15 Sizzling Summer Games

Darth Vader and Steven Tyler

Soul Calibur IV
By: Project Soul
From: Namco Bandai Games
For: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Rating: Teen
ETA: July 29

Info: The fifth installment in Namco's Soul Calibur series of weapons-based fighting games about swords with souls and vendettas receives a bunch of new characters, online play, and a little two-on-one roughhousing.

Matt: Astaroth versus Cervantes, Lizardman versus Rock, Yoda versus Darth Vader--hold up a sec, Yoda versus Darth Vader? Who let George Lucas out of his box? Add Dark Side Force abilities such as "push" and "choke" to the roster of potentially cool weirdness, some guy called Starkiller guest-starring as Vader's rag-wrapped apprentice (seriously, wardrobe check please?) and Yoda performing his hilariously cool Episode Two lightsaber ballet.

Darren: Honestly, I'm torn on this one. I will buy (and probably continue to buy) any Soul Calibur game--they are that much fun. But this whole Star Wars angle has me scratching my head. Why stop there? Why not Jar Jar? Why not the guy from Empire Strikes Back who tells Han that his Tauntaun won't make it past the first marker? Matt, we may be witnessing a "Jump the Shark" moment here.

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith
By: Budcat Creations, Neversoft, Vicarious Visions
From: Activision
For: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Rating: Teen
ETA: June 29

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith
Info: Plastic-axe-pickers follow 30 years of the band Aerosmith's hard rocking in chronological order, from fledgling radio hits to international megastardom.

Matt: The Guitar Hero shred-a-verse adds the eminently expressive Steven Tyler and crew to its arsenal of rock-revival rhythm games. What's not to love about key-slapping along with songs like "Back in the Saddle," "Walk This Way," and "Love in an Elevator"? The only thing that would make this game groovier is a bundled pair of press-on lips.

Darren: With all the plastic game guitars floating around my house, I feel like a roadie for Fisher-Price. Will I buy this? Yes. Will it rock? Probably. But if Activision dedicates a game to the career of Boston's "toxic twins," they really need to make this game play like a VH1 Behind the Music episode. I mean, think of the potential minigames!

Madden NFL 09
By: EA Tiburon
From: EA Sports
For: DS, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Rating: Everyone
ETA: August 12

Info: The annual update of the only football game with an NFL license gets the usual tweaks to game play and graphics, along with a new holographic training sim.

Matt: Can't we give this franchise a year off or something? No? Okay, but you'll have to decide for yourself whether you're football-nuts enough to drop 60 bucks for better graphics, camera angles, online leagues, new moves and weather effects, and on-demand picture-in-picture. The most intriguing add-in is a virtual training area you "test" through that raises or lowers your "Madden IQ" and adjusts the game's difficulty accordingly.

Darren: You know what the sad truth, is, Matt? EA could just change the names on the jerseys, and people would still buy it. I'm kinda hoping for the day when you buy the game only once and download updated stats and players every season, and just leave it at that. That said, thumbs-up to EA for not mailing it in and for trying something different. Even if this is the only NFL football game in town.

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