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My Top 10 Xbox 360 Games! (#5 – #1)

Read entries 10 to 6 here!

In comparison, and predictably, my countdown from 10 to 6 was far easier to compile than the following. I feel its worth prefacing my top 5 with how closely these games rub shoulders. Firstly, understand that I very much adore all of these games. They have each provided countless hours of enjoyment and have each, in their own ways, enriched the world of gaming- this goes for all of my top 10. Nevertheless, bulletpointing a top 5 would be the easy way out, thus I have tried my best to assign a ranking, though the differences from place to place are almost, if not entirely, negligible. The following 5 games have, in my opinion, transcended what it has traditionally meant to be a video game. All of these are an example of the unbound potential in gaming, in a time where technical limitations needn’t impede an idea.

The following 5 are examples of such ideas that have blossomed into experiences that make me proud to call myself a gamer.

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5. Halo

From the profound sense of mystery upon discovering the halo ring to the heartbreakingly futile struggle to take back the planet Reach, the Halo series is nothing short of a sci-fi masterpiece. In the original trilogy, you play as the legendary Masterchief, a highly skilled Spartan soldier, mankind’s only hope against an alien threat. It is as Masterchief that Bungie achieved the perfect balancing act. You are very powerful, more so than your comrades, yet the enemy remains formidable. Every triumph feels important, you constantly feel as if your efforts are working towards an even greater victory. You understand that tomorrow is a long way away and it will take a great amount of fighting, but with the power you have been been entrusted with, you feel you have what it takes to get there. What really gets me with Halo is the great sense of community that few other games have equalled. Bungie were always careful to take the opinions and best interests of its fans into consideration when maintaining the then-current title or developing the next, ensuring feedback was fully taken advantage of as the powerful tool it is. Multiplayer remains hugely popular and was essentially the original definitive multiplayer experience. The Halo games really offered the complete gaming package with a fully realised world, bolstered by the advent of a memorable story with a brilliant score, an immersive multiplayer and the inspired introduction of Forge mode. Of course, if it wasn’t for this great franchise, we’d probably never have been blessed with Roosterteeth!

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4. Assassin’s Creed

As the first game I played under my gamertag, I won my very first achievement in Assassin’s Creed 2. When deciding on whether to buy a next-gen console, this franchise was at the very top of the pros list. The impressively fluid gameplay is one thing, but the deep infusion of history and legend propels this game into a whole new league. There is something particularly satisfying about the ease in which you can traverse rooftops. From the spectators point-of-view, you appear highly skilled, not missing a step while hopping across struts and swinging around corners using vases that they hadn’t noticed. Yet, as the player, you realise it takes little effort to look that awesome. I like to think that’s what others see when they watch, but even if they don’t I still feel like the master assassin I am. You are readily aware of the instruments at your disposal and a fairly short learning curve gives you access to Ezio and Altair’s back log of experience immediately. What may seem like a simplified design is actually more like power-assisted steering, they could have made it more difficult but that wouldn’t have been nearly as fun! Along with the interesting contrast between future advancements and the more modest technology of the Crusading and Renaissance periods and the careful storytelling of Desmond’s Ancestors, Assassin’s Creed offers one of the richest worlds, most unforgettable gameplay and highly driven storytelling in gaming.

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3. Batman: The Arkham Series

They had me at “you play as Batman”. That isn’t a superficial statement, you really do play as Batman. Hidden from view, atop a gothic gargoyle, you can plan your attack. Now, you should aim to take care of the thug that has the greatest vantage point, from there you can simply withdraw to the shadows unnoticed or add a little thump to your take down and draw the enemies to a point. Any stragglers can be quietly disposed of from which point you can let the group disband and watch as a thug panics as his allies vanish around him OR fall from the darkness into open combat… because you’re Batman. With such an incredibly complex and powerful character, it defies belief that Rocksteady managed to make the player feel that if they wanted to truly play as Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, the option is very much there. What’s more, intense characterisation and a darkly brooding atmosphere gives both Arkham Aslyum and Arkham City a pervading sense of identity. The settings are perfect, Batman’s portrayal is perfect and the depiction of his nemeses are also suitably perfect. Being placed in the shoes of a character is one of the core values of video games, that has never been more apparent or well illustrated than in this. Ever thought it would be cool to be Batman? Well I have been!

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2. Mass Effect

It seems that scale is proportional to ‘epicness’ when done right, well Mass Effect has plenty of scale and does it very right. You travel between planetry systems via the archaic Mass Relays aboard the prodigious Normandy. You are fighting an enemy who is unclear in origin but assumes a primordial presence. You are but one man, upon which the fate of the entire galaxy rests, a galaxy in which you have traveled to the furthest reaches. As you travel from planet to planet, from civilization to new civilization, the complexity of the galaxy deepens, the danger becomes that much more impending and the sense of potential loss increases dramatically. There is such a large variety in missions and characters. But the real sticking point of Mass Effect is choice. Often, a game will play out a certain way and you’ll think to yourself “I would never have done that”, yet in Mass Effect, Bioware say “fine, what WOULD you do?” With this premise it is a whole new ball game, the player shapes the story into a hyper-personalised experienced. A certain choice may result in the death of a key character or the salvation of an entire race, either way the consequences are far-reaching. Tense gameplay, exceptional set pieces and an emotional rollercoaster of a plot combine to make this more than just a video-game. In Mass Effect, you are Commander Shepard, you are the story.

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1. The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion & Skyrim

Time and time again, the technical marvel of both Skyrim and Oblivion blows me away. Bethesda have managed to create an entire fantasy world with a dizzying level of detail. Cities are filled with people who chat to each other, go to sleep at night, head to work in the mornings and generally go about their day-to-day lives. Forests and snowy mountains are riddled with wildlife as well as the sound of rustling trees and babbling brooks. Wandering within a valley, you may happen upon a small encampment with pitched tents and small fires, perhaps a journal holding the ramblings of an inhabitant. They is such a great sense of exploration and discover that very few games can match. In contrast to this passive atmosphere, the game’s key storylines and side quests can have you sneaking through the a monastery occupied by monks blinded by the elder scrolls to battling the undead in the deep recesses of ancient catacombs.The player is given such freedom, with the ability to do whatever and go wherever whenever they so choose. Oblivion and Skyrim, in my opinion, have the greatest ambience in all of gaming. Merely wandering through a clearing is a joy, with its breathtaking visuals and stirring sound track. Out of all the games I have previously listed, and pretty much any other game I can think of, the world presented in this game has to be the only one I would actually want to live in. Sure, playing as Marcus Fenix is great, but personally I wouldn’t last two seconds on Sera; likewise to be able to use a portal gun would be incredible, but the intense physical endurance of the tests and the constant fear GLaDOS may just kill me this time isn’t my idea of the perfect getaway. Surely, as a form of escapism, wanting to actually escape to a world in a video game is the greatest accolade, at least I feel it is. And it is such an accolade that the Elder Scrolls games so greatly deserve.

* * *

Video games are so much more than killing enemies and racking up points. So much goes into making these titles and huge attention is afforded to the story, the score, the sound effects, the look and of course the gameplay, the culmination of which is something so much greater than the sum of its parts. It is an entire experience.

You may not particularly agree with my ordering, and perhaps after playing these games some more I may not agree with it either, but for now this is where I stand.

If you have any games you feel particularly need recognition, I welcome any comments below!

Thanks for reading 🙂

DM

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