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Call of Duty: First Strike strikes Xbox Live

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Call of Duty: Black Ops -- First Strike

Platforms: X360

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Call of Duty: Black Ops

Wondering why your workplace, schoolroom, or college class looks a little empty today? Having driven Call of Duty: Black Ops to well over a billion dollars in sales, it's publisher Activision's turn to give back: the game's first downloadable map pack hits Xbox Live this week, and we're betting a good number of military shooter fans are taking the day off in celebration.

So what's new? First Strike adds four general-purpose maps, including one
based on the arctic research station that features in Black Ops'
single-player campaign, and one new scenario for the game's popular
Zombie co-operative mode. The pack will run you 1,200 Microsoft points,
also known as $15, and is about a 650 MB download.

According to early reviews, it's well worth the investment, even at what's perhaps a slightly high price for five new maps. "Each new area brings something new to the experience, even if it's just a welcome change of scenery," says RunDLC, calling it "a must download for fans looking to expand an already great video game."

Blog Kotaku also posted their impressions, and like many they're picking the rooftops
and apartments of First Strike's Kowloon map as their favorite, for its
cool zip lines and intricate layout. "This is
the sort of map that's going to take awhile to master," writes Brian
Crecente, "especially when taking on a group of talented players."

Good news for players, then -- and its release is sure to be good news for
Activision, too. While the Call of Duty games are repeatedly smashing
sales records at retail, the franchise's downloadable expansions have
been doing almost as well. Call of Duty fans have bought over 20 million
map packs to date, making it the likely top-dog in the downloadable
arena too.

(Wondering about the curious omission of the words "Playstation Network" from the
above paragraphs? There's a good reason, or a bad reason, depending on
how you look at it: the pack is an Xbox exclusive for the time being.
Playstation-owning gamers are going to have to watch from the sidelines
for about another month. )

In celebration of the launch Activision will also be kicking off the
game's first double-experience weekend this Friday February 4. Through
Sunday you'll earn twice the XP for your online accomplishments, and
that does apply to Playstation 3 players too.

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Also Out Now:

Drawn: Dark Flight

Platforms: PC

Though it looks like your usual hidden-object puzzler, artsy Drawn: Dark
Flight has a solid enough plot (and tricky enough puzzles) to snare even
fans of old-school point-and-click adventures. Don't take it from us,
though: take it from IGN, who called it "a good game and [a] great deal."

The Sims 3: Outdoor Living

Platforms: PC

After several years of work and several expansions of new content, we're
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you've been craving.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2

Platforms: PS3, X360

Talk about an arms race. After being near-silent for a decade or more, the
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this week. Releasing on Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network,
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one of the best downloadable games of this generation. Needless to say,
we've got high hopes.

Get More Game Details

The Fall Trilogy, Chapter One: Separation

Platforms: PC

Despite its name, this shares nothing with the influential Mancunian post-punk
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always play your The Fall record in the background.

Get More Game Details | Download from Yahoo! Games

Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops

Platforms: PC

Missing out on your dose of Splinter Cell-style stealth action games? Shadow
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that is. Harking from German developer Black Lion Studios, look for it
on streets this week...unless it's hiding, that is.

Get More Game Details | Buy from Amazon


Platforms: PC

Second of the week's PC-exclusive video game releases, Earthrise takes place
in a post-apocalyptic massively multiplayer world where human cloning is
the norm. Featuring a flexible character advancement scheme and
extensive player-versus-player combat, it'll be a breath of fresh air
for anyone sick of Warcraft's fantasy stylings.

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