Sony unleashes its big guns with “Killzone 3,” the latest in its exclusive series of first-person shooters. I’d avoid any place referred to as a “killzone,” but then I am not a fake future soldier fighting humanoid aliens with the crisp uniforms and inexplicable British accents of Hollywood Nazis. Also, a game called “Cuddlezone” probably wouldn’t fly with the frat-bro set.

“Killzone” has a reputation as a technical powerhouse and multiplayer wiz that skimps on originality. The third time’s the charm, if by charm you mean changing almost nothing.

The most common complaints about first-person shooters pop up in the single-player campaign. Despite thrilling action set pieces and a good variety of environments, the campaign is a tiresome slog through a nonsensical story with generic enemies, cut-scenes, personality-free characters and witless dialogue that are perfect fodder for ersatz “Mystery Science Theater 3000” routines. It’s the worst way to experience “Killzone 3.”

Instead of tossing in features just to fill up the back of the box, games should focus on what they do well. “Bioshock 2” is an excellent narrative-driven shooter with a completely unnecessary multiplayer that nobody plays. “Killzone 3” is the opposite: It’s a top-shelf suite of multiplayer options strapped to a depressingly dead-end campaign.

“Killzone 3” might be the best multiplayer shooter on a console, with a number of exciting squad-based missions and a satisfying array of classes and weapons. The objectives are clearly delineated but not simplified, and it’s easy for reasonably intelligent players to get such various classes as medic and engineer to work well together. Best of all, nobody on PlayStation 3 has a headset mike, limiting your exposure to obnoxious tweens.

Two big features set “Killzone 3” apart. It supports the PlayStation Move motion controller, giving you the option to actually point at what you kill instead of just fiddling with a joystick. It’s not a bad set-up, and compares well to the Wii shooters with the best control schemes, such as “Metroid Prime 3” and “The Conduit.” It’s also not something I’d ever spend much time with. The game can also be played entirely in 3-D if you own a 3-D TV.

“Killzone 3” should be experienced online, so ditch the campaign as soon as you have a handle on how to play the game.



Marvel makes comics, Capcom makes games, and occasionally they team up to beat the ever-livin’ life out of each other. After 11 years, this brutal bloodsport between the purveyors of two distinct strands of wish fulfillment returns with its most electrifying installment yet.

To the untrained eye, “Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds” looks like Capcom’s “Street Fighter,” with two cartoonish combatants wearing down their lifebars with quick combos and flashy special moves. You’ll notice considerable differences once you dig in.

Instead of one-on-one battles, the “Marvel Vs. Capcom” series utilizes squads of three. You pick your trio from a roster of 36 characters from both companies, including the popular (Spider-Man, Ryu, Captain America) and the obscure (MODOK, Dormammu, Hsien-Ko). You can swap your fighters out with another at any point during a match, and also briefly call on all three at once for -super-combos that deal heavy damage. It’s vital to recognize the right time to call on a group combo or to substitute an ailing character.

The fights are fast and frantic. More advanced maneuvers, such as Team Aerial Combos, require precise timing, but there’s also a simple mode that lets anybody reel off combo chains and special moves with the push of a single button. Even in normal mode, the movesets are streamlined compared to other fighting games, as the same handful of joystick motions and button presses trigger special moves for every character. The trick is remembering the direction and range of those attacks and unleashing them when they’re least expected.

There’s a cursory story mode, but online play is king. It’s stripped down slightly from “Street Fighter IV,” with only ranked and custom matches or private lobbies, but you’ll be impelled to play online as often as possible thanks to the unlockable titles and a progressive class structure.

It’s easier to get a grasp on “Marvel Vs. Capcom 3” than “Street Fighter IV,” but its speed and heavy reliance on combos widens the gulf between the best players and the rest of us. Like any fighting game, you need lightning reflexes, a good memory for combos and movesets, and the patience of a saint as online brawlers repeatedly dismantle you in seconds. OK, that last part might just be me. I’m awful at this game, but it’s so manic and whimsical in its overwhelming pop assault that I can’t help but love it.





Partying is not a game. It is serious business. That’s why “party game” is an oxymoron. Until there’s a video game that makes hot and tasty pizzas, my get-togethers will stick to music, drinks and scintillating conversation. Although games such as “Mario Sports Mix” and the latest “You Don’t Know Jack” prove that games can go great with small groups.

After a lost decade, the trivia game “You Don’t Know Jack” returns with its irreverent sense of humor intact. With absurd questions and a flippant attitude, “Jack” embodies the kind of post-Letterman irony that was common in the 1990s. It’s like a more interactive (and hyper-active) version of MTV’s old game show “Remote Control.”

The new “Jack” borrows more than zaniness from its PC forebears. Fake host Cookie Masterson returns with questions that gleefully combine pop and high culture. Each game consists of 10 questions with the occasional special round, like the classic either-or DisOrDat category. Players have 20 seconds to pick one of the four multiple choice answers, gaining or losing money based on the accuracy and quickness of their response. Each episode ends with the final Jack Attack round, full of tense buzzer busters that let you quickly bury your opponent, or, if you’re not careful, yourself.

Despite the host’s constant insults, “You Don’t Know Jack” respects your intelligence with hard questions. While the endless jokes miss as much as they hit, the core trivia experience is strong enough to overlook the forced attitude. The smooth online play lets you school strangers as easily as the fools on your couch.

“Mario Sports Mix” also brings people together, but the only attitude here is whatever hatred you feel toward Waluigi. Luigi’s much-maligned evil doppelganger is just one of the many Mario characters with a passion for team sports.

After growing bored with go-karts, soccer, tennis and baseball, Mario and his crew dabble in four different activities, including basketball, volleyball, hockey and dodgeball. Each game sports a similar control scheme using the Wii remote and nunchuk, and like “Mario Kart,” familiar power-ups can quickly change a game’s momentum.

Each simple game nails the basic rudiments of its respective sport, but you’ll need friends to challenge or taunt to avoid boredom. Instead of proving that a game can make a party, “Mario Sports Mix” shows that sometimes the party makes the game.


Faust are like the anti-Who: only the rhythm section remains. Not all the other members have passed, but drummer Werner Diermaier and bassist Jean-Hervé Péron are the only founders who play on their latest effort. Maybe it’s unfair to judge this release against records made by a full complement of German hippies 40 years ago, but even with the past set aside, it’s a bummer. It lacks the playfulness of the early Faust records, where the band’s experiments with jazz, folk, and raunchy rock and roll were coated with acceptable degrees of avant-garde theatricality. Here, Diermaier, Péron, and their partners James Johnston (from Gallon Drunk and the Bad Seeds) and artist Geraldine Swayne stick to listless noise-rock improvisations. Opener “Tell the Bitch To Go Home” is telling – a five-note bass-and-organ pattern thuds along forthrightly as guitar noise gradually expands and collapses on the edges. Like the album, it’s neither minimal nor maximal enough, settling for an indeterminate middle ground that doesn’t quite satisfy. “Dampfauslass 2” builds up a fine jam that ends too early. Swayne’s vampy vocals would sink “Lost the Signal” if it weren’t already an aimless slog. The second track, “Herbststimmung,” might be the best; this soothing feedback blur could easily have fit on 71 Minutes of Faust. In the end, Something Dirty is a minor footnote to a legendary discography.