Terrorism alters `Run 2'

Game Room

November 05, 2001|By John Roby | John Roby,SUN STAFF

The sequel to the well-received PlayStation 2 game Smuggler's Run was scheduled to be released early last month, featuring more vehicles, better graphics and several missions set in Afghanistan.

Events got in the way.

Rockstar Games delayed production after terrorists with ties to the Southwest Asian nation attacked New York and Washington, and hijacked a plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. Last week, the company released Smuggler's Run 2: Hostile Territory, which features more vehicles, better graphics and several missions set in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

The player takes the role of a driver who hauls contraband. The game unfolds in two vast landscapes modeled on the Russian/Georgian border and Vietnam. The player must beat a ticking clock and fleets of drivers in a race to pick up and deliver the goods.

More than half a dozen vehicles, from four-wheelers to halftracks, are available, and each handles differently on the game's terrains, which include mountains, ice, mud, dirt and swamps. Bouncing too hard over an obstacle will damage a vehicle, popping off hoods, doors and bumpers. Each vehicle has a defensive weapon, such as a smokescreen generator or nitro burst, but the game rewards evasion, not offense.

The $50 title takes advantage of PlayStation 2's ability to render huge geographic areas in real time. The entire landscape is accessible during each of more than 30 missions, and there's a drive-only mode that lets you enjoy the scenery without goals or a time limit.

Game play takes place at all hours and in all weather. Raindrops bounce off vehicles, and sunshine glints off metal.

The frame rate stays steady, and there is little distracting draw-in (a delay the background fills). That's good, because the action moves quickly and obstacles clutter landscapes. Land mines and low walls hidden by shrubs crisscross the Georgia level, and a vehicle that hits one at 110 mph will explode - or launch into orbit.

Hostile Territory's techno soundtrack blends well with the fast-paced action, but the in-game voices are more annoying then helpful. When two police SUVs sandwich your vehicle and force you into a wall, there's no need for a badly accented voice to shout, "We after you, criminal!"

Also jarring are the scenes that advance the plot. Though the game plays out in a 3-D polygonal world, the cut scenes are grainy, retro-looking, live-action video clips reminiscent of mid-1990s 32-bit titles. It's a strange throwback - one actor even wears a hilariously fake-looking mustache.

If anything, the video scenes highlight how thin the plot is. But the game is exciting and varied enough to keep players engaged. And with a little imagination, the Caucasus looks like Afghanistan.

Information: www.rockstargames.com.

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