- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2003

Here's a look at some hardware and software that's available:
Rocky, by Ubi-Soft, reviewed for Xbox, rated T: content suitable for players ages 13 and older, $49.99. Sylvester Stallone's legendary boxer once again returns to the ring to fight for a championship but skips the big screen and jumps directly to the home entertainment console. Although "Rocky VI" is reportedly in the works, fans of the Italian Stallion will be very content playing this unbelievable game in which they control the fate of the southpaw in a third-person, 3-D environment.
With Tom Conti's Academy Award-winning theme blaring from the television speakers, the simulation begins by pumping up the player with clips from all of the films. Players jumping directly to the movie mode which I highly recommend after learning to box in a few sparring matches will find themselves back in Philadelphia in 1975 taking on Spider Rico in that seedy Chapel venue.
Using some slight button mashing and left trigger-induced ducking strategies, the player has a boxer's full arsenal at his command, including body jabs, uppercuts, dodges and knockout blows, to take Rico down. Our humble hero starts in his white and red trunks and doesn't even have veteran trainer Mickey Goldmill at his side until he starts winning.
To ultimately succeed at Rocky, the player will take on 20 opponents and must beat all of the familiar film brutes, including Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago and Tommy Gunn, as well as slightly less-memorable thugs such as Dipper Brown (who took Rocky's locker in the first film), as he works through all five movie scenarios to display the heart of a champion.
Between fights, Stallion trains, with the help of the player, to increase his skill levels by punching a bag (speed), doing sit-ups (determination), skipping rope (stamina), pounding punch mitts (strength) and hitting that memorable side of beef to improve movement.
Overall, Hollywood and computer entertainment blur brilliantly in this simulation as the minutia of the Rocky mythology comes to life in every area of the action, from watching Apollo enter the Spectrum to curmudgeonly trainer Mickey giving advice between rounds to the Stallion's tendency to mimic the boxing style of Rocky Marciano.
Even better, the characters look eerily real, down to facial expression and smooth musculature, welts forming under eyes as the matches go on, spit flying out of their mouths after receiving a hard hit, and blood on the canvas during a knockdown.
In addition to the movie mode, players can enjoy a quick exhibition match, take on a friend as any boxer they have unlocked through game play or join a knockout tournament to win medals. Especially skilled gamers eventually can unlock 30 characters.
Yo Adrian, Rocky is one of the best games of the year.
Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee, by Infogrames, Rated T: content suitable for players ages 13 and older, $49.99 for GameCube system. While on the topic of cinematic icons returning to life through the video game, Japan's favorite fire-breathing behemoth makes his debut on Nintendo's powerful entertainment console in a 3-D fighting romp that any fan of the lizard king will find smashing.
In this game, Godzilla and a host of other monsters have been captured by the mind-altering powers of the Vortaak, an alien race that has invaded Earth. The player selects one monster to break free of the Vortaaks' control and must battle his brethren to save the planet.
At its simplest, the game allows up to four players to beat the tar out of one another in various cities around the world. But the tribute to 10 of these classic B-movie superstars and six choices of modes makes it a nostalgic and exhausting event. Imagine selecting from the likes of King Ghidorah the three-headed dragon, the spinning Megalon, flying Rodan, and two versions of Godzilla, from the 1990s and 2000 (thankfully, there is no representation of Sony Pictures' monstrosity from 2001).
Each have familiar battle screams and attacks that range from Godzilla unleashing his atomic breath or tail swish to Gigan's twirling power blades. Throwing opponents into electrical wires, lifting various building to drop on beasts, avoiding fire from the pesky humans' war machines and even the hilarious toe-stomping maneuver become commonplace as the fights rage on.
Power-ups, conveniently dropped by UFOs, often come into play as the monsters just need to walk over them to be able to restore health, acquire a bit of rage and have Mothra stop by for an airstrike.
Gamers with friends will love the variety of challenges. In addition to versus and survival modes, the "melee" mode features a four-player free for all and "destruction" mode has monsters competing to level as much adorned real estate as possible for the highest score.
Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee provides a captivating level of mayhem that will have family members roaring with approval.
Signs, by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $29.99, for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers. While on the topic of aliens invading Earth, director M. Night Shyamalan's latest creepy effort is ported to digital video disc with a disappointing set of extras. The story of our planet being visited by hostile extraterrestrials offered a captivating film, a fine performance by Mel Gibson and was as heartbreaking as it was horrifying.
What I found most horrifying, however, was the shoddy treatment afforded this science-fiction beauty. Someone pinch me because I must be living in a Bizarro world. Buena Vista has no problem putting out a four-disc set of producer Jerry Bruckheimer's pathetic, soap-operatic take on "Pearl Harbor" earlier this year but they come up with only one puny disc to pay tribute to this great movie.
Besides the 106-minute feature, included are the obligatory deleted scenes, multiple documentaries, multi-angle storyboards and a childhood home movie from Mr. Shyamalan.
How about a commentary track with some of the principals? A history of extraterrestrials in films? The myth and reality behind crop circles? A text-based primer on the possibility of life on other worlds? Alas, nothing more, and the computer user gets zero extra for his technologically advanced system.
Buena Vista Home Entertainment has proven that the digital video disc can be an amazing resource for lovers of cinema. Unfortunately, this package does not justify its purchase with the DVD likes of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," "Spider-Man" and "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" sitting on store shelves.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC, 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]).

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