This year, it's not about the new gaming systems so much as it is about those we wanted last year, but couldn't get. Availability of the major gaming systems will not be a problem this year, bringing the choice down to taste and, of course, software. The best gaming system in the world won't do you any good without great games to play.
|The Ratings System|
All video games now carry a content rating, like movies have. The ratings determine age appropriateness for games, from E for everyone to M for mature.
You can find the rating for any game on its label, or at the Entertainment Software Ratings Board website:
And some of the recent releases are reinforcing the somewhat counterintuitive adage of video games, in which sequels are often better than the original.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, for example. Available on all the major consoles, this next installment of the rocker simulation features a long list of songs to jam on. If you don't know what the big deal is about the hit series, the basic thing to know: players use a guitar-shaped controller to strum in time with notes appearing on the screen, and the end result--if you do it right--is a rock anthem. It's all the fun of rocking out without the hassle of actually having to learn music.
Then there's Halo 3. Few games garnered such critical acclaim and commercial success as the game which arguably made Microsoft's first Xbox console, Halo. While its first sequel somewhat disappointed gamers and critics, that could not stop the frenzy building up to the release of this installment.
The venerable Metroid series is back with a new installment getting all sorts of rave reviews: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for the Wii.
When it comes to Nintendo, though, some of the most popular games involve our old friend Mario. Nintendo has long made a splash with so-called party games, and Mario Party 8 would add classic fun to any fan's library.
On the PlayStation3, Heavenly Sword is getting a lot of buzz. Though some have criticized the length of the game as being too short, it's got the more family-friendly rating of T for teen, and nobody's had anything bad to say about its looks.
And just on the store shelves, the highly anticipated Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare updates the combat action to modern times (the prior games focused on WWII). Parents take note of the mature rating this game carries.
Of course, that's just scratching the surface. When it comes to today's games, which can cost you 40, 50 even 60 bucks, it pays to do a little research online before you buy. Surf around, read some reviews, and make informed purchases.
Here are some sites to get a seasoned gamer's take on the latest games: