Month in Review: July 2005

This feature includes the games of the month and our monthly buyers' guide.

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No Caption ProvidedBuyer's guide text: Welcome to the GameSpot Complete Buyers' Guide. Our guide is in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format, and it's laid out so you can print it out and take it on the go. With this guide, you'll have access to our thoughts and ratings for every title that's appeared in the last month. Take the guide to your local game store and inform your buying decisions.

Games of the Month for July 2005

Need for Speed Underground 2 (Mobile)

No Caption Provided"Of all the technical restrictions put on mobile developers, draconic file-size limitations are the most crippling. If a dev team's goal is to make a 120k game, and the splash screen alone uses 15k, that group is going to have to write some pretty tight code. Fortunately, Verizon's V Cast service allows for much larger, more complex games and makes streaming additional content off the network relatively seamless. EA's Need for Speed Underground 2 is the first game to fully take advantage of this technology, and the result is the longest, most engaging racing title ever made for wireless phones. The realmusic audio content alone is worth the $9.99 download price. Need for Speed Underground 2 isn't just the best racing game ever made for a mobile phone; it's also a much-needed showcase for V Cast technology. This game boasts game length and replay value so many orders beyond the mobile norm that it calls for a total paradigm shift. Simply put, mobile gaming just got a much-needed kick up the evolutionary ladder." - Avery Score

NCAA Football 06 (Xbox, PS2)

No Caption Provided"Summer vacation has barely begun for many school-going football fans, but with the release of NCAA Football 06, EA Sports is looking to send you on an early trip back to campus. The game includes several major tweaks and upgrades, such as the race for the Heisman mode and in-season recruiting. Perhaps more importantly, the game balance, especially in the passing portion, is much improved over last year's edition. The improved game balance and new features make NCAA Football 06 arguably the best in the series, as well as a game that's a must-have for college football fanatics. While a bevy of nifty new features has been added to NCAA Football 06, the best aspect of the game is probably its re-tweaking of the usual NCAA game balance. The actual nuts and bolts of playing a game of NCAA 06 make it feel just right, and for veterans of the series, playing will evoke warm memories of NCAA 04. Combining that great gameplay balance with all the new features added over the past two years results in a game that every college football fan should have in his or her library." - Bob Colayco

Sid Meier's Pirates! (Xbox)

No Caption Provided"The original Sid Meier's Pirates! came out way back in 1987, and it was one of the first big multiplatform games to emerge. Although, in those days, multiplatform meant Commodore, Atari, and the IBM PC. So it wasn't surprising that when Firaxis announced the remake of Pirates last year, it also announced that it was working on both a PC and an Xbox version. The PC remake, which came out late last year, was excellent, and the good news is that, for the most part, the Xbox version is faithful to it, though it does have a fair bit of give and take. The Xbox version has a number of enhancements over the PC version, but on the other hand, it's also missing some of the PC's gameplay elements. Still, that doesn't stop this new Sid Meier's Pirates! from being a wonderfully lighthearted game that boasts an intoxicating blend of strategy and action." - Jason Ocampo

Killer 7 (Cube)

No Caption Provided"You'll just have to shoot first and ask questions later in Killer7, Capcom's self-proclaimed "surreal action adventure game" that lets you "step into the mind of an assassin." This is appropriate billing for a game that wears its edginess on its sleeve and might well leave you feeling cold at first, between its seemingly nonsensical storyline and its surprisingly simple mechanics. However, if you bear with this rather lengthy journey through to the bitter end, you'll be aptly rewarded as your mind is sent reeling. Killer7 is greater than the sum of its parts. It's pretentious and can be frustrating or tedious at times. And it's also one of the most unusual, politically charged, and thought-provoking video games since Metal Gear Solid." - Greg Kasavin

Riviera: The Promised Land (GBA)

No Caption Provided"When all is said and done, it will take most people roughly 30 to 40 hours to finish Riviera. There are seven chapters in all, and, with practice battles factored in, a single chapter typically takes five hours to complete. Even once you've finished the game, there are numerous incentives to go back and replay it. The dialogue sequences you see, the weapons you get, and the paths open to you in certain areas are dependent upon the choices you make, as well as whether you successfully complete the quick-timer events that frequently occur. In that sense, the game won't play out the same for everyone, and it never plays out the same way twice. There are also five different endings to see and multiple extras to unlock, including a bonus chapter, a cutscene gallery, and music and voice test menus. If you enjoy role-playing games, you really can't go wrong with Riviera. It doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the genre, but it presents a lot of the old concepts in unique ways, which is rather refreshing. It's also quite a spectacle to digest, thanks to the hefty narrative, gorgeous artwork, and masterful audio." - Frank Provo

Halo 2 Multiplayer Pack (Xbox)

No Caption Provided"Considering Halo 2 was one of last year's most popular, most successful video games, it's strange to see a retail follow-up like the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack, which is only suitable for a very specific subset of Halo 2 fans. Diehards will love this content, but nearly half of it is already free for download on Xbox Live, and the rest will be on August 30. As such, the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack seems best suited to those looking to play Halo 2 in a network setting, since it lets you update the game with new content without having to log in to Xbox Live using each Xbox on the network. So if you were to split the cost of this disc with 15 other friends, it would actually be a pretty sweet deal. Besides, the DVD-style extras exclusively packaged with the disc are quite entertaining (though brief), and the 30-page manual is surprisingly insightful, too. The Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack isn't for everyone, but it's perfectly fine for what it is. Oh, and the nine new maps themselves are outstanding, making one of the best-ever multiplayer shooters even better." - Greg Kasavin

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