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THE ALTERNATIVES | GOT GAME?

Gunning for wise guys

April 06, 2006|Pete Metzger | Times Staff Writer

IT'S no stretch to say that playing a game based on the classic film The Godfather would feel a little familiar. After all, this movie is so popular, even those who have never seen the film know the lines (remember that offer that can't be refused?).

But besides the plot line and characters, something else here causes deja vu. Maybe it's the open-ended mission-based play, or the third-person view, or the upgradeable main character who can purchase haircuts and clothes with money he earns as a street thug. Oh, yeah, and the best way to get around the city is in a stolen car ...

OK, so this is basically Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas with a different coat of paint. But what sets this title apart from the controversial classic of a year and a half ago (hot coffee, anyone?) is the polish added. Street combat makes perfect use of both control sticks, the load times are quicker, and of course there is the classic mafia fable, complete with beautifully rendered cut screens that feature actual voices from Hollywood heavyweights including Marlon Brando (who recorded his part before he died in 2004).

Details: \o7PlayStation 2 and Xbox platforms; $39.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language and suggestive themes).

*

You and Jack vs. time

Unlike the hit TV show that plays out in real time, 24 the Game is slightly more compressed. (The first 46 minutes took us about 15 to complete.) But like the show, this 24 serves up excitement and cliffhangers (most of which happen only at the top of the hour). The good: decent graphics, variety of mission styles and real character voices. The bad: choppy controls and poor translation of the show's trademark split screen. (When the drama gets intense and two views are put on the screen at once, trying to move Jack Bauer in the correct way becomes far too hard.)

Details: PlayStation 2 platform; $49.99; rated Mature (blood and violence).

*

Tetris back in stylus

Thanks a lot, Nintendo. By creating a new incarnation of Tetris and updating it with new twists, we're addicted to this classic puzzle game all over again. Because Tetris DS is created on the very-much-portable Dual Screen system, some of the titles can be played using the fancy stylus instead of just the control pad. (Our favorites are the "Touch" levels that require gamers to rotate and place the colorful blocks instead of just steering their fall.) The wireless capability (being able to play friends next to you or over the Internet) and the classic Nintendo character motifs are also welcome additions.

Details: Nintendo DS platform; $34.99; rated Everyone.

*

Feeling out of control

As high as Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter scores in graphics punch -- and we're talking beautiful next-generation details -- this war sim is sorely lacking in the very important ease-of-control category. Commanding your squad of troops on the battlefield in 2013 is neither intuitive nor easier as play continues. And using the strange third-person/first-person hybrid heads-up display never gets comfortable. You'd hope the soldiers of future wars, like these imagined by the Tom Clancy machine, would have an easier time controlling their equipment.

Details: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2 platforms; $49 to $59.99; rated Teen (blood, language and violence).

*

Race and destroy

The auto combat game Full Auto is an above-average racer with off-the-chart explosions. A lot of the backgrounds are interactive -- meaning that if you can see it, you can launch a missile at it to hurl debris in the path of a rival. Racing is fast and furious but requires multitasking to do battle (aim with this eye and drive with that one, ugh). Perhaps the best feature is the "unwreck" mode, which lets you travel back in time to avoid that metal-crunching crash with a delivery van.

Details: Xbox 360 platform; $59.99; rated Teen (violence).

*

For previous columns, or to e-mail Pete Metzger, visit latimes.com/gotgame.

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