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'Smuggler's Run' sequel finds a new hostile territory

The sequel to the well-received PlayStation 2 game "Smuggler's Run" was scheduled to be released early last month, featuring more vehicles, better graphics and several missions set in Afghanistan.

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The sequel to the well-received PlayStation 2 game "Smuggler's Run" was scheduled to be released early last month, featuring more vehicles, better graphics and several missions set in Afghanistan.
Events got in the way.
Rockstar Games delayed production after terrorists hijacked several plans and attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Last week, the company released "Smuggler's Run 2: Hostile Territory," which features more vehicles, better graphics and several missions set in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
The player takes the role of a driver who hauls contraband. The game unfolds in two vast landscapes modeled on the Russian/Georgian border and Vietnam. The player must beat a ticking clock and fleets of drivers in a race to pick up and deliver the goods.
More than a half-dozen vehicles, from four-wheelers to halftracks, are available, and each handles differently on the game's terrain, which includes mountains, ice, mud, dirt and swamps. Bouncing too hard over an obstacle will damage a vehicle, popping off hoods, doors and bumpers. Each vehicle has a defensive weapon, such as a smoke-screen generator or nitro burst, but the game rewards evasion, not offense.
The $50 title takes advantage of PlayStation 2's ability to render huge geographic areas in real time. The entire landscape is accessible during each of more than 30 missions, and there's a drive-only mode that lets you enjoy the scenery without goals or a time limit.
Game play takes place at all hours and in all weather. Raindrops bounce off vehicles, and sunshine glints off metal.
The frame rate stays steady, and there is little distracting draw-in (a delay the background fills). That's good, because the action moves quickly and obstacles clutter landscapes. Land mines and low walls hidden by shrubs crisscross the Georgia level, and a vehicle that hits one at 110 mph will explode -- or launch into orbit.
The techno soundtrack for "Hostile Territory" blends well with the fast-paced action, but the in-game voices are more annoying than helpful. When two police SUVs sandwich your vehicle and force you into a wall, there's no need for a badly accented voice to shout, "We after you, criminal!"
Also jarring are the scenes that advance the plot. Although the game plays out in a 3-D polygonal world, the cut scenes are grainy, retro-looking, live-action video clips reminiscent of mid-1990s 32-bit titles. It's a strange throwback -- one actor even wears a hilariously fake-looking mustache.
If anything, the video scenes highlight how thin the plot is. But the game is exciting and varied enough to keep players engaged.
For information: www.rockstargames.com .

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