E3 ’07 – The Top 5 XBOX 360 Games That I’ve Just Gotta’ Play

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The other day I covered  The Top 5 Wii Games That I’ve Just Gotta’ Play. For those looking for a little background on how this piece came about, I urge you to check that one out. Today, I give the XBOX its due.

Now this list needs to be prefaced with a disclaimer. The ability to play these games is entirely dependent upon my XBOX holding onto its life. Granted, it’s only 6 months old but you just never know with these machines. Everyone I know who owns one, with the exception of Mookie, has had a unit die on them. And I’ve got Mookie’s Box just slightly nudging Lindsay Lohan for the top spot in my Celebrity Dead Pool.

The fact that Microsoft took out a $1 billion dollar lien to cover the repair costs for the estimated 30% of units sold doesn’t send waves of confidence. The horror stories that have come from those unfortunate souls who have lost a unit and have had to deal with MS Customer Service is even worse. I had two units die within 2 weeks but fortunately I was able to return them to the store. If this one goes, then I’ll have to follow Sean’s lead and deal with those friendly dudes over at Zune Customer Service. Yikes!!! This is a Fortune 500 company?!?!?

Oh well, provided the 360 lives, here are the Top 5 XBOX 360 Games That I’ve Just Gotta’ Play.

5.   Mercenaries II   (Release – Sometime in November)

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I was torn between this and Army of Two. They both feature online co-op 3rd-person blasting in warzones. Mercenaries 2 gets the nod for two reasons. The first game was a blast – one of the finest GTA clones to come around. More importantly, a number of the mechanics that Mercenaries introduced to the free roaming sandbox type of game were cribbed by the excellent Crackdown. In fact, Mercenaries and Crackdown are practically kissing cousins. Where Mercenaries loses the super powers, they do provide an armada of air based vehicles to commandeer so you can still soar high above the cityscapes hunting your marks.

I think the main reason I enjoy Mercenaries and Crackdown – but not so much the GTA series – is they are firmly rooted in action flick fantasy. The original Mercenaries played like the videogame version of Commando. You felt like that bad-ass Schwarzenegger clone raiding a small country single-handedly and liberating its people. As a mercenary, you’re fighting these corrupt governments, meaning you don’t get any of that sour aftertaste that the GTA games give you with all the simulated criminal aspects. I don’t mind leveling a city block if I know I’ve just taken out half the evil politburo and reopened the bread lines for the people.

Anyway, the online co-op makes the case for this as well. The first game was all about figuring out inventive ways to get at your mark and the ability to co-conspire with a live body over XBOX Live is just too compelling.

Plus, the main character is voiced by Peter Stormare. “Now we unpimp da’ auto-mo-beel!!!” Ohhhh, Snap!!!

4.   Assassin’s Creed   (Release – Sometime in December)

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This game comes from the creators of the Prince of Persia series. I’ve played all three and they were excellent games – giving me that sense of exploration that the best Tomb Raider games provided. Creed takes similar mechanics (you can clamor up walls, leap from building to building, etc) but places them in a huge sandbox environment.

The plotline for the game has been kept close to the vest however one of the voice actresses caused a stir when she stated she was working on a game where time travelers pop from the future to the past to assassinate key historical figures. I don’t recall who made the comments (it was along the Lohan line of celebrity) but a check of IMDB by some enterprising game journalists connected the actress with this game. The developers issued a no-comment (and to date they have not released any shots depicting a futuristic bookend to the game), but if true, the story seems compelling.

The speculation is that mechanics are in place where things that you change in your mission to the past will affect the future you return to. Just think – you may be able to execute a ‘hit’ at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance!!! “Biff, you get your damn hands off of her… before I execute every last one of you muthaf’rs.”

3.   Bioshock   (Release – August 21st)

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Bioshock looks like an FPS but it is more like an FPA (First Person Adventure). Well, truthfully, there is a good deal of FPS action but the developers are know for combining genres. They did this first on the PC with the cult classic games System Shock 1 & 2 (think Event Horizon) and then followed that up with Deus Ex and Deus Ex-Invisible War. They also had a hand in the Thief games. One thing these guys do very well is create very detailed universes – they have a knack for imparting a specific sense of time and place.

For this game, they create a 1950’s utopia (located several thousand leagues beneath the sea) and then progress through time to show how mankind found a way to decay this promised land. Your character finds his way to this submerged ‘dystopia’ and must work his way through to understand what happened to this society.

There is some compelling imagery at work here. There’s this art deco vibe to the world – a picture of what 50’s denizens may have thought the future would look like – and then the ever presence of the crushing ocean all around. Taking a page from the Deus Ex book – you can augment your character through special injections which this secret society has engineered. This gives off an RPG vibe – where you can mold your character’s abilities to the way you see fit. All of the action is real time so your FPS attributes are enhanced through these augmentations.

All in all, this looks like a very unique adventure and is high on my most wanted list. The good news – it’s only 2 weeks away.

2.   Mass Effect   (Release – November 7th)

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Another game that crosses genres is Mass Effect. This is the latest from Bioware – who made the excellent Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire for the original Xbox. Like Jade Empire, Mass Effect is another original IP for the company.

This one takes the action-role playing aesthetic that KOTOR and Jade offered and takes it a step further by melding it with 3rd person action shooting. Much like Bioshock above, the game boasts more depth that may be readily apparent in screen shots. These two games both seem to be furthering the RPG model into more organic areas. Gone are the static turn-based movement schemes of past RPGs. In essence, they are crafting true role playing games where you are responsible for every action and for the careful creation of your avatar.

As Jade Empire and KOTOR displayed, BioWare knows how to spin a yarn (both featured fantastic scripts with numerous opportunities to go off book and see something a fellow gamer may not experience and they both had stunning plot twists).  Mass Effect looks to continue that trend and also corrects one complaint I had with those aforementioned games – which is the stilted talking head shots whenever a dialogue scene began. Mass Effect employs a dynamic camera that switches up angles and therefore makes each dialogue scene as visually interesting as the action and exploration elements.

This game drops in early November. I may hold off on playing until after I finish Mario as this seems like the type of game that can take you through that cold heart of winter.

1.   Halo 3   (Release – September 25th)

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This is gaming’s blockbuster release of the Fall. And while I know I’ll give the multiplayer a shot (hey I complained about multiplayer when the 2nd game dropped yet that didn’t stop me from playing it every night for several months) I’m really here for the campaign. Oh, and this time it’s playable for 4 people meaning FINALLY Jason, Sean and I can play together. Where’s Mook in this equation, you ask? Let’s just say that headlining his Top 5 list is Viva Pinata – Party Animals. Jason will have to offer us up a 4th (his cousin perhaps?!?!?)

Anyway, enough has been written about Halo so I won’t go too deep with this one. Yes, it was the no brainer pick. I will say that Bungie really knows how to create a cinematic experience. When word spread last year that a Halo flick was being developed, I thought about how easy the film’s producers had it. The universe was already built. Designs for ships, creatures, etc – all done. Hell, you didn’t even need to hire John Williams as a Halo movie just couldn’t be done without Marty O’Donnell’s throbbing score.

On that note, I’ve often talked about how important good music is to a movie. Bad music can kill a great movie and a good score can elevate a mediocre flick. O’Donnell’s soundtrack to the two Halo titles is some of the best aural accompaniment to visuals that I have been blessed to hear. It really does underscore and coax an emotional reaction.

I’m looking forward to hearing those Gregorian chants in just a little over a month.

Comments now closed (2)

  • Yeah, but Jason is only going to play if he can be the Chief. He’s one of them hates-playing-as-the-Arbiter d00dz. Meanwhile, I’m fine with being an Elite, but it would have been nice to keep the active camo instead of making all four character’s abilities the same. If you’re gonna do that, just make them all Spartans. Now, if one of them could have been a Grunt, then I’d be all for Mookie playing with us, just to make him be that. It would be comedy gold!

    My top three are your top three. I had AoT after that and hadn’t read anything about Creed or Mercs, but based on your write-up, I’m down to play both of them.

    Actually, I just thought of something that I very much hope will come to pass. Mookie’s 360 needs to red ring the day Beautiful Katamari comes out! Now that would be comedy gold!