Xbox 360 Reviews F

FIFA 14
Grade: B-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2013)
Reviewed: 2014/7/10
Rating: Everyone


screenshotLike so many sports fans in the United States I recently came down with a severe case of World Cup fever. I wanted to pick up the Xbox One (or PS4) FIFA 14 until I heard EA had unceremoniously axed the popular tournament mode from those versions. That's one of the few modes left you can still play off-line!

I wasn't too concerned about the graphic fidelity considering the distant camera angle. The players look small but move with fluid grace, and the wide field of vision makes it easy to set up passes. The ability to "queue up" a pass seems confusing at first but ultimately it lets you orchestrate some amazing plays. The contests unfold very much like real soccer.

There isn't much scoring but the action is incredibly intense. The default game length is just right and there are few lulls in the action. Off-sides can be a hard concept to wrap your brain around, but FIFA 14 will clearly illustrate the infraction when the penalty is called. I love the British announcers who add class, sophistication, and credibility to the proceedings.

The flaws in FIFA 14 tend to be minor but irritating nonetheless. An apparent lack of friction causes the ball to roll and roll until it inevitably goes out of bounds. The arrow highlighting your selected player is tiny, and when it's green it blends in with the grass. A little quality control would have caught that one. The shooting controls are touchy and the automatic/manual player switching is suspect at times.

The penalty shoot-out controls are wildly non-intuitive, making the complete lack of instructions all the more glaring. The "tiled menu" interface is so poorly designed that I had to check the Internet just to figure out how to begin a new tournament. And locating the international teams on the team selection screen is needlessly difficult. EA did a half-assed job as usual, but FIFA 14 is still an exciting game, mainly because it's so true to the sport. They don't call it "the beautiful game" for nothing. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Grade: B-
Publisher: 2K Games (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/7/25
Rating: Teen (fantasy violence)

screenshotDespite an agonizing first stage that never seems to end, Rise of the Silver Surfer ultimately proves itself to be a well-constructed superhero title. A few stages take place in boring caves, but the battles in New York City and an old Russia Space station (infested by apes no less) are far more compelling.

Playing Fantastic 4 is mainly about beating up gang after gang of aliens or apes, and the action would be awfully repetitive if not for the amazing number of attack options, including potent "team up" moves. The Invisible Woman and Human Torch can create bombs together, and the Thing can whip Mr. Fantastic around to clear out nearly enemies.

Puzzles provide a nice break from the mayhem, and these are usually solved using the special ability of one particular hero. Fantastic 4's control scheme is tailor-made for the Xbox 360 controller. The face buttons are used for basic functions, but holding the right trigger toggles them into special moves, and the left trigger enables your team moves. Icons on the screen mirror the button configuration and indicate exactly what powers are available.

I enjoyed playing the game solo, but the multiplayer fun was offset by a problematic camera that made it tough to keep the heroes in view. Fantastic 4's graphics are about average, and the sound effects suffer from uneven volume. This Xbox 360 edition is almost identical to its Playstation 3 cousin, except you don't have the motion control during the flight stages, but you do rumble feedback. In the scheme of things, Rise of the Silver Surfer is a good, all-around superhero game, if you're into that type of thing. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Far Cry 3
Grade: C
Publisher: Ubisoft (2013)
Reviewed: 2013/7/30
Rating: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs)

screenshotFar Cry 3 uses a serious storyline to add weight to its first-person shooting action. It begins with a group of young thrill-seekers skydiving onto an island where they are captured by a band of ruthless thugs. It's a terrifying scenario and your narrow escape really sets the tone for a harrowing adventure. By working with sympathetic natives you try to rescue your friends before they can be sold into slavery.

Far Cry 3's intense narrative has the undertones of a psychological thriller, but rest assured there are still plenty of shootouts, car chases, and earth-shaking explosions. The game encourages stealth, and it's almost suicide to enter a situation without employing some strategy. Item collecting plays a major role but the game isn't loot-crazy like Borderlands or Rage. Far Cry 3 gives you an open world to explore, and I like the idea of climbing rickety old radio towers to activate transmitters to reveal new sections of the map.

Unfortunately it's hard to go anywhere without being shot at or gored by a wild boar. I once plowed through a gang of thugs having a cookout on the beach, and would you believe they came after me? It's easy to get back on track however thanks to the "fast travel" destinations. The sense of freedom is nice, but once a mission begins you're locked into a "mission zone".

If there's one feature that turned me off, it was the "crafting". It's bad enough you have to collect plants to create health syringes, but I hate having to make basic containers like holsters, wallets, and sacks. Words cannot express my irritation with having to hunt down a goat just so I can carry a second weapon! I'm genuinely surprised you can drive any of the vehicles sitting around without first inventing a set of wheels!

The controls could be a lot better, especially when it comes to equipping and switching weapons. Sometimes you'll open a chest only to be told "flamethrower is now available free at store". Huh? Why not just give me the damned flamethrower now?! The voice acting is fine, but poor dialogue synchronization creates some comical situations. Once my guy was shouting "Holy [expletive] this is awesome!" while being beaten to death by a gang of thugs.

The game saves your progress automatically, and you can also save on the pause menu. Also worthy of mention is how the game tends to flash the F-bomb on the load screen. Far Cry 3 was my designated "summer game" this year, and I enjoyed its edgy storyline, explosive action, and tropical locales. Unfortunately as I played the game more and more I found myself enjoying it less and less. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Far Cry Instincts Predator
Grade: B
Publisher: Ubisoft (2006)
Reviewed: 2020/6/29
Rating: Mature (blood, drug reference, intense violence, strong language, suggestive themes)

screenshotWhen it comes to quality summertime violence it's hard to top Far Cry. Its turquoise waters, palm trees, wooden huts, and exotic sounds immerse you in an inviting tropical paradise (with people who want to kill you, but I think that goes without saying). I can practically smell the suntan lotion! Instincts is a port of Far Cry Instincts (Xbox, 2005), which may explain why the characters look a little stiff.

The opening sequence is adrenaline-pumping fun as your boat is attacked by helicopters and you're forced to take refuge in a rusty carrier wreck. Mercenaries have taken over the island but there are many techniques at your disposal to subdue them. You can sneak up from behind or equip "tree whip" traps. You can crawl prone under huts, roll over on your back, and shoot upward through the floorboards. You can commandeer boats and ATVs.

Maybe I'm just spoiled by the auto-aim of other shooters, but it can be really hard to get a bead on your enemies. They must all be wearing bullet-proof vests because they'll absorb several shots at point-blank range before falling down. It's less of an issue when you acquire automatic weapons that fire multiple rounds at a time. I love the idea of barrelling through enemy encampments in a stolen humvee but wonky steering controls left me feeling sea sick!

Still, there's a lot to like about this game. You can take multiple routes through each area, methodically picking off soldiers from the brush. There's a lot of very cool explosions. The handy radar display not only makes it easier to locate enemies but also your next objective. The pulse-pounding music makes you feel like you're in an action movie, with relentless percussion upping the sense of urgency. At some point you get injected with a venom that gives you the ability to unleash "beast mode".

The second game on the disc, "Evolution", is basically an expansive pack. It's locked by default (bogus) but unlockable via cheat code ("GiveMeItAll"). Both games offer four-player split-screen modes. Despite the occasional frustration Far Cry Instincts Predator has become one of my go-to games for summertime blood. I mean fun. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Fatal Inertia
Grade: D
Publisher: Koei (2007)
Reviewed: 2018/2/6
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotIt's not quite fatal but there is something noxious about Fatal Inertia. I don't know why it's so hard to make a decent futuristic racer considering the groundwork was laid out many years ago with Wipeout (PS1, 1995). Instead of high-tech tracks your ship glides through natural environments with lighted arrows and arches marking the path. The water effects are beautiful and I really love the lush jungles. The rocky gorges on the other hand tend to be so dark you can't even see where you're going!

The framerate is smooth as you climb hills and plunge into valleys, but is my ship supposed to be scraping on the ground so much? The tracks are refreshingly short, allowing you to quickly grasp their layouts. That bodes well for the two-player split-screen mode. The career mode is fun until the difficulty hits a wall.

Advanced tracks are littered with junk and hitting something will turn you in the wrong direction, which is really annoying. I actually became nauseous at one point. The combat is lousy. It's hard to tell if your weapons are having any effect and deploying a smoke screen seems more detrimental to you. Being the target of the rubber band weapon will have you bouncing around in frustration, desperately trying to free yourself.

But the worst "innovation" is the "brake-boost" which supposedly rewards you with a boost after you lean on the brake for a few seconds. What is the point? Fatal Inertia isn't a bad-looking game, but I wish it tried to be a little less creative and a lot more fun. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Fight Night Round 3
Grade: A-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2006)
Reviewed: 2006/4/14
Rating: Teen (blood, mild language, suggestive themes)

screenshotIf a single game embodies the raw power of the new generation of consoles, it's Fight Night 3. At first glance, this could be mistaken for an actual televised event. The sweaty fighters look incredibly realistic (especially up close) and their movements appear smooth and natural. Wait until you see the close-up, slow-motion replays of a boxer's face becoming grotesquely contorted as he's "crunched" with a devastating right hook. Heck, it hurts just to watch it (is that a blood worm that just flew out of his mouth?).

Fight Night Round 3 maintains an unprecedented level of realism without sacrificing the raw energy and fun of the sport. You can throw jabs, hooks, uppercuts, and even specialty punches. Most are initiated with intuitive sweeping motions of the right thumbstick, and the ensuing lag time depends on how tired your fighter is. Being proficient at this game will require employing proper boxing techniques. Punches must be varied and strategically mixed with blocks and dodges to keep your opponent off-balance. Simply whaling away with reckless abandon will leave you tired and wide open for counters.

As the fight progresses, sweat flies, bruises form, and blood runs down faces. Initially I was perplexed by the lack of screen indicators (like a clock), but my buddy Scott pointed out that this just adds to the realism. EA got so many things right with Fight Night 3. You get a whole slew of recognizable fighters from all weight classes, including Mohammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, Roberto Duran, and Sugar Ray Leonard.

The load times are substantial, but the hip-hop background music is outstanding - some of the best I've heard. Each round is introduced by a shapely bikini-clad babe, but as my friend Jonathan noted, these girls could really use a sandwich. The announcers sound professional enough, but at times their commentary is so far off base that you'll wonder if they're watching the same match.

In the addictive Career mode, you can create your own boxer and gradually work him through the ranks. It's amazing how you can customize every minute detail of your fighter, right down to the contours of his face. Some of the more tedious aspects of the game have also been addressed with the handy auto-training and auto-healing options. Playing solo is fun, but there's nothing better than slugging it out with a buddy in the versus mode. Fight Night Round 3 is perfect for applying a profanity-laden beat-down to a close friend, so let the trash talking commence. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage
Grade: D+
Publisher: Te mco Koei (2010)
Reviewed: 2017/4/9
Rating: Mature (blood, language, suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotBilled as "brutal martial arts action from the most beloved Manga series of all time", Fist of the North Star is one way to let off steam after a hard day's work. In this post-apocalyptic epic you play a cocky, muscle bound dude with lines like "who wants to die next?" You'll battle gangs of maniacs that look like extras from a Mad Max movie. They tend to hop around, attack one at a time, and shout stuff like "we bite and don't let go!"

North Star's brand of button-mashing group combat calls to mind Dynasty Warriors, Drakengard (PS2, 2003), and Hyrule Warriors (Wii U, 2014). Enemy forces seem overwhelming until you realize you can reduce a dozen men into fountains of blood with a single kick. Like its distant predecessor Fist of the North Star (NES, 1989), one punch will send goons flying off the screen. Ken's signature move lets him punch an enemy about 1000 times in 5 seconds. Once you trigger a barrage however it's hard to transition to your next target. You'll dispose of 20 clones only to have 20 more fall from the sky. It's raining men... Hallelujah!

The depressing desert scenery consists of makeshift forts and ruined cities. Much of the environment is semi-destructible but invisible walls prove annoying. Movement can be disorienting thanks to Ken's fast, sporadic movements and the touchy camera. Good thing there's an on-screen map with a big green arrow pointing the way. You assume the role of three different characters in overlapping scenarios with titles like "stench of death."

In stages starring the scantily-clad female the game employs some outrageous camera angles during the crawling scenes. Dispatching gangs isn't hard but the bosses really overstay their welcome. You can't save your progress until the end of your mission, but sometimes that requires beating multiple bosses! Losing to a boss and having to start over is painful. Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage will suck you in on the strength of its devastating carnage, but after a while you'll probably get sick of playing it. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2
Grade: C+
Publisher: Tecmo Koei (2013)
Reviewed: 2017/4/9
Rating: Mature (blood, language, suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotKen's Rage 2 is what the previous Fist of the North Star game should have been. The bloody violence is even more pronounced yet less repetitive and more satisfying. Each stage pits ninja Ken against a veritable sea of thugs, but he's up to the challenge. His normal attack unleashes a hundred ghostly fists, pummeling everything in the vicinity. When you execute a charged attack it can literally transform an advancing gang into a wave of blood.

No matter how brutal the chaos gets, the framerate manages to keep up. Ken's Rage 2 shares the same engine as its predecessor, inheriting its shortcomings as well. The controls are touchy and the camera is all over the place. I'm really glad you have a radar on the screen at all times to locate enemies around you.

The post-apocalyptic ruins are drab, and the cut-scenes ramble on and on. I'm pretty sure I sat through a couple of these scenes during the last game. The audio quality is suspect at times, with static being heard during battles. Still, Ken's Rage 2 has an arcade flair the previous game lacked, with frequent pop-up messages like "level up!" Enemies no longer have life meters above them, which makes dispatching them feel less like a chore.

The game supports online options which may or may not be currently supported. But the biggest upgrade are the copious save points sprinkled throughout the missions. Thank goodness! Fist of the North Star 2 is still a flawed fighter, but sometimes a little over-the-top violence can make it all seem worthwhile. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Forza Motorsport 2
Grade: C-
Publisher: Microsoft (2009)
Reviewed: 2012/4/18
Rating: Everyone


screenshotThe more realistic a racer is, the more boring it is. It's a scientific fact! That doesn't bode well for Forza Motorsport 2, which purports to be "the complete racing simulation experience". I'm no racing expert, but I did put a lot of time into Gran Turismo (PS1, 1998) back in the day, so I have that much going for me. Forza's career mode will challenge serious racers on several levels. You'll need to systematically upgrade your car to maximize its performance, and you'll need to master its handling characteristics on the road.

Being a shallow kind of guy I gravitated toward the arcade mode, which gave me instant access to all the cars. The idea is to unlock the tracks one by one. I figured I could blow away the competition by choosing a super high-end model, until I realized the rest of the field was driving the same freakin' car! Unable to effectively harness that kind of power, I invariably settled for a C-class car, which is not unlike what I might drive in real life! The cars look all shiny and new, but the tracks are extremely dull. Heck, even the Times Square circuit nearly put me to sleep.

Forza's brand of racing feels like slow motion, but once you learn how to take corners gracefully the racing is satisfying enough. I found myself cheating quite a bit, which paid off handsomely. I would cut across grass, use other cars as guide rails, and even T-bone an opponent when it served my purpose. The physics in this game is awfully fishy. I don't understand how rubbing against a guardrail at 20 MPH would always turn my car completely around.

A split-screen lets two players go head-to-head, but since there are no CPU opponents, the races are painfully uneventful. Even the soundtrack of cool dance tunes failed to get me pumped up for this game. Hardcore racing fans can probably bump up the grade by a letter, but those looking for instant gratification should avoid Forza 2 at all costs. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Fruit Ninja
Grade: C
Publisher: Halfbrick Studios (2011)
Reviewed: 2013/3/17
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIf you're looking for a Kinect title that delivers instant gratification, Fruit Ninja is for you. You simply slash at fruit that's tossed up on the screen, racking up points while splattering juice, seeds, and pulp all over the place. Your swipes are punctuated by white motion lines and exaggerated sound effects - just like an old Kung Fu movie!

It's satisfying to slice open several juicy pineapples and watermelons in one clean slice! To keep you honest the game periodically tosses bombs into the mix. It's exciting to surgically cut through an apple and orange while narrowly missing a bomb! The game offers a variety of modes including classic (normal), Zen mode (no bombs), and multiplayer (two players at a time).

I fell in love with Fruit Ninja but the affair doesn't last. The gameplay is shallow and the challenges and bonus items don't add much. The two-player mode doesn't seem as fair or exciting as it could be. My friend Chris wasn't impressed at all, explaining he's had the game on his phone for quite a while. Fruit Ninja would be ideal for a quick play, but Xbox Live doesn't afford you that luxury with its clunky menu navigation, constant updating, load times, etc. The game is definitely a crowd pleaser but I can understand why it was relegated to download-only status. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Full Auto
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (2006)
Reviewed: 2006/5/7
Rating: Teen (violence)

screenshotFull Auto combines the power sliding of Project Gotham, the breakneck speed of Burnout, and the brutal weaponry of Twisted Metal to unleash an unprecedented degree of destruction and mayhem. You have to wonder why nobody thought of this before. What could be more satisfying than blowing up the leader of the pack just before he can reach the finish line?

I love Full Auto's bright, arcade-style graphics, which exude a certain Crazy Taxi flavor. The detailed city streets are lined with phone booths, trees, outdoor cafes, and other obstacles you can plow right through without even slowing down. Practically everything is destructible, including storefronts, fences, telephone poles, dumpsters, and monuments. Massive explosions and excessive flying debris make it all the more satisfying.

The first time any of my friends play this, they can't help but laugh out loud at all of the gratuitous destruction. The wrecks are awesome, and occasionally your car will hit a ramp and go soaring through the air. Each vehicle is equipped with a pair of weapons - one mounted on front and the other in the back. These include machine guns, missile launchers, mines, smoke screens, and grenade launchers. A rearview mirror makes it easy to keep an eye on opponents, and you can even aim at cars on the side by targeting with the right thumbstick and pushing it in to fire.

But what really pushes Full Auto over the top is its novel "unwreck" feature. By holding in the upper right shoulder button, you can "rewind" the last few seconds of the game, effectively allowing you to turn back time and correct any ill-advised maneuvers on your part (like running into a wall). Once you get spoiled by this feature, you'll wish it were in every racer. As in Burnout, vehicles are also equipped with an exhilarating turbo boost, and green arrows are used to guide you around town.

The scenery is fairly spectacular, especially close to the water's edge. But while the downtown areas shine, the mountainous tracks look very fake. The two-player split screen mode does a respectable job of maintaining the frame-rate and providing a clear view of the road ahead. It even includes CPU-controlled opponents!

Despite its winning formula however, Full Auto does take a while to get up to speed. The tutorial takes forever to complete, and you have to invest a heck of a lot of time in the career mode to unlock the weapons. The computer AI seems cheap at times, with CPU racers that tend to bunch up and take advantage of hidden shortcuts. You'll also need to contend with a heck of a lot of load screens. The more I played Full Auto, however, the more I liked it. Its brand of nonstop action and mindless destruction is hard to quit. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


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