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Plugged In

Holiday Gaming Stinkers: The Must-Not-Haves

Plugged In

It's easy to be tempted by low prices, especially during the holidays. Often times, deals are so good that you grab an item without thinking it through just so you can check someone off your shopping list.

The problem? Your friend or loved one winds up with a gift that sounds great in theory, but ends up having a shelf life shorter than a piece of bread. It might be good for a day or so, but you're not going to be real happy with it after that.

With that in mind, we've put together a cautionary list of gaming choices that might sound tempting to bargain-hunting shoppers, but may not be the wisest use of your money this year.

Nintendo Wii

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The Wii is one of the most successful gaming consoles of all time, and it packs a sizable catalog of terrific games. It's also running for as low as $99 this holiday, making it seem like a steal.

But it's also about to become yesterday's news. The system's successor, the Wii U, is coming out next year. In terms of major new releases, Nintendo is largely done with the Wii -- the next Mario and Zelda games will almost certainly be Wii U exclusives, along with all of the company's other major franchises. And at the end of the day, Nintendo itself makes the best titles for any Nintendo system.

If you're buying for someone who is seriously behind the video game curve, it's at least an affordable choice. But gamers love looking to the future — and frankly, the Wii just isn't on that horizon.

PSP

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Sony's handheld gaming system has a lot working against it. It's not a major focus for any publisher these days. It's facing increased competition from mobile devices. And, like the Wii, it's about to be replaced by a newer model.

While the success of next year's Playstation Vita is hardly a guarantee, it's certain to overshadow the PSP and take the wind out of that system's tattered sails entirely. If you want to get someone a good portable gift, pre-order a Vita and leave the current PSP on the shelf.

Original iPad or iPhone 3GS

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Apple's devices are top retail items this year, but that doesn't mean you should grab anything that has the company's logo on it. The original iPad is available at discount at a number of outlets and the iPhone 3GS is either very cheap or free for most carriers, if you're willing to sign a two-year service agreement.

The prices can't be beat, but if you're a gamer (or buying for one), you're going to be disappointed. Both devices run on older hardware, and while they can handle Angry Birds and Cut the Rope without breaking a sweat, they struggle with newer hits like Infinity Blade 2. And that's just going to get more pronounced; some new games can't be played at all on the older iOS systems.

They're still just fine as tablets and phones and music players, but if you like to play the latest and greatest apps, you're better off paying for more recent models.

Need for Speed: The Run

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Sometimes taking a game in a brand new direction re-energizes it and attracts a brand new audience. Sometimes it drives folks further away. Care to guess which effect this driving/action title has?

On paper, it's a winning formula: blend the franchise's blazing sense of speed with an action game element and a story reminiscent of The Cannonball Run. And, as an added bonus, toss in appearances by Christina Hendricks and a couple of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. It should be the perfect guy-oriented game, right?

Maybe, but the final result earned just a 67 Metacritic score and was lambasted for its short gameplay and troubled design. Want a great arcade racer? Try Driver: San Francisco instead.

Duke Nukem Forever

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Frankly, it's a miracle this game ever made it onto shelves — and after a dozen years in development, expectations were unreasonably high. Still, no one was prepared for what was ultimately released: A disastrous game trapped in the mid-90s.

Some fans were thrilled with the retro feel, but most were shocked at the outdated graphics and aged potty humor. You'd have to be a true fan of the series to enjoy the game.

To Gearbox's credit, the developer continues to support the game with DLC — and has stated it plans a Duke Nukem game that's entirely its own for the coming years. Even if you love Duke, you're  better off waiting for that one.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts One and Two

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The final tome in the Harry Potter series was a rollicking ride that perfectly ended the tale of the Boy Who Lived. The movies were thrilling adventures that earned Oscar nominations, with Part Two whispered to be a contender for Best Picture this year.

But the games? They kind of sucked.

We're not sure why EA's quality control failed so miserably on these -- which had plenty of good source material to draw from -- but both parts of this series were absolutely terrible. Unfortunately, that's something a parent, aunt or uncle might not know. If you've got a little Muggle whose dream is to get into Gryffindor someday, buying them either of these games would be akin to tossing them in a room with Lord Voldemort. Opt for the exceptional Lego Harry Potter games instead.

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