The MAME of the game

 

Sega launches its DreamCast (the name joins the words "dream" and "broadcast") console in Japan on Thursday in an attempt to revolutionise the video game industry. It is revolutionary not just because of its RISC (reduced instruction set computing) CPU with 128-bit graphics engine, 3D sound chip that surrounds players with 64 channels of music, voices and effects, or the fact that it can deliver three million polygons per second.

What is really innovative is that it can access the Internet via modem, enabling console players for the first time to play games online. Already Sega has announced a joint project with Turbine Entertainment Software to create a sci-fi exploration game that can accommodate thousands of players at a time. Unlike online PC gaming, the user won't have to spend hours trying to figure out how to connect to an online game, promises Sega. Indeed, the case for owning a PC just for games seems certain to be weakened with the arrival of DreamCast. Not only will it be far cheaper (roughly a quarter of the price) than a PC, its processor can perform floating-point operations four times faster than the Pentium II chip. At very least, those who get their hands on one might be able to return the PC to doing the household budget and all those other sensible things it was bought for in the first place.

Among Sega's partners in the new venture are Hitachi (for the CPU) NEC and VideoLogic (for the 3D graphics engine) and Yamaha (for the audio chip). The operating system is a customised version of Microsoft's Windows CE with Direct-X services optimised for console gaming. Of course Sega is synonymous with Sonic, and Sonic Adventure is due for DreamCast release in Japan in mid-December. At the other end of the scale, Resident Evil 3 will be exclusive to the DreamCast. Other titles expected on launch day are Virtua Fighter 3tb, and Sega Rally 2. Unfortunately DreamCast is not expected here until autumn 1999.

Space Invaders, Asteroids, Centipede and Pitfall are among the best-known games from long ago. Activision may be bringing out an updated Asteroids in the near future, but some people prefer the original game. There are several Internet sites (www.classicgaming.com is one) dedicated to these "ancient" games. Here, with a bit of effort, you can download the games onto your PC and play them exactly how you remember them.

The first thing is to download a MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) and then the relevant ROMs. To play Space Invaders, for example, would require a MAME for the Atari 2600 and then the Space Invaders ROM. To create these ROMs, programmers use circuit boards from actual arcade machines, ensuring that their game is byte-forbyte true to the original.

However, as most of these websites warn, users can only legally download this software if they already own a legitimate copy of the game.

SONY has scrapped a PlayStation game featuring Geoff Boycott after the former England cricket captain was convicted of assault. The game which would have been called Geoff Boycott's Hit for Six could have earned him as much as £200,000. However, Codemasters does not plan to remove his commentary from the soon to be released Brian Laras Cricket.

Actua Golf 3, Sony Playstation, £39.99

Endorsed by Lee Westwood.

Actua Golf 3 is the latest golf sim from Gremlin Interactive. Unlike the recent Everybodys Golf, Actua Golf 3 is aimed at the more "serious" golfer. With commentary by Peter Aliss and Alex Hay, and more options (quick golf, flag golf, driving competitions, fourball, weather and players) than you can shake a stick at, it is nothing if not comprehensive.

But it is not without flaws, notably in the commentary. For example, hitting the ball 26 feet from the tee drew remarks like "what an absolute cracker, top class shot". (For non-golfing readers: 26 feet is not a good drive.) While commentary in games is often haphazard, in this case it's sometimes farcical. But at least it can be switched off.

There is support for both the Dual Shock and analogue controllers. Analogue allows a more precise, if more difficult, swing action and the Dual Shock gives a little buzz when hitting the ball.

A good game all round, but Everybodys Golf (while not half as serious) nips it by a couple of shots.

Graphics/Sound/Play: 81%/70%/80%

Cheat: Micro Machines V3, Playstation

Debug Mode: Pause the game and enter - Square, UP, Down, Down, Square, Circle, Circle, Triangle, X

Now enter the following: Select & X: Ends the race with you as the winner X & Triangle & Circle & Square: Blow up all cars Select & Square: CPU controls your car Select & L1/R2: Zoom