- The Washington Times - Monday, June 9, 2014

Father’s Day is near and here are some last-minute gift suggestions for the dad who loves gaming.

Watch Dogs (Ubisoft, Rated: Mature, $59.99) – Dabbling within the gaming realms of Grand Theft Auto and Saint Row IV, this massive free-roaming, open-world adventure stars premiere cyber-hacker Aiden Pearce. A player handles the hooded vigilante in a story of revenge as he uses his smartphone to control all devices that require computer electronics in an expansive futuristic version of Chicago.

It’s a dazzling array of options at a player’s fingertips, be it switching stoplights to green, viewing areas by tapping into security cameras, causing a steam pipe to explode on an enemy, jamming a witnesses phone so he can’t call the cops, stealing money from citizens bank accounts, making parts of the city go dark and even getting the “L’ train to stop and go for escapes.

The addition of high-speed police chases, shootouts, customization of powers and weaponry, and a variety of sometimes violent contracted secondary missions add to the complexity of a game that is an exciting as a player wants it to be.

Developers even go deeper to capture imaginations with a fun array of minigames such as Aiden popping pills to hallucinate an attack by holographic giant ticks (he fights them off with a laser gun) or taking control of a giant spider-bot to wreak havoc on the city. An online component even allows players to infiltrate each other games.

Watch Dogs is one of the best games of the year and looks great on the latest next generation consoles. It definitely gives dad a reason to go out and buy a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One (wink, wink, say no more).

SEE ALSO: Zadzooks: Father’s Day Gift Guide - Best gadgets for dad

Anki Drive (Anki, $199.99, requires iPhone or iPad) – Bringing slot-car racing to the 21-century world of high-tech, this consumer robotics company offers an all-in-one package for the driving enthusiast in the family.

The technology uses functions of an iOS app and adds some slick-looking, 3-inch long vehicles assisted by infrared technology and artificial intelligence to deliver a high-speed way for dad and his offspring to compactly put pedal to the metal in this part-combat, part-racing extravaganza.

Owners, lay down a very large mat on an indoor floor (offering a circular track 3.5 by 8.5 feet), use the included cord to charge the pair of cars (via a USB port with a computer or AC adapter for about 10 minutes while in their cases), place the cars on the track and it’s time to race.

Now drivers get about 20 minutes of action in up to 45-lap races as they automatically circle the track (no steering required) and can virtually shoot at each other and control a car’s power during the races using the iOS app.

Cars respond to the attacks by slowing down with onboard lights changing colors, and all of the exciting race sounds, commentary and attack effects pipe through the driver’s iPhone or iPad.

While in the app, a player can also upgrade a car’s weapons system, chassis, energy and engine with points accumulated by winning races and going to his virtual garage.

It’s not quite Mario Kart, but the action really does work much better than slot cars and the experience will certainly take older dads back to the days when he had AFX and Tyco vehicles and tracks set up in his playroom.

If Junior is not available for a race, dad can also challenge computer-controlled cars that are surprisingly smart as they adapt to a competitor’s strategies to win. As far as I am concerned, too smart, grrrrrrr.

The only caveat here: It’s an expensive proposition to expand the racing possibilities — with additional cars costing $69 and a second type of track priced at $99.

MLB 2014: The Show (SCEA, Rated E for Everyone, for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, $39.99 to $59.99) — Instead of driving to a stadium for an expensive evening of baseball, have pop sit down and take control of his favorite Major League team in this premiere sport simulation exclusive to Sony’s line of entertainment consoles.

Gamers get all of the current MLB rosters, 30 stadiums virtually rebuilt from the ground up to appreciate those 9-inning contests in solo, versus, Road to the Show (pick a player and train him to become a star) franchise and multiplayer modes.

With lively commentary from Matt Vasgersian, Eric Karros, and Steve Lyons, 3D crowds to cheer and boo every play, bat boys and a presentation looking ripped from Fox Sports, it’s clearly the best looking and sounding (down to the details on blades of grass) virtual baseball game ever built.

Over 40 innovations to this year’s version include Quick Counts (a familiar trick used in little league games to speed up the innings), hundred of new fielding and batting animations, dynamic difficulty settings and Community Challenges (setting up specific game situations to test friends online).

The video game offers such a high level of realism on the PlayStation 4, (especially the minutiae of night games), that spectators will think dad is watching a real broadcast. It’s the perfect father and child bonding moment tied to America’s favorite pastime.

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