- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 21, 2007

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Condemned online

Mature entertainment better suited for the video-game realm arrives in theaters Friday in Lions Gate Films’ “The Condemned.” The movie offers an oddly familiar plot about 10 condemned prisoners who become part of a televised reality show as they fight to the death on a remote island, with the survivor gaining freedom.

The official Web site (www.watch themdielive.com/) gives visitors a noisy, testosterone-driven entrance to the action thriller through collages of cinematic moments and, of course, the obligatory fighting game.

Those collages stick the cyber-traveler right in the middle of a war zone that acts as a streaming background for the site. Visitors can click on a target to open a side menu and select from 14 sites on the island where fights are taking place and enjoy the violence as they learn about the film.

Most important to the site is a boneheaded challenge that has a player fight online against fellow warriors or the 10 from the film.

After picking a user name and password and coming up with a motto and some career highlights, the player can import an image of his face (a 200 kilobyte peg image or less) to use over his avatar warrior’s mug during the fights.

The player chooses to fight either from the icons of the Top 10 Inmates or Fresh Meat at the bottom of the screen. Passing the mouse over the fighters reveals their rank, record and power level. Players also can take on a friend after sending him some code or try a promo match to get a feel for the brutal game.

The matches are from a first-person perspective and involve furiously tapping the right and left arrow keys to strangle an opponent in the photo-realistic experience. Occasionally, the player can tap power keys to use other weapons and build up his might. Hip-hop music drives the action while a guttural voice right out of the professional wrestling world taunts the player with profane phrases.

This may not seem like an addictive experience, but some online knuckleheads already have recorded more than 2,000 fights, and more than 6,000 contestants have registered for the mindless fun.

Vacant surfing

A creepy stop on the information highway leads surfers to a site created in honor of Sony Pictures’ just-released “Vacancy.”

Taking advantage of a bizarre movie premise — a couple check into the Pinewood Hotel and realize they are to be the victims of a snuff film — the cyber-stop (www.sony pictures.com/movies/vacancy/) adds plenty of screams while visitors explore the front desk and a couple of rooms to view clips from the film.

Most interactive of the online tour is an area that houses the hotel’s complex surveillance system. Filled with videotapes and monitors, it allows visitors to look at the demise of six guests and learn a little about them.

The highlight to the site is the game Vacancy Escape, which features third-person, 3-D action set in locations at the hotel.

Through five timed levels, the player must use arrow keys to guide a female avatar through rooms, locating two clues per area to eventually find a working phone and call the police.

Killers and surveillance cameras constantly try to spot the potential victim, who must be directed to hide in such places as a shower stall or under a bed until the threat passes.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected] washingtontimes.com).

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