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Every gamer needs a title that they can pick up just to play through a level without having to think about strategy, and LucasArts’ latest third-person shooter fits the bill quite nicely.

All gamers should have a title like “Armed & Dangerous” in their collections. Every gamer needs a title that they can pick up just to play through a level without having to think about strategy beyond wondering where to duck or when to reload, and LucasArts’ latest third-person shooter fits the bill quite nicely, and succeeds as one of the better action games in recent memory.

I enjoy depth and innovative gameplay as much as anybody, but there’s something to be said for a game you can play without having to read the manual beforehand. “A&D” is easy to pick up, and helpful tips and instructions pop up at various times, easing you in and helping you become accustomed to the controls. I like that the game doesn’t even begin with the usually prerequisite (and usually boring) animated opening, opting instead to throw you into the action immediately. The animated clips between levels aren’t really there to advance the plot so much as they are to make you laugh and keep you entertained. The sense of humor in this game is evident in every detail, and will please all but the most serious players.

Gameplay consists of running from one end of a level to another, completing various objectives, and killing every enemy in sight. You’re not alone, however, as the game teams you up with your “mates,” a small band of computer-controlled characters who go into battle with you, and whom you can even send on ahead into danger while you hold back and cover them from a distance. The A.I. for your mates isn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but it’s above average and enough to keep things fun and exciting. Multiple weapons, interactive environments, and clever level design keep things from becoming tedious even while the gameplay stays mostly the same throughout.

The graphics are lush and colorful, but nothing we haven’t seen hundreds of times already. The buildings all seem to be destructible, so that may explain why they seem not to fit into the environment as well as they should. Character designs are fantastic, but the models aren’t as detailed as they could be, with the proportions a little too skewed, so every character looks like some kind of dwarf. The aforementioned video clips that play between levels are pre-rendered, but unfortunately they look grainy and seem to play at an extremely low resolution. Had the developers used the in-game graphics engine to render the clips, they would have looked far more detailed, polished, and consistent with the rest of the game.

My main gripe with the game is its lack of support for a gamepad–at least, if there was a way to configure one, it remains a mystery to me. The default mouse/keyboard scheme works well, but the option to use a pad should exist for all third-person action games, in my opinion. A quicksave button option would have been nice too, but as it is, you have to go into the Options menu each time you want to record your progress. Minor gripes aside, “Armed & Dangerous” is addictive, hilarious, and a lot of fun.

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