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My Top 10 Xbox 360 Games! (#10 – #6)

My gamerscore has just rocketed past the 25,000 mark and I thought it may be worth spending a moment talking about the amass of games that got me here. Now, 25,000 may not seem like a considerable amount to some and those not familiar with the 360’s achievement system may have no particular frame of reference. So, for the uninitiated, here’s a short introduction to the wonderous world of achievements. Each game, upon release, is designated 1000 gamerscore points. This number is usually increased through extra downloadable content. It is generally limited to around 1750 gamerscore (or ‘g’ for sake of abbreviation) with a few exceptions. Now, achievements are effectively mini-objectives unique to a particular game and earning such will impart a certain amount of gamerscore towards your overall total. A game generally has about 50 achievements, netting all of which will win you all 1000g. However, gamerscore is not distributed amongst achievements evenly and so, expectedly, the harder achievements will appropriately reward a higher payoff. The average achievement yields around 10-25g each while the exceptionally difficult or time-consuming achievements may offer from 75g to 150g or occasionally higher. Objectives that define achievements can range from simple tasks such as shooting 5 enemies to completing the game on the hardest difficulty. Thanks to this innovation, personal accomplishments no longer go unnoticed of which would otherwise not be acknowledged.

Chasing achievements forces you to get to know a game intimately, exploring gameplay options that you would never usually humour just so you can unlock that final bleep-bloop. Of course, there’s a lot more in terms of motivation for playing a video-game. Just like books and films, video-games are a form of escapism, born of the intrinsic desire to further the interactivity, the importance of the viewer, in entertainment. And just like these other mediums, games can immediately transport you to another world, placing you in the shoes of larger than life characters. 25,000g may suggest I’ve played about 25 games, but that would also suggest I’ve fully completed every game I’ve played, HA! I’m really not that good… of course I am good… but no, not that good.

My game count is around the 55-60 mark, including Xbox Live arcade games, games I’ve just played in passing, and games that were accidentally loaded up while my gamertag was still signed in. Short-listing these games into just 10 of my favourite was pretty difficult, let alone actually ordering them, but here they are…

(For the sake of making this a little easier, I’ve grouped up game series where I see appropriate. Plus you’ll notice these aren’t necessarily 360 exclusive titles, rather those that are playable on the format.)

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10. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

It seems that it is currently the age of the shooter, that’s why it was such a breath of fresh air when Enslaved arrived on consoles. This unique title harkens back to the platforming genre that was prolific throughout the previous generation. Ninja Theory provides us with a stunningly lush realisation of post apocalyptic America. Rather than favouring the baron wasteland, succession of nature has produced literal urban jungles where the skills of the protagonist can be truly put to the test and the aforementioned platforming is given believable contextual grounding. The boss battle also makes a welcome return, dramatically punctuating each of the compelling and highly varied chapters. The main characters, Monkey and Trip, and their relationship is especially engaging, fortified by the expertise of Andy Serkis, both in voice talent and mo-cap experience. Enslaved offers the perfect escape with a story that could easily stand alone from the game- evident in the fact this is based on a short series of Chinese novels.

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9. Splinter Cell: Conviction

I feel that very few games get the stealth mechanic right. Splinter Cell: Conviction was the first game in which I felt like a badass while creeping through the shadows, trying to avoid the enemy until I decided they needed to know I was there, if you know what I mean. What’s more, the seemless transition between stealthy navigation and takedowns to open battle meant that rather than “Damn! I’ve been detected, when I die I’ll try another way” I found myself thinking “They found me? *Switch Weapon* Bring it on”. With evading detection such a significant part of the game, it’s a pleasant surprise that gun-ho is a viable approach. Conviction struck up the perfect balance in which the importance of the shadows was always recognised but should you raise the alarm it entrusts the player to ‘masterfully’ take care of the situation, you’re Sam Fisher after all. Of course, plenty of the praise may be given to the incredible ‘mark’ and execute’ feature. With no more than the press of a button, you could dispatch all marked enemies. I’m not very often in the situation in a game in which I can approach a situation with success being a certainty, the temporary omnipotence is exhilarating, so much so I feel all games should have an equivalent. SC:C also had quite the immersive co-op experience, opening a whole variety of possible strategies.

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8. Portal

The first time I ran through a portal and caught someone across the room just running through another, it kinda freaked me out, but when I realised it was me it blew my mind! Sure, technically it isn’t particularly exceptional, but as an idea Portal had captured my imagination. Despite portal being a series of puzzle rooms, the inclusion of GLaDOS and the scribblings of the mysterious ‘Ratman’ gave way to so much potential. Behind the sterile white panels you could sense a vastness, an environment brimming with history, Portal 2 explored exactly that. Puzzles took you from the dilapidated ruins of a once pristine laboratory to behind the scenes of Aperture and through long discontinued test chambers. The puzzles themselves are genius and offer great satisfaction upon their completion. The portal-gun itself is an amazing tool, allowing a great degree of freedom, as well as allowing the player to take care of the occasional hostility without even firing a bullet. This too included a co-op campaign which injected the game with a whole new dimension where teamwork was heavily and effectively ingrained within the experience.

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7. Gears of War

My previous console was the Playstation 2 and my game collection tended towards the relative innocence of games like the Jak and Daxter series and the epic Kingdom Hearts games (that’s right, “EPIC”)! Gears of War certainly threw me in at the deep end. All of my previous gaming experiences hadn’t prepared me for this. Although, I’m sure Markus Fenix wasn’t quite expecting the huge battle he had ahead of him either, but you gotta do what you gotta do! GOW captures the desperation and intensity of the battle for Sera perfectly, both in story and gameplay. The ‘brothers-in-arms’ air of Delta squad gives the player a foot hold, allowing for the tangible deliverance of a sombre mood and gritty determination against a backdrop of an onslaught of destruction. There is also a great variety of enemies with their own unique weakness meaning this is not a simple shooting gallery, the player requires a thoughtful use of cover and weaponry to maintain their powerful bulwark towards all-encompassing victory. The provision of co-op play in the campaign was a welcome relief from the invading loneliness of what is at times no more than a two-man army against seemingly insurmountable odds. Gears is an illustration of just how important atmosphere is in gaming and story-telling generally.

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6. Red Dead Redemption

Talking of atmosphere, this game is surely the master of the art. The attention to detail is astonishing. Simply wander into a saloon and the amount of work Rockstar went to to get the feeling of the old west just right is immediately obvious. From the bartender wiping the counter, to the weathered pianist playing to the upbeat spirits of the carefree locals. The mere fact you can hop on a horse at any point and head off to the recesses of great canyons or to a small town in the heart of mexico is extremely liberating. The story too is warmly captivating, of which each of the storylines sit extremely well. The mood flickers between quiet, passive and humdrum to taut, fast-paced and perilous. John Marston is both endearing and formidable, you can immediately sympathize with his cause and fully believe he has what it takes to achieve his goal. The game is littered with random events and fully developed side missions which only work to add to the immersion. I highly doubt any other game will come as close to recreating the old west as Red Dead Redemption did, future titles can only try to imitate what Rockstar has accomplished.

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I’ll countdown the top 5 in my next post, which you can find here!

Thanks for reading 🙂

DM

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