Game of the Year
Winner: Total Annihilation
It's important to note that our three strongest contenders all took established formulas and improved upon them significantly, so we weighed the significance of these improvements to determine the victor. Total Annihilation, with its 3D terrain, numerous multiplayer options, and seamless but complex interface, makes some incredible improvements in a genre that saw a lot of action this year, the majority of which were totally forgettable.
While at first glance it's just another real-time strategy game, Total Annihilation reveals a whole other beast - one where tried-and-true strategies, such as tank rushes, unit luring, and other basics of the real-time game, are completely useless. Total Annihilation also excels in one important area - longevity. With 25 campaign missions per side, a great skirmish mode, and new units and maps constantly provided - for free - via Cavedog's web site, it's a game that keeps on giving long after you get your money's worth.
As we've said, it was a tough decision this year. But in the end, no game made more dramatic improvements in its category than Total Annihilation.
Runner-up: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
On the control side, Jedi Knight adds subtle additions that are inexplicably neglected in other first-person shooters. Moving backward, forward, or side-to-side all feel different, giving you the impression that you are actually moving, not just hurtling along at breakneck speed with no regard to physical reality. And you can really jump in the game, making it possible to move just about anywhere without feeling frustrated because you can't get up on a seemingly one-foot ledge.
Finally, there's the story. It may be a bit too much like its silver-screen counterparts, but it is well integrated into the game, and gives every level - and every task within each level - a much better sense of purpose than other games (like Quake II or Hexen II) that attempt to do the same.
Jedi Knight may not be the most technically advanced game in its genre, and it certainly isn't the most visually attractive, but LucasArts focused on an area long-neglected in the genre: single-player. And in doing so, it came up with what was arguably the best single-player game since Doom.
Special Mention: Fallout
Fallout deserves more attention than it has received. A tale of postapocalyptic life somewhat akin to The Road Warrior, it is one of the most accurate re-creations of a pen-and-paper RPG to ever hit a hard drive. It is a game that ostensibly appeals to RPG fans, but the dynamic story and amazing replayability - especially for the genre - should give it crossover appeal.
Unfortunately, there are a few design problems and bugs that hamper the game's enjoyment. But it is such an epic and an original experience that these problems are easily overlooked. Hopefully, Interplay will use the engine in future endeavors.