Games With ultrarealistic graphics and warp-speed action, these are the year's best sports video games

December 18, 2000

NBA 2K1 (Sega, for Sega Dreamcast, $49.95) Every NBA player and
arena has been re-created with painstaking detail in this rich
simulation. You can trade players from team to team, track stats
over a season and, best of all, play against your friends online
using the Dreamcast's built-in modem.

NHL 2001 (EA Sports, for Sony PlayStation 2, $49.95) So
stunningly lifelike, you're tempted to put down the controller
and simply watch the game. But don't: Take advantage of the fact
that you can control everything from how aggressively your
players check to how hard the puck bounces off the crossbar.

Madden NFL 2001 (EA Sports, for Sony PlayStation 2, $49.95)
Possibly the most beautiful-looking sports game ever made. The
details are so unnervingly realistic, you can see the eyes of a
receiver as he looks a ball into his hands. The game action is
equally true-to-life: Most play-calling options are taken from
NFL playbooks.

SSX (EA Sports, for Sony PlayStation 2, $49.95) A high-energy
snowboard simulation whose fluid action and adrenaline-pumping
speed effectively capture the extreme spirit of the sport. Pull
off big-air tricks as you race down a series of slopes, many of
which could only be digital fantasies, like the Aloha Ice Jam, a
run set on a giant iceberg that has been towed into Honolulu
Harbor. To complete the illusion, plug in the FreeStyler Board
(Thrustmaster, for Sony PlayStation 2, $69.99), a full-sized
snowboarding accessory that senses tilt and motion so that you
can twist and turn along with your on-screen character.

Ridge Racer V (Namco, for Sony PlayStation 2, $49.95) Detailed
enough to satisfy racing enthusiasts (you can choose from 27
engine types, as well as from 14 courses) but simple enough that
you can start tearing up the tracks right away. If maneuvering
your ride by pushing buttons on a controller doesn't do it for
you, try the Blue Thunder Racing Wheel (InterAct, for Sony
PlayStation 2, $69.99), a steering wheel that comes with internal
vibrating motors so that you can feel every paint-trading bump.

Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball 2001 (3DO, for PC, $19.95) Details,
details: 30 major league teams, more than 750 players and 45
stadiums (including classics like Shibe Park). Not to mention
pitcher-batter confrontations as dramatic as the real thing.

PGA Championship Golf 2000 (Sierra Sports, for PC, $29.99) All
the joys of golf (beautiful vistas, ball-striking satisfaction)
with none of the annoyances (four-hour rounds, criminally bad
fashions). Play a single round, a full season of events or
unleash your inner Pete Dye and design a course of your own.

Virtua Tennis (Sega, for Sega Dreamcast, $39.95) You take on the
guise of one of eight real-life pros (such as Yevgeny Kafelnikov
or Carlos Moya) and work your way up the world ranking. Better
yet, plug in four controllers and stage a doubles match with your
friends. There hasn't been a tennis simulation this much fun
since Pong.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (Activision, for Sega Dreamcast, $44.99)
Even if you can't tell an ollie from a nollie, you'll appreciate
this game's thrashin' action. There's a wide array of venues and
real-life boarders to choose from, but the real thrills are in
the tricks. You haven't lived until you've pulled off a boneless
on an elevated train track.

NINE COLOR PHOTOS COLOR PHOTO: THRUSTMASTER COLOR PHOTO: INTERACT ACCESSORIES

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)