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PC Gamer's Annual Awards 1997


From PC Gamer's March 1998 Edition

Among the hundreds of new games we play each year, only an elite few can lay claim to greatness. On the following pages, you'll find those that, in our opinion, achieved such heights in 1997. Gaming greats, we salute you...

Game of the Year:

Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II - Lucas Arts

At the start of the year, the idea of a 3D shooter winning 1997's most prestigious gaming award was a laughable prospect - where was there to go beyond Quake, after all? Well, Jedi Knight answered that question in style, and for pushing back the boundaries of 3D gaming excellence way beyond what had previously been thought possible, and setting a new high watermark for 1998's crowded batch of 3D action games to live up to, it deservedly runs away with our award for 1997's Game of the Year at a comfortable pace.

Runner Up: Longbow 2 - Jane's Combat Simulations

Runner Up: Quake II - id Software

Runner Up: The Curse of Monkey Island - Lucas Arts

Best Action Game:

Quake II - id Software

Unlike Jedi Knight, Quake II isn't greatly concerned with such lofty ideals as story line and character progression (although it has a more consistent, purposeful feel than the original ever did). No, Quake II knows its market - hard-core fraggers - and it hits that market with devastating accuracy and force. It may not have the best plot, or the most cunningly designed levels, or even the most inventive weapons. But through a meticulously crafted combination of incredible graphics, spine-tingling atmosphere, and the fastest high-octaned 3D code ever written, Quake II packs a more resoundingly visceral wallop than any other game.

Runner Up: Interstate 76 - Activision

Best Adventure Game:

The Curse of Monkey Island - Lucas Arts

If any game could single-handedly resurrect a dead genre, The Curse of Monkey Island is it. Without a steady flow of games to demonstrate a gradual evolution over the last few years, creators Larry Ahern and Jonathan Ackley had to take a quantum leap forward to bring the genre bang up to date, and succeeded against the odds. Compare Curse to the Monkey Island game before it (1992's LeChuck's Revenge) - heck, compare it to anything else out there in this field - and the technical and creative superiority of Curse is astounding. In terms of art direction, writing, voice acting, characterization, and fun, it's on a par with the best of Disney's movies, but, more impressively, it doesn't steal from them as so many other animated works do. Rather, it creates its own quirky style within a well-defined and thoroughly unique canvas. As the hapless would-be pirate Guybrush Threepwood, the player is taken on a colorful, richly textured, and consistently hilarious romp through a storybook world of high-seas cut-throats, voodoo cults, zombie pirates, and romantic interludes. Rarely does the story sag, and its laugh-a-minute script guarantees entertainment even when you're stuck on the latest puzzle.

Runner Up: The Space Bar - SegaSoft

Runner Up: Blade Runner - Westwood Studios

Best Real-Time Strategy Game:

Myth: The Fallen Lords - Bungie Software

Set in a Tolkien-esque fantasy world and boasting exhaustive multi-player options, 3Dfx-accelerated graphics, and a unique terrain engine, Myth carved a new path in the real-time strategy wars with a style all its own. The secret to Myth's success was its use of the real-time format. Rather than the methodical building and researching of other real-time titles, Myth heads straight for the battlefield with rich, tactical gameplay that puts emphasis on fast-paced unit-to-unit warfare. In either the story-based single-player game or the various multi-player scenarios, Myth's mix of ranged and hand-to-hand units strikes a superb balance of challenge and fun, forcing players to constantly calculate the risks and rewards of taking the offensive. If you're looking for an unconventional and addictive real-time strategy game, look no further than Myth.

Runner Up: Uprising - Cyclone Studios

Runner Up: Dungeon Keeper - Bullfrog

Best Simulation

Longbow 2 - Jane's Combat Simulations

Among those games judged so good they transcended their genres, we picked Jane's Longbow 2 for its incredible realism, accessibility, and atmosphere - if there's ever been a better military flight simulation, we must have missed it.

Runner Up: 688(I) Hunter/Killer - Jane's Combat Simulations

Runner UP: EF 2000 2.0 - DID

Best Sports Game

NHL 98 - EA Sports

NHL 97 won this award last year on the strength of its "you are there" approach to presenting the game of hockey. The beautiful environments to play in, slick animations, and authentic sounds blew gamers away in 1996, but these were just a sample of what was to come a year later. All that was right with the game was made impressively better, thanks in no small part to the addition of 3Dfx support. The new arenas gleam and sparkle, the player animations dazzle, and the sounds delight. The addition of a two-man commentary booth is the icing on the cake, bringing the presentation to near television quality.

Runner Up: NBA 98 - EA Sports

Runner Up: Links LS 98 - Access

The Best Wargame

Panzer General II - SSI

Lovingly hand-rendered maps affectionately recreate the landscape of a war-torn Europe, creating the perfect backdrop to play with your virtual tanks. No slouch in the history department either, Panzer General II models such obscure armor battles as Lillehammer, Thermopylae, and Kishinev, but doesn't fear to tread into the realm of "What If?", with a fanciful scenario depicting German ground invasions of England and even the Untied States.
But the game's the thing, and gameplay is the factor that wins Panzer General II its stripes and sets it apart from the rest of the pack, with its intensive modeling of prestige points, air combat, and military equipment. Fans of tinkering will enjoy the custom scenario builder, which allows you to create just about any kind of engagement your imagination can conjure up. Multiplayer support is covered by LAN, Internet, or E-mail play, offering several options for those who prefer to defeat human opponents. All in all, an outstanding game.

Runner Up: Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far - Microsoft

Runner Up: Sid Meier's Gettysburg! - Electronic Arts

The Best Multi-Player Game

Quake II - id Software

On the face of it, many might disagree. It had all the feel of a rushed product, especially on the multi-player side: zero DeathMatch specific levels, promised multiplayer components absent, glaring server bugs, and half a dozen patches in the first few weeks. And as far as a multi-player game design goes, it was as about as unoriginal as they get: the good ole' DeathMatch, the same basic formula used in Doom. Everything else in the Doom/Quake series has evolved: the art, the engine, the community, even, arguably, the single-player design; but the game's actual evolution as a multi-player experience has been null, or else came wholly from the user community: Team Fortress, Capture the Flag, and the like. And yet...
Quake II multi-player is probably the most popular game on the Internet, certainly the most popular game in our offices, and definitely the most compelling, red hot, white-knuckled, pulse-pounding online game out there. Ask yourself, what equals it? Go to the consoles. Go to the arcades. Go to any PC game you want. You don't get this anywhere else: players leaping from above and behind laser rifles squealing. Rail guns ripping through shadows and bodies alike. Grenades bounding, lights shifting, rooms echoing with the screams of the dying...Played right - low latency, 3Dfx, dark room, loud sound - no game is as immersive, as intense, and as visceral, as Quake II.

Runner Up: Interstate 76 - Activision

Runner Up: Longbow 2 - Janes

Runner Up: Myth: The Fallen Lords - Bungie

The Best Roleplaying Game

Fallout - Interplay

Interplay's Fallout blew us away with its completely unique character creation system, post-apocalyptic game world, and intriguing, twisting story line that tied it all together. The turn-based combat, along with the huge variety of weapons and armor, adds a strategic element to the game's gritty (and frequent) confrontations. Throw in some fast-paced storytelling (due to the constant countdown to accomplish the main tasks), a world filled with mutant creatures, characters that react to your actions and only dole out information when you've gained their trust, and a completely new culture, and you've got one stellar RPG. The only problem with the game is the amount of time it can suck away from daily life.

Runner Up: Betrayal at Antara - Sierra

The Best Arcade Game

Moto Racer GP - Electronic Arts

The one arcade game that captured the hearts, minds, and joysticks of nearly every staff member this year was Moto Racer GP. the impeccable control, lush track graphics, and blazing speed conveyed while racing won over all but the most toffee-nosed of gamers. It sure didn't hurt that motorcycle racing on the PC has been given the short shift for many years, and Moto Racer GP came along and filled a large hole with great aplomb.

Runner Up: Nuclear Strike - Electronic Arts

Runner Up: Pro Pinball: Timeshock - Empire

The Best Turn-Based Strategy Game

Incubation - Blue Byte

Blue Byte's Incubation takes top honors for borrowing real-time 3D graphic technology from the latest action games and using it to create a great new tactical challenge. Like MicroProse's classic X-COM, Incubation offers addictive squad-level combat against diabolical aliens, but it also offers a wonderfully simple command interface that disguises the game's potential for tactical complexity. And the striking 3D graphics give the player a nearly unlimited choice of viewpoints on the action, from a bird's-eye angle on the battlefield to a down-and-dirty soldier's view of the carnage. Incubation is a first: a turn-basted strategy game that's as visceral - and a cinematic - as a good action game.

Runner Up: M.A.X. - Interplay

Runner Up: X-COM: Apocalypse - MicroProse

The Best Expansion Pack

Quake Mission Pack 2: Dissolution of Eternity - Rogue Entertainment

id Software's Quake saw two official mission packs released in 1997, each of which bestowed fans of the colossal hit with a much needed, really good, single-player game. The second of the two, though, went above and beyond the call of duty and won this category hands down. Developed by Rogue Entertainment, Dissolution of Eternity contains two new episodes comprised of 16 new single-player levels, as well as a handful of new weapons and beasts. What really makes it shine, though, is its multiplayer support. Beyond DeathMatch, cooperative play and team play, all of which are found in the original Quake, Dissolution offers built-in, easy-to-use versions of two and three team Capture the Flag and Tag.

Runner Up: Diablo: Hellfire - Sierra

Runner Up: X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter: Balance of Power - LucasArts

Special Achievement in Cinematics

Interstate '76 - Activision

The designers of Interstate '76 did some thinking outside of the box to come up with the story-based cut scenes for the game, and the result was both startingly original and satisfyingly appropriate. Constructed of the same basic polygons as the in-game graphics, the characters and backdrops of Interstate '76's cinematic scenes fused perfectly with the game itself while maintaining plenty of unique style and character. The savvy direction, camp acting, and hokey blaxploitation-style dialog provided the rest of what was needed to make Interstate '76 a first; a game that achieved a rich cinematic feel without using any of the tried-and-tested techniques - or taking itself too seriously.

Special Achievement in Graphics

Longbow 2 - Jane's Combat Simulations

...in terms of sheer intensity and believability Longbow 2's accelerated visuals were simply too good to beat. Though it is mostly clad in olive drab, we're convinced you won't find more convincing or impressive graphics anywhere else. Unlike a lot of games that concentrate on glitz and flash, Longbow 2's struck a more savory balance with graphics that complemented and heightened the gameplay experience, and really put you inside that helicopter. Well done, chaps.

Special Achievement in Art Direction

The Curse of Monkey Island - LucasArts

Anxious to avoid comparisons to the Disney animation style, the graphic design team on Curse went overboard to bestow the game with a look all its own, and the result is a game that puts the graphic back in the term "graphic adventure." The gorgeous watercolored backgrounds have a rich storybook feel, transporting the player to a wondrous fantasy world where everything is just a bit off kilter. The architecture is never quite straight, the trees bend in weird and wonderful ways, and the skies are filled with swirling clouds. Everything in Curse, from the pirate map used to sail the seas to the gold doubloon interface and the introductory screens, boasts the same lavish attention to detail and a consistent, appropriate, and unique artistic style.

Special Achievement in Sound

Dungeon Keeper - Electronic Arts

...From the soft pitter-patter of impish feet on cold, stone floors to the frightening crack of a lightning spell, Dungeon Keeper's sound effects complemented the dark themes and black humor of this inimitable strategy game with an outstanding mix of original sounds to get the player in the mood for evil.
It didn't hurt that many of these effects were downright funny. While Dungeon Keeper's sound effects are designed to keep the user informed -the solid thunk of a new message told you when work had been completed or when an attack was imminent, and the faint crumbling of a freshly dug wall let you know your orders were being followed - most effects were far more entertaining than they had any right to be. From the enthusiastic shriek of a mistress being tortured to the soft clucking of chickens in the dungeon hatchery, Dungeon Keeper's sound effects kept us smiling and listening more than any other game this year. Trust us. You'll go for the strategy - you'll stay for the chickens.

Special Achievement in Music

Interstate '76 - Activision

When you're still popping in the CD-ROM to listen to the tunes long after you've finished the final mission - that's the mark of great game soundtrack...Taking the fast-paced funk beats of '70s cop shows and action movies as its inspiration, Interstate '76 serves up a whole album's worth of authentic toe-tapping wah-wah guitar anthems, many of them good enough to grace any "Starsky & Hutch" episode or Shaft movie you care to name.

Special Achievement in Hype

Riven - Red Orb Entertainment

Fact one: Riven is a poor, weak game. Fact two: It's one of the biggest commercial hits of the year. How does one account for this discrepancy?...Operating from the game's single selling point as the sequel to Myst, one of the best-selling PC title ever (another perplexing mystery), Riven managed to invade our collective consciousness to the point at which everyone, even millions of non-gamers, knew it was coming and that it was big, so everybody rushed out to buy it. Never has a game with so little to recommend about it been bought by so many.




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