Games attract large crowds at Electronic Entertainment Expo

Friday, May 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Movie sequels often fall short of the original. Video games, however, usually get better with time.

From scary sci-fi shooters like ``Doom III'' to auto racing games such as ``Gran Turismo 4,'' many popular games have received major facelifts, looking more lifelike than ever.

More than a thousand games were shown this week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. E3 has more than games, of course _ like the NVidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra, a mouthful of a graphics card that costs a whopping $499 but figures to be the best pixel-pusher money can buy. Or Nyko Technologies' line of Air Flo controllers, which funnels fresh air through the grip to fight sweaty hands.

But games are what it's all about. Here are 10 offerings that attracted major attention:

_ Halo 2 (Xbox). When Halo debuted last year, it was universally hailed as an instant classic, bringing credibility to the upstart console. The new version of the first-person shooter, set in a giant ring floating in space, adds new weapons and vehicles. It also lets friends play together via Microsoft's Xbox Live gaming service.

_ Doom III (PC). Welcome to id Software Inc.'s latest digital nightmare. Another first person shooter, set in the dank confines of a Martian outpost. This isn't a thinking person's game _ you shoot everything that moves (then shoot it again). What really makes Doom III shine are its graphics. If you've seen a Pixar film like ``Toy Story,'' then you already know what to expect, just a lot more gory.

_ The Sims 2 (PC). The original game of social simulation gets an upgrade with three-dimensional graphics and the ability to watch your Sim grow from cradle to grave. After you die, you can create entire Sim families that share your Sim's digital DNA. That way, traits like facial features and skin color will continue from one generation to the next.

_ Mario Kart: DoubleDash (GameCube). Nintendo has been holding back on a new kart game since 1997, but the wait seems to have been worth it for the newest family friendly racer. DoubleDash lets you race with a roster of Nintendo's marquee game characters, including plumbers Mario and Luigi. A new wrinkle in the rush to the finish is teamwork. Two racers are required per kart _ a driver and a co-pilot to gather power-ups and control weapons.

_ Gran Turismo 4 (PlayStation 2). The latest ultra-realistic driving game from Sony Computer Entertainment Group. Select from numerous tracks and hundreds of cars, from the Pontiac GTO to newer racers like the Honda NSX.

_ Half-Life 2 (PC). Scientist-turned-pipe-wrench-wielding alien-slayer Gordon Freeman returns to the PC after a five-year hiatus. This paranoid, atmospheric game of alien invaders bent on ridding the earth of its human residents makes the government conspiracies of the ``X-Files'' look tame by comparison.

_ Spider-Man 2 (PlayStation2, Xbox, GameCube). This list wouldn't be complete without at least one Hollywood tie-in. This time around, everyone's favorite web-slinger battles Doc Ock and an assortment of Ock's baddies. Publisher Activision says it won't come out until summer 2004 _ just in time for the next movie starring Tobey Maguire.

_ Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PlayStation2). This offering from Konami has you playing the lead hero, Solid Snake, against an assortment of enemies in the jungle. Like its predecessors, this game requires stealthy tactics rather than brute force to succeed. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, a souped up remake of the original Metal Gear, comes to the GameCube this fall.

_ Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (GameCube). Square Soft brings an exclusive to GameCube with the latest in a long line of Final Fantasy role-players. This time, up to four players will be able to join in a game simultaneously and fight a bizarre assortment of monsters.

_ Silent Hill 3 (PlayStation2). Life in Silent Hill is returning to its horrific roots with this new game from Konami. The game looks great, with atmospheric fog and dark underground buildings to explore. Just remember to fend off the hordes of zombies lumbering after you. A PC version, due out after the PS2 version this summer, promises even better visuals.