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"The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar" has seen a steady release of free fresh content since its launch in 2007, updates that have propelled the game farther down the byways of "The Fellowship of the Ring’s" plot.

"Mines of Moria," the first retail expansion for the game, continues in this vein in an impressive way.

Higher-level players will find themselves working with dwarves to clear the rubble from the gateway into Khazad Dum before venturing into the dangerous mines and on through to Lothlorien.

For new players or those who want to start a fresh hero, the T-rated games offers two new classes: the Rune-keeper, who uses words of power against his enemies and can switch between offensive and healing roles; and the Warden, whose power lies in stringing together chains of specific attacks.

The original classes have been upgraded, and the level cap increased to 60. And there are new legendary items that players can find and customize.

Platform: PC

• Midnight Club: Los Angeles — Rockstar’s street-racing series returns, setting players loose driving through the city at breakneck speeds.

As a newcomer to town, the player must work his or her way up from the bottom of the local racing ladder by searching out races and winning them for street cred that’ll open up harder races — and to earn money for better, faster cars. Or players may choose to race online against up to 15 opponents.

Though the races a player can take on are limited to what’s been unlocked, the detailed city is not unlike the fictional urban setting of "Burnout Paradise." But unlike that game, this T-rated title features people on the streets, and crashing into other cars while racing isn’t a good idea.

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

• Shaun White Snowboarding — This T-rated game is all downhill — by necessity, of course. It’s a tall order to snowboard up a mountain. Instead of the event-based structure of most snowboarding games, "Shaun White" goes for the open-world approach. This new franchise shows some promise, but it needs more polish.

Players can choose from several mountains (there’s an additional one to unlock in the edition of the game sold at Target), take a helicopter or chairlift up to their desired starting point, and go freestyle down the hill (or stop at event markers on the way down to participate in more structured play) and earn cash for more gear.

The game looks good and the soundtrack features some catchy songs.

However, the controls are often a problem.

It’s too easy to hit an obstacle or pull off the wrong trick in the air, and it’s a pain to backtrack if one overshoots an event or some other point of interest.

Plaforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii

Visit StripesGAMER.com for more on video gaming and gaming in the military.


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