Treasure Chest

As a staunch supporter of the Iraq invasion, Senator Joe Lieberman knows a thing or two about violence—including how to justify it with hollow rhetoric. I'd therefore like to second the Big L's endorsement of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board's new video-game evaluation breakdown, which follows. "Cartoon violence" hereby describes when characters "are unharmed after the action has been inflicted." "Fantasy violence" refers to "situations easily distinguishable from real life." "Intense violence" means "realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict" that include "blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death." Finally, "sexual violence" warns that "rape or other violent sexual acts" are portrayed. Beginning in September, folks under 17 will be explicitly discouraged from buying these "mature" titles. At least our leaders are concerned about how Americans kill time.

FREESTYLE METAL X
For PS2
Developer Midway Games
Publisher Midway Games
Rating 6 (out of 10)

I grew up in the sticks, spending my pre-teens smoking pine needles rolled in Bible paper (the poor boy's cigarette), popping caps in BB-gun battles, and listening to Guns N' Roses. Unfortunately, I moved away before getting ahold of real firearms (my older, non-hunting brothers cut down trees with borrowed shotguns) or muscle cars, four-wheelers, and dirt bikes (my town's ubiquitous, motorized white-trash modes of transportation) Finally, with Freestyle Metal X, I get to take crotch rockets off-road. While not exactly the Gummo of extreme sports games, FMX combines trucker-title anti-aesthetics, below-the-belt humor, and skill-building requirements best fit for bored kids. What more could you ask for?

"Boy, are my nips hard. Yee haw!": Freestlye Metal X
photo: Midway Home Entertainment Inc
"Boy, are my nips hard. Yee haw!": Freestlye Metal X

Boobies, of course. We get those in pairs, I mean spades: Two of the available bikers put even Lara Croft to shame. (The game's other big guns include nine actual pros, all men. You may also choose from a ninja or the dreadlocked "Bob Gnarly.") In order to pull the game's 100 or so nutty stunts, you'll have to grab air and push more buttons than Jerry Falwell—10 to achieve the "catnac scissor kick." Rack 'em up to fill your "rad-o-meter." ("Bob, you're our head of marketing—are kids still using the word 'rad'?" "Totally, dude!") If you're quick, the full bar enables super stunts. Two things, besides the lack of a true multiplayer option, set Freestyle Metal X apart from other ex-games: the option to link its unlockable environments, so you can speed directly from the seaside into a snowstorm; and its soundtrack's handful of classic metal tunes from Twisted Sister, Mötley Crüe, Megadeth, and Motörhead. I'll take Lemmy over Bob Gnarly any day.



Lara Croft wins yet another wet T-shirt contest
(photo: courtesy of Eidos Interactive)
TOMB RAIDER: THE ANGEL OF DARKNESS
For PS2
Developer Core Design US
Publisher Eidos Interactive
Rating 4

That the lovely and talented Angelina Jolie had to stuff her bra for this franchise's first movie confirms the obvious: No one wants gaming's best-known heroine to get anything off her chest. And yet Lara Croft's sixth adventure on the small screen attempts to flesh out the large-breasted one's personality, via a typically convoluted, conspiracy-theorizing plot: Lara gets framed for the murder of an old associate in Paris, and therefore implicated in "Monstrum's Dark Renaissance," which somehow involves 14th-century "Obscura Paintings" an "unholy alliance," and some dude named "the Alchemist." Hey—it worked for Dude, Where's My Car? But guiding Lara from one cut-scene to the next would frustrate even the most patient player. In the forthcoming Tomb Raider movie sequel, Jolie opens a can of whup-ass in search of Pandora's box; she need look no further than this game's bundle of flaws.

Theoretically, The Angel of Darkness represents a leap in gameplay. As you explore the nicely rendered levels, solving puzzles and picking up clues, you're able to climb, swing from pipes, sneak up behind enemies, and swim underwater. But attempting to do so makes one appreciate the natural fluidity of, say, Splinter Cell: The camera almost never points where you need it to, Lara moves erratically even as simple tasks like opening a drawer require precise maneuvering, stealth mode is buggy, and opponents are all too easily dispatched in crude combat. It's a real bust.


Sure beats sipping Cristal with Puffy at Mission

Buy, rent, or pay to play PS2 and Xbox ti-tles at Game Time Nation's new location, located on 12th Street between Third and Fourth avenues.

 
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