9. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – Ubisoft – XBOX (Nov 02)
8. TimeSplitters 2 – Free Radical Design – PS2/GameCube/XBOX (Oct 02 – PS2/XBOX) (Nov 02 - Gamecube)
7. Age of Mythology – Ensemble Studios – PC (Nov 02)
6. Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast – Raven Software(PC)/Vicarious Visions(consoles) – PC/GameCube/XBOX (Mar 02 – PC) (Nov 02 - GameCube/XBOX)
I do believe that a lot of people thought that this title was a PC only game, myself included for a long time after its release – however no it was actually released on the XBOX and GameCube as well! The game focuses still on Jedi Knight, Kyle Katarn. Those of you familiar with the extended canon of Star Wars will know that he isn’t just the star of these Jedi Knight games, but goes on to be a massively influential character in the story arc, along with the main characters like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. I digress however, this game was a really good Star Wars title. It usually goes one of 2 ways for Star Wars games, they either bomb, or they soar. This title soared, mainly because of it’s continuation of the familiar story and character in Master Kyle. The game could be played as a FPS or as a 3rd Person Shooter, much like DFII: Jedi Knight, and also had a much improved online play capability. Gameplay was pretty smooth, and managed to pull off lightsaber use – basically, I find that a lot of games companies get sword-play all wrong in games, as it seems a difficult beast to master, however JKII seems to have set the groundwork for future games, such as Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age, Fable etc. A good game to spend a lot of time playing and getting invested in.
Now this game enters the top 5 in some style, and other years would have been more highly placed were it not for the competition. The highest ranked GameCube game for me in 2002, EDSR – as I will call it – was a change of pace from your usual pink and fluffy, for the whole family GameCube titles. It is best described as a psychological horror game that spans over 2000 years of history. The lead character is voiced by video games stalwart Jennifer Hale, who provides her unique talent for perfectly voicing diverse characters here in spades. A fantastic feature of this game that really makes it stand out is Nintendo’s patented “Sanity Meter”, which can be depleted and replenished throughout the course of the game, the emptier the meter is, the looser the player’s grip on reality is. If the bar is depleted, then strange things can occur, but most importantly, the player’s health bar will be affected. Scary, clever, and thoroughly enjoyable. EDSR is definitely worthy of this top 5 spot.
4. Neverwinter Nights – BioWare – PC (Jul 02)
2. GTA: Vice City – Rockstar North – PS2 (Nov 02)
GTA: Vice City, is definitely another one for the ages. Capitalising on GTA:III’s success from the year before, Rockstar stepped it up a notch, by going bigger, badder, and back to the 80’s. If I hear the song Dance Hall Days by Wang Chung, I am immediately thrown back to the beaches, the Hawaiian shirts and short-sleeved jackets of 1980’s Vice City. And I am also thrown back into the shoes of the much loved character Tommy Vercetti, voiced by the iconic Ray Liotta. So much loved was Tommy, that when the recent trailer for GTA:IV was released, the older character in it was touted to be an older Tommy Vercetti by thousands of fans who had seen the trailer and tried to dissect it – this rumour was met with an amazing buzz and excitement from even more fans. Unfortunately this was put to bed by Ray Liotta, who has denied any involvement with the game. Even if the character is Vercetti – he wont be the same without Liotta’s voice. Anyway, I’ve sidetracked quite amazingly here, the point being however that the character you play as Tommy Vercetti is lovable, likeable, hard as nails and brings some of that Liberty City toughness to the (at first appearance anyway) soft streets of Vice City. We see some links to GTA:III in this game, but it’s a fan favourite of many due to the setting and the incredible voice cast. Also the game improved on GTA:III by adding helicopters and motorbikes to the repertoire of usable vehicles – as well as more melee weapons. From the start, Vice City’s story is gripping, engaging and full of plot twists and turns. If it were any other time period, it wouldn’t have worked, it’s a story that fit’s into the 80’s like bad clothes, funky tunes and cheesy attitude. Unfortunately however this game is pipped to the top spot by a game of even grander proportions.
1. Battlefield: 1942 – Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment (DICE) – PC (Sep 02)
World War II – or in other words, one of the most done to death genre’s in computer game history. With titles spawning all of the time, usually from the FPS genre, there was a time, especially in the early Naughtie’s where it was all a bit meh. Medal of Honour games were coming out all the time, and all just seemed a bit…meh. But then DICE stepped up and said, “HEY!” and then they proceeded to say “Look at this shit right here.” The “shit” to which they were referring was simply called Battlefield: 1942, or BF42 for short. What makes this game different from most other games in the WW2 genre, is that it is simply put battle after battle, generally in a “capture the flag” style of play. Each side starts with a Base Point, and there are several other base points around the map which are unclaimed. Base points are locations from which you can spawn from after being KiA. The point of each battle is to fight the enemy until you have claimed every spawn/base point, and killed every enemy. Simple, yes? And also incredibly fun! So amazingly fun!
Not just that, but for the first time, you can drive any vehicle you see. ANY vehicle. Jeep? Jump in. Sherman tank? Get on it! Spitfire? You bet your mother funking ass. Hey, wanna sail a battleship? Then do it! Simply put, the only thing that makes this game less realistic (apart from spawning back from the dead!) is the fact that Joe Solider can jump in a plane or a tank and just go for it. However, I was crap in the planes, so that probably made it more realistic than me gunning down the enemy, then leaping in my jeep to the airfield, jumping into the cockpit of that fighter, and soaring around the sky. I would jump into the cockpit, just about take off, and then land in a tree. If I was lucky. Otherwise I’d crash into a building, dying pretty much immediately.
The game itself didn’t even follow a narrative, apart from the fact that in-game it’s WW2, and you are a solider in the following battle. And the battles were amazing. From the Battle of Britain – didn’t play that one much…did I tell you I couldn’t fly? – to the Battle of Midway in the Pacific, to Al Alamein. This game will take you where you want to go in WW2 – from 1942 obviously. You’re not going to participate in the Battle of Dunkirk here.
I cannot tell you the countless hours I spent playing this game during my younger youth. Just writing this is making me wish to spend more time now playing it. Although I have yet to get it, DICE and the ever popular Games Company of the People EA released Battlefield 1943 for XBLA and PSN with improved graphics, which I must admit, might be something I look into after my current list of games has dwindled.
In short though, BF42 is an amazing experience – I don’t feel right calling it a game, because it feels more than that, it feels like a real experience, where you are willing to fight to the last to win, or to gallantly lose. Every kill gets you closer to your victory, and every victory gets you closer to Kyoto or Berlin (depending on which theatre of war you experience).
So there you go, the top ten games from a whole decade ago! I hope you enjoyed it, I enjoyed writing it!