Saturday, 21 July 2012

Top Ten Games 2003


We’re sneaking ever closer to the present year and what better way to do that, than by bringing you the Top Ten Games of the year that comes next after 2002 – that’s right it’s 2003. Like with the 2002 list I’m going to give you some hints and stats about 2003’s list.

Firstly the MBG disclaimer: Some of these games came out on multiple platforms, therefore that is why the amounts of release dates and platforms don’t add up to 10. Some of these games could be defined as having multiple genre’s, that’s ok, that’s why I’m here. And lastly, some of these games, although yes might have come out on multiple platforms, you might see that some of them aren’t mentioned. Well that’s just because say Game “X” came out on the PC in Nov 03, the port for the PS2 and XBOX might not have been released until Jan 04, therefore it will just show as coming out on PC on my list. This will mean as well that Game “X” will not be listed on 2004’s Top Ten Games. It’s just not right to throw it into 2 top ten lists. Last part of the disclaimer, these are all based on European release dates – not North America or Japan. They can do their own list if they so wish to.

Well, firstly the least popular genre for a second year on the bounce was – Sports. There wasn’t a single sporting game that came to mind or through my research that I felt was worthy of a Top 10 spot. That being said there was no stand out popular genre but there was 2 of each of the following: Racing, FPS, 3rd Person Shooter and Action/Adventure. Despite this, the No. 1 game is none of those – although it could be defined as a 3rd Person “Shooter” or Action/Adventure game, it’s much more of an RPG than either of those.

The most popular 2 months for these games releases were (shock horror) November and December – right in the build up to Crimbo. The most common Developer in the Top 10 is Ubisoft, well kind of if you include as 3 Ubisoft Montreal (No. 10), Ubisoft Montpellier (No. 6 PS2) and Ubisoft Milan (No. 6 PC). Otherwise it’s a mix ranging from Big Huge Games to Vicarious Visions to Nintendo. However for publishers you have 2 of each from Microsoft Games Studios, Activision, LucasArts and Ubisoft with EA, Nintendo and Rockstar Games making up the numbers.

The most popular format was PC, with 8 of the 10 titles being available in 2003 on the PC. Followed by half was the XBOX, with 4 of the 10 titles being on Microsoft’s console in 2003, PS2 followed shortly thereafter with 3 of the 10 and joint bottom was the GameCube and GameBoy Advance with 1 out of the 10 titles each being available on those formats.

Well without further ado, I take you off to the dawn of Civilization…well imagine a kind of RTS version of Civilization…

10.      Rise of Nations – PC (May 03) – Real Time Strategy
Developed by Big Huge Games
Published by Microsoft Games Studios


From Brian Reynolds, one of the brains behind my much loved Civilization II, comes Rise of Nations. On the face of it, just another RTS game. However, take that average RTS game and slap a dose of Civ II into it and you get – Rise of Nations. Taking you from the starts of Civilization with your chosen nation, to the Space Age; Rise of Nations is a wonderfully full and rich game to explore and play with for more time that you really have spare. Given a few Best PC and Best RTS awards in 2003, this game constantly scored an average of around 9/10 (90%). With various ways to beat the game, and using the methods from the Civ series such as the evolution of the military and Wonders, this game can captivate you and keep you locked in for hours at a time. Well worth a look, and well worth your time.

Next we have a golden oldie renovated for the 21st Century…

9.         Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – PS2 + GBA (Nov 03) PC (Dec 03) – Platformer, Action/Adventure
Developed by Ubisoft Montreal
Published by Ubisoft


Nope, not Frogger not this time, but the Prince is back and he’s all 3D and what not! Personally I love the original 1989 Prince of Persia, remembering how scared I used to get as a toddler watching it…but this game is NOT a flop remake, the film may have been a bit, but this isn’t a films reviewing blog. If you want that, then go away! The game feels like a fluid definite next step for the PoP series, definitely banishing to the shadows the Prince of Persia 3D that was released in 1999 on the PC and Dreamcast. It received a number of GotY awards and multiple super-high (9+/10 or 90+%) scores and rightly so. The gameplay was fantastic, and as I mentioned really did feel like the true successor of the series. The game was so highly thought of that Hollywood stuck their oar in and made a film of the game in 2010 starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ghandi…I mean Ben Kingsley. Your best bet would probably be to get it on the PS3 or PC now to taste a slice of this awesome game.

Our next game is a gritty crime sequel. Close your eyes, feel the rain beating down on the dirty, cracked sidewalk. Enter the world of Rockstar’s…

8.         Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne – PC (Oct 03) XBOX + PS2 (Dec 03) – 3rd Person Shooter
Developed by Remedy Entertainment (PC) and Rockstar Vienna (PS2 & XBOX)
Published by Rockstar Games


Remedy Entertainment brings us the 2nd instalment of the Max Payne series of games, following our beloved hero Max as he returns to the Police force as a detective investigating a series of murders by the group known as The Cleaners. This is much of the same from the 1st game in the series, albeit with a shorter storyline. It was highly rated by reviewers and received a few Editors’ Choice Awards, however the sales were poor and MP2 never reached the heights of it’s predecessor (which had it not been for the mega hits Halo and GTAIII would have walked into top spot in 2001) but it’s still a very fun, very engaging game with a style that is very Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) in the way it’s carried out. Definitely worth a punt on the PC and should also be available on XBOX Live as an “XBOX Original” to download.

From the dark, dirty, rain-soaked streets of Max Payne, to the arcade style racing game that makes me think of Batman…

7.         Project Gotham Racing 2 – XBOX (Nov 03) – Racing
Developed by Bizarre Creations
Published by Microsoft Games Studios


PGR2 is a phenomenal racing game, much like it’s predecessor was in making the XBOX a “must have” console. Developed by UK based company Bizarre Creations, PGR2 took what made PGR a good racing game and made it a completely amazing racing game. With a selection of 92 tracks and 102 vehicles to eventually unlock, this game will keep you busy, not to mention keeping “kudos” in the game which you can use to unlock some of those cars. Oh yeah, you’d achieve “kudos” points for some seriously awesome driving, like good slides, fast times, smooth run-throughs – that kinda thing. I personally loved the PGR games, and felt their attention to detail was amazing in these games. Definitely worthy of it’s top 10 place, but when you see what’s up ahead you’ll understand…for the most part.

From the streets of Project Gotham we slide around the Hillys to…

6.         Beyond Good and Evil – PS2 (Nov 03) PC (Dec 03) – Action/Adventure
Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier (PS2) and Ubisoft Milan (PC)
Published by Ubisoft


If you’ve played BG&E then you’ll get the reference to the Hillys, the fictional location of the game at No. 6. From the French guy who brought the world Rayman, Michel Ancel brings us BG&E a fantastically beautiful game which definitely feels continental. Does that make sense? I’m not making sense. Basically the game hasn’t got the best graphics in the world – even by 2003 standards – but the story and gameplay make this one of the top games of 2003, and really does leave us all wanting that damned sequel!!! The game is made up of a good narrative and also is made up of various elements, such as mini-puzzles and stealth missions. Making your way around the maps in order to gain photographic evidence of certain things going on with the Alpha Sections and DomZ. Anyways I must press on with this list!

From the Hillys we travel to a Galaxy…far, far away…

5.         Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy – PC + XBOX (Sep 03) – FPS/3rd Person Shooter
Developed by Raven Software (PC) and Vicarious Visions (XBOX)
Published by LucasArts and Activision


Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy…or SWJKJA…or Jedi Academy was an amazing game for the PC and XBOX definitely living up to the achievements of it’s predecessors in Dark Forces, Jedi Knight and Jedi Outcast. I always enjoyed playing as Kyle Katarn in the games, and this is one thing that is slightly different – you play as Jaden Korr a new student arriving at Luke Skywalkers Jedi Academy, chosen to become Katarn’s apprentice. With this change, you can actually choose Korrs species and gender, and while starting off with a single single-bladed lightsaber, half way through you can choose to upgrade to wield dual lightsabers or a saber staff – a variant on the double bladed job, ol’ Maul uses in the Phantom Menace. You can choose a number of weapons for this game, much like those that came before, but you must use 3rd Person when you wield your laser sword – whereas you can seamlessly swap to FPS when using blasters…as clumsy and random as they are. A good story with a good couple of endings, brilliant multiplayer on the PC also helps makes this one of the top 5 games of 2003.

From mastering an elegant weapon for a more civilized age to managing the water supplies of your city and wondering just where would be best to put that darned power station…

4.         Sim City 4 – PC (Jan 03) – Construction and Management Sim, City Building
Developed by Maxis
Published by EA


So addictively fun it should come with a warning, and with some SimCity news just around the corner this is definitely worth downloading from your chosen games provider – be it Steam or Origin. It’s the exact same premise as those that came before, but done so amazingly right that Maxis were able to focus on their Sims games for another decade before the imminent arrival of SimCity in February 2013. The way the game plays is very intuitive, and easy to pick up. The only thing I’d say is pace yourself – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your new City of Cuntopolis doesn’t have to go from a small stretch of houses to a New York Style sprawl in the course of a few years!! Amazingly fun title, and of course so fun to build your city up to the max with sky scrapers galore and amazing sights and what not…then to bring it all to rack and ruin with a tornado, UFO, fire or whatever else they put on there to wreck the city of Fucksberg. Go and enjoy, especially since it’s dirt cheap at the moment (with it’s Rush Hour expansion not to mention), and get ready for what could already be a contender for GotY 2013.

Next we go to our Bronze medal winner for 2003, winning hearts and causing arguments and stroppy losers the world over…

3.         Mario Kart: Double Dash!! – GameCube (Nov 03) – Racing
Developed and Published by Nintendo


Let’s be fair now – any Mario Kart game is going to be in the top ten. And this is the only reason why we still have a GameCube in the house. Playing split screen Grand Prix’s or playing on 2 teams of 2 this is an amazing game at bringing together members of a house who’s primary interest is in gaming. It’s one of few games where the parents are as eager to play as the teenager, who in turn is as eager to play as his younger brother, who in turn is as eager to play as the younger sister (even if she can’t manage to turn corners properly) who asks on a daily basis if she can play the game. I would go as far as the 2 year old but at the moment, she just gets annoyed that she doesn’t understand why everyone is shouting and laughing at the TV when SpongeBob is nowhere to be seen. MKDD takes what makes the Mario Kart games amazing and carries it onto the GameCube. Personally, I believe this to be the last great Mario Kart game ever made, since the newer ones on the Nintendo Piss just don’t have the same soul and spirit as the older variants. With unlockable items coming with gold wins on various CC, and the personal belief that the Red Shell car with Wings is totally better than the Yoshi Head car…even though I’ve since discovered there isn’t the massive-est amount of difference in any of the cars when it gets down to the nitty gritty. But still you cling-on to your belief. Massively addictive game, incredibly fun game play, and dedicated to old-school multiplayer – sitting next to your opponent instead of being on the other side of the world. MKDD is such a good game, I fully endorse you finding a GameCube on eBay, buying 4 controllers, and a copy of this game and enjoying it in all it’s splendour. Go on right now. I’ll wait here for you to continue.

Now if you have a good idea about games since the turn of the century you could probably make a good educated guess as to what will come next. Our Silver Medal for 2003 is a title that is all to familiar in games these days, but in 2003 it was all just beginning…and good holy fuckery didn’t they do well??

2.         Call of Duty – PC (Nov 03) – FPS
Developed by Infinity Ward
Published by Activision


COD. Do you need me to continue? Actually I probably should, most COD fanboys these days think of COD as Modern Warfare…sigh. Firstly MW is good, but they cannot hold a candle to the games that started it all off. Think of how amazing Band of Brothers was...is- it’s timeless really. Well think of that, now turn that into a computer game. Right, now make that game easy to learn, hard to become an expert. Are you there? Right now package it and call it Call of Duty. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, just think of what it’s called – Call of Duty, as in when asked, will you answer the Call of Duty? For your country? For Freedom? Not COD: MW oh look I’m just another American soldier in Afghanistan…it’s not really following the same wartime spirit that you had in WW2. In WW2 you had wide-spread support to fight the Germans, the Japanese and the Italians. In Afghanistan you have wide-spread antipathy that our soldiers are out there fighting a war that should have finished years ago. That they are out there not really for freedom now, but because we’re in too deep. Erm…anyways…

It follows along the same lines as the newer spawns, in that you don’t just play as 1 character, you play as an American paratrooper, an English SAS operative, and a Soviet Conscript. The battles are intense, the locations attention to detail simply stunning, and the multiplayer? Get outta here, one of the best MP experiences of my life. The game has a good narrative, and follows closely in the footsteps that the real guys took during that bloody conflict. Historically accurate, you feel like you gain a better understanding for what those brave men did in real life after playing this game.

A worthy silver medal, fuck that a worthy gold medal, however the game that comes next is by far and away the No. 1 for 2003. When I first thought of making these lists, I knew before I did 2000’s list what would be Number 1 for 2003. And we must go a long, long, LONG, time ago…in a galaxy just as far away as before…

1.         Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – XBOX (Sep 03) PC (Dec 03) – RPG
Developed by BioWare
Published by LucasArts


Firstly, picture if you will a timeline. Picture Star Wars Ep. IV: A New Hope. Picture the Battle of Yavin, where the first Death Star was destroyed by the farm-hand turned starfighter pilot and Jedi in the making – Luke Skywalker. Picture that event happening at year 0 BBY/0 ABY. BBY and ABY stands for Before and After the Battle of Yavin for those who didn’t know.

Right you have your starting out point – 0. Now imagine all that happened 19 years previously in the year 19 BBY. Anakin Skywalker was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. All but a handful of Jedi Knights survived Order 66. And C-3PO was about to have his memory wiped before being handed over to Captain Antilles.

Seems like a whole lifetime apart…well I suppose it was really. Right, go back even further to 32 BBY and you’ll have the Invasion of Naboo by the Trade Federation. It all seems like quite a large chunk of time from 32 BBY having the Galactic Republic and a young Darth Vader being a little annoying American kid to eventually 4 ABY when the Galactic Empire get’s pwn’d by a bunch of tree-dwelling teddy bears.

Now go back a little further than the 32 years to Episode I. Ok, 57 BBY – Obi Wan Kenobi is born. No further, go further. Right then, 98 BBY, the natives to the planet Tatooine, the Sand People, attack Fort Tusken for the first time, earning them the nickname – Tuskan Raiders.

Further you pussy. Ok, 350 BBY – the Trade Federation is founded. FURTHER!!!

1000 BBY. Ok we’re getting a bit closer – Darth Bane established the Sith “Rule of Two” mentioned in the films – “only 2 there are, a Master and an Apprentice”. But go on, go a bit further back, you know what no. I’ll do it.

Go back to 3956 BBY. Now let me put that in perspective. 3956 years before the Battle of Yavin. Surely they must be like, technologically like we are now? Right? Nope, they are just as bad-ass and awesome as ever in that Galaxy. Whereas over here…what has happening 3956 years ago in 1944 BC? Well it was roughly the time the Minoans were not just at the height of there civilization, but just starting it. It was when the Babylonians were just developing Maths and when the first potato was grown in South America. There had been no Jesus, Judaism was just starting as a religion, Rome wasn’t even a collection of villages and Europe was smack in the middle of the Bronze Age.

Seems like an insane length of time before us now eh? Well Those clever fuckers at BioWare (Drew Karpyshyn especially) created a whole new saga in the Star Wars Universe set this far before the events of that original film. And trust me, this saga is one helluva rollercoaster.

You are the protagonist of the game, and your gender and class is up to you. There are some kinda parallels/opposites from KotOR and the original Star Wars films. Firstly there is a massive twist. Epically massive, I mean shit the bed, get your dick caught in a mangle, shove a deckchair up your nose massive. Secondly, there is a little droid who is helpful and beeps. Thirdly Tatooine is extensively visited. There is also things like the Ebon Hawk, your trusty – albeit knicked – starship, which is the “fastest ship in the galaxy”, and referred to as crap by your travelling partner, the posh-ish Bastilla Shan. Bastilla, like Princess Leia adopts an “Atlantic” accent, meaning that it’s North American, but sounds almost English – much like Kelsey Grammer, he’s a perfect example of someone with an Atlantic Accent. Anyway I’ve started talking about Kelsey Grammer in a KotOR bit…

There are also things like HK-47. HK-47 is one of the greatest video game characters of all time, he is what C-3PO dreams he could be. HK-47 is an assassin droid who lovingly refers to all organics as “meat-bags” and has a psychopathic need to kill. You have Carth Onasi, who is like your Han Solo of the group, but not a smuggler or a scruffy looking nerf herder. He’s a career soldier in the Republic, but definitely a bit of a cool dude to have around.

KotOR is a fantastic game, taking you all over the Galaxy and with a feel to it that is unmistakably Star Wars, it is nothing like the films. Better than the prequel trilogy and a good rival to the original trilogy, Bioware takes its first steps into space with a safe territory before expanding their own sci-fi epic a few years later.

The gameplay is smooth, the music is masterful, – what you’d expect from Bioware and Star Wars - the dialogue is brilliantly written and the story is fantastic. Still available in good games stores, and is well worth dusting off your lightsaber for.

I can and probably will at some point go into a lot more detail about the game in a separate post. But for now, I’m fine with the introduction being longer than the piece! SW: KotOR – is a must have in any computer gamers collection and is definitely worthy of the No. 1 Gold Medal Spot for 2003, and in my opinion is a high contender for game of the decade. Bioware at it’s best, pulling the twists, directing the play with the hint of player choice thrown in, and with gameplay that is phenomenal.

Epilogue

Well that was 2003 in Gaming – ish, there are some notable mentions to other games I’m sure but I can’t be fucked to go into them. They didn’t make my Top 10 so they don’t deserve a mention right now. The next Top Ten Games list will funnily enough, come from 2004 where I’m sure we can expect an exciting trip down memory lane, as we get closer to the present day. Happy Gaming!

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