Video games 

Major League Baseball 2K9

One Star

Rated E

Available on Xbox, Playstation 3, Playstation 2, PSP, PC, and Nintendo Wii

2K Sports tries to be too clever for their own good. An irritating (and slightly painful) hitting and pitching system - in a sport that famously "begins and ends with pitching" - is needlessly complicated and sensitive. The more you like baseball, the more you will hate this game; in that way, it is much like the Cubs. The graphics are great, but they should have spent a little more time improving the fielding mechanics and a little less time detailing the blue jeans on 30,000 fans. I had an easier time beating Contra when I was eight than I did catching a routine pop-fly or throwing a decent breaking ball. Even the screen-navigation is counter-intuitive, which makes the already dismal "Franchise" mode insufferable. There are 162 games a year in MLB, meaning that unless you are unemployed, single and allergic to sunlight, a logical simulation engine is fundamental to a practical gaming experience. But the 2K9 engine was seemingly created in the Bizarro world; I simulated through my first season as the Brewers, and the Washington Nationals swept the Royals in the World Series, with Adam Dunn the league MVP. The game is so bad it won't even let you vicariously have vicarious fun; it is one of the worst sports games I have ever played.

Street Fighter IV

Two stars

Rated T

Available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC

For nostalgic purposes, it's great; Street Fighter II for Sega Genesis was the best fighting game ever made when it came out. But technology and competition have passed the series by. SF4 offers very few new elements from its predecessors, and fails to deliver the level of fluidity and action that has come to be expected out of a one-on-one fighter. The one-player mode is horribly cheesy and monotonous, with a storyline that begins with Ken's pregnant wife and his reluctant (yet inexplicable) departure for battle. The real fun of Street Fighter games comes now - as always - with a few friends, some pizza, and some liquor (or, as in those olden days, gigantic jugs of Mountain Dew), forcing the loser to shamefully pass on the controller to the next combatant for another ferocious round of button mashing. On that level, it is as great as it has ever been, but don't expect this to revitalize this once-great series.

Resident Evil 5

Xbox 360 and Playstation 3

Three stars

Rated M

It does not have the shocking horror value of Resident Evil 4, but the improved versatility and graphics are improved enough to validate the price tag. In this bout of the long-running Capcom survival-horror epic, you are dropped into a fictional country in Africa with a sultry sidekick, who will deplete your ammo, step into your line of fire, and exchange redundant banter for the breadth of the game. Her presence is helpful in that she is reasonably efficient at covering your ass, but her help is not altogether welcome, because the dark corners and difficult camera angles that enabled masked men to chainsaw your torso in half are what made the Resident Evil series so terrifyingly fun. Ammunition is more readily available than in past editions, which for less-patient gamers (i.e. me) is refreshing, but the aiming system is as difficult as ever. What RE5 lacks in shock value is made up for by its stunningly detailed environments and "oh, shit!" swarms of charging zombies; in RE, you don't die quietly from an anonymous bullet wound - you die slowly by getting your face eaten off by a ravenous man-beast in gory detail as your character screams bloody murder - which makes it the most suspenseful game on the market. I strongly recommend playing it co-op with a friend; if played with a partner the overall experience is a full star-rating higher.

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