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By ROBB GUIDO, Times correspondent

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 16, 1999

System: PlayStation

Looking for a game that combines racing with a soap opera? I'm not joking.

Namco, makers of R4, knew it couldn't beat Sony's Gran Turismo in terms of the number of cars, tuneup options and overall depth. So it apparently said: "To heck with that. Let's make a racer that looks and plays great and give it a story line, which changes depending on the race team you choose."

That is not to say the game is all mush. R4 packs quite a wallop with tons of cars, challenging courses and smooth control.

Alas, it would have taken a miracle for R4 to pull out from Gran Turismo's dust. R4 doesn't have the brand name rides, the driver's license tests or the winner purses that expanded the game play in Sony's little number. And with Gran Turismo 2 just around the corner, how can R4 be more then a practice lap before the big race?

Grade: B

NCAA Football 2000

System: PlayStation

Okay, every year a new college football game comes out, and every year I find myself saying it is the best football game ever made. At this point, college football fans should resign themselves to buying one interactive offering of their favorite sport every year.

This year, both avid and relaxed college watchers will be blown away by what EASports has in store with NCAA Football 2000. Finally, someone has decided to explain those mysterious Xs and Os that have confused football illiterates for seasons.

Yes, Football 2000 has stellar graphics, intelligent crowds and 220 teams, as well as all 23 bowl games, a Heisman Trophy license and an incredibly deep dynasty mode. Yes, you can recruit high school blue chippers, create players, even create your own school. But what good is that if you can't tell a stunt from a blitz?

Fortunately, Football 2000's The Coaches Edge sheds light on the more than 1,000 plays, making EASports' creations a learning experience as well as a full Saturday's worth of fun. Sure those jocks laughed at you before, but wait until they get a load of you after spending some time with this game.

Grade: A

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