Monday, 30 July 2012

Top Ten Games 2004

Well they’re coming thick and fast now aren’t they! The Top 10 Games for 2004 are here, although it’s not a stellar year looking back it still boasts some top quality games that are still played thoroughly today.

As is the norm, I must emphasise that the list is based on games and platforms that had their release date in the EU in 2004. Not the US, Australia or Japan. The EU. Got it?

That is why one of the games on here, that was released in other areas in 2003 is on this list, and why another game from this year that was released in North America in 2004 will not make this years list, but next years. Anyway, I digress…

7 of the games in the top ten were available to buy and play on the PC, while there were 2 each for the XBOX and PS2 and 1 for the GBA. There were none for the GameCube and you can tell that this year and 2005 were transition years for the console world due to the impending release of the Xbox 360, PS3 and Nintendo Piss. Also the Nintendo DS was released in North America in November 2004, meaning that the GBA probably makes it final showing in these lists.

2004 was a year for shooting things with guns, as 5 of the top ten games were FPS games and September through to November was the popular period, with 6 of the 10 games being released in this timeframe.

Without further ado, I introduce game No. 10 on our list. It’s a PC game, it’s a First Person Shooter and from 2004 this game broke boundaries in gameplay and graphics that could possibly be seen as the first in a new wave of graphical wonder games…

10. Far Cry – FPS – PC (Mar 04)
Developer: Crytek
Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer Crytek, who you will know more for the Crysis series of games comes their first full game – Far Cry. As you can expect, it was a graphical marvel, paving the way for the next generation of FPS games that played smoothly, had alternate ways of being approached and looked graphically incredible. It’s arguable that without the advances that Far Cry introduced, that games like CoD and Battlefield would not be quite the games they are today.

Following the tried and tested route of being stranded on a strange and unchartered island, with lots of bad guys and some other things Far Cry isn’t the greatest game so far as story goes, but it’s gameplay mechanics and graphical advances more than deservedly places this game in 2004’s Top Ten.

Next we go from being in a strange island to being sent to Paragon City, where Superman can kiss my arse and Spider-Man is a pussy…

9. City of Heroes – MMORPG – PC (Apr 04)
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Publisher: NC Soft

City of Heroes – still going strong today, with its latest update coming in March 2012, this has always been a fascinating game, and with it’s regular updates has kept die-hard fans hooked for over 8 years. Being able to decide on your archetype, primary and secondary powers, your superhero name, your battle-cry and maybe most importantly how you look baby are all fun and creative ways to start your superhero career. You fight through different zones, levelling up and fighting harder and harder enemies, culminating in some mega bastards in alternate dimensions. Definitely worthy of a Top 10 place, and still a popular game today.

As we leave Paragon City we travel to Elibe, where a demanding quest awaits the stars of…

8. Fire Emblem – RPG / Turn Based Strategy – GBA (Jul 04)
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo

Many an addictive hour has been spent playing Fire Emblem, and for me personally the Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way album became my personal soundtrack to the game. Strangely addictive game play, taking you back to an age when gameplay and story meant more than graphics (before No. 10 came along to blow that theory out of the water!)

With a story driven quest, this game (which is the first of the series released outside Japan) makes you think about each move, think about defence, attack and strategy with each level. Throwing different obstacles and powerful foes in your way as you attempt to traverse to continent of Elibe to prevent the Black Fang from plunging the world into conflict and dooooooom!

Staying in the fantasy genre, we go from a Japanese constructed RPG/TBS to a thoroughly British RPG with massive elements of Open World structure thrown in…

7. Fable – RPG / Open World – XBOX (Oct 04)
Developer: Big Blue Box
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studios

Yes that’s right, Big Blue Box bring you gallivanting into Fable. It’s a big open world RPG game, from the mind of British gaming guru – Peter Molyneux.

Basically, it follows your kinda typical RPG game – you perform quests, side-quests, chat to people, level up and advance the story. But following on from 2003’s MonkeyBoxGaming GotY – Knights of the Old Republic, it’s not as cut and dried as that. You can choose whether to be nice as pie, or a complete arsehole. The choice is yours, and depending on your alignment your ending will be different. The gameplay is easy, meaning there’s no long learning curve with playing it and the dialogue and script of the game is very British. With a good bit of British humour and a well written story, Fable is a good game to represent the quality of gaming from these fair isles.

From Fable and its lovable characters and chucklesome dialogue, to Mars…and some scary shit to boot…

6. Doom 3 – FPS / Survival Horror – PC (Aug 04)
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Activision

If you consider yourself a gamer, and you’ve not (at the very fucking least ) heard of Doom then go back to knitting you prat. The Doom franchise is one of the most influential and popular in gaming history, from the masters of the FPS – id Software – the 3rd incarnation of Doom comes with more scary moments than the majority of horror films ever released. Obviously much more graphically advanced than the original 2 games, and with that extra amount of amazing graphics comes with it the ability not just to use them, but in a way not to use them. Large parts of the game are entirely pitch black, with the player relying on his flashlight to traverse the level and find the nasty enemies. Fair enough I suppose, makes it a bit more real…oh yeah while your flashlight is equipped, your gun is holstered.

This part of the gameplay alone adds an extra dimension of shit your pants panic that cements Doom in the 21st Century as a horror game as much as it is a FPS.

As we enter the top 5 of 2004, have a bit of a think. Think of games you played, or play now that you’ve been playing for years from 2004 – there really can only be 5 choices and I hope you agree…

From one FPS by the innovators and inventors of the genre to another by giants of the genre, who don’t need to re-release the same tat year on year to prove anything to those who know…

5. Counter-Strike: Source – FPS – PC (Nov 04)
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve

The remake of MonkeyBoxGaming’s 2000 GotY, Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike Source or CSS is a fantastic game, and can be seen on such sites as Pure Pwnage – awesome web-series…BOOOM HEADSHOT!!! The gameplay is pretty similar as the original and the goals are the same – Terrorists vs Counter-Terrorists in deathmatch, diffuse the bomb etc. Purely about the multiplayer the way only Valve can do, CSS is a brilliantly social game, and can create and also destroy friendships…or so I’m led to believe!

CSS is well worthy of it’s top 5 place if only for this actual fact. As of the time of writing, which is 20:56 on Saturday 28/07/12, CSS has just under 11,000 more gamers on Steam than CoD MW 3. 10,990 to be exact. Still massively popular, consistently fun, and enjoying a huge cult following, CSS deserves at least it’s No. 5 spot on this list. FYI the original CS has 8,130 more gamers online at this moment than CSS, meaning it has 19,120 more players than the latest Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game.

We move from Valve’s CSS to another FPS that doubles as a Third Person Shooter. And it’s sometimes so hard to get away from that Galaxy, far, far away…

4. Star Wars: Battlefront – FPS / 3rd Person Shooter – PC/PS2/XBOX (Sep 04)
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Publisher: Lucasarts

That’s right, in at No. 4 we have Star Wars Battlefront. Yes it’s another FPS, and yes it’s another Star Wars game, but hell well Star Wars games are good they’re great, and when they’re bad, they’re fucking awful.

SWBF is similar to EA’s Battlefield game where you are a soldier (one of 4 classes: infantry, heavy, pilot or sniper) battles the forces of evil, or good depending on your allegiance. The game doesn’t really follow a proper narrative, just that it lets you get involved in some of the battles of the Star Wars universe from the perspective of a foot soldier, instead of the usual big character or ace pilot - which is refreshing in itself.

Many, many, happy hours spent playing SWBF yielded some great fun and the want to go back for more. So many cups of coffee, gone cold by being ignored in favour of shooting up some stormtroopers, but that’s ok…I like cold coffee. Also this is a good crossover game from the 2 trilogies, incorporating the big battles of the original trilogy (Galactic Civil War: Galactic Empire vs Rebel Alliance) and the prequel trilogy (Seperatist Crisis/Clone Wars: Galactic Republic vs Confederacy of Independent Systems).

Unfortunately the game was released a year before Episode III came out, so the prequel battles end with the Battle of Kashyyyk (Wookiee Homeworld), so the prequel battles aren’t as much to do with the Clone Wars and more the Seperatists…anyway I could go on about the game and Star Wars history but I’ve got a top ten list to finish, and speaking of finishing we come to our Bronze Medal Winner.

From Star Wars to one of the most heavily decorated games of all time, unfortunately for me personally, it’s still up there but pipped at the post by 2 others from this year which spank it completely…anyway where’s my crowbar?

3. Half-Life 2 – FPS – PC (Nov 04)
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve / Sierra

That’s right, we go to the world of Black Mesa and Gordon Freeman with his lovely crowbar. Following on a good 20 years (in game) after Half-Life was released, Half-Life 2 is an absolutely phenomenal game, well worthy of it’s 39 GoTY awards, and several Game of the Decade awards. To be honest this game would have been number one on my list if the current occupants of 2 and 1 were released any other year…but then I suppose that’s obvious…

Gordon returns in HL2 for an amazing FPS which breaks the mould and delivers an amazing story which stands up today as one of the best games ever made. After the events of Half-Life in which Black Mesa accidentally opened like a massive vortex that started a little incident which Gordon ended, it all went a bit bigger and kinda ruined the world. The enigmatic G-Man   is evident in and around the game, and the gameplay is exceptional, resulting in an amazing experience and resulting in something very special, not just a critical and commercial success, but an instant cult classic.

From Gordon’s crowbar wielding, rollercoaster experience to something a bit more mundane, a bit more normal, a bit more like life…

2. The Sims 2 – Life Simulation – PC (Sep 04)
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Electronic Arts

That’s right, you can pretty much guarantee any year that has a new Sims release will have it included into the vast majority of Top Ten Games lists around the world. A lot has changed from The Sims to its second incarnation, and it proved such a successful formula that it is the most commercially successful PC game of all time, reportedly selling over 20 million copies. That is pretty special.

From trying to make ends meet, and actually feeling that pang of “Oh shit” when something goes wrong, knowing that it’s gonna be a tight few weeks, to just saying “SCREW THIS!” and using one of the many cheats to turn it into a sandbox game where you can design and fill your dream home. The game as a stand-alone is pretty fantastic and utterly addictive, proving to still be one of the most amazing games of the last year – even with The Sims 3 coming in 2009. If you haven’t played or heard of this game then you’re likely to not be reading this blog at all, and probably live in some kind of cave. Either that, or you’re just some kind of cretin, with an annoying, whingey voice, who can’t stop shouting, and moans at everything like a complete twat.

Ah-hem, so The Sims 2 grabs our Silver Medal, an a worthy Silver it is too, however to get to the obvious choice for Gold, you need to leave Pleasantview and head west to Los Santos…

1. GTA: San Andreas – Action/Adventure / Open World – PS2 (Oct 04)
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Studios

Of course it is, come on let’s be serious for a minute, Half-Life 2 is ground shattering, The Sims 2 is one of the bestselling games ever, and other games from this year are brilliantly addictive and fun. But one game from 2004 destroys them all, it’s a tour de force piece of gaming that is still as fun (if now graphically a little dated) as it ever was.

The innovations that the game brought with it in this GTA were astounding. From simple things like riding a push-bike, to flying fast jets, and going the step further than Vice City from just being able to change your outfit, to completely customising your outfit from all of the clothes shops, and changing whether you had a shaved head or a massive ‘fro. Not forgetting, your CJ Johnson could be a porky fucker from too many Cluckin’ Bells or a buff goliath of a man because of your trips to the gym.

The coup of having Samuel L Jackson voice Officer Tenpenny was a well welcome addition to the game, and the sheer vastness of the game meant that you could get lost – literally lost – in the game needing to continually consult your in-game map. You could get lost in the game in the other sense of the phrase, I personally enjoyed driving out to the middle of nowhere, wait at the side of the road, and try to get the 1-shot kills as cars drove past. Not by shooting the drivers of course, but when you shot the gas tank the cars would just explode, like a self-destruct button of doom. Amazingness. And that’s just my own personal enjoyment.

The story focusses around CJ Johnson, who returns to the San Andreas city of Los Santos, where his mother has recently died. Bad times. You find that shit gets from bad to worse generally after that, and then things get a little better, then worse again, then really worse, and finally kinda better as you go from a gangsta from da hood, cycling around with your mates, going for some chicken, to a complete fucking mogul. With cameos from Vice City and GTA III coming into play as well San Andreas is one of the best games ever made, and still keeps people captivated today.

Well that was the Top Ten Games 2004 list, with another GTA game coming top of the pile. The mid-naughties were rife with some classic games, but also rife with some tat as we moved away from the XBOX/PS2 generation and entered our current gen of the Xbox 360 and PS3. 2004 believe it or not was also the year Nintendo introduced the world to the DS, yes the DS is 8 years old this year.

Keep checking back on the site for more Top Ten Lists, the next one being 2005’s list and also I’m currently ploughing through Knights of the Old Republic on the Xbox 360, even though it’s better now by a mile on the PC (playing it on the 360 is very buggy and very glitchy) which will result in a full review of the game – and as my story driven gaming personality dictates, I will be playing KotOR 2 straight after, and now that The Exile in number 2 has a canon name (Meetra Surik, Female) it’s going to make the playthrough for me a little bit better.

Happy Gaming!

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