While people will still gladly debate whether or not Microsoft releasing their Xbox 360 a year early was folly from a hardware standpoint, it has at least given them the advantage from the software side of things, you can also click to read more about this ongoing debate. Being the first to market allowed Microsoft to get more market penetration than their rival in Sony’s PS3. This increased lead time, as long as the near abandonment of third party exclusives, has allowed Microsoft to get their hands on more high-quality games that may have otherwise been unavailable to them. This has allowed for the unique position of not what is the best game for the system, but rather what is the best game for you?
One of the things you learn from working in a game store is that it always comes down to a matter of personal preference. , it gets to the point where you can recommend something to someone instinctively. So the following would be what I would recommend to someone in need of help deciding what game to buy.
Racing DiRT from Codemasters and Criterion’s Burnout: Paradise. For a racing fan who wants total simulation, you want DiRT. Even with the release of Project Gotham Racing 4 and its addition of motorcycles, I’m told DiRT is a far more rewarding experience. I say I’m told because I’m not a fan of simulation racing, but rather arcade racing games, which is I go with the Burnout series. The Burnout games are ones that can be enjoyed by anybody. My friends and I often tell people that they aren’t racing games, but rather action games with cars. And with the recently released Paradise’s open-from-the-get-go free-roam city with seem-less online integration, incredible graphics, Burnout: Paradise is fun waiting to happen.
Shooters Gears of War, CoD4, Halo 3. For squad-based, and covert action, there are Epic’s Gears of War. While the story is stale and cliched, the action can be intense, and the visuals remain extraordinary throughout. The only downside is the inability to form teams for online ranked matches. Next is Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. With CoD4 Infinity Ward finally lost the WWII setting and updated the series to the present day. Gone are the Nazis, but the high production standards that Infinity is known for remain intact. CoD4 also is the proud owner of what seems to be the most engaging online versus a shooter can have. Which is saying a lot for a game that is competing against the uber franchise that is Halo. While many would agree that Bungie’s Halo 3 didn’t live up to the hype (frankly nothing could), none can argue against that it delivered more than originally expected. With 4-player online co-op, online versus, youtube-style video sharing, a map-altering Forge, and game-altering hidden skulls, Bungie threw in anything they could cram onto the disc. The one thing these three games share in common is that they all have a relatively short offline campaign, but an extensive online component. And for anyone looking for more co-op shooting action, keep your eyes on EA’s Army of Two.
Action/Shooter Two shooters that deserve their own category are Valve’s Orange Box and Irrational Games’ Bioshock. With the Box Valve manages to squeeze five games into one $60 price tag. Included are the original Half-Life 2, as well as Half-Life 2 episodes 1 and 2, the team-based online shooter Team Fortress 2, and the gravity-defying, mind-bending, first-person-shooter puzzler Portal. That’s right, an FPS puzzler. With Bioshock, Ken Levine and his crew at Irrational evoke memories of PC cult classic System Shock 2 and manages to create an experience that is as varied as the people who play it. Shooter. Action. Role-playing. Survival Horror. Any of these could describe it or an aspect of it. To, it is the game on the top of my “Haven’t played it but need to” list. There is no need to list why you should play this game other than to say, “you need to play this game.”
Fighting Currently, there are the 3-D fighters Dead or Alive 4, from Team Ninja, and SEGA AM2’s Virtua Fighter 5 Online, as well as the XBLA rerelease of 2-D fighters Street Fighter and Ultimate Mortal Kombat. While enough to stimulate you for awhile offline, if you’re really wanting to get the most out of these games, you’ll have to “quarter-up” with online versus play. But Soul Caliber IV and later Street Fighter IV seeks to open the field up even more.
Role-Playing While the JRPG field is somewhat lacking with the hit or miss fan-base of Eternal Sonata and Sakaguchi’s Blue Dragon, Sakaguchi seeks to claim what he failed to in Blue Dragon with his Lost Odyssey. Whether or not this can be the Final Fantasy game 360 fans are waiting for from the Final Fantasy creator is yet to be seen. What can be assured is that fans of western RPG’s are still probably playing Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. An immense and immersive game-playing experience, the Elder Scroll series has always been defined by its endless, hundreds of hours gameplay thanks to the sheer depth of the game world and its reliance on the mod community. One player created mod even found its way into the game as an official expansion as the “Knights of the Nine” questline. And while the SouthPeak’s Two Worlds is either hit or miss with fans, the yet-to-be-released Fallout 3 from Bethesda will no doubt captivate an audience craving a moralistic role-playing experience all over again.
Action With Capcom’s Devil May Cry 4, it will be the first time that Dante and company will grace a non-Sony console. And like one would expect from the genre, the DMC4 centers around controlling Nero, and later Dante, as they fight multiple enemies with stylistic combos using a variety of weapons. Due out soon, it will keep action gamers satisfied until Tomunobu Itagaki’s Team Ninja release Ninja Gaiden II, the sequel to the insanely difficult, but insanely fun and satisfying action-happy Ninja Gaiden. Expect NG II to be immensely challenging, incredibly beautiful to look at, and hard to top.
Rhythm Rock Band. Not much more needs to be said. The game’s title says it all. This pseudo-band simulator comes from the music-minded studio Harmonix. And anyone who has ever played their early Frequency and Amplitude games know how addictive they can be. And anyone who hasn’t that picks up Rock Band will quickly find out.