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You yell, and they listen

July 13, 2006|Pete Metzger | Special to The Times

FOR the small fraternity of head coaches in the NFL, there is no such thing as the off-season. And for the select few coaches who get to make their teams' personnel decisions it's definitely a full-time job, not to mention a heck of a lot of work. So why would anyone want to play NFL Head Coach, the new coaching-general manager simulator?

Well, for one thing, it's an intoxicating if not excruciating game.

Players start off as the winning offensive or defensive coordinator of the Super Bowl champs and are soon interviewing with team owners looking for a new coach. (Each comes with a different set of goals.) Read through the offers, accept a job and off you go.

For better or worse, nothing in this simulator is left out. Boring meetings, office time sitting around reviewing rosters and playbooks, trying to decide whom to draft, managing the salary cap -- it's all here.

Will it be intriguing for football fans? Probably so. Will it be boring for them as well? Most likely. After all, how much fun is it to sit in an office all day?

Details: PlayStation 2 and Xbox platforms; $39.99; rated everyone.


Comics come to life

You've heard of books on tape, so why not a stylized, well-drawn comic on a portable video game player? Metal Gear Solid Digital Graphic Novel is just that: a visually stunning, partially animated comic book come to life on the PSP. With sound effects and moody music, Solid Snake and the rest of the characters in the superior Metal Gear world leap from the, uh, page. (Even though there is no dialogue, just traditional comic word bubbles, you can almost hear the characters' voices.) And some layouts and images put other games' fully rendered cut screens to shame.

Details: PlayStation Portable platform; $19.99; rated Mature (blood, mild language, partial nudity, violence).


Treasure sword fights

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is a perfectly good hack-and-slash pirate adventure done in by the lack of quality camera control. (Seeing as how the PSP is notorious for lousy viewing angles, we'll just call it par for the course.) Pirates also could take a page from the similar Tomb Raider franchise and give players a hint as to what puzzle they are supposed to be solving. But at least the drunken, slurring cyber version of Jack Sparrow looks and sounds just as good as Johnny Depp's on-screen character. And, man, can he swing a sword.

Details: PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance platforms; $39-$29.99; rated Teen (violence).


An agent on the loose

More cerebral and slower to develop than its predecessors, Hitman Blood Money is still decadent fun, even if controlling Agent 47 isn't as smooth as it should be. The visuals make nice use of the Xbox 360's capabilities, but what good is that if you can't steer? The action button is finicky and changes uses so often that it's hard to get into any kind of rhythm. One great touch: After each level, an on-screen newspaper story is generated describing your less-than-angelic actions in analytical detail.

Details: Xbox 360, PlayStation 2 and Xbox platforms; $39.99-$59; rated Mature (blood, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language, use of drugs).


A minor league effort

The only thing that appears even remotely up to date in the new MLB SlugFest 2006 is seeing Nomar Garciaparra in Dodger blue. Everything else -- the PlayStation 1-quality graphics, the ultra-vanilla in-game graphics, the clunky and simplistic controls -- feels like this is a rerelease of an older SlugFest title, with updated rosters. Even the addition of "create a player" mode isn't enough to justify the relatively cheap price tag.

Details: PlayStation 2 and Xbox platforms; $19.99; rated Everyone 10+ (crude humor, lyrics, violence).


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