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Picks for 2001

Article - our picks for the coming year

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

This time last year EuroGamer's staff picked out some of the games that we were most looking forward to playing in the year 2000. Twelve months later most of the titles we picked out still haven't been released, and one of the three which actually did appear ("Star Trek : New Worlds") turned out to be something of a disappointment.

Having thus proven our infallible powers of prediction, as part of our end of year wrap-up we have once again selected some of the games that we are hoping to get our hands on in the year to come.

PC - Black & White

Ask most gamers what they are most looking forward to playing next year and they will probably answer "Tomb Raider VI". This just goes to show how little taste most gamers have.

The good news for the rest of us is that industry veteran Peter Molyneux is (still) hard at work on one of the most ambitious games ever to grace our beige boxes, in the form of "Black & White". If you have been living under a large lump of dense igneous rock for the last two years you may have missed hearing about this one, but to avoid boring those of our readers who are lucky enough to enjoy some form of sensory input we won't repeat ourselves again. Suffice to say that the game promises to be vast and open-ended, with some decidely novel online options, and integration with everything from your e-mail client to your MP3 player.

Whether you want to train a horse the size of a small mountain to dance along to your Spice Girls CD, rain fire and destruction on your hapless followers, or simply to play with your monkey, Black & White should keep you entertained. Although there is no way it can possibly live up to the level of hype that has surrounded it in recent months, if it does even half of what Peter Molyneux has promised it should prove to be a truly groundbreaking game for the new millenium. And console gamers won't be left out either, with even the antique PlayStation due to receive a version of the game!

PC - Neverwinter Nights

And while we're on the subject of vast, ambitious, open-ended games with innovative online modes... "Neverwinter Nights" looks set to put a whole new spin on the multiplayer role-playing genre by putting the power back into the players' hands.

Although the game will come with an epic single player storyline and a number of ready made "modules" to be played online, its real strength is likely to be the ease with which players can develop their own quests. An easy-to-use editor will enable us to create new settings, while the game allows you to take on the role of the Dungeon Master for the first time. This puts you in charge of running the adventure for a group of other players over the internet, able to add or remove characters and monsters, throw new challenges at players, ad lib conversations, and generally make things up as you go along to ensure that players never get exactly the same experience twice.

The possibilities are virtually endless, especially when you factor in the ability to link multiple servers via "portals", allowing players to hop from one location to another almost seamlessly. The sheer range of home-made adventures and locations on offer should be enough to keep you glued to your PC for years to come, from vast persistent worlds to small on-going campaigns and one-off adventures, and we certainly have high hopes for this one.

PC - Myst III

Once again our resident adventure game fanatic Keith "DNM" Ellis proves to be the odd man out, picking "Myst III" as the game he's most looking forward to next year. The original Myst remains one of the best-selling games of all time, and was one of the first graphic adventures to take full advantage of the new (at the time) CD-Rom format.

Now the third outing in the series is imminent, although this time the developers are not the team from Cyan but Presto Studios, creators of the rather less successful Journeyman Project series. They have "the unenviable task of satisfying the huge Myst fanbase", which must be rather daunting. As you might expect, Myst III is a 3D accelerated first person shooter in which .. hang on, that's not right. Ah, here we are. Yes, a slow-paced point-and-click adventure game featuring gorgeous pre-rendered backdrops and a labyrinthine plot, that sounds more like it.

"With a whole lot more animation, weird and wonderful puzzles and the acting talents of Brad Dourif as the evil villain, it looks like they are on to a winner once again", according to Keith. Myst and Riven had me chained to my PC from installation to completion, and I can almost guarantee Myst III will do the same."

PC - Left Overs

The first person shooter fans here at EuroGamer have had pretty slim pickings this year, but they are clinging to the hope that some of the games that we picked out last year may finally show up during 2001, and be worth playing.

"Team Fortress" is perhaps the least likely of these games to put in an appearance, as it has been in development under various guises for some years now, and yet after a number of redesigns and the arrival of an entirely new engine we find that we now know less about it than ever. What we can be sure of is that it will be a multiplayer-focused first person shooter, with the emphasis on team work and objective-based missions. Beyond that your guess is as good as ours, but with "Half-Life" developers Valve behind it and the classic Team Fortress gameplay as its basis, some of our staff still hold out hopes that it will be a classic.

Meanwhile "Halo" has been keeping a low profile since developers Bungie were bought out by Microsoft to develop for their Xbox console. Again it's a team-based shooter with multiplayer features expected to be high on the agenda, and again we know little about it. What little we have seen got people salivating in anticipation though, and expectations are high. The only problem is that it may be an Xbox exclusive launch title following the Microsoft deal, although we are still expecting a PC version to be released at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Another curiously publicity shy game is "Duke Nukem Forever", with the developers at 3D Realms claiming that it's the best thing since sliced bread and/or Half-Life, but annoyingly unwilling to actually show anybody it. Still, with an enhanced Unreal engine powering it and some of the developers behind the classic "Duke Nukem 3D" working on it, it could well prove to be every bit as good as they claim it is.

PS2 - Gran Turismo 3

The latest build of Sony's next generation racer has already reduced some journalists to quivering wrecks, and it's no surprise considering what's on offer. GT3 will feature nearly 160 cars, including exclusives like the Pagani Zonda C12, which retails for a quarter of a million around here, if you can find one, and we're promised more surprises too. Not content with that, Polophony are allegedly working on a six player i-link setup which uses three PS2s and firewire technology. The game will be played vertical split screen, with two players per PS2.

Other good news is that the game should hit the streets over here within no time at all of it hitting Japan and the States. Although localisation is usually to blame for games taking too long to arrive in other territories, but it is thought that because less text is used in GT3 than previous games it should take very little to produce regional variants.

The game will be one for GT enthusiasts more than ever, with improved replay options and other favourites on top of the usual assortment of new cars and tracks. You can track your car from the dashboard of another and things like that, with the usual "neverbeforeseen" accuracy. Other extras, like a fully featured soundtrack and support for Logitech steering wheels should make it a cut above the previous GT titles. As for the rest of the game; we have no doubt that it will live up to its predecessors.

PS2 - Metal Gear Solid 2

Another PlayStation 2 title that the world has been crying out for is the much-anticipated "Metal Gear Solid 2" from Konami. The enthusiasm within the EuroGamer camp is startling - we're normally fairly cynical about sequels, but as with GT3, the opinion is undivided. "I've watched that trailer DVD so many times I know it backwards. I've ripped the soundtrack and have that on every mp3 playlist I have," writer Rich Self told us. "I am living for this game."

The rest of us have to admit that we feel very much the same way. Having seen (but unfortunately not played) the game at ECTS in September, we have to admit that the highly criticized Emotion Engine is doing its job splendidly. The lighting, shadows and such are very impressive, and watching Snake nip from post to post avoiding sentries took on a whole new light.

Stealth and accuracy will be very important to the outcome of each mission, with headshots often equating to instant kills. Aiming for different body parts may also prove fruitful, since each produces a different reaction. If for instance you're spotted and the guard runs for the nearest alarm, a quick bullet in the leg should sort that out, or one in the lower back, allowing you to Waltz over and finish him off with a cold grin. This will be incredibly important when faced with riot-shielded bad guys, who advance forward firing over their visors. Other new additions include tranquiliser darts amongst other things. It's hardly surprising to discover that many are heralding MGS2 as the best hope of staving off the other next generation consoles the PS2 has this year. Coming as it should around about the time the Xbox hits the market, it could be very important in the long run.

DC - Phantasy Star Online

Online RPGs are frowned upon in the PC market by many because of the dependancy they enthuse in gamers. "It's like an addiction," one liberated gamer commented recently. But this hasn't stopped developers from seeking out a possible formula for console gamers, resulting in Phantasy Star Online. PSO, as it's known, offers gamers the opportunity not only to go off and adventure with friends, but also meet and greet gamers literally from around the world. One of the game's biggest virtues is its universal translator-type system, which will be capable of translating common words and phrases from five different languages, including English and Japanese.

The game itself, developed by Sega's Japanese group Sonic Team, follows the investigation into the failure of the Pioneer Project, an offworld colonization plan. You have to find out what's going on, because it doesn't look like things are all that rosey for the people down there. One of the most graphically advanced games yet, PSO will invite players to adventure in tight groups, rather like PC title Diablo II, and uncover the mysteries of the Pioneer Project.

Although UK Dreamcasts suffer from the affliction of a 33.6Kbps modem, gamers aren't expected to experience major problems with latency and bandwidth. As has been shown with Quake III Arena on the Dreamcast, it is perfectly possible to present online gaming on a "fixed-width" connection, so to speak. With this in mind, we look forward eagerly to Phantasy Star Online.


If we're impressed by Metal Gear Solid 2, and eager to get our hands on Phantasy Star Online, then we are utterly fixated by the Xbox. Microsoft's next generation console is still shrouded in mystery so to speak, but it looks as though it could be with us by the end of the year (although perhaps it will slip until 2002 for us Europeans, who knows). The console, whose specs are now revised with each changing of the wind, will be based on a filtered down version of the Windows 2000 operating system, and boast unrivalled Internet capability as well as all the perks of a modern PC, without the problems. There is no doubt that the CPU, graphics chipset and such will put the current level of console technology to shame, but thanks to some forward-thinking from Microsoft, it should be pitched at just the right level for that period of time, as well. Rival developer Nintendo's GameCube will have to pull some pretty hefty punches to keep up.

It's not just the hardware that we're eager to play with; games like Halo look as though they could revolutionize console gaming. Developers at Bungie recently commented that their number one consideration for the project is control, followed by gameplay as a whole, graphics and sound. Looking at some of the visuals on display, it's little wonder that the world is already sitting back with baited breath awaiting some glimpse of the game in action.

GameBoy Advance

In terms of pocket releases, the GameBoy Advance is where it's at this year. The console will be able to cope with scenes that 16-bit consoles found daunting, and with famous names bolstering its software ranks, there's no doubt that it will be a big hit.

Very light to hold, with responsive controls and a clear screen, the GBA is the perfect jacket-pocket console as far as we're concerned. Playing on it at ECTS, we couldn't help but feel that it was almost too light, but I'm sure we will get used to it. Part of the attraction to the GBA is that it features so many little extras too. Rudimentary Internet access and email support will be available (although we doubt many execs will trade it for their Psions and Palm Pilots), and there is even a rumoured musical attachment, perhaps along the lines of the fabled MP3 accessory for SNK's Neo Geo Pocket Color.

Elsewhere on the console, Mario Kart is set to make a return. A much-needed one it must be said, after its somewhat lacklustre showing on the N64. The original SNES version is the subject of this conversion, and as you will recall, it used Mode 7 and other graphical techniques, all faithfully reproduced here. There is even rumour of SuperFX chip support, as seen in games like StarFox on the 16-bit Nintendo console. It will be with us this year.

Consoles - The Rest

It's going to be a very busy year for consoles, what with the release of the Xbox, the GameBoy Advance and even the GameCube, and it's also going to be a somewhat unique one, as console developers Sega shut-up shop and develop software instead of hardware. Momentous, we think. And it also marks the acceptance amongst hardware manufacturers of consoles as a viable development platform. Already we've seen NVIDIA fighting for the Xbox contract and just recently Videologic have announced that they intend to develop a version of their award-winning Digitheatre speaker setup for the PlayStation 2 to enhance DVD playback.

All things considered, it's going to be a hell of a year, and you'll be able to keep track of it all, here on EuroGamer.

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