure title -- which the Xbox 360 and PS3 are in desperate need of -- and it's also no surprise that a title like this comes from Capcom. Listen to Coach Pete and check this game out for yourselves or that'll be another 20 laps after practice, ya rotten snot bags!

SEGA has released The Club, a third-person shooter with a story like Bloodsport, except with guns.

The Club for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC; Publisher: SEGA; Developer: Bizarre Creations; Release Date: February 19, 2008; ESRB Rating: M for mature; Genre: third-person shooter; Players: 1-4; Support: system link, 1080P; Online: 2-8 players

Desensitizing? NAAAAH! Shooters... where the heck would the world be without shooter games! Imagine one day you woke up and looked into your library of games to find that all of your shooter games had disappeared. At first you'll think, "What the hell; did I get robbed or something?" You decide to worry about it later, thinking to yourself, "A friend probably borrowed them without asking," as you head down to the video game store. You look for Gears of War… nothing. You look for Rainbow Six: Vegas... nothing. You look for Doom, ANY Doom... NOTHING! You then ask the clerk where all the shooter games are, only to hear him reply, "What's a shooter game?" As you let out a Darth Vader-eque "NOOOOOOOOOO!" you think only one of two things could have happened. One: you slipped into an episode of the Twilight Zone. Or two: you're dead and you're not in Heaven!

Now that I've scared the holy Hell out of you, fear not, my friend! You'll be relieved to know that a reality like that does not exist and, to prove it, SEGA has released a winner of a shooter game called The Club. The Club is a third-person shooter (or 3PS) with a story that is kind of like Bloodsport, except with guns. Various characters from different areas of the world are brought together to compete in a deadly, exclusive tournament for every kind of reason, varying from the money to just the sheer sport of it.

Fire, Ready, Aim! The Club looks awesome, with some very well-modeled and very well-texture-mapped characters. Having gorgeous graphics in a shooter game is often not a requirement; in fact it is advised that shooter games not have overwhelming graphics due to the fact that it could destroy the framerate. Thankfully the graphics in Club aren't too heavy, so you can expect a silky smooth framerate during gameplay. The environments are not just open maps like in a typical FPS or 3PS; they are actually very sophisticated levels in each of which players are required to perform differently. Players start off by choosing one of the six available characters. Two more characters can be unlocked later. Players then choose a venue; as with the characters, only one venue is available, while the others must be unlocked. The venues are made to resemble some very creative settings, such as a steel mill, an abandoned ocean liner, and Venice, Italy. Each venue has multiple events, such as Sprints, which start you at one point and require you to fight your way to an exit; Sieges, which have you fend off waves of enemies; and Gauntlets, which are the same as Sprints, except with a time limit. These are just to name a few.

The Club looks awesome, with some very well-modeled and very well-texture-mapped characters. Thankfully the graphics in Club aren't so overwhelming that it destroys the framerate. Courtesy of SEGA.

Like in Stranglehold, The Club allows you to move, aim and fire in a third-person view. Like in Gears of War, The Club allows you to hold down a trigger on the controller to add a more precise zoom-aim. Other maneuvers in The Club, like crouching and rolling, add for a defensive aspect. The Club also has a unique way of combining multiple kills for big points. The larger your combos, the more likely you are to get a good rank on the online leaderboards.

Damn Mini-Gun Takes Forever To Shoot Each character not only has a unique look, but they all have unique stats, such as different levels of strength, stamina and speed, which come into play during matches. The Club is definitely a game for the action junkie, so only expect a small amount of storyline. During a firefight you tend to forget that you are using a unique character, and so the characters tend to all feel the same. It would have been great to give the characters some personality by adding some voice-over comments during gameplay. For example, it would have been cool to hear Finn make a smart-aleck remark after he blasts somebody, or to hear Dragov cuss out an enemy in Russian after he gets hit. Some character-specific cinematics after completing venues would also have been great in order to flesh out each character's story.

The only qualm I have about the single-player mode is that there are way too many events involving a time limit. However, the multiplayer deathmatches, Hunter vs. Hunted matches and Team Siege matches give shooter fans exactly the kind of gameplay they are looking for. The Club also gives you many multiplayer connection options. Players can link up either online, through split-screen or through system link if you have the Xbox 360 version. Like I said, The Club is a game for action junkies. The control is precise, the action is satisfying and the multiplayer is a dream. If you want a shooter, this is one heck of a shooter!

Graphically, Geometry Wars: Galaxies is pretty basic; but there are some truly amazing effects.

Geometry Wars: Galaxies for the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo DS; Publisher: Sierra; Developer: Kuju Entertainment / Bizarre Creations; Release Date: November 20, 2007; ESRB Rating: E for everyone; Genre: top-down shooter; Players: 1-2; Support: classic controller; Online: N/A

This Ain't No Math Homework You lucky, lucky reader, you! You got yourself an awesome deal in this one, you lucky dog, you. Technically, this isn't just a review of Geometry Wars: Galaxies for the Nintendo DS. This is a review for both versions of Geometry Wars: Galaxies for the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii.

If you're not familiar with the Geometry Wars series, let me fill you in. You control a small, simple geometric ship in a large grid-like playing field. A variety of different shapes will spawn from every area of the playing field and then try to destroy you. In the Xbox LIVE version, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, you maneuver your ship with the left stick and fire your weapon by tilting the right stick in the direction you want to shoot. The Wii version is actually controlled very similarly to Alien Syndrome. You move with the analog stick and aim with the Wii remote. An icon will appear on the screen where the Wii remote is pointing, and hitting A or B will shoot towards the icon. The DS version has you move your ship with the cross pad and shoot by touching the touch screen.

I Have Nightmares About Squares Graphically, GWG is pretty basic; you're a ship blowing up shapes. However, in the midst of such basic elements are some truly amazing effects. The lighting, for one thing, makes every shape look like it’s made out of neon bulbs. The play areas are just large shapes, like squares, rectangles, crosses, etc., against an all-black background, to make it look like an oldschool game of Asteroids (or to make it seem like it's in space) with a blue line grid in the playing field that kind of looks like graph paper. Every once in a while a black-hole shape will appear and suck up everything on the screen, including you and your enemies. When a black hole gets going, it begins to distort the background and it looks like it's sucking up the blue grid. Destroying the black hole makes the blue grid bounce back to normal.

The Wii version of Geometry Wars: Galaxies is by far way better looking, with outstanding particle, lighting and deformation effects, while the DS controls feel more natural because of the stylus. Courtesy of Sierra Entertainment.

Gameplay is pretty basic; in fact I pretty much explained the meat of it in the second paragraph. A few other gameplay elements make GWG really fun, such as the Drone. After you destroy enemies, they leave behind Geoms, which you can then collect and redeem to give your Drone different abilities such as "attack," "turret" or "snipe." As you progress through GWG, you play through different levels with different enemies and differently shaped fields. If you are lucky enough to own both the DS version and the Wii version, you can wirelessly connect the two to unlock exclusive bonus levels.

***Insert Funny Line Here*** I actually favor the DS version over the Wii version and I'll tell you why. Although both control schemes are excellent, the DS controls feel a lot more natural. With the Wii version, you have to keep one eye on your ship so you don't get hit, and the other eye on your icon so you can tell which direction you are shooting. With the DS, you can simply focus on your ship because shooting in any direction is all a matter of dragging the stylus in the direction you want to shoot without ever having to glance at the touch screen. If you own the classic controller for the Wii, you can play GWG the same way as the Xbox LIVE version with the dual analog sticks.

The Wii version of Geometry Wars: Galaxies is by far way better looking, with outstanding particle, lighting and deformation effects. Both versions support multiplayer co-op gaming, but even then the DS still excels. In the Wii version, players have to share a screen which isn't bad at all, but in the DS version each player has the luxury of playing on his own screen. Regardless of control and playability, both versions are great pick-up-and-go games; choosing one or both is all a matter of preference.

FPS fans and RTS fans can once again bury the hatchet with the return of the Battalion Wars series, in the form of Battalion Wars 2 for the Wii.

Battalion Wars 2 for the Nintendo Wii; Publisher: Nintendo; Developer: Kuju Entertainment / Bizarre Creations; Release Date: October 29, 2007; ESRB Rating: T for teen; Genre: strategy shooter; Players: 1; Support: N/A; Online: 2 players

Roger, Roger FPS fans and RTS fans can once again bury the hatchet with the return of the Battalion Wars series, in the form of Battalion Wars 2 for Wii. Battalion Wars first showed up on the gaming scene on the Nintendo GameCube back in 2005, and it was an instant hit. It catered to fans of real-time strategy games by allowing players to command units from an overhead view and it catered to the fans of first-person shooters by allowing them to control singular units in firefights.

The first BW for the GameCube actually didn't give you the ability to free aim like in a typical FPS, but rather had you lock on to a nearby enemy and attack using the lock-on. In BW2 for the Wii, not only do players have the ability to free aim, but the free-aim system is done outstandingly well with the use of the Wii remote. Players can now point to exactly the enemy they want to attack while dodging and maneuvering with the nunchuck's analog stick.

What's Your Vector, Victor? BW2 brings a much deeper storyline than the first BW. Before it was just about international rivalries; now it's about a war-soaked past going back thousands of years. Players take control of a single unit at first. As you play through your mission you will be able to rescue captured units and call for reinforcements to grow your battalion into a formidable size. Different soldiers have different skills in BW2; your basic soldier is the rifle grunt wielding a light machine gun. Later on you will be able to take control of soldiers including bazooka veterans and flame veterans.

The gameplay in BW2 is near perfect, with only one real flaw. Jumping and rolling aren’t very reliable at times and could have worked better if they were mapped to a button. © 2007 Nintendo.

Each unit has its strengths and vulnerabilities. Bazooka vets do great against ground vehicles, but have a hard time with infantry units. Flame units don't do any kind of damage to vehicles, but they tear through foot soldiers like no one else. This requires you to do some fast, strategic thinking on the battlefield, so as not to have your whole platoon wasted by one tank because you forgot to send in your bazooka vets first. Vehicles also have differing characteristics based on whether they’re land, sea or air crafts. The ability to switch from a wide, overhead view to an over-the-shoulder view is still here.

Where's The Cast Of M*A*S*H When You Really Need Them? BW2 has a satisfying look to it as well. The characters are cartoony and sometimes over-dramatized, with huge weapons. The vehicles are clear, recognizable, and sometimes also over-dramatized. The gameplay in Battalion Wars 2 is near perfect, with only one real flaw. Jumping and rolling is done by shaking the nunchuck, which doesn't prove to be very reliable at times and could have worked out much better if these actions were mapped to a button. The single-player campaign is fairly short, but it gives you the option to go back and get higher grades in previous missions and locate secrets.

Another thing about BW2 is the voice acting. Some of it can get seriously annoying, with characters that are almost always over-the-top and foreign accents that are completely off at times. However, the voice acting really isn't a problem during online multiplayer games (and here comes the big pay-off!); the online multiplayer games are what will really keep you glued to Battalion Wars 2. Players can hook up online and play one of three different kinds of BW2 matches: assaults, skirmishes and co-op missions. In the end, Battalion Wars 2 is a fun game with fantastic online features and playing through the campaign mode the second time is sometimes even more fun than the first time.

Peter Rizkalla is a lifelong aficionado of videogames and the videogame industry. He has worked in videogame companies including THQ and Namco, and has won several awards for his animated short films, such as his videogame-themed Flash film Toadstool Funk. Peter can be reached at PRizkalla@gmail.com.

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