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THE ALTERNATIVES | GOT GAME?

Hop in and hit the gas

June 28, 2007|Pete Metzger | Special to The Times

SPECTACULARLY realistic graphics. An impressively wide selection of real cars that take actual damage. Numerous ways to race, from fully automatic to fully customized.

It's all there. That's why Forza Motorsport 2 is one of the top three auto racing simulators of all time.

Race in one of more than 300 fully customizable cars from the exotic (like the 2002 Ferrari Enzo) to the curious (how about a 1987 Buick Regal?) on one of 12 tracks (including real-life tracks such as Laguna Seca) in fully rendered high definition. Choose the level of competition as well as how much racing assistance you'd prefer (like suggested braking points and lanes through the track) and hang on.

Play using the Xbox 360's well-made Wireless Racing Wheel (sold separately) for an added way to jack up the realism. With the wheel's force feedback functionality, not only does the road fight you back as the car screams around turns, but every little bump in the pavement is felt. (The wheel also comes with a copy of Project Gotham Racing 3, an added bonus). Make-believe driving experiences don't get much better than this.

Details: \o7Forza Motorsport 2, $59.99; Xbox 360 platform; rated: Everyone. Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel, $129.99.

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Freaks and geeks

School's out for summer? Not so fast! Thanks to the high school dating simulator Brooktown High, all of the awkward conversations, mindless flirting and cruel backstabbing are neatly packed into portable video game form. As original as it is unusual, the object in Brooktown is to score dates with "hotties," make friends and become one of the most popular kids on campus. Strangely, the language and sexual themes that the makers have packed in make this one better suited for older high schoolers who might find the idea of a "dating simulator" too cheesy.

Details: $39.99; PlayStation Portable platform; rated: Teen (sexual themes, simulated gambling, strong language).

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Mario's next step

Mario Party 8, the life of the video game party, brings a new selection of quality mini games and a great sense of fun to a whole new audience: the millions of newly minted gamers of the Wii. The latest installment of the series, MP8 offers simple gameplay that newbies will find challenging without being frustrated, while veteran gamers will like most of the very re-playable mini games that make up the collection. MP8 also comes with a few games that can be played with your own video doppelganger, a personalized Mii, just as in Wii Sports. Good-natured, family-friendly fun.

Details: $49.99; Wii platform; rated: Everyone (mild cartoon violence).

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Re-enter the dragon

Any game in which you rip out your opponent's spine is tailor-made for the Wii's interactive controls. But though Mortal Kombat Armageddon is not the prefect marriage of control to action, it does manage to come pretty darn close. And it will keep fans of the gory fighter series shaking their remotes until their arms fall off in real life. By waving the remote, gamers can execute a super attack, which is just the way it should be. But to pull off many of the more common button-mashing attacks, gamers are forced to use the control pad, which is uncomfortable and nonintuitive.

Details: $49.99; Wii Platform; rated: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence).

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Ninjas fall short

To describe Tenchu Z, a game set in the ancient world of Japanese ninjas, we turn to haiku:

Horrible graphics

And boring ninja gameplay.

Truly terrible.

And here's one more:

"Z" in the title

Warns gamers that they are in

For a sleepy time.

With last-gen graphics and uncomfortable controls, this is a stealth game that is better off hidden.

Details: $59.99; Xbox 360 Platform; rated: Mature (blood, partial nudity, violence).

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