With the release of awesome likes like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Unreal Tournament 2003, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, Metroid Prime, and Warcraft III, 2002 was certainly a great year. Now that we have played all the fun games of 2002, we must look ahead to 2003. I have come up with a list of what I think will be the top 5 games of 2003.

5: Doom III (PC) – Q4 2003
Doom III will bring back many things that fans of the series have loved-–disgusting monsters, cool guns, including the BFG, and fun gameplay. The most incredible thing about Doom III will be its graphics. The visuals are probably the best ever seen to date. Be warned, however, that because of the wonderful technology being used, id suggests that a 1gHz processor and GeForce 2 video card will be the minimum requirements.

Doom III seems like it will be one of those first-person shooters returning to the roots of the genre. Since Doom is the root of first-person shooters, they should go ahead and do it. id says that the game will not be incredibly large, but it will be slightly longer than recent games of the genre. It also sounds like single-player mode will be the focus, which is a shift from the current wave of first-person shooters, but I think it is a great refreshing idea. There will be a multiplayer mode, however, holding only four players per game. It’s still multiplayer, though, which is nice. id does seem to have an expansion planned for sometime after Doom III’s release, which would include things like improved multiplayer. There is no word on Doom III’s release, but it will certainly be towards the end of the year.

4: Auto Modellista (PS2) – March 2003
Auto Modellista is begging to be played. This racing game from Capcom will use the cel-shading graphical technique, giving it a cartoony 3D feel. It seems that the focus will be on fun arcade-style gaming, but also customizing your vehicles, which can be done with great detail. Auto Modellista will use real-life car models from several Japanese automakers.

Despite all of those cool features, the biggest attraction will be online play for up to 8 players. Yes, show off your customized car online and race against opponents from around the world. Not only that, but you can form racing teams, and you don’t even need broadband! Now doesn’t that make you want to wet your pants?

3: Final Fantasy XI (PS2, PC) – March 5, 2003
Final Fantasy XI is the next RPG in the Final Fantasy series, but this time it will be a massive multiplayer online RPG, or simply one of those games you lose your lives to. It will be an extremely addicting game, but of course, it will come at a price. Square intends to charge a $9.99 monthly access fee, but you also need a broadband adapter and a hard drive to save to. So in the first year of Final Fantasy XI, it will cost you approximately $230, but it will be worth it.

In FFXI, players start out in one of three cities after creating his character. Characters can be male or female, and from one of five races, including human-like creatures, elves, magicians, and so on. Players also must choose occupation for each character, like monk or warrior. FFXI will encourage teamwork between players, much like in other MMORPG’s.

From what happened after its release in Japan, FFXI is molding into what it was expected to be–somewhat of an experiment. It will certainly be a great game, but at least in Japan there were tons of bugs to work out. Hopefully all of those will be ironed out for the US release.

2: Halo 2 (Xbox) – Quarter 4 2003?
Not much is known about Halo 2 since it is still early in development. If Halo 2 is anything like the original, then nothing needs to be said and the game will be an instant hit. We do know one thing, to no one’s surprise–Halo 2 will be using Xbox Live. No release date has been announced but it is expected to hit store shelves in time for the holiday season.

1: Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN) – March 25, 2003
It was extremely difficult to decide whether to put this game as number one, or the next Halo game…so Halo fans, don’t bite my head off. Wind Waker is using cel-shaded graphics, which were first seen at the Space World 2001 preview. This style of graphics will be a wonderful part of the game, creating a whole new atmosphere for Link.

The game mechanics, according to Nintendo, will be based on the N64 hit, Ocarina of Time. It’s not a huge shocker, but now they’re just a tad more involved. Link will also use a sailboat, possibly for more than just navigation.

As for the storyline, Link’s little sister was kidnapped by a giant bird, and his grandmother also makes an appearance, but hopefully the story is much more involved than a simple family plot. Miyamoto, the genius behind all that is Nintendo, has always assured us that games are deeper than they seem at first.

The Wind Waker will be an excellent addition to the Zelda series, and hopefully we won’t be disappointed. It is being released for the Game Cube on March 24th, 2003.

Although there are at least a dozen other appealing games set for 2003, none of them look quite as good as these five. Some other games I should mention are Capcom’s Resident Evil Online, BAM!’s Ice-Nine, Nintendo’s Mario Kart, and sequels to recent hits like Devil May Cry and Soul Calibur. As is the usual for every year, there will be surprise announcements periodically, especially at E3 in May. All in all, 2003 should be just as good as 2002… if not better.

By Nate Weaver – 01/13/03

Screenshots for What to expect in 2003