Special: Unfortunately, SpongeBob SquarePants: Revenge of the Flying Dutchman narrowly missed the cut.
It's that time of the year. Fall and winter, the pinnacle of the gaming year. The competition is fierce, and the games are released by the crate. Yet what are the most anticipated? Which titles will overshadow the rest? This is the list for the PS2's most anticipated titles. Of course, cuts had to be made and lines drawn. Games have to be released between the beginning of October and mid-February, leaving a large gap for a great many titles. Hotly anticipated, highly achieving, and often superior to the competition, here is a top 10 list (in order; #1 the most anticipated, #10 the least) to the games you'll most likely be playing within the next couple months. Also included is a large list of contenders.
Number 10: Xenosaga Episode 1
Release: November 5, 2002
Every so often when Xenosaga is mentioned, you hear the words ?Final Fantasy killer.? Could it be? Will this take Squaresoft off their decade-long dominance? Maybe not, but they've got a worthy opponent. Xenosaga is the first of six episodes. No, the title isn't just a coincidence to Square's 1998 hit Xenogears. Rather, many employees of Square left under Tetsuya's lead to create Monolith Soft, a branch of mass-marketer Namco. Xenogears is apparently the fifth episode in the series, making everything up till that point an unofficial prequel. The overall hype has died down since a long time ago when first released and bursting with information, but when it was at its peak, this game was the talk of the town. Despite this, Xenosaga is a game that will shine no matter what, with or without extravagant publicity.
Tetsuya pulled off a respectable RPG with Xenogears, but there were some open wounds. Xenosaga to him is ?Xenogears done right.? And we believe him. But it's so far off =(
Number 9: Shinobi -
Release: November 12, 2002
In the mid-?80s, Sega released Shinobi, the original ninja-based video game. Right away it became a smash hit, earning a large following of gamers as well as sequels. Shinobi was cherished by fans until next-gen systems became more steadily coming, leaving Sega in a dilemma of keeping the series fresh. Now that they're a multi-platform publisher/developer, the team behind the Shinobi series saw a wonderful opportunity to breathe life into their temporarily dead franchise. They've done the best they can at making the 2D magic and action come to full 3D, and so far they seem pretty darn successful. Shinobi is well-known for its constant action and combat, and that makes this new addition such an intriguing title to gamers who hadn't the opportunity to play the originals.
Shinobi will most likely be closely compared to Capcom's Devil May Cry, but need no worry, there's a fine line between them each. Sega is looking to strike gold with Shinobi, releasing in just about a month and a half. The verdict will be very soon.
Number 8: Ratchet and Clank -
Release: October 29, 2002
This colorful platformer has more to show than just looks. What's looking to be yet another fantastic SCEA platform title, Insomnia Games will be wrapping up production on their latest title any time now. Ratchet & Clank stars Ratchet, yet another mysteriously freakish-looking animal, and Clank, his handy-dandy robot. R&C is immediately remindful of Naughty Dog's phenomenal Jak and Daxter. Why? For many reason. First, the graphics are both very vivid in color, and the gameplay elements match up similarly. And although that may be true, these games should reign on their own right. Skill will play a large roll with R&C, mainly meaning that if you don't become competent with your weapon, you're asking for a whippin'. Many factors come into play that make this title look so outstanding, so many that it's difficult to list. Be excited, be very excited.
Number 7: Devil May Cry 2 -
Release: January 28, 2003
Bigger. Badder. Better. That's exactly what Devil May Cry 2, the sequel to Capcom's massive hit Devil May Cry, is going to be. Fans around the globe loved DMC for it's fast-action gameplay, badass main character, and total absolute coolness. So many games that come out are generic ?see-and-shoot? experiences with no distinguishing factors, but this was not the case with Devil May Cry. You played as Dante, a half-man half-demon hybrid and the biggest gaming badass since Solid Snake. Under a new producer, Devil May Cry 2 is leading to a direction that's more based on what gamers want to see. The fast action is more predominant, and the levels are much more large (in fact, the first level is nine times the width of any level in DMC). Everything has returned from the crazy acrobatic double jumps, wall jumps and flips, to having a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other. More maneuvers have been added, ones that give you serious Matrix nostalgia.
Probably the greatest change in DMC2 is the level design. Instead of battling your way through eerie temples, sanctuaries and deems of Hell, this sequel takes place in what looks to be a totally abandoned metropolis area--that is except for the zombies. You can scope out the entire area from the top of gigantic skyscrapers, not to mention jump from one to the other (actually, this is recommended). DMC2 is Capcom's most anticipated sequel in years, and it's easy to see why.
Number 6: Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness -
Release: October 29, 2002
It's pretty widely accepted that after the second or third Tomb Raider, the series went dramatically downhill. Once a genre-breaker, the title was used far to often and brought nothing new later on, once already surpassed by so many other action titles. It didn't look like the once-monumental franchise could ever be successfully revived, but Core Design may just prove that there's more life left in Lara than you ever thought possible. They've redirected the series, now not as much action-based, but more adventure-based with a large focus on exploration and puzzles. Environments are more lush than ever with ample detail.
Five more Tomb Raider games is the goal, set in chapters. According to the developers, the story is extremely complex and you probably won't even understand it after playing. Because the series have been revamped, and apparently for a positive impact, this game has caught many gamers' eyes.
Number 5: TimeSplitters 2 -
Release: October 8, 2002
Ok, first thing first, the online play for TimeSplitters 2 on the PS2 has been officially canceled--major bummer. But that doesn't keep this title back from being great. Now one of the most critically acclaimed games coming out multi-console (even before release), Free Radical, composed mainly of former Rare members, is back at it again. According to some sources, the original TimeSplitters was made on a six month deadline. That's quite an accomplishment considering TS was one of the first good games on Sony's second attempt at the console industry. Everything great about TimeSplitters has returned for the sequel, only it's greatly improved in about every aspect. TS2 will immediately remind you of Rare's N64 Goldeneye 007 game, the title that set the bar for console fps'. Still, the fast-action non-stop head-shooting craziness of TS has reappeared for this hugely-anticipated followup, setting up a combination of Goldeneye looks, and classic TS gameplay.
Probably the greatest achievement of TS2 over TS is the re-engineered Story mode. TimeSplitters' Story mode mainly consisted of grabbing a key and bringing it back to a base, while bombarded with a stream of opponents. This time around, the Story mode will actually have a story. Even though online play was relinquished, it's hard not to be excited about this game. Already largely anticipated to be the best first-person shooter ever on console, Free Radical has quite the goal to meet, but we have faith that they will.
Number 4: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 -
Release: October 29, 2002
It's been apparent for awhile--the Tony Hawk series can rightfully be regarded as one of the most significant (and best) gaming franchises to date. Each THPS is generally better than the last, and THPS4 doesn't look like it's going to let us down. Just when you thought it couldn't possibly get better, it does. There's no longer a time limit during Career mode, rather your goals will be individually timed when you feel like accepting them (via talking to someone, hitting something, and so forth). Not only that, but there's tons of mini-games such as tennis, and they play wonderfully. The levels are colossal with more lines than ever before. THPS4 primarily takes place in San Francisco, skateboarding central.
THPS has always been ahead of the pack, but they're just a little bit behind at this point (due to the excellent Aggressive Inline). This doesn't keep it from being the best extreme sports game ever, though. Which is far too likely. Somehow, some way, the team behind Tony Hawk will shock and surprise us with their outstanding innovation skills and pure brilliance. Once again your days will disappear into virtual boarding haven.
Number 3: The Getaway -
Release: February 10, 2003
Three years. How is this relevant? Why, it's how long The Getaway has been in development. Originally planned for release on PlayStation, Studio Soho decided to spend more than a year studying and mapping out London for their prime title. And it has without doubt come across, since more than 70 square kilometers of picture-perfect recreation has been developed, including all the biggest London attractions. Boasting one of the most unusual concepts on the PS2, and some of the most beautiful graphics, The Getaway is going to be a gigantic hit come early 2003. It's been called a ?GTA3 knock off,? but it surely is not (if it's like any game, that's the Driver series). While this may come across at first glance, The Getaway is its entirely own game. Firstly, it's a much more realistic than GTA3, a dark overtone is much more prominent. For instance, you can take a women hostage, and shoot her in the head or break her neck for no evident reason--now that's gruesome.
The Getaway stars Mark Hammond, a former felon who stopped his unlawful acts after a long term in prison. Thinking he's free of the business, Mark comes home to have a normal life with his wife and son. All is well until Charlie Jolson, a crime chief trying to take over the London crime world, kidnaps your son and kills your wife. You've now become his pet toy, his hitman and everything else. This is where it all begins.
Mark has a bustle amount of moves, such a as rolling, ducking and so forth. Roughly half the game is on foot and half in vehicles. Something very awry would have to go wrong to make this title go down the crapper. Let's hope that additional 4 month delay to from November to February was worth it.
Number 2: Final Fantasy XI -
Release: February 15, 2003
It's Final Fantasy, wake up! Final Fantasy XI totally evolves the series, being a fully consistent massive multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG). That's a lot of words. Players all around the world will be playing on the same servers. PC gamers, PS2 players, from Japan, USA and Europe, on 56k and broadband. They will all be connected to each other and playing in the same world. Many gamers have doubts in Squaresoft, such a large leap for the renown series and for the buyers. We can promise you that this Final Fantasy will be everything that your very favorites are. There's still a deep, twisting story, hundreds of hours of gameplay, and great character development (instead of the story totally developing the character, you develop the character through playing as them).
There's been some technical problems with the servers in Japan (as anticipated), but they're expected to be fixed by the time FFXI hits stateside. Even though some gamers indulge in speculations simply because FFXI is online and much different from the past games, XI will undoubtedly generate more than enough hype because of its obvious online core. February can't come soon enough.
Number 1: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City -
Release: October 22, 2002
In October of last year, the gaming as we know it had changed. Grand Theft Auto III, the fourth game in this open-ended controversial series (including GTA: London) took the word ?video game? and turned it upside-down. Never before had we experienced such entertainment, such freedom, such absolute innovation in a game; GTA3 was truly, in every true form of the word, unparalleled. Sure, it was gritty and violent, but inevitably fun as hell. Not everyone noticed the ingeniousness behind GTA3, such as the exceptional twisting plot or the originality--overshadowed by the pure amusement. Yet those who did valued it even higher. It also became the poster boy for "video game violence" and "why parents should watch what they're children are doing." Nevertheless, GTA3 turned into what now is the most successful PlayStation 2 title, and it's only natural that gamers desire some sort of sequel.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City runs off the same core engine as GTA3, but now it has sharper graphics, more power, and tons of new things to do. You can fly a helicopter, and even shoot out car tires (motorcycle included), but that's only two of probably 50 new havocing tasks you can perform. You play as Tommy Vercetti (who speaks this time, and has quite a savvy mouth) in Vice City, roughly based off Miami during the '80s. Hot bikinis, tons of neon lights, and lustful dance clubs bubbling with crack cocaine are just some of many things placed in this virtual world that Rockstar North has created. Can we forget about all the ?80s jokes and clich?s? I think not, there's far too many. GTA:VC already has a reported 4 million pre-orders. Yes, you heard me right--4 million. On October 22nd, the gaming industry will once again be transformed.
Close Contenders Those are some great games, but there's a heckuva lot more titles that deserve attention. Here's a small index of some other titles that were close to making the list, but haven't proven to be as much hyped as our top 10 up there. These titles are "Runner-Ups" per se. Enjoy!
WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth
Release: November 11, 2002
Sweet, more men in really tight shorts! Uh, I mean...that didn't happen. Anyhow, with a new title (the old one was taken by World Wildlife Foundation [WWF]), the largest sports entertainment company has yet another game releasing, this one more hotly anticipated than usual. THQ steps in the ring again to see what crazy-ass stunts they can pull off. Driving more and more towards realism each release, most of the games have just slightly fallen short of what the fans desire. Yet again?! Maybe not! Wrestling fans know what they want, and they want Smackdown! ASAP. Now give it to them before they hit you over the head with a folding chair!
Red Faction 2
Release: October 30, 2002
ION Storm returns for a sequel to their stellar first-person shooter, released early in the PS2's life span. And it undoubtedly looks much better than its predecessor. The Geo-Mod technology alloying you to virtually destroy anything in the game is still there of course, but that's not the most fascinating thing. The graphics and storyline are. Visually, Red Faction 2 is one of the most impressive upcoming games on the PS2, and the plot is finally something to be happy about since RF's was so linear and short. Lots of FPS fans will be shooting out the door on October 30th to grab their copy, will you?
Release: November 19, 2002
Sex. Need we say more? BMX XXX is one of the first of many sex-based video games (apparently it's the "new cool thing"). But will this sub-genre work out? Yes, we can assume so. Why? Because men like sex, it's as simple as that. BMX XXX has yet to prove if it's a quality title or not, but how crucial is that with big polygonal breasts? We can expect a lot of humorous times when women's rights groups start boycotting and rallying these games (like they buy them anyways?). Maybe that's the best part of it all...
Contra: Shattered Soldier
Release: October 29, 2002
Just like Shinobi, the Contra series is being ?reborn.? And finally, Konami of America got rid of Appaloosa, the develop that made two black sheep on the PSX and nearly destined the classic franchise to doom. Under the same producer of Contra III and Contra Hard Corps (the two best), Nobuya Nakazato, Contra: Shattered Soldier is in great hands. Still played as a 2D platformer, but fully in 3D, Shattered Soldier has brought forth many excited players who are looking for some good ol' Contra ass beating. But one question remains: Will we be able to use the infamous master Konami code?! (Old skoolers know what I'm talking about.)
Release: February 3, 2003
Admit it, you could've cared less about this little title from Bandai before it hit Japan. Then, like a huge wave, .hack was what all RPG fans wanted. .hack is a bit of a play-off on MMORPGs, putting you in a gigantic kingdom of worlds where it appears to be with other "online" players, but it's actually just computer-controlled AI. This, most of all, is what has got gamers' interested. That, and the spectacular sales and praise it's earned over in Land of the Rising.
Star Wars Bounty Hunter
Release: November 7, 2002
This new Star Wars title has fans giddy with excitement. Long-admired (mostly because he's a badass) Bounty Hunter Jango Fett is the star, giving devotees a chance to play on the Dark Side. The story behind Jango Fett will be revealed, and why exactly he kills innocent people for no apparent reason. Some speculate it to be a typical shoot-em-up experience, but LucasArts may just prove them very wrong. Because of the colossal fan base Star Wars has, you could pretty much put any Star Wars game on this list, but Bounty Hunter seems to be the best representative. Jango Fett is the bad guy you've wanted to be for a long time, now you can.
Hitman 2: Silent Assassins
Release: October 1, 2002
The original Hitman was good, but only skimmed its own potential, which left tons of us wanting more. Hitman 2 looks like it could be just what gamers originally craved. You, most obviously, play as an active payed assassin. One of the neatest parts of this title is that you can play through it however the hell you like. If you want to take out every single security guard with a golf club, go for it. Or, you can silently snipe your priority target and clean up the mess before anyone thinks twice. Sure, one will require a tad more stealth than the other (getting incognita, traveling casually, and so forth), but if mass-murder is your fancy, Eidos isn't stopping you. With each mission you get a ?Stealth Meter?, meaning that if you cause the slightest amount of suspicion, it's going to go up. Once it's topped out, game's over. Get it? Good. This non-linear gameplay has us very excited, and you should be too.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2
Release: October 1, 2002
The NFS series has had it's ups and downs, but Hot Pursuit 2 is looking to be a most definite up. Already been called ?the best driving game ever made,? HP2 acknowledges not the simulation of car racing, but the intensity and enjoyment of high-speed competition. Very true to its roots, HP2 unsuccessfully generated as much hype as one might suspect. Hopefully there will be a large outcome in sales for this sure-fire hit. We're just dizzy with exhilaration with this upcoming racing title releasing so very soon.
Rygar: The Legendary Adventure
Release: November 15, 2002 In this swarm of ?reborn? games, Rygar makes his next-gen debut, now in full 3D. The original Rygar was special, because of the carefree fun that was had, and the very unique weapon--Diskarmor, a shield-like artillery--which is slung around like a yo-yo. Tecmo shows mucho potential for this relatively quiet NES remake. Hush-hush or not, Rygar has many interested.
Tid-bits The list could go on for infinity, here's just a few more titles to acknowledge when the time is right.
Dark Cloud 2
Release: January 15, 2003
Dark Cloud, the original, was a good mix of Zelda adventure and Sim City building. But DC2 is a bit more unique, since it's now cel-shaded. This is quite the peculiar step for Level-5 (recently bought out by Microsoft), but now cel-shading is all the fad, why the hell not? DC2 shows a much brighter future than the original, but not much information has released on this Georama title. There's still quite a bit of sitting and waithing unfortunately.
Burnout 2: Point of Impact
Release: October 9, 2002
Burnout 2 is yet another sequel that looks to surpass its precursor. Because Point of Impact has remarkably better graphics and more advanced technology, the crashes and intense racing will be better than ever. Criterion Studios created a great game, Burnout, but the sales figures failed to prove how innovative it truly was. I mean, who doesn't want to have a racing game based solely on hitting innocent passing cars?!
Release: November 5, 2002
Cha-ching, another Suikoden. Now with approximately 108 playable characters, Suikoden is looking more deep than ever. Even though the first two didn't quite fulfill their potential (still good, regardless), we'll use the saying, ?third time's a charm.? But we can't help but wonder what the hell is up with that chicken wearing a hat...
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
Release: November 15, 2002
One of the greatest fighting series returns for another sliver of blood (or decapitated head at that). Deadly Alliance should bring all the best parts of Mortal Kombat back to console, including the near-impossible difficulty. DA graphically looks spectacular, and could very well turn out to be one of the better fighting games thoughout the next year. The only problem with all MK is it's hit-or-miss. You either hate the fact that you can get killed by one powerful snap of a wrist, or love the challenge. Those who never played it before will now be able to find out.
Wild Arms 3
Release: October 15, 2002
I have to be honest, this game sort of came out of nowhere. Even though the art style sparked the immediate fascination, Arms 3 looks to be more than just flash (the earliest screenshots weren't released too long ago). So far, Wild Arms 3 is seemingly a substantial title worthy of recognition. The western-based setting is a definite just plain awesome, since you very rarely see it--if ever--in an RPG.
Release: November 5, 2002
Jibba-jabba-jib-a-ji-jibba-ja. For all you uniformed, that's the language of our virtual pals The Sims. And on November 5th, those PS2 gamers who missed the best-selling hit on PC will get to control Sims of their very own (aw, how sweet). Not a port, but its own game, The Sims for PS2 looks just as good as the PC version. Why? Because it's everything PC Sims is but with more features such as a two-player mode and better camera work. Not to mention that everything is totally 3D, instead of 2D sprites.
There you have it. So many games, so little time. This year's PS2 winter/fall lineup looks stronger than ever before. There may not be a stand-alone game such as Metal Gear Solid 2 last year, or this year's Metroid Prime on GCN and Splinter Cell on Xbox, but let me ask you this: which console looks the strongest? In my personal preference, it's the PS2. We've seen more AAA titles this season than maybe ever on any console, ranging from action, racing, adventure, and sports. Regardless, this is the first year that the Sony has had very difficult competition coming from rivaling companies in recent years. Each platform is looking stronger, and which you think has the best card this season is surely opinionated. On another note, I'd like to point out all the great games that missed the ?time cut,? not within the beginning of October through mid-February. Just a few are: Zone of the Enders 2, Sly Cooper, Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, Everquest Online Adventures, Tenchu 3, and Auto Modellista. Those of course will wait for another time. There's also some many titles that haven't been listed here for whatever reason (space, time, hype level, and so forth), so don't be offended if your favorite upcoming game isn't named--this also includes the placement of top 10, don't be piqued if you disagree with the order they fall in. Honestly, if you're not excited about the PS2's game roster this fall/winter, then give up. Just give up.