1999-2003

PC gam­ing giants – both lit­eral and metaphor­i­cal.

PC GAMER (UK) - - FEATURE -

Tom: I’m go­ing to bat for Black & White. We didn’t know it at the time, but it would turn out to be the pin­na­cle of the god game genre, and it’s full of ideas that mod­ern games should rip off. It’s easy to cel­e­brate games like Quake III and Deus Ex and see Black & White as a failed ex­per­i­ment, but the idea of train­ing your own beast is so clever. It’s a rare Molyneux game that de­liv­ers on some of its prom­ises, and even by to­day’s stan­dards it’s am­bi­tious. It’s the only game that lets you pet a 20-foot tall mon­key to en­cour­age it to stop eat­ing peo­ple. Can Quake hold a torch to that? I think not.

Samuel: This was right when I started read­ing PC Gamer ev­ery month, and I bought all of these games on the mag­a­zine’s ad­vice (mi­nus Quake III Arena and Grand Prix 3 – sorry, Ge­off ). I bonded with my old science teacher, Dr. Hall, over Black & White. I once started work­ing on a Nev­er­win­ter Nights mod with the in­ten­tion of get­ting a job at BioWare, but gave up when I found it too hard. Medal of Honor: Al­lied As­sault was a ma­jor mile­stone for the FPS, as much as Quake was sev­eral years ear­lier. It paved the way for the cin­e­matic shooter that we’d all be tired as hell of by about 2015. Still, that game was ex­tra­or­di­nary, mostly for the D-Day bit that ev­ery­one has dis­cussed far too many times. As such, it’s the game that gets my vote.

I only played the sin­gle­player in

Re­turn to Cas­tle Wolfen­stein, and I wouldn’t let that be de­clared a high­light of this bunch. What’s wrong with a good, solid 85%, eh?

Phil: I hope Ge­off Cram­mond never learns of our in­dif­fer­ence to the

Grand Prix se­ries. He would be crushed. Prob­a­bly.

Pip: The ma­jor­ity of my gam­ing for these years ended up be­ing on the N64, so I feel like I was on a par­al­lel gam­ing evo­lu­tion track. In­stead of hav­ing my wide-eyed, ‘Oh gosh!’ mo­ment with Half-Life at a desk, I was open-mouthed at the scope of

Oca­rina of Time while ly­ing on the sofa. My FPS of choice was

Gold­enEye (ac­tu­ally a 1997 re­lease, but one I played for years later). I de­vel­oped such strong mus­cle mem­ory for Gold­enEye that nearly 20 years later I man­aged to sur­prise ev­ery­one at a party by ab­so­lutely oblit­er­at­ing them, slip­ping into a weird au­topi­lot state and ac­ti­vat­ing se­cret tun­nels and camp­ing body ar­mour spawn points in the way that friends can on Counter-Strike maps.

Andy: Half-Life and Deus Ex are the big hit­ters here, and I love them both,

but my heart be­longs to Max Payne. Noth­ing cap­tures the zeit­geist of the turn of the mil­len­nium more than bul­let time, and Max was the first game to let you play The Ma­trix. I still love its self-aware film noir stylings, and how com­i­cally cyn­i­cal Max is as a char­ac­ter. But what makes it re­ally spe­cial is how this sits along­side a pretty dark and har­row­ing re­venge story that’s sprin­kled with bits of Norse mythology and Lynchian weird­ness. It’s a great shooter, it tells a grip­ping story, and Max looks like he’s just shit him­self. What more can you ask for?

Phil: I’m torn be­tween Half-Life and Medal of Honor: Al­lied As­sault. Half-Life is still an in­cred­i­bly en­joy­able shooter with a di­verse mod scene that spawned Counter-Strike, of all things. Nev­er­the­less, I think it’s Medal of Honor that I’m root­ing for. It’s a cin­e­matic FPS made be­fore Call of Duty had cod­i­fied all the rules, and that makes it fas­ci­nat­ing to play to­day. It’s weirdly, al­most off­puttingly un­der­stated, not least in the afore­men­tioned D-Day as­sault. Al­lied As­sault is less bom­bas­tic and di­rected than any Call of Duty cam­paign, and ar­guably that makes it more im­pact­ful and im­mer­sive. It lets you ex­pe­ri­ence through ac­tion not script­ing, and that makes it grip­ping, even in its qui­eter mo­ments.

Pip: I’m now go­ing to be that jerk who not only doesn’t help nar­row the list down but also in­tro­duces an ex­tra can­di­date. StarCraft: Brood War. I’m not even a StarCraft player but that game is so im­por­tant to the his­tory of es­ports and com­pet­i­tive gam­ing. We gave it a 69% at the time but I feel like it’s gone on to prove its worth far be­yond that score. Even if no one else votes for it here, I want to make sure to tip my hat to it.

Phil: Yikes. “A lick of paint and lit­tle else,” ap­par­ently. I’m not go­ing start ques­tion­ing old scores, but giv­ing

Brood War a 69 is… a choice.

I’m not go­ing to ad­vo­cate for it too hard, I don’t think, but I want to at least men­tion Deus Ex as be­ing a

very big deal for PC gam­ing. It’s been slip­ping down our Top 100, but that’s a list de­signed to re­ward how playable a game is to­day. While Deus Ex is janky now, it’s still an in­cred­i­bly sin­gu­lar, re­ward­ing thing to play. The sheer scope of its op­tions – both in how you make it through each level, and how you pro­ceed in set­piece story mo­ments – demon­strated that first-per­son shoot­ers could be more than just mind­less ac­tion. This was a game full of over­lap­ping sys­tems, that re­warded ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and think­ing out­side the box. Like many of the best games, it prob­a­bly wasn’t as in­flu­en­tial as it should have been – I think in part be­cause many de­vel­op­ers were in­tim­i­dated by it.

Andy: Deus Ex is still a great game, and I’m still find­ing new ways to play it de­spite know­ing the lev­els in­side out. Am­bi­tious games from this pe­riod of PC gam­ing rarely hold up to mod­ern scru­tiny, but the va­ri­ety and free­dom Deus Ex gives you makes it a hugely re­ward­ing sand­box. It’s also a re­minder of how mas­sive

PC games used to be. Imag­ine a game to­day fea­tur­ing New York, Hong Kong, Paris, Area 51 and a dozen smaller lo­ca­tions in be­tween. The scope of the game is ab­surd.

It’s also a nice time cap­sule of the days when con­spir­acy the­o­ries went main­stream, thanks to the im­pact of The X-Files. If you read the orig­i­nal

Deus Ex de­sign doc, it men­tions The X-Files con­stantly. Its in­flu­ence on game de­sign is un­de­ni­able, and ask most devs work­ing to­day what their favourite game is and they’ll prob­a­bly men­tion this if they don’t in­evitably say it’s Oca­rina of Time. But I’m still not chang­ing my vote. JC Den­ton is cool, but Max Payne is cooler.

Phil: The tricky thing about this process is that we’re pick­ing from the best games in PC Gamer’s his­tory. Re­ally, there’s no wrong an­swer – not even

Grand Prix 3. I was very close to switch­ing my vote to Deus Ex, but if Andy’s stick­ing to his (slow-mo, bal­letic) guns, I’m go­ing to do the same. Medal of Honor: Al­lied As­sault

is tak­ing the win, thanks in part to me and Samuel hav­ing tac­ti­cally cul­ti­vated sim­i­lar tastes.

MEDAL OF HONOR: AL­LIED AS­SAULT WAS A MA­JOR MILE­STONE FOR THE FPS

ABOVE: Big, chunky and end­lessly en­joy­able. QuakeIII is a clas­sic.

TOP RI GHT : Andy will not back down from his love of MaxPayne.

ABOVE RI GHT :Ar­guably one of the most iconic mo­ments in PC gam­ing.

BOTT OM: You can’t say the early ’00s was lack­ing in World War 2 shoot­ers.

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