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Beyond first person shooters: new PC games for June
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Hamburg - Computer games have been in the headlines of late for all the wrong reasons: allegations that they contribute to real- life violence.

Such a viewpoint claims that computer games involve no more than marching around with a virtual gun, mowing down anything that moves. Perhaps the bestseller charts for June will defuse that argument a bit.

That's because the two titles expected to make waves this month - Anno 1404 and Sims 3 - have little or no place for violence. This trend is borne out by the lesser known titles being released this month as well, most notably Sam & Max Season 2, which also offer bloodshed-free fun.

The race for the top spot on the charts is going to be tight, at least in some places. That's because both Anno and The Sims seemed destined to succeed.

While the one game tends to attract brisk interest the world over, the other is a bit of a German phenomenon. Anno 1602 was launched in 1998 and turned into one of the greatest hits the country had ever seen. Its successors, Anno 1503 and Anno 1701, built seamlessly onto its success.

The latest generation, Anno 1404, is expected to bring its city- building and economy simulation to computer screens starting on June 25. The underlying concept hasn't changed much in the ten years since the series was invented: colonise empty islands, build up one single village into a flourishing metropolis, arrange for a flow of goods to the citizens and meet their needs.

The current edition uses the Orient as its backdrop, and provides new classes of ornamentations and other fresh details for designing the city. The game is published by Ubisoft and will cost around 50 dollars.

As popular as the Anno series has been, its sales figures pale in comparison to the juggernaut that is The Sims. That series has already passed the 100 million unit mark. The mix of city-building and life simulation has made The Sims the world's most successful series of games.

The Sims functions similarly to real everyday life - except here it is virtual figures being controlled by the gamer that 'do' and 'go.' There are careers to be built, daily needs to be met and apartments and houses to be built and furnished. There are also contacts to be made with other Sims controlled by the computer.

As with Anno, the developers of The Sims 3 have stayed close to the proven formula, broadening the world a bit. That includes the freedom to individualise the characters much more than before. The virtual world has also been expanded to allow for easier exploration of the 'neighbourhoods.' The graphics have also been spruced up a bit. Electronic Arts is planning on publishing the game in early June for around 50 dollars.

The developers of most adventure games can only dream of selling millions of units: their games are typically more insider's tips. Yet the games have also captivated generations of players as well. In principle these titles are completely violence-free. Their charm comes through playfully recounted stories that require the fulfilling of tasks or solving of riddles to move forward.

Animal detectives Sam & Max enjoy a bit of cult status in this genre. Sam & Max Season 2 is now headed toward stores, packing five new adventures. Gamers are assigned tasks like exorcising demons from Santa Claus in his North Pole home. The title is expected on June 11 for around 30 dollars. (dpa)
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