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Well, 2006 is but a memory. Or very nearly. But as we bid farewell to another year which has seen another inch added to our waste lines (for some at least) and another hair drop from our heads (for some at least), we're looking back over the last 12 months and thinking about our best, most favourite PC games that have released this year. Although it's perhaps been a year in videogames that's seen the new console wave hog a decent portion of the headlines, the PC gaming scene has kept on going like a solid and reliable workhorse to deliver several titles that have thrilled, impressed and entertained us from our whirring hard drives. Below, presented in no particular order, is our top 10 pick of PC games in 2006...

  1. Company of Heroes
    Relic Entertainment's decision to enter the WWII RTS scene might have been considered risky initially, but when Company of Heroes finally parachuted in the developer proved it could grapple with well-trodden ground and deliver a refreshing experience. In particular the destructible environments and superb unit AI really stood out, and in general CoH's dev team took all the best bits of the genre and moulded them into one fantastic whole. The game was looked on as an evolution in the real-time strategy genre as opposed a true revolution, but it was easily one of the best PC games of 2006. It could well prove a tough one to beat in the RTS genre next year, too. Check out the Company of Heroes game page here.
  2. Splinter Cell: Double Agent
    Double Agent found Ubisoft attempting to blow away the cobwebs that special agent Sam Fisher was starting to collect, and with a mighty puff it pretty much managed to pull of its intention, really. We'll cut the plotline down severely and just say that the game found Fisher working on both good and bad sides of the fence - a design which was married with a decent if could-have-been-a-bit-deeper trust system - and sometimes trying to juggle sets of objectives was genius. On the stealth side, it delivered to a tee and the game looked great to boot - and the multiplayer proved to be great fun too. Check out the Splinter Cell: Double Agent game page here.
  3. Medieval II: Total War
    Concerns that Medieval II would suffer from The Creative Assembly having already visited the era with its Total War series were quickly dashed when the final game plopped into our laps. Ramped up graphical detail, battlegrounds possessing far greater geographical diversity than ever before, a turn-based strategic map which trounced all of its predecessors and further additions added to the enormous strategy depth that the developer had already achieved with the series. The real-time battles might not have advanced much since Rome, but they were fab, visceral and brutal nevertheless. As we said in our review, there's simply no way that any self-respecting strategy fan can spend this Christmas doing anything other than rampaging across the world on a whirlwind of medieval conquest. Check out the Medieval II: Total War game page here.
  4. Defcon
    Introversion's Defcon wouldn't win any awards for graphical achievement, but anyone who's played the game will know it's all about the gameplay. Inspired by the movie Wargames from the early 1980s, the title presented players with a top-down, 2D view of the world and found countries engaging in steadily escalating global warfare. And you won by killing the most people. It was especially brilliant it multiplayer, with immense satisfaction to be had from nuking the crap out of your opponents' major cities and watching the death toll climb - and them pounding their baked potatoes in anger if you happened to be playing it at office lunch time. Check out the Defcon game page here.
  5. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic
    Few things are more fun than poking an orc in the eye with a big pointy sword (that's a fact, folks, and not up for dispute), and we were drawn to Arkane Studios' hack-slash-RPG like a moth's inexorable journey to a flame. A character development system that allowed you to tailor the hero to your choosing in the arts of combat, stealth and magic (we lovc that type of RPG progression around here)? Check. A sterling effort made with that tricky thing called first-person hand-to-hand fighting by the developer? Check. But, most of all, it was just damn fun to play. And it didn't exactly do the game any harm that it was built on Valve's Source engine either, which allowed for plenty of physics fun. Check out the Dark Messiah of Might and Magic game page here.
  6. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
    Ah, Oblivion. Where to start? Well apart from in the dungeon, hohoho... Cue tumbleweed. Anyway... Epic, so deep you could leap into it and never hit the bottom, a massive, massive and beautifully realised fantasy gaming world, quite stunning to behold - and, as the icing on the cake, it had Patrick Stewart in it (well, his voice anyway)... Bethesda's RPG was an incredible achievement and knocked us for six, and has it eaten up more hours than we care to mention? We say an almost apologetically-tinged 'Yes'. It was never ever not going to secure a place in our top ten PC games of 2006. Check out the The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion game page here.
  7. Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends
    Big Huge Games decided to take the gameplay mechanics that made the original Rise of Nations great, refine and expand on them and drop them into a steampunk-esque world. And it did so with brilliant results - the title really struck gold with its concept of expanding and contracting territorial borders, for example. Its story-driven nature may have made it a more focussed game than the first Rise of Nations, but there was still enough freedom there - and plenty of scope and depth - to make the cap of even the most hardcore of commanders spin around in delight. Check out the Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends game page here.
  8. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter
    We had to wait a fair old while for it to happen, didn't we, but 2006 was the year that saw Ubisoft's squad-based tactical shooter series Ghost Recon finally return to the platform where it all began. And it was worth the wait, GRAW delivering a delicious slice of gun porn with plenty of tense gun fights and hot action. One of the game's real standout features was the Cross-Com, a tech device on your helmet's visor that fed you information on waypoints, objectives, locations of squad members, enemies etc, and which was responsible for lifting the tactical part of the game considerably. And, GRAW on PC was developed exclusively for the platform, which makes us feel all warm and loved. Check out the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter game page here.
  9. Battlefield 2142
    Battlefield set in the near-future? Well, it raised a few eyebrows at first, we can tell you, but once we'd all got comfortable with the idea of the series tweaking the nose of science fiction we settled down and waited for the ride. It turned out EA and Digital Illusions didn't disappoint, and yes, it helped enormously that it had great stomping metal bastards - or 'mechs if ya like - in it. The new Titan mode of play proved pretty damned good as well, managing to combine the series' trademark 'open-area' battles with fast-paced and lethal combat one inside the Titan itself. It boasted more persistent player features than Battlefield 2 too, meaning fans had plenty to work for. Check out the Battlefield 2142 game page here.
  10. Half-Life 2: Episode One
    No 'Top ten PC games of 2006' would be complete without the latest chapter in Valve's Gordon Freeman saga. It may have received criticism for being a bit same-y when stacked against Half-Life 2, but there's no denying that for the six-ish hours it played out it still delivered a stellar shooty experience and had some of the best moments we've ever experienced in an FPS. It also developed the Half-Life plot - if you can work out what the hell is going on, that is - and the characters, drawing us further into the story and as a result left us wanting to immediately turn the page to the next episode, as it were - unfortunately, it's turned out we'll have to wait till summer 2007 for that to happen. Check out the Half-Life 2: Episode One page here.

 


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