Midpoint in the Afghanistan war game "Medal of Honor," you use a sniper rifle to shoot an Al-Qaeda guy in the head as he stands 911 meters away.
Did you catch that reference? Nine-eleven?
That Al-Qaeda guy's head explodes like the Death Star. Tell me this game doesn't have vengeance on its mind.
The plot is simple. You portray several different U.S. soldiers in various battles of the Afghanistan guerilla war.
This reboot of the "Medal of Honor" series is sometimes tough for the sheer numbers of enemy soldiers who come after you. But often, you just take your time. You hide behind rocks. You shoot as many Taliban guys in the head as possible.
Attention to visual detail is excellent. The action begins with you and a comrade riding up the street in a van, as goats wander about. Those goats look real enough to milk.
Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, according to GameStop.com. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Most games are priced $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PSP; $30 for DS and PS 2.
1. "Medal of Honor" (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, strong language, violence)
2. "Medal of Honor" for PS 3
3. "Call of Duty: Black Ops" (Activision) Nov. 9 pre-orders for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, Wii, PC; rating pending
4. "World of Warcraft: Cataclysm" (Blizzard Entertainment) winter pre-order for PC; rated "T" (blood, gore, crude humor, mild language, suggestive themes, use of alcohol, violence)
5. "Fable III" (Microsoft) for Xbox 360; rated "M" (blood, language, sexual content, use of alcohol, violence)
6. "Call of Duty: Black Ops" for PS 3
7. "Fallout: New Vegas Collector's Edition" (Bethesda) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, PC; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, sexual content, strong language, use of drugs)
8. "NBA 2K11" (Take Two) for PS 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP, PS 2; rated "E"
9. "Fallout: New Vegas Collector's Edition" for PS 3
10. "Call of Duty: Black Ops Prestige Edition" for Xbox 360
(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone"; "T" for "Teen"; "M" for "Mature 17+")
Since this war is so guerilla, battles are one messy cluster after another. You and a handful of fellow soldiers infiltrate snowy villages and desert towns. You get ambushed. You fly helicopters. Everything is intense.
My favorite section chronicles the duo of Deuce and Dusty as they aim sniper rifles at Al-Qaeda in snowy mountains. The game makers should consider a whole spinoff game based on that level.
Gritty, nasty firefights light up caves, streets, shoddy houses and mountain cliffs. You are armed with weapons worthy of U.S. soldiers - stellar sniper rifles, plus machine guns, shotguns and rifles.
In some ways, "Medal of Honor" may feel more realistic since (as Electronic Arts says) they asked the most elite soldiers in the war for advice and guidance.
But in other ways, it's just another war shooter where you hide behind cover and pick off Taliban who just stand in open ground, waiting to be murdered.
It's a short offline game for a hardcore player (I wrapped the solo mission in six hours), but it should give casual gamers trouble finishing. The online multiplayer modes could be played for weeks or a few months, although I have had at least minimal trouble with joining games, crappy starter weapons, spawn killing and screen freezes.
Oh, yes. For some reason, a small brouhaha started weeks ago when a war leader attacked the game (without playing it), saying it lets gamers portray the Taliban. The media jumped all over this.
But you can't play as the Taliban in the game's solo mission. However, the online multiplayer comes with the usual team deathmatch-type modes. In those modes, you play on a team dressed as one army or another, either U.S. or Taliban.
Those online outfits are what we call "skins." They are contextually meaningless, plotless and will not let you feel like you're actually portraying anything Taliban (unless perhaps you've never played an online game before).
Meanwhile, during offline battles, you stab Al-Qaeda enemies in the face. And you sneak up behind one sap and bloodily slice his throat. Does that sound sympathetic to the enemy?
("Medal of Honor" by EA retails for $60 for PS 3, Xbox 360 and PC - Plays entertaining, online and offline, though a bit short offline. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "M" for blood, strong language, violence. Three and one-half stars out of four.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at www.lvrj.com/columnists/Dou_Elfman.html.