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22. Smuggler's Run: Warzones
Angel Studios (Rockstar San Diego) | Rockstar | 2002
The biggest and best version of a now-defunct Rockstar franchise. The gameplay's dead simple: get your shit to the drop point before the Feds catch your contrabanding ass
What made it so great?
Doesn't the sentence above pretty much sum everything up? This is arcade gaming at its finest, with the simplest of goals laid out right in front of you, impeded by relentless enemies. This is more or less Pac-Man in wide-open, sprawling environments peppered with bombed-out villages and unsuspecting tourists. As we said, the only purpose is to get your delicate package to the goal in time, but the FBI, Army and border patrol are all riding your ass the whole way there. Bring in rival gangs and you've got even more trouble. It all escalates into a mud-flinging heart attack that just can't be beat.
Warzones is important to the GameCube because it was not only a Rockstar title (when GTA was just hitting its peak), but it was also the best possible version of a game that launched the PS2. The graphics were excellent then and still hold up today with their far-reaching environments and spine-cracking physics. When you flip a car off a hundred-foot hill, you'll feel the landing in your chest. Everything's so smooth and clean that you have to wonder why most Wii games still don't look this good. Seriously, if they made a new entry (giant effing hint, Rockstar), Wii would be the perfect home. Please?
Get ready to play
The first few missions are pretty simple, but later on they get become exacting lessons in precision driving. There's nothing like swooping off a cliff in a dune buggy, weaving in between trees like you're threading a needle and nabbing your goods just to drop a bomb right behind you, sending the precession of trailing vehicles sailing through the air. You'll spend more time looking around the gorgeous world than you will eyeballing the road. Oh wait, road? Forget the road.
Been there, done that?
Rockstar whored GTA to the Xbox, but not GameCube. To retroactively stick it to the man, try playing The Simpsons Hit & Run, one of the few sandbox games to actually hit the system. No, honestly, it's pretty hot.