The following is a list of games I have played on my xbox 360, approximately in chronological order, and short reviews of what I thought of the game (okay well not short per se, but not full length reviews. I’ll try to avoid spoilers also). I’m excluding the following games that I never was fully invested in on 360 because I had prior gameplay experience and/or just used them to export or play a few songs: Rock Band 1, ACDC Track Pack, Metal Track Pack, Classic Rock Track Pack, Lego Rock Band, Green Day Rock Band, The Beatles Rock Band, Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero 3, Guitar Hero World Tour
Part 1 of this post will be full retail games; I’ll take a look at XboxLive Arcade games in another post soon.
Fable II: This was the first game I bought for my 360. I had played the original Fable (and expansion) on PC and greatly enjoyed it. Fable was of course (or not of course if you aren’t a gamer) created by Peter Molyneux, who also brought us Black & White, Populous, Dungeon Keeper, and The Movies (but let’s forgive him for that). I’ll say more about him and the Fable series when I get to Fable III.
Pros: Many storyline options. Easy to pick up combat system. Multiple options are generally well-balanced so that you can play the game competently no matter what you chose. Good replayability for an RPG.
Cons: Linear storyline. Very awkward multiplayer, practically useless.
Achievements: Some for standard story progress, others for very creative and sometimes silly actions. Some require playing co-op (see Cons), a couple require replaying the whole game. A-
DLC: Two packs, $10 and $7 respectively, each including more achievements. I never bought either, but it’s a bit annoying that there are achievements only accessible if you’ve bought the DLC that don’t require the DLC to actually complete. I
Overall Grade: B+
Rock Band 2: The Rock Band series is my primary gaming activity. The game developers at Harmonix started the recent rhythm game trend with Guitar Hero in 2005, then following it up with Guitar Hero 2. They then relinquished the rights to the Guitar Hero brand to Activision, and partnered with EA to make a new series of games incorporating other instruments. RB2 features gameplay for Guitar, Bass, Drums, and Vocals with 84 songs on disk of varying genres and difficulty levels.
Pros: Improved graphics, tour mode, and character customization, improved online play, added gameplay features such as drum solos, hammer-on (HOPO) chords, and variable track speed. Largest on-disk setlist of any rhythm game to that point, featuring songs by Judas Priest, Pearl Jam, The Grateful Dead, System of a Down, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Duran Duran, AC/DC, Elvis Costello… I could go on.
Cons: Instruments are expensive. I personally prefer the Guitar Hero guitars to the Rock Band models, but that’s an individual choice. There were some things that needed to get patched (HOPO chords, for one) but that was done. Continuing bug/glitch/feature limits the speed at which the game can register strumming on guitar, causing great frustration on some songs.
Achievements: Mostly for completing tasks in the Tour and Challenge modes, and playing expertly. There are a few fun achievements, but others are pretty hard to get, and require owning the relevant instrument controllers. B
DLC: Literally, thousands of songs from all genres, costing $1 or $2 each, or in packs/albums for a discount. Late in RB2’s lifetime, the Rock Band Network was introduced, making even more songs available. This is the best thing about the Rock Band series. A+
Overall Grade: A
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Latest in the immersive open-world Elder Scrolls series. I had played TES III: Morrowind on the original Xbox.
Pros: Open-world RPG with hundreds of quests, equipment pieces, unique NPCs with their own schedules. Realistic time-lapse and season changes. Many race and class choices, including custom classes. Good graphics, audio. Good menus and maps. Powerful item creation and spell creation systems.
Cons: Lots of glitches. Linear main storyline (although you can completely ignore that if you want). Some sidequests are pretty indescipherable if you’re not using some sort of walkthrough or guide. The leveling and attribute system in the TES games can be a pain in the ass. Item and spell creation is powerful, but very complicated. Despite large number of choices for spells, usually there’s one option that is far superior to the others in terms of game mechanics.
Achievements: Very boring. There’s an achievement for each stage of the main storyline, and for each step advanced in each of the guilds. C
DLC: Knights of the Nine ($10) and Shivering Isles ($30) expansions, and various smaller features available as DLC – Wizard’s Tower, Fighter’s Stronghold, armor for your horse, etc, $1-$3 each. The expansion packs add quite a bit of content which fits well with the standard game. Shivering Isles has achievements, athough they’re just as boring as the ones from the main game. B+
Overall Grade: B+
Assassin’s Creed: First game in the series, from Ubisoft. Some of the gameplay and engine are clearly adapted from the Xbox Prince of Persia series, but that’s okay, those games were good. AC is a very non-traditional game that’s part platformer, part sandbox, part fighting, part stealth, and part conspiracy theory.
Pros: Very unique plot and good writing. Good voice acting. Easy to use combat system. Huge “open world” cities with stunning graphics. Also, it’s just cool to play the part of an assassin, silently killing people. No replay value.
Cons: Controls are a little wonky sometimes, especially camera angle. Some tasks can be tedious and repetitive, especially if you fail it 6 times in a row and have to try again and again. Storyline is completely linear, but the storytelling is good enough to make up for it.
Achievements: Ugh. Fucking collections. Some of the achievements are good and fun little tasks, but there are a few really tough ones about collecting flags. The “Conversationalist” achievement is another annoying one because if you don’t get it you basically need to replay the whole game. Also a bunch of standard storyline achievements. C
Overall Grade: A
Assassin’s Creed II: I actually bought the first two AC games at the same time, since they were cheap and I heard they were good. I had heard correctly. The second game picks up right where the first one left off (sorta) and makes some key adjustments.
Pros: Better camera angles, better responsiveness of controls. Totally revamped combat system that allows for many more options in terms of weapon choice and tactics. Addition of stores for fashion options, aforementioned equipment options, and non-functional art collecting. Continued great graphics and cities, great story, good voice acting (maybe great?). Lots of sidequests and things outside the main storyline to add gameplay. Very useful menu system.
Cons: Camera angles and controls still have some issues. Some tough missions require a lot of frustrating replays. Low re-play value for the game, but one full playthrough still is a good investment of time.
Achievements: Only one big collection achievement now, the feathers, and at least those are a bit easier to find (and the menus give you a breakdown by district). Some super easy storyline completion accomplishments. Otherwise, several very fun little tricks to do, encouraging you to work on the sidequests in-game. A
DLC: Two additional “Sequences” of the main storyline are only available as DLC (no achievements). I know some people didn’t like this because it felt like the developer was making a full game, then basically charging you again to play all of it, but the game without the DLC sequences stands by itself. The DLC is not necessary to complete the game or comprehend the storyline. The DLC sequences are fantastic on their own though, adding more great content to the game. A
Overall Grade: A
FIFA 2010: Bought this post-World Cup when I was feeling pretty excited about soccer. I simulated several seasons in Manager mode, and played a bunch of lower-rung league games, and a few games with
Pros: It’s soccer. If you like soccer, and you like video games, you’d probably like this.
Cons: Some of the EA interactive features didn’t seem to work quite right (like putting a picture of yourself online and using that for your created player’s face). I didn’t play this game a whole lot, and as a result I kinda sucked at it, so I found the difficulty to be a bit more than maybe it should be.
Achievements: There are a surprisingly few achievements in this game; usually games have 50 achievements for 1000G, FIFA 10 has 44. Several of them are very difficult though. Essentially there are achievements for being great at each type of game (Be A Pro, Manager Mode, Tournament, Lounge, XboxLive) and also quite a few cumulative play achievements. Nothing particularly fun or interesting to get. There are also, oddly enough, two different achievements worth 0 G. Both of those I guess can serve as warnings, because to get them you have to do things that people usually don’t like in an online opponent. C
DLC: One DLC pack, Ultimate Team ($5) and various other things you can pay for if you’d like. I had no experience with that, so the grade is I
Overall Grade: B-
Rock Band 3: The newest chapter in the Rock Band series introduced keyboards, Pro Guitar, Pro Bass, Pro Drums, and brought vocal harmonies into the main series (they had been implemented in The Beatles Rock Band and Green Day Rock Band).
Pros: No pun intended, the Pro instrument features, and addition of the keyboard, are what really stand out for RB3. The 83-song setlist is strong, but leans a bit towards songs with keyboard parts and vocal harmonies, so as to showcase those features. Continued cross-compatibility of DLC with RB and RB2, in addition to exported songs from those games. Several minor gameplay tweaks, including new “lanes” for trills and fast strumming on guitar/bass and for fast rolls on drums. The “strum limit” issue that had been present in previous games has been eliminated, as has an uncommon issue of certain vocal parts having “broken” non-pitched phrases. Greatly improved ability to sort your song library.
Cons: Many glitches of varying severity, the majority of which have been corrected by patches since the game release. The lane mechanic doesn’t quite seem to work as intended. Instruments can still be expensive, especially the Pro ones, but at least some of them (Squier guitar, keyboard) are genuine “real” instruments that are usable outside of a video game. Changes to online band play song selection can allow any player to add or delete any number of songs from the setlist, which is quite annoying.
Achievements: Similar to RB2, there are various basic achievements for each instrument, including the expensive new Pro instruments. Also a series of achievements for the pared-down tour mode, and a few others. Some of the achievements are very difficult even if you have all of the necessary instrument controllers. B-
DLC: Still central to playing the game. RB3 shipped with several built-in achievements for DLC, which is a nice bonus. Both official DLC and community created song charts through RBN 2.0 are fully compatible with new features, and some older songs have been re-released (though with no discount). A
Overall Grade: A
Fable III: Ah, back to Fable. This game unfortunately came out the same day as Rock Band 3, and only a couple weeks after Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and Fable was the odd game out in my free time. I did play through the entire game once, but definitely haven’t spent as much time with it as the game deserves. It seems that every Peter Molyneux game has a crescendo of publicity building up to it, with developers and Molyneux extolling fantastic features the game will have, which never quite show up as advertised. The ideal Peter Molyneux game would be fantastic; but as far as I can tell, it still exists only in his mind, as a potential game in the future, not as a playable game in the present. Every game he makes does seem to get a little bit closer to being the game that he wants to make, so credit Molyneux for that.
Pros: Keeps the same combat and magic systems as Fable II, which worked just fine. Interesting storyline, more customization options for equipment and role-playing. Multiplayer is actually playable, thankfully. Unique menu system that ties everything together. Good balance of different options. Different events in the story cause the world to change over time, which is quite interesting. Lute Hero. Lots of other really funny quests with nerdy inside jokes.
Cons: Some of the features don’t really work together logically, for example relating to marriage and families. Not terribly re-playable, but still more so than most linear story games.
Achievements: Like Fable II, this game has a lot of cool and interesting achievements. There are also the requisite automatic storyline completion achievements, some “do it right” storyline completions, some sidequests, a few tough collections, and a few multiplayer. Overall not bad, but not great. B
DLC: There’s a DLC pack that I haven’t bought. I
Overall Grade: B+
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood: Not to be confused with Assassin’s Creed III, which is still supposed to be coming eventually. This is more of a massive expansion to ACII than the next chapter of the series, although it’s a little of that too. First AC game with multiplayer.
Pros: Keeps everything good from ACII, but adds even more weapon types, armors, transportation, characters, locations. Fantastic story, great graphics and voice acting. Fewer frustrating missions and more fun ones. Multiplayer is a unique experience and adds to the amount of time you can spend playing. Many great sidequests. Perfect fast-travel system. Leonardo. Updates and additions to multiplayer features.
Cons: Linear story with low replay value.
Achievements: Finally, no annoying collections. The collection achievements are made easier by the availability of in-game maps that show all the locations. Some automatic main story achievements, some slightly tougher ones, a bunch of cool things to do, and exploration sidequests. The only annoying achievements are the grind-it-out multiplayer ones. A-
DLC: One $10 pack that I have purchased but yet to play. Has achievements, one of which is hard as balls (100% synch in both the full game and DLC). I have high hopes, but currently the grade here is I
Overall Grade: A
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: I got this game because GameStop had a sale on used games, buy 2 get 1 free, and this was the free one. Looked like it might be entertaining.
Pros: Combat. General awesomeness of activity. The story was surprisingly well-done in terms of coherence anyway. The level/attribute system was also more than I expected
Cons: It’s corny as fuck. Repetitive. As fun as it is to leap over to a guard, rip out their spine and beat the next guard with it, when that animation happens every 10 seconds it gets boring. The voice work is pretty awful too. When I said the story was surprisingly well-done, I meant that in the context of comic book storytelling, which is to say that it’s still awful. The level/attribute system was probably more than it needed to be (or at least was trying to be more)
Achievements: The usual assortment of storyline and accumulation (of kills, or particular types of kills), but also some easter egg type things, and achievements for doing silly things. B
Overall Grade: C+
Rock of the Dead: Literally, House of the Dead meets Guitar Hero. It’s a shooter on rails (that means that you don’t control your own movement, you just shoot), but instead of shooting you play notes that they show you. It’s not exactly high concept, but I like Rock Band. Featuring music by Rob Zombie.
Pros: There’s no misunderstanding what this game is. It knows that it’s corny and stupid, so the story is silly and pokes a lot of fun at both rhythm games and rail shooters. Voice acting features Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day, who are both great. The Rob Zombie songs are the musical highlight.
Cons: The other music is crappy covers of classical songs. The game makes fun of itself for being bad, because it is bad. It’s easy to accidentally lock onto the wrong enemy. The boss fights are either too easy (on low difficulty levels) or insanely hard (on high difficulty). It doesn’t help that the note charts scroll horizontally, while rhythm games usually have them vertically, or that there’s no way to adjust calibration.
Achievements: Nothing out of the ordinary, just achievements for completing story parts at different difficulties and for picking up the extra challenges. C
Overall Grade: C
Blood Bowl: This game is based on Warhammer, specifically on a fictional sport from that setting. Um, it was really cheap and I was curious. Blood Bowl is somewhat like turn-based rugby.
Pros: I really had high hopes. The sport itself seems like it could be interesting. There’s an experience system for players, and a nice list of upgrades that players at specific positions can get.
Cons: But the video game adaptation falls short. The rules to the sport are arcane, and I don’t mean magical. There’s no simulation or manager mode, which is a shame because the games are a drag to play.
Achievements: I got one sort of by accident. By description, they seem to be pretty much what you’d expect from a sports game, a mix of single-game and career accomplishments. C
Overall Grade: D
And those are the full retail games I have played. As I said in the beginning, I’ll do another post for the XBL Arcade games I’ve played.
Here’s a list of games that I have or will soon have, but did not review here because I haven’t really played them yet
Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock