HOMEFRONT (X360, PS3, PC; rated M) — Homefront, a new first-person shooter from THQ, tries really hard to feel important. Written by Hollywood writer-director John Milius, Homefront takes place in 2027, after a North Korean-led Asian alliance conquers and occupies America. Sure, it’s silly and paranoid, but not an awful idea for a video game. The short and brutish campaign mostly squanders that potential, though, with generic first-person shooter action and unlikable characters. The team-based online modes have a few neat quirks, like an on-the-fly perks system, but still lack flavor. Despite the distinctive setting, Homefront doesn’t set itself apart from all the other shooters on the market.

SUPER STREET FIGHTER IV 3D (for Nintendo 3DS; rated T) — All the face-punching thrills of Capcom’s Super Street Fighter IV are shrunk down into a tiny handheld package. Better yet – it’s now in 3D, thanks to Nintendo’s brand new 3DS. Somehow Capcom squeezed in every fighter and game mode from the console versions. The graphics are scaled back, with once-busy backgrounds now static and lifeless, but portability, fantastic online structure, and the 3DS’ new graphical tricks more than make up the difference. You’ll miss the feel of a joystick, but at least you can pull off special combos with a single press of the 3DS’ touch screen.

SLAM BOLT SCRAPPERS (PS3; rated E) — Are your eyes and fingers ready for a workout? Slam Bolt Scrappers, a frenetic action puzzle game from independent studio Fire Hose Games, will overload your TV and your senses. This hyperactive downloadable exclusive for Sony’s PlayStation Network can be hard to follow, but the basics are simple enough. You punch enemies until they turn into geometric shapes. When you arrange those shapes into squares, they form turrets that attack your opponent’s blocks. Destroy them all to win. It’s fantastic fun with friends, but weirdly enough you can’t play it online.

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I am not a car guy. I take the T because it’s better for the environment and because I love having things to complain about.
I’ve also never been partial to racing games. I loved “Pole Position” when I was a kid, but, like eating paste, I grew out of that. Still, I’ve played enough racing games over the years to know that “NASCAR The Game: 2011” isn’t very good.

For the first dedicated NASCAR game in three years Activision turned to a European developer that specializes in racing games. They probably wonder why this type of racing dominates in America instead of the more exciting Formula 1 style that is popular in Europe. They definitely struggled with turning NASCAR into an entertaining video game.

What makes NASCAR popular in real life is the tremendous speed, the charismatic drivers, and the allure of danger. “NASCAR The Game” thunders down on that third point, opening with an animated sequence featuring a massive pile-up with flips and explosions. That little chunk of poor judgment wouldn’t leave such a bad taste in my mouth if real people didn’t sometimes die in this sport.

NASCAR doesn’t translate well to video games. It can’t compete with the greater speeds, the snakier courses, and the hundreds of cars found in games like “Forza” or “Gran Turismo”. Strategy basically consists of hanging out behind other cars until you build up your draft meter and then slingshot around them. Every screen takes way too long to load and I never successfully made it into an online game.

The action in “NASCAR” is too realistic for fans of arcade style racing games like “Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit” or “Split/Second”, but not deep or sophisticated enough for the hardcore simulation crowd. The career mode in “NASCAR The Game” might interest race fans who want to take on the biggest races in their favorite driver’s car, but it doesn’t stack up well against the competition.

“Mayhem 3D” isn’t technically a racing game, but it does put you behind the wheel of a large automobile that you then repeatedly ram into others. Demolition derbies are loud and dumb and “Mayhem” nails that tone perfectly, with a schlocky style that recalls old comic books and drive-in b-movies. “Mayhem” quickly grows tiresome, but only after a few hours of destructive catharsis. The old-school red-and-blue 3D technology works on any TV but makes my head hurt.

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Forget the dumb name and the ads that make “Crysis 2” look like just another first-person shooter. In the last two months we’ve played “Killzone 3,” “Bulletstorm” and “Homefront,” which should more than satisfy anybody’s desire for filling digital men full of holes. Somehow though, “Crysis 2” cuts through the manshoot clutter by establishing itself as the thinking man’s murder simulation.

“Crysis 2” isn’t just a virtual shooting gallery. It doesn’t usher you down scenic corridors populated with endlessly spawning enemies. “Crysis 2” respects your intelligence and patience by focusing on strategy. Combine that with amazing graphics and you’ve got the most impressive shooter of 2011 so far.

“Crysis 2” takes place in a destroyed Manhattan ravaged by aliens and their crazy unknowable space disease. They’re the Euro-peans, we’re the Native Americans, and with their advanced weapons and that virus they are wiping us out. The goal: Find a scientist who might know how to take down the aliens and get him and his research out of the city.

To get the job done, you strap into a suit of armor that turns you into a super soldier. The suit enables various superhuman abilities, like invisibility, increased armor, short bursts of superspeed, and the ability to detect heat signatures. The suit also lets you scan and mark enemy positions and locations before mounting an assault, which is crucial. Enemy encampments are packed with guys ready to tear you apart, so you’ll need to prepare as much as possible for each battle. It’s similar to “Far Cry 2,” which, although made by an entirely different development team, is the sequel to the first game made by the people behind the “Crysis” series.

The tense single-player is the best thing about “Crysis 2,” but it isn’t without faults. The auto-save checkpoints are too far apart, so you’ll waste way too much time replaying the same sections until the next checkpoint triggers. Also the story is largely forgettable. The suit also makes the otherwise standard multiplayer modes feel slightly different from other games, and that’s hard to do in a world drowning in first-person shooters.

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