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Let your wheels fly with Gran Turismo 2

GRAN TURISMO 2, FOR PLAYSTATION

Back in the day, the wealthiest and most privileged citizens often spent years touring Europe. They called it the Grand Tour, and traveled in lavishly appointed horse-drawn coaches. The Tour always ended in Rome, the center of European culture. That being the case, the carriages used acquired the name Gran Turismo.

As cars became the way to go, special autos were developed to continue the Grand Tour, often sporty, luxurious two-seaters. Soon, the privileged few started racing those cars, and Gran Turismo _ or GT _ racing was born.

Years later, that led to the greatest driving video game ever, the first Gran Turismo. But comparing that one to Gran Turismo 2 is like ... well, like comparing one of those horse-drawn buggies to a Lamborghini.

This two-disk set lets you decide if you want to engage in arcade-style action, with tires squealing as you jump obstacles and slide around corners, or realistic driving simulation.

In either case, you can choose from more than 500 cars from some of the world's most renowned makers, from Alfa Romeo to Volkswagen, and 34 others between. And every one of those cars can be customized to your liking.

The driving's the same amazing adventure it was in the first GT, whether you're cutting loose on unpaved rally tracks or trying to hold your own on 20 international road racing tracks. You can take on computer opponents, the clock, or a friend in any of those modes.

Action aside, one of the best things about this one is the amazing soundtrack _ the best ever in a video game, with bands like The Cardigans, Rob Zombie, Soul Coughing and Stone Temple Pilots chipping in. And it's not the usual unknown soundtrack fare: Foo Fighters check in with "My Hero," for instance, Garbage gives up "I Think I'm Paranoid" and Beck comes across with "Where It's At". It's awesome driving music, and very impressive.

GT 2 is an absolute treasure trove for race fans. There's not another game on the market that can even come close to it. The hundreds of different cars alone are enough to keep you playing for months.

JONATHAN SAYS: I'm not enough of a car person to care if there are 500 different ones or not. I'd prefer it if they shot at each other or something. A.

CHIP SAYS: Oh man, this one is perfect for car nuts. Every amazing automobile you've ever hoped to drive _ and I mean drive fast, with no rules, no cops, and no chance of cracking your skull _ in one awesome package. Plus the soundtrack absolutely rocks. Perfect. A+.

OVERALL RATING: A+ _ BUY IT FOR AGES 8 AND UP.

Battletanx Global Assault, for N64

Seems the Y2K bug wasn't as much of a joke as we thought it was, and by the year 2006 things have pretty much gone to hell in a hand basket.

Actually, that's not what happened. There was a virus, but it affected humans, not computers, in the year 2001. Targeting only women, the virus decimated the world's female population. Nations panicked, realizing they couldn't maintain population numbers without enough women, and soon realized that the countries with the most women would soon rule the world. Chaos ensued; escalating into a nuclear frenzy that wiped out civilization.

The survivors grouped in violent gangs or peaceful tribes, each headed by a QueenLord. You were one of the lucky few who hooked up. Your girlfriend, Madison, survived the virus, and now you and she rule a tribe in what was San Francisco. But there's something about your 3-year-old son Brandon. He seems special somehow ... like maybe he has special powers.

You're not the only one who knows that. A gang has become aware of Brandon's powers, and the fact that Madison was the key to them. Now your family is a target.

Good thing you got all those tanks. That's right, tanks. They're the preferred means of wreaking havoc of keeping the peace, whether you're in an old military warhorse like an M1A1 Abrams or in some monster creation you've welded together in your spare time.

You and the members of your tribe have to protect Madison and Brandon from the clutches of a rival gang. You'll have a variety of weapons and power-ups at your disposal, including mines, guided missiles, grenades, plasma bolts and flamethrowers.

The action unfolds in superb 360-degree style, with amazing graphics and backgrounds that'll have you convinced you actually inhabit a post-apocalyptic world.

Our favorite thing about the one-player mode is that it doesn't have to be a one-player mode: Two players can work toward the same goal cooperatively. It's a tremendous option, one we don't see often enough. Now let's go for four-player co-op, guys!

Speaking of four players, the multiplayer modes here are just as good as the single player game. There are seven different ways for two, three or four to play.

JONATHAN SAYS: Forget the single-player mode: Find a friend and go for the co-op. And then find two more friends _ or even some people you don't like _ and battle it out in the four-player mode. Terrific. A.

CHIP SAYS: The single-player mode is pretty good on its own, and I remember a time when that would have been enough. But now it seems to have a great game, you need a killer multi-player mode. This one's got it. A-.

OVERALL RATING: A-

BUY IT FOR AGES 10 AND UP.

Tips and tricks

FIGHTING FORCE 2, FOR PLAYSTATION _ At the start screen, press and hold L1 + L2 + R1 + Triangle + X + Left and begin the game. You'll go to a level select screen. You'll also find that you have unlimited ammo and invincibility once you start playing (you can still get hurt if you fall or get burned, so be careful).

VIGILANTE 8: SECOND OFFENSE, FOR N64 _ Check out these great passwords: Attract enemies _ UNDER_FIRE ; Big Wheels _ GO_MONSTER; Fast Action _ QUICK_PLAY; Faster Cars _ MORE_SPEED; Heavier Cars _ GO_RAMMING; High Suspensions _ JACK_IT_UP; No Enemies In Arcade Mode _ HOME_ALONE; No Gravity _ NO_GRAVITY; Rapid Fire _ RAPID_FIRE; Slow Motion _ GO_SLOW_MO; Super Missiles _ BLAST_FIRE.

HOT WHEELS RACING, FOR N64 _ Try one of these passwords to unlock all cars and tracks: _WYVW2LVDW VTXWWVWWWF, OR _WYVVZCVDV VTXVVVVVVN, OR _WYZKZ1VDD OTX1TRGHSV.

To drive the Tow Jam Vehicle, highlight options at the main menu and press up-C, down-C, Z, R, left-C, right-C, up-C, down-C. For a mirror mode press Z, R, Z, Z, R, Z, Z, Z. To race at night, press up-C, up-C, down-C, down-C, left-C, right-C, left-C, right-C. For unlimited turbo, press right-C, Z, up-C, down-C, R, left-C, Z, right-C.

Got a question? An inside tip you'd like to share? Write to Chip and Jonathan Carter in care of the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. While they cannot respond individually, they will answer questions of general interest in their column.

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