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Good computer game software is not hard to find

December 18, 1998
Web posted at: 4:30 PM EST

By CNN Interactive Editor Steve Baxter

(CNN) -- The fourth quarter is crunch time for computer and video game publishers. Individual companies are spending millions of marketing dollars trying to get shelf space and mind-share for their products. Nearly 50 percent of game sales take place in the important November/December time frame. But of the hundreds of new games out this fall, in which do you choose to invest your time and money?

Of all the computer games I've played in the last few months, here's a short list of what I think are some of the best.

Arcade: Two blasts from the past

Two games are standouts this year in the arcade category. Both are resurrections of classic coin-op games.

Following the success of last year's resurrection of "Frogger," Hasbro Interactive has revived "Centipede," the hit bug-zapping game. It's been upgraded to a very three-dimensional world where players drive a "shooter" vehicle face-to-face with the denizens of the insect world. Your goal is to save stranded people and save their homes from marauding bugs.

"Centipede" from Hasbro Interactive
Win 95/98 CD-ROM & Sony Playstation
Rating: KA (Kids to Adults)

Activision is following up its release of "Battle Zone" earlier in the year with an updated version of "Asteroids." It's the same classic space shooter you remember from 20 years ago but with beautiful, 3D graphics and special effects. Yes, the new "Asteroids" is just as addictive as the original.

"Asteroids" from Activision
Win 95/98 CD-ROM & Sony Playstation
Rating: E (Everyone)

Simulations: Wheels for everyone

"Railroad Tycoon II"   

Perhaps one of the most exciting software sequels of the year is "Railroad Tycoon II" from Poptop software and Gathering of Developers.

It's a simulation of the ultimate hardware, the iron horse. Based on the groundbreaking game designed by Sid Meier, "Railroad Tycoon II" lets you build your own railroad and buy any or all of 30 different industries to create your own financial empire. Tycoon isn't just a game; it's a serious economic simulation with a realistic stock market, 30 historical scenarios and enough rolling stock (59 engines and 34 cargo cars) to haul your way to greatness.

"Railroad Tycoon II" from Poptop software and Gathering of Developers
Win 95/98 NT 4.0 CD-ROM
Rating: KA (Kids to Adults)
"Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit"   

"Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit" from Electronic Arts is the third inCARnation of the popular series and boasts a lot of improvements. Start out with 13 customizable exotic supercars and add more by downloading them over the Internet. You can race against the computer or other drivers on the Net. The 3D accelerated graphics are spectacular and every car handles like a dream. The best part is driving the "pursuit" Corvette, a souped up police car that turns your race into a chase.

"Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit" from Electronic Arts
Win 95/98 CD-ROM & Sony Playstation
Rating: E (Everyone)

Adventure: Tales from two universes

Go ahead, take your pick; Star Wars or Star Trek. If you're looking for a good science-fiction adventure for the holidays, here are two places to start.
"Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D"   

The latest installment to the interactive "Star Wars" universe is "Rogue Squadron 3D" from LucasArts Entertainment. This adventure/simulation lets you play the part of hotshot rebel pilot Luke Skywalker. You lead Rogue Squadron on 16 missions against Imperial strongholds flying the best rebel craft against the meanest machines the empire can throw at you. There's no deep-space action in this game; all the combat takes place planetside.

"Rogue Squadron" requires a 3D-accelerator card to see the variety of dramatically rendered battlefields.

"Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D"
Win 95/98 CD-ROM, Nintendo 64
Rating: T (Teen)
"Klingon Honor Guard"   

If you were a Klingon warrior you might say "'oH QaQ jaj Daq Hegh." Translated that means "Today is a good day to die;" and that's just what you can do over and over again while playing "Klingon Honor Guard" from Microprose. It's a first person shooter in the tradition of "Doom" and it is bloody fun.

"Klingon Honor Guard" immerses you in the culture and history of the Klingon Empire with 19 missions in 7 unique "Star Trek" inspired worlds. Handling 10 different Klingon weapons you encounter two dozen challenging enemies.

"Klingon Honor Guard" from Microprose
Win 95/98 CD-ROM
Rating: M (Mature, ages 17+)

Music: Maestro in a box

If you ever wanted to use your PC to make music but you couldn't make heads or tails out of MIDI banks, SoundFonts and WAVE files lend an ear to "ACID Music" from Sonic Foundry. This package is a collection of "loops," sound clips that can be strung together to create professional sounding music tracks.

The "ACID Music" experience is all about instant gratification. Install the software and in minutes you will be creating tunes that can be used on Web sites, business presentations or just for fun.

"ACID Music" from Sonic Foundry
Win 9X NT 4.0 CD-ROM
My personal rating: F for FUN!

Finally, another action/adventure game. "Half-Life" from Valve and Sierra Studios is considered a breakthrough in computer gaming and is the hit title of the season. At first glance the game is just another first-person exercise in carnage.

"Half-Life" isn't just about separating sci-fi monsters from their body parts, it also has a very strong story written by award-winning horror novelist Marc Laidlaw. An immersive combination of excellent graphics, powerful sound and a entertaining storyline make this game a standout. But what really sets "Half-Life" apart from any other game in its genre is the programming of the not-so-artificial intelligence. No matter if they are friend or foe, each character acts and responds in unpredictable and realistic ways making this game one heck of a interactive thrill ride.

"Half-Life" from Valve and Sierra Studios
Win 95/98 CD-ROM
Rating: M (Mature, ages 17+)

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