Specials: The early bird may catch the worm, but he also catches a beat down from all those dozens of other birds looking for the easiest way to satisfy their stomachs: Option B
"Better late than never." It's a common saying used often to ease the neurotic. Wise yet humorous, the catch phrase is a perfect line used for covering up someone's consequential delay. We here at Gaming Target must too borrow the oft-recycled saying for our final attempt at creating some kind of Game of the Year awards for the passed year. 2004 was so big on games, we're still trying to catch up on them. Unfortunately, the annual award's session we usually hold had seen prolonged complications that led us toward planning a second shot in a Valentine's Day Love/Hate special. When we couldn't bring you that feature either, we pieced together our one and final option that we could compile at the last minute. So here we are, Sony Target's own Chris Reiter and Adam Woolcott, expressing our thoughts on the winning games of 2004 in a feature we like to call Late and Loving It: Option C.
Best Adventure Game of 2004?
Chris: Was LifeLine
action or adventure?
Adam: A little of both I guess.
Chris: It had both genres headlined, but that's just more confusing than it is leading really.
Adam: Heh, the line is blurred these days.
Chris: Well anyway, I think it was an adventure title. Other than that, I can't really remember anything else that was an "adventure" game other than maybe Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude
Although, it's hard to figure what's "adventure" these days unless you're playing a Zelda game. But even those are thought to be RPGs by most people.
Adam: Yeah, I always think of games like Tomb Raider as adventure games, but there's not much like that anymore. I guess GTA and Metal Gear could be called adventure games though.
Chris: The Metal Gear, or Metal Gear Solid series (as the ones that I started playing) have always been stealth games to me. But, those are actually known as "stealth-action"...so, you figure they're stealth games with action involved in them. You know -- kicking, punching, shooting, and sneaking all rolled into one. Oh, and all the etceteras not mentioned too.
Adam: Uh huh. There are far too few adventure games nowadays, the true ones. Perhaps there will be a revival one day, until then, this is a hard category to call.
Chris: Well, out of the few known "adventure" games, I'll just make my quick pick: Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. LifeLine was unique and all, but shouting was damn annoying at times. Plus, Rio never got naked like Larry's lovelies did.
Adam: Thankfully, or your infamous Lifeline review would be all the more disturbing.
Chris: My LifeLine review is a treasured asset to the site.
Adam: Sure, sure. Let's get to the next category, you freak.
Chris: What's your pick for adventure then?
Adam: I'm abstaining simply because I have no idea.
Chris: You heard it here first pervs: boobs rules all in 2004!
Best Action Game of 2004?
Adam: Well, I gave GTA: San Andreas
a 10, so this one is pretty simple. However, Metal Gear Solid 3
is right behind it.
Chris: I was disappointed in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Those are just my initial impressions, however. I mean, I rarely played the game thus far.
Adam: I played all the way through San Andreas and all the way through MGS3. You = owned. Me = exhausted.
Chris: It's not just the time thing, though. When I was cast into the new GTA world, I just wasn't as drawn into it as I was with previous games in the series. Turning to the chat station was one of the first things I did, as "those" are usually my favorite things to listen to while I'm driving. If I'm not laughing, I'm not loving it.
Unfortunately, the new chat station was cut short with decent, but hardly effective material. The comedy present was a number of short-lived shows that didn't reach that level of funny you'd expect, because every episodic content used wasn't long enough to get the comedy through enough.
Adam: The radio is probably the weakest aspect -- I'm looking to get the Xbox version later this year merely to put in my own soundtrack. Though the Axl Rose sighting was nice. Otherwise...three cities full of stuff to do, massive countryside, weird humor -- these things are what drew me to the game. Plus, once you get past the initial 'gangsta' story, it opens up into a casino-hitting, crazy-bitch tolerating, revenge-getting epic.
Though admittedly, GTA's story doesn't touch the greatness of MGS3's own -- with crazy twists, memorable characters (save the extremely weak bosses that have almost no backstory), and great stealth/action gameplay. I still don't know if I like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater or Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty more.
Chris: Most of the other stations in San Andreas were mainly rap, a couple of genres I'm not really interested in (like country or reggae), and then the one rock station that had a couple familiar songs. Most songs I couldn't name the bands of. The early 90's I remember better for other material that wasn't used in the game, as in the same way Rockstar had crammed Vice City with 80's beats from almost any artist or song you could recognize right off the bat.
I definitely loved Metal Gear Solid 2 more than I did the third one. Each of the cobras in MGS3 could be defeated easily. The boss fights are supposed to be the strongest element of any Metal Gear Solid game, and yet these guys could be killed off without much fuss.
Adam: Well moving from the big hitters, I want to recognize some of the underdogs of this year, such as Psi-Ops
and The Suffering
. Both from Midway, ironically. Neither were big sellers or anything like that, but both were creative entries into the action game genre that tried something different -- Psi-Ops for its unique psi-powers, and The Suffering for its bizarre story.
Chris: Having played the demo of Psi-Ops, I have to agree that this was a pretty interesting game. I liked how you could do so much with so little -- just using your mind powers that is.
Adam: You haven't lived until you make enemies kill themselves by taking control of their minds.
Chris: And you haven't lived until you've seen Barbara Jo have her naked cloned sister appear from out of nowhere, where both sisters simultaneously screw Larry at the same time.
Adam: Pervert. What category is next, sicko?
Chris: Next is fighting. But first, to sum up our action corner: Metal Gear Solid 3 was my favorite action title of the year, for its beautiful cinema, some classic bosses (even though some of them were cheap), its amazing graphics and sound design, and its innovative new stealth techniques and original survival influences.
Best Fighting Game of 2004?
Chris: I haven't played a single fighting game in 2004. But the word of the day is HOOZAH! The "cover-up" word of the day that is...
Adam: There was no Tekken, no Virtua Fighter, no Soul Calibur. What we're left with is...Mortal Kombat
On second thought, Midway Arcade Treasures 2
has Mortal Kombat II. So that.
Chris: I played the demo of the new Mortal Kombat game. I've seen that game getting some pretty high scores. What I've played of the demo, however, left me with the impression that the controls were sloppily done with jerky movement.
Adam: The best part of Deception is Puzzle Kombat. That says a lot about the mediocrity of the actual fighting game. Dead or Alive Ultimate
, as tacky as it might be, is a deep fighter with some damn nice graphics and online play...though it's not much more than DOA2 with a fresh coat of paint. We needed Tekken 5 this year, otherwise fighters have been a wash.
Chris: With me, the fighting genre these years is almost always a wash.
Adam: Sounds like me and adventure games.
Chris: And me and sports games.
Adam: So what's next?
RPG Game of 2004?
Adam: Uh, I played a ton of 'em this year, and I will settle on Shadow Hearts: Covenant
. The original came out in the shadow of Final Fantasy X, so it never got a chance. Covenant on the other hand, has a goofy yet somber story, memorable and amusing characters, a battle system that nobody else has gotten around to stealing yet, and some of the best CG in the business (rivaling Square at times). There are many other great RPG releases in 2004, such as Tales of Symphonia
, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
, Star Ocean 3
, and Baten Kaitos
, but Shadow Hearts really blew me away by how polished and incredibly epic it is.
Chris: For me, the decision is a bit tough. I was looking forward to Fable
ever since I knew it as Project Ego. However, Fable obviously lacked somewhat in certain departments (i.e., it got to be a bit easy and was a bit on the short side). The story wasn't as epic as it could've been. The graphics were tremendous like I'd hoped they'd be, but had some glaring flaws (the ground would turn into green goop often). There were a few other gripes (like the sex scenes not being what you'd expect), but I don't want to go into much detail about that.
Adam: I didn't like Fable much at all. I got bored of the game pretty fast due to the dull world and meh characters. Same goes for Star Wars: KOTOR II
, which had the great battle system but didn't carry the appeal of the first game.
Chris: Between Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
and my third and final "RPG favorite," I think I'd go with Star Ocean: Till the End of Time as my final choice. Out of the three games, its world was the one overflowing with the greatest storyline, a definitive battle system, and some interesting side stuff and characters.
Paper Mario was very unique, but I think Star Ocean being the more "epic" of the two pushes that over the edge for me.
Adam: Star Ocean suffers from one of the poor plot twists in a while which knocks it down a bit personally. It's a great game but it's still got some work to be done.
Chris: Unfortunately, I can only base my opinion of Star Ocean 3 of around 30 hours into the game, while with Fable and Paper Mario I both completed. Yeah, it's a bias pick, but release me of all these other games taking up my time, and I figure it'd be my choice in the end anyway.
Adam: Go you. Next up?
Platform Game of 2004?
Adam: Jak 3
. Nuff said.
Chris: Jak 3. You knew I was going to say that.
Adam: That was easy.
Chris: But, we should give some credit to games like Ratchet and Clank 3
, Tak 2
, and even the newest Crash Bandicoot
. For, if not these games fared worser, Jak 3 wouldn't fare better.
Adam: Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal as well, though it's more of an action game than a platformer...but then, even Jak 3 isn't all-platform all the time. Sly 2
I have not played yet, but I did enjoy the first. But Jak 3 is definitely a great game and wraps the trilogy up nicely.
Chris: I watched Sly 2 being played by our very own Matt Swider at last year's E3, which counts for something. I just want to say that it looked like an interesting game. But having played the first one I thought it was a decent platform entry for its first time, though not a "great" one, if you know what I mean.
Jak 3, on the other hand, did wrap up the series nicely. However, the game could've been longer.
Adam: It is what it is, and that's the best platformer this year.
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Sports Game of 2004?
Adam: LOL...am I alone here?
Chris: I bought Mario Power Tennis
. I haven't played it yet, but that's got to count for something.
Adam: It counts that you're crazy. Anyway, since I'm the one who actually plays the sports games, I will go with ESPN NFL 2K5
. Now that EA has gamed out the NFL and there's no more NFL games other than Madden, it takes on more importance. It came out at $30 less than EA, had support for the oft-ignored HDD, and was a great looking game. Plus...it's actually fun! But, only if NBA Street 3 came out last year and not this year...
Chris: While I'm not a sports fanatic, I can at least relate with hardcore fans of the genre on the subject of EA's arrogant move to dominate the genre. I've never really been a fan of EA's. Their games and their methods of making games hardly influenced my buying decisions. I just can't see why or how so many people gave EA so much money just so that same company could crap on them years later.
Adam: EA was threatened by Sega, and EA took the easy way out. Not many other ways to slice it.
Chris: If EA were a real game company, they wouldn't let gamers suffer. EA's just a black-hearted business, not a game company.
Adam: Well, most of the hardcore gamers don't look to EA as anything other than an occasional diversion, so there's not a lot to worry about. They haven't proven they can compete in the genres that aren't sports or racing, anyway. So yeah...what do we get to argue about next?
Extreme Sports Game of 2004?
Adam: They still make those?
Chris: There was Tony Hawk's Underground 2
. I can't think of anything besides that one.
Adam: The last one I played was THUG and it wasn't very good. Talk about a genre that died as fast as it rose.
Chris: Yeah, I was disappointed with THUG myself. It wasn't that it was a bad game, but it just seemed like Neversoft didn't do a whole lot to really upgrade the already established skating genre. If they're trying to add story to a skating game, don't make it suck.
I created a girl character like I always do (girls rules). But, I was called "dude" in the entire game, which is really weird. Not that you can expect much quality from a story from a skateboarding game anyway.
Adam: So, I have an idea. Let's give Tony Hawk a lifetime achievement award, since no game in the genre deserves an award.