The End Of An Era

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Or At Least The Year

Has 2002 ended already? It seems like it was just starting! Then again, with some of the problems I had this year (the massive power surge, The Big One, and car insurance hell to name a few), maybe the sooner 2003 will get here, the better off I'd be. Still, despite all I went through this year, it was an amazing year for gamers everywhere.

I could go on and on about each and every title that I tested out and loved (or hated), but that would take forever.

The year's end also brings our annual awards, but every year I find something about the final voting that irks me. I still want to know what my staff and readers were smoking when Heart of Darkness won Game of the Year, or why Myst 3 got Best Soundtrack last year (when Grand Theft Auto 3 should have been a dead giveaway). As a result, even though our winners won't be announced until the beginning of 2003, I wanted to get my own Hardcore Awards out to the public.

BEST EYE CANDY (GRAPHICS)

Considering the Xbox is supposed to be the most graphically impressive game system on the market, it is a surprise that my choice for Best Eye Candy is not an Xbox title. Sure there were many beautiful games for Microsoft's box (Splinter Cell, Jet Set Radio Future, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but Nintendo and Retro Studios stole the show when they unveiled METROID PRIME to a highly skeptical crowd. It's 60 fps, high quality textures, vapor effects, and amazing real-time reflections bring the NES classic into the 21st Century while making it still fresh.

AURAL EXCELENCE (BEST SOUNDTRACK)

As I said earlier, GTA3 not winning Best Soundtrack last year was a screwjob. Not this time (at least from my opinion) because GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY not only wins the award, but it is so ambitious that no one else even comes close. There are 80+ songs from the 80s packed onto seven radio stations (plus 2 talk stations) featuring legends such as Lionel Richie, Megadeth, Michael Jackson, Flock of Seagulls, Blondie, Night Ranger, and Gary Numan, and the most impressive voiceover cast ever fulfill this amazing package. Speaking of voice actors, that brings me to my next category.

BADASS OF THE YEAR

Badass, thy name is TOMMY VERCETTI. After all, look at everything that this guy has been through. He's been in jail for 15 years, sent down to Vice City to expand the "family business," involved with a drug deal that turns sour, and threatened by your boss to get his drugs and money back. And even after going through that, he assaults violent chefs, steals their portable phone, gets even with a drug lord, called a sniveling baby by a corrupt ice cream factory owner, produced and publicized a new porn movie, played Speed: the Game with a bisexual Scottish rock band, set up the largest heist in Vice City history, pissing off said family boss, and popping a cap into the poor bastard's butt.

I know that Mr. NoName from GTA3 would have done all this, but Tommy Vercetti does it with style, and considering that his dialogue is recorded by another badass, Ray Liotta, it gets a special personality that the GTA3 lead didn't have.

TREND I'D LOVE TO SEE CONTINUE IN 2003:

After the success of Spy Hunter in 2001, tons of CLASSIC GAME REMARKS were released that were actually good. I'm not talking about crap remakes such as Frogger or the 3D Contra titles on the PS1, but new classics such as Metroid Prime (and Fusion on the GBA.) Gradius Galazies, Rygar, and Contra: Shattered Soldier bring back the gameplay we knew and loved back in the NES days. Hopefully I'll see more titles of the past returning with the present, especially on the Game Boy Advance, which has been turning into a haven for classic game lovers.

GAME MOST LIKELY TO HAVE YOU COMMITTED BEFORE YOU FINISH IT:

While on the subject of classic remakes, I remember how the Contra series was insanely difficult, but nowhere near as difficult as CONTRA: SHATTERED SOLDIER. On the bright side, the game is classic Contra done by the original team (as it should have been in the first place), but the game is mind-numbingly difficult. Even with pattern memorization (a Contra trademark), you will die many times. Hint to Konami, when releasing another Contra title, PLEASE give us a difficulty setting to alter.

GAME THAT CAUSED ME TO LOVE A TV SERIES:

I never truly watched an episode of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER until I played EA's game of the same name. Afterwards, I was hooked onto the series, picking up the DVD box sets of both seasons 1 and 2 (with 3 coming out in January 2003). The game helped me understand the series more, and follow the plotline and characters, who were all in the game, despite Buffy having a different, yet similar, voice actress. Too bad other titles (Dark Angel) can't follow the same standards.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:

DEAD TO RIGHTS looked like a winner when I played it at E3. Sad to say the final product failed to meet those expectations. Frustrating camera angles, a boring fighting engine, and attempting too much at one time made this game a letdown. At least the bomb diffusing stages were fun.

TREND I MISS TAKING PART IN:

ONLINE GAMING is tough with only a 56K modem. It gets worse when Xbox Live is available now but for broadband users only. If only DSL carriers would get to my area so I can take part in it as well.

Anyway, these are my unique awards, but I also want to give out my platform awards as well:

XBOX: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (Ubi Soft)

GameCube: Metroid Prime (Nintendo/Retro Studios)

PlayStation2: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Rockstar North)

Game Boy Advance: Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (Konami)

PC: Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos (Blizzard)

I won't give an overall award yet, that will have to wait until the start of next year. I do hope though that my choice will be a reasonable one, and not something that will result in controversy. But then again, I've never run from controversy.

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