Best of 2005 SimHQ Readers and Staff Pick the Winners Page 3

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Land Combat: First Person Shooters – Just Tell Me Ben Affleck’s Not In This One

Armed Assault -- We're already drooling.Well, let’s see, we saw Quake 4Call of Duty 2, wait…oh, that’s right. This is, sorry. This section has been the hardest to chronicle, as FCC regulations forbid printing most of what Magnum said.

Effects worthy of a Hollywood big-budget action thriller seemed to be the first goal every developer had in mind and realism took a backseat. From space-age weaponry inQuake 4 to the first self-sealing infantryman in Call of Duty 2, we saw the slow, inexorable march to the console, with most of the new releases being little more than glitzy sequels offering nothing new in terms of innovation.

While we’re befuddled by some military simmers who want to practice being miserable, there seemed to be a lot of people out there waiting on the coming release of Bohemia Interactive’s two Operation: Flashpoint derived battlefield sims. Armed Assault has garnered quite a bit of attention with the screenshots recently released and grognards all over the world have been salivating over the title. While Operation: Flashpoint was an exercise in complete frustration for some, many people valued its’ uber-realistic gameplay, attention to detail, and battlefields that were oddly reminiscent of the scenery in The Sound of Music. Overall, it was one of the most popular and widely-played PC games of 2003 and continues to make its presence known today with the re-release on the Xbox. Game reviewers were the first to talk up its realism and toss rocks at the dated graphics engine. One can only guess how many copies it sold and how many people are continuing to play this new incarnation for the console.

EA made a game we can appreciate. DICE’s Battlefield 2 and its’ expansion pack came out this year. Visually stunning, it requires more computing horsepower than the run-of-the-mill online multiplayer shooter (2GB of DDR oughta do it) does, but rewards you with drivable vehicles, including jet fighters. Next year, EA promises updates that fall somewhere between a downloadable mission and an outright expansion pack in order to keep the content fresh. Whatever the draw is, with a commander’s screen and the ability to call in artillery strikes, BF2continues to outsell America’s Army. Hey, wait a minute…!

Battlefield 2 was the perfect excuse for 2GB of RAM.

Treadheads were also given a somewhat rocky introduction to armored warfare in the Balkans from Battlefront.T-72: Balkans on Fire! received criticism for its somewhat buggy condition and the subject matter itself, but after a small patch this year, it has largely recuperated and has turned into an enjoyable title. T-72: Balkans on Fire! started rocky, but with a healthy patch it was back on track(s).While the memories of the conflict in the Balkans are fresh in the minds of those that were there, many have made the same comparison to just about every other war game ever created. Ours is a hobby surrounded by simulated violence in conflicts, some of which have the misfortune of having actually occurred.

While eSim Games’ Steel Beasts Pro – Personal Editiondidn’t make to the shelves in December of 2005 as was stated by the web site, we did see enough screenshots of content to keep the dogs of war from digging out of the kennel and making a mess on the living room rug. Promising to accurately model armored fighting vehicles in combat, it is threatening to be a high-fidelity armor simulation in the same spirit as Falcon 4.0. The web site plainly states that the intended audience are professional armor specialists in the military and that it is designed to be an actual training tool. Magnum wondered if the actual training also prepared you to for the environmental impact statement you’ll have to file when your M-1 runs over a tree full of spotted owls.

Speaking of which, SWAT 4 made it to the shelves this year and we all got to pretend we were Colin Farrell without the drug problems or Samuel Jackson without the natural-born coolness. An atmospheric triumph, complete with screaming hostages, non-compliant suspects, and thugs with lots and lots of guns, it has been one of the best tactical simulators ever released. With tasers, stinger grenades, CS gas, and flashbangs, we have to ask: What idiot thinks it’s a good idea to hold off the cops? With all the toys available in SWAT 4, the police have enough firepower to make you wish you were never born. Of course, this enthusiasm was somewhat mitigated by the endless ads for feminine hygiene products and The Next Big Rap Star. Streaming ads have taken the gaming public by semi-surprise. Surprising only in the sense of the degree to which we saw product placement. It was somewhat disconcerting to be sneaking around in a North Korean missile silo in the latestSplinter Cell and have Sam Fisher check the availability of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.

SWAT4 was a shining star... except for THOSE ADS!

Almost bigger news was what we did NOT see in 2005. Ghost Recon 2 was canceled for the PC, and this very likely was for the best. After reading the article in PC Gamer that detailed the surgical dismantling of everything that made the original so one-of-a-kind, it became obvious it was going to be one more in a long line of forgettable third-person shooters. Fans of the original wouldn’t have been happy at all with what Red Storm Entertainment had done to a classic. They were even less thrilled when they heard that the same thing would happen to another classic series in Red Storm Entertainment’s stable, Rainbow Six less than a couple of months later. The original was synonymous with tactical simulation, a cerebral shooter, a thinking man’s action game. The latest chapter, Rainbow Six: Lockdown bore a closer resemblance to Star Wars: Republic Commando than it did its predecessors. Thus, it was no surprise when it was announced that the PC release was tabled indefinitely and only the console releases would be produced, relegating another mainstay of the PC to the gamepad. This ensured that the Rainbow Six series’ penchant for realism and fidelity would die an inglorious death and the title would become one more generic shooter.

Recently, however, Red Storm Entertainment announced that the PC version was now being subjected to a complete retooling and was on track to be released. Stating that PC gamers’ voices had been heard, the new iteration of this series wouldn’t be one more console port. Until we saw the virus grenades, we believed them. Left me wondering if a supply of Tamiflu would’ve been an effective countermeasure.

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