GameSpot's Month in Review for June 2004

Our monthly feature sums up all the reviews we posted in June 2004. Check out our Game of the Month awards and our GameSpot Complete PDF Buyers' Guide.

The month of June means that summer is in full swing as schools let out for seasonal vacation and families spend more time together on weekends. GameSpot has reviewed a ton of games on a variety of different platforms this month, and our Month in Review feature will help you separate the wheat from the chaff. What's new this month is that we've included a new mobile games component to the feature and to the buyers' guide, which will help you sort through our rapidly accelerating coverage of cell phone games. As our coverage of the Nokia N-Gage and Tapwave Zodiac ramps up in the near future, along with the software release schedule for those platforms, we will look into including them as well into this monthly feature.

June brought quite a number of high-quality games across the board. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay stood out as the only Editors' Choice award winner this month, but every platform has at least a couple of easily recommendable games. The next few pages outline the game of the month on each platform and include quick links to reviews, screenshots, and discussion forums. As a reminder, we do not automatically award game of the month to the highest-scoring game. Instead, we discuss all the worthy candidates in detail and take several factors into account, such as originality and mass appeal.

As always, GameSpot Complete members have the special privilege of downloading our Complete Buyers' Guide. You'll find the link to the guide in the right sidebar of this page. It's easily searchable or printable in Acrobat format, so you can take it with you to the store or anywhere else where you might need to get quick information on all the latest games.

Comments on this feature? Agree or disagree with our picks? Let your thoughts be known in our forums!

PC Game of the Month

Review Excerpt

See screenshots of Ground Control II: Operation Exodus
"All of these nifty gameplay features wouldn't mean much if not for Ground Control II's lengthy and varied campaigns. Although they're entirely linear, the mission design is fairly interesting. In most cases, you'll be managing multiple fronts, trying to simultaneously lead attacks on Terran strongholds while fending off attacks to your rear flanks. The game's artificial intelligence seems smart enough to find any holes in your defense to sneak strike forces through and attack your more lightly defended landing zones and victory locations. The result is a satisfyingly frenetic pace, which should challenge most RTS veterans."

Watch the video review of Ground Control II. Initially, there was some dispute among editors between giving the PC nod to Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising or to Ground Control II: Operation Exodus. While we do acknowledge Joint Operations for breaking new ground with its massive 150-player-plus servers, ultimately we decided that Ground Control II was a more complete and polished all-around game. There's no base building or resource gathering in Ground Control II, so the focus of the game is kept squarely on battles, which are depicted in dramatic and compelling fashion with the game's excellent graphics engine. Ground Control II doesn't just rely on a great presentation though; its fast-paced gameplay, both in the lengthy campaign and in multiplayer matches, makes the game a worthwhile purchase for any real-time strategy fan. It is without a doubt one of the best RTS games released this year.

Check out our other PC reviews in June

UEFA Euro 2004 (8.5)
"UEFA Euro 2004 boasts only a fraction of the teams and features found in FIFA 2004, but it's sufficiently different to make it a worthwhile purchase."

Crusader Kings (8.2)
"While casual gamers will feel overwhelmed, anyone with a love of history will appreciate Crusader Kings' rigorous attention to detail and epic scope."

Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising (8.2)
"Though the retail version has a few notable flaws, Joint Operations can be an exhilarating, fast-paced game about modern combat."

Perimeter (8.2)
"Perimeter is without a doubt one of the most innovative real-time strategy games to appear in years."

The Suffering (7.6)
"The Suffering might be a little too straightforward in spots, but it does make for a solid action game."

Blitzkrieg: Burning Horizon (7.3)
"Blitzkrieg's captivating blend of real-time mouseslinging and realistic handling of WWII combat tactics still delivers in this single-player-focused follow-up."

Missing: Since January (7.1)
"If you fancy yourself a skilled Internet sleuth, Missing may prove to be an engrossing and unique experience."

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (7.0)
"Prisoner of Azkaban is a great game for younger kids, and it's fun for less-discriminating older fans of Harry Potter too."

Besieger (6.2)
"Besieger tries to innovate in the crowded real-time strategy genre, but it's undermined by poor artificial intelligence."

Lineage II: The Chaotic Chronicle (6.0)
"Depending on how you look at it, Lineage II offers either a repetitive grind or a stiff challenge."

Alias (5.5)
"There are too many unpolished aspects and simply not enough challenge to make the game appealing to anyone outside of the most devout Alias audience."

Fair Strike (4.9)
"Fair Strike isn't all bad, but it buckles under the weight of many problems."

Shrek 2 (4.5)
"Shrek 2 for the PC is strictly for kids, though considering its clunky controls and short running time, it's not even a terribly good game for them."

Apocalyptica (3.1)
"Apocalyptica is terrible from top to bottom, suffering from bland, derivative gameplay, simplistic level design, brain-dead AI, and a buggy graphics engine that chugs even at low resolution."

Xbox Game of the Month

Review Excerpt

See screenshots of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
"The Chronicles of Riddick deliberately approaches Hollywood-like levels of intensity, pacing, and sheer spectacle like few, if any, games ever have. Yet there's a truly great-playing game here, too, so the production values aren't just superficial. If you don't already have an Xbox, it's worth buying one to play this game. And if you already do have one and you're mature enough to handle the game's subject matter, then you'd be a fool not to play The Chronicles of Riddick."

Watch the video review of The Chronicles of Riddick. It was an easy decision to award Xbox Game of the Month to The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay. Not only does the game sport some of the best graphics and sound ever seen on the platform, but the stealth action gameplay stays varied and compelling throughout the single-player campaign. Outgunned and outnumbered, you'll start off with some slick hand-to-hand combat moves, which you can use to disarm and disable your opponents in entertaining ways. Guns, of course, become a factor later on, but you are likely to have the most fun with sneaking up and using a shiv on an unsuspecting guard. As in the movie, Hollywood superstar Vin Diesel takes the role of the titular Richard B. Riddick in the game, lending his voice talent and his likeness.

Check out our other Xbox reviews in June

Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (8.4)
"Psi-Ops sets itself apart incredibly well with its series of well-implemented psychic abilities."

UEFA Euro 2004 (8.3)
"UEFA Euro 2004 boasts only a fraction of the teams and features found in FIFA 2004, but it's sufficiently different to make it a worthwhile purchase."

Powerdrome (7.9)
"A value-priced, futuristic racing game might not sound immediately appealing, but Powerdrome is better than the sum of its parts."

Soldiers: Heroes of World War II (7.9)
"Soldiers: Heroes of World War II is a very good game that should appeal most to hardcore strategy fans, due to its intricate, challenging gameplay and great presentation."

MLB SlugFest: Loaded (7.8)
"If you're looking for a superfun, easy-to-understand baseball game this year, SlugFest: Loaded is definitely your best bet."

Full Spectrum Warrior (7.7)
"Full Spectrum Warrior is very good overall, and deserves credit for being something other than just another military-themed shooter or strategy game."

Spider-Man 2 (7.2)
"Spider-Man 2 is a good game, but its repetitive gameplay, combined with an open-ended design, also makes it feel like a missed opportunity."

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (7.0)
"If you love the Harry Potter series and you can get past a few rough edges, Prisoner of Azkaban should be a satisfyingly interactive way to experience the story once again."

Shadow Ops: Red Mercury (6.8)
"The campaign missions can be pretty intense at times, but the underlying action itself, especially in multiplayer mode, lacks the sort of visceral punch that shooters ought to have."

Showdown: Legends of Wrestling (6.5)
"Everything positive that has been added to Showdown doesn't do anything to counteract the mechanical, artificial intelligence and visual problems that plague much of the game."

Knight's Apprentice, Memorick's Adventures (5.6)
"The game's a simple, brief romp through the world of Arthurian legend that suffers from some wonky controls and an overall lack of depth."

DRIV3R (5.4)
"A bevy of technical problems make portions of the game feel sloppy and unfinished, such that even diehard fans of the series will have a hard time liking Driver 3."

Malice (5.0)
"Unless you're absolutely rapt with morbid curiosity about how Malice ultimately turned out, your time and money are definitely best spent elsewhere."

GameCube Game of the Month

Review Excerpt

See screenshots of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
"It's not too surprising that it took Nintendo developing a game itself for the whole connectivity idea to really crystallize. The key to the success of this game is that the game is inherently really good, with or without the hardware novelty. But, to be fair, if you only play Four Swords Adventures by yourself, you won't be getting the full experience. If you've been waiting for a truly compelling reason to invest in a GameCube-to-GBA link cable, this is probably it."

Watch the video review of Four Swords Adventures. New Quote: While nostalgia swayed a few editors to pick Mega Man Anniversary Collection, we all ended up agreeing that The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was the most deserving winner on the GameCube platform for this month. Sure it's not entirely original--it's based on the multiplayer mode from the Game Boy Advance's A Link to the Past--but the gameplay in Four Swords Adventures is still great. In multiplayer, the game forces you to balance the fine line between competitiveness and cooperative play in order to advance. Best of all, the game makes great use of the GBA connectivity feature, finally delivering on the promise of synergy between the two platforms. If you like party games and have a couple of like-minded friends with GBA systems, Four Swords Adventures makes for a fine purchase and a unique gameplay experience.

Check out our other GameCube reviews in June

Mega Man Anniversary Collection (8.3)
"In a time when a deluge of halfhearted classic gaming collections are flooding the market, Mega Man Anniversary Collection manages to get it right."

Spider-Man 2 (7.2)
"Spider-Man 2 is a good game, but its repetitive gameplay, combined with an open-ended design, also makes it feel like a missed opportunity."

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 (6.9)
"This particular version of Rainbow Six 3 is really only suitable for those who only have access to a GameCube and want a military-themed shooter."

Freestyle Street Soccer (3.8)
"While games like EA's Street series and NBA Ballers have proven that street sports can be done right in video games, Freestyle Street Soccer proves that you can also do them very, very wrong."

PS2 Game of the Month

Review Excerpt

See screenshots of Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
"Sometimes great gameplay mechanics or a simple but effective twist on an existing formula is enough to turn what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill experience into a fresh-feeling, well-conceived game. Take Midway's latest release, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy. For the most part, the game is your average military-themed third-person action adventure, complete with locked doors, navigation puzzles, and pattern-based boss battles against a variety of colorful foes. But Psi-Ops sets itself apart incredibly well with its series of well-implemented psychic abilities."

Watch the video review of Psi-Ops. Like the GameCube version, the Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the PS2 garnered a good amount of editor support at first, but ultimately we had to give the nod to the new experiences offered in Midway's Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy. At first glance, the game seems like a standard third-person shooter, but closer inspection shows that the game distinguishes itself with its fun and effective psychic abilities. Most players will have fun with the regular telekinesis ability, which lets you pick up objects and fling them at enemies. But Psi-Ops offers a variety of different extrasensory tricks, which you'll need to use to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. You can mind-control opponents to get them to attack their own comrades. Another ability, called remote viewing, lets you scout out rooms and other locations without putting yourself in harm's way. All these abilities give Psi-Ops an open-ended feel, making it a winner in our book.

Check out our other PS2 reviews in June

Mega Man Anniversary Collection (8.4)
"In a time when a deluge of halfhearted classic gaming collections are flooding the market, Mega Man Anniversary Collection manages to get it right."

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow (8.2)
"This is a respectable port overall, and if you consider it only in the context of the PlayStation 2's library, it's still a great game."

UEFA Euro 2004 (8.2)
"UEFA Euro 2004 boasts only a fraction of the teams and features found in FIFA 2004, but it's sufficiently different to make it a worthwhile purchase."

MLB SlugFest: Loaded (7.8)
"If you're looking for a superfun, easy-to-understand baseball game this year, SlugFest: Loaded is definitely your best bet."

Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2 (7.5)
"PlayStation 2 owners should find plenty to like about Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2."

Front Mission 4 (7.3)
"Ultimately, those most likely to enjoy Front Mission 4 are already Front Mission fans."

Galactic Wrestling: Featuring Ultimate Muscle (7.3)
"On its own merits, Galactic Wrestling is a solid grappler. But anyone hoping for a step forward from the first Ultimate Muscle game is going to be a bit disappointed."

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (7.2)
"If you love the Harry Potter series and you can get past a few rough edges, Prisoner of Azkaban should be a satisfyingly interactive way to experience the story once again."

Spider-Man 2 (7.2)
"Spider-Man 2 is a good game, but its repetitive gameplay, combined with an open-ended design, also makes it feel like a missed opportunity."

World Championship Pool 2004 (7.1)
"If you're a pool enthusiast with a PlayStation 2, you ought to give World Championship Pool 2004 a look."

Showdown: Legends of Wrestling (6.5)
"Everything positive that has been added to Showdown doesn't do anything to counteract the mechanical, artificial intelligence and visual problems that plague much of the game."

McFarlane's Evil Prophecy (6.2)
"For anyone who isn't especially obsessed with all things Todd McFarlane, Evil Prophecy just has too many problems to make it recommendable."

Ribbit King (5.9)
"After the novelty of watching purposely weird characters launch frogs through Mouse Trap-style obstacle courses wears off, you're left with a simple, shallow game."

DRIV3R (5.4)
"Unfortunately, a bevy of technical problems make portions of the game feel sloppy and unfinished, such that even diehard fans of the series will have a hard time liking Driver 3."

Malice (5.0)
"Unless you're absolutely rapt with morbid curiosity about how Malice ultimately turned out, your time and money are definitely best spent elsewhere."

GBA Game of the Month

Review Excerpt

See screenshots of Sonic Advance 3
"Sonic Advance 3 feels less like the follow-up to the previous Sonic Advance and more like a spiritual sequel to the now-classic Sonic the Hedgehog games that were once synonymous with the Sega Genesis. The levels offer a nice balance of careful exploration and flat-out running; there are numerous spots within every level where you can take time out and just amuse yourself by playing with pinball bumpers, springboards, and character-hurling cannons. The graphics always manage to keep pace even when the characters are bouncing off of springboards and dashing through spirals at blazing speed, despite the use of many CPU-intensive background effects. But, besides all of that, Sonic Advance 3 actually brings something new to the table--a tag-team play mechanic that ultimately enhances the overall product rather than mucking it up."

Sonic challenges some bosses with his friends in this movie. It was a close vote between Sonic Advance 3 and Mario Golf, but we ended up siding with the spiky blue hedgehog this time. The newest iteration of Sonic on the Game Boy Advance is the best one yet on the portable platform and is arguably the best Sonic game on any platform in recent years. Like the classic Genesis Sonic games, Sonic Advance 3 features a good amount of exploration and speed running. The engine is robust enough to keep up with the hectic pace of the game while offering beautiful graphics and backgrounds to admire. Sonic is joined by a number of buddies in this adventure, including Tails, Knuckles, and Cream. With the game's tag ability, you can create different character combos to perform special moves. You'll need to learn them all in order to get the most out of the 21 open-ended levels offered in the game. Those looking for a fast platform game on their GBA should definitely give Sonic Advance 3 a try.

Check out our other GBA reviews in June

Mario Golf: Advance Tour (8.2)
"The addition of light role-playing elements to the otherwise standard golf gameplay doesn't always mesh particularly well, but the game is otherwise put together well enough that such minor design peculiarities are easy to overlook."

Shining Soul II (7.7)
"Shining Soul II is the kind of dungeon hack that can keep you occupied for a long, long time."

Crash Bandicoot Purple: Ripto's Rampage (7.7)
"The levels and minigames in Crash Bandicoot Purple: Ripto's Rage are fun to come back to even after you've seen the Crash-Spyro crossover all the way to the end."

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (7.5)
"The game is faithful to the book and it's a darn good role-playing game."

Sabre Wulf (7.3)
"If you're interested in some light puzzle-solving mixed with even lighter platforming, Sabre Wulf fits the bill."

Classic NES Series: The Legend of Zelda (7.1)
"Though the game is old and has been followed up by plenty of other, deeper games in the series, The Legend of Zelda still holds up quite well."

Classic NES Series: Super Mario Bros. (6.8)
"The classic platformer holds up pretty well after all this time, though some minor technical issues prevent this reissue from being as super as the original game."

Shrek 2 (6.4)
"Shrek 2 is a team-oriented action game that's primarily geared toward younger players."

Classic NES Series: Donkey Kong (6.2)
"Donkey Kong still plays well, but with only three of the original arcade version's four screens and no meaningful play options, it's hard to recommend."

Classic NES Series: Excitebike (6.2)
"Excitebike is a solid trip down memory lane for fans of the original NES game. But is that trip worth $20? Probably not."

Classic NES Series: Ice Climber (6.2)
"Ice Climber probably would have been better suited for release as part of a compilation of old NES games rather than as a stand-alone product."

Spyro Orange: The Cortex Conspiracy (5.9)
"Spyro Orange: The Cortex Conspiracy is better suited for novice players who mainly want to see how the Crash-Spyro crossover turns out."

Classic NES Series: Xevious (5.8)
"Xevious is certainly a classic game, but it's a classic arcade game, not a classic NES game."

Classic NES Series: Pac-Man (5.6)
"Unless you're a completist going for the whole Classic NES Series or you're some sort of fiend for the NES version of Pac-Man, this rerelease really isn't worth your time or money."

Classic NES Series: Bomberman (4.9)
"A Bomberman game without multiplayer is hardly a Bomberman game at all."

Mobile Game of the Month

Review Excerpt

See screenshots of Sumo Wrestling
"Sumo is not a simple wrestling match--it is a complex ceremonial edifice that has evolved over the 1,500-odd years since sumo's inception as a harvest ritual that covers everything from dietary guidelines to hairstyle. The mobile edition maintains a high level of this long-established etiquette, including the 10-tiered ranking system that ranges up to yokozuna (grand champion) and the prematch rice-tossing and clapping session; the referee is attired in a natty kimono and even makes the correct barking vocalizations to exhort the wrestlers to fight. Furthermore, your wrestler is customizable down to his mawashi color; if fire-engine red isn't getting the job done, you can always opt for a more intimidating greenish hue... This level of superficial detail never goes amiss, and it's backed up by a comprehensive and well-documented wrestling system."

We chose Sumo Wrestling over Jamdat Golf 2004 and Sorrent's Batter Up! because it offers something these other games--no matter how technically sound they may be--cannot: a truly novel mobile gaming experience. The two previously mentioned games are great fun and represent highly evolved versions of their respective genres, but there's nothing particularly unique about either of them. Sumo, on the other hand, has a very fresh premise that turns out to be an excellent foundation for a fighting game. Mitsui Bussan and Swing dot BSI did a great job of sharpening the integral mechanics of the sport into a facile control set for mobile, featuring more than a dozen different moves that become accessible as a particular match progresses. Sumo Wrestling combines responsive gameplay, thunderous fighting techniques, and an appealing graphical style into one of the best fighting games we've seen on the cell phone. Download it.

Check out our other Mobile reviews in June

Jamdat Sports Golf 2004 (8.1)
"Jamdat Sports Golf 2004 is one of the most elegant, well-engineered golf sims on mobile platforms."

Batter Up! by Fox Sports (7.8)
"Batter Up! hits the sweet spot between substantive gameplay, home run derby frivolity, and slick presentation."

DRIV3R (7.5)
"Though Driver 3 occasionally confounds, it often satisfies and even pleasantly surprises with its large amount of options and content."

Air Wars (7.3)
"Air Wars is a pretty good shooter, but it's over too soon and doesn't offer much in the way of replayability."

Evel Knievel Evel-ution (7.3)
"Evel Knievel Evel-ution delivers a decent stunt riding game"

Pinball Factory (7.0)
"Pinball Factory is a solid title that hints at great things to come."

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Mobile Edition (7.0)
"This game is a good bet for trivia lovers."

Multiplayer Snake (6.5)
"Some performance issues and a general lack of variety prevent Multiplayer Snake from reaching its potential."

Kasparov Chessmate (6.4)
"Kasparov Chessmate has a sharp brain, but the lack of human competition keeps it from attaining true Grand Master status."

Jamdat MLB Baseball 2004 (6.2)
"Jamdat MLB 2004 does a good job with stat tracking, but the boneheaded defensive AI really hurts the overall experience."

Maxim Balls (5.9)
"Maxim Balls is a decent little game that plays well, but it lacks any variety whatsoever."

Shrek 2 (5.2)
"Shrek 2 plays more like a quickie advertisement for the film than a stand-alone mobile title."

King Arthur (5.0)
"King Arthur's beat-'em-up gameplay has been oversimplified to the point of tedium."

The Punisher (4.6)
"There's a fun game buried inside The Punisher's concept, but the poor execution really gets in the way and prevents the game from being recommendable in any way."

Around the World in 80 Days (3.6)
"Around the World in 80 Days is a broadly flawed mobile title."

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 (3.2)
"Tiger fans should definitely stick with last year's game, rather than upgrade to this year's model."

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