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Hellbender

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A few years ago, the bigwigs at Microsoft noticed that some canny game companies — such as Origin, with its Wing Commander series — were capturing a big chunk of the PC software market that rightfully belonged to Bill Gates. So the company spent tens of millions to create its own high-tech game division, and the result is discs like Hellbender — a futuristic, heavy-on-the-weaponry air-combat simulator that approximates the level of Wing Commander III (released two years ago). You can’t blame Microsoft’s programmers for trying, but I’d rather they applied their talents to stuff for which they seem to have more of an affinity, like kids’ activity titles and word-processing programs. B-

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