The highs and lows of video games in 2005

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Beyond a few innovative titles and some promising new hardware, the video game industry largely continued to do what it does best in 2005: churning out sequels, movie tie-ins and ultraviolence. It was the work of a Dutch programmer that put video games, a growing and increasingly influential source of entertainment for people of all ages, in the crosshairs of the long-standing debate over kids and violence. In June, a software hack called “Hot Coffee” unlocked a hidden sex level in “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” a freeform action game rated “mature” for ages 17 and older that includes drive-by shootings and high-speed police chases. Most major retailers promptly removed the game from store shelves after the Entertainment Software Rating Board, an industry body, changed its rating to “adults only.” Rockstar has since released a new version, minus the hidden content, with the less-restrictive mature rating. While industry groups like the Entertainment Software Association insist there’s no link between violent video games and violent behavior in children, politicians nonetheless seized on the case, calling for tighter restrictions on game sales. Three states – Illinois, Michigan, and California – imposed laws that fine retailers caught selling mature-rated games to minors. A federal judge has since found the Illinois restrictions unconstitutional. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman have proposed similar legislation on a national level. There were other ups and downs for gamers. Sony Corp. released its powerful PlayStation Portable in the United States in March but took months to offer any compelling games. Similarly, Microsoft Corp. beat rivals to market with its next-generation Xbox 360 console but rolled out a launch lineup of 18 mostly lackluster titles. A handheld device called Gizmondo, meanwhile, proved there’s one surefire way for a video game system to fail: a lack of decent games. Unlike 2004, there weren’t any real blockbuster games like “Half-Life 2” or “Halo 2.” Nonetheless, there were some excellent games – some violent, some strange, some featuring puppies. One of the year’s biggest hits arrived in August for the Nintendo DS handheld system. “Nintendogs” offered a lifelike digital rendering of perhaps the cutest animal: the puppy. It was a superb example of the interactivity found in the DS, which features a microphone, built-in wireless and two screens – one of them touchsensitive. Another of 2005’s best was also among the goriest. As U.S. agent Leon Kennedy in “Resident Evil 4,” players faced the daunting, scary task of infiltrating a village of possessed residents to recover the kidnapped daughter of the American president. Beyond the shock and gore of this M-rated game, it was an exhilarating experience on the GameCube, and more recently, the PlayStation 2. Children and adults alike experienced a delightfully mindful tale in “Psychonauts,” released in April. This imaginative game for personal computers, the PS2 and Xbox offered something for every gamer in the house, whether it was hunting for hidden treasure, performing acrobatic feats or blasting big, bad monsters at a summer camp for children with psychic powers. The games you never see advertised are often among those you can least afford to overlook: “Shadow of the Colossus” offered a dreamlike story in a fantastical land where you battle with 16 giant beasts called Colossi. Each one is a level unto itself in this superb mix of action and strategy. “Indigo Prophecy” was an adventure game that melded a unique control system with a captivating crime drama set in the snowy streets of New York – “CSI” with a touch of “X Files” thrown in. The year also was filled with its share of flops and failures. It seemed like a no-brainer for success but the persistent virtual reality of “The Matrix Online” saw most gamers choosing to take the blue pill and trying to forget they ever played this difficult, unforgiving online role-playing game. NARC, meanwhile, redefined tastelessness with a bug-riddled game where you play a cop who takes down members of a drug cartel, ingesting the illicit drugs he confiscates along the way to slow down time or make yourself temporarily invincible. And Hollywood served up a poor selection of videogame adaptations, from director Uwe Boll’s unbearably bad “Alone in the Dark” to the almost watchable but equally mindless Martian demonslaying of “Doom.”last_img