Xbox Game of the Year
Crispin: This vote would be cinchy if Halo 2 hadn’t already won Game of the Year, but our rules forbid the overall winner from competing in the other categories. What does that leave for Xbox? Blinx 2? Uh, no. I’m backing a dark horse: Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay. The movie sucked and tanked. The game is amazing. Crazy!
Shoe: Riddick is mind-blowing. The gameplay’s a bit simple, but the graphics and environments make for a sci-fi adventure that’s better than most of what Hollywood craps out. But I’m voting for Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow on its multiplayer merits alone. Two spies, two mercenaries...it’s a revolutionary game that hooked me for months. Only its cheaters and steep learning curve hold it from Halo-like stardom.
Reviews Editor Demian Linn: I’ll tip my bowler hat to both Riddick—the best thing Vin Diesel’s ever touched, or even stared blankly at—and Pandora (on Xbox Live only; I’d had enough sneakery by level two of the game’s single player), but Ninja Gaiden’s near-perfect take on ninja-related jumping and slashing may well be the best action game of aught-four. Sure, the camera occasionally sucks and the game’s hard as hell, but the controls and sheer ninjatude will eviscerate you in the end. And I mean that in the best possible way.
Crispin: Yeah, but neither Pandora nor your ninja can top Riddick in terms of atmosphere. I’ve seen cheerier episodes of Oz, and we all know what happens on that prison show. Riddick was so grimy, I felt like I needed a shower after playing it. And I mean that in the best way, too.
Shoe: And I mean this in the best possible way: Pandora is the Xbox Game of the Year, and you are both dumb and/or wrong if you think otherwise.
Demian: Sounds like what you’re both saying is Gaiden was too tough for ya—and I mean that in the worst possible way. Let’s see if the rest of the staff is hardcore. To the voting booths!
And the Winner Is... Ninja Gaiden
Runner-up: Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow
Showiness counts for something, and Gaiden’s emerald-misted bamboo forests and mountaintop estates with gold foil screens and sliding doors are pure ninja magic. Gameplay means more, and this gem works like a full-faceted fighter—your kung fu is stronger than in any other beat-em-up before (or after) it, and survival requires unflinching focus and hair-trigger reflexes.
(PS2 • Namco)
Almost Better Than Porno:
(PS2 • Konami)
Street Fighter Anniversary Collection
(PS2 • Capcom)
Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.