Special Forces


Wouldn’t it be cool to play a sports game featuring an asthmatic character? No? What if he’s got a nifty inhaler for his asthma? No again? What if he’s a “great player,” according to an executive of the corporate parent of the company that puts out the game? Shut up, asthma sucks? In a recent article about “political correctness” in video games, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Peter Hartlaub suggests this actual incorporation of a breathing-challenged individual into a game is cool — yet none of the p.c. titles he recommends include dead characters. (Peter obviously hasn’t played Resident Evil 0.)

For PS2, Xbox (review copy)
Developer VIS
Publisher Rockstar
Rating 5 (out of 10)

At press time, Iraqis in Baghdad were celebrating their newfound freedom by knocking down statues of Saddam and looting. Appropriate, then, that the makers of the Grand Theft Auto series should be releasing the Xbox version of this anarchic riot fantasia. Actually, the game’s conceit draws more verisimilitudinal oompah from protests against the war and their anti-globalization antecedents: It’s 2035, and the Corporation that took over the government 25 years ago is now attempting to suppress a popular revolt. You have two choices: aid the revolution, or wallow in chaos. Or, in multiplayer mode, run around trying to shoot your buddies!

Whichever option you chose, your character — there’s “disgruntled ex-cop” Mack; sexy lawyer Libra; gangbanger fatso Spanky; Freak, son of imprisoned political dissidents; or disturbing slave stereotype Bull (black, muscle-bound “ex-sports star” with broken chains hanging off his wrists, long story) — faces swarms of rioters running in every direction, often carrying televisions, cash registers, kegs, and other spoils of capitalistic lawlessness. Seeing as how there are axes, Tasers, lethal pepper spray, Molotov cocktails, grenades, rocket launchers, flame-throwers, M16s, AK47s, Uzis, and swords lying about, occasionally these citizens will themselves run amok, but mostly they’re just marks for your own revenge on society. (You don’t even need a conventional weapon: just pick up a bench and hurl it into the crowd.) Get Danny Glover to give a lecture, and it’d be NYC 2003!

Well, not really. For one thing, cops in riot gear aren’t lining the streets, ready to spray rubber bullets. Pick up a weapon, or, better yet, unfurl a scrim of blood by mowing down a dozen scurrying bystanders, and the law will simply find you and issue a beat-down. In “Revolution” mode — a series of nearly identical, frustrating mini-missions — the jackbooted thugs, now armed with pistols, make life much tougher. (Deeply flawed camera views don’t help.) What’s the point if you can’t steal your family some diapers?

For PS2
Developer Konami
Publisher Konami
Rating 8

Peaceniks, anarchists, and French farmers who hate McDonald’s aren’t the world’s only notorious troublemakers; soccer hooligans probably incite more riots than those three groups combined. Unlike our sports fans, who usually stick to painting team colors on their chests and screaming at their kids on the Little League field, these fanatics support their clubs with drunken fistfights in the stands, murderous rages directed at players who bungle goals, and full-out war. (Seriously. Read about it in Ryszard Kapuscinski’s outstanding The Soccer War.) And you thought American soccer moms were badasses.

Winning Eleven 6, finally available on these proud shores after selling big and earning accolades abroad, allows you to choose whether the pint-swilling hordes cheer for home, away, both, or, incredibly enough, remain “neutral.” (Flares, among other “stadium effects,” are also available, but not, uh, if the Japanese team’s playing.) If a melee breaks out, it will be in your living room: With up to eight players responsible for intricate settings and realistically tricky maneuvers, former Little Leaguers who got yelled at by their overly competitive dads and other sore losers are bound to crop up. Almost every aspect of the game can be adjusted, from the weather to formations. Always thought Slovakia’s goalkeeper, Miroslav Koenig, would complement Tunisia’s squad? Offer the man a contract in “Master League” mode and see if he accepts. Meanwhile, default-set “Match” mode offers instant and absorbing gratification. In Britain they call it football!

Very politically incorrect The Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah has created a war game called Special Force in which Arabs fight their “Zionist enemy.”