The lazy days of Michigan’s summer
proved to be a bit milder this year than those in the past,
mimicking the somewhat banal spread of videogames released during
these past few months. While many notable titles were slated for
the middle to late summer months, most were pushed back to a more
profitable time later this year or even into early next year. These
facts aside, however, summer did provide a small selection of
marquee titles spanning a variety of different genres. The
following is a look at some of the highlights (and lowlights) of
this summer’s crop.

Julie Pannuto
Oh look. Cirrhosis the wonder dog.

 

Rallisport Challenge 2

Released: May 4

Microsoft

While realism always seems to be a design highlight when it
comes to the racing-game genre, gameplay and control are also two
huge factors: The way a car controls and feels in the gaming
environment are directly proportional to how successful the game
will be. “Rallisport” is not only beautiful (both
environments and car models are exquisitely rendered), but its
gameplay puts gamers into the seat of the rally cars. Damage to the
vehicles will hinder its performance. Vibrations in the road can be
subtly felt in the road surface. Details like these separate simply
good games from excellent ones, and Microsoft has manifested this
eye for detail into a truly enjoyable racing experience.

 

Thief: Deadly Shadows

Released: May 25

Eidos Interactive

“Thief” returned this summer in a new installment,
refining the genre which it helped pioneer: the stealth-action
game. Players took on the role of Garrett, a master thief set in a
medieval time. Similar in some respects to games like
“Hitman: Contracts,” “Thief” highlights the
importance of sticking to the shadows to keep well-hidden and
complete goal driven missions. Garrett’s ability to go mano a
mano with his enemies is severely limited, underscoring the stealth
and exploration aspect of the game. Though it’s in its third
installment, “Thief” is a series that reuses old
material but hasn’t yet run out of steam.

 

Driv3r

Released: June 21

Atari

“Driv3r” was slated to be one of the top competitors
with the new installation of “Grand Theft Auto” and had
an incredible amount of buzz surrounding it during the months prior
to its release. This buzz, however, fizzled shortly after its
release. Sloppy controls, a muddled plot and uneven missions
overshadowed the cinematic storyline and sheer scope of the
project. Though three actual cities were digitally replicated for
the game (Miami, Fla., Nice, France and Istanbul, Turkey) the
gameplay — the most important aspect of a videogame —
felt tacked on. While the game was trying to create an
“action movie” atmosphere, only a few of the missions
actually reached that thrilling plateau. Disappointing as it was,
it served to make the anticipation for “GTA” even
greater.

 

Doom 3

Released: Aug. 3

Activision

Finally. Though it was believed by some that id Software would
push to get this title out last year (at the 10-year anniversary of
the original’s release), they chose to move the release date
back a bit and come out storming in the beginning of August. The
developers have crafted a game that immerses players in a world of
stunning graphic quality and terrifying 5.1 surround sound unlike
anything seen or heard before. Even though the gameplay was
criticized by some as being a bit trite, the immersion and overall
environment the game crafted kept players gripped until the very
end. “Doom 3” stuck to the storyline of the original,
keeping gamers on their toes with demons and “things that go
bump in the night” looming around every corner. id Software
has truly upped the ante with this release; it will be interesting
to see what develops will do with their finely tuned engine.

 

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow

Released: Aug. 4

UbiSoft

Following closely on the heels of the spring hit “Splinter
Cell: Pandora Tomorrow,” “Black Arrow” is the
latest title boasting the Tom Clancy moniker. “Rainbow
Six” has been a tactical shooter from the beginning and
“Black Arrow” does not stray far from this
tried-and-true path. It does, however, do what it’s designed
to do well. The single player missions have the gamer taking on
villains and terrorists across 10 different maps. Things get
interesting, though, when the game goes multiplayer. With Xbox Live
support, “Black Arrow” has added to the already quality
online action of previous “Rainbow Six”
installments.

 

Madden NFL 2005

Released: Aug. 9

EA Sports

Every August, eager sports gamers anticipate the return of one
thing: “John Madden Football.” This year’s
edition turned out to be just as entertaining as previous
iterations. The newly ramped up defenses had even the most ardent
pigskin enthusiasts struggling to break open their offenses.
Combine that with the addition of Xbox Live support and the king of
football retains its crown. Gamers don’t even need the man
himself and his telestrator to see that.

 

— Compiled by Jason Roberts

and Adam Rottenberg

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