Great action, better price

Explain this one: "ESPN NFL 2K5" is a great football game with all kinds of really great features. Yet for some reason, it costs only $19.99, which is $30 less than that other football game, "Madden 2005."

Don't let the bargain-basement price fool you. The graphics are much improved over last year's already great-looking title. Watching Michael Vick scramble and throw an incomplete pass in the Georgia Dome looks this close to watching an actual ESPN broadcast.

The gameplay isn't bad either. Too lazy to scroll through the vast playbook for just the right play to run on third and 20? No problem. Select "Coaches choice" and let someone else do the thinking. Most times, we were rewarded with a successful play call. Yay, slothfulness!

Another great feature: the ESPN 25th Anniversary scenarios. Here, the game sets you up in situations from classic contests, such as "the Catch" from 1982 and "the Immaculate Reception" from 1972. And even some games that actually had highlights shown on ESPN, such as Super Bowl XXXIV, in which the Tennessee Titans came up a yard short of victory. Gameplay starts right at the crucial moment, giving you the perfect chance to mess up history.

Details: $19.99; PlayStation 2 and Xbox platforms; rated E (everyone).


Schizoid storytelling

Sudeki is just like the stereotypical dumb blond: easy on the eyes, but painful once you get to know her.

This "action-adventure" role-playing game without much action or adventure is like a picturesque storybook with a bunch of blood and gore that seems wildly out of place. One minute you're frolicking in a gated wonderland full of cherry blossoms and butterflies. The next, you're walking by a corpse with a pickax sticking out of his face. For whom exactly is this game designed?

Sure, things improve as new characters join the party, but not enough to keep us interested. Su-yucky!

Details: $49.99; Xbox platform; rated mature (blood and gore, violence).


Not at all N-Gaging

Remember Beta videotapes? They won't be alone in the pantheon of worthless technology once the Nintendo DS lands this fall. Nope, all those good old Beta tapes will have the portable game system called the Nokia N-Gage QD to keep them company.

Even with the improvements that were made from last year's model (the biggest: The battery doesn't need to come out just to change the games), the graphics and controls here are miserable at best. The QD is smaller than its predecessor, so it won't be confused for a taco, like the other one was. It also won't be confused with a quality system.

Details: $199.99 without mobile service agreement, $99.99 with.


An Arcadian vibe

How sad is it that five of our favorite arcade classics from yesteryear fit nicely into a controller that runs on just four AA batteries? Seems like all this fun would require more juice.

Regardless, the plug-and-play "Ms. Pac-Man TV Games" is so worth it. Besides the hall of famer "Ms. Pac-Man," all the shoot-'em-up fun of "Galaga" is here too. And "Pole Position," "Mappy" and "Xevious" as well? Count us in!

With all that going for it, we'll overlook that the joystick can be a little stiff and unresponsive, and that the controller serves up a healthy dose of wrist soreness after extended play. The old-school love makes it all worthwhile.

Details: $24.99; rated E (everyone).


Been here, crashed this

Driv3r feels kind of familiar. In this one, you drive around in early-'80s-model cars through the streets of a tropical beach town. Vice City, anyone? Sure, the cut screens here are remarkably beautiful, and the detail that was put into the car graphics (and the ability to destroy them) is unparalleled. But the game plays too much like a GTA knockoff to hold our interest.

Details: $49.99; PlayStation 2 and Xbox platforms; rated mature (violence).

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