By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief
5 – Tribes Aerial Assault (PlayStation 2)*
Though it didn’t hold up its relevance very well in the last decade or so, for a few years near the turn of the millennium, Tribes was one of the biggest names in online multiplayer action. In fact, it was one of the first such games to focus primarily on multiplayer and have no single-player component to speak of. The franchise’s unique blend of FPS action and fast-paced traversal over large maps–thanks to the players being flying cyborgs–set it apart from the largely ground-based multiplayer games of the time. The series has been almost 100% PC-exclusive save for the third entry, Aerial Assault, which was one of the first online-enabled games for the PlayStation 2. It was also one of the few that didn’t require high-speed internet, meaning even those still stuck in dial-up purgatory would have something to play besides FreQuency. As one such gamer, I can attest to how well the game played even over a 56K modem, and there was definitely a sizable community for the game for some time after its release–which dwindled as more people made the switch to broadband and SOCOM. The Tribes series returned to being completely PC-exclusive for its next (final?) two installments.
4 – The Sims Bustin’ Out (PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube)
When the original The Sims was ported to consoles in 2003, EA smartly added the “Get A Life” mode to appeal to console gamers. The more goal-oriented structure was a better fit for consoles than the largely open-ended nature of the PC original. This was expanded upon for the console follow-up, The Sims Bustin’ Out, the first Sims title ever to be a console exclusive. Bustin’ Out featured a game mode that was in even more of a traditional goal-based, beginning-to-end style than the Get A Life mode of its predecessor, with an overarching story and a specific “villain” to take down. While its easy to see a video game title like “Bustin’ Out” and assume it refers to well-endowed women with ill-fitting clothes, it’s actually a reference to the many different locations you can “bust out” to visit throughout the game. Unfortunately, Bustin’ Out was followed by the also console-exclusive The Urbz: Sims in the City, which went way too heavy on the cheesy “urban” vibe and also included songs from rap group the Black Eyed-Peas, translated into Simlish, the series’ made up gibberish language.
3 – Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict (Xbox)
Unreal Championship for Xbox was mostly an enhanced port of Unreal Tournament 2003. Work began on a PC sequel to UT2003, but that project was eventually moved over exclusively to the Xbox after a multi-game contract was signed with publisher Midway. And since it was brought to the same platform as Unreal Championship, it was marketed as its direct sequel even though the two games are quite different in a number of key ways. UC2 was the first time that Epic Games really went full-bore on third-person action, which of course would soon be the entire basis for their blockbuster Gears of War franchise. It was also the first time that melee combat played a major role in an Unreal game, with the third-person perspective being used to better-utilize characters’ advanced melee attacks. Sadly, Unreal Tournament 3 eschewed all of this and brought the series back to primarily gun-based action, leaving the franchise’s only major attempt at a creative left-turn as an aging original Xbox game (though it’s at least playable on 360, for what it’s worth).
2 – Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube)
You don’t get much more PC than the Baldur’s Gate franchise. Based around a Dungeons & Dragons setting, the BG games are generally role-playing games developed by Bioware. If you don’t know what it means for a game to have been designed to conform to the rules of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, then the BG series probably isn’t for you. That is, until the console spin-off series Dark Alliance, which took BG‘s RPG trappings and revamped them into a more action-oriented hack-n-slash affair. Supposedly those D&D “rules” are still at play, but you don’t need to know a single thing about D&D in order to have a blast hacking away at hordes of beasties between enjoying some of the best water and breast physics seen in video games up to that point. Sequel Dark Alliance II was a bit of a downgrade in quality, but fans of the series got another solid–and also console-exclusive–entry in the spiritual successor Champions of Norrath, which took the basic Dark Alliance formula and brought it into the world of Everquest. And, like the Dark Alliance games, you definitely don’t need to know or care about Everquest in order to enjoy it.
1 – Civilization Revolution (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
There have been many attempts at bringing this type of game to consoles over the decades. And while some have been quite good, on the whole this genre just isn’t very well-suited to controllers, the distance away from the screen that console gamers sit, and just the sensibilities of the average console gamer. It’s only when something like Civilization Revolution comes along and is built from the ground up specifically for consoles that a strategy game can find success on the platform. Not only is Civ Rev the perfect Civ game for consoles, with its streamlined interface, brighter and bolder visuals, and faster progression, but it’s also considered one of the best–or at least, one of the most fun–entries in the series, period. Even Sid Meier himself enthused, “This is the game I’ve always wanted to make.” This is probably the best showing of a PC strategy game series on consoles since the beloved Super NES version of SimCity.
[*Note: Tribes Arial Assault isn’t technically a “console exclusive” anymore since a freeware remake was released for PC last year, but I still think it counts in the spirit of this list.]