Some of the games released in recent months give you the opportunity to take on various personas, including those of a swashbuckling treasure hunter, a medieval assassin, a roguish barbarian, a rakish cop, and a squadron of soldiers. Each will provide the necessary adrenaline rush.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
(Sony Computer Entertainment; PS3; rated teen) The hero of Uncharted is Nathan Drake, a descendant of Sir Francis Drake, an Elizabethan explorer who circumnavigated the globe and was the bane of the Spanish Armada. In this action adventure, Nate is on the trail of El Dorado, the golden treasure of Spanish legend. The history is a bit loose, but that’s okay—you’re going to want to play this game because it’s fast and fun. It stretches across genres, too, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to run and gun, climb and jump, and solve puzzles while following the treasure map. Drake joins the elite club that includes Indiana Jones and Lara Croft: explorers and seekers of antiquities who manage to get themselves into the hottest of water, and are capable of extricating themselves with panache. And as if that weren’t enough, the voice talent—Nolan North as Nate, Emily Rose as Elena Fisher, and Richard McGonagle as Victor Sullivan—provides some of the best work ever found in a video game. These actors really bring the characters to life.
(Ubisoft; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; rated mature) This incredible game isn’t quite what you’d think. Yes, you play an assassin in the Holy Land during the Third Crusade, but you take on that role by playing a young man today who relives the experiences of one of his ancestors by means of a machine that can delve into genetic memory. It’s a great device, providing a rationale for having the dialogue in English and an excuse for any anachronisms that may appear. The game is memorable too, and does an excellent job of re-creating an ancient world. The lush rendering is captivating, and climbing the towers to get your bearings in Jerusalem, Acre, and Damascus, you’ll realize the scope of the world. You’ll explore those cities—and the countryside between them—while taking on a series of contracts, exposing a conspiracy, and trying to regain your honour. My chief concern is that players have to watch too much. Perhaps in the coming sequel, we can have more doing and less telling.
(THQ; PS3, Xbox 360; rated mature) Given the success of sword-slashing adventure games based on Greek and Persian mythology, it’s fitting that Robert E. Howard’s Conan has gotten similar treatment. Here, you play as the barbarian from Cimmeria, trying to recover your armour from a demon wizard who has taken it from you. The production values in this game are fantastic, with voice-over narration setting the plot, and terrific voice acting from Ron Perlman as Conan and Claudia Black as the warrior princess A’Kanna. While there is some repetition in the environments and the combat could use refinement, Conan is a great introduction to this rambunctious character. More, please.
(Midway; PC, PS3, Xbox 360; rated mature) Don’t worry about ammo shortages in this game, instigated by film director John Woo. Like the violent ballet that was Hard Boiled, which starred Chow Yun-Fat, Stranglehold is all about blood, bullets, and the poetry of motion. Chow reprises his role as Hong Kong cop “Tequila” Yuen, but he probably shouldn’t have, since his English isn’t any better than it was when he first starred in Hollywood films, meaning you’ll have to listen closely to understand his dialogue. You play as Tequila and move from the alleys and port of Hong Kong to the mean streets of Chicago in an effort to curb gang activity. With the ability to interact with the environment, you really get to embody Tequila, from body surfing on carts to sliding down banisters, just like in the film. It’s a sure-fire adrenaline rush.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
(Activision; DS, PC, PS3, Xbox 360; rated mature) This is the fourth edition of Call of Duty, a first-person shooter that puts gamers in the role of a soldier. However, number four advances beyond the Second World War, the era in which the previous games were set, and is planted in the present. Though you spend most of your time alternating between being a British SAS soldier and an American marine, you embody a number of characters, which gives you a first-person perspective on events. The complicated plot involves a cabal of Russian separatists and Middle Eastern terrorists. The action is intense, with challenging AI and varied environments, along with smooth and responsive controls. On-line multiplayer action (except on the DS) can support up to 18 players on 16 maps, and six game modes such as deathmatch. Modern Warfare is a great update to a thrilling franchise.