Are you game?

By Nate Buchik
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, December 4, 2003

Four friends, four games and three systems equal high-tech fun

Four guys, a television and an apartment. Great idea for a sitcom?

More like the scene setting for a night that shows how far video games have come since their meager Pong beginnings.

Sixteen bits used to sound like it was pretty powerful back when "Duck Hunt" reigned on the original Nintendo. Nowadays, there are more bits on a cell phone that plays "Falling Numbers."

But this isn't new information for Mike Burk, Gabe Garcia, Bryan Kelleher or Jake Pallastrini - four UA roommates at Jefferson at Star Ranch apartments. With a Microsoft Xbox, a Nintendo Gamecube and two Sony Playstation 2s, they keep up to date with current games and current systems. And like many current college students, they've been doing it all their lives.

"I have been playing games since I had the original Nintendo back in the '80s. I've gone from using two buttons on the Nintendo controller to 12 on the Xbox controller," media arts junior Burk said. "Games have gotten a lot more complex than they used to be."

But these students aren't hardcore gamers. These are four normal guys, who like video games in a non-frightening way. They play for fun and aren't addicts - at least that's what they claim.

When the roommates tried out four new games though, competition seemed to drive most of them to keep gaming.

"Mario Kart: Double Dash" (Nintendo Gamecube)

"I already say it blows," said Pallastrini, a communication sophomore, before the game even started.

While he may not have been keen on seeing an old classic updated for today's systems, the rest of the roommates were. Especially since it's a four-player game that can get everyone competing.

"I'd rather play with a bunch of people. Sports games are way better with four people," pre-business sophomore Garcia said.

The feeling seemed to be mutual, as f-bombs flew all over the place during the energized races.

But there was some disappointment with the new "Mario Kart" because the graphics were almost exactly the same as the Nintendo 64 version.

Burk noted that there were more levels and a few different features that improved the game, but that wasn't enough to make Kelleher recommend it.

"Invest the money in a version for Nintendo 64; it's the exact same thing," said Kelleher, a pre-business sophomore.

"Tony Hawk's Underground" (Xbox)

"Tony Hawk" has seen huge success in the gaming industry with the rise in popularity of skating due to the X-Games and skating celebrities like Hawk.

And after numerous uninspired sequels, the "Tony Hawk" series has something new and exciting. Billed as "Grand Theft Auto" meets "Tony Hawk," "Underground" had big hype.

While it has multi-player options, the game thrives in the story mode. After creating a skater, you try to turn him into a top pro by impressing girls and defeating gangs.

"I'm okay with 'Tony Hawk' games, but there's too much stuff in this one," Burk said. "I don't need to drive cars or climb buildings. Plus, the whole world is a skate park; you can skate on everything in town. But it's still pretty fun to play."

Pallastrini enjoyed the game, although he hadn't played skating games before.

"('Underground') was pretty fun. I've played surfing and snowboarding games and they seem to be all the same," Pallastrini said. "I would probably rent games like this, but I would only buy sports games."

"NCAA March Madness 2004" (Playstation 2)

While "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004" is the consensus pick for best sports game ever, "March Madness" comes close.

"I liked (last year's version); I dominated it. I think it's the best basketball game," said Garcia, who added that the college game has more appeal since the roommates are in college.

The "March Madness" franchise continued to impress with the 2004 edition that features new controls and new players. The players, although unnamed, are based on the guys that can be seen weekly at McKale Center.

The first match up on "March Madness 2004" featured St. John's (Kelleher) against Iowa (Garcia).

Impatience quickly set in while they waited for the game to begin.

"The loading takes way too long. Bad loading time," Garcia said.

Dunks, alley-oops and three pointers soon took over the television screen, and you could see the concentration in their glowing eyes.

When the game ended, Garcia could only speak of his disgust for game announcer Dick Vitale, and Kelleher had time to brag.

St. John's 82, Iowa 66. Kelleher over Garcia.

"This game is fantastic," Kelleher said.

"True Crime: Streets of LA" (Playstation 2)

"It's the same as 'The Getaway,' but I like it," Garcia said. "They're both like this, you can run freely around the city."

The latest in a line of games that imitate "Grand Theft Auto," "True Crime" has plenty of violence and plenty of carjacking. You run around Los Angeles, this time as a law enforcer as opposed to a lawbreaker.

This one-player game held Garcia's attention for over an hour, as he learned the controls and won countless missions. He said that the missions were easy and incredibly short, and the animated story segments seemed to be too long and boring.

By the time this game hit the television, no one else even wanted to give it a try. Kelleher and Burk retreated to homework, which sometimes gets in the way of gaming.

And Pallastrini said he doesn't have the same zeal for gaming as his roommates.

"I suck at videogames, too. I never played when I was growing up and I never had systems. So it's harder for me," Pallastrini said.

But even if he sucks, Pallastrini enjoys a couch battle against his roommates once in a while.

Video games give the roommates a time to relax and escape, and ferociously compete against each other without the fear of injury or alcohol poisoning.