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SORE THUMBS: WHAT’S NEW IN VIDEO GAMING

CLIVE BARKER’S JERICHO    (M)

Rating: **

Codemasters

Xbox 360

In a game absolutely bursting at the bowels with bloody, gory, pulsating sacks of homicidal flesh, the scariest thing you’ll face is the ineptitude of your own human teammates. Jericho is essentially a squad-based, tactical shooter in hell. As you fight back demonic forces throughout different periods in history, you’ll be able to switch on the fly between the different members of your group -- each with a different arcane, magical skill-set, as well as a more conventional weapon that tends to go “bang!” But only two of the seven characters are really worth using, leaving you to boss around the other five and watch with detached curiosity as they disobey your orders in favor of attempting suicide.

What’s really odd about this gorefest is that it’s not designed to function as a tactical shooter. There’s no point in formulating a strategy and dispatching your squad to methodically take down a target because the targets are as stupid as the squad, and tend to run headlong into certain death, leaving no time for a strategy more complex than, “pull trigger.” Clive Barker’s name may be attached to this game, but it plays more like it was designed by Pinhead. Excuse me -- not the Pinhead, but definitely a pinhead.

CONAN    (M)

Rating: ***

THQ

Xbox 360

There is something so satisfying about swinging two swords, simultaneously amputating both of your adversary’s arms and then watching with sick amusement as he tries to come to terms with his massive blood-loss predicament. Video game brutality is a beautiful thing (and perfectly suited to Conan the Barbarian), but ultra-violent games like God of War and Rome (where you could beat an enemy to death with his own severed arm) have taught us to want more than mere bloodletting, and Conan doesn’t offer much else.

 

ACE COMBAT 6: FIRES OF LIBERATION    (T)

Rating: ****

Namco Bandai

Xbox 360

Flying the unfriendly skies has seldom felt so free of turbulence. Ace Combat 6 is just technical enough to please hardcore flight sim fans, while staying true to its arcade roots by giving you lots of things to blast out of the sky. Nice touches like your authentic-sounding flight radio help to immerse you in the dogfights, and as long as you maintain a high altitude, you may never notice how bad some of the landscape textures are.

CASTLEVANIA: THE DRACULA X CHRONICLES    (T)

Rating: ****

Konami

PlayStation Portable

The latest old school sidescroller to get the 2D/3D hybrid treatment on PSP is Castlevania. On this disc, you can make your way to your fanged nemesis in both Rondo of Blood and the classic Symphony of the Night. But newbies beware: that old school difficulty level will force you to rise from the grave many times before the end credits roll.

When Las Vegas Weekly contributor Matthew Scott Hunter realized his career as a lab technician was seriously interfering with his gaming, he pink-slipped himself into a successful career as a freelance writer. Bug the hell out of him at saxmorshin@hotmail.com

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