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Star Wars: Republic Commando; Tekken 5; CopyToDVD

Sunday, March 6, 2005; Page F08


For the first time in a while, the description "Star Wars tie-in game" need not leave gamers wary. This first-person shooter follows Star Wars: Battlefront, which sold 1.5 million copies, and deserves the same success. Set during the Clone Wars, it puts you in control of a squad of Republic Commandos -- an elite, black-ops unit of the Clone Army that performs assassinations and other dirty work behind enemy lives.

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This game's story bridges the Episode II movie and the coming Episode III, including characters and locales from both films. "Star Wars" fans will be able to spend plenty of time exploring the gritty underbelly of George Lucas's universe, battling flying bugs on Geonosis, matching wits with super droids on battle ships and hunting down Trandoshan mercenaries on Chewbacca's home planet. The game's graphics run on an upgraded version of the software behind Unreal Tournament, which lends the scenery plenty of three-dimensional detail.

Republic Commando delivers an almost nonstop barrage of heavily armed enemies, but intuitive game play and a one-button command system ease the job. It's a snap to order your squad mates, each possessed of a specialty such as sniping, demolitions or computer hacking, to seize the nearest free-standing turret in the heat of battle or blow a hole in a wall to surprise the enemy.

While Republic Commando's storyline doesn't branch and allows for only about a dozen hours of single-player action, its missions pack enough action to warrant repeat visits. With a broadband connection, the game is a better value: Up to 16 players can partake in multiplayer combat in an assortment of individual and team-based game modes. -- John Gaudiosi

Win 98 or newer, Xbox, $50

TEKKEN 5, Namco

For a game whose ancestors first appeared in arcades a decade ago, Tekken 5 offers a surprising amount of depth. There's a lot to do here besides just trying to clobber other characters (though there's no lack of that either). The Story mode that debuted in Tekken 4 gets a big upgrade in this version. Now, after players pick a character and battle through various stages against other fighters, the character's back story unfolds in greater detail between fights through brilliantly drawn still images and some brief cinematic interludes.

The single-player Arcade mode also offers more in this version. Gamers now get rewards for their victories -- not only by increasing in rank and overall standing -- but also in winning cash prizes. The money lets them customize their fighters with clothes and accessories such as sunglasses and jewelry. This bling bonus adds a little more to a mode where the only goal has usually been winning enough bouts to unlock hidden characters.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Tekken series, Namco threw in one other extra -- the arcade versions of Tekken, Tekken 2 and Tekken 3. If by doing this Namco wanted to show off how far this game's graphics have progressed, it succeeded. Tekken 5 is a beautiful piece of work, supporting wide-screen, progressive-scan digital TVs and looking more like an Xbox title than the average PS2 release. Study each fighter, and you can see hairs wave, eyes blink, faces show expression and clothes ripple with each move. The scenery behind them shows the same extraordinary detail. For example, in the Burning Temple stage, heat waves rise from the ground to distort the foreground image; in the Urban Jungle, hundreds of onlookers cheer, reacting to each move with fists in the air.

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