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Plugged In

Stellar Reach is triumphant exit for Halo makers

Plugged In

HALO: REACH

Platforms: X360

Halo Reach - Microsoft

Hitting streets at midnight tonight, Halo: Reach is developer
Bungie's last ever Halo title -- but will they go out with a bang or a
whimper?

It might lack an appearance from traditional Halo lead
Master Chief, but according to most critics, the game's a stunner. Some
even label it the best Halo title to date in a near-uniform thumbs-up
that's pushing the game to the 93% mark on review aggregation site Metacritic.com.

Case in point: Gamepro's Matt Cabral.

"Bungie [has] injected their tried-and-true formula with enough fresh ideas and
refinements to make this the best Halo entry yet," he writes, "and
that's saying a hell of a lot given the absence of Master Chief's boot
prints on planet Reach."

Cabral praises both the game's campaign -- "an epic story, incredible pacing, and a spot-on mix of old and new elements" -- and its multiplayer, predicting you'll spend "a large
chunk of your life in [its] massive online universe." He awards it five stars out of five.

1UP's Thierry Nguyen also lavishes Reach with a perfect A+, calling it "a prequel to a beloved sci-fi series that not only simply works, but is at times better than the installments it precedes." Considering Halos one, two, and three rank among the best-reviewed games ever released on Microsoft platforms, that's no mean feat.

As for specifics, Nguyen is impressed by the game's range of tools -- including both tweaked weapons and all-new toys like the game's jetpack -- and the flexible way the game lets you approach them.

"Combat in Reach stops being linear and allows for some player creativity in
tactics," he writes. "One time, after unsuccessfully attempting to
scale a fortified structure on either foot or Warthog jeep, I simply
decide to try using a Jetpack to reach my objective -- and by golly,
that worked."

Is the acclaim universal? Not quite: Wired breaks ranks to award Reach what, in comparison, is an underwhelming 8/10, criticizing the game's plot ("predictable...weak") and tired characters ("one-note Johnnies, all swagger and no depth.")

"Narrative storytelling has never been Bungie's strong suit," says writer Gus
Mastrapa, and although your squad of Spartan-armored buddies is
straight out of Aliens, "none of your compatriots are half as lively as
Hudson and Hicks."

But even so, there's broad agreement on one point: the multiplayer is "amazing," Mastrapa says, even in the face of competition from the likes of the Modern Warfare franchise. "Halo has remained an innovator...Reach brims with features that few other console games deliver."

Disagreements over the game's solo campaign aside, the verdict's clear: the millions of faithful Halo fans are in for some late nights this week. Already tipped as the year's
likely top seller, Halo: Reach could have a shot at being its best received, too. Not a bad way to go out, Bungie.

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ALSO AVAILABLE THIS WEEK:

PLAYSTATION MOVE

Platforms: PS3

PlayStation Move - Sony

Wish you could waggle away from the Wii? So does Sony, who's aiming to
make a lasting impression in the motion-control war with their
impressive Move peripheral. Boasting fancier, more responsive tech than
the four year-old Wii remote, the system is resonating with critics,
though some believe the price tag is a bit steep. Still on the fence?
Check out our Move 101 preview and see if it's worth a swing.

Get More Details | Buy From Amazon

STAR WARS: CLONE WARS ADVENTURES

Platforms: PC

Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures - LucasArts

Take the free-to-play brilliance of Sony Online hit Free Realms, add a
galaxy's worth of Star Wars: Clone Wars goodness, and let sit. The
result? Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, a free massively-multiplayer
game based on the hugely popular Clone Wars fiction. Featuring loads of
mini-games, deep customization and enough awesome Star Wars references
to please fans of all ages, this could well be the droid, er, game you
were looking for.

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SAMANTHA SWIFT AND THE FOUNTAINS OF FATE

Platforms: Yahoo! Games

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Samantha Swift and the Fountains of Fate

Gaming's foremost female explorer is back, this time searching for the
fabled Fountain of Youth. But before she'll find it, she'll have to
locate all sorts of other random items in this high-quality
hidden-object hunt. A must for fans of the genre, young and old alike.

Get More Game Details | Download from Yahoo! Games

PROFESSOR LAYTON AND THE UNWOUND FUTURE

Platforms: DS

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

Brilliant sleuth Professor Layton and his trusted assistant Luke are
out to solve a time-bending case, and that means one thing: lots and
lots of brainteasers. The third entry in the critically-acclaimed DS
series features the same great visuals and delivery as its top-rated
kin, but packs over 150 new puzzles and a brand new tale. You don't
need a magnifying glass to see why you should check it out.

Get More Game Details | Buy from Amazon
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: ARAGORN'S QUEST

Platforms: PS3, Wii, DS, PS2

The Lords of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest

It's been a while since we've romped around Middle-Earth, but it might
be time for a return visit. Set after the events covered in Tolkien's
books, this action-adventure drops you into the boots of the
ranger-who-would-be-King as he battles assorted evildoers that still
lurk about the land. Will it be the one to rule them all?

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JEWEL QUEST: HERITAGE

Platforms: Yahoo! Games

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Jewel Quest: Heritage

Mystery meets match-3 in the latest Jewel Quest game. With over 175
game boards, various modes, and a globetrotting adventure filled with
curious twists, it's a real gem. Or a jewel. Maybe even a diamond in
the rough. You get the idea.

Get More Game Details | Download from Yahoo! Games

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS GA'HOOLE

Platforms: X360, PS3, Wii, DS

Legend of the Guardians

Though the film isn't due out until September 24, gamers can get a jump
on the action by helping the owls save their kind in the official
Legend of Guardians video game. Is it just another crummy movie tie-in,
or will it fly on its own? Whooooo knows?

Get More Game Details | Buy from Amazon

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