Do you remember the golden era of gaming that took place during the lifespan of the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox? Technology was really advancing in the console market and online connectivity was a fairly new idea for games. Because of the limitations of disc capacity and the complete absence of post-release patches, developers were pushed to maximize their resources and create innovative products to drive sales.
They were not all winners, but this previous generation held some truly exhilarating gaming experiences that still hold a place in our minds (and hearts). Maybe our younger selves were more easily pleased in the days before we were nickel-and-dimed by season passes, post-launch downloadable content, and the ever-evil microtransactions. Whatever the case may be, the nostalgia factor contained within this timeline remains fairly strong.
I have compiled a list of titles ranging from instant hits to cult classics that could serve as solid candidates for the remaster treatment, a popular trend in this day and age. When I say remaster, I mean the works. Simply upscaling these old gems isn’t enough. They deserve to be completely rebuilt with design tweaks and additions, bringing them into the modern era with a bang, much like Yakuza Kiwami managed to do in spectacular fashion.
As a side note before we begin, you won’t find the beloved TimeSplitters games on this list due to the fact that an overhaul is already being worked on by a very dedicated team with the support of the original developers. With that out of the way, let’s get started.
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
Midway Games produced one of the most amusing third-person shooters in 2004. This super-powered shooter created a playground for experimentation with a slew of abilities that were further enhanced by the breaking development of ragdoll physics. The story of Nick Scryer wasn’t all too memorable, but the dispatching of foes with telekinesis and pyrokinesis definitely left a lasting impression. Who didn’t love using the Super Psi and Infinite Psi Power cheats to go toe-to-toe with Barret, catching and tossing tank trunk canisters back at the baddie?
ALTERNATIVE: Second Sight
Here’s another psychic-infused, amnesia-filled tale of one man’s misfortune. It took itself a bit more seriously than Psi-Ops and focused more tightly on the psychological aspects of the character’s afflictions. Plus, the stealth and puzzle solving made it standout from Midway’s title.
Darkwatch brought the vampiric Jericho Cross into the light before his kind sparkled and got tangled up in teen fantasies. Instead of a high school love triangle, this vampire was part of an organization that hunted the night dwelling beasts. The gunplay remained engaging by taking the FPS feel of Halo and melding it with westerns, steampunk, and a dash of horror. The reputation system and multiple endings helped differentiate experiences slightly and made Darkwatch a standout title of 2005, even if its sources of inspiration were a bit obvious.
ALTERNATIVE: The Suffering
Surreal Software took a third-person approach to their horror title that was also heavier on the action, with the darker material mostly found in the aesthetic design of the prison. Insanity and morality systems helped this game break away from the pack.
Champions of Norrath
Top-down, action RPGs of the hack-and-slash variety used to be more abundant in the video game market than they are today. Champions of Norrath was a fine example of one such title, intertwining its fantasy narrative with several customizable races and copious levels of loot. Its traditional experience would be welcome in an age that seems to positively receive older styles, as proven by Divinity: Orignal Sin 1 and 2. Sadly, the last time something EverQuest related was being created for contemporary audiences, it quickly died off before being completed.
ALTERNATIVE: Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 fills the same slot as Champions of Norrath, albeit with less say on character appearance. Still, the limited character options didn’t detract from the overall experience, which itself was highly addictive. With Enhanced Editions releasing recently for the series’ earlier entries, this might not be completely out of the realm of possibility one day.
Swordfish Studios created a first-person shooter with impactful shooting mechanics and the generation’s rising use of ragdoll physics, but Cold Winter is memorable for its environmental interactivity. Similar to the previous year’s mega-hit Half-Life 2, Cold Winter sported a system wherein Agent Andrew Sterling could manipulate objects in the game to create emergent gamelay experiences. For example, tables could be flipped over to provide cover. It definitely added some depth to the somewhat straightforward FPS mold.
ALTERNATIVE: Project: Snowblind
Snowblind was an FPS from around the same time that contained a Deus Ex-like vibe with a stronger focus on combat and nano tech augmentations. Abilities unlocked throughout the game, crafting an ever-evolving experience with rewarding progression.
Cold Fear was a unique horror title that was buried under the monumental success of Resident Evil 4’s release mere months prior to its launch. The game revolved around Jason Bennett of the CIA as he investigates a whaling ship, which just so happens to be overrun by nightmarish creatures. The rocking of the boat made target acquisition tricky, as aiming swayed back and forth. Not to mention our protagonist could be completely tossed overboard by the tumultuous seas. Its over-the-sholder presentation would have fared better had it come before Capcom’s huge shift in its series’ norm. In many ways, it was a seafaring Dead Space outing long before EA ever broke ground with those games.
Obscure came across as a lower budget Silent Hill, swapping out the eerie town for a haunted high school. The real draw was the ability to bring a second person into the mix for some horror co-op play. It is still one of the few games that handles cooperative horror decently, with others nowadays (ex: Dead Space 3 and F.E.A.R. 3) losing themselves in its inclusion.
Urban Chaos: Riot Response
Given the events of the world today, there are undoubtedly going to be those that liken Urban Chaos to more of a simulator than a enjoyable virtual passtime. Politics aside, this FPS treat came from Rocksteady before their name rocketed into popularity with the Batman Arkham series. The story centered around Nick Mason and the T-Zero response unit as they tried to squash the violent uprising of the Burners gang. Horrific acts were witnessed, including the slaughter of civilians and peace officers, making for an enemy that was easy to hate. The satisfying gunplay supplemented by the gruesome slow-motion deaths made eliminating the killers rampaging through America’s streets all the more gratifying.
ALTERNATIVE: Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain
Here’s one of Sony’s franchises that made waves when it debuted on the first PlayStation system. The Omega Strain took the focus off of series mainstay Gabriel Logan and shifted the view over to a player-created character in this PS2 iteration. Can you imagine today’s graphics highlighting an enemy who has burst into flames following the continuous shock of a taser?
Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
Oh, Pandemic. How we miss you. Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction truly provided an open-ended experience that allowed player creativity to shine as each of the “Deck of 52” were eliminated. This sandbox title took elements from GTA and packed it into a military setting that housed a sizable battlefield. Causing mass chaos, usually with newly unlocked ordinance or hijacked vehicles, was always a pleasure as you watched its impact on the terrain and one of the game’s factions.
ALTERNATIVE: The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
Even moreso than Psi-Ops, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction was the wet dream of power trips. Basically the precursor to Prototype, Ultimate Destruction let players run rampant through the streets, living up to its title, partaking in epic combat and boss fights. And it only got better once the game let you experience the same intense gameplay playing as Bruce Banner (known in-game as Savage Banner).
Did one of your favorite games from the sixth console generation make the list? If not, list it below and let us know what made it stand out.