Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast
Here's what's wrong with most arcade racing games: no dodging meteor showers as you drive down the highway. Outrun 2006 puts that right at long last, adding a deranged sense of humour to a streamlined racer, with a soundtrack to live by.
Kieron: "Every time I've been driving through beautiful countryside since, down curved roads at high speed, I've thought of this and wished I were at my PC."
Name two flight sims based on pen-and-paper games. Hah, you can't. Crimson Skies gets you halfway there, set in an alternative 1937, where planes are a confusion of WWII machines and future-o-tech. Splendidly arcade, it's every reason to take to the skies, quick to entertain and reward.
Alec: "The last game in far too long that expertly identified what it is that makes (normal) men love planes - ratatatat, chocks away and all that jazz. There's no take-off or landing in it, and that's pretty much why it's still brilliant."
Bringing together all the ingredients that have made this instant-action racing series so exciting, United conjures the spirit of bedroom racetracks with manic loop-the-loops, daft jumps and all new online competitiveness where you try to post the best lap-times in your region of the world.
Craig: "It's not a racing game, really. It's a puzzler and a platform game that just happens to use cars. And it's got the best jumps in any game ever."
Neverwinter Nights 2
The closest thing videogames have to the magic of playing D&D with your friends. Best character: the kobold working in the market who has visited every other BioWare/Interplay game, and mocks the crappy older engine. ŇThere's a lot less boxes and cubes here."
John: "The camera is FINE. Stop whining, you sissies. And the story is Avellone gold. Khelgar is one of the best party members ever, and Neeshka is as close to KotOR's fantastic Mission as you'll get."
The wind up and watch it go of gaming. Turn-based combat where you and your opponent reveal your moves at the same time. It's super-deep tactical WWII warfare done properly, where infantry break as Tiger tanks crest a hill.
Tim: "I'll never forget my first skirmish in Combat Mission: I positioned all my troops around a farmhouse, and waited for the Germans to close in. They sheltered under a stone wall, but my grenades set the wheat fields behind them alight. Within seconds, the enemy had fled."
Hidden & Dangerous 2
Four men chosen from 40, taking on the infiltration, assassination and demolition jobs of prototype commandos in World War II. It's often unpleasantly tense, leaving you crawling on your belly, inching forward for that perfect sniper-shot, while your three other friends sit in ambush.
Kieron: "H&D's always been like old British war comics come to life, full of high stakes, high adventure and highest tension."
No One Lives Forever 2
Agent Cate Archer is 'hawt'. Also, funny. Highlight of this hysterical comedy FPS: fighting ninjas in a trailer park during a tornado. A far better Bond spoof than Austin Powers ever was.
John: "NOLF1 was funny for its dialogue, and jokes about shagging goats. NOLF2 was much more about hilarious set-pieces. And bombs disguised as tiny cute kittens. I just wish more people with a sense of humour would notice the FPS."