Fight Night Round 4 — $60 — Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
If the Madden football games are EA's bread and butter, Fight Night is the company's horrifically contused lobster.
For starters, FNR4 is a simply gorgeous game. It almost feels obscene that a game whose entire aesthetic output is devoted to the realistic depiction of blunt head trauma should suddenly be in the running for "most attractive game in existence," but, well, watch this video and tell me you aren't impressed and a bit nauseated.
More impressive though, is that the game manages to balance its role as the most intricate, detailed "boxing simulation" on the market, with being accessible to everyone. This is definitely not a fighting game, but like the best from that genre the basic tenets of gameplay are easily learned (the jabs, the uppercuts, etc), but stringing together successful combos, learning to use your chosen boxer's own physical assets (Muhammad Ali is fast, Mike Tyson can eat children, etc) and learning to duck, dodge and counter punch can take months of practice.
Add online play, a ridiculously comprehensive career mode for either custom created boxers or the game's huge roster of real pugilists and a handful of extraneous extras (downloadable ESPN highlight videos? really?) and you have a title guaranteed to win Sports Game of the Year 2009, and most likely to land a spot in the overall Game of the Year ballots.
Verdict: Buy it
Protoype — $60 — Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Admittedly, Prototype screams "cliché." The "I was experimented on, had my memories stolen and am out for revenge" storyline could have been lifted from a dozen adamantium-laced sources and the open-world gameplay element is found in every other action game released these days. Even the whole superhero thing seems less like a novel design choice than a regurgitation of the mainstream pop culture trope du jour.
The gameplay is a bit rough overall too. Impacts feel as if they should be more, um, "impactful," and enemies are often too powerful given their numbers and attack patterns.
I wouldn't even say that the game is all that pretty — it's about on par with notorious Grand Theft Auto IV imitator Saints Row 2.
Despite all that, I dropped $60 of my own money to add it to my collection of games. Why? The entertainment value of sprinting around New York City, running up the side of a building, kicking off the roof and tearing a helicopter in half before plunging 30 stories and punching through the hood of a semi-truck driving down the street below is almost endless.
If you consider the storyline and actual plot as a bonus added simply because the developers felt obligated, Prototype is the best superhero game since Crackdown — one of the most criminally underrated Xbox 360 titles ever.
Verdict: Buy it