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ELECTRONIC ENTERTAINMENT : Gamers' Corner

Plot Carries the Play in 'Requiem'

May 10, 1999|AARON CURTISS

Few things fascinate us more than our fears. Perhaps that's why hell holds such morbid sway over our imaginations.

Whether the underworld is a lake of sulfurous fire, a sheet of ice or simply a locked room full of other people, it remains our greatest fear and darkest curiosity.

"Requiem: Avenging Angel" propagates a fairly traditional image of hell and purgatory. They are throbbing, almost intestinal caves where demons tear apart the flesh of the damned and the cries of eternal sufferers echo pathetically.

From this haunting start, "Requiem" for the PC whisks players through a first-person holy war between the forces of heaven and the minions of hell. Although a sadly average game in terms of play, "Requiem" makes up for many of its deficiencies with a story that borrows freely from Milton, Dante and the Bible.

The game is set in the 21st century, and casts a vision more apocalyptic than anything coming from the Y2K doomsayers. Seems that God decides creating human beings was not such a great idea after all--what with all the greed, stupidity and wanton behavior. Sounds like Los Angeles.

Anyway, these earthbound fleas eventually get their acts together sufficiently to build an intergalactic spaceship that threatens to open the heavens to anyone with the correct change. It's not such a great idea to angels with some of the most exclusive real estate in the universe.

So a contingent of them descends on Creation to destroy it. But they end up liking the power trip. Like Lucifer's angels at the beginning of time, these new Fallen infiltrate the living and twist society to their cruel ends. Watching this, God prepares to launch Armageddon.

But not before sending his angel Malachi to fight the Fallen.

Players begin the game as Malachi deep within the haunting corridors of Chaos. After he bursts through to Creation, Malachi's angelic powers disappear and the game becomes a fairly standard first-person shooter. Yet just as players will probably tire of some buggy control and predictable enemy moves, the plot twists just enough to drive forward.

Players can interact with others in the game, but the question-and-answer sequences are all scripted so it's impossible to ask the wrong question of the wrong person. It is possible to kill the wrong person, though.

Although Malachi enjoys some stellar powers--such as turning enemies to salt or unleashing a swarm of locusts--most of the action depends on standard weaponry such as pistols, rifles and shotguns. It's quite a sight to see an angel packing heat.

One entertaining feature of "Requiem's" play is that many of its bad guys can be difficult to kill. It may take several shots, for instance, to silence a demon dog or a cyber fiend. More features like that, better control and a cleaning up of the edges and "Requiem" would have been heavenly. As it is, the game is more than competent.

"Requiem: Avenging Angel" requires a Pentium 166 with at least 32mb of RAM, but at these levels play will be sluggish at best.

Micro Machines 64 Turbo

It's disturbing to see how many real playtime activities have become usurped by virtual playtime activities. Every toy maker, it seems, has pumped out some product that, according to the marketing types, "extends" play to the computer or games console. I tend to think most of them are sorry surrogates for the originals.

For instance, I'd much rather build my own Lego creation with real bricks than pretend to build on a computer screen. And I'd much rather build tracks for toy cars than race a bunch of digital versions around a virtual course.

That's the object of "Micro Machines 64 Turbo," a takeoff on the popular miniature vehicles. For those unfamiliar with the toy, think half-sized Hot Wheels. I may be dating myself, but when I was a kid, the fun of toy cars was racing them around the kitchen floor and launching them off jumps made from whatever we could find around the house.

Apparently, the programmers of "Micro Machines 64 Turbo" felt the same way because the tracks are nifty reproductions of the kinds of courses kids build when they have to use their imaginations. Cars jump off hunks of cheese or propped-up playing cards. They can crash to the linoleum.

As a racing game, "Micro Machines" is not bad. Its top-down view is reminiscent of the earliest days of arcade car racers. The Nintendo 64's processor delivers all the zip one would expect and the control is tight.

Still, it's nowhere near the fun of laying all your cars out on the floor and putting them through their paces one at a time.

If "Micro Machines" is truly a digital extension of real-world fun, then it does a good job. But the big fear is that it will supplant, rather than extend, traditional play. And that's not good.

Sports Car GT

Electronic Arts knows how to publish great racers. Witness the Need for Speed series and the Road Rash franchise. So what gives with "Sports Car GT"?

A truly average racer, "Sports Car GT" offers many of the features fans of the genre expect these days: full racing seasons, the ability to customize and trade cars and realistic tracks.

Despite all that, the game falls flat. Been there. Done that.

*

Times staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games every Monday in The Cutting Edge. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send e-mail to aaron.curtiss@latimes.com.

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