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Trigger-happy holiday hot tickets

Videogames have long dominated as hot-ticket Christmas presents. Since Nintendo caught on, kids have been begging parents for the high-priced items released in December. This year, the Xbox 360 is the big to-do. Unfortunately, there aren't even enough for reviewers, so many kids will be getting replacement gifts. If a sleek 360 isn't available, here's some options amongst the massively marketed titles dropping in December.

Nothing says Christmas like World War II. Now, with Call of Duty 2, you get to blast apart the Germans in a chaotic, first-person shooter. Bombs drop, bullets fly and battle zone landscapes are filled with hundreds of enemies and friendly soldiers in the scenarios. While the game attempts to capture the true feeling of going through a WWII blitzkrieg, it does fall short of glory.

Initially, this game is slow to warm up. The controllers are messy, making maneuvering hard to master. I died a lot in the game and found certain parts incredibly annoying. Especially the tanks: they were impossible to control, and your player's viewpoint had to be perfectly in line with the physical movement (requiring syncing two joysticks) to move in anything other than a circle. Actually blowing things up with the tanks was far more fun.

Furthermore, the game will not allow you to open doors. Strangely enough, another soldier must perform this function. I understand this serves to isolate the scenarios, but it's off-putting when you can't turn a handle. I don't need soldiers around to kick my doors open for me; the character I'm playing shouldn't either.

As for the battle itself, I enjoyed blasting away Germans. Taking over big machine guns and blowing planes out of the sky with anti-aircraft guns were my favorite. The sniper rifles also made mowing the enemy down more fun, since these controls were surprisingly easy to master.

Overall, Call of Duty 2 looked good but unworthy of its slew of rave reviews. This is not a groundbreaking game, but a solid first-person shooter. As the graphics should be mind-blowing, I am interested in seeing how it looks on the 360.

Gun is a Western-themed, first-person shooter in which you play a typical cowboy character and off ugly bad guys. I was surprised to see actor/musician Kris Kristofferson at the beginning of gameplay dressed like Daniel Boone with a bushy gray beard and husky voice. The developers must've paid him a pretty penny to do the short intro which, sadly, isn't all that interesting. Kristofferson's character Ned teaches you how to hunt, and for a while, I had flashbacks to Duck Hunt as I tried to pop five geese in the allotted time. Once you finish off a grizzly bear, the game starts and poor Ned goes the way of an exploding ferryboat.

The game makes you endure too many dumb tests but improves when you get to go at real people. I especially loved one move where I could shoot a guy in the head and gut him as he fell. The sort of violence Gun allows is fantastic for a gamer who likes some art to their kills, and I certainly reveled in it. There are also lots of options for doing the deed, including the ability to easily switch from rifle to six-shooter to knife.

Another detail I liked was the Quickshooter command. It allows a deep-ranged focus on targets that move in slo-mo so five or six enemies can be taken out with rapid fire. Gun also has auto-targeting -- a boon since, with the toggle sensitivity of the joysticks, it's sometimes hard to get a clear shot.

On the flip side, Gun features an absolutely infuriating horse race. I somehow managed to kill my horse a whopping six times and lost the race about five times. I was willing to trash the game if I didn't make it by the 12th try. Luckily, I progressed to some fun on-horse shooting action.

Despite these detriments, I enjoyed the game for its mayhem and Western-style shoot-em-ups. However, when it comes to a first-person shooter, I prefer to have a little more freedom of movement throughout the game. I really wanted to shoot some of the good or neutral guys, but the game didn't let me go evil. I think if the trials had been left out and a few more alternate options added, Gun might've been a bit more enjoyable.

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