- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006

With the anniversary of D-Day (June 6) on the horizon, here’s a look at some multimedia action devoted to the World War II experience.

The Outfit, by THQ for Xbox 360, rated M: for ages 17 and older, $59.99. A trio of tough soldiers leads troops against the Third Reich in a third-person adventure loaded with action. Within a story that takes place just after the failed attempt on Hitler’s life in 1944, each hero uses a range of weapons, takes over armored vehicles and delivers a nonstop assault on the Nazis.

Unlike titles such as Activision’s Call of Duty that mix heavy historical accuracy into the simulation, this game dispenses with the education and encourages players to relish an arcade world of violence where they shoot first and keep shooting the likes of bazookas, flamethrowers and anti-tank guns.

Most impressive is the Destruction on Demand interface, which allows the commander to call in reinforcements. After the player earns field units for kills and for demolishing things, he uses an interface to order more infantry, artillery, vehicles and air strikes.

Least impressive are the average graphics (oddly presented in high definition), the woeful target system and the almost-impossible-to-maneuver vehicles.

The multiplayer options devour the limited solo campaign as a buddy can join split-screen battles in a co-op mode or up to eight players can enter the Xbox Live online world to fight as Americans or Germans.

After a tense couple of hours with the Outfit, Xbox 360 owners can pull up a couch and plunge into the DVD realms to watch a wide variety of recently released sets to experience the real and Hollywoodized versions of World War II. Some of the best include:

Patton: Cinema Classic Collection, from 20th Century Home Entertainment, rated PG, $19.99. George C. Scott’s Academy Award-winning portrayal of Old Blood and Guts returns in a two-disc set that immerses the viewer in the history of the film and the general on which it was based.

After the main feature, with a commentary track from one of the screenwriters — some guy named Francis Ford Coppola — a second disc will overload the amateur historian with hours of information covering the making of “Patton,” the real men who fought for him and even a photo-embellished audio essay by a Patton scholar.

The Dirty Dozen: Special Edition, Warner Home Video, not rated, $26.99. Those inspired after a round with the Outfit will appreciate the machismo demonstrated in this 1967 film featuring a ragtag team of prisoners led by actor Lee Marvin, who go a suicide mission on the eve of D-Day.

The film returns in an enhanced widescreen transfer on a two-disc DVD set that also offers the 1985 television sequel, a pair of short documentaries and a crowded but organized and informative commentary track with a few of the stars, a military adviser and a film historian.

The Longest Day: Cinema Classic Collection, from 20th Century Home Entertainment, rated G, $19.99. Producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s black-and-white, three-hour 1962 tribute to D-Day has been revived again in the DVD format. Despite being loaded with stars o the day and authentic historic moments, it will never stand up to the horror of “Saving Private Ryan.”

The supplements are to be savored, however, as two discs expand upon the film’s legend through five programs of extras, including a conversation with the director and a five-minute “History Through the Lens” show.

The Color of War, A&E; Home Video, not rated, $49.99. A 13-hour award-winning documentary from the History Channel makes World War II much more horrific with archival color film and photographs, enhanced with soldiers’ memoirs.

Seventeen programs on five discs dissect the war through the eyes of the men who fought it, the citizens on the home front and the photographers who covered it. The footage is sometimes intense and will disturb even the most desensitized viewer.

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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