Ultima IX might have been kicked out the door before it was ready, and Command & Conquer : Tiberian Sun may have been something of an anti-climax for many people, but generally 1999 has been a great year for gamers.

Games like Outcast and Age Of Kings have stood out, and the year ended on top form with Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena both reaching shelves in time for Christmas. But what were the true gems of the year?

Thief Gold

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Nick Loman, one of EuroGamer's founders, offered up "Thief: The Dark Project" as his pick for the year, apparently blissfully unaware that the game was actually originally released last year. Given that it was re-released along with some new levels as "Thief Gold" a couple of months ago though, we'll let him off.

An atmospheric first person game that encourages stealth rather than slaughter, Nick described Thief as "the most scary game I've played since The New Zealand Story on the Amiga 500". Eugh. That is scary...

System Shock 2

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Thief wasn't the only excellent game to come out of Looking Glass Studios in the last year though, and Mat Bettinson, EuroGamer's "Gaming Evangelist With A Goatee", picked out System Shock 2 as his favourite game of the year.

The original System Shock was something of a cult classic, way ahead of its time when it was released a few years back. The sequel might not have the most advanced graphics engine around, but it does have atmosphere and gameplay by the bucket load.

"It proved that you can blend gaming genres and end up with something fresh. It also proved you don't need pixies and tunics to do an RPG."

Everquest

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Of course, not everybody here has an aversion to pointy ears, and Geoff Richards, one of our regular writers, selected the massively multiplayer fantasy RPG "Everquest" as his game of the year. Nicknamed "Evercrack" by many players because of its addictiveness, the game has rapidly surplanted Ultima Online as the multiplayer RPG of choice.

"It's truly a benchmark game, in terms of proving that an online-only game can work, and that there is a market for that kind of product. The game is hugely detailed, and offers plenty of interaction with real people, which no matter how good the AI is, can never be replaced."

Homeworld

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For Peter Male, another of our staff writers, Homeworld was the cream of the crop. "Relic have very successfully taken the idea of a real time strategy game and put the whole lot into space. In doing this they have created a fully 3D environment which can be fully utilised by the player. For once there are no real restrictions on where you can or cannot go."

"Add to this a well thought out single player game with a terrific story, a whole host of imaginative and well designed units, and good multiplayer options, and HomeWorld is a game that has redefined its genre just enough to allow me - a truly mediocre RTS player - to actively enjoy being totally pants at this type of game."

Unreal Tournament

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My own personal pick for Game Of The Year 1999 is .. (drum roll) .. Unreal Tournament, Epic's multiplayer focused first person shooter.

"The graphics are beautiful, the weapons are solid and innovative, the gameplay is perfectly balanced, the netcode is almost as good as they come, the bots are almost human, and there are plenty of great teamplay options to keep me hooked.

"In fact, it's the only game to get a clean 10/10 from EuroGamer since we launched back in September!"

What more could you ask for?

Quake 2 for BeOS

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Finally, our resident web monkey and BeOS fanatic, Jay Adair, picked out "not a new game, but the BeOS port of Quake 2".

Quake 2 is now available in various forms across any number of platforms, including Windows, MacOS, Linux, BeOS, Solaris, irix, Playstation, and Nintendo 64. No doubt we'll be seeing a NeoGeo version of the game before long...

According to Jay, Quake 2 "has brought a whole new audience to the BeOS scene, which can only get better for gamers". We will be bringing you a full feature on BeOS gaming some time in the new year.

Unreal Tournament vs Quake 3 Arena

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Of course, the tail end of 1999 has been dominated by two games - Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament. Both first person shooters, both geared towards multiplayer, and both very good games in their own right.

So which has become our new religion? The consensus amongst our staff is .. "Both!"

"In the past if you wanted to play something a bit different, you had to go back to last year's old game", Mat explained. "Now we've got two radically different games built completely for multiplayer from the ground up. Hey, I wouldn't complain if we had 10 games like this!"

Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it...

John "Gestalt" Bye

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