Friday, 6 April 2012

Top Ten Games 2002

Top Ten Games of 2002

In addition to the Top Ten list, I’ll be giving you a couple of facts about the list before hand based on my findings! Firstly, the most popular genre in the top ten is easily Action/Adventure with no less than 5 of the games below fitting nicely into that genre. Despite this, the number 1 spot goes to a First Person Shooter! Of the 4 platforms listed, 5 titles are available on the PC, whereas 4 were available on the fledgling XBOX and only 3 games listed were available on the PS2. Lastly, as per the norm, some of the games were released on multiple platforms this year, and as a result there are a couple of release months listed. However if you can think back 10 years to 2002, you would be forgiven for thinking that for the bulk of the year you were relying on the previous year’s top games, since in this list, 8 of the top 10 were released in November*! Understandable though, as this is one of the, if not THE peak month for computer games, due to its close proximity to Christmas. Anyway, look back at 2002 and we were in the middle of the PS2/GameCube/XBOX era, a good few years away from the next generation of games and games engines. Starting the top ten this year though is…

*All Release Dates are for the EU/UK.

10. Ratchet & Clank – Insomnia Games – PS2 (Nov 02)

We start the list with this platform/shooter game from Insomnia Games. Ratchet & Clank, went on to spawn another 9 games (so far) on PS2, PS3 and PSP as well as a few comics thrown in as well, with not much sign of them slowing down with their latest incarnation All 4 One being released back in Oct 11. When you think of platform games, generally 2 names dominate the proceedings, those names being Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. But Ratchet and Clank brought something a bit new to the genre, sure 3D platforms were nothing new when you think of the strides Mario makes with each generation of Nintendo, but R&C brought a little bit more of the 21st century attitude along with it, as well as the comedy involved in the game and it’s successors since is always good for a chuckle. Worthy of a spot in the top 10, however probably not worthy of a spot in the top 9.

9. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – Ubiso
ft – XBOX (Nov 02)

Before I start, yes this game was also released on several other platforms, however not in 2002. So I have only listed the XBOX above. Anyway, Splinter Cell is and continues to be a fantastic franchise from Ubisoft and the ever reliable Tom Clancy. Splinter Cell was one of the games of that generation of consoles and gaming that again, made the whole gaming community sit up and take notice. Mainly due to it’s story and amazing graphics. I wish I could bump this game a bit further up the list, however this is my list of top ten games, not yours, and although I liked the game, I didn’t love it. Definitely one of the games of the year, and undoubtedly a massive coup for Microsoft to get before anyone else on their XBOX, but I felt that the other 8 games listed pip it by either a short way or quite a long way.

8. TimeSplitters 2 – Free Radical Design – PS2/GameCube/XBOX (Oct 02 – PS2/XBOX) (Nov 02 - Gamecube)

TimeSplitters 2 was the 2nd game in the TimeSplitters trilogy (rumoured 4th game on hold indefinitely)that was one of the landmark FPS series of the PS2/XBOX/GameCube era. So epic in fact, that TimeSplitters 2 is the game that Shaun and Ed play in 2004’s RomZomCom – Shaun of the Dead. The gameplay is smooth, the graphics pretty good for the time, and it was very addictive in multiplayer. It’s what you’d expect from a company made from ex-Rare employees, developers of classics Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark. If you still have a 6th generation console (PS2,XBOX, GameCube) then grab yourself a copy for 99p down the local market or eBay and fire up that bad-boy to see what I mean.

7. Age of Mythology – Ensemble Studios – PC (Nov 02)

Created by Ensemble Studios who were a giant of the RTS genre before their dissolution at the hands of Microsoft in 2009. Creating the Age of Empires trilogy, Halo Wars and Age of Mythology. Personally, I love the AoE games, playing Age of Empires, back when I was an impatient 10 year old in 1997. Fortunately, the games never changed or lost their core values, improving graphically, and through smoother gameplay each year. Age of Mythology adds the twist to the series that it’s based entirely on the myths and legends of the Greeks, Egyptians and Norse cultures and somehow manages to link them all. Easy to learn gameplay, and fun to either play through the game’s story mode of 32 scenarios (bigger than the previous 2 “Age of” games) and fun to play online. It’s game engine was very complex at it’s heart, even resulting in some tests in Australia based on the AI of the game. Basically, these Oz bastards created some gamer-bot AI’s to play through the game with a different personality, aggressive, reluctant etc and it turns out that the Neurotic Bot not only won outright, but also won the quickest in tests! So remember, put your neurotic head on if you want to play this game and crush it!!

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.

5. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – Silicon Knights – GameCube (Nov 02)

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)

Neverwinter Nights (NWN) is a massive RPG from giants of the genre – BioWare. Still growing, and fresh from their successes with Baulder’s Gate, and with Star Wars Epic Knights of the Old Republic firmly in the pipeline, Bioware took another massive step towards computer game immortality with the brilliant NWN. The story is quite epic, spanning 4 main chapters, but covering hours and hours of play within each chapter, not just from the main story, but also from the dozens and dozens of side missions in the forms of quests, sub-quests and mini-storylines – very recognisable traits from BioWare if you look at Mass Effect or Dragon Age. The gameplay is very addictive, and those who get themselves into the NWN Universe find it very hard to come out – hence the games ongoing popularity to this day. To me personally, a great game has to have a great story. Which is why BioWare will always be there or thereabouts in the race for best game of the year when they release new titles.

3. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – Bethesda Game Studios – PC/XBOX (May 02 – PC) (Nov 02 – XBOX)

A lot of people now know about The Elder Scrolls games through Oblivion, Skyrim and Morrowind. But these games started out with Chapter I: The Arena, then Chapter II: Daggerfall both in the mid 90’s. Morrowind took the advanced gameplay mechanics from both of those games and turned it into a massively graphical (for the time) masterpiece. However when comparing it graphically to Oblivion or Skyrim, it just doesn’t compare, but when comparing to most other games at the time, it was quite a way ahead. The story, as I mentioned before, plays a big part for me in how good a game is and how much I want to play it, play it again, play it another time and keep playing it. Morrowind did that for me in spades, with it's main story keeping you attached to the game and the seemingly never-ending side quests keeping you enthralled. A fantastic game, and a massive game world to keep you constantly interested time and time again.

2. GTA: Vice City – Rockstar North – PS2 (N
ov 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!

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