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GamesFirst! Magazine

Microsoft PC Games at E3:
In the Shadow of the Xbox

It doesn't seem like all that long ago that Microsoft's PC games were roundly reviled by almost everyone. Then along came Age of Empires, and then games like Motocross Madness, and we had to seriously reconsider our attitudes about Microsoft's gaming crapulence. The next thing we knew, Microsoft was acquiring stellar games like Mechwarrior 4 and Crimson Skies and Links LS and hiring developers like Bruce Shelley and Alex Garden and Chris Taylor. You gotta hand it to them--Microsoft Games has made one smart move after the other, and have inexorably buffed themselves up into one of  the biggest and most successful empires in PC gaming. And whether you hate  Microsoft (TM) or not, you gotta admit that the games produced under the Microsoft imprimatur are consistently good and very often excellent.

I'd passed through the Microsoft area briefly on the first day of E3, and it looked, as I had feared, like an emerald-green temple to the unholy Xbox. As a dyed-in-wool PC Gamer (TM), I've always had an aversion to console systems, and have in the past habitually taken advantage of any excuse to trot out my litany of reasons that consoles are vastly inferior to PC games--the graphics are hideous, the gameplay is twitch-oriented inanity aimed at eternal prepubescents, online gaming doesn't exist, and the average game (except for ponderous digi-tomes like the FF series) provides about 30 minutes of gameplay. Sports games I gave a pass--they're usually better on console systems--but I must confess that in my heart of hearts I was a middle-aged computer snob.      

I was. My resistance to console systems melted wholesale immediately after I bought my sons a Dreamcast. Suddenly, all my objections were passť.  Games looked fabulous, you could play online, and it had some smart, fun titles. Still, I remained skeptical about the PS2 (and I'm right so far) and the Xbox (and here I was wrong). Shawn and I spent the first hour or so of our Microsoft meeting playing Xbox games and getting the official Xbox lecture, and I must admit the games are sweet. Now's not the time for my Xbox review, but games like NFL Fever, Amped, Munch's Odyssey,
and Bloodwake looked and played great, even in beta (Halo we'll have to see about--it didn't seem all that special to me.) So I kinda got swept up in the consolemania that dominated the Microsoft booth and the Expo in general (and if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone). By the time I got over to Microsoft's PC section, I was running a little late. 

Nobody seemed surprised by this; the PC section was clearly getting second billing this year. There were many more people crowded around even average Xbox games than the PC area, which had maybe a fifth of the space that Xbox-related displays commanded. I'd have wondered about Microsoft's commitment to PC gaming if the games I saw over the next hour or so--and again for another couple of hours on Saturday--weren't so excellent. Microsoft's lineup for 2001 is a nice combination of the utterly new games and serious reworkings of old classics, and was definitely one of the strongest PC booths at E3.  

We'll get previews up of games like Freelancer, Zoo Tycoon (I love this game), and Train Simulator soon, but today we'll focus on Microsoft's Big Four--the games that look like sure hits: Age of Mythology, Dungeon Siege, Mechcommander 2, and Sigma. 

Age of Mythology

Dungeon Siege

Mechcommander 2

Sigma

 

 

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Reviewer

 

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