Welcome to CVG's Games of the Decade day 2: The year is 2001 and rather than enjoying a Space Odyssey or confronting a big black obelisk, gamers instead faced tough but agreeable choices on where to splash their gaming dollar. Culling the numbers down to a shortlist of just five, was, like clubbing baby seals, harsh but necessary and many fine games had to be left by the wayside before we could proceed.
A strong line-up of hardcore gaming at its very finest made for plenty of tough choices for the panel of judges (who were basically me and the assembled voices in my head), but after much argument, debate and not a little friction, the dust settled and here's how the cards fell.
Bohemia Interactive's Operation Flashpoint was a worthy free-ranging military FPS and it's a testament to the strength of the field, that it's sadly eliminated at the first fence. Likewise Return to Castle Wolfenstein introduced superb class-based multiplayer, but didn't quite raise its game enough to challenge the other contenders. In a year awash with innovation, Max Payne debuted with the new concept of 'bullet time' in a dark, complex, noirish tale of revenge and redemption which captivated all right-thinking action fans, but didn't quite do enough to trouble our final two behemoths.
So we came down to a really tough choice in the final eliminator and even though it was a flawed gem, for its grand theme, AI innovation and the delightful Creature, Black and White would surely have won in any other year.
The Winner: Grand Theft Auto III
But once again there can be only one winner and the unanimous decision of the judges is Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto III. The first
As the best-selling series moved from 2D to full 3D it set a new benchmark for all other games to follow. Violent, immoral and controversial (people say that as if that was a bad thing) but a whole heap of tremendous fun. GTA III gave you the role of a criminal and license to do pretty much whatever you want. Mug innocent bystanders, start a multi-vehicle pile up, indulge in running gun battles through the streets with the police or indeed enjoy the ahem favours of ladies of the night (you mean 'shag' them - Ed), GTA III allowed you for the first time to do them all, as well as enjoy mission-based story-led mayhem of the highest class.
Not just one of the best games of 2001, but the template for every 3D roaming sandbox city game ever since, Grand Theft Auto III can rightly claim to be one of the most influential games of all time. GTA III we hail you and celebrate by putting a righteous cap in every innocent bystanders ass.
Grand Theft Auto III
Okay we've told your ours, now you tell us yours! Your top five, overall winner and most importantly, why, in the comments field below please.