There’s something about 2001 that makes is a very iffy year for me. The first half of 2001 it was our final moments of experiencing the magic and atmosphere of the 1990s. Then second half it started a new era of the new world but wasn’t all the good. For one, The Attitude Era has ended, WCW and ECW was bought out by Vince McMahon, The Dreamcast disbanded so early, the PS1 and N64 also disbanded for the new PS2 and Gamecube consoles, and 9/11… just one of the saddest moments of my life. Who knew that the year that Stanley Kubrick predicted was the year we would obtain greatness turned out to be some of the most depressing years and later throughout the 2000s, it’s all up and down from here. Don’t get me wrong, 2001 was great year in gaming where Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have been in a new era of rivalry and still to this very day they’re still in competition in our modern day console war. Though Sega will be truly missed, it still is a year that had a lot of offer, but in the later years it started to decline because all that was good about the 1990s started to slow down fast. At least video games still had a lot to offer, so here are the 10 best games of 2001.
Number 10. – Sonic Adventure 2
It’s really sad to see that the Sega Dreamcast didn’t last as long as it should have. Interesting to see they ended the game’s lifespan by releasing the sequel of the system’s killer launch title, Sonic Adventure. Sonic Adventure 2‘s stages are split in to three types: action (Sonic/Shadow), shooting (Tails/Eggman), and treasure hunting (Knuckles/Rouge) and are all divided into two separate teams; team dark and team heroes. The flow of the game gets rid of the “adventure” element from the first Sonic Adventure, opting for a level-to-level rhythm that truer to the nature of a Sonic game. Unfortunately, this rhythm is a staccato beat due to the forced switching of characters between levels. The choosing of one character and then sticking to that character in the original Sonic Adventure works out much better then jumping from one creature to the next in Sonic Adventure2. Fix one thing only to break another. Though playing as Sonic and Shadow is incredibly fast and straightforward (the best part of the game), the same cannot be said about Knuckles/Rouge hunting for crystals in order (the space level was the worst) and Eggman/Tails was just a mind-less shooter (seriously, Tails can fly, so why put him in a mech?). Despite the game’s flaws, there are a lot of improvements the game made over the original like the homing attack and ring dash is so simple, the Choa pet-simulator mode is much better, and there are some replay value with all levels of the game. The game’s Legacy will never die because the Gamecube version of Sonic Adventure 2 was released the following year to show what we all missed out.
Number 9. – Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Back in 1997, when the Nintendo 64 was released and were still announcing new titles, we were introduced to Conker’s Quest by Rareware which was supposed to be the more kid-friendly version of Super Mario 64. Four years later, Rareware finally released this title out of complete surprise. How so? We’re talking about some of the most adult game that ever graced on any Nintendo system! For a N64 game,this game it looks so great that it looks like a game off of a Playstation 2! RARE put their best efforts into this game because it’s really unbelievable that it’s off a cartridge! Conker’s Bad Fur Day is remembered for it’s comedy as they often love to reference familiar films like The Clockwork Orange, Saving Private Ryan, The Matrix, Vampire movies, and so many more making it a fantastic video game satire since Gex: Deep Cover Gecko. But that’s not to say that this game only relies on its pop culture references to keep the game alive because this N64 title also has its own creative humor like a singing poo as a boss, hillbilly talking paint bucket, brush, and a pitchfork, a bunch of breaking-the-fourth-wall, and so many more! For the final year of the Nintendo 64’s lifespan, Conker’s Bad Fur Day left us with a bang and an impression that makes so many out there to still talk about this game. The only reason why this game could not get any higher is because it’s filled with design flaws – try collecting all the bees in the first world without recollecting all the bees, racing on lava with a lot of instant kills, and even a terrible swimming mechanics that will tear your hair!
Number 8. – Black & White
Blending genres into a truly unique, addicting experience, this is a revolutionary game that deserves every ounce of the attention it has been getting. At its core, Black & White is a strategy god sim with ties to the past Molyneux hit Populous. But from the interface to the graphics to the multi-tiered complexity of the gameplay, it’s quite unlike any other strategy title you’ve played before. The premise is simple: you’re a god and it’s your task to convert as many nonbelievers to your cause as possible, thereby gaining power. You can be a good god or a bad god, an evil master of destruction or a benevolent flower daddy – or any of the millions of shades in between. By managing your villages and fighting other gods, you vie for ultimate control. With this kind of freedom, however, comes some wily control. Though the game gives players several ways to navigate the land (mouse commands, keyboard commands, hotkeys, bookmarks, etc.), the learning curve is steep. Even accomplished gamers will fight with the camera for a bit before it becomes comfortable. But considering the revolutionary freedom of the game engine, this isn’t really a flaw so much as a fact.
You choose one of three initial Creatures to nourish, teach and instruct from infancy up into lumbering, awe-inspiring Godzilla-ness. The Creature acts as a physical manifestation of your presence. By petting it gently or backhanding it Ike Turner style, you can teach it to do just about anything. The AI here is nothing short of groundbreaking. Unlike a Tamagotchi, it will act independently to feed itself, relieve itself, and do, well, just about anything. Help it develop a taste for enemy villagers and it might run into their village for a midnight snack. Teach it to cast spells and it’ll act like a gigantic Copperfield. Heck, you can even instruct it to poop in the ocean. The range of behaviors and the seeming randomness of it all means your Creature might do anything at any moment. In short, it’s a piece of code that truly acts like a living thing. Astonishing. Black & White has captivated the entire GR staff with its amazingly creative and unique gameplay, graphics and humor. It’s the sort of game that comes around once every few years and totally changes the gaming landscape.
Number 7. – Aliens versus Predator 2
Aliens Versus Predator 2 gives players the chance to play as an Alien, Predator, or Marine either through single player campaigns for each of the races or in multiplayer matches over the internet. The single player campaign provides seven missions for each of the races, for a total of 21. The bad news is that the campaign feels a little on the short side. The first couple of missions in each campaign are not technically tutorials, but they do serve to set up the story and give the player the opportunity to learn to control each individual species. Veteran players will breeze through the first part of each of the campaigns in no time at the normal difficulty settings. That being said, the good news is that the storyline created for the campaign game is very good, and each of the three campaigns are expertly interwoven into a single story played out in parallel. As an Alien, you are a test subject that manages to escape and set the wheels in motion for events that will raise havoc on the research station. The distress signal is picked up by a military ship which contains the Marine featured in the Marine campaign. At a point in this campaign, the Marine inadvertently frees a captured Predator stored at the facility. How did this Predator come to be captured and what does it want to do after being freed? Play the Predator campaign to find out. The three campaigns intersect at more than one point, and it is very entertaining to see the story unfold from three different viewpoints. Only after completing all three campaigns will the player get the whole story. It’s not easy to put together a compelling storyline for a game, but not only does Aliens Versus Predators 2 pull it off, it does so from three different perspectives. Multiplayer games are supported in several modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch, survivor, hunt, evac, and overrun. Aliens Versus Predator 2 does an excellent job of capturing the atmosphere and feel of the movies on which the game is based. The intriguing, interwoven campaign games are excellent, and give the game a different feel when played from the different perspectives of the three races featured in the game. They may be a little on the short side, but most players will find them thoroughly enjoyable.
Number 6. – Shenmue 2
Shenmue II is like a long satisfying evening meal. It starts off with a tasty introduction to whet your appetite, and then slowly eases you in till you can’t help but indulge yourself in the delights of what you have been presented. Then there’s the ending which might leave you bloated and uncomfortable but will have you simply wanting more. Shenmue II is epic in every sense of the word, from the sprawling cities to the achingly beautiful musical score; the game just oozes quality and is arguably one of the most important releases in the Dreamcast’s limited lifespan. Being the sequel to one of the most loved and loathed titles of the generation 6, there were a lot of expectations and excitement leading up to release. This added with news that the title wouldn’t see the light of day in the USA; made those last remaining fans feel special that they would be able to experience the game in its original form before anyone else. Everything you loved about the original has been taken and refined with the result being one of the most daring and epic adventures of last generation. A fantastic cast of characters (well, maybe not Delin), seamless interaction with everything around you, a gripping Hollywood style narrative and a blockbuster musical score make this an experience like no other. Yes it has its flaws, but what game doesn’t? One part of the title completely blocks progression till you have a sufficient amount of Yen, this means finding employment or spending hours gambling only to end up with as much money as when you started. This is quite easily the lowest and most tedious section of the game but it doesn’t detract from the overall experience, the rest of the title is just too enjoyable to be broken by such a petite issue. The Dreamcast version of the game only carries the Japanese voice track and English subtitles, however there is also an Xbox port which contains a localized dubbing. It’s generally advised against this version though as it contains some of the downright worst voice work ever recorded. Overall, Shenmue II is for the fans, it’s not likely to attract new fans nor has it broken new ground in the genre but it’s undoubtedly a memorable and special experience.
Number 5. – Grand Theft Auto III
Grand Theft Auto 3 is no doubt the most revolutionary and most influential game on this list. And for good reason! It’s the one game genre that started brand new genre called Sandbox games. Never before has there been a game that brings us into this world and allow us to play the way was want to. Rockstar has done a great job of melding mission-based gameplay with the freedom of an open-ended world. GTA3 is a game that provides both an interesting storyline and a large living and breathing city filled with bonus power-ups and weapons, secret spots, and hidden vehicles. As you move around Liberty City you’ll see that it is living city, and not just the copy and pasted building textures used by many games to pass as urban environments. First of all, the city is divided into neighborhoods, each with its own character and landmarks. Secondly, the city is not a vast urban vacuum. People walk the sidewalks and cars drive the streets. Working stoplights control the flow of traffic and the city lights go on and off with the cycle of the day. There’s even weather in the game and you might find yourself in the middle of a downpour at some point. The people in the city are not just window dressing, they will realistically react to your actions. As you drive down the streets cars will honk and dodge to get out of your way, and then yell insults at you as you pass. Hit somebody in a crowded area, and the rest of the passerby’s will run away and scream for the police. But you have to appreciate that these things are small fry compared to the main dish. GTA3 is a luscious, sprawling epic of a game and one of the most complete experiences I have ever encountered.
Number 4. – Super Smash Bros. Melee
The original Super Smash Bros. proved to be one of the Nintendo 64’s most beloved multiplayer games, and HAL Laboratories managed to improve the four-player fighter in just about every way imaginable. With a massive roster of so many iconic video game characters, gorgeous visuals, and a slew of things to unlock, Super Smash Bros. Melee is easily the most fun GameCube game to play if you’re looking to kick back and have a good time with your friends. The ability to pummel Ganondorf with Mr. Game & Watch is reason to put attention to this game. Special Melee offers up an even more bizarre set of scenarios for groups to challenge each other with – including fighting at double speed, half speed, at risk of instant death, or restricted to only a basic set of controls. With 25 characters to choose from, plus an extra transformation, compared with just 12 in the original Smash. Melee’s roster is itself an incredible homage to the greatest stable of video game characters ever. Obvious inclusions like Link, Mario, Samus, Pikachu, and Kirby are joined by lesser known heroes like Mr. Game & Watch, Dr. Mario, and the Ice Climbers. Incredibly, the game’s two Fire Emblem fighters, Marth and Roy, were virtual unknowns in the west at launch – no Fire Emblem games having ever been released here. Their popularity in Melee prompted Nintendo to start selling Fire Emblemtitles in the west. Such is the power and popularity of Smash. How can anyone NOT like this game? It had what was going for it in the last game, and completely blew it up and made something special. There is some new gameplay mechanics like dodging… and that’s pretty much it, but it adds more strategy to the game. More characters, more items, more stages.. this is a true sequel, and a very damn good one.
Number 3. – Halo: Combat Evolved
When the Xbox was released, what’s the the big talk about the system? Well, there wasn’t anything to talk about than a brand new franchise called Halo. This was unlike any shooter of its time where we were given a war drama that made the campaign worth a damn. The story is great and progresses you through the game very believingly with twists and turns that keep it intriguing. Each of the game’s campaign refuses to stop being suspenseful as you have the best variety of expanded level designs, coolest weapons (seriously the pistol is the best ever seen in the FPS), great variety of vehicles (such as the Scorpion tank, hoverbikes Ghosts, Banshees, and a Warthog), and so many enemies to blow off or gun down. Even despite the fact that the enemy variety is left to be desired (Elite, Grunt, and Hunter) the game’s atmosphere is like no other. And if that’s not a good enough reason why to play Halo there’s the multiplayer. The multiplayer was so much fun with it’s competitive nature, has all the weapons and vehicles seen from the campaign, expended map selection that so fleshed out, and so many more that creates many hours of fun. But in the end, Halo has totally revolutionized how we look at console FPS games. Because of its revolutionary take on FPS, it became the phenomenon that it really is. For the entire decade we have to endure the annoyance of Halo fanboys and even the awesome Red vs. Blue comedic series. Combat Evolved never becomes a simple shooting game. This piece of work will continue to shine in your Xbox because of how varied it is. With an addictive multiplayer mode, completely random single player experience, and the title of Halo, you won’t be let down.
Number 2. – Silent Hill 2
The Silent Hill trilogy is the best horror trilogy ever! You have individual main characters coming in the town of silent hill, all the monsters come out as your worst nightmares as representations of character’s psychological troubles, and each of the stories are so well told. But if I had to choose which of the three are the best I have to choose Silent Hill 2. There’s no doubt in my mind that Silent Hill 2 is just the best of its kind (even though the newer games are subpar). It offered some of the most engaging puzzles, biggest surprises, and even the best stories that the genre could offer. Each of the characters have their sorrows and trouble and you question if any of them or any thing is real. You can relate to almost any character of this game and see what drove them phycological, which makes it a very deep and powerful storytelling. Not to mention that Silent Hill is so pleasant, yet disturbing that it feels like it has its own character. Most of all you have a sexually oppressed widower James on the hunt for his lost wife, Mary, in Silent Hill in hopes that she’s still alive somewhere and from here on out, you got yourself just some of the most surprising and deep adventures you can ever see in any video game. The original Silent Hill left me a great impression because it was the first game that I ever fainted; it really was that scary. What beats the game that started it all? How about the sequel that took everything to the next level? Silent Hill 2 was smarter, slicker and more compelling than the original, and it wasn’t afraid to really mess with the player by tackling taboo topics other video games shied away from at the time. Rape, murder, suicide, molestation — that was a brave goddamn game. And of course, it introduced us to Pyramid Head, who would go on to become one of the most iconic monsters in gaming. If a game is judged by its story, then its no wonder why Silent Hill 2 is regarded as some of the best games of all time.
Number 1. – Jak & Daxter: The Precursor’s Legacy
It’s really amazing that the developers that made the Crash Bandicoot trilogy on the PS1 (a series that is linear gameplay at it’s best) took an extra mile by giving us a Banjo-Kazooie style open-world game! Though it is heartbreaking to see that the Crash Bandicoot series are in the hands of the wrong developers, this jump to a new era of gaming never felt so beautiful. Jak, a mute hero whose companion, Daxter transverse to an entire country-size world that has 16 different areas, including Jungle, Snowy and Underground locations. Each level seamlessly links to the next, with zero loading times between them. This maintains a great flow, and the player rarely feels removed from the game world. The main objective of each level is to collect Power Cells, usually in order to open new stages, through multiple methods. This includes paying greedy civilians in the hub levels, collecting them manually in the action stages or through objectives, or finding all 7 crates containing special bugs in every level. The game contains 100 Power Cells, but only about 80 of those are necessary to complete the main story. You could probably blow through the story segment of Jak in around 10 hours. It’ll take a little bit longer, of course, to collect everything the game has to offer, but so so worth it!
If that’s not enough, you also have the awesome eco powers which can be utilised during both platforming and combat sections. There are 3 different types, each coming with their own special colour. Blue Eco speeds Jak up, as well as turning him into a magnet for collectables and nearby objects, Yellow Eco lets Jak shoot powerful fireballs and Red increases the strength of his moves. You can also collect Green Eco to restore his health, which comes in three segments plus an extra life not visible on the meter. Though not as prevalent, Dark Eco also makes appearances in the game’s pitfalls, and these can kill Jak pretty quickly if the player isn’t careful. Eco Powers add a unique touch to the game, and definitely spice up the action. Best of all this is all done with no loading screen whatsoever and still to this day we have video games that still test our patience with damn load times. It’s brilliant, entertaining, and stunning. Naughty Dog has truly mastered the Playstation 2’s power to create what is arguably the best looking game ever. The characters and levels are richly detailed but it’s the little touches such as the raindrops on the camera lens, the humorous animation on Daxter, the varied characters and superb level design that make this game all the more impressive. The thrill of playing this game can’t be described, but one thing is certain. If you own a Playstation 2 then you are doing yourself a big injustice if you don’t experience this masterpiece. It’s phenomenal.