Back To The Noughties
Nick short circuits his IBM 5100 and lands in November 2001
Hark, what’s that sound? Why, it’s the thud of Microsoft’s gargantuan Xbox making a craterous impact upon the North American videogame market. The console launched on 15 November with an asking price of $299, and within a week 550,000 of the machines had been sold – none too shabby, especially for a first-time entrant into the console market. As expected, the first-person shooter Halo: Combat Evolved was the big seller amongst the console’s early games.
That wasn’t the only console to launch in North America this month, as the Gamecube followed a few days later on 18 November at $199. Nintendo claimed even stronger first-week sales than Microsoft, stating that its initial shipment of 740,000 units was almost sold out. Unsurprisingly, Luigi’s Mansion was the top seller on the purple fun box. Edge’s reviews of the Japanese launch games were in too, with Super Monkey Ball emerging as top banana with a 9/10 score. The rest of the bunch were ripe too, with Luigi’s Mansion scoring 8/10 and Wave Race: Blue Storm scoring 7/10. PAL players waiting to join the fun would suffer more uncertainty, as ‘Spring 2002’ was the most specific release date Nintendo would confirm.
Despite all the excitement over shiny new toys, it was the PS2 that had the lion’s share of killer games in the review sections this month. Most wanted was Grand Theft Auto III, the first 3D entry in the open world crime series. Play’s Will Johnston was incredibly impressed by the level of freedom on offer, as well as the Liberty City environment, claiming “this is a living city and you can hear it breathe as you go about your business”. The game scored 98%, and was declared “The finest game the planet has ever seen.” Official Playstation 2 Magazine’s Sam Richards was slightly less impressed and offered 8/10, commending the technical achievement of building the city and the driving missions, but criticising the on foot missions as “movement control is never quite ideal and the shot targeting system is suspect.”
Devil May Cry was also exciting the critics on import. Having originally been envisioned as a new take on Resident Evil, Capcom’s new action adventure instead followed Dante, a demon hunter who can perform incredible combo attacks with his gun and sword. Play’s Simon Cann was of the opinion that “Someone at Capcom has obviously been watching a lot of John Woo movies” due to the stylish action, and that the game was “a groundbreaking title” that suffered from being able to be finished in “just over a day.” The game scored 93%, and Edge also felt that the game was worth 8/10.
There was plenty more for PS2 owners to get excited about before Christmas too, judging by the packed review pages of Official Playstation 2 Magazine. WWF Smackdown!: Just Bring It had been hotly anticipated by fans of simulated violence simulations, as well as fans of Limp Bizkit due to its inclusion of one William Frederick Durst, and an exclusive 8/10 review suggested it was worth the wait. If that wasn’t enough American sporting entertainment for you, Madden NFL 2002 scored 9/10. A trio of sequels each garnered 8/10 - Konami’s survival horror Silent Hill 2 (which also got 7/10 from Edge), Namco’s lightgun shooter Time Crisis II and its platformer Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil. Criterion’s crash-happy arcade racer Burnout scored 8/10 too.
PC gamers had some games to get excited for too. Pyro Studios’ real-time tactics game Commandos 2: Men Of Courage retained the original game’s Second World War setting, but delivered a more refined take with better graphics, more accessible difficulty and an improved interface.
The game scored 91% in PC Zone, and was described as “More detailed than real life, and just as addictive.” The arrival of Sports Interactive’s latest life consuming football management game, Championship Manager: Season 01/02, was greeted with a 92% review in PC Zone by Steve Hill. This review also contained a box out on Championship Manager addiction, in which Steve claimed to have lost control of his sleeping patterns and begun to dress like Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski.
The older consoles also had some noteworthy releases this month. Spiderman 2: Enter Electro made its debut on the Playstation to a rather warm welcome, scoring 85% in Play and
9/10 in Official Playstation 2 Magazine. NGC, the rebranded successor to N64 Magazine, gave a farewell to the old console with two new reviews. Mario Party 3 scored 72%, with Geraint
Evans commenting “don’t expect to be playing it this time next week”. Alan Maddrell felt that Pokémon Stadium 2 was “A beautiful game that improves on the original with ease,” awarding it 90%. The Game Boy Color also got a moment in the spotlight, with Pokémon Crystal earning 4/5 in the magazine’s Planet Game Boy section.
Join us again in December, when everything goes mad and there’s frankly too much to review.
[Xbox] For all the next-gen tech hype, it was old fashioned game design that earned all the praise this month.
[PC] Commandos 2 looked absolutely lovely and played well, but posed a brutal challenge.
[PS2] Devil May Cry was sensational for the time. Let’s just not mention the terrible PAL conversion.
[Gamecube] Do you want to take the difficult path, or the even more difficult path?
[PS2] Grand Theft Auto’s leap into 3D space was the most lucrative thing since actual crime.
[N64] Remember when people thought Pokémon was a fad that would fade away?