I can’t remember when I last had this many games to play on a single platform, all at once. Microsoft have been chest-thumping about their record-breaking attach rate recently, and that pattern would seem to be borne out in my house too, where we’ve had the console for about a month and a half, but we already have 5 full-price games and 6 XBLA games (although one of them was free). There’s a couple of other games I’d be happy to have too but there’s no way I’d have the time for them. 😕
I’ve already reviewed Mass Effect and Skate, and talked about Mutant Storm Empire, Geometry Wars and Pac-Man C.E., so I won’t cover that ground again, but here’s a few mini-reviews of the other 360 games I’ve gotten hold of recently:
Assassin’s Creed : very stylish graphically, this has to be the most detailed depiction of medieval towns I’ve ever seen, from bustling Ottoman-held Damascus to crumbling Templar-crammed Acre and of course, Jerusalem. The reactions of the populace are really quite convincing on the whole, and the ‘free-running’ action around the rooftops is very natural and fluid. However, it peaks far too early and the missions get repetitive too quickly - it’s a crime that you will basically do everything you will ever need to do in the first hour or two in the game, everything after that is repetition in different (albeit very attractive) surroundings. Also, the backstory concept of the whole thing being a ‘reliving of a past life’ is just dumb, sorry. 12th century assassin antics: cool. Overly complex sci-fi tale involving dull sequences wandering about a lab: dumb. No one bought the game for that, it’s just self-indulgent fat that should have been trimmed off and the writer given a slap for trying to be too clever. Fun game, just not a classic.
Halo 3 : Well-implemented and fun futuristic FPS. I was mostly underwhelmed initially, having played enough FPS’s elsewhere for this not to be exactly the revelation that it would be to some gamers who have only ever experienced consoles, but having switched to entirely co-op play with my wife I started to enjoy it a lot more. You start to appreciate that the AI is very good, and actually very amusing a lot of the time (particularly the grunts). I like the futuristic, slightly toungue-in-cheek atmosphere too; to be honest I find the number of ‘realistic soldier games’ getting released now quite a turn-off and although there’s a little bit of cigar-chewing machismo in the cutscenes, it’s fairly ignorable and mostly it’s just sci-fi fun. I’ve only had brief experiences online so far, but it’s seemed very solid. Most of all though, local co-op is the most fun, it’s always good to have a game my wife and I can play together - having completed it on Normal we’re now going through it again on Heroic. Maybe I’m a luddite, but I still prefer multiplayer games where people are in the same room - maybe it stems from the fact that most of my history with multiplayer was at LAN parties with Doom2, Quake2 and Unreal Tournament in years gone by. There’s something about being in the same room that just isn’t replicated even with voice chat.
Burnout Paradise : This one is my wife’s, and I haven’t had any time with the full game yet, I’ve only played the demo and watched my wife play the full game. They’ve obviously streamlined the code since the demo, because the very occasional frame rate drop I noticed in the demo has completely gone, this is one of the most buttery-smooth games I’ve ever seen. It must be a bit tragic for the artists; Paradise City is absolutely enormous and each inch seems to be carefully designed and textured, and yet most of the time you’re just hurtling past it at a zillion miles per hour. I think the fact that they’ve changed to a free-roaming model actually works very well, since it’s a lot of fun just to play around, picking off the occasional objective. It shares a lot with Skate in that regard, actually, and it’s a model I’m quite comfortable with. Overall it’s as much fun as you can legally have with cars since you were five.
Rez HD : I only played Rez ‘properly’ quite recently on PS2, but I’m sure the HD version is Rez how the creators originally wanted it to look. I’m always one to cite gameplay over graphics, but Rez’s unique style really does benefit from the extra resolution, giving it cleaner lines and slicker trippy effects. It’s like the remastered versions of the Star Wars films, except without nutball directors ruining perfectly good scenes. For a mere six quid, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Undertow : This one was a freebie to make up for the XBox Live service outages, which thankfully do seem to be sorted now. It’s basically a 2D version of the ‘control point’ game type in Team Fortress 2, with 4 character classes and underwater themes. It plays pretty well, but it’s not really my thing to be honest.**
Zuma : This one’s my wife’s too. Compellingly addictive match-em-up which is intriguing because it needs both puzzle-game planning combined with quick reactions and accurate aiming. Inspiration for many spin-offs including Ogre-based Magic Tea.
I’m not sure I can cope with this much gaming! 😀With EA pushing back Rock Band in Europe again though (it’s now ‘after April 1st’, I understand because of hardware shortages and they’re just giving them all to the US for the moment, the swines), I guess I have time yet. My cup runneth over indeed…