The Xbox One is upon us. I was going to do an article bitching about all of the new features and why I have to start saving up to buy a gadget that I kind of already have. But a quick glance around the internet will tell you that everyone has a similar article. So, I thought I would focus on the positive and have a little nostalgic look back at the Xbox 360 years. I have asked around and got together a group of people to tell you why their game deserves to be the best game of the 360 era. Shall I begin?
ORACLE OF FILM – GEARS OF WAR
Ironically, my all-time favourite Xbox game was the very first game I received, Gears of War, which came with the actual console. I can see why this statement may cause a few raises of the eyebrow – from an outside perspective, it doesn’t look like much. A few stereotyped marines from the future battle their way from Point A to Point B on a map, grunting a few one-liners and hacking up a few aliens with their chainsaw guns. In many ways, it could be said to be a step back from the expectations we gamers had.
But the reason Gears is my favourite gaming series is that it understands its audience. Deep down, we just want to kill aliens, with as little justification as possible. Therefore the developers give us implausible muscles, devastating weapons and a little, friendly push in the direction of the nearest thing we can kill, a loving parental smile on their faces. It is a lot more than that too, but the fancy graphics, character development and alien mythology are just window-dressing in my eyes. Sure, it makes defending my game so much easier, but at the end of the day, I am just playing this game as an excuse to cut my way out of a massive worm’s stomach.
ALEX HARRIS – BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY
When Arkham Asylum was first shown, I remember thinking that, despite its high production values, it was a superhero game and thus doomed to failure, or mild success at best. However, to my shock, amazement, and near-horror the game was good, nay excellent! The gameplay, the design, the visuals, the soundtrack, the story, everything made you feel like Batman – and the inclusion of Mark Hamill as the Joker and, the Batman himself, Kevin Conroy was the cherry on the top. To attempt to explain everything that this game did right in a paragraph would do it a severe injustice.
In short, it was good. And then Arkham City expanded on everything that made the first game so fun to play. Batman could now explore Gotham City, albeit a small section that had been cordoned off. All of the gameplay had been refined, the story was both larger and far more personal and intimate (any story that can purposefully make you want to actively prevent the death of a homicidal, mass murdering psychopath is doing something right with its narrative). The inclusion of several side missions allowed for the introduction of several lesser known villains from the Batman mythos (had any of you non-comic geeks ever heard of the Calendar Man before?). The only thing wrong with Arkham City was the fact that Catwoman’s DLC felt poorly integrated. That aside, I cannot imagine how the next game, a prequel by an entirely different developer, can hope to match the extreme standards set by this game.
And now, having abstained from a Frank ‘totally-and-utterly-insane’ Miller reference for this entire rant, I’d like to close on “I love being the GODDAMN BATMAN!”
ADAM ABBOTT – BATTLEFIELD 3
Battlefield 3 is my favorite game, purely for the multiplayer experience. The intensity, diversity and, of course, satisfaction of playing it is amazing. How many other games do you know where one second you can be crawling around taking out tanks with RPGs and a minute later you can be flying a fighter jet over the whole map? There are so many different roles one can take on: pilot, sniper, tank driver and so many others. Therefore, if you’re not particularly good at a certain one just make sure you make the most of a role you’re good at. As for the actual campaign, sadly I didn’t think much of it; it was very overdone. But BF3 had more or less been created for the multiplayer and that is, for me, perfect.
PIRAN MARK – DEAD SPACE
This game was obviously going to make any list about the best Xbox 360 games, being that… well… It’s awesome. Just in case you haven’t heard of it (and have never read any article on this site before): I will do a quick summary. You are a Isaac Clarke, an engineer on a ship sent to check up on a mining ship, the Ishimura, orbiting a nearby planet. Things go wrong and you end up alone fighting against freaky creatures, known as the Necromorphs, in a ship with more problems than my exercise regime (I’m reviewing a game that I have played so much that I now call the Ishimura my “home away from home”, so it’s not going well).
Dead Space is that one game you will always be able to play through again and again, even after you’ve done everything physically possible in, on and to it. Quite simply, that’s really what makes a great game. Each level is full of surprises, you can upgrade weapons in a variety of ways, and the Necromorphs are so creepy that I can imagine them going to the same bar as Slender man and being all like “Bro! How are you? The woods treating you well?” (Or more likely “ARRRR, HURRRGRAAG”).
NATHAN SIMKIN: ELDER SCROLLS IV – OBLIVION
Before I begin I feel compelled to make an honorable mention of Oblivion’s successor “Skyrim” of which much fuss and attention was given (and rightly so at that). The reason I have chosen Oblivion as the best is because it is the blueprint that allowed Skyrim to then become a huge success at consuming so much of my time, which I give gladly I must add.
Now onto the focus of this article: Let me get some of the more obvious points out of the way first such as the fact that the game world is simply beautiful. The detail for a fairly early Xbox 360 game is phenomenal, one can easily spend a good few hours simply traversing the landscape and not feel as if it was time wasted. The detail of the vegetation, water, topography and sky is a perfect background to play through as you complete your objectives, be it sneaking through an innocent’s house or running through a dungeon trying to avoid trolls and Daedra, trying to mar that beautiful face that you spent 2 hours trying to make it look as much like you as possible (until you realise the closest you can get is by being a reptilian Argonian…)
Choices always feature heavily in every Elder Scrolls game and Oblivion is no different, which is one of its strongest features. For an avid gamer such as myself in order for a game to be chosen as “the best” it needs to have “replayability”. The way Oblivion achieves this is by having a near-infinite number of ways to go through the game. As I would imagine most would, I played my first time as a simple Imperial Swordsman using Heavy Armour, who occasionally dabbled in magic and this I believed was the only way it could be done. This was until I realised the benefit of being a sneaky Wood Elf Archer who could eliminate targets before they realised I was there. This allows the player to play through the same quest lines again and again without losing that all-important feeling of novelty. Whereas some may believe that a Call of Duty game deserves the title, and not without merit of course, but the key difference for me is I can play Oblivion a hundred different ways with a huge amount of choices that can dictate whether I become a hero or a villain, use a bow or an axe, smooth-talk a merchant to get a better deal or simply murder him and steal it. But in the majority of games the most common choice I have is between shooting the nameless terrorist in the head or chest…
The next point is simply the vastness of the game-world; you can play for months and not see everything that the world has to offer. The Elder Scrolls franchise has not only created a game to play, it has created an entire universe with a hugely descriptive history complete with literature, history, culture and religion. A huge amount of effort was put into creating a world that not only contributed to a quest line but one that also felt “real”. Fallout is another title that does this extremely well and was also in contention for the title of best 360 game ever, but I believe that the example provided by Oblivion was what allowed it to be as great as it was. The huge amount of space and detail that has gone into the game allows a player to stumble upon a hugely beneficial quest completely by accident by talking to the right person without any prompting by the game which further allows a player to become truly immersed within the game.
LIAM ABBOTT – TELLTALE’S THE WALKING DEAD
My favourite Xbox 360 game is last year’s Game of the year: The Walking Dead by Tell-Tale Games. For many years, the trend of first person shooters that surrounds us has just never appealed to me. I got a great kick out of playing Heavy Rain, because I love interactive dramas, where you can end up with different outcomes and paths, meaning that you can discuss your specific, tailored gameplay with your friends.
Along came the Walking Dead and I fell in love with it. Sure, it is very flawed with the laggy game engine and the debatable art but it contained a heart-beating storyline, jaw-dropping soundtracks and the interactive element. The Walking Dead is riddled with so many meanings behind it and truly does make you think. The characters are pitted to you like they are your siblings and the main character does really put you in his shoes. This game is my favourite because it did what most games fail to do: strike you emotionally. It is the beginning of what could be a new genre and despite it being rocky, I see a bright future for these games and as season two comes out, I can only nail bite my way through to September.
Who is right? Which one of these games deserves the title of the best game of all time?