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The Videogamers’ 2010 Christmas Shopping Guide

16 Dec 2010  by   Paul Younger
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What we are about to tell you may shock you: we here in the IncGamers fortress are gamers. We play games, yes, but we also thoroughly enjoy gaming culture. As it’s nearing Christmas, we thought you might want a bit of help deciding what to buy for the gamer in your life, what bits of gaming paraphernalia to stick on your letter to Santa, and what games will help gather the family around the TV post-Christmas Day turkey/nut roast.
We’re not going to tell you what the best games of the year are, though. If that’s what you’re after, you’ll have to wait for our Best of 2010 awards, coming soon. Our recommendations in the games section are all solid and entertaining games, but rather than the best-of-the-best in single-player and multiplayer, they’re the sort of things we think you and your family might enjoy playing together or make a great gift for the gamers in your life.
Games
Kinect (Xbox 360), Move (PlayStation 3)
You already knew that a Christmas buyer’s list for this year would be dominated by these two. When it comes to getting your family gaming, motion controls and casual games are the way to go, and each of the hi-def consoles have their own contenders. Whichever console you own, picking up either a Kinect kit or a Move bundle with two controllers should keep your family entertained. If you’ve got the space for it we’d err towards the Kinect with Dance Central, but chances are you’ll have an enjoyable Christmas with either.
 If that’s a bit expensive and you’ve got a Wii lying around, then you could pick up a copy of Just Dance or its sequel. Both games have issues but they’re undeniably hilarious in a group, and you should be able to get them for around £10 GBP and £20 GBP respectively.
Rock Band 3

With its pro instruments, Rock Band 3 has done more for the evolution of the rhythm-action genre than anything since the very first Guitar Hero. We’ve had plenty of arguments as to which game has the best tracklisting, but if you’re wanting to play keyboard (the only pro instrument available over here, right now) or are looking forward to the release of the pro guitar and pro drums so that you can really start to learn the instruments proper, then you’re going to need Rock Band 3. As usual, the tracklisting contains a wide range of genres and styles and there’s the Rock Band Music Store if you’re after a particular track, so there’s something for everyone. Bonus points if you can get your granddad to belt out a rendition of “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.”

There are cheaper alternatives: if you’ve already got instruments floating around and don’t fancy shelling out for either Rock Band 3 or the pro peripherals, you can pick up brand new copies of the superb The Beatles: Rock Band or LEGO Rock Band for under a tenner, if you shop around.
Blur

If you’re a little sick of playing Mario Kart with your friends and family, Bizarre Creations’ excellent Blur is the next logical step. Like Mario Kart it’s got some silly power-ups, but it’s also got a real-world sheen, it looks beautiful, and – most important of all – it’s got four-player split-screen. Not the most common thing, these days.

Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo Reach

While we can only really recommend this to those spending Christmas with a band of gamers, the Halo series provides one of the best four-player split-screen modes in FPS land. You could certainly try a Call of Duty game, but Halo really hits the sweet spot when it comes to maps that work with a small number of players, handicaps, and customisation – both through game mode creation, and through the Forge editor. Not something that most non-gamers will be able to simply pick up and play, though.

Digital Downloads

Do not underestimate the power of digital downloads. The past couple of years have seen Xbox LIVE Arcade, the PlayStation Store and downloadable gaming on PC become very, very important, with some top-quality games on offer.

And there are ways of giving these games to your loved ones. Both Microsoft and Sony offer cards that add money to your account on their respective download services, whether it be Microsoft Points or actual currency, and while it might be the equivalent of Marks & Spencers vouchers, discounts mean that you’re saving more money than if you added credit to their account through the console itself. A £20 GBP Playstation Network points card, for instance, should cost you a few quid less if you purchase it in a store or online.

For PC gamers, we’d recommend Steam. Steam allows you to gift games to people, and all you need is your own credit or debit card and the recipient’s email address. As it usually has some cracking deals on this time of year – we’ve already seen Mafia II for £13 GBP – be sure to keep your eyes open.
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On the Cheap

It’s not just Steam offering deals at this time of year, though – pretty much everyone wants your Christmas money, and they’re dropping prices to try and get it. There are some great deals online if you shop around (console versions of the rather smashing Fallout: New Vegas have been seen for less than £20 GBP, we’re told) but, if you want to go for quantity as well as quality, some of the best games of the past 18 months have dropped in price rather staggeringly. If you’re gaming on a budget and want something to do over Christmas, now’s the time.

As an example, Play.com’s current “2 for £25” sale contains both Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins, and £25 GBP is a fantastic price for two of the best RPGs of the past 18 months. Some of the top games of 2009, like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Just Cause 2, and Need for Speed: Shift can all be found online for around a tenner. You could also try Darksiders, Bayonetta, Skate 3, God of War 3, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, all of which should be at least half-off if you do a bit of browsing.

Our suggestion? Go through our reviews database, look for stuff that’s at least a few months old, and then try scouring the internet for bargains. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Apparel, Novelties, and Accessories

Slanket

I’m not sure it’s possible to look at picture of the Slanket and not want one. It is, essentially, a blanket with sleeves, which is perfect for those cold winter nights when you’re shivering on the couch with a controller in hand, or huddled up on your computer chair while trying to tap with frozen fingers.

A really big blanket with sleeves, in fact, with all sorts of patterns, designs, and sizes available for a gamer of any height, weight, and gender. There are even double Slankets available, in case you want to curl up on the couch for some co-op with that special someone.

Buying them from the official site and shipping them to the UK will cost around £29 GBP, we reckon, but at this stage we’re not certain that’d arrive in time for a Christmas unwrapping. A better option might be to purchase from a UK-based site, which – including shipping – shouldn’t cost much over £20 GBP, and should arrive a whole lot faster.

N7 Armour Stripe Hoodie

According to the BioWare store, the combined cost of this and shipping to the UK is a whopping $76 USD (almost £50 GBP) but it’ll certainly light up any wannabe-Shepard’s face. If the rather smart N7-emblazoned hoodie is a bit pricey, though, you can always opt for the much cheaper t-shirts. We’d put our votes in for the Newton t-shirt, the Dragon Age 2 “splatter dragon” t-shirt, and – if you really want to confuse the hell out of the non-gamers around you – the “Enchantment?” t-shirt.

Pac-Man Mug

This is rather nifty. You’ve no doubt seen thermal-activated mugs before – they look plain until you pour a hot drink into them, at which point a picture appears on the side. This one, however, has a thermal-activated image of a Pac-Man game in progress. Simple, certainly, but we suspect retro gamers who remember the days of Pac-Man (or even newer gamers who’ve picked up the Championship Edition releases) might appreciate this. And, at only £6 GBP, it should make a nice addition to anything else you have picked out for them.

Sackboy Plush Doll

LittleBigPlanet’s protagonist is one of the most adorable lead characters in years. As such, we figured that fans of Sackboy’s adventures who can’t wait for LittleBigPlanet 2 might want to get their hands on a 30cm plush doll. The only UK-based company that we could find selling this particular doll is Firebox, which is charging £14.99 GBP, although you can find altenative Sackboy toys and products on plenty of other sites.
Weighted Companion Cube Plush

We like plush dolls, okay? Of course, we also like Portal. And Left 4 Dead. And Half-Life 2, and Team Fortress 2, and pretty much everything else Valve. Luckily for everyone concerned, Valve has a store of its own where it sells t-shirts, mousepads, posters, plush dolls, hats, decals, patches…

Being Portal fans, we’re particularly fond of the Weighted Companion Cube plush, although the headcrab hat is nice too. And the Left 4 Dead movie posters. And the GLaDOS t-shirt. And… look, it’s all rather nice. Go take a look.

Shipping to the UK should run you about £12 GBP. As with the Mass Effect hoodie, you might find this a little expensive, but there’s not much in the way of an alternative if you’re looking to make a Valve fan smile in the near future.

Busts and Statues

If you’ve got a larger price range than us, then there are also plenty of busts and statues that you can grab for the gamer in your life. While you’ll be lucky to find a limited edition Master Chief bust (which, if you can, will probably set you back over £170 GBP) there’s plenty more than might be a bit cheaper.

We’re not going to link to everything, but a spot of searching should turn up things like an Assassin’s Creed Ezio statue for £30 GBP, some 7” Legend of Zelda statues for £80 GBP, and pre-orders of a massive, £300 GBP Kratos statue.

Special mention goes to Figureprints, though. If you know a WoW player, then you can have a statue or bust of their character created. It’s not cheap – a bust is £60 GBP, while a statue will run you £110 GBP – but it’s highly customisable, and as it’s based off of their character, highly personalised.

Peripherals

Nothing beats a good gaming gadget but for the PC gamers we recommend the Plantronics USB Gamecom 777 headeret. This lightweight stylish set of headphones produce some fantastic audio in games with their Dolby surround sound technology. The audio is incredibly sharp and crisp and the quality is the best we’ve heard on a set of headphones for a very long time. They also feature a fold away microphone so you don’t have to look like an air traffic controller.

Everything Else

As with games, browsing will get you everywhere. If the target of your gifts is a fan of a particular game, then look around: if the game is at all popular, chances are good that you can find action figures, statues, art books, t-shirts, soundtrack CDs, and a whole lot more. Most things can be found via UK proxies (and eBay is always worth a look) but bear in mind that, if they’re a fan of a Japanese game, you may have to import which – while made much easier through a variety of English sites – means it’s less likely to arrive in time for Christmas.

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