The gift-giving season is upon us, and the makers of computer and video games have let no opportunity for commerce escape them. Herewith, some of the most interesting new offerings.
Sega Sports / $49.95 Dreamcast
Edgerrin James, Jevon Kearse and Champ Bailey are not the only rookies having an impact on NFL games this year. So is the recently released Sega Dreamcast, a 128-bit system that moves video gaming past the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64 to the next technological level.
NFL 2K is the first sports title of this generation, and while it is an apple compared to the oranges of the PlayStation and the N64, it sets a lofty standard for future 128-bit football games. Enhanced graphics bring authenticity to the way ballcarriers struggle for yardage with defenders wrapped around their legs. Unfortunately the corny touchdown celebrations look real, too. The choice of plays is enormous, but navigating the playbook is tricky.
The game's detail, at times, detracts from its playability. It's nice to see the lifelike way the placekicker takes his steps before attempting an extra point, but it slows the pace of the game. So does watching the referee signal every penalty. Looking and playing like the real NFL does not always make for the best football video game.
NCAA Final Four 2000
989 Sports/ $40 PlayStation
Sacramento State and Quinnipiac, rejoice. Featuring more than 300 Division I teams, NCAA Final Four 2000 gives the Hornets and the Braves a chance to play in the NCAA tournament. Once you get into the field, however, hold on to the rock. Stealing the ball from the dribbler couldn't be easier, and Final Four lacks a college basketball atmosphere. ( Cameron Indoor Stadium has never been so quiet.) But those are about the only drawbacks in a game that pays enormous attention to detail, down to the reflection of the stadium lights on the court.
EA Sports / $39.95 PlayStation / $49.95 Nintendo 64 /$39.95 PC
Pavel Bure may be the fastest skater in the NHL, but even he could not keep up with the fliers in NHL 2000. The latest version of this popular game has cranked up the speed. Players can travel end-to-end as quickly as a slap shot and can stop on a dime, which is not realistic but provides tremendous action. Skaters move so fast that the camera sometimes cannot keep up with both the player carrying the puck and his teammates trailing the play—disconcerting if you're trying to leave a drop pass. The detail (the glass rattles after players crash into the boards) remains excellent, and a PC player can download an image of his own face, import it onto a body and skate beside Bure. Just make sure to keep up.
Gran Turismo 2
Sony / $39.99 PlayStation
Gran Turismo blew away every other racing simulation, and the sequel may be better. Gran Turismo 2, scheduled for a mid-December release, has been souped up with 400 cars, some 250 more than the original, and 20 tracks, including rally courses for the first time. The Deuce retains the sensational driving and racing feel that earned the original such a cult following. The only thing better would be steering your real Ford Mustang GT around Laguna Seca.
Knockout Kings 2000
EA Sports / $39.95 PlayStation / $49.95 Nintendo 64 / $39.95 PC / $25.00 Nintendo Game Boy
Muhammad Ali has returned to the ring. The Greatest is one of many legendary fighters featured in Knockout Kings 2000. It's the best boxing game available, but it's a mere stiff against the heavyweights in other sports. The fighting action is a knockout but, as in all boxing games, the action gets repetitive. Knockout Kings, however, can give the real fight game a lesson in how to run the sport: no dives, no bribes, no rigged ratings and no Don King.
NBA ShootOut 2000
989 Sports / $40 PlayStation
Last season's NBA lockout robbed people not only of more than a third of the regular-season games but also of NBA ShootOut 1999, which was never released. No matter. The 2000 version is a remarkable improvement over previous versions. Players' likenesses and moves, such as Jason Kidd's behind-the-back dribbling, are almost perfect. ShootOut players can now also create 12 original dunks that they can save and use in games.