|Grand Theft Auto:|
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Play it on: PlayStation 2, PC
If you've been sleeping under a rock for the past year, chances are you haven't heard of the video game behemoth that is Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. To date, virtually no other video game has garnered so much critical acclaim as well as mass media attention. And rightfully so - no other game has offered an overall experience quite like it. You've not only got a gripping story that falls somewhere between a Scorsese film and an episode of Miami Vice, there's also the incredible soundtrack - hours
| and hours of some of the most beloved songs of the '80s, ranging all the way from Judas Priest to A Flock of Seagulls. Factor in voice talent from Hollywood big shots like Ray Liotta, Dennis Hopper and porn superstar Jenna Jameson, and you've got a recipe for success, all before you even get your hands on the game.
Your character is up-and-coming criminal Tommy Vercetti, out to right a huge cocaine deal gone horribly wrong. By gaining the trust of increasingly powerful crime bosses, you climb the ranks of the Liberty City crime underground. Best of all, you can play the game just about any way you choose: play right through and resolve the story, or simply take your time and revel in the joys of freestyle crime. Whether it's stealing cars, doing odd jobs for Mafioso thugs, or simply cruising the streets, the entire city is at your disposal. The ability to roam free and do just about anything you can think of is something that many games have tried to do over the years, but Vice City does it with such style that it quite literally has no peer.
Given that there's simply so much to enjoy with this game set in a hedonistic Miami-like setting, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is best served with an equally hedonistic drink such as a Pina Colada, Harvey Wallbanger or anything fruity with an umbrella sitting on top. Add a pastel shirt, a pair of Ray-Bans, a leather couch and prepare for an experience unlike anything you've ever played before.
Developer: United Game Artists
Play it on: PlayStation 2
Remember the movie Tron? If so, Rez will bring back many sweet memories of lush, digital landscapes alight with color and technical precision. This game is a visual masterpiece of equal parts arcade shoot-em-up and musical workout. As your character flies through each level, every wave of enemies you destroy adds a small amount to both the music playing behind you as well as the visuals of the game. They start out simply - wire frame graphics and a basic bass line. By the time you get to the end of the level, the music pumps like something you'd hear on the floor of a 48-hour rave party, intense and filled with myriad sounds. Oddly enough, the next time you go back and play the game, you swear the music is just a little different, or perhaps you see something you didn't before. Rez does an amazing job of immersing you in the game with these subtle changes, and it's an experience that has yet to be rivaled by any other game. It's a strange analogy, but this game could quite possibly be the digital equivalent of Red Bull and Vodka - chilled out, yet teeming with energy.
Rez also proves once again that Japanese gamers get all the good stuff. Prior to its release, Sega offered a deluxe package of the game that came with a pair of headphones, a T-shirt, sweatbands and possibly the strangest peripheral ever released: the Trance Vibrator. When plugged into the PlayStation 2, this odd device vibrates with each beat of the bass drum. Sadly, Sega of America didn't release the vibrator stateside.
While this game was widely praised when released, very few copies were made, so you might run into a bit of trouble when trying to get your hands on a copy. Try checking the used section of your local video game store, but just be prepared to get your hands a little dirty while digging for this gem. If you're up for a bit of a hunt, this is one game you won't regret experiencing.
| Activision Anthology
Developer: Barking Lizards
Play it on: PlayStation 2
If there were ever a video game that pairs perfectly with Vanilla Stoli and Cherry Coke in a glass dusted with Pop Rocks, Activision Anthology for PlayStation 2 would be it. If you're a child of the 80's who grew up with games like Pitfall! or River Raid, there simply isn't a better way to relive your early gaming experiences. Sure, the graphics and sounds are completely outdated when compared to today's games, but they're still just as fun as they were when they were first released so many years ago. To add to the fun, the game's developers have packed the disc full of unlockable items, such as the incredibly campy television commercials that were released some 20 years ago to promote these games, and pictures of the many patches you could win by getting a certain high score and submitting a photograph to Activision. Also included are several games that were either never finished or simply never released.
To add to the retro-gaming fun, there's also a licensed soundtrack in the background while you play, featuring hit songs from the likes of Blondie and Twisted Sister. Playing this collection of games comes close to recreating the sugar-fueled days of old, back when games were simple and Pac-Man had taken the nation by storm. What truly seals the deal on this compilation is the $19.99 price tag. For this you get more than 40 great games that capture what playing video games was all about - drinking tons of soda, sitting Indian style on shag carpeting and, above all, wasting countless hours in front of the television instead of playing outside.
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