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Year 2000 in Review

The end of the year 2000 marked the end of the millennium. The year was a notable one for the videogame industry. Two big events signaled the future of console gaming: Sega introduced online console gaming to the American public, and Sony unleashed their next-generation PlayStation 2 hardware. Along the way, official announcements from Microsoft and Nintendo and their respective Xbox and Gamecube consoles were sure to whet the appetites of console gamers. The year 2000 also signaled the closing days of the venerable Sony PlayStation and to some extent the Nintendo 64. In all the hardware commotion, some great titles were released. Here’s what we at The Sports Gaming Network consider the year’s best.

1. NFL 2K1 : Not one to rest on their laurels with the excellent NFL2K, Visual Concepts one-upped themselves with the outstanding NFL2K1 for the Sega Dreamcast. Several improvements were made to an already excellent title, but what really stands out is the online play it introduced. Imagine sitting in the comfort of your favorite chair and being able to strike up a game of football at three in the morning. Now imagine playing it on a title that has incredible AI and graphics. Quit imagining and get the best football game of the year.

2. NBA 2K1 : The second online sports title for the Dreamcast is another winner from Visual Concepts. While the online play is the biggest news, the game also throws in plenty of other worthwhile features. A good franchise mode is there, along with the ability to play 2-on-2, 3-on-3, 4-on-4, and of course the traditional 5-on-5 basketball. Players dating back to the 1950’s are even there. Throw in some bug fixes and improvements to the AI and you’ve got the best console basketball game of 2000.

3. Virtua Tennis DC : Who knew tennis could be so fun and addicting?! Heck, even without the sexy Anna Kournikova, this game is still one of the most beautiful Dreamcast games available. With Virtua Tennis, Sega did what many gamers thought would be the impossible: It made a tennis game that appeals to everyone, not just tennis fans. Containing fast and exciting gameplay, multi-player fun, and a huge World Tour mode (complete with several challenging mini-games), Virtua Tennis is one of the Dreamcast's most unexpected hits!

PlayStation 2
1. Madden 2001 : Released with the launch of the PlayStation 2, EA’s Madden 2001 continues the fine tradition of the Madden franchise. The leap to the 128-bit PS2 provided the graphical boost to make Madden 2001 perhaps the most realistic looking football game to date. The classic Madden gameplay is a given, which means a good simulation of the professional game. Toss in the best franchise mode in the industry and you have a must buy title for the newest console.

2. SSX : In SSX, the extreme sport of snowboarding is pushed even further to the extreme, with huge tricks and crazy speed boosts making races feel like insane roller coaster rides. The breathtaking environments and smooth animation easily overshadow the game's minor graphical glitches, and its audio presentation is easily among the best of 2000. Although it may take some gamers a few gameplay sessions to master the controls and perfect the tricks, SSX is the most intense and rewarding snowboarding game ever made!

1. High Heat 2001 : The New York Yankees of baseball sims, the High Heat franchise once again proved itself to be a modern-day dynasty. Fantastic gameplay, more customization than you could have hoped for, beautiful graphics - the High Heat series is to baseball what the Madden series is to football.

2. PGA Championship 2000 : The TrueSwing 3 mouse-swing is a terrific, addictive way to play golf on a PC. It certainly has a learning curve that you don't get from a classic two- or three-click swing meter, but therein lies the challenge and the addiction. If you're a fan of computer golf and are looking for something other than pointing and clicking your way around a golf course, you'll be very pleased with what you get from PGA2K.

1. ISS Pro Evolution/ ESPN MLS GameNight : Every once in a while a game comes along that's so great it not only raises the bar for games to come, it represents a paradigm shift in its particular genre. Konami's soccer masterpiece ESPN MLS GameNight (also known as ISS Pro Evolution) is such a game. Using KCET's Winning Eleven Four game engine, GameNight features some of the best A.I. ever seen in a sports game and a challenging, yet powerful, control system that sets it far apart from other soccer titles. It may not sell as many copies as EA's Fifa, but GameNight is so much better than any previous soccer game it's frightening. At a time when many games emphasize style over substance, GameNight is a breath of fresh air – a game that, while seemingly simple at first glance, is so filled to the brim with depth that even six months after your first play you'll still be hard at work mastering the intricacies of the wonderfully balanced, and incredibly addictive, game engine. ESPN MLS GameNight is a true masterpiece, and no self respecting soccer gamer, nor sports gamer for that matter, should be without it.

2. Jarrett and Labonte Stock Car Racing : If there's one area in sports gaming this past year that wasn't short of titles, it was the racing genre. Games like Sega GT, F355 Challenge, and Test Drive Le Mans on the DC, plus Ridge Racer V and Midnight Club on the PS2 all challenged for pole position. However, like a thief in the night, a veritable unknown from Codemasters stole the pole and surprised us all. The first time I heard of Jarret and Labonte Stock Car racing was when it arrived on my doorstop! Taking the best aspects of Gran Turismo and Ridge Racer, J&L puts the emphasis on racing tactics and strategies, and as a result it's one of the most addictive and enjoyable games of the year. Furthermore, complementing the ruthless driver AI, the great selection of cars and tracks, and the heart-pounding racing action, is the greatest collision model ever seen in a racing game. Racing fans owe it to themselves to check out this sleeper hit.

3. Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX : As the only BMX game that saw a release in 2000 (two other BMX games were expected), Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX did not have any direct competition. Fortunately, developer Z-Axis put much care into the game, giving us a benchmark title that every future BMX game must measure up to. Although the visual/audio presentation is a little rough around the edges, the gameplay is superb. Simple and easy to master, Mirra BMX's control interface lets anyone bust a backflip or tailwhip within minutes of picking up the controller. Its gameplay also holds an extraordinary amount of depth, thanks to its large trick list and unique modifier button, which lets players add modifications to pre-existing tricks. Featuring several modes of play, great levels, and many well-known BMX riders and sponsors, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX has made a stunning first showing, and we anxiously await the sequel.

4. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 : When Neversoft released the first Pro Skater in 1999, it was difficult to imagine skateboarding video games getting any better. With its tight gameplay and great level design, the original Pro Skater quickly sailed to the top of the charts. Naturally, the game was also a hit among non-skateboarding gamers, who could easily recognize the game's high quality. Well, Neversoft delivered an extraordinary sequel in 2000 that one-upped its predecessor in every category. Improved level design, new tricks and skaters, tons of secrets, and a brand-new skatepark editor and custom skater feature add unlimited replay value. Neversoft even modified the Career mode, which now places an emphasis on earning cash instead of collecting video tapes. The music and graphics are also very tasty, making this one of the finest sequels of 2000!

Nintendo 64
1. All Star Baseball 2001: Acclaim could have dumped a lousy product on our laps but instead gave us the best console baseball game of the year. When every other sports publisher gave up, Acclaim gave us one last hurrah. The wonderful All-Star Baseball 2001 pushes realistic looking graphics and animations. Yet the play is what gets the most notice. This baseball game features wicked pitching by the likes of the Big Unit and Pedro and a batting interface that puts it at the top of baseball simulations.

SGN Best Game of the Year Award -

SGN Worst Game of the Year Award - NFL Gameday 2001 PS2 With every best-of list, you have to have a turkey to bring up the rear. For the year 2000, that honor goes to NFL Gameday 2001 on the PlayStation 2. Where Madden 2001 is exceptional, Gameday 2001 is far from it. Its horrible animations and really, really, bad AI make this game difficult to play. The secondary AI is the worst we’ve ever seen. Think of safeties retreating 30 yards at the snap of the ball, receivers catching balls several feet above their heads, pass completion percentages that will make any NFL QB jealous. You get all that and more in this stinker. Trust us when we say to avoid this title.

SGN Sleeper Hit of the Year Award -
Jarrett and Labonte Stock Car Racing PSX

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