- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Here’s a look at some hardware and software now available:

Brute Force, by Microsoft for Xbox, rated M: content suitable for ages 17 and older, $49.99. Trying to manipulate one human can be very difficult. I know, I’m married. Now, Xbox owners must control four headstrong warriors in this third-person adventure that milks a player’s adrenaline gland through an exhausting battle extravaganza.

In the year 2034, the future of the planetary confederation relies on groups of trained commandos acting on a moment’s notice to eliminate uprisings around the galaxy.

The Brute Force squad consists of the male human Tex, who can wield multiple weapons and loves a fight; the lizard Ferixian Brutus, who can call upon a deity for help; the female human synthetic Flint, who has a deadly aim; and the human female Hawk, who has stealth capabilities.

One player eventually commands all four of these heroes and a few generic troopers for good measure as the player visits six exotic locales, engages various species and takes part in a variety of missions ranging from freeing civilians to terminating a supermutant to shutting down a supply of arms to mercenaries.

The game really taxes the brain and reflexes.

After learning how to move and hide via the controller’s two joysticks; zoom in to target an enemy; switch weapons; disable land mines; enact special powers; empower other characters to stay put, provide cover, stand their ground or fire at will; lob grenades; reload a weapon; and not get anyone in my squad killed, I had managed to accomplish very little and needed a cold drink and a bottle of aspirin.

The game, however, provides a delight to the eyes through near-perfect character animations, gorgeous environments — especially the lava pits — and an overall graphics package comparable to watching any well-made science fiction film, which makes up for the aches in my brain and thumbs.

Lucky gamers with a broadband connection can even go online and download new missions for added replay value.

The M rating comes warranted, as bloody battles occur at a blistering pace with extraterrestrial bodies piling up frequently and vicious kills becoming commonplace.

Overall, this Star Trekian experience for the Duke Nukem crowd offers the killing rampages of the Xbox hit Halo with omniscient tactical strategies that will leave up to eight players (connect to two Xboxes via System Link) who love onscreen war simulations violently satisfied.

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Die Another Day, MGM Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, rated PG-13, $29.99. The legacy of James Bond continued last year to surprisingly-strong box office receipts as Pierce Brosnan reprised the role of the suave agent assisted by Oscar-winner Halle Berry.

A two-disc DVD now pays tribute and will appeal to the film addict, but leaves the computer user in the family feeling drier than a vermouth-kissed martini.

The Bond lovers get a visually-stunning menu to begin their journey. Disc 1 has the 132-minute movie, those sometimes-enlightening commentary tracks with Mr. Brosnan displaying quite a wit, and the cool MI6 Datastream option that when activated will pepper the flick with trivia boxes and seamlessly take viewers into mini featurettes about the making of the film.

Disc 2 includes an obligatory eight-segment, hour-long documentary, a large warehouse of production photos (more than 200), some nice segments on special effects, a Madonna music video and, my favorite feature, a look into five of the slick gadgets created for Bond’s destructive use. This “Equipment Briefing” is a nice touch as Q explains about the merits of the sonic agitator, surf board, jet glider, laser-enabled watch and the too-cool invisible Aston Martin (packed with target-seeking shotguns and computer-controlled missiles).

The frequently-touted ROM features quickly deteriorate into a Bond smoke screen as visitors are lead to an Internet interface demanding an e-mail address and year of birth. After entering the required information and unclicking the box to receive more junk mail, viewers are led to a page offering only one “behind the scenes” clip, 16 photos, a few movie trailers and a multimedia advertisement for Electronic Arts’ upcoming video game Everything or Nothing.

Despite the shortcomings for computer users, the “Die Another Day” package still will live on as the most immersing Bond DVD to date.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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