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e-clips: Top-class games to fill your stocking; Technology news.

Byline: Edited by Steve Lawson

CHRISTMAS is coming and the kids are getting demanding - not to mention Dad. So here's our eclips recommended games for the festive season.

We've included something from each of the main formats, starting off with what's widely considered to be the game of the year on Xbox. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to e-clips readers!

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell For Xbox and PC (Ubi Soft, pounds 44.99)

SPLINTER Cell is a stealth-based adventure of the highest quality.

You'll be thinking about this game even when you are not playing it.

The protagonist, Sam Fisher, is the anti-Solid Snake. Trading heavy artillery for cool gadgets, and with an unbelievably bad attitude, Fisher is a sophisticated hero for a complicated world.

The graphics in this game are astounding. With the exception of the occasional dip in framerate this is one of the best-looking games ever made.

The lighting effects take centre stage, achieving levels of unmatched realism - and did we say the graphics are stunning? The open-ended play, specifically the fact that gamers have a number of possible solutions for every situation, makes for an exciting game.

Success absolutely depends on stealth and often it's necessary to find a quiet place to hide in the shadows until the time is just right. The sound effects take advantage of the 5.1 Surround compatibility and make a difference in gameplay just like Ghost Recon, another Tom Clancy product.

Splinter Cell is a thrilling ride from start to finish and the open-ended nature of the gameplay will have you returning to levels long after the story has been revealed.

Rating: A very rare 10/10Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings For PC (Microsoft Game Studios,

pounds 29.99)WHAT do you do when you have a successful and well-populated online world? Tear it apart and rebuild it into something brand new, that's what.

And that's exactly what Turbine Entertainment Software and Microsoft Game Studios have done for the second edition of Asheron's Call.

The game takes place centuries after the original game. A magical equivalent of an atomic bomb has wiped out the world, leaving devastation - and monsters.

The game features an unfolding storyline; monthly updates to the world and its tale, an ongoing stream of worldshaking events such as blizzards, volcanoes and invading forces.

Three acts, seven episodes and 21 vaults in the campaign mode, plus a vast array of quests keep gamers busy.

There's also a new, streamlined combat system with real-time decision-making. Perhaps the most amazing element is the new look. The game features dynamic lighting effects, incredible environments and terrific animation.

Asheron's Call 2 is breathtaking, and players should be able to have a solid gaming experience with a 56k modem.

Rating: 9/10

The Getaway For PlayStation 2 (Team Soho/ SCEE, Certificate 18, pounds 39.99)

THE opening scenes of this adultoriented game immediately plunge you into London's murky underworld as you see your wife shot dead and your son kidnapped by a mystery gang. You give chase through Central London - keep up with the kidnappers and you can jump out of your car and follow them into a warehouse, guns blazing. You soon find yourself with a new boss, and successfully completing missions for him is the only way to keep your son alive.

The Getaway is similar to Grand Theft Auto. Any vehicle can be hijacked or stolen, and if you don't want to play through the missions you can just take off in your car of choice around London.

The map is startlingly accurate - that won't mean a lot to anyone who's never ventured into the capital, but it's a sign of the labour that's gone into producing the game.

The driving model is realistic with dozens of vehicles behaving exactly as you'd expect, especially when you put them into a lamppost at 60mph.

An instant classic. Rating: 9/10

James Bond 007: Nightfire For GameCube (EA, pounds 34.99)

GOLDENEYE was the must-have game on the N64, and EA will be hoping 007's latest digital adventure does as well on the GameCube. They've certainly captured the essence of Bond. Nightfire's fast-paced introduction serves as a semi-interactive tutorial and a taste of the game to follow.

Then, having sniped from a helicopter, raced an Aston Martin and rescued the girl, Nightfire dissolves into a classic Bond title sequence, complete with silhouetted ladies doing ingenious things with military hardware.

The game's 18 missions roll seamlessly into one another, and vary between first-person shooter, driving and gunning from the back of various vehicles. It's classic cyber-Bond, with good pace and a lavish peppering of cut scenes to keep you up to date with the story. As with Nightfire's predecessors, it's the multiplayer modes that will keep this game in your machine for months. Up to four players can indulge in a dozen mutations of deathmatch, capture the flag and assassination.

Rating: 8/10

Age of Mythology For PC (Microsoft Games Studios, pounds 29.99)

A REAL-TIME strategy game, this shares many characteristics with previous Age of Empires games: you hire peasants to either build structures or gather resources. All of this building and improving costs, of course and, finally, you can build a Wonder. It wouldn't be a real-time strategy game without a campaign or two, and Age of Mythology does not disap-point. Age of Mythology is the best, most involving real-time strategy for years.

Rating: 8/10

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CLASSIC: Getaway
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 18, 2002
Words:911
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