A year ago, if a PlayStation 2 game had online multiplayer, you could almost guarantee that the single-player campaign was an afterthought. If you didn't have cable Internet or a T1 connection, and you saw the word "broadband" on that game case, your money was better spent elsewhere.
It's a pleasant surprise that SOCOM 3 breaks this trend. Actually, "breaks" puts it too lightly. SOCOM 3 flanks the trend, pins it, paints it with a laser sight and calls in an air strike on it. If you're waging war solo, this game gives you plenty of expansive environments in which to wreak havoc, and plenty of handy AI teammates and armored vehicles to help do it. And if you do happen to be privileged with broadband, you can share your bliss with up to 31 other lucky bastards ... and then shoot them.
POKEMON XD: GALE OF DARKNESS (E) (2.5 stars)
I used to be onboard with that whole "gotta catch 'em all" slogan but they just keep ... making ... more of them. XD again tasks us to battle and collect the cute, little monsters, but this time they're all Shadow (i.e. stubborn) Pokemon, which means you have to coax them into opening their hearts before they'll be useful. Sigh.
BROTHERS IN ARMS: EARNED IN BLOOD (M) (4 stars)
PlayStation 2, Xbox
As you might expect from a game rushed through development in less than a year, this sequel to Road to Hill 30 hasn't advanced a whole lot. Fortunately, it was already the most realistic squad-based, tactical shooter in the WWII-saturated market. So with improved AI, Earned in Blood is still holding down the competition with suppressing fire.
X-MEN LEGENDS II: RISE OF APOCALYPSE (T) (4 stars)
PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox
Thank God villains don't even get along with each other. With Apocalypse picking up the bad-guy mantle, this game has former villians such as Magneto and Juggernaut becoming your new teammates, adding their cool powers to the mutant RPG gang's repertoire. 'Nuff said.
MIDWAY ARCADE TREASURES 3 (E) (3.5 stars)
PlayStation 2, Xbox
Are the first 3D games considered classics already? Admittedly, the San Francisco Rush racers were pure quarter-gobbling goodness, but most of these titles are only a few years old. That makes the graphics too good to have old-school charm, but too bad to be good.
Matthew Scott Hunter has been known to mumble, "Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start" in his sleep. E-mail him at