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All That's Missing Is The Sweat The next generation of simulations is a couple of jukes closer to the real thing

The gift-giving season is upon us, and the makers of computer
and video games have let no opportunity for commerce escape
them. Herewith, some of the most interesting new offerings.

Sega Sports / $49.95 Dreamcast

Edgerrin James, Jevon Kearse and Champ Bailey are not the only
rookies having an impact on NFL games this year. So is the
recently released Sega Dreamcast, a 128-bit system that moves
video gaming past the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64 to the
next technological level.

NFL 2K is the first sports title of this generation, and while
it is an apple compared to the oranges of the PlayStation and
the N64, it sets a lofty standard for future 128-bit football
games. Enhanced graphics bring authenticity to the way
ballcarriers struggle for yardage with defenders wrapped around
their legs. Unfortunately the corny touchdown celebrations look
real, too. The choice of plays is enormous, but navigating the
playbook is tricky.

The game's detail, at times, detracts from its playability. It's
nice to see the lifelike way the placekicker takes his steps
before attempting an extra point, but it slows the pace of the
game. So does watching the referee signal every penalty. Looking
and playing like the real NFL does not always make for the best
football video game.

NCAA Final Four 2000
989 Sports / $40 PlayStation

Sacramento State and Quinnipiac, rejoice. Featuring more than
300 Division I teams, NCAA Final Four 2000 gives the Hornets and
the Braves a chance to play in the NCAA tournament. Once you get
into the field, however, hold on to the rock. Stealing the ball
from the dribbler couldn't be easier, and Final Four lacks a
college basketball atmosphere. (Cameron Indoor Stadium has never
been so quiet.) But those are about the only drawbacks in a game
that pays enormous attention to detail, down to the reflection
of the stadium lights on the court.

NHL 2000
EA Sports / $39.95 PlayStation /
$49.95 Nintendo 64 / $39.95 PC

Pavel Bure may be the fastest skater in the NHL, but even he
could not keep up with the fliers in NHL 2000. The latest
version of this popular game has cranked up the speed. Players
can travel end-to-end as quickly as a slap shot and can stop on
a dime, which is not realistic but provides tremendous action.
Skaters move so fast that the camera sometimes cannot keep up
with both the player carrying the puck and his teammates
trailing the play--disconcerting if you're trying to leave a
drop pass. The detail (the glass rattles after players crash
into the boards) remains excellent, and a PC player can download
an image of his own face, import it onto a body and skate beside
Bure. Just make sure to keep up.

Gran Turismo 2
Sony / $39.99 PlayStation

Gran Turismo blew away every other racing simulation, and the
sequel may be better. Gran Turismo 2, scheduled for a
mid-December release, has been souped up with 400 cars, some 250
more than the original, and 20 tracks, including rally courses
for the first time. The Deuce retains the sensational driving
and racing feel that earned the original such a cult following.
The only thing better would be steering your real Ford Mustang
GT around Laguna Seca.

Knockout Kings 2000
EA Sports / $39.95 PlayStation /
$49.95 Nintendo 64 / $39.95 PC /
$25.00 Nintendo Game Boy

Muhammad Ali has returned to the ring. The Greatest is one of
many legendary fighters featured in Knockout Kings 2000. It's
the best boxing game available, but it's a mere stiff against
the heavyweights in other sports. The fighting action is a
knockout but, as in all boxing games, the action gets
repetitive. Knockout Kings, however, can give the real fight
game a lesson in how to run the sport: no dives, no bribes, no
rigged ratings and no Don King.

NBA ShootOut 2000
989 Sports / $40 PlayStation

Last season's NBA lockout robbed people not only of more than a
third of the regular-season games but also of NBA ShootOut 1999,
which was never released. No matter. The 2000 version is a
remarkable improvement over previous versions. Players'
likenesses and moves, such as Jason Kidd's behind-the-back
dribbling, are almost perfect. ShootOut players can now also
create 12 original dunks that they can save and use in games.

COLOR PHOTO: SEGA SPORTS Enhanced graphics in NFL 2K make ballcarriers struggling for yardage appear more authentic.