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GAME DAY

Battle fatigue in playing Patriots

Metal Gear action takes too long; for more speed, NASCAR 09 will get you there a lot faster.

June 19, 2008|Pete Metzger | Special to The Times

If most video games are the equivalent of comic books, with their Bang! Pow! action and bright, saturated colors, then Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is more like "War and Peace." Giant, involved, plodding and, yes, at times even confusing, MGS4 will surely be loved by those familiar with the epic series. For anyone late to the train, don't even try to jump on now, you'll just end up confused and bored.

In MGS4, the final battle of the super soldier known as Solid Snake relies on too many slow-paced cut screens to move the story along. Every little scene is almost twice as long as it needs to be; for example, Snake finds a rusty oil drum and studies it for about 30 seconds, looking at it from all sides. Yeah, Snake, you can hide in it, just like inside the cardboard box from past MGS games. Just pick it up and move on already.

Plodding cut screens aside, the graphics are spectacular, even if controlling Snake isn't as easy as it once was. (We remember spending what seemed like days making our way through MGS2 without nearly as much frustration as this.) And the story has such a cinematic feel that there are even trailers that play at the game's start, just like at the multiplex.

But cinematic amazingness aside, MGS4 feels distant and even cold because of the complex story and buzz-killing length of cut screens that far too often interrupt the action.

Like "War and Peace," it's an acquired taste.

Grade: B (Better stock up on NoDoz)

Details: PlayStation 3 platform; $59.99. Rated: Mature (blood, crude humor, strong language, suggestive themes, violence)

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Customize your race track play

Oh, so this is what it's like!

After playing the terrific race simulator NASCAR 09, now we see what all the hype is about: the tight traffic, the short, crowded tracks, the colorful cars. Who knew that track racing -- in which all you do is make left-hand turns -- could actually be this much fun? (Apparently the millions of NASCAR fans were on to something.)

In addition to the full-motion video of NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon guiding you through the game's many racing options and features, and the ability to totally customize your own team and race for the cup, the actual racing here is so good we can even look past the "good old boy" music that makes up the soundtrack.

Grade: B+ (Bountiful options)

Details: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2 platforms; $39.99 to $59.99. Rated: Everyone

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