Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven (XBOX)
Action 28 January 2004
A 3D action game that takes the players to the 1930’s USA, the time when criminal underground flourished. The game was created by Czech developer Illusion Softworks, mainly known for the highly acclaimed tactical shooter Hidden & Dangerous. The story focuses on a rookie gangster named Tommy, who takes his first steps on the path of criminal life by doing jobs for an influential mafia family. Gameplay comes down to exploration of a virtual city and completing a string of story missions, featuring many subplots. While playing, you will engage in street shootouts, bank heists, car pursuits, and assassinations. The creators did their best to recreate the evocative atmosphere of the USA in the 1930s, and implemented weapons and cars from that period. Insanity 2 game engine made it possible to generate interactive, bustling city with road traffic and changing seasons.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005) (XBOX)
Racing 15 November 2005
The ninth installment in a legendary racing game franchise created by Electronic Arts company. After two Underground games, featuring illegal night street races, the franchise went back to its roots, combining ideas from the two most recent titles with classic elements. The player’s goal is to climb to the top of a black list of the most wanted drivers. Again you get to explore a huge virtual city, taking on different racing challenges. These include circuit, sprint, drag, elimination, time trial, speed challenge, and police pursuit. After completing enough of these you can challenge subsequent drivers from the black list. Apart from elements typical for the series, such as licensed cars and diverse soundtrack, the game features complex car customization, both in terms of appearance and performance.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (XBOX)
Action 07 June 2005
The seventh installment in the controversial Grand Theft Auto series – one of the most popular game franchises in history that brought Rockstar Games company international fame. The series has been letting the player start as a petty criminal and work his way to the top of the criminal underground. This next part of the series is the biggest one so far, featuring world – the State of San Andreas – almost three times larger than Vice City. Among many innovations, there are several thing worthy of mention: improved AI of civilians, option to recruit gang members, increased number of interactive buildings, hunger factor, swimming, and new means of transportation (e.g. bicycles). On top of that, there game features numerous extra activities, highlighting the sandbox character of gameplay. The game features the atmosphere of the 1990s, apparent in both the graphics and the soundtrack available via the numerous in-game radio stations.
Fable: The Lost Chapters (XBOX)
RPG 18 October 2005
An expanded version of Fable, the 2004’s bestselling, Xbox-exclusive RPG by Lionhead Studios. The action once again takes us to the fantasy land of Albion, where the protagonist seeks revenge on those who assaulted Oakenfold, his home village. In the game, we complete subsequent story quests and observe how the main character evolves from a defenseless child to one of the biggest heroes of Albion. The gameplay is supplemented by the constant necessity to make moral choices that influence the appearance and alignment of the protagonist as well as the way the NPCs react to his presence. Compared to the Xbox original, Fable: The Lost Chapters introduces numerous new elements to the gameplay – the most important one is the extended story line, including an additional chapter taking place after the game's finale. Moreover, the game offers new missions and locations as well as previously unavailable items and spells.
Star Wars: Battlefront II (2005) (XBOX)
Action 31 October 2005
The second installment of the multiplayer shooter series developed by Pandemic Studios. Once again, the players can participate in spectacular battles, where the forces of the Galactic Empire clash with the Rebel Alliance. The multiplayer mode allows up to 60 players to fight on one of 12 different planets, in the interstellar space and aboard massive space cruisers. Apart from standard infantry units, the battlefields are full of a variety of war machines – from X-wings and TIE Fighters to Star Destroyers and YT-1300 freight vessels. At some point during the playthrough, one can face the legendary Jedi Knights and the Sith Lords. Interestingly enough, players who prefer a more individual experience can also find something for themselves in this game, since Star Wars Battlefront II offers a number of non-linear missions with a well-written backstory.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (XBOX)
RPG 06 June 2002
The third installment in a legendary action RPG series developed by Bethesda since 1994. The story once again takes the player to the realm of Tamriel, this time to the east, to the Morrowind province. The player assumes the role of a prisoner released from imprisonment by the Emperor and given a secret mission. As it turns out, the protagonist may be the reincarnation of the legendary, treacherously murdered hero by the name of Nerevar, and his mission is to stop the reemerging evil that his previous self had once defeated. The player can chooses from ten available races and twenty-one character classes - thanks to the game's flexible character progression system the character development is influenced mainly by the player's preferred gameplay style. The player can freely choose which quests to complete and when. The game's fully 3D visuals are a big step forward in comparison to the previous installments in the franchise. Additionally, a special editor allows the player to modify the game world to a very large degree.
Half-Life 2 (XBOX)
Action 15 November 2005
A sequel to the Valve Software's best-selling game that set new standards for the FPS genre back in 1998. Half-Life 2 is set several years after the events of the first game. Once again, the player assumes the role of Gordon Freeman – a doctor of physics who used to work in Black Mesa Labs, where an unfortunate incident opened a portal for alien life forms to invade the Earth. This time, the story takes us into a fictional City 17 and its immediate vicinity. The protagonist now works for a secret government organization. His mission is to repel the invaders from another dimension, in which he is aided by Alyx Vance – a young women fighting as a part of human resistance. The sequel introduces a technological revolution, employing the Valve’s proprietary game engine called Source. Its main advantage is excellent physics simulation, letting players destroy almost any element of environment and use various objects as covers or even weapons.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (XBOX)
Action 04 November 2003
A new installment in the bestselling series of action games. The game expands the ideas introduced in the third entry in the franchise, released in 2001. The game was developed by the authors of the previous installments who, after having been bought by the American giant, were transformed into Rockstar North. The game takes place in the 80's in a completely new metropolis called Vice City. The player becomes Tommy Vercetti, who was sent by his boss to establish a foothold in the city while taking care of the local gangs and corrupted police. The game has similar mechanics to its predecessor and focuses mostly on completing various non-linear story missions. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City added some new features, such as the possibility to use motorcycles and helicopters. The graphics, inspired by aesthetics of the 80's, were greatly improved as well. During the game, the player is accompanied by a varied soundtrack broadcast by several different radio stations.
Need for Speed: Underground 2 (XBOX)
Racing 17 November 2004
A sequel to Need for Speed: Underground, a best-selling 2003 game from Electronic Arts, which changed the shape of one of the most popular car racing franchises. The game takes you to a virtual metropolis that thrives after dark. For the first time in the history of the franchise, the city is completely open for exploration. As you ride around its streets you can challenge the drivers you meet on the way or learn more about the favorite locations of the street racing community. The gameplay mechanics did not change much; rather, the developers focused on an even more detailed recreations of licensed cars and car parts used for tuning. The game’s graphics were noticeably improved, featuring all sorts of new visual effects. The soundtrack keeps equally high level, as usually featuring songs by famous artists across a wide spectrum of genres.
Doom 3 (XBOX)
Action 03 April 2005
The third installment of the legendary FPS series by id Software which set new standards in the genre’s development back in the mid-90s. The action takes place in a secret research facility of the UAC corporation on Mars, where the protagonist, an ex-marine whom we control, begins his service. Shortly thereafter, strange things begin to happen: the lab comes under attack, the communications with the HQ are severed, and the people we encounter turn into bloodthirsty monsters. It turns out that a space-time portal was opened as a result of an experiment, which led to a demon incursion that we have to repel. Compared to its predecessors from the past decade, Doom 3 offers not only fast-paced and incredibly bloody action but also quite extensive plot as well as a number of horror elements. The game also features high-quality graphics.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (XBOX)
RPG 16 July 2003
A third person RPG title set in the Star Wars universe, one of the world’s most famous science fiction franchises. The game was created by BioWare Studios, mainly known for the legendary series Baldur’s Gate. The story of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is set 4,000 years before the events of the film saga, during the so-called Old Republic period. You take lead of a party of heroes representing three different races and several classes, and make your mark on the age-long conflict between Jedi knights and the Sith. The game invites you to visit 8 diverse worlds – some of them known from the films and a couple of brand new ones. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic features real-time combat with active pause, letting you adjust your tactics on the fly. As befits an RPG, you get to use a large arsenal of weapons and supernatural artifacts. Moreover, characters can be developed in multiple ways. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic constantly puts you up against choices between the dark and light side of the Force – these decisions will impact the way the story unfolds.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords (XBOX)
RPG 06 December 2004
The second installment of the bestselling RPG set in the popular Star Wars universe. Contrary to its predecessor created by BioWare, it was developed by Obsidian Entertainment. The sequel’s plot starts 5 years after the events of the first part and tells a completely different story, focusing on entirely new characters. This time around, we assume the role of the last Jedi knight, whose task is to rebuild the dissolved Jedi Order and restore peace and order in the galaxy. Starting out, we possess practically no abilities. While playing, we gradually regain our powers and lost skills. Gameplay mechanics are virtually unchanged — the developed introduced just a few minor enhancements. Apart from new powers and character classes, the game allows us to use two different weapon configurations and significantly expands our crafting and customization possibilities.
Adventure 19 April 2005
An adventure game with strong action and platform game traits. It was developed by Double Fine Productions. The player assumes the role of a boy named Razputin. His dream is to become a member of the titular Psychonauts, a squad that is maintaining peace in the world. After sneaking up into one of the training camps, the protagonist discovers that the cadets are disappearing in an unknown way. Razputin, accompanied by his faithful friends, tries to discover this mystery. In Psychonauts the action is presented by using a third-person perspective. The game features more than a dozen of varied levels – most of them take place inside the human minds. During the game Raz must face various enemies and solve some more or less complicated traps and avoid many dangers. Luckily, the boy is able to jump, swim, climb and even sneak up. He has also paranormal skills like telekinesis, levitation and invisibility. The game features nice looking graphics. Similarly to previous games of this developer, the title is filled with humor.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (XBOX)
Action 18 November 2003
This installment of the Jedi Knight video game series has been developed by Raven Software. The action of the game takes place 6 years after the events shown in the previous Jedi Knight game. The player gets the opportunity to become a student at the Jedi Academy led by Luke Skywalker and Kyle Katarn on Yavin IV. What is interesting, upon starting the game the player has to create his or her own character by choosing the race, sex, clothing and physical appearance. It is also up to the player to construct his or her own lightsaber, which immediately becomes the character’s primary weapon. This however, does not eliminate the opportunity to utilize in combat elements of more conventional arsenal, like blaster pistols and rifles. Despite the fact that the missions’ objectives do not deviate so much from the previous Jedi Knight installments, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy distinguishes itself from its predecessors through a non-linear campaign (player can complete missions at any order). On our adventure, we get to visit places like Tatooine or Hoth, and, simultaneously, acquire and develop numerous skills representing the light or the dark side of the Force. The path the player chooses not only does affect the last few quests, but it also has a significant impact on the ending of the game.
The Sims 2 (XBOX)
Simulation 24 October 2005
A sequel to the bestselling human life simulation game – The Sims (2000). The Sims 2 was developed by Maxis Studio (SimCity, EA Land, and others) in cooperation with the Electronic Arts company. Players again take care of virtual characters leading them through their entire lives – from early childhood till elderly age. The main goal is to achieve as high Life Score as possible, which stands for how well a sim leads his/her life. When compared with its predecessor, The Sims 2 offers much more complex character creator and a wider array of available objects. A new, more efficient game engine allowed for presenting the life of the sims in fully 3D graphics.
Need for Speed Carbon (XBOX)
Racing 01 November 2006
The tenth installment in the bestselling racing game series originally launched back in 1995. The game lets you play as the main protagonist of the previous game. He returns to his home city only to find his domestic street racing scene taken over by rivaling gangs. As you take on new racing challenges, you take back your home town one district at a time. The game’s mechanics employ the well-proven solutions introduced by its predecessors, while introducing several new elements at the same time. Those include, first and foremost, canyon duels, which require much attention, as it is possible to run through the traffic barriers and roll down the slope. The other novelty is the team; you can assemble your own crew, and its members can aid you during races, e.g. by blocking your rivals. Additionally, the game features cut-scenes with real actors, several dozen licensed car models, as well as vast car customization options. Regarding the latter, Autosculpt module lets you modify almost any element of the car body.
Call of Duty 3 (XBOX)
Action 07 November 2006
The third main installment in the popular FPS series, Call of Duty. It is also the first game in the franchise (not counting the console spin-offs) that in the end was not released on PCs. In contrast to the previous installments, this time the game was developed by Treyarch – the authors of the console version of Call of Duty 2. The plot of the game once again takes place on various fronts of World War II. This time one can play as American, British, Canadian, and Polish soldiers. The game mechanics remained almost unchanged in comparison to the previous games. However, there are several novelties. The developers implemented parachute drops and gave complete control over vehicles and boats to the player. Interactions with the surrounding were greatly improved. Overall realism has been improved – bullets behave different depending on what type of material they hit. Multiplayer mode was enhanced as well – now players can play in different roles and communicate using special commands.
Medal of Honor: Airborne (XBOX)
After a series of spin-off productions released for the 6th-generation consoles, the popular FPS franchise comes back in a full-fledged multiplayer installment. In accordance with the title, the events of the World War II are observed through the eyes of Boyd Travers, a paratrooper of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division. The game offers six campaigns that take place between years 1943 and 1945 in Sicily, Normandy, Netherlands, and Germany, and the choice of the drop point determines our next move to some extent. The developers naturally didn't forget about faithfully recreating weapons of the World War II period, which can be customized by addition of extra grip, different magazines, etc. Contrary to its predecessors, Airborne is powered by Unreal Engine 3 which translates into better graphics, animation, and facial expressions. The above is complemented by an extensive cooperative gameplay for up to 12 players.
The Sims (XBOX)
Simulation 14 January 2003
A bestselling life simulator developed by Maxis, a studio that specializes in the genre (they've created SimCity, SimTown and other titles). The Sims enables the player to take care of a virtual family of Sims. During the game the player must take care of various needs of his characters – starting with typically physiological ones (eating, toilet, hygiene etc.), through social relations, to career. The player has great freedom in expanding his family’s house, which can be furnished with various items that will be useful for the Sims. The gameplay mechanics are based on very simple principles and lack any violence, making the game a good title for casual players. A specific humor and large number of funny animations of character’s reactions are worth mentioning.
Pirates of the Caribbean (XBOX)
Action 01 July 2003
An action-adventure game with RPG features. It is based on Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Except for the title and the presence of some common motives (most of all the Black Pearl ship), the game has little in common with the movie. It was at first developed as sequel to Sea Dogs, another similar game created by studio Akella, but the popularity of the movie caused the change of the title. In the game the player assumes the role of an independent ship captain who is caught in the middle of a conflict between 17th century sea empires: England and France. The protagonist must gather a crew and complete a series of mission for the selected empire. As time passes, the protagonist gathers experience, becomes a better captain and warrior. Sea battles, including artillery combat, boarding, and sword fighting are an important part of the game.
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (XBOX)
Action 25 November 2003
A continuation of the extremely successful action game from 2001. Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne is once again developed by the Finnish developer Remedy Entertainment with the help from the publisher Take-Two Interactive. The action takes place one year after events of the first installment. Max Payne is back in NYPD. Unfortunately, the dark past still haunts him – the life of the hero is threatened by Mona – a beautiful killer, who steals his heart. There are not many changes in gameplay – it still combines elements of a third-person perspective shooter and an adventure game. Once again the developers implemented Bullet Time mechanics, offering new movement possibilities (like the thrilling bullet dodging).
Need for Speed: Underground (XBOX)
Racing 17 November 2003
The seventh installment in the legendary racing series developed since 1995. Created once again by EA Black Box, the game brings revolutionary changes to the series, focusing on illegal street racing, popularized mainly by The Fast and the Furious movie. This time, apart from usual races, the player can take part in several racing events, such as drifting competitions or drag races. The game offers a wide set of licensed cars popular among the illegal racing aficionados. The game stands out with a wide array of car customization options it delivers - the player can buy licensed car parts produced by the most popular real-life manufacturers. Money is an important aspect of the game, because the player spends the cash they earned in races to buy new cars and parts. Need for Speed: Underground features a diverse soundtrack as well. The player can listen to a variety of genres, such as rap, techno, or metal.