Greatest Game of 2004: The Competition

Way back in the dark ages, a group of StewOver editors convened to name the greatest video game of every year from 1985 to today. The winner in 2004 was World of Warcraft, here’s a quick look at the games that competed with WoW for Game of the Year.

Games I Played

halflife

Half-Life 2

Galactic badass Gordon Freeman returned in this sequel to 1998’s Game of the Year, Half-Life. Half-Life 2 was essentially more of the same, but when that means compelling game play and inventive weapons that’s a good thing. Half-Life 2 also served as the anchor title to one of the great gaming values of all time, The Orange Box, which included both Half-Life 2 expansions and the original Portal, all for $20.

gta

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

This is the Grand Theft Auto where you play a black guy in the fictional state of San Andreas which was based on the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. This game is mostly notorious for its unlockable sex scene, but it also featured improved shooting controls and deeper RPG elements, including having your fitness level effect both your appearance and your in game performance. I had a good time with this game and enjoyed its grittier vibe after the somewhat cheesy Vice City.

halo2

Halo 2

I don’t remember a great deal about Halo 2 except that you could now dual wield and fire two weapons at the same time. This was a game that was much beloved at the time that I think would feel dull and dated today. The Halo games feel like empty gaming calories to me, they’re fun when you’re playing them then immediately forgotten.

nfl2k5

ESPN NFL 2K5

Whole articles have been written about NFL 2k5, the last major studio NFL simulation to compete with EA’s Madden juggernaut. It was a good football game and great value at $20 and its status has only grown as Madden has stagnated without competition.

And In This Installment Of…

A good many of the games nominated for 2004’s Game of the Year (including some of the ones I played above) were sequels, in one way or another, to existing franchises. Below we’ll do a quick run down of what was happening in their 2004 iterations, feel free to let us know what you thought of them in the comments.

randc

Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal follows the titular duo on an adventure through a fictional world to defeat Dr Nefarious, a robotic baddy. Up Your Arsenal featured refined controls and more weapons as well as the series first use of multi-player.

Burnout 3: Takedown is the 1st of the Burnout racing games to achieve mass appeal in the US according to Wikipedia.

Unreal Tournament 2004 is the second sequel to the original Unreal Tournament. It is a first person shooter designed around online multiplayer. As video games go that’s about as far from my gaming interests as possible so I have nothing else to say about this game.

jak

Jak 3, if its box is any guide, is about a green haired Japanese cartoon who has a kangaroo thing on his shoulder and wants to run Bartertown. I refuse to research this further.

metaltal

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a preqeul to Metal Gear Solid franchise that moves its blind protagonist from his usual high tech urban setting to cold war era jungle.

splinter

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, like Metal Gear 3 above, is a stealth game sequel, though this one is part of Tom Clancy’s quest to be the John Madden of shooting people in the face. Gameplay was mostly unchanged from the original and the most note worthy thing about Pandora Tomorrow seems to be a voice cast that featured both Dennis Haysbert and Michael Ironsides.

Rome: Total War is the third Total War war game, a series that combines real time strategy within a turn based campaign framework. As its name would indicate, Rome is set with in the Empire’s conquest of the western world and features diplomacy and other aspects of state craft along with warfare.

“What’s this, ‘…and the rest,’ crap?”

The rest of the games nominated for the best game of 2004 were a bit of a mixed bag, let’s give them a look.

riddick

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is yet another stealth game. Apparently they were all the rage in 2004. Did no one listen to my complaining about Thief? Anyway, this game managed to escape the general stench that surrounds the Riddick movie franchise and garner some praise for its gameplay.

farcry

Far Cry is a first person shooter set on a tropical archipelago (which conveniently allows for a plethora of settings) that features sandbox elements. Objectives can be achieved a number of ways as you guide your special forces soldier in a quest to rescue a lost female journalist. Stealth (surprise!) and reactive enemy AI were standout game play features. The game has spawned a 2008 movie along with one sequel and another do out this fall.

fablele

Fable is game that exists in a great Gabe-Newellian shaped shadow, obscured by both its creator’s ego and the colossal failure that was Fable 3. But if you take the time to look, the original Fable was an inventive and influential game. It introduced one of the early morality systems that allowed your choices to change both your appearance and that of the world around you. You were also able to buy property, get married, and have children. Much of the current RPG landscape has actually been shaped by Fable, in fact one of StewOver’s co-founders has complained that Elder Scrolls: Skyrim isn’t enough like Fable.

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