Top 10 Games of 2000

 Now that the decade is coming to a close and I've played one thousand first person shooters too many, I am finally fulfilling my inner desires to sum up sections of my life into lists.  Among these are my top albums, top films, top awkward conversations about the difference of Islam and Hindu with someone who is actually neither, but most relevant to Giant Bomb would be my top games lists which I will be sharing here.  For the full top 25, you will need to visit my RYM page.  I also list the games I haven't played from the given year there, in case you are wondering.  Stay tuned in upcoming weeks where I continue to indulge myself and annoy the Giant Bomb community with my picks of 01-08.

  

10. Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Earth [N64]

Another mindless shooter was born into the world, once again by Treasure in 2000. What makes this one special to me is that it follows the blueprint laid down by old arcade shooters like Nam-1975 and Rambo 3. Not to mention my console favorite, Wild Guns. If you haven't played those games, basically you have a character on the screen that you can move left and right only and the rest of the game is just you aiming at a shooting gallery. Sin and Punishment is too crazy for it's own good, like many Treasure titles, but its a lot more manageable here due to being locked in a confined space. The ability for co-op play is another plus, although I haven't tested it out. You won't get much playtime out of S&P but its a fun, old-school shooter that stands amongst the best.



9. The Sims [PC]

It almost feels wrong to have this up here, but...did I not play the shit out of it?...did I not love it?...was it not one of the greatest games of 2000? While it seemed like another Simdisaster, it turned out to be Wright's best game yet. With Simants and Simhelicopters (or whatever it was called), its surprising that Wright didn't milk this simple concept sooner. Thankfully he waited till the right time, when technology could handle it correctly. It often seems like a waste of time, as it feels more addictive then fun but like all strong addictions it starts off with things going pretty well.


8. Gunman Chronicles [PC]

Unfairly bashed for being a Half-Life mod sold at retail, Gunman Chronicles was never fairly evaluated by the gaming press. Shooters have always had their clones to compliment them: Wolfenstien 3D had Blake Stone, Doom had Heretic, and Duke Nukem 3D had Shadow Warrior. By this standard, Gunman Chronicle's direct response to Half-Life is much more of a success then you'd might imagine. GC displays a polish and inventiveness you wouldn't expect, but it is also complimented with a frantic, fun pace that Half-Life largely lacked, as that game chased for a more of a survival horror atmosphere. Gunman Chronicles is really just Half-Life with all the slow parts cut out and with the action ramped up. Because of this, I find it much easier to return to GC then Half-Life because for all HL's cinematic glory in 98' it just isn't as fresh now. This is a uniformly great shooter that I would easily put in the hall of fame, even if it arrived hot on the heels of another game.  


7. Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force [PC]

The fact that I've never been a fan of the Star Trek franchise (not even the latest film), should say something about my love of Elite Force. Not that this isn't a game for fans, because it is. I mean, that's a large reason why this game is so great. It completely immerses you in being part of the Star Trek crew, jumping from planet to planet as you fight the borg yet again. What Elite Forces did right was the squad dynamic which had you go through every level with the rest of your ship's crew. Unlike Halo and Call of Duty, the A.I. that surrounds you are all faces with names that have a history within and outside the game's story. This makes Elite Force much more intimate and exciting, since you are fighting with characters you know. It's really interesting in that respect, not to mention that Raven always make excellent FPS's and Elite Force doesn't break that trend.


6. Action Half-Life [PC]

Gun porn. Every guy needs it. John Woo and Die Hard isn't art, but damn if that isn't going to stop us action film fans from endlessly talking about them as if they are. We keep our imagined Leon the Professional vs. Tequila battles to ourselves though. With Action Half-Life, the sequel to Action Quake, we no longer needs to keep these to ourselves, as we could live out this absurd fantasies together. This Half-Life mod took all of the most notable action film characters and placed them in a death match with real weapons, the danger of bleeding to death (need to bandage), ability to pull stunts, and pick up "power-ups" (silence, bandolier, etc.) The game lacked the polish of a retail product but the core mechanics, excellent level design (some of the best mp maps ever), and subtle humor made this a classic I can still happily return to. It's too bad that the sequel, Action UT4, bombed and that there hasn't been a proper successor since.


5. Chrono Cross [PSX]

There is a common thread among Chrono Cross fans. They either never played Chrono Trigger or never thought it was as much of a classic as it's made out to be. The later certainly applies to me. Before you send hate mail, I replayed Chrono Trigger and saw the light recently. However, Chrono Cross was the first Chrono to really work its way into my heart. Many fault it for not having the same art style of CT, but it's Chrono Cross's unique aesthetic that made it so appealing. There is such an overwhelming sadness in the world, the music, and the characters that gives the adventure a somber tone without any heavy handed story devices. The combat was fun, the length was just alright, and the graphics pushed the Playstation to it's limit. It might not be the most obvious sequel, but it matches the quality and creativity of the original.


4. No One Lives Forever [PC]

Along with Deus Ex, this was another shining example of how far ahead PC games were to console games in 2000. Much like Metal Gear Solid, the world and story were so strong that I could bypass my hate of stealth gameplay and enjoy it. The quirky characters, the laugh out loud lines, and the intense action scenes are still bare no contemporaries. The world was like nothing else as it had the Austin Power colors and quirkiness with the scope and elegance of a James Bond film. It's one of the few games I could play now and enjoy almost as much as I did then. So many great moments to experience again and you'll always have something great to look at on the way. I'll never forget when I booted up the game and my mom asked, "What movie are you watching?" That was a first.


3. Final Fantasy IX [PSX]

Don't call it a comeback. After getting further and further away from airships and closer to becoming a glorified space opera, IX brought the series back to its roots while not completely disregarding progress made in the previous Playstation entries. The world was at stake once again, but this time it was a light hearted adventure that recaptured the joie de vivre the series had in the SNES era.. Being a hero is fun once again as you ride a chocobo across the world map, have a black mage join your party, and participate in the stories of many tradition FF towns. It was a smart move, as it summed up the series's SNES generation with the recent PSX one. While it seems a bit weak in comparison to VII/VIII, sometimes it's nice to have a quality Square RPG without a meteor in the sky to worry about.


2. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 [PSX]

In the summer 2000, there was one thing me and my best friend did and that was play the THPS2 demo. Yes, demo. One stage, 3 songs, and two characters was all we needed to last us uncountable hours in my bedroom. Neversoft took everything from the original Tony Hawk, and perfected the concept. The minimalism and excellent design on display makes this arcade skating almost seem like a piece of art. It was a new breed of fighting game or sports game or who knows what it really is. Memorizing the right button combos, juggling between more grabs and grinds and manuals, and finding the secrets of every level made this a classic. There is just something so pure and refined in THPS2 that could never be matched in it's sequels. It was just enough of a good thing. By the time the actual retail copy landed in my hands, I left it wrapped in my closet for a month. I was just too afraid of where this addiction would lead me, come fall mid-terms.


1. Deus Ex [PC]

There are those that play RPGs for their story and then there are those that play them for their gameplay. It doesn't matter which type of player you are, because Deus Ex has both areas covered. Deus Ex is notable for many reasons: the freedom, the unique cyberpunk world, the first person perspective, the gameplay variation, etc. So often in RPGs, especially Bethesda's catalog, I enjoy the game but hate the world. This was never the case with Deus Ex. You felt like you were this elite secret agent traveling to Neo Tokyo and Paris. The Unreal Engine is dated but the soundtrack, level design, voice acting, and dialogue still make Deus Ex's world relevant and believable when compared to more recent RPGs. There isn't another game like it, nor should there be. Games this good can't have replicates, but it can inspire more great games. I think we're still waiting on that.

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NO, F*CK YOU! (the East vs. West debate)

 Me and my fellow interwebian, Harhol, often have heated debates on things that don't matter, mainly video games.  What started as a simple link exchange turned into a full blown debate on the state of Eastern game companies in comparison to Western companies.  It's not pretty but people don't discuss this sort of stuff nearly enough without going into trolling territory.  BTW, I'm the good guy (vote for me!)


                        vs.                        


         Allistair Everett                                                                  Harhol Scottercoch

(hides behind a cute avatar....pussy!)                                (needs a "make me not

                                                                                                          look like a rapist"

                                                                                                         Photoshop plug-in)

 


Allistair: Andrew Fitch, 1up.com's once JRPG expert, takes aim at industry politics being the reason why Cross Edge disappoints (his words not mine) in his recent Bitmob article. He echoes some of my complaints about Japanese games I shared with you not long ago, except now it's well written and supported by actual research.

Harhol: You consider a 700 word blog post which ends with the words "a lot of this is educated guessing on my part" to be something which is "supported by actual research"? He's basically rehashing tired & patronizing oriental stereotypes ("oh they're so regimented and homogenous!") and using them to justify his dislike of two(!) multi-dev collaborations, one of which is unlike anything seen before. Cross Edge might be utter shit but its originality is unquestionable, so I don't know why he uses it as an example of creativity being "sabotaged" by bureaucracy, especially when he basically admits to knowing nothing about the development of the game. Cross Edge is a game which displays considerable creativity & originality. This is inarguable-the battle system and overworld gameplay are brand new. If it is terrible then you can only blame the developers, not men in suits.

 Life ain't nothing but roguelikes and bitches to Mr. Fitch.

Allistair: Fitch is writing about his own experiences working with Konami and drawing conclusions. This is an industry he knows and loves, and like you he loves JRPGs--that's practically all he covered in his years working for 1UP. Saying the same shit happens in America is a null point, since he doesn't mention the rest of the world in the article. He's just drawing conclusions on why so many JRPGs are struggling these days. It's not research but his article is anecdotal more than speculative.


Harhol: Corporate bureaucracy is a huge problem across the industry. Singling out Japan for criticism is frankly ridiculous given the quantity of new IPs and bizarre oddities it continues to contribute year upon year. Do a side-by-side comparison of East and West and the former destroys the latter in terms of humour, charm, creativity & originality-no Japanese developer or publisher is as cynical & uncreative as EA or Activision. The fact that he puts the success of Kingdom Hearts down to the financial backing of an American company is laughable and borderline racist.


Allistair: I think it's silly to call it racist. I admit the article is more of a conversation starter then a declaration of any sort, which is why I liked it. He's commenting on how Japanese companies are run, in general. He never claims to know the specifics of each project, and really that stuff is behind the point. He is talking about how Japanese developers often feel their creativity is dismissed in the hands of the suits. I say suits but really these are just businessmen who are trying to run a business, if the last Resident Evil sold well they will keep making and selling them. The difference between East and West in this respect is that personalities hold more weight than sales figures with American companies. If Cliffy B wants to ditch Gears of War, he will.


CliffyB: 5% sell out, 95% Ryan Reynolds?

 

Harhol: Several western franchises have been continued for money-making purposes despite the wishes of their original creators-Thief, Deus Ex, Fallout, Tomb Raider, Bioshock, Prince of Persia, God of War, Medal of Honor etc. Sequelitis is an industry-wide problem. I also disagree that personalities hold more weight in the West. Almost all of the industry's current big-name personalities are Japanese and the majority of them are in charge of their own studio. A number of high-profile western personalities (Mechner, Spector, Carmack, Romero, Garriott, Jaffe, Trenz, McGee, Tørnquist, Cecil) are either out of work, stuck in development hell or retired. Other than Molyneux, Cliffy & Cage I can't think of any who are active right now.


Allistair: I have to point to Jeremy Parish's EGM feature, "The Rise and Fall (And Rise?) of Japan" where he interviewed many of the industry's giants, from Capcom's Keiji Inafune (Dead Rising, Mega Man) to legendary game designers like Kenji Eno (Rez, D). All of them had the same thing to say, that Japan has fallen behind and now companies are being re-inspired by the west.


I think Inafune says it most clearly here, "In Japan, a game developer only coexists with publishers as a single company, while many U.S. game software groups are independent. In the U.S., there's free compettion between developers, which results in better products."


Harhol: I don't see this as a bad thing. What matters to me is whether games are good or not. SCEJ may be a giant corporate behemoth but it still produces games like Echochrome, Trash Panic, Patapon, Loco Roco and Piyotama, all of which can be considered "indie" in spirit.


Patapon AKA Adobe Illustrator the Game

 

Allistair: It's still a struggle over there and we have yet to see a great Japanese indie title like Braid or Flower. Even more importantly, it seems very few leaders come to the forefront in Japan while only in the past year have literate gamers learned the names Jonathan Blow, Jonathan Mak, and Phil Fish.


Harhol: Well if there are no indie developers then how can there be indie games? Seems a little harsh. Blow is fairly high-profile because of his ceaseless rants against piracy but the other two aren't well known at all (I hadn't heard of Fish and I doubt anyone else on this site has). I don't think namedropping the designer of your favourite games makes them a "leader" all of a sudden. As I said above, the vast majority of industry personalities (or "leaders") are Japanese. And I'd also disagree that there haven't been any great indie Japanese games-Cave Story is the obvious pick but if you're into shmups (particularly bullet hell) then there are studios like ABA, Orange Juice, Studio Siesta and Team Shanghai Alice putting out dozens of quality titles. Just because something isn't on PSN or XBLA it doesn't mean it doesn't exist....


Allistair: ...Fuck you.


Harhol: No, fuck you!

12 Comments

Is Super Mario Galaxy 2 really a bad thing?

Like many of you, upon the announcement of Super Mario Galaxy 2 at Nintendo's recent E3 press conference, I let out a groan.  Since when have new Mario games consisted of being nothing more than a map pack with Yoshi thrown in on the side?  OK, so the exact same thing happened with the release of Yoshi's Island on the SNES but that was the age of 2D.  The rules are different now that we have brought Mario into the third dimension; you can only do so much in 2D, but the options are limitless in 3D.  However, something happened in the past week.  I played Super Mario Galaxy and it has become my favorite game of this generation, and I'm not someone who constantly says that (FFVII has been my favorite ever since its release).  The game has a polish and spirit, while representative of all Nintendo titles, that is far removed of anything we've seen before.  Who wouldn't want more of a good thing?

This all brings me to a different state of mind with a refreshed view on what Nintendo is doing.  What was the highlight of SMG?  The endlessly creative level design, of course!  Now that Nintendo isn't going to have to recreate a whole new world with all new assets--although I hope there is plenty to separate the two games from looking too much alike--they will be focusing entirely on new levels and what the player can do within them.  This opens the gates to all sorts of possibilities that the average player can't even think up on his own; Thankfully the people at Nintendo can...I hope.



Of course, I have my doubts about SMG2 presenting the same level of creativity and variety of its predecessor.  For those of you who played Super Mario Galaxy, you know how many ideas were run through in just a single interpretation (or star mission) of a single stage--which begs the question just what else can Nintendo do?  It might seem like a cop out, although no worse then Valve's Left 4 Dead 2, but I still hold high hopes that Nintendo will pull through and take advantage of the extra time they can dedicate toward making the levels as tight, imaginative and fun as possible.  What else do they have to concern themselves with anyway if the groundwork has already been done, and the groundwork is the 2nd most highly reviewed game of this generation. 

It makes you wonder if this sort of design is forward thinking for games.  Instead of putting so much pressure on developers to make sequels with new weapons, enemies, and updated graphics, what if the next Gears, Half-Life, or Zelda focused only on delivering new levels and story.  After all, that's what those games do best.  Don't get me wrong; I love a big budget sequel that moves a franchise in a new direction (such as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker), but when Gears of War 2 only takes baby steps forward then what's the point?  I'd much rather have an expanded chapter that has as much care as the original package, whether retail or DLC (although, I've never played DLC I've been impressed with).  Would you be willing to sacrifice a couple bullet points on the back of the box for a game that is just as fun and focused that will come out 2 years earlier because of this unconventional thinking?

40 Comments