2003 Year in Review
It's that time of year again, the time when we look back at what we played over the last year and see which game CD's spent more time outside their case than inside. 2003 was a great year for gamers with the release of a new Zelda game, more Grand Theft Auto mayhem, some decent Star Wars games, and a host of other solid titles.
Rather than do a generic game of the year thing, we've asked each staffer to provide us with their top three games of the year. This provides a little more breadth since each reviewer has their own tastes and one person’s instant classic is the next persons set of instant classics. Without further adieu here are our lists.
Dave Gamble – Staff Writer
Microsoft Flight Sim 2004 With the improvements in graphics, weather modeling, and ATC interaction, MS2004 has become a good way to practice instrument flying procedures.
EA Sports F1 Challenge 99 - 02 Great graphics, highly believable physics, best-of-breed force feedback, and free, easy expansion via third party mods makes F1C my racing sim of choice.
Americas Army Operations best multiplayer action I've ever seen, and at an unbelievable price: free!
Charles Husemann - Editor in Chief
Prince of Persia - The first game to make me actually enjoy running and jumping puzzles. With tight controls, excellent moves, and amazing graphics this game was a pleasant surprise from Ubi.
Knights of the Old Republic - This game single handedly renewed my faith in the Star Wars franchise and RPG games. The open ended ness of the game and the change to be an absolute asshole made this one of the best Xbox games of the year.
Desert Combat I know this is just a mod to an existing game but I logged more hours of Desert Combat this year than I would care to admit. The development team kept updating the game with new weapons, vehicles, and maps while working out the balance issues. Cyril Lachel – Staff Writer
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox)Although I'm not a Star Wars fan, I have to admit that Knights of the Old Republic is the best use of the property I've ever seen, and ultimately the most imaginative, and creative, game of the year.
SSX 3 (PS2)EA Big's newest snowboarding title, SSX 3, is just what the doctor ordered; featuring hundreds of things to do, great graphics, a fun online mode, and the best level (mountain) design of the year!
SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs (PS2)SOCOM II not only fixed every problem I had with the original (a better rank, the ability to mute players, friends lists, etc.), but manages to be the most addictive online console game of the year for me.
Matt Mirkovich – Staff Writer
Fatal Frame 2 Crimson Butterfly (PS2) Any game featuring Gothic Lolita Maid outfits, as a hidden costume is A-OK with me. Actually though aside from that the game is a horrific spectacle worth every gaming dollar. The ancient Japanese village setting does well to disturb and evoke fear in the deepest corners of your mind and the excellent story just adds to the awesome experience of this game. Twin sisters trapped in a town where a ritual takes place to protect the village, a mysterious camera to see things that should be impossible, and an evil cackling girl in a kimono. Get ready for one hell of a fright fest.
SSX 3 for PS2Extreme sports games really don’t get much better than this. EA Big has managed to make a Tony Hawk killer, something that dethrones that rehashed success. You’ve got new courses, new characters, new tricks, and one of the best soundtracks in a new game this year. With the massive mountain peaks laden with challenges you’ve got plenty of game to tackle once you pick this up, it’ll take at least a good 20+ hours to unlock everything in the game, and once you manage to get that 100% completion rate for the entire mountain then you’ve got some serious bragging rights.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness for PS2 Strategy RPGs really don’t get much better than this. Atlus did wise to pick up this Nippon Ichi classic. A somewhat light hearted romp involving the Prince of the Underworld in his quest to become the Overlord and rule with an iron fist. With lots of comedy, a well acted cast, and some excellent localization, (Mr. Gency’s Exit, pure genius) and best of all, and incredibly deep fighting system that never gets old you’ve got one of the best tactical RPGs ever made, easily beating Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Fire Emblem. Be sure to pick this game up before it is gone forever. Tyler Sager – Staff Writer
Galactic Civilizations (PC) Not only is GalCiv one of the best 4X games in quite some time, continuing support from its designers (including oodles of patches, tweaks, and even a free expansion pack) makes this incredible game that much more great. This has become my favorite time-waster game, and will probably remain so for quite a while.
Dark Cloud 2 (PS2): Dark Cloud 2 is simply the best console RPG I’ve ever played. It’s also the best dungeon-delving/world-building/photo-taking/golfing/fishing simulator I’ve ever experienced.
SSX3: The SSX series just gets better and better, this time with a completely new set of tracks, extremely open-ended gameplay, and oodles of extra secrets and challenges.
John Yan – Senior Hardware Editor
Call of Duty When I saw this at E3, I thought it was going to be one hell of a single player World War II experience. When I finally got my hands on it, I wasn’t disappointed. Call of Duty offered a lot more than run and gun giving you three theaters and great scripted events. The fact that you weren’t alone for most of the game and fought along side others makes this first person shooter fun for the single player.
NCAA Football 2004After the high of my alma mater winning a national championship, I was anxious to get into a college football game. EA’s latest was also the best effort so far with great gameplay, new features, and awesome graphics. It’s too bad the Xbox version lacked online play but that still didn’t discourage me from picking the game up for that platform as I really like having the hard drive save all the data. NCAA football 2004 continued to deliver great college football action and the ability to build a football dynasty like no other.
ATI Radeon 9800 XT It’s one of the most expensive and also fastest video card out there. ATI continued its performance lead with the release of the Radeon 9800 XT. With the Catalyst driver set providing mostly stable performance, the card excelled and gave power gamers the performance they wanted.
Ben Zacheim - Staff Writer
Fire Emblem(GBA) This gem came out of nowhere for me. I should have known it would be exceptional since it came from the same minds that gave us Advance Wars but I couldn’t be prepared to be swept into a deep story with involving gameplay and truly strategic challenges. I can’t think of another game that’s ever made me care so much about its characters.
Advance Wars 2Speaking of Advance Wars, this is my second fave game of the year. I really fell in love with my GBA in 2003. The device has come into its own in my mind. AW2 is an incremental improvement on AW1. But when you talk about improving on perfection, you begin to get an idea of how wonderful AW2 really is. It doesn’t have the story of Fire Emblem but AW2 is strategy gaming at its finest.
Space Colony – Never a fan of sim games, this one took me by surprise. It’s fun to manage this cast of characters as they try to keep the station running, get along, fight off aliens and bathe. The production value on SC is exceptional, from sound to clever visuals to a streamlined interface. Hours pass like melted buttah when I play Space Colony.
Charlie Sinhaseni - Senior Editor
Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker - I wonder why so many people have forgotten that this game came out in the year 2003. That's one of the largest problems about the holiday rush season. When people are considering the best games of the year they often discount the titles that came out in the early part of the year. Either way, this was one of my favorite titles and probably one of the few games that I managed to play the whole way through.
Tony Hawk's Underground - After playing THPS4 I thought I was through with the series, thankfully this latest entry renewed my faith in Neversoft. I've spent plenty of hours with this one and if my girlfriend hadn't stolen it away from me it'd probably still be in my PS2 right now.
True Crime: Streets of LA - Another top-notch title that came out of Activision's doors. Although I was initially put off by some of the strange controls I eventually fell in love with this GTA-esque title. It's one of the best free roaming action games that I've ever played and the recreation of LA is just amazing.
Call of Duty - I have an affinity for WWII shooters so it's no surprise that I'd put this one near the top of my list. Its intense battles and exhibition of comradrie really gave me a sense of how important these battles truly were. It's the only game that could replace Medal of Honor Allied Assault as my favorite FPS for the PC.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.