(PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360)
EA Tiburon, Electronic Arts
Mr. Woods may still be fine-tuning his game on the real links, but in the virtual world, the latest Electronic Arts offering places his shots on the green and awfully close to the cup time after time.
There are lots of things to marvel about in this new Woods edition. Let's say you start a round of 18 and the skies look a bit overcast. By the sixth hole, the clouds could look awfully ominous. By the back nine, your caddy is doing his best to keep you dry. Yup, real-time weather is in the game for the first time and can completely change how you play, taking chances to improve your score before the drops fall and laying up conservatively when things get torrential. The Weather Channel, the real network, provides updates throughout the game.
For those who dominated the game by perfecting their power swings off the tee, take note - it won't be that easy this time, as drives have been reduced a bit. Not cheaply, but more realistically. It will be rare to make 350-yard drives off the tee, if at all.
It is the online portion of the game that will separate the virtual Woodses from the, oh . . . I don't know, Vijay Singhs of the world.
Daily and weekly online tournaments will find players competing for the best scores on famed courses such as Torrey Pines and Bethpage Black (home of this year's U.S. Open). It should be said that the weekly tournaments will allow multiple-round submission during the week, so if you mess up a couple you will have another chance or two. Another thing EA says it offers is accurate rankings so beginners don't have to compete with seasoned players.
Doesn't seem like the online game can get any more interesting, right? Wrong. Play the Pros mode and get updated real tournament scores in the game! Let's say Tiger shoots under par on a hole at Torrey Pines in real life. Guess what you will have to get on the same hole in the game to beat him? Supposedly, the updates will happen fairly quickly from real tournaments to the game. Final-round Sundays will never be the same again.
(PS3, PC, Xbox 360)
Radical Entertainment, Activision
We've been seeing images of Prototype for about a year now. In a plan similar to Sony's inFamous of a couple of weeks ago, gamers will be in charge of a hero with strange powers and will unravel the mystery of how he got them. Of course, you have to battle a bunch of baddies who have infested the streets of the Big Apple as well.
Your character, Alex Mercer, is a pretty angry guy. The citizens are terrified of him, strange mutant types keep attacking him, and the government does what most fictitious "sci-fi" governments do - try to capture you.
To deal with all of these obstacles, Alex can climb buildings, glide through the air, run super-fast, and pummel foes with melee attacks.
You can use all kinds of weapons as well, but pummeling - oh, the pummeling!
What you have probably seen of this game so far are the bizarre images of Alex's extra-long limb flailing about, causing havoc. You see, he is also a shape shifter and can grow huge claws, clubs, and even a blade-tipped arm.
These abilities take melee combat to an entirely new level; there is nothing like hammering a tank with the two huge clubs you have for arms.
Alex also can ingest folks and, with that, learn new abilities and new tidbits of information about why he is such a freak of nature . . . or something. There is so much more in the game to do and discover than I have listed here; with a really large TV and capable sound system (the game is often stunning to the eyes and ears), you won't be surprised to shape-shift into a couch potato for longer than usual.