2005 in Review

Article

posted 1/13/2006 by The GN Staff
other articles by The GN Staff
Featuring four major AAA titles and a host of other quality games, 2004 was easily one of the best years for the gaming industry in the last decade or two.  This means that 2005 had a lot to live up to and while retail sales didn't come close to what they were in 2004 (down some 20-30% depending on your source), 2005 may yet turn out to be a critical year in the big picture of things.  We asked our staff to submit their thoughts on 2005 and here's what they had to say about their picks from the previous year.

Shawn Kendrick - Staff Writer
Of course the Xbox 360 release is the big story for 2005, however my experience with it has been limited to pushing 10 year olds out of the way to play the demo at Target. I would have to say that my favorite new thingy that I've actually used somewhat this year, would have to be the Sony PSP. It still amazes me how well movies play on that little bugger. Not to mention, the games aren't too bad either.

True Crime: New York City is probably my favorite game this year. Sure it's glitchy and it borrows a lot from other games but at least it borrows the right elements. I can't even quite put my finger on why I like this game so much... I just do.

The big surprise for me this year was Apple's announcement that it would be using Intel processors in the near future. Equally as interesting was the rolling out of the entry level Mac Mini. Priced at only 499.99 this model seams to be an attempt to capture a new demographic. Could Apple's efforts to become more mainstream lead to an increase gaming titles? One can only hope.


Tyler Sager - Senior Staff Writer
2005 was a bit of an odd year for me.  Most of the year I spent watching much-anticipated titles move their release dates further and further back, most of them slipping right past the end of the year and into the next.  With no “must have” titles, as far as I was concerned, I had no need to update to the latest technology.  Being an RPG and strategy guy, there just weren’t a lot of high points until the tail end of the year. 

That being said, 2005 still had its share of great games.  Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich was a blast.  I got to scratch my action-RPG itch with Dungeon Siege II, and I still find myself popping that one in more often than I expected.  Age of Empires III made for some great RTS goodness, and as the year rolled on to an end, Civilization IV came out and stole just about every spare minute from my life.  Not a bad crop of games for one year, and each of those is rife with replayability and time-consuming goodness.

On the PS2 side of things, it was a little more bleak.  I spent time playing older games, catching up on titles I’d missed from 2004.  I think the only title I actually picked up was We Love Katamari, and I’ve been having a good time with that.  X-Men Legends 2 was also a fun diversion, but it hasn’t kept my attention as much as the other titles of the year.  And while I’m quite interested in Dragon Quest VIII, a certain turn-based PC strategy title has been holding all my attention, so that may be a post-Christmas gift to myself. 

As far as new technologies go, I’m just not an Xbox fanboy, so I’m not getting into the Xbox 360 hype.  I’ll hold out for the PS3, and put my allegiance there until I’m forced, kicking and screaming, into the Xbox fold. 

All in all, some top-notch and enjoyable titles came to light in 2005, but there just wasn’t the volume of great games like I’ve enjoyed in past years.  I’m especially troubled by the lack of traditional RPGs, both for the PC and console.  But, looking forward to 2006, there are several exciting RPG titles on the way, so the dry spell might soon be over. 



Matt Mirkovich - Staff Writer
Game of the Year- Guitar Hero, hands down the most FUN title I've played all year. We has people at the offices jumping off of tables hitting the last riff of uncountable songs. It's got a perfect range of challenge and accomplishes what Konami's Guitar Freaks has failed to do for years.

Best RPG - Shin Megami Tensei - Digital Devil Saga - Even with Dragon Quest 8 being released this year I still thing Digital Devil Saga was the better title. I enjoyed the story much more and felt the game was a tad more enjoyable with it's cameo's and special side quests.

Anti-Best Sports Game - This special award goes to the sports title that I think was the biggest let down. And that goes to SSX On Tour. SSX 3 was practically snowboarding perfection. Yet so many things changed in SSX On Tour that it flawed the game and made it less fun to play. To go for greatness to staleness, quite a shame.

Best Fighting Game - Street Fighter 3 3rd Strike - Finally released for X-Box this year it was only a matter of time before Street Fighter found a way online. It is still the best 2-D fighter to date and rivals all 3-D fighters in terms of depth and complexity. Not until Street Fighter 4 will we see anyting that could possibly be better than this.

Best Action Game - Fatal Frame 3: The Tormented - C'Mon would I select anything else? Still scary, still fun, still fresh. It's a lot longer than the previous games, has a very interesting story that ties all three games together, and it's continuing to refine it's great gameplay with a few new tweaks that add a bit to an already impressive game.

Best Racing Game - Project Gotham Racing 3 - I want a 360 now...

Best Vaporware - Starcraft Ghost - Is this game ever coming out?

Worst Gaming Entity of the Year - G4 - The Man Show? Along with other countless non-gaming related shows G4 has shown us time and time again that they aren't worth watching. Skip the channel, skip the network, and don't sell out to them during shows like E3. I want to hit their producers with a rolled up newspaper and just say "NO!"

Best New Technology - The FearTek engine. F.E.A.R. is an amazing looking game and it runs so well on my semi-low end machine, unlike a certain first person shooter that starts with B and ends in attlefield 2.



Sean Colleli - Staff Writer
This past year was a real mixed bag as far as games go.  I remember back in December of ’04, we were hearing about how big 2005 would be for gaming.  Unfortunately not everyone’s expectations were met, but there were some high points that made 05 at least memorable.

First and foremost we saw the DS really come into its own.  After a smattering of ho-hum launch titles, developers woke up from their constricting genre hibernation and slammed out some winners.  There were the quirky titles, to be sure (Trauma Center comes to mind) and all out crap (Battles of Prince of Persia).  But we also got hits like Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow, Advance Wars Dual Strike, Meteos, Mario and Luigi 2, and Nanostray. 

In the middle of it all, Nintendo expanded the demographic with their cuddly Nintendogs, a puppy simulator that confounds the hardcore but hypnotizes the casual and female gamers at the same time.  Who could’ve predicted such an innocent concept would turn into a DS selling monster?  Heck, they even released a holiday bundle that flew off the shelves like hotcakes.

It all ended in a bang, of course, with the release of Mario Kart DS, the closest thing to video game crack to come along in a while.  Accompanying the Karting frenzy was the launch of Nintendo WiFi Connection, which was further implemented in Animal Crossing Wild World a few weeks later.  Yes, the DS is showing significant progress after a lukewarm start.

The GameCube, however, wasn’t as lucky as its unorthodox little brother.  Nevertheless, a healthy supply of quality games found their way onto the pint-sized console.  The innovative Geist and the revolutionary Resident Evil 4 stole much of the spotlight, while Killer 7, DDR Mario Mix and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat filled out the selection.  Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance brought some much needed RPG love to the lineup, but with Zelda pushed back to April 2006 there wasn’t a Nintendo produced cube Mega-Hit in 05.

The PC had a relatively healthy year, if rather unexciting.  F.E.A.R. and Quake 4 both promised to change the shooter market, and while they still made a splash, they’re the same old FPS with a new coat of paint.  On the downside Half-Life 2: Aftermath has once again been delayed.

In multiplatform news, Prince of PersiaL The Two Thrones graced all three platforms with the third installment of his trilogy.  After the irritating, Godsmack hardrocking second game, Two Thrones was a breath of fresh air and the fulfillment of the first game, as well as a successful synthesis of artistic beauty and brutal combat.  In other news, Sir Sean Connery was back as Bond in From Russia with Love, although the movie-to-game transfer was inevitably rough.  If I’d wanted to watch cutscenes, I’d pop in the DVD.

Timesplitters: Future Perfect delivered the much-needed run and gun action that Bond faltered with.  Across all three platforms, Free Radical’s nonsensical shooter fulfilled fragging dreams with its massive multiplayer and mapmaker.  The solo game was mostly a parody of older titles Free Radical had worked on, but it was en an entertaining affair without doing anything earth-shattering.  All in all, a good year for action across the board.

Far and away the biggest gaming event of 2005 was the explosive launch of the Xbox 360.  But after the hype faded, so did the divine luster of the 360.  Some of the good games (Call of Duty 2, Quake 4) are available on the PC, a parallel to the original Xbox’s chief problem: it’s a gaming PC with a controller. 

Rare spiced things up with Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero, but Rare’s definitive quality seems to be wearing off.  I really hope they can rescue Joanna Dark’s franchise, the original PD was one of my favorite games and I’d hate to see the series go mediocre.  Here’s hoping PDZ was just a case of development confusion. 

The 360 has a great deal of potential, but like all consoles, it’s up to the developers to use that hardware.  The intentional console shortage backfired, the launch lineup was simply “okay”, but I’m willing to bet Microsoft won’t let the 360 become the next Dreamcast.  Competition is tight, with the uber-powerful PS3 and groundbreaking, user friendly Revolution hitting stores next year, but these are the console wars and everything is fair.  Regardless of which side they’re on, gamers have a lot to look forward to.  2005 was good for gaming, but 2006 will be extraordinary. 



Charles Husemann - Editor In Chief

Looking back it is now pretty clear that 2005 was a transition year in many senses of the word.  With Halo 2, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and Resident Evil 4 all hitting shelves last year, 2004 represented the zenith for the current generation.  Given that kind of depth, 2005 really didn’t have much of a chance to match the level of sales that we saw in 2004.  However, we did see a few new original titles that showed that there were some original ideas left out there.  God of War, Stubbs the Zombie, and Shadow of the Colossus helped renew the faith of those who were sick of games with numbers after their names while Battlefield 2 and Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones breathed some life into some old franchises.

More than anything else, 2005 was the transition to the next generation of gaming technology.  With the launch of the Xbox 360 at the end of the year and the imminent release of the PS3 and Revolution in 2006, 2005 kind of felt like a year in gaming purgatory.  While we had the afore mentioned new titles to keep us occupied, there was that feeling that something new and bigger was around the corner.  There were a lucky few that got to taste it in 2005 with the launch of the 360 but we all know that we won’t see any cool new games that really utilize the hardware until 2006.

The other area for transition in 2005 was the continual transition of video games into the mainstream.  While the move has been on for several years this was the first year that companies actively tried to court people the typical gamer outside the standard gamer realm.  Microsoft was probably the biggest culprit of this with their Xbox 360 special on MTV that featured a weirdly out of whack celebrity to screenshot ratio as well as their post launch advertising campaign.

With this increased visibility came more scrutiny from the legislature (at the State and Federal level).  The “Hot Coffee” scandal over the summer illustrated some of the problems in rating an interactive and complex medium.  This issue was quickly blown out of proportion and became easy fodder for local and national politicians to make headlines with.  The resulting furor was turned into legislation around the country and while most of the bills passed almost every one of them was shot down in court.  2006 will a national bill reach congress and I’m guessing it’s going to see the same fate as the bills passed at the local level.

While 2005 wasn’t necessarily the biggest year for increasing the depth of the industry, the industry did increase it’s breadth with the launch of the Sony PSP and  the release of several high quality (and quirky) titles for the Nintendo DS, 2005 was really the year for mobile gaming. 

Cell phone gaming also became a bigger market with Electronic Arts swallowing up leading mobile game developer Jam Dat.  While the cell phone gaming market doesn’t seem to be heating up here in the US yet, this move signifies that mobile gaming is certainly an area we will have to pay more attention to in 2006.

Every year some pundit proclaims that PC computing is dead and every year they are wrong.  Age of Empires III, Civilization IV, Quake IV, and Battlefield  2 all hitting shelves this year it’s clear that PC gaming is still alive and kicking.  More proof is available in the fact that World of Warcraft hit 5 Million users worldwide.  While exact numbers haven’t been made public simple match would indicate that Blizzard is bringing in more money in monthly subscribers fees than several third world nations do.  With an expansion pack due next year that numbers is not going to be going down any time soon.

In a few years we’re going to look back at 2005 and realize that it was more important for what happened away from the screen rather than what happened on it.



John Yan - Senior Hardware Editor

After a many months working on a new design in a new technology, I was finally able to get the latest version of Gaming Nexus online in 2005. It took longer than I had anticipated but I am very happy with what I have now. Moving from old technology to new ones are always time consuming but having done so, I'm able to update the site with new features a lot easier now. There are many more things I have planned for the upcoming year but I hope you enjoy the new layout and the speed at which the pages now display.

For the PC hardware scene, we saw a release of a few great video cards from NVIDIA and the lateness of ATI's offerings. The X1000 line from ATI was the case of too little too late but I have high expectations for the next line coming from them. NVIDIA owned last year and they'll look to continue to be the number 1 in the coming year. Crossfire FINALLY came about but ATI might have missed the window to really impress the enthusiasts with it. SLI continues to dominate the multi-video card rendering are with many companies producing affordable SLI motherboards.

Media centers and remotes had a big year this year. If you haven't tried the Logitech Harmony line then you have not experienced the easiest, most user friendly remote out there. The programming of the remote is second to none and the price compared to other high end universal remotes is very competitive. I am looking forward to seeing Logitech's new 890 remote. Windows XP Media Center 2005 was my favorite PVR software out there. The ease of installation as well as support for OTA HD cards and great UI made me switch over from BeyondTV. After seeing the demonstration of Vista's Media Center, I'm anxiously waiting Microsoft's next offering.

Logitech continues to strengthen their gaming line with another great mouse in the G5 and my keyboard of choice in the G15 Gaming Keyboard. Combining both gives you a great gaming setup that I currently use. Logitech followed up the great Z-5500 speakers with the wireless Z-5450. It's not completely wireless but nevertheless the set offers great sound and plenty of connections.

My gaming time was taken up by Battlefield 2 during the second half of 2005. As Charles says, you have a love hate relationship with the game but I had plenty of great times especially when playing with a group that really works as a team. Counter-Strike Source was the other second half title that really had me glued to my computer. Valve's update to the classic game was long overdue but still a blast to play with the improvements on the engine. F.E.A.R. gave me some great scares and the game looks beautiful. Let's not forget Call of Duty 2 as Infinity Ward's impressive sequel delivered great gameplay for the most part.

I finally gave up on EA's line of sports titles in 2005 as they didn't offer anything new to me with the exception of the basketbal game. I used to buy their NCAA Football games the day they came out but the last two have not shown to be a must buy. I am still a little sad about EA taking sole possession of the NFL license as well as I spent a lot more time on the NFL2K series than Madden. 2005 was the first year I reviewed an NBA Live game in a few years and I can tell I didn't miss much. The game still has its share of problems and I don't think I'll be getting next year's other unless they do some massive overhaul of the game.

Oh yeah, and something called the Xbox 360 came out. I'm not going to get too much into it as the other writers have written more than enough about the console in this piece but I do really like what the console has and what it can do.

Overall, I thought 2005 was an ok year but I have high expectations for 2006 with new cards coming from NVIDIA and ATI as well as the release (I hope!) of the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Revolution.