KINGPIN: LIFE OF

CRIME, Interplay/Xatrix

What: First-person shooter with a gangster-rap mentality. Details: Violent video games still sell. Even with demanding system and 3-D accelerator requirements, Kingpin: Life of Crime has been a bestseller from day one. Running on an improved Quake II engine, Kingpin features dark and seedy locales and lifelike street characters (street thugs, winos, gangsters, psychos). In the single-player story mode, players form a gang and work their way up through the underworld ranks to knock off the Kingpin. Alternately, up to 16 players can partake in "gang-bang" death matches online, the main draw for many gamers today. From the opening sequence, this game features R-rated dialogue that suits the lowlife landscape, as well as graphic and pretty grotesque violence. Xatrix (based in L.A. in a 'hood comfortably distant from actual, analog gang violence) seems to have packed in as much gore as possible, so parents should not ignore the warnings on the box. That aside, though, Kingpin is an excellent first-person shooter for mature hardcore gamers -- if such a creature actually exists. Bottom line: Escapist thrills to be kept far away from kids. -- John Gaudiosi

Win 95-98, $40

HUSHMAIL, Hush Communications

What: Free, encrypted Web e-mail service. Details: Worried about Big Brother or a significant other snooping through your e-mail? HushMail purports to have the solution in its encrypted system. When you sign up for an account you pick a user name (completely anonymous accounts are possible here), then randomly move the cursor around a box in your browser to create a 1,024-bit (for non-geeks, that's really strong) encryption key. The service then uses this key to encode your e-mail, but there are a couple of catches. First of all, your mail is only encrypted if the recipient is also a HushMail user -- the mail you send to any non-HushMail correspondent is just as insecure as with other e-mail services. You also can't attach files or copy and paste text from other applications (the service relies heavily on Java programming, which is why it doesn't work on Macs right now). And if you forget your passphrase, HushMail administrators can't look it up for you. If you don't like the idea of copies of your e-mail sitting unencrypted on servers all over the Net, HushMail can help, but if the people you're sending mail to don't use this service as well, it's not worth the limitations. Bottom line: Only useful if your correspondents are as paranoid as you. -- Michael Tedeschi

Win 95-98, free at http://www.hushmail.com

CAPTION: Kingpin: Glock around the clock.