The second of our special, slightly expanded gift-giving editions of Culture Jamming. This week: video games.
The first of the season's two big war games is definitely giving Call of Duty a run for its money with its best outing yet (for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, and Wii). The playing field remains pretty much the same from the last game, with the added thrill of commandeering jets, choppers, and tanks. The single-player campaign is an OK first-person shooter, but the multiplayer is truly spectacular.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
And here's the other war game ... which returns to the Modern Warfare format after stretching out to Black Ops last year. There's not much new here – most of the weapons are the same, and the maps look sorta familiar – but this is still the game to beat, especially when it comes to online play. It doesn't get more intense, fun, and time-consuming than this. It's available for all platforms.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The follow-up to the game-changing Oblivion is one of the year's best games, a wide-open RPG that refuses to hold your hand as you explore its vast landscapes. The game (available for the Xbox 360 and PC) looks great, with blue skies and green fields bursting with life. There's so much to take in, you could spend an entire week battling dragons and hanging out in dungeons without ever repeating your footsteps.
Forza Motorsport 4
One of the year's best games (for the Xbox 360) is also the best racing game ever. The custom-car options are endless, as are the guts you put inside your ride. And it looks terrific – you can almost smell the gas and oil as you haul ass around the track. Best of all, the single-player career mode is addicting in all the right ways. Who knew hanging out in a virtual garage could be so much fun?
We have a soft spot for PlayStation 3's answer to Gears of War. The action takes place in a 1950s America where giant, gun-toting aliens have taken over. The story doesn't offer much more than shoot-to-kill missions, but it's still a thrill to get one of these barreled babies in your hand to blow away an army of monsters. The split-screen co-op lets you and a pal play wipe them out in no time.
Now that Guitar Hero and similar music games have run their course, Rocksmith seems like the next logical step. You need a real guitar, which plugs into your Xbox, PlayStation, or PC. After that, it's like a game and music teacher combined. You'll learn scales, riffs, and eventually songs (by everyone from the Rolling Stones to the Black Keys) on your road to rock-star glory.
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
The second Uncharted is one of the best games ever made. The latest chapter isn't too far behind. The hero is sorta like Indiana Jones, searching for treasure while outwitting and outgunning bad guys along the way. The plot here doesn't matter as much as the playing field and the hours of adventure buried in the levels. Very few action games feel this alive. One of the year's best, available for the PlayStation 3.