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Budget Gaming: Phantom Crash (XBox)

Anybody can shell out fifty bucks for a new release, but finding good games on the cheap is the real test of a gamer's skill and taste. After reading some good reviews of Phantom Crash, I saw it for $20 new at my local GameStop and decided to try it out.

The easiest way to describe Phantom Crash in a nutshell is that it's a mech combat version of Gran Turismo. Instead of racing, you basically fight deathmatches in closed arenas against swarms of other competitors. Like Gran Turismo, the main enjoyment in Phantom Crash comes from endlessly tweaking out and upgrading your gear. You canupgrade and tweak your mech's arms, legs, body, shoulder weapons, paint job, stickers, and so on. The combat's not bad, either- it's like a big Quake-style deathmatch against computer personalities. With full 360-degree control, four weapons, and a graphically-impressive cloaking device at your disposal, it makes for some fun gaming. They also did a nice job of giving personalities to the other contestants; there's lots of chatter both during and between battles.

It's got some flaws. The parts buying/upgrading interface is kind of confusing. If you're not intimately familiar with your mech's current capabilities, it's hard to tell whether or not a given part in the shop will actually be an improvement. Also, there are only a few arenas. I hope they make a sequel, because this game is about 10 arenas and a few interface changes away from being something awesome.

This is the type of game that's not worth fifty bucks, but is a fun little game if you find it cheap. You can probably find is for around $20 new at your local game store, buy it for new $30 on Amazon, or buy a used copy online from EBGames for $15.

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