4th Annual PSX Extreme Awards (Part 3 of 3)
Publisher/Developer of the Year
Electronic Arts was a heavy contender for this spot, as was Sony, though when it came down to it all, the developer for the extra edge in its titles took home the award. Sega was all about being both mainstream and different this year. Their 2002 library, across all platforms, was sensational to put it in short. For starters, Sega's PS2 library for the year came off to an incredible start with releases for both the hardcore and mainstream crowd. First came Rez; an on-rails 3D shooter with a visual twist like no other. Following Rez was NBA 2K2, which was at the time the best b-ball title out. And closing out the entering three was Virtua Fighter 4, which is perhaps the greatest fighting game ever made. As time progressed, Sega released excellent titles such as Jet Set Radio Future (Xbox), Sega Sports Tennis (PS2), Sega GT 2002 (Xbox), NBA 2K3 (all), NFL 2K3 (all), NHL 2K3 (all), NCAA Basketball 2K3 (all), GunValkyrie (Xbox), Sonic Mega Collection (GameCube), World Series Baseball (Xbox), Ferrari 355 Challenge (PS2), Sonic Adventure 2 (GameCube), Super Monkey Ball 2 (GameCube), Virtua Tennis (GameBoy Advance), Super Monkey Ball Jr. (GameBoy Advance), Shinobi (PS2), Beach Spikers (GameCube), and perhaps a few others that I may have forgotten. When it's all said and done, Sega stands out from the crowd as the best publisher/developer of the year by far. They had the better sports line, they had some of the best action games of the year, they had the best multi-player, shooting and fighting game of the year, not to mention one hell of a racing game on the Xbox, and one of the best puzzle titles ever on the GameCube. What Sega did this year will stand unrivaled by any other publisher for quite some time.
PSX Extreme salutes Sega and all of its developers for an excellent year. Here's hoping 2003 ends up every bit as exciting!
Best Game That Isn't a PS2 Game
Metroid Prime (Nintendo/Retro)
"Let's get right to the point: Metroid Prime is the best GameCube game to date. It's one of the best games on any platform this year, and, for good measure, it's also the best game yet in Nintendo's highly acclaimed Metroid series. Many were rightfully skeptical about whether an unknown Texas-based developer could take the classic open-ended, side-scrolling action adventure gameplay formula of the Metroid series and successfully translate it into 3D. And these are the people who will no doubt come away most impressed of all with Metroid Prime, which is in every respect a pure and true successor to the series of games that inspired it. At the same time, those who have never played a Metroid game before are likely to be just as taken with Metroid Prime. This first-person action adventure game is filled with so much detail, style, and originality that literally every gamer should play it." -- Greg Kasavin, Executive Editor, Gamespot.com
Ryan's Game of the Year Picks
5: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City- Vice City is one of the best games this year for the simple fact that it was able to improve upon one of the most highly acclaimed games in the history of the industry. By building on GTA 3's strengths, while fixing a great many of it's weaknesses, Vice City stands alone as a worthy sequel to the penultimate crime saga.
4: Ratchet and Clank- When the XBOX and the Game Cube launched, many in the industry felt that the Playstation 2 was no longer a competitor when it came to hardware. With the belief that the two newer consoles would quickly trounce the PS2, many developers began showing less favor to the market favorite. However, every once in a while, the Playstation 2 gets a hit title that proves it still has the horsepower to compete. This year, Ratchet and Clank did just that, by offering huge, incredibly detailed worlds, with beautiful color, shading, and more. Truly an impressive game visually, Ratchet and Clank also stands out as a fresh and innovative platformer, and arguably the best one ever at that. With dozens of awesome gadgetry and weaponry at hand, coupled with high humor and solid gameplay, Ratchet and Clank not only proved that the PS2 still had technical life left, but once again reaffirmed why the PS2 is #1 in the industry- great content.
3: Drakan: The Ancients' Gate- Perhaps the most underrated game of 2002, Drakan is no doubt one of the most breathtaking visual achievements on the Playstation 2 to date. Environments in this game are so large they prove to be intimidating, and exploring each area of the game can take hours upon hours. With a hearty story backing up the gameplay, it is easy to lose 40-50 hours on this game before you even know it. Perhaps the best way to label Drakan is as a Zelda-esque adventure of epic nature, sure to please any fan of the genre, making it a more than worthy title for the PS2.
2: Mark of Kri- Obviously, critics were fairly split when it came to this game, but personally, there was no better game for the Playstation 2 this year than Mark of Kri. The relatively fresh concept of multiple enemy combat is given a nice face lift by Sony, with a healthy injection of stealth action into the mix. However, players could still risk all, taking on hoards of enemies at the same time, being able to target up to nine foes at one time. However, more than a gory slash 'em up game, Mark of Kri was well balanced, not only because of its stealth elements, but because of the amazingly detailed Disney-esque visuals that leant such a mischievous air to the violence around you. Of course, when you get down to the nitty gritty, Mark of Kri is an incredibly bloody, gory game not meant for younger audiences. However, with multiple levels, each containing several objectives as well as optional side quests, not to mention all the unlockable features and cheats and codes, Mark of Kri provides loads of replay and hours of decapitating fun for anyone mature enough to handle it.
1: Metroid Prime- It's no surprise that Metroid Prime is widely recognized as the best game of the year. After all, it received the largest single game budget for a Nintendo game since Ocarina of Time. With that kind of backing, coupled with the inspiration of the often singular genius of Nintendo, Prime was destined for greatness. While many were openly reserved about the game before release, it quickly became obvious that Prime not only did the famed Metroid series proud, but also broke new ground in terms of next-gen gameplay. As perhaps the first true FPA (First Person Adventure) Prime was able to mix a lot of different gameplay elements from several genres, giving almost any fan something to enjoy. With a great deal of exploration, combat, and above all, style, Prime is everything a gamer looks for in a game.
Joseph's Game of the Year Picks:
5: WWE Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth: Overall, it may not be any diamond in the rough, but for wrestling fans and sports fans alike, Yuke’s latest foray easily usurps any previous next-generation attempts at a solid wrestling title. With many of the complaints from previous Smackdown games fixed, a totally revamped graphics system, one of the most evolved single-player modes around, and an endless amount of fun in the multi-player department, Shut Your Mouth was, needless to say, a deep breath of fresh air for anyone whom it concerned. Did we also mention that for once the roster was almost fully up to date? If this is the direction THQ and Yuke’s is headed, we can surely look forward to many great years of wrestling mayhem.
4: NBA 2K3: Following up to Sega Sports’ first PlayStation 2 basketball installment, this Dreamcast-born basketball title brought the fresh, solid atmosphere of the NBA 2K2 port and bumped it to the next level. Up-to-date rosters, relatively solid graphics, and tight, intuitive controls summed up to the basketball simulation, hands-down. It just goes to show people how the acquirement of the 3rd party developer/publisher Sega was; and hopefully it’s just the beginning of things to come.
3: Maximo: Ghosts to Glory: Capcom’s updated rendition of an ol’ school franchise, Maximo was a game that embodied both ol’ school and new-age elements. Taking place in a medieval time frame, the 3-dimensional action/adventure included a colorful cast of characters, a witty story line, and unusually addicting gameplay. The length and challenge of the game were both adequate and are coupled by a dynamic gameplay system. The game just oozes with character, oozes. Certainly a testament that archaic games can indeed be revived and revived correctly.
2: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: The GTA franchise has been around for some time now, but never has it taken off like it has until making its way to the PlayStation 2. Taking the intricately fabricated formula that made Grand Theft Auto 3 so great, Vice City duplicates that and is then bolstered with a deluge of additional options, features, and items. Buy your own businesses, establish yourself as the man of the area, run the whole city, cruise the infested streets in motorcycles -- it’s all there for you to explore, and it’s all so engrossingly addicting, with players easily playing through hours at a time.
1: TimeSplitters 2: Easily among the ranks of the best first-person shooters ever made, TimeSplitters takes a typical approach to the genre but pulls it off with flying colors. With a crisp, sleek look, a fairly long single-player adventure, spot-on controls, and a timeless multi-player option, TimeSplitters 2 seems to be a game for the ages. Incredibly fun whether one’s with his friends or by himself, TimeSplitters 2 is definitely one of the best titles to ever make its way to the system -- and a must-have in any gaming fan’s library.
Matt's Game of the Year Picks:
5. High Heat Major League Baseball 2003: Easily the best baseball title of last year, sports fans finally were given a version of simulation baseball they could call their own. With intense gameplay and realistic game physics, 3DO managed to develop something wonderful. Although not quite reaching "Best Sports Game" status, anyone who considers themselves a fan of baseball should realize this is the franchise to contend with in the future.
4. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Luckily I came across this game in the past month and let me say it is simply breathtaking. Being a huge fan of both LOTR movies, I went into this game with high expectations. Usually this sort of thinking can damage the quality of a game, but I couldn't believe how perfectly this game was converted from the mind of J.R.R Tolkien.
3. Madden NFL 2003: My choice for "Best Sports Game" of the year, EA once again shines with this gridiron giant. The game combines the intensity of professional football and continues to post the best gameplay of any football series to date (despite what some people may tell you). Madden NFL 2003 is the smoothest, most realistic title amongst its competitors and its sales display this factor. Maintaining its position as one of the best overall sports' franchises ever, it's no surprise that Madden NFL 2003 is amongst the top three games of the year.
2. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: Rockstar continues to deliver the goods with what is hands-down the best PS2 game of the year. After finally getting into this game, I must say I was shocked at how the developers were able to make such an explosive game once again. The 1980's couldn't be displayed any more sadistic, and it's that type of atmosphere that pushes this game into blockbuster status. From the free-roaming cities to the action-packed story, GTA: VC has everything you could imagine.
1: Metroid Fusion: That's right folks, the best game of the year is Metroid Fusion, and I don't want to hear any whining! Starting off where Super Metroid left off on the SNES, Metroid Fusion is the epitome of an adventure title and demonstrates some of the best gameplay mechanics I've ever played; not just including this year. For anyone who loved Super Metroid, you will be blown away with this spectacular sequel and will literally be addicted to its awesome game mechanics. Shining where all other PS2 titles fail, the GBA can be proud with what is the best game of the year.
Arnold's Game of the Year Picks:
5) Tekken 4
With a deeper and more engrossing focus on story, Tekken Force mode, 4 new characters, fully interactive multi-level fighting planes, the ability to dodge/sidestep, and lastly, Steve Fox (he deserves a mention of his own), Tekken 4's gameplay certainly lives up. Visually the game easily rivals Dead or Alive 3, while not in background textures, certainly in character detail, overall picture quality and of course, the "physics".
4) The Mark of Kri
I happen to like The Mark of Kri a lot. It's nicely executed and intriguing title with excellent atmosphere, and a great and intuitive combat system to boot. It's visually appealing, no doubt, and the audio is top-notch to say the least. The controls can be quickly learned once you take a stroll through the training level, and from there on your journey will begin. Replay wise, it's roughly a 10-12 hour adventure, but chances are you'll find yourself re-spawning back a save point, after five enemies pummeled you to your death, so the game is hardly a breeze. If you're still torn as to whether or not you should purchase the game, I'd certainly recommend at least renting it and giving it a shot -- it's certainly worth that, if not more. The Mark of Kri is certainly one title that I'll be playing throughout the year; it's a great game.
3) NFL 2K3
To me, it's quite obvious that NFL 2K3 is a marvelous all around game. Visually it has no peer, and gameplay wise Madden doesn't quite stand up. And while the Franchise mode isn't quite as deep as Madden's (but almost as), everything else completely rocks. NFL 2K3 is the football game you've been dreaming of since the technology of uber three-dimensional visuals have been created. The game has everything you've ever wanted from a pigskin sim, and perhaps more. The online mode is not time limited, so servers will not be shut down when NFL 2K4 hits shelves next summer. The commentary annihilates whatever Madden 2003 does, the controls are just spot on and present the ideal feel for the entire game. As a whole package, NFL 2K3 can't really get too much better. Perhaps, somewhere there is some room for improvement, but apparently, that space is too thin to slip a knife though.
2) Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2
It took 4 years, but the Need for Speed franchise has finally been put back on its feet and planted in a new pot of soil. Hot Pursuit 2 does absolutely everything right. While it's not perfect, this is about as close to perfect you'll get with an arcade racer. NFS: HP2 is easily one of the finest racing games to ever grace a console, and in a genre dominated by Gran Turismo, that's saying a lot. I haven't had this much fun, joy, excitement, and an adrenaline rush with a racing title in a very long time. Visually, HP2 is a gorgeous game. Technical jargon aside, the game plays like everything I wished for it to play like. The sense of speed doubles the whole experience, and without it the game wouldn't have been as fantastic as it is. Just look at the Xbox and GameCube versions, they are sub-par and boring titles because they have a very sluggish sense of speed, not to mention awkward visual presentation. By now, if you're not convinced that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is one of the finest titles of the year and on the PS2, then I don't know what else to say. Do not pass this game up. Run to your store right now and pick up a copy of Hot Pursuit 2, if you know what's good for you.
1) Virtua Fighter 4
Virtua Fighter 4 is arguably the best fighting game of all time. It's been since Soul Calibur that I've praised a fighting game this much, and not since Street Fighter 2 Turbo have I been addicted to a fighting game this much. Virtua Fighter 4 has conquered my expectations and has shaped up to be one of my all time favorite fighters. I admit to being a fan of the series, but I've never really herald it as much as I am now. It's not only the best looking fighter on the market, but it's the most intuitive, well-crafted and deepest. I can only imagine how Soul Calibur 2 and Tekken 4 will turn out. Virtua Fighter 4 will be ready to hit shelves in the middle of March. Get your pre-orders ready, because this is a game you do NOT want to miss out on.
That concludes are 4th Annual PSX Extreme Awards. Join us next year. (Cue cheesy smile *here*).
1/20/2003 PSX Extreme Editorial Staff