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SWAT 4: SPECIAL WEAPONS & TACTICS (Sierra, $49.99 SRP)

It's a true rarity when I actually even mention a videogame anymore, but my father, a sheriff's deputy, has been lobbying me hard to mention the latest installment in what once was known as the Police Quest series a long ago time, where it sat by such fondly remembered series as Space Quest , King's Quest, Hero's Quest (aka Quest for Glory), and Leisure Suit Larry. Well, Larry made his comeback last year, and now we've got SWAT 4: Special Weapons & Tactics (http://www.swat4.com http://www.swat4.com). As far as gameplay and accuracy, it's no wonder that law enforcement regularly uses the Police Quest/SWAT games for training. Or, in the words of my father, who hasn't been able to drag himself away from the game, "It's great!" Now really what better recommendation can you get than that?

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS (Lucasarts, $49.99 SRP)

Given that STAR WARS overlord George Lucas has already indicated his current "prequel trilogy" would pretty much bypass the saga's oft-referenced "Clone Wars" (which began at the end of EPISODE II, and whose conclusion we'll see in the opening of EPISODE III), this game serves a very vital purpose: it enables long-time franchise supporters to both visualize and participate in an important element of the STAR WARS universe. If the filmmakers don't intend to give us a payoff by visualizing this legendary element of STAR WARS lore, at least The Powers That

Be at Lucas Arts are willing to pick-up the ball and run with it. And they have done so very nicely.

THE CLONE WARS is instantly gratifying, featuring large scale action theaters, multiple weapons power-ups and options, and a variety of gaming perspectives (throughout the game, a player might be flying a hover-tank, a speeder-bike, be on foot while swinging light sabers at wall after wall of advancing foes, piloting "gunship" through anti-aircraft fire, or riding an armored lizard beats, etc.).

Wrapped around a plot which peripherally relates to the overall STAR WARS mythos while remaining somewhat self contained, THE CLONE WARS features well-established characters like Anakin Skywalker, Mace Windu, and Obi Wan Kenobi. SW: TCW features a "campaign" mode, which carries viewers into the actual thrust of CLONE WARS gameplay, or a training/multiplayer mode in which players can square off against each other in various environments, using a variety of ships and weapons.

Beginning during the events of STAR WARS EPISODE II, and rapidly progressing beyond that film, THE CLONE WARS is a solid and compelling companion to that film. In fact, its entertainment value frequently transcends the most recent cinematic opus. Coupled with Cartoon Network's forthcoming series of Lucas-sanctioned CLONE WARS animated vignettes, it's comforting to know that the conflict referenced so elegantly by Sir Alec Guiness twenty six years ago has at least paid off in some way, although I doubt anyone viewing STAR WARS EPISODE IV back in 1977 could have imagined the bulk of The Clone Wars would only be fought on the intimate canvas of their living room television sets...

-Glen Oliver

STAR WARS: BOUNTY HUNTER   (Lucasarts, $49.99 SRP)

No matter how you look at it, STAR WARS: BOUNTY HUNTER is a blast. It makes overtures towards some semblance of a story, but who really cares? In the end, the game is about only one thing: blasting the hell out of everything in sight. It's a fantastic stress reliever after a long and tense day.

Featuring the adventures of Jango Fett, a bounty hunter of dubious repute introduced and dispatched in STAR WARS EPISODE II, BOUNTY HUNTER plunges us deep into the frequently suggested

(but seldom seen) STAR WARS underworld. Jango goes looking for people who have a price on their head -- taking him on adventures which span the galaxy. We revisit the city planet of Couruscant, via trackdowns which carry us from the city's bustling entertainment district to airborne antics catapulting between the rooftops of the planet's above-cloud-layer buildings. We break into heavily armed, high-tech asteroid prisons, and visit hellish, factory-esque settings evocative of DUNE.

Players will enjoy a variety of weapon selections (although, specialized weapons..like blaster machine guns...should probably be accessible to players more frequently, and for a longer period of time), and gamers and fans alike will likely get off on zooming through the sky courtesy of Jango's booster/jump pack (listen carefully when using this feature on busy streets -- you can actually hear excited pedestrians saying things like "Look, what was that!?!?" as Jango flies past).

The bodycount characters in this game die hard: headshots spin people around like pinwheels. Some individuals take multiple shots to kill -- and we see them dying slowly and painfully. Sometimes, ten or fifteen people/enemies go down at once. Innocent bystanders can be hit and killed -- their fate also depends on how careful the player wants to be when fighting his or her opponents. Jango can set people on fire with his wrist-mounted flamethrower -- the targets roll around on the ground...tying to extinguish the flames that have engulfed them...before dying completely. If John Woo directed STAR WARS, this is what it would be like.

Featuring voices by Temuera Morrison (reprising his role as Jango Fett from EPISODE II) and the way-too-cool Clancy Brown, BOUNTY HUNTER game is definitely for more mature audiences, or, at the very least, requires some level of parental supervision. But it's a vividly realized, very grown-up, balls-to-the-wall take on the STAR WARS universe: an approach which is far more memorable and impactful than the actual movie product released in recent years. I want to see a Jango Fett movie...NOW. Which, in the end, speaks highly for BOUNTY HUNTER, and says quite a bit about the franchise from which it sprang...

 -Glen Oliver

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Tibby's Bowl Entertainment Magazine copyright 2005 by Kenneth Plume. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in part or in whole without permission is prohibited. All articles, stories, and columns contained within are copyright their respective authors.