Nintendo DS

Nintendo has come out with its newest product offering since updating the GameBoy with the GameBoy Advance. The new dual-screen handheld is larger than the GameBoy and features a touch screen to navigate through various menus and games. The DS also has a wireless feature that allows you to communicate or play games with other people without the use of a cable. There’s even a PictoChat mode where you can send and receive wireless messages and pictures from other DS users-up to sixteen people at one time. There’re plenty of games to keep everyone busy like Madden NFL, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, The Urbz: Sims In The City, and more. The only thing missing from this handheld is an Internet connection and cell-phone capabilities, but maybe that’s for the next iteration of gaming devices.-Eric Sentianin

Mercenaries: Playground Of Destruction

Lucas Arts

PlayStation 2/Xbox

What an explosive video game! No, really. You can literally blow everything up-everything! Mercenaries should be renamed Grand Theft Auto: North Korea because it’s a third-person shooter with intense gameplay similar to GTA’s game engine, and just as addictive. In this game, you can choose between three mercs who can accept hitman-style contract missions from five different factions-North Korea, South Korea, Red China, the Russian Mafia, and the Allies. With the ability to jack all kinds of modern tanks, jeeps with mounted .50 caliber machine guns, armored Humvees with grenade launchers, and helicopters loaded to the teeth with missiles, Mercenaries is well worth its weight in gold and will have you controlling your merc to take out contracts until the wee hours of the morning. Rack up the hard-earned cash from your completed contracts and you can buy basically any kind of weapon or vehicle you wish. Need to take out a few buildings? Call in an air-strike, and get the hell out of there! Fans of the Grand Theft Auto franchise will be very pleased with this game. I say f-k the contracts, just blow everything up.-Aaron Schmidt

The Getaway: Black Monday

Sony Computer Entertainment

PlayStation 2

The Getaway: Black Monday was the game that could have been so much better. Besides the realistic layout of the greater London area and the cinematically choreographed cut scenes, this game has little to offer. I mostly found myself frustrated with the gameplay-the lack of a heads-up display with the type of gun armed, how much ammo remained, or even a health meter. In fact, to restore your health, simply lean your character against the wall and they’ll be nursed back to full health-yeah, weird. Even when you aim at enemies, there’s no cross-hair-I wasn’t ever fully aware of who I was aiming at. A HUD could have made a world of difference, because even when you’re driving around, there’s no map unless you access the start menu-so you basically never use it. Instead, Black Monday uses the turn signals on your vehicle to guide you to your destination. When I saw the commercials for this game, I knew I wanted to play it, but when I was ready to throw the controller at the TV in frustration, I realized that a game like this should borrow some tools from the folks who made Grand Theft Auto. Unfortunately for The Getaway’s second iteration, the game comes up a lot short. Maybe they’ll take the feedback as constructive criticism and make the third installment the best game ever, because the plot, story line, and level construction are quite good. Play at your own risk on this one.-Eric Sentianin

NFL Street 2

EA Sports Big

GameCube/PlayStation 2/Xbox

NFL Street 2 takes you from the gritty parking-lot street-ball player to stardom. Well, not really, but in the world of video games anything is possible, including running off the walls-the newest power move added to the offensive-minded game of seven-on-seven football. Although the Own The City mode-where you build your character’s attributes and team-is a bit lengthy to complete, there’re pplenty of other modes to keep you playing this game well after the Super Bowl has come and gone. After the game came out, a cheat was revealed where you could play as Stevie Williams. It’s true. Go to the cheat menu and type “Reebok” and Stevie will appear as one of thirteen Reebok-sponsored athlethes in the DGK team. He’s fast as hell, too. NFL Street 2 is a great game to play with friends to remind you of those times when you played tackle football in the school yard. In true video-game fashion, the hits are more brutal, the jukes are ankle breaking, and the bragging and trash-talking is nonstop. It’s all about having fun.-Eric Sentianin

Vans Skate And Slam Featuring Geoff Rowley

Gameloft

Honestly, the Vans Skate game is the first mobile-phone game I’ve played other than the blackjack game that came with my generic phone. And just because it’s a mobile-phone game, don’t let it fool you-it’s actually quite fun to play. The graphics are on par with other handhelds like Nintendo’s GameBoy Advance, and the physics compare to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater engine-good-looking tricks like the kickflip, 360 flip, pop shove-it, melon grab, nollie, and frontside 360 ollie. I couldn’t really maximize combos, though, because my fingers were just too fat to push the tiny cell-phone buttons. Someone with small fingers could really master this game, taking Geoff through the various chapters of skating, taking photos, racking up massive point combos, and impressing the pros to get sponsored. It’s definitely worth downloading from gameloft.com if you have a compatible phone.-Eric Sentianin

Colin McRae Rally 2005

Codemasters

Xbox

Codemasters has been teaming up with rally racer Colin McRae for a few years now, and with Colin McRae Rally 2005, it’s put forth its best game thus far. The graphic detailing of the cars is equal to their real-life counterparts and coupled with the dynamics of racing in severe weather and sharp graphical environments, this makes for a sensational simulation race game. The career mode allows the user to build his skills and unlock over 30 different cars-each with its own driving characteristics, no two cars drive the same-on a variety of terrain to compete and become a champion. The Championship mode puts you in Colin’s shoes racing in realistic rally situations across the globe. In both modes, while in the garages, you’re able to tweak your car’s settings-gear ratios, tire selection, chasis height, brake bias, et cetera-make repairs, and test for upgrades on the brakes, engine, suspension, transmission, and the turbo. To date, this was the best of the Colin McRae series, and any rally-race fan will enjoy playing this realistic game without busting up their own car on a neighborhood dirt road.-Eric Sentianin